Increasing Our Capacity to Receive Revelation

Jeremiah Duersch

Jeremiah Duersch, "Increasing Our Capacity to Receive Revelation," Religious Educator 24, no. 3 (2023): 85–95.

Jeremiah Duersch ( is a religious educator at the Institute of Religion in Logan, Utah.

Photo of a lighthouseIn coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. —President Russell M. Nelson. Photo by Rhys Kentish,

Keywords: Holy Ghost, inspiration, revelation, prayer, scriptures, prophets

From my personal experiences as a religious educator, I have found that many students desire to increase their capacity to receive communication from their Father in Heaven, or, in other words, receive revelation.[1] The expediency of having the ability to help students achieve their desire seems to have heightened after President Russell M. Nelson warned, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. . . . I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.”[2]

Elder David A. Bednar offers this caution and insight to individuals seeking to increase their spiritual capacity, “We often make it hard on ourselves to receive personal revelation. By that, I mean a covenant promise is that as we honor our covenants, we may always have the Holy Ghost be our constant companion. . . . We shouldn’t be trying to recognize it when it comes; we should be recognizing what happens that causes it to leave. It ought to be with us all of the time. Not every nanosecond. But if a person is doing his or her best, you don’t have to be perfect. But if you and I are doing our best, and we’re not committing serious transgression, then we can count on the Holy Ghost guiding us.”[3]

Religious educators have many resources to help youth and young adults understand what invites God’s guiding and directing influence. Yet, of all the available resources, the first book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon may be among the best.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The Book of Mormon . . . was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us. Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations. . . . If they saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon?”[4]

President Marion G. Romney took it a step further by indicating that within the Book of Mormon, Nephi’s record has a particular power. He said, “I believe with all my heart . . . that if our young people come out of our homes thoroughly acquainted with the life of Nephi, imbued with the spirit of his courage and love of truth, they would choose the right when the choice is placed before them.”[5]

Even Nephi’s own words might suggest that his record can directly help individuals understand what invites and keeps the spirit of revelation in their day-to-day lives. Nephi declared, “I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20). Elder Bednar defined tender mercies as “the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”[6] Notice how the adjectives used by Elder Bednar to describe “tender mercies” mirror those President Nelson used when he said, “It will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” Within this context, it is as if Nephi is saying, “Let me show you the patterns that invited the guiding, directing, and delivering influence of God in my family’s life.” Within this framework, all the faithful actions of Lehi’s family could be used by the modern reader to discover patterns of behavior that will invite God’s constant guiding and directing influence.

To increase the breadth of literature that can support religious educators in their efforts to help youth and young adults increase their capacity to receive revelation, this paper identifies practices from the first book of Nephi that invited the spirit of revelation into the daily lives of Lehi’s family. Those practices will be analyzed through prophetic commentary.

Practices that Invite Revelation

Magnify callings

Nephi recorded this about his father’s calling, “Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people. . . . There came a pillar of fire . . . and he saw and heard much . . . and began to prophesy and to declare unto them [people in Jerusalem] concerning the things which he had both seen and heard” (1 Nephi 1:5–6, 18).

This account can help illustrate a correlation between a person’s efforts to magnify their calling and receiving revelation from God. It seems that as individuals magnify their calling by sincerely praying on behalf of “their” people and being committed to carrying out their duties to bring those people to Christ, they invite the spirit of revelation into their lives.

This correlation between magnifying a calling and inviting revelation is furthered when Lehi was told, “Because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I [God] commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life. . . . Take [your] family and depart into the wilderness” (see 1 Nephi 2:1–2; emphasis added). Notice that because Lehi was faithful in his calling, God was invited to continue guiding and directing Lehi.

Though not specifically recorded in the Book of Mormon, it is important to note that not all of God’s prophets in Jerusalem received the same guiding revelation. For example, the prophet Jeremiah, who taught in Jerusalem around the same time as Lehi, faced continuous opposition and insult for what he was commanded by God to tell the people. During the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews who escaped into Egypt took Jeremiah with them, where, according to tradition, they stoned him to death.[7]

Why did Jeremiah not receive the same guiding and directing influence from God to leave Jerusalem for safety? Interestingly, during this tumultuous time the prophet Jeremiah did receive a revelation concerning the protection of life, not for himself, but for Baruch the scribe. Baruch was promised that his life would be preserved (see Jeremiah 45:1–5).

