Having arrived at this pinnacle of growth that we may obtain truth from the heavens relative to our daily walk, we are now prepared to reach farther into the fountain of eternity and lay hold upon a far greater body of truth. These are principles of righteousness that eclipse our day-to-day needs, which teach of the eternities, of righteousness and of Zion. It is our slowly-acquired ability to hear the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit that has given us “ears to hear” and “eyes to see” those things that are hidden from the world.
There is an intriguing relationship between the revealed word found in holy writ, and personal revelation. One would assume that the natural process would be that we search the scriptures and find an example of promises we wish to claim or truths we wish to apply, gain a testimony of that principle through personal revelation, and then follow the course outlined in scripture that brings that blessing into our lives.
Obtaining promises can work this way. However, there is a less apparent way, which we apply much more often, even though we don’t realize it. For Latter-day Saints, the process more often follows the pattern Joseph Smith was led to employ in restoring the gospel to the earth. He sought and obtained personal revelation regarding how the Lord wanted His kingdom organized. He then proceeded to do as the Lord commanded, and in the process, he observed that the scriptures taught that Christ had done the same thing in previous dispensations of the gospel. It would have been a great comfort to Joseph to observe this. The scripture in this setting acted as a second witness, but would not have added to his ability to perform his high commission. The scriptures were not plain enough – indeed were not designed – to be Joseph’s blueprint to restore the gospel of Christ. But they were a perfect witness that what Joseph had been commanded to do was in harmony with the divine pattern. The holy writ bore witness, after the revealed truths were received, to the sacred and inspired work he was being called to perform.
Even the Book of Mormon did not instruct Joseph how to restore the Church. It did teach him the principles and doctrine, and occasionally motivate him to ask pertinent questions and make special requests, but it did not teach him how to organize the priesthood, the temple and many other things. Joseph learned all this by revelation, and found testament to all these truths in the scripture, a witness after the fact, if you will, that he was acting in harmony with the eternal scheme of God’s plan.
If one seeks to know how to establish Zion by searching the scripture alone, one excludes the Holy Ghost from transporting the power and availability of Zion into the structure of our faith and personal beliefs. Such a one only reads these scriptural accounts as interesting snippets from history, rather than as divine invitations to reach into the heavens and pull these blessings down onto our own heads. Thus, even understanding our place within the structure of Zion is a matter of revelation, rather than of reading about Zion’s past. This is not an inherent weakness in the scripture, but is rather a matter of divine design. God has ordained that all truth should come through Christ, firsthand, and that the written word should bear testimony of those truths.
We call the scripture the Old and New Testament, because they “testify”; or as the dictionary defines testament, it is proof of a pre-existing truth. The Lord instructed us to refer to the Book of Mormon as “Another Testament of Christ”, because it is testifying and proving existent truth, not necessarily revealing it.
Even when we read something new to our thinking, it is not new to God. As the Holy Ghost implants this new principle of truth into our souls, the scriptures testify of its long and historic power.
However, if you flip the scriptural coin over, you will find that most personal revelation occurs as a result of studying the scriptures. So, not only does the scripture act as a witness of the validity and virtue of revealed truth, but reading the scriptures is the primary way we prepare ourselves to receive that revelation.
This pattern is largely true in our personal search to build Zion in our souls. There is not enough information in the scriptures to tell each of us how to accomplish this incredible task. The scriptures inform us that many have sought and obtained these blessings, but the details of how they obtained them are not recorded in enough detail for us to imitate, assuming that mere imitation could bring about Zion. While reading about Zion, the Holy Spirit bears witness that these principles are true, and that Christ offers these gifts to “even as many as have believed on my name.” (D&C 38:4) Scripture establishes the pattern that these great patriarchs obtained these blessings during a personal interview with their God—though we are not told how they actually arrived at such a blessed state that they were invited into His presence.
While reading these scriptural accounts the Holy Spirit informs us that we may likewise partake. We believe because of our faith in Christ. In our latter-day temples the promise of a personal experience with Christ is held forth. An inspired connecting of the dots informs us that one of the great gifts one may request beyond the veil is that of translation—but we aren’t told plainly how to get to, or through the veil that separates us from God.
Thus, personal revelation, largely obtained during scripture study, is our only means of obtaining a personalized step-by-step blueprint on how to arrive in Zion. As each step reveals itself before our newly-opened eyes, we look back through scripture and find the same flecks of gold scattered here and there, and the Holy Spirit assures us that we are on the pathway to Zion.
Stated personally, as you begin to receive your personalized blueprint through personal revelation—it is uniquely yours. The obvious truth here is that your blueprint will not work for anyone else. The less-obvious truth is that this is the very reason there is no blueprint in the scripture—because the one that worked for Enoch’s personal journey could not work for anyone else. It couldn’t work for many reasons, the chief being that the God of heaven has ordained that He and He alone will lead His children to all blessings, especially into His presence, and thus no amount of inspired words, or brilliant speech, or powerful oratory, can communicate either a testimony of Zion, or the true pathway to Zion from one mortal to another.
Another underlying, and less obvious principle is that as the Lord reveals to an individual their personalized straight path into Zion, we most often are not privileged to share that information with other people. For this reason, the Holy Word instructs:
“9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.” (Alma 12:9.)
As a result, the pursuit of Zion is a very personal, and often a lonely journey, though we shall in time become many, even cities populated by millions.
Christ alone is the fountain of truth, and though mankind may speak words of truth, Christ alone, via the Holy Ghost, can transport them to another’s soul. Though this may seem odd, it is the order of all spiritual things. Even in far less grandiose truths, such as “the Church is true” or “Joseph Smith was a true prophet”, no mortal can communicate that truth to another’s soul. Only the processes of revelation can instill such truths into a human soul. Any missionary who has faithfully served in their calling will tell you than their greatest frustration is trying to get people to dine at the banquet of the restored gospel they lay before them. They quickly find that human language can only inform the ears, and that the Holy Ghost must inform the soul.
This is the pinnacle whereupon we now stand, and onto which shines a far greater body of truth, the glorious sunshine illuminating the pathway to that which we ultimately seek.
(Pontius, “The Triumph of Zion” page 292-295, CFI 2010)