Friday, February 18, 2022

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on revelation and personal decisions

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.
"We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of false revelation. Revelation from God is a sacred reality, but like other sacred things, it must be cherished and used properly so that a great strength does not become a disabling weakness."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," BYU 18-Stake Fireside, June 7, 1992; quoted in Ensign, Oct. 1994, pp. 13-14
Click here to read the full talk

Sometimes we struggle in our mortal experience to find the right "balance" in a variety of ways. Elder Oaks explains one of them: how does personal agency and the need to choose and learn, balance with promises of inspiration and spiritual direction? He gives wise counsel on the tendency of some to require or expect revelation on every decision of life, warning that it is not going to come, particularly in cases where "the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable":

Note that Elder Oaks didn't warn (in this excerpt) about the other extreme (not asking God at all for help) since his talk focused on a general theme of how something appears to be a good thing, a "strength," can become a challenge or weakness.

The second paragraph gives his counsel on how we should expect to see revelation in our personal lives. The process he describes is:
  1. When faced with a decision, "study things out in our minds." Use our God-given faculties to consider the problem and alternatives
  2. Pray for guidance
  3. If we receive a spiritual prompting, act on it
  4. If we do not receive a prompting, act on our best judgement
I especially appreciated the warning about not expecting revelation in every case, and the potential traps that can lead to.  Wise counsel!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
June 22, 2016

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