Receiving Revelation by Elder Spencer Barlow
(Transcribed from Audio Recording)
I’ve been asked to talk about how I received revelation on my mission. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Spencer Barlow. I’m 21 and for the past two years I’ve been serving a mission in the Arizona Gilbert mission. I was originally assigned to Tahiti but because of Covid I didn’t get to go and I’m kind of happy because Arizona will always hold a very hot place in my heart. I wanted to start with a really fiery sentence that would get me into my talk but I couldn’t think of anything so I asked my mission president, President Wright, “If you could put the doctrine of revelation into a sentence what would it be?” and President Wright said, “Revelation is communication from God that binds us to Him.”
I love that Natalie (Thomas) said that revelation takes humility because I didn’t get much revelation on my mission. I wanted to be more humble than I was but there were a couple of times where I was able to chill out and get some communication from God. President Russell M. Nelson said, “The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts that God gives to his children.” Revelation is an interesting thing because it often is spoken of as something that comes in big, BIG ideas. Moses was inspired to strike his staff into the Red Sea and acting on that, it split. I didn’t split the sea. We didn't have any water (clears throat) in Arizona, as you can tell. But the more I studied revelation and the longer I asked for it, the more I realized how wrong I was that it had to be some big thing. President Russell M. Nelson also said, “Whatever our church calling, we can pray to our Heavenly Father and receive guidance and direction and be warned about dangers and destructions and being able to accomplish things we simply can not do on our own. If we will truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings we will be guided in matters large and small.” That’s such an amazing promise and I can testify it’s true and also testify what Natalie said.
President Nelson talks about some of his experiences with revelation in the talk that I’m using but I figured I could pull a couple stories from my past two years as a missionary since I think at least my family wants to hear about it. The first experience I had of revelation which I didn’t recognize was revelation for a long time but it was at home MTC. So I was the first group to do online MTC. I started the MTC March 18 (2020) and the MTC closed on the 16th. I was packing and my dad was like, “You’re not going.” I was like, “Huh?!” “What?” But I did it for nine weeks because I had to learn French for six weeks and then Tahitian through French for three weeks. I felt very inadequate obviously because I can barely speak English and now I’m supposed to learn two more languages. I was feeling very unsure of my ability to serve a mission and honestly questioned my testimony a little bit. I had taken French in high school (yet) everyone in my district, I felt, was ahead of me in gospel topics and their ability to speak the language. At the time, March/April 2020, President Nelson had given an invitation for a world wide fast. He said it was for Covid but I decided to fast for the question I had. Because we were over Zoom, my companion was in New Zealand so he was basically a day ahead of me. So he would be fasting on Thursday for us and we were assigned to fast on Friday. I had a very serious question. I wanted to know if God was real and if He loved me. So, because I’m a big guy I thought, “I can take this. I’ll fast for two days.” Missionaries aren’t supposed to do that. The Elders can back me up on that, it says that in the Standards. I didn’t know that because it was a weekend. So I fasted for two days and prayed that I could feel God was there and that He loved me personally. I told myself if I had that answer I could go on my mission with the power and knowledge that God loved me and that He loves all of His other children and those were going to be the people that I served. At the end of a 48 hour fast, I hadn’t gotten any kind of an answer. I was very hungry and upset and I brought back my childish ways and started to argue with my siblings. My dad stepped outside with me to discuss how I was feeling. I was like, “My siblings are so annoying!” And he said, “Are you sure that’s it?” Then we talked about it a little more and I realized I’m mad because I hadn’t got an answer and I fasted for 48 hours. The most I had ever fasted was probably less than 24 hours. I’m not confessing my sins or anything but I would eat dinner at 8 or 9 o’clock at night on Saturday and then I would have dinner on Sunday at 4 or 5. So I never really had done more than a day. I was like, “I’ve done something very hard for me, why haven’t I gotten an answer?” That was very prideful of me. Luckily my dad and Heavenly Father both love me very much. My dad just said, “You’ve gotten the answer before, haven’t you? You know God loves you.” As he said that I felt the arms of someone giving me a very big hug and I’m a big guy so it was weird and I felt like a little baby. Right then I knew God loved me and I knew that I could do this. I started bawling my eyes out. That kept me going for a lot of my mission which is the knowledge that God loved me.
Revelation I learned on my mission is that you have to act on it or you lose the ability for further revelation. When you get revelation you have to act on it and show your gratitude for it and have willingness to receive. There have been so many times where I have been praying for something that I knew was good and would help me become a better missionary. As I was saying the prayer I would get a little thought, “Do you really want this or are you just praying for this because you know God wants this or is your desire actually to be better?” And I was like, “Dang! Is this my desire?” Then I would pray for the desire and it worked. It definitely worked.
