Prayer Is the Pathway to Revelation
I would like to thank Brother Decker and this beautiful choir for that lovely number. I love Elder Bednar’s words and would hope that as we spend some time together that we can pretend as if, one by one, the Spirit is teaching each one of us. Elder Bednar, as was announced earlier, has asked us to tweet anything that we desire, but “yuck” does not work. Okay, none of that. “Yippee” when it’s over is all right, but “yuck” in the first place is not all right.
I appreciate this opportunity and hope that the things that I have prepared will make sense. My students know that I am kind of a weirdo and a little bit crazy—they’re saying, “Yes, we know”—and so I hope that this will make sense. I would like to begin by speaking about this topic: a true disciple of Christ. And in the beginning, I would like to define what the word disciple is. So, from the Guide to the Scriptures, we read a disciple is “a follower of Jesus Christ who lives according to Christ’s teachings.”
It is the latter part of that definition that I would like to focus on. Many people in the world are professed followers of the Savior, but many of them—most of them, I would dare say—don’t know enough about the teachings of the Savior to be a true follower, or a true disciple, of Jesus Christ. As Latter-day Saints, we too have a challenge to learn what the doctrine is and know what the Savior would have us do, and then to do it so we, as well, can be followers of Jesus Christ, or true disciples.
And so, in illustrating that, I’d like to go through five steps. Step number one—unfortunately I don’t have those on a slide; you’ll just have to fake it. But they’re pretty easy, so you can get them.
- The Holy Ghost. What does the Holy Ghost sound like? How does it feel inside of me? And on and on.
- Prayer. Are my prayers effective? Do they bounce off the ceiling? Do I know how to pray? Do I adhere to the commandments of prayer? We’ll talk about those in a minute.
- Asking questions, particularly of the Lord. Do I ask appropriate questions? Are my questions asked in faith?
- The importance of obedience. I can’t say enough about that critical feature, for us to obey Him.
And then last but not least, we’ll look at the phrase “a true disciple of Jesus Christ,” and see what it means for us as students here at LDS Business College.
Although I officially fill the role of instructor, I consider myself a student. I learn every day from the Lord things that I have not known. I am but a babe compared to the Lord, and have much to learn and much yet to do.
Number One: The Holy Ghost
I would encourage each one of you, I would invite you, to ask God questions like this: what does the Holy Ghost feel like, sound like, inside of me?
One of the phrases that we use in the vernacular of our jargon today is something like, “What does that look like?” We want to do this or that, and then we say, “What does it look like?” Well, I would ask you to ask God “What does the Holy Ghost feel like inside of me? What does it sound like in my head and in my heart?”
I’d like to illustrate by sharing a short story. The legend goes that an old Cherokee chieftain once, speaking to his grandson, said, “The battle inside each of us is between two wolves. One wolf is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, and greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other wolf,” he said, “is good. It is love, joy, peace, charity, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The young boy thought for a few minutes about what his grandfather had said, and he asked of his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
His grandfather simply said, “The one that you feed.”
Which wolf do you feed? I believe that to hear the voice of the Lord and to feel the temptations of the devil is about as simple as that little story portrays. Every day we have dozens of decisions to make, dozens of experiences, good and ill, challenges and difficulties that face us—things in our classes, our relationships with our roommates, and on and on—wherein we have to make a decision.
In our head, we can think, “That was stupid. I’m going to bite her head off.” Or we can think, “She must be having a hard day. I think I’ll greet that one with kindness.” It’s our choice. And in my opinion, it’s almost that easy to hear the voice of the Lord, as well as the temptations of the devil.
Let me illustrate. In the 8th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read, “Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.”
We’re told in our minds and our hearts. When something happens, we are faced with those two things—do I greet her with kindness, love, or do I bite her head off? It’s our choice.
In the 11th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read, “Verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.”
