Chapter 16 Revelation, Past, Present, And Future

ARTICLE 9 -- 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.

Revelation and Inspiration -- In a theological sense the term revelation signifies the making known of divine truth by communication from the heavens. The Greek word, apocalypsis, which in meaning closely corresponds with our word revelation, expresses an uncovering or a disclosure of that which had been wholly or in part hidden -- the drawing aside of a veil. An Anglicized form of the Greek term -- Apocalypse -- is sometimes used to designate the particular Revelation given to John upon the Isle of Patmos, the record of which forms the last book of the New Testament. Divine revelation, as illustrated by numerous examples in scripture, may consist of disclosures or declarations concerning the attributes of Deity, or of an expression of the will of God regarding the affairs of men.

The word inspiration is sometimes invested with a signification almost identical with that of revelation, though by origin and early usage it possessed a distinctive meaning. To inspire is literally to animate with the spirit; a man is inspired when under the influence of a power other than his own. Divine inspiration may be regarded as a lower or less directly intensive operation of spiritual influence upon man than is shown in revelation. The difference therefore is rather one of degree than of kind. By neither of these directing processes does the Lord deprive the human subject of agency or individuality, FN as is proved by the marked peculiarities of style and method characterizing the several books of scripture. Yet, in the giving of revelation, a more direct influence operates upon the human recipient than under the lesser, though no less truly divine, effect of inspiration. FN

The directness and plainness with which God may communicate with man is dependent upon the conditions of receptivity of the person. One may be susceptible to inspiration in its lower and simpler phases only; another may be so thoroughly responsive to this power as to be capable of receiving direct revelation; and this higher influence again may manifest itself in varying degrees, and with a greater or lesser shrouding of the divine personality. Consider the Lord's words to Aaron and Miriam, who had been guilty of disrespect toward Moses the revelator: "And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold." FN

We have seen that among the most conclusive proofs of the existence of a Supreme Being is that afforded by direct revelation from Him; and that some knowledge of the divine attributes and personality is essential to the rational exercise of faith in God. We can but imperfectly respect an authority whose very existence is a matter of uncertainty with us; therefore, if we are to implicitly trust and truly revere our Creator, we must know something of Him. Though the veil of mortality, with all its thick obscurity, may shut the light of the divine presence from the sinful heart, that separating curtain may be drawn aside and the heavenly light may shine into the righteous soul. By the listening ear, attuned to the celestial music, the voice of God has been heard declaring His personality and will; to the eye that is freed from the motes and beams of sin, single in its search after truth, the hand of God has been made visible; within the soul properly purified by devotion and humility the mind of God has been revealed.

Communication from God to Man -- We have no record of a period of time during which an authorized minister of Christ has dwelt on earth, when the Lord did not make known to that servant the divine will concerning his appointed ministry. No man can take upon himself the honor and dignity of the ministry. To become an authorized minister of the Gospel, "a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority," and those in authority must have been similarly called. When thus commissioned, he speaks by a power greater than his own in preaching the Gospel and in administering the ordinances thereof; he may verily become a prophet unto the people. The Lord has consistently recognized and honored His servants so appointed. He has magnified their office in proportion to their worthiness, making them living oracles of the divine will. This has been true of every dispensation of the work of God.

It is a privilege of the Holy Priesthood to commune with the heavens, and to learn the immediate will of the Lord; this communion may be effected through the medium of dreams and visions, by Urim and Thummim, through the visitation of angels, or by the higher endowment of face to face communication with the Lord. FN The inspired utterances of men who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost are scripture unto the people. FN In specific terms the promise was made in olden times that the Lord would recognize the medium of prophecy through which to make His will and purposes known unto man: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." FN Not all men may attain the position of special revelators: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant." FN Such men are oracles of truth, privileged counselors, friends of God. FN

