Nephi passed the record to his brother, Jacob, at the time of his death, and Jacob’s line became the record keepers. The spiritual strength of this line of record holders has ended by the time of this verse, two-hundred years into the Nephite dispensation. It has taken only six generations for the spiritual strength of this family line to have failed.
Two more generations from the time of this verse, the records will be handed over to King Benjamin, as this line will have no more physical descendants. Their spiritual decline is followed by them being cut off, without root or branch.
From an inspired and prophetic parentage have come descendants who neither seek for nor receive any revelation or prophesy. This does not mean, of course, these people did not believe. Quite the contrary, they seem to have believed very much in the importance of the revelations given their ancestors. There is nothing to indicate they are faithless. They continue to be “religious” and honor traditions handed to them. They just lack vitality in their faith which would result in having the heavens opened to them. The writer confirms “that which is sufficient is written” and sincerely believed this to be true. This thought illustrates what his ancestor, Nephi, condemned when he warned against any who should say: “We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Ne.28: 29.)
This is an illustration of the kind of religion, which endlessly repeats old inspirational stories while failing to add any new ones. Having faith in what others did long ago, when events in their lives caused their faith to be tested, is no substitute for having faith to see the miraculous in your own life. Joseph Smith had this to say: “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (TPJS 324.)
The spiritual atrophy described in this verse is akin to other times involving the people of God. In an earlier time when Eli was the High Priest over Israel, the same cycle repeated. Even though the people at the time of Eli believed in the continuation of the traditions, and Eli even had possession of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, there was no real faith to accompany the traditions being upheld. The record states: “And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” (1 Sam. 3: 1.) Meaning, the voice of God was not heard among them, and open revelation had ended. We presume they still believed in this faith, for they continued to practice it. They probably became more strictly devoted to it because the miraculous had ended.
Eli and his family were faithful in keeping the outward religious observances. On the night in which revelation returned, “ere the lamp of God went out in the Temple of the Lord” the Lord called to Samuel. (1 Sam. 3: 3.) This reference to the lamp is significant. That lamp was required to be lit every night under the Law of Moses. (See, e.g., Exo. 27: 20–21.) Accordingly, the Tabernacle was manned by a High Priest and his sons who faithfully observed the religious requirement to burn the lamp before the Lord nightly. But they lack the faith to call down revelation from Heaven to direct Israel. It may seem an odd mix, but it is not. This is the continuing tension in all of the scriptures. The greater part of Christ’s ministry dealt with this tension.
Christ came to a Palestine in which prophecy and revelation had ended among the official, presiding authorities of Israel. As one LDS writer put it: “After Malachi, there was a prophetic silence.” (Brown, S. Kent and Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel. Between the Testaments: From Malachi to Matthew. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002.) This void resulted in others stepping forward and attempting to fill the void. Instead of qualified, called, prophetic voices giving guidance to Israel, there was an educated class of scholars who proposed to use their learning to lead. “After all, as the spirit of prophecy began to diminish after the exile, descending on only three known prophets, there was a need for someone to step in and offer social guidance on the only basis left, the Mosaic law. The scribes filled this need.” (Id., p. 146.) The scholarly scribes felt more than justified in their work, because the prescribed offices of the religious leaders were filled with people more involved with political, economic and social positioning and success than with gaining revelation to guide people in their daily lives. As this same LDS writer observed: “We could see these scribes as usurping the place of the priests and Levites whose scriptural duty was to teach their people, but someone had to perform this important function. And the priests and Levites seem to have sidestepped their obligation.” (Id., p. 172.) Essentially then, this writer reasons if there were no inspired teachers among the priestly leaders (and there were not), then the scholars would fill the void using their learning. This is a pattern, and not just a single event. The tendency always threatens to return.
When Christ came, He was outside the ruling class. He was not like the men who used priestly office for their own pride, and He had nothing to recommend Him. He was a most inconvenient Savior. As Isaiah had put it: “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isa. 53: 2.) That is, He was a “tender plant” with all the vitality of life and green growth evident from receiving revelation, among a people who were “dry ground” (i.e., without any of the Spirit acting among them). He did not wear the robes of the High Priest, and therefore was without appropriate religious “form or comeliness” to recommend Him. As a result, He stood entirely on the strength of His teachings, without any inherent “beauty” of official recommendation for those who heard Him to trust. They were left to evaluate the Man, Himself. Christ challenged all the established, conventional authority, using only His teachings. He was not bona fide under His cultural norms. All He offered was the truth. He wrote no books, built no buildings, and held no official position inside His community. He just taught, then died a martyr’s death. But the truths He taught still reverberate; because the only enduring thing is the truth.
Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist, came to prepare the way for His ministry. John’s mission to “prepare the way” was the harbinger of the greater challenge Christ would make. “This challenge to authority did not go unnoticed by the most dedicated and righteous lay priests of the various temple courses or among the Sadducees, who jealously controlled the temple itself. They recognized that John the Baptist manifested a special spirit of authority not witnessed among them in some time (John 1: 19–25). For some, John represented a challenge to the status quo; for others who were more spiritually in tune, he represented an awakening from a deep and long spiritual sleep.”(The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ: From Bethlehem Through the Sermon on the Mount. Edited by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005, p. 165.)
Once again, these contemporaries of John and Christ were not lacking in organized religion or in devotion to religious performances. The Temple at Jerusalem (at that time called “Herod’s Temple” because of his renovation over 70 years), was acknowledged by even Christ as His house. (See, e.g., Matt. 21: 13, Mark 11: 17 and Luke 19: 46.) Further, Christ never challenged the presiding authorities’ right to preside. Quite the contrary, He asserted that right. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works.” (Matt. 23: 2–3.) Christ made no challenge to their status; but instead invited all who were interested in doing so to live their lives at another, higher, more spiritual level. Even so, they took such offense at this they had Him killed.
There is always tension between the Spirit and control. The Spirit involves a certain degree of inevitable risk and uncertainty. As Christ states in John 3: 8: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” When men rely upon the Spirit to be the final guide, they often encounter inconvenience and imposition. The Spirit can be most imposing. For this reason, the tension is always against the continuation of inspired, Spirit-filled leadership. Continuity and predictability are needed to preserve an organization. The best way to obtain that continuity and predictability is to impose limits on the Spirit. However, it is the Spirit which ought to take priority, not predictability or organizational convenience.
Ancient Israel ultimately chose to quash the prophetic voice altogether. They had a convenient and orderly hierarchy, presiding in relative harmony, at the time of Christ. He came as an inconvenient Savior, inviting a renewal of the older, less certain way of being inspired into action. He even taught the impractical but spiritually sound principle that: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body [more] than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.” (Matt. 6: 24–26.) Such teachings cannot work at an organizational level. Organizations require planning and forethought, budgets and staffing, calendars and scheduling. These teachings can only work in individual lives. Therefore, the establishment thought Christ’s assertions were threatening to them. But, in the end, Christ’s message was limited to the individual convert. The establishment needn’t have been worried.
When the Restoration of the Gospel came through Joseph Smith, he established on-going revelation as the expected form for the Church. Article 9 of the Articles of Faith states boldly that: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” More importantly, the Book of Mormon does not relieve the Saints from the on-going responsibility to receive revelation through the Spirit. Chapter 7 of Moroni, of which I have written previously, contains a lengthy explanation of the necessity of on-going revelation and gifts of the Spirit. Joseph Smith taught the Saints: “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the priesthood is for that purpose.” (DHC 6: 363.) Revelation is intended to be the rule within Christ’s Church.
In contrast to the open-ended invitation extended to all Saints in the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s teachings, scholars of modern Mormonism argue in favor of a more limited revelatory role. As one LDS writer put it: “It is significant to me that Nephi specifically says here that he desired ‘to know the mysteries of God’ (1 Nephi 2: 16). While all are invited to seek and all are promised knowledge (1 Nephi 15: 8; Matthew 7: 7; Moroni 10: 4–5), this is not an open invitation for all men and women to seek ‘mysteries’ beyond the declarative words of the prophets.” (Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem. Edited by John W. Welch. Provo: FARMS, 2004, p. 435, emphasis added.)
In recent years there has been a growing distrust of the gifts of the Spirit. Contrast the approach in Joseph’s quotes above, and the Book of Mormon, with the following quote from the 1992 publication of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: “It is vital to distinguish authentically revealed visions from self-induced imaginings, wish-fulfilling dreams, errors of perception, satanic deceptions, and pathological hallucination, all of which have been abundant in human history.” (Bergin, Allen E. “Visions.” Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scripture, Doctrine and Procedure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Edited by Daniel H. Ludlow. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992. 5 Vols., 4: 1511.) While this statement would always be true, the statement placed in the Encyclopedia represents a growing unease and distrust of charisma among Mormon scholars, who work to refine the faith into something more comfortable and controlled. The entire comment is negative. It urges only caution about revelation, and no encouragement. Scholars like control and certifications, because their stock in trade is based upon credentials. The Spirit does not give credentials. It only gives light and truth.