This contrast between Lehi and Jeremiah is valuable and cautionary in our understanding of the role of magnifying our callings and receiving revelation. Just because we magnify our callings does not suggest that we can dictate to God the frequency or content of the revelation we want from him. What we can expect is that when we magnify our callings, we invite our Father in Heaven to guide and direct us according to his divine terms and objectives.

Participate in ordinances

On two occasions, Nephi described how his family built an altar, made offerings, offered sacrifices, and burnt offerings (see 1 Nephi 2:7; 5:9). Though these verses indicate the possibility Lehi offered various Mosaic offerings, the burnt offering is mentioned specifically by name. This offering was made by voluntarily placing a male cow, sheep, or goat without blemish on the altar to be completely consumed by fire. This offering was intended as an atonement for the sins of the offeror (see Leviticus 1). This sacrificial ordinance was a poignant way to teach Lehi’s family that Christ, through his atoning sacrifice, took upon himself the sins of humankind, making it possible for individuals to be cleansed from sin.

Today, the ordinance of the sacrament is similarly designed to help youth and young adults remember the atoning blood of Christ and the gift he offered humankind to be cleansed of sin as they willingly put the animal of sin in them upon the altar and let it be consumed by the flames of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.[8] Individuals who come to the sacramental ordinance repenting, seeking to always remember Jesus Christ, desiring to take his name upon themselves, and keeping his commandments, are promised the constant directing and guiding influence of God through the Holy Ghost (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).

Give thanks to God

Along with performing sacrifices, Nephi records that his family gave thanks (1 Nephi 2:7; 5:9). Though it is not clear if Nephi’s family used an offering to show their thanks, according to the Mosaic law a peace offering could be specifically used to show thanksgiving to God (see Leviticus 7:11–12). Whether Lehi’s family used sacrifice to show thanks to God or not, an understanding of the peace offering can give insight into how the modern reader can show gratitude to God.

When making a peace offering, the offeror voluntarily gives a male animal without blemish to the priest, the animal is killed, the blood is sprinkled about the altar, and the fat is consumed by fire on the altar. The meat is then enjoyed by the priest and the family in a celebratory fashion (see Leviticus 3). The sprinkling of the blood points the offeror to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The fat of the animal is the product of the abundance of food and health in the animal’s life and can symbolize the abundance of blessings God gives his children. Taken in whole, this offering can symbolize the offeror’s understanding that the abundance of their blessings comes from God through the atoning blood of his Son Jesus Christ. The smoke from the burning fat ascending to heaven can symbolize the offeror’s desire to consecrate their life to the works of Jehovah as a sign of gratitude.[9]

What can youth and young adults figuratively place on the altar and consecrate to the work of God to show their thanks for God’s abundant blessings? Elder Neal A. Maxwell pointed out, “In striving for ultimate submission, our wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway.”[10] Consider how it is an act of gratitude for individuals to take the one thing they really own, their will, and the time they spend carrying out their will and letting that time become consumed in the work of God.

Elder Richard G. Scott offers this example of how it might look to consecrate our time to the work of God and receive God’s guiding and directing influence in our lives. “Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . . I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life.”[11]

Though many more examples could be identified, we can see that an individual’s grateful consecration of their time to the building up of God’s kingdom invites God’s guiding and directing influence into their life.

Follow the prophet of God

After participating in offerings and giving thanks, it seems that at least some of the family members began to reflect on the magnitude of what was happening. Laman and Lemuel’s reflections led them to murmur against their father while Nephi’s reflections led him to cry unto the Lord for understanding (see 1 Nephi 2:11–13, 16). Nephi accounted for this difference in behavior when he recorded that Laman and Lemuel “did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Nephi 2:12).

Whether Laman and Lemuel did not understand that God deals with his children through prayer or that God uses prophets to reveal his will to the world, their lack of understanding kept them from receiving God’s guiding and directing influence. At this critical crossroad, Nephi’s understanding of God led him to pray, resulting in the knowledge that his father was indeed a prophet of God (see 1 Nephi 2:16). Upon receiving the knowledge that Lehi was a prophet, Nephi was able to access and trust in a source God uses to give abundant guidance and direction to his children. This prophetic source of God’s directing and guiding influence led Nephi to find safety, obtain the brass plates, marry one of the daughters of Ishmael, and find food for his family (see 1 Nephi 2:1–2; 3:1–7, 17–20; 7:1–3; 16:18–23).

