Sunday, February 26, 2012

Light Switches and Sunrise

Several months ago, I was asked to give a talk on personal revelation. It was a great experience. I already love giving talks in church (I'm a natural-born attention whore [gay guy=attention whore. shocker]), but I was asked to speak on acquiring personal revelation, a topic I was already working on improving in my life, so it was perfect!

I came across a talk given by Elder Bednar in Conference in April 2011. In it, he gave two allegories, both pertaining to revelation: A person can walk into a dark room and flip a light switch. In almost an instant, the contents of the room are revealed. The room very quickly becomes filled with light and the transition from darkness to light is palpable and quantifiable. That same person can sit outside on a dark early morning and watch for the sun over the east. Before the sun even comes close to the horizon, it lightens the sky above it. Gradually, the person's surroundings become less obscured, little by little. And the sun doesn't need to be visible for everything to be clear and illuminated. The transition from darkness to light is difficult to quantify, but the increasing presence of light is identifiable. The moment when the sun breaks the horizon is obvious and glorious, but it was preceded by an increase of light of an infinite magnitude.

Such is personal revelation. Rarely, people walk into the dark rooms of their heart to find a light switch installed, a switch that answers questions and chases away doubt instantaneously. However, much more common is the gradual increase of knowledge. By sitting out on a dark morning and looking for light, we find it little by little, as details become illuminated until we are able to see clearly. And only after we see those things clearly do we see God clearly.

A very interesting thought that Elder Bednar highlights is that even things that seem like light-switch moments were really sunrises. He specifically discusses the First Vision, which is as literal a manifestation of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as has been recorded in the common era. Surely, a personal appearance from the Supreme Being and His Son would constitute a light switch revelation, no?

Well, as it turns out, a careful reading of Joseph Smith's history shows that he came to the Sacred Grove to pray with a question: Which church should I join? And skipping to the end of the account we see that he isn't really given an answer. He is told to join none of the churches and await more instruction as the time comes. He was left to face all of those same worldly concerns he had before: ostracization from the local ministry, threats and ridicule from his friends, and still no definite course of action to bring about his salvation. In fact, such a manifestation from God the Father may have left him with more questions. But his faith in seeking answers paid off. Gradually, he received the knowledge he needed to restore the Gospel in its fulness to mankind. It started with a grandiose and glorious revelation, but certainly not one that gave the Prophet all the answers he wanted.

By the way, this is my 100th post. Retrospective imminent.

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