Revelation in Ancient Times -- Unto Adam, the patriarch of the race, to whom were committed the keys of the first dispensation, God revealed His will and gave commandments. FN While living in a state of innocence prior to the fall, Adam had direct communication with the Lord; then, through transgression the man was driven from Eden, but he took with him some remembrance of his former happy state, including a personal knowledge of the existence and attributes of his Creator. While sweating under the penalty foretold and fulfilled upon him, tilling the earth in a struggle for food, he continued to call upon the Lord. As Adam and his wife, Eve, prayed and toiled, "they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence. And he gave unto them commandments." FN

The patriarchs who succeeded Adam were blessed with the gift of revelation in varying degrees. Enoch, the seventh in the line of descent, was particularly endowed. We learn from Genesis that Enoch "walked with God," and that when he had reached the age of three hundred and sixty-five years "he was not; for God took him." FN From the New Testament we learn something more regarding his ministry; FN and the Writings of Moses furnish us a yet fuller account of the Lord's dealings with this richly endowed seer. FN Unto him were made known the plan of redemption, and the prospective history of the race down to the meridian of time, thence to the Millennium and the final judgment. Unto Noah the Lord revealed His intentions regarding the impending deluge; by this prophetic voice the people were warned and urged to repent; disregarding it and rejecting the message, they were destroyed in their iniquity. With Abraham God's covenant was established; unto him was revealed the course of creative events; FN and this covenant was confirmed unto Isaac and Jacob.

Through revelation God commissioned Moses to lead Israel from bondage. From the burning bush on Horeb the Lord declared to the man thus chosen: "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." FN In all the troublous scenes between Moses and Pharaoh the Lord continued His communications unto His servant, who appeared amidst the glory of the divine endowment as a veritable god unto the heathen king. FN And throughout the wearisome journey of four decades in the wilderness, the Lord ceased not to honor His prophet. So may we trace the line of revelators -- men who have stood, each in his time, as the medium between God and the people, receiving instruction from the heavens and transmitting it to the masses -- from Moses to Joshua, and on through the Judges to David and Solomon, thence to John, who was the immediate forerunner of the Messiah.

Christ Himself was a Revelator -- Notwithstanding His personal authority, God though He had been and was, while Jesus Christ lived as a man among men He declared His work to be that of One greater than Himself, by whom He had been sent and from whom He received instructions. Note His words: "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak." FN Further: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." FN And again: "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. * * * And as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do." FN

The Apostles Likewise, left to bear the burden of the Church after the departure of the Master, looked to heaven for guidance, expected and received the word of revelation to direct them in their exalted ministry. Paul writing to the Corinthians said: "But God hath revealed them [divine truths] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." FN

John affirms that the book known specifically as The Revelation was not written of his own wisdom, but that it is: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John. FN

Current Revelation Necessary -- The scriptures are conclusive as to the fact that, from Adam to John the Revelator, God directed the affairs of His people by personal communication through commissioned servants. As the written word -- the record of revelation previously given -- grew with time, it became a law unto the people, but in no period was that deemed sufficient. While the revelations of the past are indispensable as guides to the people, showing forth, as they do, the plan and purpose of God's dealings under particular conditions, they may not be universally and directly applicable to the circumstances of succeeding times. Many of the revealed laws are of general application to all men in all ages; e.g., the commandments -- Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not bear false witness -- and other injunctions regarding the duty of man toward his fellows, most of which are so plainly just as to be approved by the human conscience even without the direct word of divine command. Other laws may be equally general in application, yet they derive their validity as God-given ordinances from the fact that they have been authoritatively instituted as such. As examples of this class we may consider the requirements concerning the sanctity of the Sabbath, the necessity of baptism as a means of securing forgiveness of sins, the ordinances of confirmation, the sacrament, and others. Revelations of yet another kind are of record, such as have been given to meet the conditions of particular times, and these may be regarded as special, or circumstantial revelations, e.g., the instructions to Noah regarding the building of the ark and the warning of the people; the requirement made of Abraham that he leave the land of his nativity and sojourn in a strange country; the command to Moses, and through him to Israel, relative to the exodus from Egypt; the revelations given to Lehi directing the departure of his company from Jerusalem, their journeying in the wilderness, the building of a ship and the voyage on the great waters to another hemisphere.