When simple thoughts come into our heads to do something good, right, pure, and clean, that’s the Holy Ghost speaking to us. Do we listen and obey, or do we feed the bad wolf?
In 2 Nephi 31, we read this insightful verse about the Holy Ghost inside of us: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner”—meaning after the manner of plainness; yes, it is plain, it is easy to know—“doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.”
The Holy Ghost speaks to us in our language, on our level, in ways that we can understand after the manner of plainness. The Holy Ghost, we can be assured, knows everything. I once had a student ask me, “Can we trust the Holy Ghost and what it whispers to us?” I think the answer to that is yes.
In Alma 7 it says, “Now the Spirit knoweth all things.” In Doctrine and Covenants 35, “It shall be given by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, that knoweth all things.” In section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants, “For, behold, the Comforter knoweth all things.” And in Moses 6, “The Comforter . . . which knoweth all things.” Yes, you can trust the Holy Ghost. As a member of the Godhead, He knows all things.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared this: “The Holy Ghost . . . comprehends more than all the world.” Some of you may be thinking, “But I never hear the Holy Ghost speak inside of me.” Again, I remind you of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s words. He said this: “Even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.”
So, that is step number one: the Holy Ghost. Understand what it is, how it works inside of you.
Number Two: Prayer
Prayer is the pathway to revelation. From the Bible Dictionary we read this about prayer:
As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11).
We are talking to our Father.
Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.
Let me pause here for a second. I mentioned earlier on that there are commandments of prayer. You are beginning to discover them. Sometimes, although God knows exactly what we need, the blessings are conditional upon us asking for them. So until we obey that commandment of prayer, the blessings cannot come.
We continue: “Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” Is prayer for you an afterthought or is it work? One of the commandments of prayer.
Continuing we read,
Christians are taught to pray in Christ’s name (John 14:13–14; 15:7, 16; 16:23–24). We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us (John 15:7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart.”
Again, a commandment of prayer. Until and unless we obey that commandment, our prayer may be of little value.
I would ask you to look at your prayers and see if you can change them a little bit. How can I improve? What do I need to add? Well, let me get you started. I have a few things here, and we’ll look at them very quickly.
Because prayer is a revelatory process, we have to ask questions. Oftentimes, our prayers in secret are like our prayers in public—bless the food, help it to nourish and strengthen our bodies—you know, little thought is taken. Ask appropriate questions. Ask them in faith. The Prophet Joseph Smith is a good example. He asked many questions. He asked them in faith. And miracles happened.
Personal prayer should always precede personal study. Notice I don’t say “personal scripture study.” I mean all study. God knows about accounting and interior design and English as a second language and IT and everything else. I can’t encourage you enough to pray for all of your classes and let the Holy Ghost teach you about computers or whatever it is that you are studying.
Seek revelation by obeying the commandments to pray and, like I mentioned a few minutes ago, the commandments of prayer. You can find those, again, in the Bible Dictionary. Acknowledge that God is our all-knowing Father and you are His child. He knows what we need, and as we come to have the mind of Christ as we pray in His name, God can and will communicate to us, to bless us and strengthen us and teach us the way that we should go. Pray in humility and faith.
And then last but not least—and this is kind of a no-brainer—prayers should be offered when you are awake, alert, reverent, not distracted, and should occasionally be done vocally.
I learned many years ago as I uttered a prayer out loud once when I was in a place where I could be alone—I remember saying something in my prayer, and I thought, “That sounds terrible.” Just simply to vocalize it, I heard it the way God would hear it and changed the wording a little bit after that.
Number Three: Ask Questions
There is a pattern for asking questions. The pattern is found in the scriptures, everywhere we turn. We are to ask the right questions in the right way. Again, Joseph Smith is a powerful example. Examine the questions that he asked in Joseph Smith—History that brought about the First Vision. Study those words. Dozens and dozens of sections of the Doctrine and Covenants came because of the Prophet Joseph Smith asking God questions and then the Lord giving the answer. We can learn much about how to ask a question by studying the Prophet’s questions.
