Seeking Revelation

In mindfulness/contemplative practice, we sometimes talk about the Buddhist concept of “emptying,” and while this is not an exact representation of that concept, I think it is a variation that can benefit Latter-Day Saints.

When I am really, really serious about seeking personal revelation, these are the kinds of things I pray:

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Does Revelation Need To Be Original?

Some of the most vexing questions for students of scripture have to do with 1) the nature of relationships between texts, and 2) the relationships between texts and the environment and worldview of the people who produce them.  As an example of the first problem, it is common for Latter-Day Saints to approach the Book of Mormon text with the assumption that the word translation connotes an exact rendering of a set of words and phrases in one language into a corresponding set of words and phrases in another language.  Operating with that assumption, we might be dismayed to see commonalities between the King James biblical language and passages in the Book of Mormon, or confused by Royal Skousen’s characterization of the Book of Mormon text as a “creative and cultural translation of the Nephite record.”  Skousen’s characterization finds support in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8, where the Lord specifies that the translation of the Book of Mormon required one to “study it out in your mind,” an imprecise process in which the mental building blocks of the translator (including cultural forms of expression) would be formed into an approximation of the intentions of the original authors.

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Revelation as Remembering

In April 2020 Conference, President Oaks said the following:

In the Council in Heaven, all the spirit children of God were introduced to the Father’s plan, including its mortal consequences and trials, its heavenly helps, and its glorious destiny. We saw the end from the beginning. All of the myriads of mortals who have been born on this earth chose the Father’s plan and fought for it in the heavenly contest that followed. Many also made covenants with the Father concerning what they would do in mortality. In ways that have not been revealed, our actions in the spirit world have influenced our circumstances in mortality.

That last sentence struck a nerve with a lot of people, because the doctrine of the preexistence has in the past been misused to promote racist and ethnocentrist religious ideas.  But I’d like to propose a better way of seeing that statement, informed by our personal experiences.

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