It is at once unreasonable, and directly contrary to our conception of the unchangeable justice of God, to believe that He will bless the Church in one dispensation with a present living revelation of His will and in another leave the Church, to which He gives His name, to live as best it may according to the laws of a bygone age. True, through apostasy the authority of the Priesthood may have been taken from the earth for a season, leaving the people in a condition of darkness with the windows of heaven shut against them; but at such times God has recognized no earthly Church as His own, nor any prophet to declare with authority "Thus saith the Lord."

In support of the doctrine that revelation especially adapted to existing conditions is characteristic of God's dealings, we have the fact of laws having been ordained, and subsequently repealed when a more advanced stage of the divine plan had been reached. Thus, the law of Moses FN was strictly binding upon Israel from the time of the exodus to that of Christ's ministry; but its repeal was declared by the Savior Himself, FN and a higher law than that of carnal commandments, which had been given because of transgression, was instituted in its stead.

From the scriptures cited, and from numerous other assurances of holy writ, it is evident that revelation from God to man has been a vital characteristic of the living Church. It is equally plain that revelation is essential to the existence of the Church in an organized state on the earth. If to have authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances of the same a man must be called of God,"by prophecy" FN it is evident that in the absence of direct revelation the Church would be left without authorized officers, and in consequence would become extinct. The prophets and patriarchs of old, the judges, the priests, and every authorized servant from Adam to Malachi, were called by direct revelation manifested through the special word of prophecy. This was true also of John the Baptist, FN of the apostles, FN and of lesser officers FN of the Church, as long as an organization recognized of God remained on the earth. Without the gift of continual revelation there can be no authorized ministry on the earth; and without officers duly commissioned there can be no Church of Christ.

Revelation is essential to the Church, not only for the proper calling and ordination of its ministers but also that the officers so chosen may be guided in their administrations -- to teach with authority the doctrines of salvation, to admonish, to encourage, and if necessary to reprove the people, and to declare unto them by prophecy the purposes and will of God respecting the Church, present and future. The promise of salvation is not limited by time, place, or persons. So taught Peter on Pentecost day, assuring the multitude of their eligibility to blessing: "For the promise is unto you," said he, "and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. FN Salvation, with all the gifts of God, was of old for Jew and Greek alike; FN the same Lord over all, rich unto those who would call upon Him, without difference. FN

Alleged Objections in Scripture -- The opponents of the doctrine of continual revelation quote, with gross perversion of meaning, certain scriptural passages to sustain their heresy; among such scriptures are the following. The words of John with which he approaches the conclusion of his book are these: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." FN To apply these sayings to the Bible as it was afterward compiled is wholly unjustified, for John did not write his book as the concluding section of any such compilation of the scriptures as we now possess in our Bible. John had reference to his own prophecies, which, having come to him by revelation, were sacred; and to alter such, by omission or addition, would be to modify the words of God. The sin of altering any other part of the revealed word would be equally great. Moreover, in this oft-quoted passage, no intimation is given that the Lord may not add to or take from the word therein revealed; the declaration is that no man may change the record and escape the penalty. A similar injunction against altering the message of divine command was uttered by Moses, over fifteen centuries before the date of John's writing, FN and with a similarly restricted application.

Another alleged objection to modern revelation is offered in Paul's words to Timothy, regarding the scriptures "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, FN and which are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." FN The remarks of the apostle to the elders of Ephesus are quoted with the same intent: "Ye know * * * how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house * * * For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." FN It is argued that if the scriptures known to Timothy were all-sufficient to make him "wise unto salvation," and the man of God "perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works," the same scriptures are sufficient for all men to the end of time; and that if the doctrines preached to the Ephesian elders represented "all the counsel of God," no further counsel is to be expected. In reply, it is perhaps sufficient to say that the objectors to continued revelation who defend their unscriptural position by strained interpretation of such passages, if consistent, would be compelled to reject all revelation given through the apostles after the date of Paul's utterances, including even the Revelation of John.

