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Seeking Personal Revelation

What a blessing it is to be gathered with you today. Because of your consecrated efforts and the goodness of your hearts, we are standing on holy ground.

Seeing you reminds me of when I first met my husband, James. We met in a political science class at the University of Utah. This class was held in a large auditorium like this one, and I always sat in the front row because that is where the A students sit. Right? Towards the end of the quarter, James finally got the courage to ask me out. He decided that he would ask me out at the beginning of class because that way if I said “no” I would have to sit through the rest of the class feeling uncomfortable. Great strategy!

On one of our first dates, he realized that his grandparents were returning from serving as temple president and matron at the Manilla Philippines Temple. Not wanting to cancel our date, he invited me to go with him to the airport to welcome his grandparents’ home from their assignment. There ended up being over fifty family members in attendance, and James was the only one who showed up with a date. It was a little awkward. As Grandma and Grandpa McConkie walked out of the gate, grandma stopped and began hugging family members. Grandpa on the other hand, walked right past everyone and straight towards me. He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a great big hug, kissed me on the cheek, and then turned to James and asked, “So, when are you getting married?” I thought James was going to pass out. One year later we were married in the Salt Lake Temple and grandpa was our sealer. It was the best advice I have ever received. So, if there is someone that you are interested in dating, make sure you ask them out at the beginning of class and get your grandparents involved. As you know, grandparents are incredibly inspired!

I was born into a family of all boys, I married into a family of all boys-I even have a twin brother-and I am the mother of all boys! That is a lot of boys! When our sons were 7, 4 and 1, our family planned a trip to Palmyra, New York. For months prior, we spent almost every family home evening studying about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the significance of the historic sites that we had planned to visit.

We found plane tickets that were too good to be true. Well, they were true, but not necessarily good. It took us two layovers and almost 18 hours of travel time for our young family to safely arrive from Salt Lake City, Utah to our hotel room in Rochester, New York.

After baths, brushing teeth, bedtime prayers, and pure exhaustion-from mom and dad, our three little boys giggled excitedly as they climbed into a shared hotel bed. We then kissed them and said, “Now go to sleep, because the first thing we are going to do when we wake up tomorrow morning is visit the Sacred Grove.”

Young Eli, only 4 years old, enthusiastically sat straight up in bed and declared to his older brother, “Did you hear that Briton! Tomorrow we are going to see Heavenly Father and Jesus!” My dear husband and I looked at each other with tears slowly running down our cheeks. Oh, the faith and purity of little children!

Later the following day while visiting the Grandin Building, where the first five thousand copies of the Book Mormon were printed, a missionary was sharing her testimony of Jesus Christ. I then overheard little Eli tell his older brother, “Even though I didn’t see Heavenly Father and Jesus in the Secret [Sacred] Grove, I sure felt Them there.” To which Briton responded, “Eli, you can feel Them anywhere.”

A few years ago, in honor of the 200th year anniversary of when God the Father and Jesus Christ first appeared to young Joseph Smith, our family decided to begin making a list of everything we have learned from that one moment in time.

VIDEO #1: Let us take a walk together in the Sacred Grove (4:44)

Before sharing a few things that we as a family have learned, I would like to invite each of you to turn to the person next to you and share one thing that you have learned from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ's visitation with the prophet Joseph Smith in the sacred grove that blesses your life today.

Hopefully, there were also some phone numbers exchanged during this activity.
Our list began with the following profound truths:
· The heavens are not closed.
· God knows us by name.
· God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct Beings.
· The Adversary is real.

Over time, we pondered a little deeper, such as:
· Light dispels and is more powerful than darkness.
· We learn about the order of the priesthood and government in heaven because God appeared first, and then introduces and bears record of His Son.
· Christ's redemptive mission was for the entire world.
· There is a divine pattern of calling prophets to this earth.

And then our entries gradually became more personal:
· We learn that we can look to God for answers to life’s most important questions.
· We never know when the Lord will call us to His work, we need to always be worthy and willing.
· We should never delay an impression to pray!
· Faith-filled questions are good.
· Revelation is the foundation of Church doctrine and governance.
· We can develop strength through trials.
· Sometimes the answers to our prayers will surprise us.

Now, these are just a few examples. As a family, we are now at 291 lessons learned from the Sacred Grove, and counting…

As we have studied, pondered, and prayed, our testimonies have grown ever stronger that God the Father and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ did appear to young Joseph Smith in a grove in upstate New York.

