“A great disservice to themselves and to their friends”

I subbed for Gospel Doctrine this week and taught lesson 6, which was similar to lesson 5, both on revelation, with long streams of proof texts. Fortunately lesson 6 also had as base texts sections 6, 8, 9. These are the revelations that cover Oliver Cowdery’s interaction with translating the book of Mormon and they are incredibly rich—fortunately more than enough to discuss in the allotted time. We dug into the sections and then reviewed the lesson’s objective of identifying various ways of receiving revelation.

We read only three items that were not in the sections themselves. Relating to Cowdery’s gifts, we read a bit from the Church’s new Revelations in Context resource and also from the early manuscript of one of the revelations as available on the Joseph Smith Papers Projects website. I felt like we had a lot of great discussion.

The third non-canonical item we read was a quote from Elder John H. Groberg supplied by the Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s manual for this lesson. At first I thought it was added for all the student wards affiliated with BYU campuses. But Groberg’s comment has radical consequences if broadly applied, and I therefore think it is worth highlighting:

I would…caution you that you cannot receive a one-sided revelation from God in regards to an eternal marriage. Only as both parties feel the same way can you have the assurance that it is from the Lord. Those who try to force another’s free will into their supposed-revelation mold are doing a great disservice to themselves and to their friends”

(John H. Groberg “What Are You Doing Here?” New Era, Jan. 1987, 37–38).

Comments

  1. Sharee Hughes says:

    Of course Groberg was right. Marrying someone who did not love you just because YOU felt you had a revelation about it is definitely doing yourself a disservice. I read a book years and years ago about a woman who had married a man she did not love because he told her it had been revealed to him that she was to be his wife. And, after all, he had the priesthood. She felt she had been brainwashed by growing up in the Church to accept anything a priesthood holder told her. ounds to me a lot like manipulation, Somehow she forgot about the concept of agency. Needless to say, the marriage was a disaster. I don’t remember all the details, but I think she also left the Church.

  2. Sounds to me like she was an idiot. And that publishers are still happy to print idiots’ stories.

  3. Rodney Ross says:

    Idiot is a strong word, probably too strong for that situation. I remember the book and the person Sharee is speaking of. I don’t recall the name of either. I believe the individual has passed away. There were some psychological issues from the beginning as I recall. I supposed there would be psychological problems if the woman swallowed that line (“Let’s get married, I’ve had a revelation for us.”). As a wise stake president once said, “The Church can’t solve every problem.” The quote from Elder Groberg is certainly appropriate.

  4. I’m curious to know what radical consequences came to your mind J., when you first read it this time around …… that no revelation should be a unilateral experience?

  5. J. Stapley says:

    wg, right. If you skip the first sentence of the quote, it is pretty potent, and a sentiment that I imagine someone like Brigham Young would have agreed with on a good day.

  6. Chris Kimball says:

    For marriage it makes sense. The fact that John Groberg thought to say it suggests a problem exists (and (#1) Sharee Hughes would confirm). However, I’m more aware of potential couples where the “revelation” was one-sided and the otherwise-revealed-to person backed out. Interestingly, the fallout has often been to question revelation more generally, as in:
    “I’ve been thinking that revelation is about truth, there is only one truth, and so revelation should be all the same. But something’s gone wrong. Is it his “revelation” that’s wrong? (But he seems completely sincere, so how does anybody really know?) Or is it my lack of revelation or a different revelation that’s wrong? (But I am definitely sincere. So how can I ever know differently?) Or is there something wrong with my simple model of truth-one truth-everybody gets the same truth?

  7. Elder Groberg’s sister-in-law was courted by a man who claimed he had received a revelation that she was to marry him. She turned him down. That was sign enough.

  8. I thought you meant the radical consequences (as applied to eternal marriage) are that people who believe they should end a temple marriage, should not do so unless both partners in the marriage receive the same revelation.

  9. Perhaps the implication of revelations in general dictating one’s actions not being binding on someone until personally confirmed?