Equally inconsistent is the assertion that Christ's dying exclamation "It is finished" meant that revelation was at an end; for we find the same Jesus afterward revealing Himself, as the resurrected Lord, promising the apostles further revelation, FN and assuring them that He would be with them even unto the end. FN Moreover, were the words of the Crucified One susceptible of any such intent, the apostles, who taught as they were directly and specifically led by revelation as long as they lived, must be classed as impostors.

To justify the anathema with which the opponents of modern revelation seek to persecute those who believe in the continual flow of God's word to His Church, the following prophecy of Zechariah is quoted: "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied." FN The day here spoken of appears to be yet future, for the idols and the unclean spirits still have influence; and, moreover, the fact that the prophets here spoken of are false ones is shown by Zechariah's associating them with idols and unclean spirits.

Such attempts to refute the doctrine of continued revelation as have been made on the authority of the foregoing scriptures are pitiably futile; they carry their own refutation, and leave untouched the truth that belief in current revelation is wholly reasonable and strictly scriptural. FN

Latter-day Revelation -- In the light of our knowledge concerning the continuity of revelation as an essential characteristic of the Church, it is as reasonable to look for new revelation today as to believe in the actuality of the gift during ancient times. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" FN was declared of old; and it is proper to include with vision, revelation also, since the latter gift is often manifested through dreams and visions. Nevertheless, in spite of abundant and most explicit testimony of scripture, so-called Christian sects of the day are practically a unit in declaring that direct revelation ceased with the apostles or even before their time; that further communication from the heavens is unnecessary; and that to expect such is unscriptural. In assuming this position the discordant sects of the day are but following the path that was trodden by unbelievers in earlier times. The recreant Jews rejected the Savior because He came to them with a new revelation. Had they not Moses and the prophets to guide them, and what more could they need? They openly boasted: "We are Moses' disciples" and added: "We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is." FN

The scriptures, far from asserting a cessation of revelation in latter times, expressly declare the restoration and latter-day operation of that gift. John foresaw the bringing anew of the Gospel in the last days, through angelic ministration; and having seen in vision what was then future, he voiced the prediction in the past tense as though already accomplished: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." FN He knew further that the voice of God would be heard in the last days, calling His people from Babylon to a place of safety: "And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." FN

The Book of Mormon is not less explicit in declaring that direct revelation shall abide as a blessing upon the Church in the latter days. Note the prophecy given through Ether the Jaredite; the context shows that the time spoken of is that of the last dispensation: "And in that day that they [the Gentiles] shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. * * * But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record." FN

Lehi, instructing his sons, quoted a prophecy of Joseph the son of Jacob, which is not recorded in the Bible; it has special reference to the work of Joseph the modern prophet: "Yea, Joseph truly said: thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers." FN

Nephi, son of Lehi, spoke by prophecy of the last days, in which the Gentiles should receive a testimony of Christ with many signs and wondrous manifestations: "He manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith. But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men." FN

The same prophet, apostrophizing with warning words the unbelievers of the last days, predicted the coming forth of additional scriptures: "And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered.

