Any born-again Christian who truly wants to understand their LDS friend should begin with the Mormon concept of revelation. More specifically, Christians need to know how Latter-day Saints feel God communicates with them (with feel being the operative word).
Possibility of Personal Revelation
Latter-day Saints are taught that they can receive personal revelations from the Holy Spirit. If a Saint asks in prayer (D&C 42:61), studies the matter thoroughly in his or her mind (D&C 9:8), and lives a worthy life (D&C 63:23), Heavenly Father will eventually provide direct revelation to that person’s mind and heart (D&C 8:2-3).
Note, Latter-day Saints do not necessarily believe that their Scriptures are personal revelation, but that they prepare a person to receive individual revelation.1
Means of Personal Revelation
The possibility of receiving personal revelation, however, begs the question, “How would I recognize it when I get it?” And here is where feelings play such a prominent role. The LDS Church teaches that the Holy Ghost prompts the Saints through “a still small voice” (Helaman 5:30; D&C 85:6).2
When a Latter-day Saint’s feelings are engaged (D&C 9:8) and peaceful feelings cascade into the soul (D&C 6:23), he or she can safely assume to have received a personal revelation from the Lord even if no words were uttered.
A Biblical Response
Please be aware, Biblical quotation generally strikes Latter-day Saints as second-best. “Yes, it’s nice to have a general word from God,” the reasoning goes, “but how much better to have a specific word just for me.”
God’s perspective is, of course, altogether different. Psalm 19:7–10 says,
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Jesus says that God’s word is fundamental, categorical truth (John 17:17) that can never be broken (John 10:35) or lost (Luke 21:33). Peter tells us that the word, which is alive and crackling with power, can even make a person born again (1 Peter 1:23). Paul says that Scripture is the direct out-breathing of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and is able to save those who hear it (1 Timothy 4:13–16).
But Paul goes even further, for Biblical revelation is God’s word written personally to every reader (Romans 15:4) as the Spirit of God delivers the message of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the word of God is not only alive and powerful, but able to interpret our own hitherto misunderstood feelings (Hebrews 4:12).
How should a born-again Christian lovingly encourage their LDS friends to think more biblically about revelation? Unfortunately, many born-again Christians simply dismiss their LDS friends’ claims and belittle them in the process. The best approach is to ask loving questions that address the notion of revelation more fundamentally. These big-picture questions are much more successful at putting Latter-day Saints onto a biblical path.
Below are three examples we’ve used with some success, and we would invite you to use them in your own interactions. Please remember, questions like these are best received when they spring from a foundation of friendship, mutual respect, and tangible demonstrations of love.
- If you had a powerful, even peaceful feeling that contradicted the Bible, which should win (see Deuteronomy 18:21–22; Proverbs 28:26)? How would biblical prioritization change things spiritually for you?
- What would happen if the still small voice told you one thing and told me the opposite? How would you reconcile those differences? (see Acts 17:11)
- Is it spiritually safe to assume that a message of peace is always from God (see Jeremiah 6:10–14; Mark 10:34)?
See “Revelation” in True to the Faith. There, the article advises, “because Scripture reading can help you receive personal revelation, you should study the Scriptures every day.” ↩
Clearly, “the still small voice” is a biblical allusion to the KJV’s translation of 1 Kings 19:12. There, Elijah, depressed and afraid, asked to have his life taken from him. In response, God displays a great many manifestations of power, none of which correctly conveyed God’s presence. But, “the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice unto him and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:12–13). The Hebrew phrase means more literally, “the sound of a fine whisper.” And note, the words whispered were perfectly intelligible: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Far from a feeling, a sense, or some other up-for-interpretation perception, God spoke to Elijah in words. Low words, yes, but words. ↩