  10. Excellent quote – and applicable to so much more than marriage, as you say.

    #8 – That’s a great example of how easy it is to interpret pretty much anything to mean whatever we want it to mean – however we are disposed to interpret it.

  11. Sharee Hughes says:

    I wish I could remember the name of that book. I know it was discussed at Sunstone in a session conducted by Lynn Whitesides and everyone there (except me) thought the woman had been coerced into the marriage, while I maintained she was, as Mark B put it, an idiot. I don’t think I phrased it that strongly, but I did indicate that the woman had a choice and she choose not to think for herself. I agree there may have been some psychological problems.

  12. Steve Smith says:

    So in other words, the decision to marry should be based on a process of reasoning between the two parties (i.e. how they feel about each other and the reasons that they believe that the relationship has the potential to last) rather than some claims to revelation.

    Here’s Bruce R. McConkie in that same vein: “How do you choose a wife? I’ve heard a lot of young people from Brigham Young University and elsewhere say, ‘I’ve got to get a feeling of inspiration. I’ve got to get some revelation. I’ve got to fast and pray and get the Lord to manifest to me whom I should marry.’ Well, maybe it will be a little shock to you, but never in my life did I ever ask the Lord whom I ought to marry. It never occurred to me to ask him. I went out and found the girl I wanted; she suited me; I evaluated and weighed the proposition, and it just seemed a hundred percent to me as though this ought to be. Now, if I’d done things perfectly, I’d have done some counseling with the Lord, which I didn’t do; but all I did was pray to the Lord and ask for some guidance and direction in connection with the decision that I’d reached. A more perfect thing to have done would have been to counsel with him relative to the decision and get a spiritual confirmation that the conclusion, which I by my agency and faculties had arrived at, was the right one.”

    http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=616

    The funny thing is that I get the sense that church leaders are cautious about stressing the idea of personal revelation, especially in relation to marriage. Their aim is to essentially get the singles married almost as fast as possible and then tell them to work out whatever problems arise. Also I get the sense that church leaders only like the idea of personal revelation when it comes to receiving a witness as to whether the church is true or not. Beyond that they appear to want to reserve revelation to the Q12/FP.

  13. #12 – Steve, I will just say I disagree strongly with your last paragraph and leave it at that.

  14. I love the quotation, too, and I also think that it applies to EVERYTHING, not just marriage.

    The only person for whom one can receive revelation is him- or herself. That’s right! A bishop cannnot receive revelation for a member of his ward — rather, that bishop can only receive revelation for himself and his stewardship as bishop. Thus, the Holy Spirit might prompt him to say something to me, but that prompting to the bishop cannot be relayed as a command to me. It doesn’t work that way. Anything the bishop (or insert any other church officer or member, including boyfriend or girlfriend) wants me to do, he can only encourage and counsel with longsuffering and patience and respect according to the model in D&C 121.

    I cannot receive revelation on what my son is supposed to do, but I can receive revelation on what I should do for him and say to him.

    At least, that’s how I see it. I realize it differs from what some have been taught.

  15. #13 – Ditto

  16. 14 – just to quibble (it wouldn’t be the bloggernacle otherwise right), a Bishop most certainly can receive revelation about others and even “for” others.

    Everyone has their agency and a Bishops (or Apostles) stewardship does not extend into forcing you to comply in anyway. As with everything in the gospel, it’s up to you to get your own confirming revelation on the matter and decide what to do.

    If you decide, perhaps a bishop was wrong or misinterpreted his prompting, or just that you don’t want to follow by seeking your own confirmation that’s your choice. Consequently, if the Bishop was right and you were wrong you’d bear the responsibility. If the Bishop was wrong and you received revelation he was wrong, you’re clearly still responsible, and so is he to the degree he spoke falsely, as it were.

    But I would agree that it is not generally the Lord’s way not to have Bishops or Apostles receiving revelation for others telling them what to do, but rather encouraging us to receive revelation for ourselves. That doesn’t change the fact for me that a Bishop, acting righteously, can know the mind and will of God as it relates to his congregation broadly and individually. How the Bishop handles that knowledge is certainly a measure of his wisdom.