Unfortunately, the unease and distrust discussed in the Encyclopedia are warranted. Many of those claiming charismatic insights have led others astray. There is an almost universal claim to these gifts underlying the various polygamous apostate groups. As a result, the Saints have been appropriately cautioned to accept things claimed to be from the Spirit with care. The article goes on to comment: “Spurious visions result from seeking ‘signs’; authentic visions usually come unbidden.” (Id.) The cannon of LDS scripture echo this caution: “But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe. Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.” (D&C 63: 9–10.) As a result, anyone claiming to know some mystery by the Spirit, but who opposes the leadership of the Church, is not someone whose claims should be accepted as authentic. Anyone who sets themselves up as an independent light unto the world, in competition with the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and its regularly ordained and authorized ministers, is likely to be seeking their own glory and not the glory of God. And the pattern of appealing to new, personal revelation as a justification for practicing polygamy is a well established trick used against the credulous. All such things should be avoided.
To prevent misguided exuberance from embarrassing the Church, which sometimes accompanies the freedom associated with the Spirit, during the term of President David O. McKay the Church adopted a correlation committee to review the content of General Authority pronouncements in General Conference and in publications. It was intended to regulate and coordinate teaching. Some have thought it was carried too far. As one Seventy lamented:
Since the 1970s, I’ve seen that drift, where correlation now is telling me, if I write something to get through correlation, “You can’t say that.” And I write back and say, “Why?” And they say, “Well, because we think this is the interpretation.” And I write back and say, “You’re not the interpreter.” …And that’s where we get lost. Today, I see correlation, like the Supreme Court, becoming more and more the originator of the thought, rather than the coordinator of the thought. …So, while I think correlation is good, I think it’s gone past its original commission.” (Prince, Gregory A. and Wright, Wm. Robert. David O. McKay and The Rise of Modern Mormonism. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City, 2005, p. 158.)
The discussion of the correlation process in the cited book is worthwhile for anyone interested in the subject. Correlation was necessary to prevent the needless duplication of effort as each auxiliary prepared their own courses of study. The endless re-inventing of study materials resulted in an unwanted cacophony of voices during each year’s courses of study. Correlation allowed the Church to move from the regional setting it held at the beginnings of President David O. McKay’s administration, to the world-wide setting it began to occupy by the end of his administration. Further, the resulting effort allowed the Church hierarchy to review and correct misstatements of doctrine before they were made in General Conference. Some have viewed this as stifling to the Spirit. This Seventy’s comment shows the tension some feel at having their talks “correlated.”
Although not directly saying so, Michael D. Quinn’s book Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997, suggests a weakening spiritual authority among the Apostles from the 1830’s through the late 1990’s. He writes, concerning the gulf between the original charge given to the Quorum by Oliver Cowdrey, and the charge now given: “it was a retreat from the charge given at ordination to the apostleship throughout the nineteenth century. Instead, twentieth-century apostles have maintained that an inward prompting by the Holy Ghost is sufficient basis for their being special witnesses of Christ. For example, Joseph Fielding Smith’s own apostolic charge in 1910 made no reference to seeking a visionary special witness. It is rare for a modern LDS apostle to claim a special witness more dramatic than the impressions of the Spirit.” (p. 4.) He continues, “repeatedly, the message of the twentieth-century LDS church is that inward conviction rather than outward vision is the basis for being a special witness of Christ.” (Id., p. 5.)
