Episode 16. May 15, 2016. It’s been a wonderful week here in the Philippines as four of our seven children: Mauren, Chase, MiCayla and Weston along with Weston’s wife and our daughter in law Kelsi have been with us.
On Tuesday we flew to El Nido on the island of Palawan (see picture above taken on my iPhone 6S), where the water, the beaches and the mountains are a stark reminder of the beauty of God’s handiwork. On Today’s znukcast, I want to talk about personal revelation. So with that, let’s get started.
In 1996 we were living in Kingwood in the far northeast of the Houston Metro Area. I was serving as a Scoutmaster and was yearning for more spiritual opportunities to grow. When the Temple Excursion Ordinance Worker (EOW) program came along and offered me the chance to attend the Dallas temple as an ordinance worker every 2 months I jumped at the chance. While I had many great experiences attending the temple and learning the role of an ordinance worker, I want to share with you two of those experiences.
On one particular trip, I had been feeling grateful for the blessings in my life. On the way there, I was pondering my blessings and expressing my love to my father in Heaven. It was a day that I was just filled with love for all the good things in my life. After arriving, we all attended an endowment session and then we were given assignments for the rest of the day. I remember having a great desire to receive a particular assignment, but as the schedules were passed out to each of us, I was disappointed to see that on this particular trip, I would not be blessed with the opportunity I desired. I was disappointed, and if I am an honest, almost frustrated that it would be two more months before I would be back again and able to practice what I had been so diligent in learning over the past 4 months. As I dutifully went to my assigned responsibility, I heard the voice of the Lord whisper these undeniable words to me, “this is how you show me that you love me”. I was humbled immediately. The Lord was teaching me with perhaps the greatest lesson of all, that if we love our Heavenly Father and our Savior, then what is required is obedience. I do not know what the needs of the others in our EOW group were that morning or why each of us received the assignments that we did, but I learned in a very real and meaningful way what it means to love God.
This experience has caused me to reflect on a couple of scriptures and a quote from Elder Maxwell about the power of obedience. First the obvious one, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The second is in 1 John 2:3-5 “ And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him”.
And the quote: “Obedience is not a mindless shifting of our personal responsibility. Instead it is tying ourselves to a living God who will introduce us – as soon as we are ready – to new and heavier responsibilities involving situations of high adventure. Obedience, therefore, is not evasion; it is an invasion – one that takes us deep into the realm of our possibilities”. Neal A Maxwell, All these things Shall Give thee experience p. 127.
The second experience occurred about a year later. I had just been reassigned into a new role at work and I was feeling very inadequate. I was moving from a job in our Chemicals division where I had deep experience and expertise to a new role in Exploration and Production (E&P) where I had zero experience and essentially no network of colleagues. I was going from a role where I was completely comfortable…and competent…to one where I would be essentially starting over. No one in finance had ever moved from Chemicals to E&P, so the expectations of my performance were high. The thought of this new challenge was almost paralyzing to me. It was shortly after receiving this news that our bi-monthly EOW temple trip approached. I prayed mightily that I might be comforted and given confidence that I could not only do this new job, but that I could excel at it.
So it was not a coincidence that my very first assignment that day was to officiate an endowment ceremony. To those of you familiar with temple ordinances, you will recollect that one of the responsibilities of the officiator is to represent Elohim at a certain place in the endowment . Well, as those words were spoken, the spirit hit me hard, and I heard these words: “If you can represent the great God of all the universe in this temple, you can certainly make the transition to this new job”. Even now as I think about it I realize how small my thinking was prior to that event. In that moment my mind was opened and I could see clearly how I could do this new role and do it well. And with the advantage of time and history, looking back on it, that is exactly what happened. How grateful I was for that small experience that filled me with confidence, commitment and conviction! How much more grateful I am for the Lord blessing me with capability and capacity to perform well in that role.