Joseph Smith testified himself: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it...” [1]

Speaking during the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders, President Russell M. Nelson taught: “We marvel how Joseph was able to accomplish all that he did in his abbreviated lifetime. His amazing accomplishments were enabled by the miraculous and matchless power of Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and many other heavenly beings. His work was also facilitated and complemented by his dear wife, Emma. Her constant, capable support, and her faith, which she demonstrated time and time again, cannot be overemphasized.” [2]

President Nelson further explained that in addition to these sacred experiences with the Father and the Son, Joseph was visited by, or saw in vision, dozens of ancient prophets, and angels. He testified: “Through these remarkable experiences, Joseph came to understand that worldly knowledge pales when compared to heavenly knowledge.” [3]

Many of these experiences are not captured in the scriptures, but various accounts indicate that Joseph saw in vision or was visited by approximately sixty angels during his lifetime.

President Nelson expounded, “Each came as directed by the Lord for various purposes. … Although we know little about the details and purposes of many of the other angelic visits, their cumulative impact provided Joseph with an extraordinary perspective of past dispensations and the ability to restore and renew plain and precious things.” [4]

Two years before his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote that he had “received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days.” [5]

President Nelson explained that we can also experience the Lord’s guidance and be surrounded and protected by His angels. He then extended this powerful invitation, “I plead with you to do the spiritual work necessary to receive such direction and promise you that, as you do, the Lord will shower direction, confidence and peace upon you.” [6]

As Joseph Smith was frequently betrayed and falsely accused by many whom he thought were his friends, it is evident that he found some of his greatest strength and comfort from beyond the veil.

We learn from Joseph Smith’s personal accounts of his personal experience that he had two motivations for retiring to the grove to pray:
1. He wanted to obtain forgiveness of his sins, and
2. he had a desire to know which church was right.

Joseph Smith testified, “When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself…” [7]

My dear friends, I testify that you too can learn for yourself. Joseph Smith’s experience can also be your experience. The heavens are open to you! Study, ponder, pray. Put forth the spiritual work necessary and give place for the Holy Ghost to teach you of Joseph’s divine calling as the prophet of the restoration, as well as many other plain and precious truths.

Our beloved prophet testified during his first general conference as President of the Church, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” [8]

It is significant that he did not say that it would be more difficult, or more challenging, he said that it would not be possible.

I would like to share with you the following video of one of my new favorite songs:

I Will Walk with Jesus. I invite you to pay close attention to how you feel, as well as the thoughts and impressions that come to your heart and mind while you are listening and watching.

VIDEO #2: “I Will Walk With Jesus”

INVITE/TEXT: I would like to invite you to pull out your phones and type in the search engine: Then, in one word, answer the following question, “What are you are feeling or learning right now?”

Let us look at your responses. Notice the diversity in answers. I love how the Holy Ghost speaks to us in individual, uniquely personal ways in which we can understand.

I asked a young adult recently who is highly intelligent, very academic how the Holy Ghost spoke to Him. He replied, “Sister Wright, I don’t feel anything.” I said, “That is interesting. Teach me. Help me understand.” He said the Holy Ghost just speaks to him in a very commonsense, orderly, matter-of-a-fact kind of way. He said when he studies the scriptures or the words of the living prophets, they just make sense. What if someone had told him the Holy Ghost was only a warm feeling, or goosebumps, or tears. He would have spent his entire life thinking the heavens were closed, and God did not speak to him.

While on assignment in Central America, I asked a 9-year-old Primary child what he was feeling after we had sung in his grandmother’s home, Families Can Be Together Forever.
He responded the same way many of you did. He indicated that he felt love, peace, and joy. I then asked him, “Where do you think those feelings were coming from?” He said, “God.” I followed up with, “Why? Why do you think God wants you to have feelings of love, peace, and joy when you sing Families Can Be Together Forever?” He thought for a minute and then replied, “Because He has a work for me to do. ”I then asked him, “What is that work?” He responded, “He wants my family to be eternal.” Notice, I did not tell him what he was feeling, where those feelings were coming from, or why. He taught and testified to those inherent truths to us. We should never underestimate the capacity of children to understand and bear witness of truth!

Since Joseph Smith chose to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and pray with real intent, meaning he intended to act in accordance with the revelation received, every single one of us here today is blessed beyond measure. Some of these blessings are recorded in the earliest and most personal account of the First Vision-the only account that includes Joseph Smith’s own handwriting.