In his recent book, Rex Bushman has explained the way in which the charismatic presence of the Spirit changed in function in the Church during and after Joseph Smith’s day. He explains, “Joseph seemed surprisingly eager to reduce his own part in receiving revelations. He seemed uneasy about constantly appealing to heaven for direction. He told one inquirer that the Lord should not be petitioned for every little thing, especially if revelations on the same subject had already been given. …That reluctance, contradictory as it might seem in a man who gained great authority from his revelations, became more pronounced after 1835. After the organization of the Twelve Apostles, the frequency of canonical revelations dropped precipitously. The commandments to particular people, included among the revelations in the early years, were omitted from later compilations. Instead, Joseph’s history was filled with minutes of the Twelve Apostles’ meetings, as if they had become the source of inspiration. The Acts of the Apostles from the New Testament—a history of their activities—became the pattern for revelation rather than the visions of Moses on Sinai. At the moment when Joseph’s own revelatory powers were at their peak, he divested himself of sole responsibility for revealing the will of God and invested that gift in the councils of the Church, making it a charismatic bureaucracy.” (Bushman, Richard L. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling; A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005, p. 257–258.) I hasten to point out this represents Brother Bushman’s interpretation. As I have shown in a total of three books, the obligation of revelation for the individual, as well as for the Church, remains paramount. However, this interpretation of Brother Bushman is relevant to understanding where the Church is today, in the view of one of the Church’s great scholars. Significantly, his interpretation has not been challenged by any other scholar or Church authority.
In the discussion of the manner in which the hierarchy has functioned as a charismatic council, Quinn quotes from Brigham Young University President Ernest L. Wilkinson, who recorded in his journal: “The main difficulty with the way the brethren make decisions is that they generally operate after having only one side of the story.”(Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, supra, p. 10.) President Wilkinson’s view shows a potential weakness of deliberative decision-making when divorced from inspiration.
In Quinn’s discussion of the practical results of decisions made, he uses the refusal of President Heber J. Grant to ordain Eldred G. Smith as Church Patriarch as an illustration of an embarrassingly poor choice. President Grant insisted on his son-in-law, Joseph F. Smith, being ordained. The result was a ten-year vacancy in the office of Church Patriarch as the Quorum of the Twelve favored Eldred G. Smith. When the impasse ended, President Grant got his choice. As Quinn tells the story:
Grant refused to confer the patriarchal office on a descendant of John Smith (b. 1832) because John had used tobacco and alcohol, his oldest son had been unworthy of the office, and Hyrum G. had been aspiring. As Grant saw it, Eldred was the product of three generations of weakness and instability, and would revert to an inherent flaw in the John Smith family. Finally, Grant wanted the new patriarch to be a descendant of President Joseph F. Smith whom Grant had always admired and loved.
Grant cited these reasons during a conversation with Eldred in 1942. He said, “Well, I just wanted you to know that I would not put in any descendant of John Smith—who didn’t live the Word of Wisdom.” Stunned, Eldred replied, “You mean to tell [me] that you would penalize me because of something my greatgrandfather did, whom I hardly knew, because I was only five years old when he died?” Grant answered, “Yes, you can put it that way if you want to.” However, Grant did not tell Eldred the final reason the office had been vacant for ten years: the Twelve had resisted Grant’s preference for his son-in-law.
Grant did not live to see the irony in his only patriarchal appointment. By May 1946 Joseph F. was incapacitated with a back injury, and the First Presidency asked three stake patriarchs to serve those seeking patriarchal blessings from the Presiding Patriarch. This echoed the era of “acting patriarchs” appointed during the office’s ten-year vacancy. His illness continued into the summer, but in July the hierarchy was stunned to learn that Patriarch Joseph F. Smith was homosexual. Publicly they cited “ill health” as reason for his resignation and released him at October 1946 conference. (Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, supra, pp. 127–128, footnotes omitted.)
In addition to this being offered by Quinn as evidence of lack of inspiration guiding the Church President, it provides another lesson. It reaffirms a seemingly forgotten lesson from the Second Article of Faith. “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” It also shows how little spiritual damage is actually done by a Word of Wisdom violation. There was apparently a need for this lesson to be relearned by us all, and therefore it was provided as another lesson to us.
Assuming Quinn’s thesis is correct, it should be remembered nowhere in scripture does it state the Lord’s prophets do not learn, or need to learn. We believe in the perfection of Christ; but have never been given reason to believe in anything other than some distant, future perfection for mankind. Certainly Peter’s foibles are on display in the Gospels, Acts and Paul’s writings. Yet none of us would question Peter’s status as Chief Apostle, or his value to us as an inspired mentor. Should not modern Apostles and Prophets be accorded the same deference? So assuming this incident stands for what Quinn urges, then it shows us again how flawed, mortal men can be and are used by the Lord for His purposes. He is greater than the mere men and women who are called to lead.