Another time when I was sincerely asking for what He wanted for me instead of what I wanted for myself, I had the opportunity to receive and act on an impression giving the chance for further revelation and answers. I have a scripture in Mormon chapter 9 verses 7 through 9 and it says, “And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them. For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” That hurt me a little because I denied revelations from God. I know that God still gives revelation to men. I received a very strong testimony that he gives revelation to the prophet and the apostles on this earth. We each can receive revelation for ourselves. But because I’m a prideful person, I’m mortal and human, surprise, I felt sometimes that I couldn’t get the revelation that my dad could or my brothers could on their missions. Then I realized how wrong I was as I tried to humble myself and receive answers from God. I did receive them. Many times I’ve had to look back and reflect on it. It was amazing.
There was another experience I had. There was a girl that me and my companion were teaching. She was a super nice girl. She didn’t really talk that much except when she would answer our questions. She was a teenager. We were talking to her and asked her to bear her testimony on the Gospel. It was very powerful. She spoke very simply. She had been going to seminary and church for like 3 years and she was finally taking the discussions. So we asked her to bear her testimony and she bore her testimony that Heavenly Father loves her. I was like, “I agree!” She continued on and I felt inspired to invite her to baptism. I asked her, “Madison, would you accept the invitation to be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and make this covenant with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?” And she said, “Yeah sure.” I was like, “Sweet! Awesome! We promise you blessings!” She got baptized and it was great. I consider it a bit of a blessing for me because she gave me the opportunity to baptize her. That doesn’t happen very often in stateside missions. I thought, “Yes! God still loves me!”
My last anecdote of receiving revelation actually happened just less than a week ago. We were driving to the airport to come here and my flight was weird. I flew up to San Francisco first and then flew down to John Wayne (airport). I was thinking, “Why am I flying to San Francisco when it’s a 45 min to 1 hour flight to John Wayne? I could be with my family a lot quicker. That doesn’t make sense.” I got out of the van to go into the airport with my AP’s, which I was also friends with. Elder Cooper, who was my best friend on my mission, said, “Elder Barlow, you should grab a copy of the Book of Mormon and give it to someone.” I was thinking, “Ok buddy I don’t want to be like that annoying." Not that I’m saying missionaries are annoying, I mean I did that for 2 years and I loved it. I said to him, “Ok, sure.” I put a copy of the Book of Mormon in my pocket because my pockets are massive. I got on the flight for San Francisco and this girl was sitting next to me that looked around my age and I thought, “Ok cool, this is going to be really awkward.” She was talking on the phone with like her girlfriend and talking about this guy and how stupid he is and how dirty his apartment was. I’m sitting right next to her and she’s talking pretty loud so I was just laughing and it was really funny. She notices that I’m kind of listening in and she’s laughing with me. We started talking and it was her brother (she was talking about) and I thought, “Dang! Bonnie (my sister) will never see my apartment in Idaho.” We started talking more and she asked where I was going and I told her I was going home and that I just served a mission for 2 years. She said that was cool and asked for me to tell her more about that. We talked a lot since it was a two and a half hour flight and we basically talked the whole time. She told me she liked reading and I thought, “I have a book for you!” I didn’t say that right then because I didn’t want to make this look awkward and I want this to be a good experience for her. I pulled the Book of Mormon out and flipping around trying to find something that I would like to share with her. I read the introduction and I read part of Moroni 10. Those have always been the parts of the scriptures that are very dear to me since they explain what’s going on in the scriptures. So I said, “Hey, I have this book and you said you like to read so you can’t say no to this free book.” She replied, “Ok, that’s cool. Where do you think I should read?” I said, “Well if you’re asking for recommendations then the whole book but this part right here the introduction and chapter 10 of Moroni at the very end. This is one of those books where you can read the ending first and not have it spoiled.” So she thanked me and took the book and started reading right there. I thought, “That’s awesome!” I recognized that was a revelation on my fellow colleague’s part to encourage me to take a Book of Mormon. She reads the introduction then flips over and instead of going to Moroni starts reading the testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the three witnesses. Then she flips to Moroni and reads chapters one through ten. When we get off she asks me for my number so she can text me when she reads it. It was great! She hasn’t texted me back yet but that doesn’t change the fact that I acted on revelation and that I was able to feel the Spirit very strongly at the tail end of my mission.
I guess I should wrap up. I have a very strong testimony of the power of revelation and the blessings that come when we act on it. I have a testimony that Heavenly Father loves me and He loves each of you. In the words of my mission president, “He loves the guy that just drove by outside.” Every single person in this world is a son or daughter of God and He loves them so much and it means that we should too even if they annoy us sometimes. True love is shown by our Savior and Heavenly Father and invites change for the better. Love inspires an invitation for growth. I have a testimony of Joseph Smith that he was a prophet and President Russell M. Nelson is also a prophet and leads this Church through the power of God and he does it for our benefit. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon and it can bring real change to those who read it. I very much hope that the girl I talked to, Racheal, reads it and experiences that change that I felt. I know that when you read with a sincere desire that you will receive that same testimony. I invite all of you that haven’t read it to read it as soon as possible and if you have read it, it’s a really good book and you should read it again. I bear my witness of these things and say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.