    We could even muddy the waters a bit and say I can receive revelation for another even if I’m not a bishop. I know I can, because I’ve done it. I’ve sat next to a brother I only knew in passing from another ward in a stake priesthood leadership meeting. I noticed something peculiar about his scripture case and thought, “what kid of person has a scripture case like that.” (not in a disparaging way, but rather in an admiring way as the case was pretty unique for the part of the world)

    To this day, I can remember clearly the voice, “This is one of my sons who lays hold on every good thing and takes it into his heart.” It was a pretty intense moment for me in the stillness of my mind during that meeting. At the end of the meeting, I felt a very strong outpouring of love for the man and “knew” it was my duty to tell him that God loves him, and further tell him exactly what God revealed to me, which was actually for his benefit more than mine. He said he “really needed to hear that” with tears in his eyes.

    I certainly didn’t command him to “do” anything, but I hope my rather personal experience can demonstrate it’s certainly possible to receive a revelation “for” someone else in a sense.

    We Latter-day Saints get all uncomfortable about this because we assume the worst of every would-be-spiritual-tyrant who goes around commanding others to do what they have “revealed”.

    Anyone who does that not only doesn’t understand our religion, but anyone who follows doesn’t understand it either.

    Of course, I realize this may be a distinction without a difference based on how you actually feel, but something about your statement that “The only person for whom one can receive revelation is him- or herself.” just seemed incorrect.

    I think the difference is in the emphasis perhaps in the type of revelation and the commandment given. But the scriptures filled with commandments from God through the prophet to individuals, and I see no reason to believe it’s only the Senior Apostle/President who has that authority in stewardships. Rather, it’s rarely exercised to begin throughout the hierarchy and *always* up to the individual to receive confirmation on their own.

  17. “You cannot receive a one-sided revelation from God in regards to an eternal marriage.”
    Does this include Joseph Smith?

  18. 17 — Really good comment.

    1, 2, everyone in the “idiot” camp — Screw that. You don’t raise someone in a church that makes *obedience* into the first law of heaven, the highest virtue, the bestest most special thing ever and inherently good by itself, and then get mad at her for being a doormat.

    You aren’t saying anything about her, you’re saying that *you* don’t have the kind of personality and haven’t had the kind of experiences that make submitting to *anyone* who asserts authority over you seem like the most rational choice. Read this account of emotional abuse in a mission companionship to see just how quickly the right treatment and conditioning can make someone into a wreck.

  19. 17. That’s comes across to me as lightly veiled but intentionally fairly aggressive innuendo. Did I infer correctly, or was that just in innocent question?

    I don’t know the circumstances of every single instance (nor am I sure even historians can have the whole picture every time), but I do believe that in many if not most circumstances, while Joseph initiated he also invited the other party to seek confirmation. And again, while I don’t know every situation, I know there were multiples in which the other party reported receiving said confirmation.

    My wife received confirmation of whom she was supposed to marry before I did (although she didn’t tell me at the time) and nudged me into finding out for myself. Had she “received a revelation” far in advance of me and coerced me into feeling like I had to act on her “prompting,” that would have been a good indicator that the revelation was not genuine. (And yes, years before, a girl had convinced herself that she was going to marry me, and I felt no such inclination. We broke up shortly after. Oddly enough, by coincidence, almost four years later we ended up getting married on the same day in the same temple. Go figure.)

    I completely agree with Bro. Groberg’s quote. But that doesn’t mean both parties necessarily receive revelation at exactly the same time. And I hope the Joseph Smith reference doesn’t become a threadjack of a good post.

  20. “My wife received confirmation of whom she was SUPPOSED to marry”

    By the way, I don’t agree with the way I phrased that. I believe that whom we marry is our choice, and we can seek confirmation as to whether it is a good choice, but I don’t think the Lord tells us who to marry.

    That said, my wife and I were definitely set up on our first date. 14 months later, I married MY choice.

  21. I love the Groberg quote. I read a story in the church news (I believe) that made me so mad. I vented about it on my blog. So, I’m going to do a shameless plug for my blog. Full disclosure, right?