And behold the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof." FN

The Savior, addressing the Nephites, repeated the prediction of Malachi concerning the revelation to be given through Elijah, before the day of the Lord's second coming: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." FN

By revelation in the present day the Lord has confirmed and fulfilled His earlier promises, and has specifically rebuked those who would close His mouth and estrange His people from Him. His voice is heard today, "proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old; Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever." FN

Revelation Yet Future -- In view of the demonstrated facts that revelation between God and man has ever been and is a characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ, it is reasonable to await with confident expectation the coming of other messages from heaven, even until the end of man's probation on earth. The Church is, and shall continue to be, as truly founded on the rock of revelation as it was in the day of Christ's prophetic blessing upon Peter, who through this gift of God was able to testify of his Lord's divinity. FN Current revelation is equally plain with that of former days in predicting the yet future manifestations of God through this appointed channel. FN The canon of scripture is still open; many lines, many precepts, are yet to be added; revelation, surpassing in importance and glorious fulness any that has been recorded, is yet to be given to the Church and declared to the world.

What justification or pretense of consistency can man claim for denying the power and purposes of God to reveal Himself and His will in these days as He assuredly did in former times? In every department of human knowledge and activity, in everything for which man arrogates glory to himself, he prides himself in the possibilities of enlargement and growth; yet in the divine science of theology he holds that progress is impossible and advancement forbidden. Against such heresy and blasphemous denial of divine prerogatives and power, God has proclaimed His edict in words of piercing import: "Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!" FN "Deny not the spirit of revelation, nor the spirit of prophecy, for wo unto him that denieth these things." FN


Direct Communication from God to Man -- Many scriptural passages relating to this subject have been cited; see references following Chapter 12.

The Lord revealed himself to Adam, both before and after the fall -- Gen., chaps. 2, 3, and others; Moses, chaps. 4, 5, etc.

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets -- Amos 3:7.

Christ declared to Peter that the church should be built upon revelation -- Matt. 16:15-19.

The God of heaven to set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed -- Dan. 2:44.

The Lord foretold future revelation to his people -- Jer. 31:33, 34.

The Lord predicted that he would plead with his people face to face -- Ezek. 20:35, 36.

Revelation through Elijah the prophet promised -- Mal. 4:5, 6; compare P. of G.P. p. 51; D&C 2:1; 27:9; 110:14, 15; 128:17; 110:13.

A promise that the Spirit of truth should show things to come -- John 16:13.

That God may give the spirit of wisdom and revelation -- Eph. 1:17.

Paul testifies to revelation personally received -- Eph. 3:3-5.

The Lord gave thanks that the Father had given revelations -- Matt. 11:25.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit -- 1 Cor. 2:10.

For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ -- Gal. 1:12.

Divine revelation may be given to correct error -- Philip. 3:15.

The saints kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time -- 1 Peter 1:5; see also 4:13.

The revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant John -- the Book of Revelation.

Abraham received all things by revelation and commandment -- D&C 132:29.

Promise of revelation from God as in times of old -- 1 Nephi 10:19.

Consult References following chapter 15 -- "Book of Mormon Testimony Relating to Itself."

Gifts of the Spirit, including wisdom, knowledge, and prophecy, are not to cease except through the transgressions of the people -- Moroni 10:24; consider the entire chapter.

God will give his word, line upon line, precept upon precept -- 2 Nephi 28:29, 30.

Manifestations of the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith in the year 1820 -- P. of G.P. pp. 49, 50.

I will speak unto you and prophesy, as unto men in days of old -- D&C 45:15.

The Lord to reveal things of the kingdom from days of old and for ages to come -- D&C 76:7-10.

Commissioned by ordination to teach the revelations received and those yet to be received -- D&C 43:7.

Revelations of God which shall come hereafter -- D&C 20:35.

I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world -- D&C 124:40-42.

A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, but all shall be manifest -- D&C 121:28-32.

A revelation through vision given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, 1832 -- D&C, sec. 76.

Revelation and personal manifestations to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Temple at Kirtland, Ohio, 1836 -- D&C, sec. 110.

Men ordained to the priesthood are to speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost -- D&C 68:3-6.

Revelation dealing with the affairs of the saints in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri -- D&C, sec. 97.

Deny not the spirit of revelation nor the spirit of prophecy, for wo unto him that denieth these things -- D&C 11:25.