Revelation is For the Time and Circumstances in Which We Find Ourselves
"And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written." (2 Nephi 29:9-11)
Here are three scriptures that seem to limit the Lord in speaking according to his pleasure.
"But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses." (D&C 28:2)
Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. (D&C 42:11)
"O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ear to the words which I shall speak unto you. For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me." (D&C 43:1-6)
This is the Lord speaking to the church in the 1830s with Joseph at the head, having the Melchizedek priesthood and the right of presidency.1
In 1841 Joseph appointed Hyrum as co-president2 of the church to act as co-equal and in concert with Joseph. Hyrum was taken first. Given that the enormous George A. Smith's coat was full of bullet holes but just as was prophesied he was unhurt, do you think the Lord was in full control of what happened in that room, and who was taken?
Do the same circumstances in those verses still exist? We can "liken" all we want, as the words of an old book, but this revelation, like many in the Book of Commandments was always meant for the time and circumstances in which the recipients found themselves.
"I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above." (D&C 58:32-33)
Can we look over the history of the church, the expulsion from Nauvoo and subsequent privations, crop failures, loss of life and limb and come to a reasoned conclusion the the Lord revoked and they received not the blessing?4
Therefore, how do these scriptures limit the Lord speaking at his pleasure?
There are many words of Joseph that tell us we must recieve directly from heaven revelation for ourselves, that we must know the mysteries in the same manner or be brought into captivity, that we must obtain the Second Comforter, and that we should all be prophets, seers and revelators just as Moses desired for his people.5
If revelation is for the time and circumstance in which we find ourselves, how can we justify our lack of revelation because enough6 has already been revealed? Can we trust other men's promises, or must we receive our own?
Do Joseph's last visions, days before his martyrdom, improve our understanding of this?7
1. "The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things." (D&C 107:8)
2. "And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right; That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph; That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery; That my servant Hyrum may bear record of the things which I shall show unto him, that his name may be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever." (D&C 124:91-96)
3. "And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it. But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom; And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church;" (D&C 28:4-6)
4. See Gospel-Fulness.org Nauvoo temple failure.
6. "Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2 Nephi 28:27-30)
"And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I [Abinadom] know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end." (Omni 1:11)
Question: "And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?" Answer: "Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don't need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we've already received." (President Gordon B. Hinckley in an interview with the San Fransisco Chronicle, 1997)
7. See Gospel-Fulness.org Joseph's Last Visions.