“Lifted Up at the Last Day”: Thoughts on Personal Revelation
By Ken K. Gourdin
Some time ago as a member of the High Council, President [name redacted] gave a masterful talk in the Tenth Ward on the nature of revelation. He said there are four possible answers when we seek inspiration from the Lord about what we should do in our personal lives: “Yes,” “No,” “Not yet,” and “What do you think?” If you’re like me, sometimes, it can be difficult to discern what the Lord is trying to tell me when I receive one of the latter three answers.
But, as the Lord told Oliver Cowdery in Doctrine & Covenants 6:22-23:
22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?
It is not often that I have received revelation that is clear and direct, as though the Lord tells me, “Ken, do this,” or “Ken, don’t do that.” While we are here on Earth to prove to the Lord that we will do whatever He commands, we’re also here to learn by our own experience. Whatever else the Lord has or has not seen fit to tell me, He has spoken “peace to my mind” concerning many matters I have taken to Him in prayer, and I’ll briefly discuss a couple of examples later on.
What if, as President [name redacted] says, the answer is neither, “Yes,” nor “No,” but rather, “What do you think?” What if we, in the words of Paul, see the answer only “through a glass, darkly”? President Brigham Young taught:
If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.
Whatever questions I do (or do not) have, whatever answers I do (or do not) get, I can only say, with the apostle Paul, that “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). If I don’t yet have everything I righteously desire out of life or an answer to every question I have (and whether I ever get it or not), I can only say, with Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Whatever unanswered questions remain, I do know for certain that there have been times when the voice of the spirit—still and small, but unmistakable, nonetheless—has spoken peace to my soul. I would like, briefly, to share two of those experiences with you. The first occurred as I lay on an operating table waiting to be cut open for the third time in a span of 27 months many years ago.
I have Cerebral Palsy. As a result of the Cerebral Palsy, I have had surgery on every major muscle in my left leg; have had my left hip reconstructed three times; have had hardware implanted and removed; have spent a total of six months with my lower body completely immobilized in plaster (though not all at once—thank God! ;)); and have used every ambulatory device imaginable, including canes, crutches, braces, a walker, and a wheelchair. In the midst of these challenges, while lying on an operating table waiting to be cut open for the third time in 27 months (after two failed operations, each of which had been followed by six weeks in a body cast), I knew—even though, if anybody had bet on the situation’s outcome, they would have bet against me, and even though many would’ve thought that optimism under these circumstances was foolhardy and naïve (to say the least!)—that when I awoke after the operation, it would be to news of the best possible outcome. To be clear, I knew beyond any doubt whatsoever (good reason for pessimism notwithstanding) that God would guide the hands of a brash young surgeon who dared to defy the weight of medical opinion opposing him, which held that the best course of action was to try, again, what had already failed—twice.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Twelve once spoke about his experience preparing to serve a mission and worrying whether he was ready to be a successful missionary. I find it interesting that while the Lord could have told him, “Neil, you need to study this or that subject more,” He didn’t; instead, the Lord simply told him, “Neil, you know enough.”
The second experience I would like to share with you is one that is similar to the one Elder Andersen shared about preparing to go on a mission. My experience, too, occurred as I was preparing to serve a mission, except that my question—my concern— was less about whether I knew enough to be a successful missionary (though I probably didn’t) than it was simply about whether I could meet the physical demands of missionary work. I don’t have time to share with you the background related to my experience. If you’d like to know more, you can Google my name—Ken Gourdin—and “New Era,” and my published account of that experience should be the first result to come up. [The article I submitted to The New Era, the magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for youth, is available here (last accessed March 19, 2015): https://www.lds.org/new-era/1993/02/we-did-it?lang=eng.] Long story short, I was inspired to read Alma 26:8-12, which is a conversation between Ammon and his brother Aaron. Ammon says:
8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.
9 For if we had not come up out of the land of Zarahemla, these our dearly beloved brethren, who have so dearly beloved us, would still have been racked with hatred against us, yea, and they would also have been strangers to God.
10 And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting.
11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
I can only say, with Nephi, “I know that [God] loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). Like Nephi, there are a lot of things I don’t know that I wish I did. But like Nephi, I know that God loves me—that He loves us. I echo Alma the Younger’s testimony to his son, Helaman, “ I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”
May we refuse to allow anything we might not know to obscure the light and truth of what we do know. And may we never forget—whatever hardships, struggles, and trials we may face—that the Lord loves us.