    Here is a snippet, “[One sided revelation considering marriage] has its roots in the idea that men receive revelation for women, no matter what the relationship. It implies that women cannot stand on their own in terms of spiritual matters. ” The full text is here.

    http://experimentalcriticism.com/2013/02/16/good-better-best-is-the-worst-part-2/

  22. I like Steve Smith’s #12, about the concern the brethren feel about advocating personal revelation too much in areas beyond testimony. I’ve heard numerous stories about people recieving “personal revelations” about things that then turned out to be completely wrong. This happens frequently during priesthood blessings, when the person dies after being promised recovery. Or business decisions that bomb, or marriages that fail.

    On the one hand, the brethren try to encourage people to trust in very subtle feelings of a “still small voice,” regarding testimony, because many people don’t get extremely powerful, unmistakable revelations. But that backfires when applied to other areas of life, because there are a lot of “still small voices” and “stupors of thought” buzzing around in our brains, accompanied by a myriad of feelings, good, bad, lustful, euphoric, peaceful, alarming, guilt-laden. At various times, you will hear members pronounce their various feelings to be from the Spirit, whether those feelings are good, “do it” or bad: “no, don’t do it,” or confusing, “a stupor of thought, so don’t do it.” But Joseph Smith always said you have to ask: “was any intelligence communicated?”

    But of course it is also possible to recieve a valid revelation on who to marry, and maybe the woman just needs to trust in that. That happened to my mother. Dad told her God wanted him to ask her to marry him, Mom didn’t feel anything, not even love for my father. But somehow she trusted him as a priesthood holder, and decided to go for it on blind faith. It wasn’t until she was at the alter of the temple that she recieved a witness, and an outpouring of love for my father for the first time. They never had a regret about it since.

    Ironically, my father got a revelation to marry another girl before my mom, who turned him down. But that just means that she missed out, not nescessarily that the revelation was incorrect.

  23. 22. Your comments enter into a discussion of the differences between four distinct things: “revelation,” “inspiration,” “confirmation” and “feelings.”

    “Revelation” and “inspiration” are to me often interchangeable terms, but with an important caveat. They are when the Lord adds new truth to the human experience. Each can be received by prophets, bishops, parents, individuals, but also by scientists, philosophers, political leaders. Usually there’s a lot of work involved on the part of the person receiving it. Inspiration can be wisdom given by the Lord to someone who has worked hard for and/or asked for it, but the recipient doesn’t necessary recognize it as coming from the Lord. “Revelation” is when one receives acknowledged insight from the Lord within his stewardship and correctly recognizes it as such. Inspiration is far more common than revelation.

    Confirmation is when you have worked out in your mind what you believe to be the correct answer to a decision, but you seek the Lord’s witness that you have arrived at the correct conclusion. It’s a type of revelation. Seeking a witness to confirm one’s testimony or choice of spouse are “confirmation.”

    “Feelings” are generated by what we want and desire. Because revelation and confirmation create powerful feelings, many people mistake powerful feelings for revelation when they are not. True revelation takes spiritual maturity, a great deal of self awareness, a sometimes frightening level of humility, and personal righteousness. But anyone can have strong feelings. The more self-serving you are at your core, the more likely you are to mistake your own feelings for revelation. If you are in a state in which you are inclined to counsel the Lord rather than take counsel and chastening from him (or have any desire to impose your will on another), you are in a state to generate false revelation.

    A lot of what people call “revelation” I think is no more than feelings. And a lot of true revelation is not acknowledged as such by the person who has received and acted upon it.

  24. Again, 22, in your examples, I tend to be leery of a declaration of “revelation” of whom to marry. As per the McConkie quote in 12, I believe we can receive confirmation for a decision we have made, but I think it is against the economy of God to tell someone something that could and should be revealed through the course of getting to know someone and mutually deciding that you want to be married.

