The heavens are open again. Revelation did not end with Christ’s Twelve Apostles. As one of the “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study” in the April 19-24 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021, 74 states, “God gives revelation to guide His Church.”
The Prophet and Seer of the Restoration
After the initial organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see Doctrine and Covenants 20), some members were “disturbed by people making false claims as revelators” (Doctrine and Covenants 43, section heading). As a result, the Lord’s pattern for guiding His restored Church through His chosen prophet was clearly revealed: “Ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him [Joseph Smith] whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken” (Doctrine and Covenants 43:2-3).
Joseph Smith was clearly appointed to preside to over the Church as “a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:125).
Joseph Smith faithfully led the restored Church of Jesus Christ until his martyrdom on June 27, 1844. Of his death Elder John Taylor wrote: “The Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).
Ongoing Revelation for the Church through Prophets
After Joseph Smith’s death, President Brigham Young was appointed to provide “The Word and Will of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:1). Under President Young’s leadership thousands of Latter-day Saints were guided from Winter Quarters (near Council Bluffs, Iowa) to find safe places to establish stakes of Zion.
Each of the ensuing Presidents of the Church faced unique challenges and provided clarifying guidance, organizational changes, and even authoritative statements (see Official Declaration 1; Official Declaration 2). In all dispensations since Adam, prophets have been called by God to guide His people, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). The need for revelatory guidance for the Church of Jesus Christ is ongoing.
At each semi-annual general conference, members of the Church are asked to “sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators” (“Sustaining of General Authorities, Area Seventies, and General Officers,” Ensign, Nov. 2020, 30). Those who manifest that they are in favor indicate their willingness to follow the counsel and support those who hold those sacred positions of leadership. Those who are opposed are counseled to contact their stake president and discuss their reasons for not sustaining leaders. The invitation to indicate our choices is indicative of the importance the Lord places on the “moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).
Personal Revelation Is Essential
Members of Christ’s Church have never been required to accept blindly and without question whatever their leaders counsel them to do. Instead, they are encouraged, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61). This is the same approach taught by the Apostle Paul, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Each person who lives upon the earth is entitled to divine guidance. After reading “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5), Joseph Smith humbly knelt and prayed for answers to his questions about his personal salvation and which church he should join.
We, likewise, have been promised that if we “shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). Personal revelation is the key step in learning to obey the commandments and uphold the revelations of God given through divinely called and collectively sustained prophets.
As President Russell M. Nelson has taught: “My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation…Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018, 96).