“A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr. An account of his marvelous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus Christ the son of the living God, of whom he beareth record. And also an account of the rise of the Church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord brought it forth and established it by his hand. Firstly, he received the testimony from on high. Secondly, he received the ministering of angels. Thirdly, the reception of the holy Priesthood, by the ministering of angels, to administer the letter of the gospel—the law and commandments as they were given unto him—and the ordinances. Fourthly, a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God.” [9]

It is beautiful that he began with the words: “An account of his marvelous experience.” In contemporaneous religious writing, the word “experience” often denoted personal enlightenment through divine communication. [10] I believe that it is significant that Joseph Smith referred to this as a “marvelous experience” considering it was also one of the darkest and most traumatic experiences of his life where “it seemed to him for a time as if he were doomed to sudden destruction.” [11] He experienced the darkest of the dark and then the greatest light, joy, and peace imaginable. So much so that he had to be transfigured to endure this sacred and holy experience.

What does this teach you and me about trials? Can they, through our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, become marvelous experiences? I testify, from personal experience, that they can.

Then Joseph Smith proceeds to outline the four main foundational events of the Restoration.
First: “The testimony from on high.” The heavens are open! Joseph Smith received a visit from a personal God, and His Son Jesus Christ, who comes personally to His children.
Second: “The ministering of angels.” Moroni’s visits witnessed the reality of ministering angels.
Third: “The holy priesthood.” The Aaronic Priesthood was restored.
Fourth: “The high priesthood.” The Melchizedek priesthood was restored.

Why is this so significant? How does this personally affect and bless you? We have already discussed the importance of personal revelation and the ministering of angels. But let us talk about the priesthood for a minute.

I would like to bring to your attention Chapter 3 in the General Handbook: titled Priesthood Principles.

I have read and studied this chapter many times. Recently while reading, my heart and mind were filled with two specific words: unity and equality. Other than the matchless gift of His only Begotten Son, I cannot think of a greater manifestation of the love God has for His children than the incalculable blessings that are available equally to both His daughters and His sons through His holy priesthood.

I am only going to review this chapter lightly because I want you, just like the Prophet Joseph Smith, to learn for yourself. I invite you to prayerfully study this chapter.

Let us begin by answering the question, what is the priesthood? It is simple. The priesthood is not men. It is not people. The priesthood is the authority and power of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist without end. [12]

We read in the General Handbook Chapter 3.6: “All Church members who keep their covenants—women, men, and children—are blessed with God’s priesthood power in their homes to strengthen themselves and their families. This power will assist members in doing God’s work of salvation and exaltation in their personal lives and families.” [13]

We learn about God’s work in Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” [14]

President Nelson also describes God’s work as the gathering of Israel. We gather Israel as we help to gather ourselves and Heavenly Father’s children home to Him. God’s priesthood power flows to all members of the Church—female and male—as they keep the covenants, they have made with Him. [15]

The blessings of priesthood power that all members can receive include:

  • Guidance for our lives.
  • Revelation to know how to fulfill the work they are ordained, set apart, or assigned to do.
  • Help and strength to become more like Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. [16]

Is not this extraordinary! We receive power from God as we are baptized, confirmed, and keep our baptismal covenants. And we receive additional power from God when we are endowed in the House of the Lord. Anything this world could possibly offer us pales drastically in comparison!

Chapter 3 also teaches about the blessings of the priesthood: Through covenants and priesthood ordinances, God makes great blessings available to all His children. These blessings include:
· Baptism and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
· The gift of the Holy Ghost.
· Partaking of the sacrament.
· Authority and power to serve in Church callings and assignments.
· Receiving patriarchal blessings and other priesthood blessings of healing, comfort, and guidance.
· Being endowed with God’s power in the temple.
· Being sealed to one’s family members for eternity.
· The promise of eternal life. [17]

We can ALL receive these blessings of the priesthood and experience immense joy, even amid trials, as we strive to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When you read these blessings, do you see and feel unity and equality? God loves His children. He loves YOU. His greatest desire is to bless and exalt YOU.

I worry that we are living far beneath our privileges. The adversary is trying to confuse us about things that need not be confusing. I invite you to prayerfully study Chapter 3 of the General Handbook and like Joseph Smith, come to learn for yourself. Come to know of your divine worth, eternal destiny, and the blessings that can be yours through God’s holy priesthood. [18]

A careful study of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith reminds us that this life can be full of opposition and challenges—even, or I might even add, especially when we are trying to do good.

On June 29, 1844, William W. Phelps, a longtime friend, and associate of Joseph Smith, stood at a meeting to deliver the funeral sermon for the martyrs Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Brother Phelps’ remarks are a fitting tribute to the life of the Prophet. He told his audience that those who read the story of Joseph’s life from his birth in Sharon, Vermont to his death in Carthage, Illinois, would see that every line and every act shown with principles of virtue.