The next two experiences occurred while sitting in the chapel prior to the start of sacrament meeting. The first was in 1983. I was serving as the Elder’s Quorum instructor and the advancement chairman on the ward Scout Committee. We had two children at the time, Mauren born in 1981 and Tyson born in 1982. I know exactly where we were sitting. Facing the podium it was 3 rows up from the back on the left side. We were just sitting there and the spirit whispered with absolute clarity: “Mike Westover is going to move and you will be called as the new Elder’s Quorum President.” The voice was so clear that it caused me to look around to see who said it. A few minutes later, Ken and Joanne Moore came in and sat in front of us with the Westover kids. When I asked him where Mike and Kathleen were, he said they were on a house hunting trip to Quincy, IL where he had just been transferred! Talk about a second witness. About a week later I was called into the Stake Offices for an interview after which I was called to be the new Elder’s Quorum President.
There is a bit more to story that makes it even more powerful. After Mike and Kathleen visited Quincy, they were really questioning whether or not they should take the transfer. And so for about a week they were bouncing back and forth on whether to go or to stay. You see, I knew the answer to their question, but did not feel it my place to intervene in their decision making process. But the Lord was not done with this situation. Sometime during that week he inspired their hometeacher, Tom Broderick to stop by their home, without any input from me or anyone except the spirit of the Lord and told them that they needed to go. With that as an answer to their prayers, they packed up and moved their family to Quincy.
The second chapel experience came in 1998. I was serving as the bishop of the Magnolia Ward and prior to sacrament meeting I was sitting on the stand looking over the congregation. As my eyes swept over the congregation I was drawn to one of the laurels in the ward that I had somehow missed interviewing since becoming the bishop. I immediately felt a need to setup an interview with her. As soon as sacrament meeting was over, I asked my executive secretary to find this young woman and ask her to come in for an interview that day. Church got over at noon and the earliest opening I had was 3 pm. Often members did not like coming back late in the afternoon to the church as we lived in a rural area where distance was often a problem. So it was with mild surprise when the executive secretary informed me later in the day that she told him she would be there at 3 pm for our interview.
As 3 pm rolled around this young woman came into my office, I asked her to pray and then the first question out of my mouth was, “When was the last time you had a prayer answered”. You see I could tell this young woman had been struggling with her testimony, so I wanted to see if she knew that God knew her. Imagine my surprise when she said, “Today, Bishop”. She told me that she had wanted to speak to me about some things, but that she was afraid to approach me. She said it was a huge answer to her prayer when the executive secretary invited her in for an interview.
I remember hearing Elder Packer talk in what I thought was a worldwide training meeting about the importance of being in sacrament meeting 10 minutes early and listening to prelude music. My recollection is that is said this is one of the greatest times that we can receive personal revelation…if we are reverent. I have searched and searched for that quote now and cannot find it, but I want to testify that I have found it to be true. In my searching, I did find this quote from Elder Packer in a talk titled Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise given during the October 1994 general conference: “Prelude music, reverently played, is nourishment for the spirit. It invites inspiration. That is a time to, as the poet Shakespeare said, ‘Go to your bosom … and ask your heart what it doth know.’ Do not ever disturb prelude music for others, for reverence is essential to revelation. ‘Be still,’ He said, ‘and know that I am God.'”
In that same talk he also said this: “Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, “Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.” The scriptures are full of such expressions as “The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened,” or “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart,” or “I did enlighten thy mind,” or “Speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts.” There are hundreds of verses which teach of revelation.
Elder Packer then went on to quote President Marion G. Romney, who, quoting the prophet Enos, said, “While I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.” Enos then related what the Lord put into his mind. “This,” President Romney said, “is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one’s mind in words and sentences. With this medium of revelation I am personally well acquainted.”
I have heard the voice of the Lord in my mind, I have felt the gentle nudging of the spirit encouraging me to take a specific action, I have been enlightened by the spirit of the Lord and have felt pure knowledge flow into me. I know that personal revelation is an important and critical gift that Heavenly Father offers to each of us so that we might be able to return to Him. How I glory in my God for this great gift despite my own nothingness!
Well, that concludes episode 16 of my znukcast. I hope in some small way we have each been encouraged to seek greater personal revelation in our lives. Until next week: Keep the faith.