While ministering in the Galilee, a great multitude followed Jesus “because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased” (John 6:2). He then fed the multitude, numbering five thousand men with five barley loaves and two small fishes (John 6:9-12).
As a result of these events, this multitude had a very real, powerful experience. They witnessed miracles and to a degree believed and followed Jesus. In fact, said they, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14). They thought to “take him by force, to make him a king” (John 6:15).
But Jesus perceived that the multitude followed Him “not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). Their belief and commitment to Him was superficial and based only on what they saw and experienced.
Jesus Christ Is the Only Way
He continued to teach them and to stretch their belief. He taught that He was the “bread of life,” and that “he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). He taught His way was the only way, and that He was the only way for man to be saved (John 6:37-40).
Many of his disciples when they heard this said, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60). Jesus replied “Doth this offend you?” (John 6:61).
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then Jesus said unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou at that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66-69).
What was it that allowed Peter and the Twelve to believe and be sure that this was indeed that Christ, while others of His disciples fell by the wayside when they were taught things that were hard to believe and do? They saw the same miracles, ate the same bread and fishes, and were taught the same doctrine. But this by itself was apparently not enough.
The difference between Peter and the Twelve, and others who also saw the same miracles, was taught by the Savior Himself sometime later, just north of the Sea of Galilee, in Caesarea Philippi. Once again Peter and the Twelve were involved in the exchange.
The Rock of Revelation
Said Jesus: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).
There was no equivocation, no doubt. Peter’s conviction was not dependent on seeing miracles, or being fed, or taken care of temporally. There was simple, deep, unwavering conversion. Why? How?
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. … and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18; emphasis added).
The reason that Peter and the Twelve could be certain of their testimonies of the Savior was because it had not been revealed to them by flesh and blood, or by miracles, by being fed, or even by simply being taught true doctrine. It had been revealed to them by our Heavenly Father directly. We call this type of “revealing”, REVELATION. Direct communication from God that anchors our belief and allows us to continue to walk with Him even when others choose to walk with Him no more.
Personal Revelation—One of the Greatest Gifts of Christ
This principle of revelation is available to all who seek it. And it is vitally important to us today.
Our current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson taught, in his very first general conference address as Prophet to the Church as a whole, that “One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018, 94).
President Nelson also taught how we can receive personal revelation, following the pattern set by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort. Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation’” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 95).
“Does God really want to speak to you?” asked President Nelson. “Yes!” he enthusiastically replied! (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 95). He does, just as He did to Peter and the Twelve.
President Nelson continued: “You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation you can receive your own witness … Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 95). Think how this personal revelation, this personal witness, would have changed the actions of those who chose during His day to walk with Him no more.
He urged us to “stretch beyond [our] current spiritual ability to receive revelation” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 95). Quoting Elder Neil A. Maxwell formerly of the Twelve he taught that “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 95).
“To be sure there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honour the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 95-96, emphasis added).
President Nelson also had a warning for us today, that was also applicable to the multitudes of disciples who chose to walk no more with the Savior and the Twelve during his mortal ministry: “in the coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 96, emphasis added).
My brothers and sisters, may we follow President Nelson’s counsel and increase our capacity to receive revelation, that we may always walk with our Savior. Yes, God really does want to speak to you, and to me, and to all who seek answers from Him!
How Answers to Prayer Are Received
May we learn to recognize His voice, and how He answers our prayers. Answers come in different ways at different times to different people.
Elder Richard G. Scott, formerly of the Twelve taught: “Communication with our Heavenly Father is not a trivial matter. … It is a mistake to assume that every prayer we offer will be answered immediately. Some prayers require considerable effort on our part. … It is vitally important to recognize that the Lord also responds … to prayer by withholding an answer when the prayer is offered. Why would He do that? He is our perfect Father. He loves us beyond our capacity to understand. He knows what is best for us. He sees the end from the beginning. He wants us to act to gain needed experience: When he answers yes, it is to give us confidence. When he answers no, it to prevent error. When he withholds an answer, it is to have us grow through faith in Him, obedience to His commandments, and a willingness to act on truth. We are expected to assume accountability by acting on a decision that is consistent with His teachings without prior confirmation. We are not to sit passively waiting or to murmur because the Lord has not spoken. We are to act. Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way” (“Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 1989).
I witness of my own experience that revelation is real and available to all, as President Nelson has taught. I witness that for those who seek Him, God finds a way to answer in ways we can ultimately come to understand, as taught by Elder Scott. I witness that we, like Peter and the Twelve, can have the sure witness of truth, not of flesh and blood, but from our Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. May we each seek for this sure witness, particularly of the reality and love of our Heavenly Father, and His Beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.