Brother Phelps declared, Joseph was a man who “knew what was right and did it, independent of consequences.” “He labored like the save this generation.” The revelations brought forth by his hand bear witness to the fact that he came “to point out the way of life and call upon all men to repent and be saved.” He came to give the commandments and law of the Lord and…teach men to walk in the light of the Lord.” “His words lit up a sacred flame in the heart of the Saint that showed an ocean of existence unexplored by the vain philosophy of the world.” “He was the agent of Jehovah;” he was a man of God.” [19]

Just one month after delivering this eulogy before the Saints of Nauvoo, Brother Phelps published a song that today is sung worldwide in memory of the man who was blessed to open the last dispensation of the gospel. It affirmed that Joseph Smith was called to his station by the Lord, that he remained true and faithful throughout his life, and even though he suffered a martyr’s death he has “ascended to heaven” and will someday be “crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.”

Millions upon millions will come to “know brother Joseph again” either in this life or throughout the eternities and acknowledge that he truly was a remarkable man, and that he was divinely appointed to fulfill an extraordinary mission. [20]

My dear friends, you too have an extraordinary mission to fulfill! No doubt you have often heard the phrase, “You are the future!” This may have come from well-intended family members, friends, educators, Hallmark cards, etc. I testify to you today that you are not only the future, but you are also “the now!”

Right now, you matter and are of infinite worth with limitless possibilities and endless potential for good in this world. Do not wait!

Right now, the service you render, the love you share, the covenants you make and keep, the education you are obtaining, your testimonies of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ that you are strengthening and sharing, your participation in the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil-the very virtue of your lives are influencing and blessing the lives of countless generations! You too have a sacred work to do. Do not give up! Please do not quit! We love you! We trust you! We need you! In this battle for souls you are not our replacements; you are our reinforcements!

You are an essential part of the body of Christ and have a vital role to play as together we prepare for His second coming.

And Jesus Christ’s message to you today, right now, is this: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear (now this sounds like a commandment to me), (Why?) for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; (He is right here!) and (this is your charge) ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” [21]

It is impossible to safely navigate the challenges of our day without Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I admonish you to continuously seek out holy places of peace and comfort and security in your lives where They can be found.

You will find Them in the scriptures and words of the living prophets, you will find Them in the House of the Lord, you will find Them as you serve others, you will find Them as you keep the commandments and honor the Holy Sabbath, you will find Them when you kneel in personal heartfelt prayer like Joseph Smith, and you will surely find Them here at BYU–Hawaii.

I testify that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ’s Church and Russell M. Nelson is Jesus Christ’s prophet. I testify that you too can have daily spiritual experiences with your Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ that are so deeply profound and personal, like the prophet Joseph, it will be easy for you to discern the world’s counterfeits.

In the sacred and holy name of the great Exemplar Himself, Jesus Christ, amen. [22]

[1] Joseph Smith—History 1:25
[2] Russell M. Nelson, in “President Nelson teaches new mission leaders how ‘repeated, miraculous tutoring’ prepared Joseph Smith for his calling
[3] Russell M. Nelson, in “President Nelson teaches new mission leaders how ‘repeated, miraculous tutoring’ prepared Joseph Smith for his calling
[4] Russell M. Nelson, in “President Nelson teaches new mission leaders how ‘repeated, miraculous tutoring’ prepared Joseph Smith for his calling
[5] Russell M. Nelson, in “President Nelson teaches new mission leaders how ‘repeated, miraculous tutoring’ prepared Joseph Smith for his calling
[6] Russell M. Nelson, in “President Nelson teaches new mission leaders how ‘repeated, miraculous tutoring’ prepared Joseph Smith for his calling
[7] Joseph Smith History 1:20
[8] Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, April 2018, 96
[9] Joseph Smith—History, ca. Summer 1832, pp. 1–3
[10] “Experience,” in Oxford English Dictionary, 3:430
[11] Joseph Smith-History 1:15
[12] see Alma 13:7–8; Doctrine and Covenants 84:17–18; General Handbook 3.0
[13] General Handbook 3.6
[14] Moses 1:39
[15] See General Handbook 3.5
[16] General Handbook 3.5
[17] General Handbook 3.2
[18] Young Women Theme; Moses 1:39
[19] Richard Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker, “The Joseph/Hyrum Smith Funeral Sermon,” BYU Studies 23.1 (winner 1983): 3-18
[20] See Matthew B. Brown, Joseph Smith: The Man, The Mission, The Message, pg. 96
[21] Doctrine and Covenants 68:6
[22] See John 13:15