In Joseph Smith—History 1:13, Joseph Smith said, after he presents his questions about which church he should join, “At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, . . . ask of God.” We are in the same situation. If we do not ask questions of a loving Father in Heaven in our prayers, then even though the blessings He has are there for us, because they are made conditional upon our asking for them, we don’t partake.
In Moroni 10 we see a very detailed description of how to ask questions. Let’s take a look at it. All of you are familiar with that, especially those of you who are returned missionaries. But oftentimes we overlook some of the simple details found in this profound scripture.
Verse four reads:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye 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. (Emphasis added.)
Let’s look at the steps—the detailed steps—that the Lord gives us here on how to pray and how to ask questions, all rolled into one.
- We ask God questions—inspired questions, faithful questions.
- We ask in the name of Christ. Again, remember what the name of Christ means from the Bible Dictionary. We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ and our wishes the wishes of Christ.
- A sincere heart. Ask with a sincere heart. I would ask you to ask yourself a question: is my heart sincere? Do I really want to know this, or am I curious? What are my motives—to prove somebody wrong or to really discover the truth for myself? A sincere heart.
- With real intent. This one is so easy it is sometimes hard. Real intent. I really intend to do what the Lord tells me to do. Do I?
- Having faith in Christ. Ask in faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—this requires work. This is not a coincidence; I did this on purpose. Ask in faith. Ask in faith. I can’t emphasize that one enough.
- God will manifest the truth of it unto you if the proper steps of prayer and asking questions are met.
Oftentimes in scripture, the Lord gives a statement of principle in a simple, easy to discover way. If/then. So, this scripture has one of those. “If ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, [then] he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Detailed but extremely important steps to help us to know how to ask questions of our loving Father in Heaven.
Now let’s combine the two, prayer and asking questions. In 2 Nephi 32, we read:
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Number Four: Obedience
I’d like to use some scriptures from 2 Nephi 31. Returned missionaries are very aware of what this chapter is. 2 Nephi 31 is where the doctrine of Christ is contained. Some missionaries know it as the pattern for conversion. I’d like to change that just a little bit. We are members of the Church; we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. So instead of calling this chapter the pattern of conversion, how about the pattern for spiritual power.
Let me illustrate. In verse six and seven we read,
And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized by water?
Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto Him in keeping his commandments.
Even though Jesus Christ was perfect, He humbled Himself before His Father and was obedient.
Now, as we go through the rest of these verses pertaining to the doctrine of Christ, notice how often the reference to obedience is given. Verse 10: “He said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.” Be obedient. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep [his commandments]?” Obedience again.
And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
Obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience. He continues and talks about obedience through the entire thing.
So now, with the first principles and ordinances of the gospel pointed out in these verses—we know them well: faith, repentance, baptism—here now is the pattern. The doctrine of Christ, beginning with obedience, faith, repentance—for us to renew our baptismal covenant and then receive the Holy Ghost, it gives to us spiritual power—power to learn, power to understand. Power to understand my interior design teacher. Power to overcome the devil. Power to withstand his temptations. And on and on and on it goes.
President Ezra Taft Benson said of obedience, when obedience becomes a quest rather than an inconvenience, then you will have power. President Boyd K. Packer said it this way: “Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all.” Notice the usage of power in both cases by two prophets of God.
I don’t dare take an interlude that I originally had planned, so we shall skip this one and go to the conclusion.
As we now strive to become true disciples of Jesus Christ, fulfilling steps one, two, three, and four, it’s important that we understand two words. First of all, a disciple of Christ does not become discouraged. Disappointed, yes. It’s a daily happening.
Let me illustrate what I mean by that. The definition of discouragement right out of the dictionary sounds like someone that we know, someone that we don’t like very well. See if you can figure out who it is. The definition, right out of the dictionary: the act of making people not want something or becoming less hopeful or less determined. Yes, it sounds just like the devil. He is a liar; don’t listen to him. Discouragement is a tool of the devil.