To identify a prophet of God is to find a trove of godly guidance and direction, naturally increasing an individual’s capacity to obtain needed guidance and direction.

Do many things of your own free will

The process Nephi went through as he obeyed God’s commandment to obtain the brass plates is instructive to our understanding of how to invite God’s guiding and directing influence into our lives. When Nephi and his brothers arrived in Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, it does not appear that God gave them any specific direction on how to obtain those plates from Laban. Nephi and his brothers decide to cast lots to determine who will go and ask Laban for the record. It has been suggested that casting lots may have been a method of seeking and obtaining the will of God.[12] Through this process, the lot fell to Laman, whose request for the brass plates was violently turned down by Laban (see 1 Nephi 3:12–14).

Nephi then suggested that they purchase the brass plates from Laban by using their father’s gold and silver (see 1 Nephi 3:16). This approach was also met with threats and the loss of their riches (see 1 Nephi 3:22–26).

Finally, Nephi records that he “crept into the city and went forth towards the house of Laban, . . . led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6–7). Eventually, Nephi finds Laban drunk with wine and unconscious on the street. After conversing with God through his Spirit, Nephi then slays Laban and obtains the brass plates. Referring to this experience of Nephi, Elder Bednar gave this insight:

You study it out in your own mind. You don't just sit and wait for heaven to deliver the answer. You have to learn about the two options. You do your best to understand and compare them. And then, ultimately, you make a choice. And you take that option that you've selected in prayer to our Heavenly Father, and you ask in the name of Christ, ‘Is this the right one?’ You and I have the responsibility to study that out. If it's right, then over time, we'll come to know, by the simple reassurance of the Holy Ghost, that yeah, this is the thing to do. Sometimes you have two good options and you never feel really strong about one or the other. There are even some times where Heavenly Father will say, ‘You make a judgment here.’ If it's wrong, you'll be warned as you begin to try to apply the decision that you've made. No member of this Church who's trying to be a good boy or a good girl will fail to be warned by the Holy Ghost if they're heading in a direction that is not right. But you won't always know that, necessarily, before you begin pressing forward. So we have to study it out; we have to act. And most answers from the Holy Ghost come a little bit at a time, not all at once. They come in small packages, not great big bundles. So we can pray one time and think, ‘Well, I didn't get an answer.’ Well, you probably got a part of the answer, but you have to keep pressing forward to get the other parts of the answer that help you know which path you need to pursue.[13]

When individuals include the Lord as they study their options, make decisions, and press forward in faith-filled diligence, they invite God’s guiding and directing influence.


Lehi had a vision about the tree of life. After Lehi shared the contents of his dream with his family, Nephi desired to understand the meaning of the dream. Nephi recorded, “And believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 11:1).

Nephi’s pondering invited God’s guiding and directing influence. President Henry B. Eyring deepens our understanding of this process when he says, “But reading, studying, and pondering are not the same. We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder, we invite revelation by the Spirit. Pondering, to me, is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying in the scriptures carefully.”[14]

Prayerful pondering invites the spirit of revelation and increases our capacity to receive God’s guiding, directing, and comforting influence.

The word of God

Before Lehi’s family continued their journey toward the land Bountiful, God provided them with a Liahona (see 1 Nephi 16:10). This object provided Lehi’s family with a physical source to obtain God’s guidance and direction. The faith, diligence, and heed Lehi’s family gave to the Liahona allowed God to give them numerous revelations that led them into the most fertile parts of the wilderness (see 1 Nephi 16:16, 28).

Alma made sure the symbolism for the modern reader would not be lost when he said, “Is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:45).

As individuals exercise faith and diligence toward God’s word found in canonized scripture, they will be guided to “a far better land of promise.” With the importance of canonized scripture in accessing God’s numerous revelations that he has already given to his children, it is no surprise that Elder Scott boldly stated, “Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media.”[15]

In addition to canonized scripture, President Thomas S. Monson offered, “The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing.”[16]

Elder Randall K. Bennett illustrated the importance of faith, diligence, and heed with a patriarchal blessing, “I studied my patriarchal blessing frequently and, as a youth, often daily, which helped me feel the comforting, guiding influence of the Holy Ghost, who helped reduce my anxiety as I followed His promptings. . . . I received spiritual strength each time I studied my patriarchal blessing. . . . Frequently studying my patriarchal blessing increased my desire to withstand temptation. It helped me have the desire and courage to repent, and repentance increasingly became a joyful process.”[17]

As youth and young adults search out and obey that which God has revealed to them in the written word, they invite the Holy Ghost and increase their capacity to receive his guiding, directing, and comforting influence.

