Monday, October 27, 2014

Revelation, Inspiration and Our Expectations of Prophets and Apostles

There were lots of lengthy time periods in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon without new revelations and periods during which the prophets only reiterated important truths and called people to repentance - and the entire New Testament fits that description with the exception of Paul's converting vision and John's Revelation.

We tend to conflate revelation and inspiration a lot. "To reveal" means to "uncover / make visible that which was covered / not visible". To reveal is to make known the previously unknown or unknowable. "To inspire" means to "provide new insight into something already known / visible". Those are two very different things. 

When you get right down to it, not a whole lot in our scriptures is "pure revelation". Most of it is inspiration to varying degrees - some to an amazing degree, but not truly revelatory at heart.

Ironically, that's one of the reasons why I can sustain the apostles as prophets, seers and revelators. I see that role as being able to prophecy, see and reveal IF such things are needed - NOT as being a constant or even regular (or perhaps even occasional) condition. I just see those things happening so rarely throughout our recorded religious history that I don't expect anyone to experience them much, if at all. I can sustain lots of people as possible conduits for prophecy, foresight and revelation, so I have no problem doing so with the Church's leadership or viewing them as conduits for special revelation and inspiration for the Church and even the world. That for which I hope is a higher degree of regular (not constant) inspiration than most, and I think there is a very good argument for that among the apostles.


Jeff G said...

I definitely agree with your views regarding revelation in the scripture. So many times people hold the church today against the standards of Joseph Smith who was a statistical outlier if there ever was one. When you compare the church against the accounts found in the scriptures, we're doing just fine.

I am, however, a little suspicious of your distinction between inspiration and revelation. You make it sound like providing a new perspective is not stating something that was previously unknown. Furthermore, I'm not sure that the distinction is at all relevant to anything at all.

Papa D said...

I do not classify new perspectives on things already known as revelation. I think all of us have flashes of pure intelligence at times that cause us to understand something in a new light or from a new perspective. I see those instances as inspiration, not revelation.

In many cases, I agree that there isn't much of a distinction, if any, between revelation and inspiration - especially as we understand them. I do believe, however, that there is a reason we have both words - that there is a fundamental, important distinction between the two terms and that it is important to distinguish each term for what it is in some cases.