Disappointment, on the other hand, that’s a daily opportunity, if I can say it that way. Here’s the definition of disappointment: to feel sad, unhappy, or displeased because something was not as you expected. We are often disappointed, but as true disciples of Jesus Christ, never discouraged.
In conclusion now, I’d like to put an LDS Business College student on a graph. The vertical on the graph represents the attitude level of the student. The horizontal of the graph represents the effort of the student. This goes for anybody, not just students, but since a lot of you are students.
In the upper left-hand quadrant, we have a student with a good attitude and a poor effort. In the lower left-hand quadrant, a bad attitude and no effort. In the lower right-hand quadrant, a good effort and a bad attitude. In the upper right-hand quadrant—that’s where most of us want to be, really and truly are—that’s where we have a good attitude and good effort.
Now, most students here at LDS Business College are pretty sharp. I’ve been here for six years, seen hundreds of you. I testify that that is true. Most of those students perform in this first ring. We use our best efforts; we study hard; we read the material; we do what we’re asked. But oftentimes, we stay within that lower circle because we fail to ask God key questions. We fail to understand how the Holy Ghost communicates with us and inside of us. That’s what a true disciple of Jesus Christ does. And in doing such, then the circle expands.
A true disciple of Jesus Christ performs out in this larger circle. I propose that you can even go farther as you perfect your understanding of what the Holy Ghost feels like inside of you and sounds like inside of you as you invite Him into your studies, no matter what class it is. You pray for His help. We can perform better than ever thought possible.
Brother Karl G. Maeser, who was the first principal—they called them principals back in those days (now it’s a president)—here at LDS Business College, he counseled thusly: “Precisely as you partake of the Spirit, so will you progress in your studies.” I testify that that is true. As we venture out beyond these two rings, this is where miracles happen.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a New Student Orientation on this campus at the beginning of each new school year without President Richards quoting Elder Eyring—now President Eyring, then Elder Eyring. Let me quote his words to you once again. In 1996, then-Elder Henry B. Eyring counseled thus: “If we can conduct ourselves in such a way that we invite the Spirit of God . . . [we] will learn at rates that the world will just be amazed.”
I testify to you that this is true. God and His other members of the Godhead—Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost—know all things. They can open the eyes of your understanding, and help you see and understand things that you never thought was possible before about whatever class you are taking.
I once said to a class that God is even a good interior designer. And a student raised his hand and said, “Brother Brown, don’t you mean exterior designer?” As we look at the sunshine coming through the window, the gorgeous clouds that we were able to walk through, and the rain—what an exterior designer He is! And we can learn from the Master if we will but become a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 See Shayne M. Bowen, “Agency and Accountability,” Youth, https://www.lds.org/youth/article/agency-and-accountability?lang=eng.
 D&C 8:2–3.
 D&C 11:12.
2 Nephi 31:3.
 Alma 7:13.
 D&C 35:19.
 D&C 42:17.
 Moses 6:61.
 “Chapter 10: Prayer and Personal Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011).
 “Chapter 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011).
 Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”
 Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”
 Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”
 Moroni 10:4. Emphasis added.
 2 Nephi 32:9.
 2 Nephi 31:11–12.
 See in Donald L. Staheli, “Obedience—Life’s Great Challenge,” Apr. 1998 General Conference.
 Boyd K. Packer, “Balm of Gilead,” Oct. 1987 General Conference.
 Quoted in “Inspiring Quotations,” Education in Zion, Oct. 19, 2012, http://educationinzion.byu.edu/2012/10/19/inspiring-quotations/.
 Henry B. Eyring, LDS Business College Employee Address, Sep. 1995; quoted in David Brooksby, “The Circle of Honor,” LDS Business College Devotional, Jun. 5, 2012.