Temple worship

After a harrowing journey from Jerusalem to the place Lehi’s family called Bountiful, Nephi points out, “And it came to pass that . . . the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me” (1 Nephi 17:7–8). Later Nephi adds, “And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3).

Here, Nephi describes his frequency of going to a location designated by God to obtain his guiding and directing influence. President Nelson connected Nephi’s experience to our day when he said, “Nephi had temple-like experiences by going ‘into the mount oft’ to pray.”[18] Mountains have been used as a symbol for God’s temple since Old Testament times. For example, Nephi, quoting Isaiah, said, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways” (2 Nephi 12:3). A loving God has asked us to gather often in his temple seeking his will through prayer. President Nelson asked individuals “to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time. . . . If you have reasonable access to a temple, I urge you to find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord—to be in His holy house—then keep that appointment with exactness and joy. I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples.”[19]

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working at an accelerated rate to bring temples closer to all the inhabitants of the earth, but what about those who currently don’t have reasonable access to a temple due to location, health, or other factors? President Nelson continued, “Should distance, health challenges, or other constraints prohibit your temple attendance for a season, I invite you to set a regular time to rehearse in your mind the covenants you have made.”[20]

There are times and situations when a person may not be able to go to the temple “regularly.” Yet, they can have a regular “mountain” experience by contemplating temple covenants. Elder Gary E. Stevenson adds this insight to having temple experiences: “Under the definition of ‘Temple’ in the Bible Dictionary, we read the following: ‘It is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth,’ followed by this insightful statement: ‘Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.’ For me this suggests a sacred relationship between the temple and the home. Not only can we turn the doors of our homes to the temple, or the house of the Lord; we can make our homes a ‘house of the Lord.’”[21]

Youth and young adults invite the guiding and directing hand of God when they make time for regular prayer and worship in dedicated temples and within the walls of their own homes.


Remember, Elder Bednar taught, “We often make it hard on ourselves to receive personal revelation. By that, I mean a covenant promise is that as we honor our covenants, we may always have the Holy Ghost be our constant companion. . . .We shouldn’t be trying to recognize it when it comes; we should be recognizing what happens that causes it to leave. It ought to be with us all of the time. Not every nanosecond. But if a person is doing his or her best, you don’t have to be perfect. But if you and I are doing our best, and we’re not committing serious transgression, then we can count on the Holy Ghost guiding us.”

Nephi’s record offers individuals the following patterns of truth, that when followed, will invite God’s continued guiding and directing influence into their lives:

  1. Magnify callings.
  2. Meaningfully participate in the ordinance of the sacrament.
  3. Offer thanks to God by consecrating your will to the work of God.
  4. Identify God’s prophets and give heed to their words.
  5. Doing many things of your own free will and choice to carry out God’s will.
  6. Prayerfully ponder.
  7. Study scripture.
  8. Seek God’s will through regular prayer and worship in the temple at home.


[1] Guide to the Scriptures, “Revelation,” Gospel Library.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 96.

[3] David A. Bednar, “An Evening with a General Authority,” February 2020, video, 2:10–3:32,; emphasis added.

[4] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 140.

[5] Marion G. Romney, “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, 67.

[6] David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 99; emphasis added.

[7] Guide to the Scriptures, “Jeremiah,” Gospel Library.

[8] Neal A. Maxwell, “Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,” Ensign, May 1995, 68.

[9] Bible Dictionary, “Sacrifice.”

[10] Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, 38.

[11] Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2012, 93–94.

[12] For a brief overview, see William Hamblin and Daniel Peterson, “Casting Lots: Definition, Biblical References & Context in Ancient Israel,” Deseret News, October 2, 2015,

[13] David A. Bednar, “Face to Face with Elder and Sister Bednar,” May 12, 2015,

[14] Henry B. Eyring, “Serve with the Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2010, 60.

[15] Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2014, 93.

[16] Thomas S. Monson, “Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, November 1986, 85.

[17] Randall K. Bennett, “Your Patriarchal Blessing—Inspired Direction from Heavenly Father,” Liahona, May 2023, 43.

[18] Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” Ensign, November 2021, 94, footnote 7.

[19] Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, November 2018, 114.

[20] Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” Ensign, November 2021, 93–95.

[21] Gary E. Stevenson, “Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples,” Ensign, May 2009, 101; emphasis added.