The subject of this verse in this Chapter comes as revelation has ceased in the line of Nephi’s descendants who have been the past record keepers. However, inspiration and revelation did continue among them. One line failed in their faith, but another line of faithful disciples picked it up again. The records were given to King Benjamin, a prophet-king, whose line continued to act under the inspiration of the Spirit in the wilderness. From that time forward through another eight-hundred years, the prophetic record-keeping continued. The hand of God did not depart altogether from the Nephite people until their final destruction, even though individual lines lost the faith (and therefore the ability) to receive revelation. The final complete loss came only after so complete an apostasy that none remained who were guided by the Spirit. Until then the Spirit continued among these chosen people.
Similarly, when the word of the Lord ceased among the prophets and High Priest of Israel in Eli’s time, as recorded in the First Book of Samuel, the Lord did not abandon Israel. Instead, He called Samuel and renewed prophetic contact and guidance for His chosen people. Failure of one line does not mean the Lord abandons His people.
As the time for the New Dispensation to begin arose, after five-hundred years of prophetic silence, the Lord still regarded Israel as His. Remarkably, even though Israel was in prophetic darkness at the top, there were still commoners who were entitled to receive and did receive revelation. We are told of Gabriel’s appearance in the Temple to Zacharias, and later to Mary at her home. As events open in the New Testament, there are still other spirit-filled, inspired Jewish witnesses to Christ’s birth. Among those who were permitted to peer inside the veil and see a celebrating heavenly host, were the (apparently Levitical) shepherds keeping watch over the flock at night. They saw an open vision of song and ceremony bearing testimony to the birth of Christ. These shepherds keeping watch over the flocks by night were not the presiding High Priest, nor among the Sanhedrin, but they were worthy to see and hear the heavenly choir. “Righteous men, finding their eyes open, see within the veil, and having their ears unstopped, hear the angelic hosts praise God and proclaim tidings of joy and peace on earth for men of good will everywhere.” (McConkie, Bruce R. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1, The Gospels. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965, p. 96.) And so among the common people, we see the Spirit working. Even if the then-contemporary leaders failed to receive revelation and commune with the Spirit, there were still the inspired among the common of God’s chosen people.
In the presentation of Christ at the Temple after Mary’s days of purification, we encounter two other Spirit-led Jews. About one we read:
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. (Luke 2: 25–33.)
Simeon is a man upon whom the Holy Ghost has operated. He has it “revealed” to him Christ would come. Aged Simeon has the power of revelation with him, and came to see Christ in the flesh, just as the revelation has testified to him it would happen. Although there was a murderous monarch, and a corrupt high priest, the rank and file of Israel included within them righteous Simeon. And his access to Divine inspiration is unaffected by these corrupt, presiding others.
A second inspired witness arrived at the same time. Of her it is written:
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2: 36–38.)
Here is a Jewish woman who is given the inspired title of “prophetess” because of the power of the Holy Ghost abiding with her. She receives revelation confirming, as a second witness to Simeon, this Christ child was “for redemption in Jerusalem.”
When God has a people, revelation among them continues. Whether there is a righteous leadership or a fallen one, the Lord remains committed to His people. He does not forsake them until they utterly forsake Him.
The Spirit of revelation and inspiration continues in the Church today. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a General Conference talk in April, 2006, entitled “All Men Everywhere.” In the talk Elder Oaks reiterated examples of the Lord’s continuing role in manifesting Himself to those seeking the truth, throughout the world. He testified in part, as follows:
Note that these promised manifestations of the Lord are to “every nation, kindred, tongue and people.” Today we are seeing the fulfillment of that promise in every nation where our missionaries are permitted to labor, even among peoples we have not previously associated with Christianity.
For example, we know of many cases where the Lord has been manifesting Himself to men and women in the nation of Russia, so recently released from the long grip of godless communism. While reading critical or mocking articles about Mormons, two different Russian men felt a strong impression to search out our meeting places. Both met missionaries and joined the Church.
A medical doctor in a village in Nigeria had a dream in which he saw his good friend speaking to a congregation. Intrigued, he traveled to his friend’s village on a Sunday and was astonished to find exactly what he had seen in his dream—a congregation called a ward being taught by his friend, who was their bishop. Impressed with what he heard in repeated visits, he and his wife were taught and baptized. Two months later over 30 others in their village had also joined the Church, and their clinic had become the meeting place.
