I found this in my journal, it is a Relief Socity lesson that I gave sometime in 2003, I did edit out lesson questions and other items used in the lesson but not necessary to the message:
A few months ago I was reading Elder Robert D. Hales' May 2003 General Conference talk entitled "Faith Through Tribulation Brings Peace and Joy." In this talk he makes reference to the story of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon and how he did not want his family to make their journey across the ocean in their boats in complete darkness. The brother of Jared took his concern to the Lord. The answer to his question required diligent effort on his part. In the scriptures it says that the Brother of Jared climbed Mount Shelem and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones. He then asked the Lord to touch those stones so that they would bring forth light. Elder Hales goes on to say this, ". . . we must remember that it is not meet that the Lord should command in all things. Like the brother of Jared, we must carefully consider the needs of our family members, make a plan to meet those needs, and then take our plan to the Lord in prayer. This will require faith and effort on our part, but he will help us as we seek his assistance and do his will."
As I thought about this for a few weeks, I kept thinking about a problem that we had and how we could solve this problem. I took Elder Hales' advice and started formulating a plan. One morning I began writing down this plan and making changes and praying about it until I felt it was right. When my husband got home from work I showed it to him. He thought it was a good plan as well. So we formally presented the plan to the Lord through prayer. I thought about how the Brother of Jared must have felt with his plan in regards to the stones. There was no earthly way his plan should have worked, only through the power of God could those stones have been illuminated. I felt that my plan was similar as there is no earthly way for it to really succeed, it is only through the power of God that it can be illuminatted so to speak. After a few days, I thought "how do I know if my plan was accepted by the Lord?" This brings us to our lesson revelation. How do we know when our prayers our being answered?
President John Taylor said: "I well remember a remark that Joseph Smith made to me. . . . Said he, 'Elder Taylor, you have been baptized, you have had hands laid upon your head for the reception of the Holy Ghost, and you have been ordained to the holy priesthood. Now, if you will continue to follow the leadings of that spirit, it will always leaad you right. Sometimes it might be contrary to your judgment; never mind that, follow its dictates; and if you be true to its whisperings it will in time become in you a principle of revelation so that you will know all things.' "
I have a friend who is always so in tune with the spirit. She receives prompt and strong answers to her prayers. It amazed me because my personal revelation seemed to be nonexistent. One day I asked her how she could get such amazing answers to her prayers. I received her reply to this question a few days later in the mail. She wrote a beautiful letter to me giving me the directions that she took to receive her answers. I would like to share some of her thoughts with you later in the lesson.
We need personal revelation in our lives. I have found it so interesting this past month that so much of what I read I thought "this is so perfect for my lesson." Why even our Visiting Teaching lesson this month is on this same subject. The very first line of the lesson is a statement from President Boyd K. Packer saying, "The flow of revelation depends on your faith." Depends on your faith, that's a biggie in my book. In the June 2003 Ensign there is an article entitled "Our Struggle to be Fruitful." There was a statement the author of that article made that had a huge impact on me. He and his wife had tried desperately to have children and just kept having miscarriages until one child was finally brought to term, but the baby died shortly after the birth. The author became very bitter and struggled with his spirituality after that. He finally worked through his feelings. In answer to his searching and prayers, he learned that his lack of faith had added to his distress and that the day his daughter was buried they had not been alone, the angels had been there weeping with them, but they could not comfort him because he had blocked them out. That going through this alone had been due to his use of agency, not his Father in Heaven's will.
How many of you have prayed, and prayed for answers, for help, and felt -- nothing? I have so many times. That is why I asked my friend how she waas able to receive her answers. Because of the personal nature of her beautiful letter, I cannot share it in full with you, but here are her main points: 1. When you pray, pray for at least 15 minutes; 2. Talk to the Lord as if he were really there; 3. Take the time to listen after your prayer; 4. React to the Spirit, don't question what you are hearing, just immediately react to it; 5. Take time daily to exercise and meditate; 6. Pay attention to your dreams as this is one of the Lord's tools that he uses to communicate with us as he has with others all throughout the scriptures; 7. Be wary of Satan. I would like to add one more item to this list that was suggested by Elder Henry B. Eyring and that is to write down even the simplest things that may come from the Spirit, that doing so would invite the Spirit back again.
Is receiving personal revelation just following a to-do list? Prayed for 15 minutes, check. Took time to listen, check. No, of course not. Elder Eyring has this to say regarding our search for answer to prayers:
You may now be reading the Book of Mormon diligently, daily. You may be praying often and with real intent. That may have led to such faith in Jesus Christ that you remember him with love. And that surely will have both led you to a broken heart and to seeking forgiveness for past sins and determination to keep every commandment. But you may still say, "With all that, I don't seem to get the promptings of what is true as easily as I think I should if I really have his Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to be with me." You and I need to be patient, and for a reason. A quick reading of the Book of Mormon, a few prayers, a shallow attempt at repentance, a casual regard for the covenants we've made - of course, that is not enough. The scriptures use over and over again the word "steadiness" to describe faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. When faith and repentance and diligent efforts to live the commandments have gone on long enough that virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly, then the doctrine of the priesthood, the truthful answers to the questions that really matter, will distill upon us as the dew from heaven. That's been my experience with seeking the confirmation of truth by the Spirit of God. I have at times sought it by singular effort, in times of great need, and it has come. Investigators have that experience when they reach the point where they must know if the Book of Mormon is true. But far more often for me, I notice the Spirit's presence in quiet confirmations at times when all I seem to have done is plod on in diligence, doing the simple things - searching the scriptures with a prayer in my heart and with more concern for others, and therefore less time for pursuits that let Satan, the father of lies, entice me. It's in periods of that steadiness that I notice the Holy Ghost, almost in the way you're surprised to discover that your shoes are wet from the dew formed on the grass overnight, and I look up and realize that my mind has been enlightened and my heart has been enlarged."
I want to take you back to my plan I told you about in the beginning of the lesson. The question on my mind was, how do I know if this plan is accepted of the Lord. I asked several people their thoughts. Most said that if the plan started to work, then I would know. My mom suggested that if it wasn't accepted I would know that. Then I read the following from a talk "Shall He Find Faith on the Earth?" by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin from the May 2003 General Conference edition of the Ensign. Elder Wirthlin said, "How do we know when our fatih conforms to the will of our Heavenly Father and He approves of that which we seek? We must know the word of God. One of the reasons we immerse ourselves in the scriptures is to know of Heavenly Father's dealings with man from the beginning. If the desires of our heart are contrary to scripture, then we should not pursue them further. Next, we must heed the counsel of latter-day prophets as they give inspired instruction. Additionally, we must ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit. If we do so, the Lord has promised, "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." Only when our faith is aligned with the will of our Heavenly Father will we be empowered to receive the blessings we seek."
When I read this, I felt like I had received my answwer. This didn't say "yes, your plan is accepted," and I didn't suddenly see stones illuminated before me, but I felt in my heart that the Lord was guiding me all through this lesson and the reading I had been doing to le me know that yes,my plan was a good plan, that it was in line with the will of the Lord. I had used the scriptures and words of the apostles to guide me and through the words I had read, I received my personal revelation that the Lord was pleased with my efforts. I know that I have a long way to go to having a closer relationship with my Savior, but I have noticed that I feel less and less like I am getting "nothing" as I pray. That in due time, I find my answers and that as I keep progressing I too hope to have a close a relationship as my friend does and to hear the Spirit in all that I do and I pray that each of you will feel the same.