A man I met from northern India had never even heard the name of Jesus Christ until he saw it on a calendar in the shop of a shoemaker. The Spirit led him to conversation in a Protestant church. Later, during a visit to a distant college town, he saw an advertisement for an American group called “The BYU Young Ambassadors.” During their performance, and inner voice told him to go into the lobby after the program and a man in a blue blazer would tell him what to do. In this way he obtained a Book of Mormon, read it, and was converted to the restored gospel. He has since served as a missionary and as a bishop.
A little girl in Thailand felt a memory of a loving Father in Heaven. As she grew older, she would often pray and counsel with Him in her heart. In her early 20s she met our missionaries. Their teachings confirmed the loving personal feelings for God she remembered from her childhood. She was baptized and served a full-time mission in Thailand.
Only 5 percent of the people in Cambodia are Christians. A family in that country was searching for the truth. While their 11-year-old son was riding his bicycle he saw some men in white shirts and ties showing someone a picture and asking who it was. He felt he should stop. As he watched, he was prompted to say, “That is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and He came to save man.” Then he rode away. It took the missionaries a month to find him and his family. Today, the father is a counselor in the mission presidency.
Last June, a family of five visited the open house for a new chapel in Mongolia. As the father walked trough the door a powerful force went through his body, a feeling of peace he had never experienced before. Tears flowed. He asked the missionaries what that amazing feeling was and how he could feel it again. Soon, the entire family was baptized.
These are only a few examples. There are thousands more.
From this General Conference talk, it should be apparent to everyone the hand of God lingers over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This work is bigger than any single person or group. It is the handiwork of the Son of God. He authored it. He intends to see it succeed.
Whether there is an ebb and flow in the inspiration of its leaders as some critics contend is of no matter. Whether such critics are right or wrong, is irrelevant. The members are entitled to receive, and continue to receive, on an individual basis, on-going companionship with the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit. If you do not, then the problem lies within you. It does not lie elsewhere. It is not and never will be the leaders’ fault.
The verse which inspired this Chapter is a stark reminder to us all that revelation may end among some families or individuals. When it does it is tragic. However, individual failure will never define nor limit the work of God. Anytime anyone is willing to receive, He is willing to give. As the giver of good gifts, He will never return a serpent to one asking for a fish.
How wonderful it is to live at a time in which living Prophets and Apostles are among us. We have good reason to rejoice and thank God.
The reason revelation ceased among the direct descendants of Nephi’s line, who originally maintained the plates, is not explained in full. Nor is the reason for the word of the Lord abandoning the Israelite leadership at the time of Eli. It seems likely the reasons had more to do with the inclinations of the leaders to seek revelation than the Lord’s willingness to give it. It may well be those former leaders did not seek revelation because they thought they already had a great store of existing truths which were not being lived fully. They may have sincerely believed there was no great need for further revelation.
When revelation is received in abundance, it is equally clear it comes because of an anxious search for it. Jacob explained it this way in his record: “For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them. And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.” (Jacob 1: 5–6.) That is, they obtained revelations, manifestations and prophecy because of their great desire to know these things. They used their faith, were motivated by anxiety or loving concern for their people, and as a result obtained knowledge from beyond the veil.
Christ taught we must ask and seek in order to find. He commanded us to do so. When we find the heavens silent, in all likelihood it is because of us and not the Lord. The acknowledgement in this verse that revelation is no longer open, is a reflection of the choice of men, and not the will of heaven. But it is a sobering reminder to us of what can happen, as a precaution to stop it from happening to us.
We are not immune from this same thing happening. As long as we keep in mind this can happen to us, we are more likely to avoid it happening. You must seek personal revelation, and bring forth spiritual fruit. Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree reminds us of how many struggles we face in our time. Even after having the Gospel returned to us, we look forward to repeated trimming, clearing and pruning. It is described as follows: “ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard. For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.” (Jacob 5: 65–66.) This is a process. It will not happen all at once. These “tender branches,” (Latter-day Saints), will require pruning. Not all the bad will be cleared away at once. Both good and bad will continue to co-exist as the process of restoring the olive tree progresses. The only way to guarantee you are not among those who will be “hewn down and cast in to the fire” is to bring forth sweet fruit. All of that is entirely individual. There is no group salvation, and never has been. Each person has the same opportunity and responsibility to bring forth good fruit.
One final clarification should be remembered: revelation must be sought, but it is the Lord alone who determines when, where, and what is received. He is sovereign. We cannot impose our will upon Him. Instead, we must conform to His will, as a result of which we qualify for revelation from Him. Then we wait for Him.