    I treat with suspicion any “revelation” of whom one should marry that comes ahead of what could also have been revealed through time and experience. I got “inspiration” while dating my wife that helped us build a great relationship, but never a “revelation” to the effect of “you are to marry this woman.” But after eight months of getting to know her and love her and having no doubt that I wanted to be her partner in life, I did receive “confirmation” (after she already had) that I had made a great choice.

    The 20 years following have been excellent confirmation as well.

  25. James Justice says:

    Of course Bro. Groberg was spot on in his comments, for we are speaking of Celestial marriage, NOT Terrestrial or Telestial marriage. One where each of its participants are entitled and responsible to receive revelation to themselves for themselves and their children. Each enters into “this order of the Priesthood” (i.e. the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage), NOT just one. The New and Everlasting Order of Marriage is AN ORDER OF THE PRIESTHOOD. There are at least two people in this order of marriage – male and female. Thus, in the Celestial Order, women are priesthood holders, which priesthood as previously defined is the “government of God” which “rules in eternity”. A Celestial partnership of husband and wife is a “government of God”, who preside over their family forever and forever (as previously taught).

    Of course the woman needs to receive revelation from God before entering into this holy order/order of priesthood, as well as continual guidance in raising their children. She is to be a Queen and a Priestess after she qualifies herself, as well as her husband as King and Priest. They are to be Gods.

    Now, as to other people receiving revelation for someone else, I ask this question: is it their right to do so? Does Joe Blow have the right to receive revelation for Mary Cary as to who she should marry? Does the Elders Quorum President have the right to receive revelation for one of the elders in the quorum over which he presides? Does a Bishop? Stake President? President of the Church? Or, are there limitations? Or, mistaken understandings? Does a father and a mother have a right to receive revelation for their children at least up until they reach the age of majority?

    As an former Elders Quorum President, I understood that I didn’t have ANY right to receive revelations for the quorum members individually, but I DID have a right to receive revelations as to the ACTIVITIES OF THE QUORUM as a group. Certain needs of the quorum, things that needed to be taught specifically to that group of elders, etc. I understood the same held for higher ups in the Church’s priesthood chain.

    So, in the case of Joe Blow and Mary Cary, who has a right to receive revelation for Mary Cary? I understand Mary Cary certainly does and is primarily responsible to do so. And, her parents as well – BOTH OF THEM – but in THIS DECISION, theirs is secondary, to be taken as advice/counsel, since she is leaving their “care”, their jurisdiction, and entering into a new relationship and a new “government of God”.

    Some things to consider.

    Take care!

  26. “Ironically, my father got a revelation to marry another girl before my mom, who turned him down. But that just means that she missed out, not nescessarily that the revelation was incorrect.”

    or not

  27. it's a series of tubes says:

    And Ray hits it squarely out of the park with two judicious words :)

  28. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;”

    Or by telling someone you received revelation and making sure they know you have the p-hood. lol.. nicely played.

  29. Could this same logic be applied to callings? E.g. my bishop extends a calling that he felt was revealed to him, but suppose I feel that it’s not right. Would the bishop be trying to force me into his revelation mold in that case?

  30. Euthyphronics says:

    Douggy @29: I remember one stake presidency member a while back who would often say (in stake meetings and so on) “If we extend a calling to you, you don’t need to go and pray to get a confirmation. We receive revelation as to who should be in what callings, not you.” This always drove me nuts. The way I reckon it, the stake president (or bishop, or other relevant leader) has the right to revelation as to which member in which calling would be best for the unit that they have stewardship over. But the bishop has no right to revelation as to whether the calling would be best for the member to whom it is extended.

    By my lights, any attempt to do an end-run around someone else’s personal, individual communication with deity — on any issue — is exercising unrighteous dominion. After all, it’s the evil spirit that telleth a man not to pray, right?

  31. James Justice says:

    Very good observation, Euthyphronics. Position and activities vs. receiving revelation for someone else.

  32. I agree with Euthyphronics.

    It’s a question of stewardship NOT the priesthood. The Spirit will not reveal to someone without stewardship something that controls the actions of another person. Even when someone has stewardship over another, the revelation is always what you should do for or say to them, not what they should do. Even when the prophets reveal principles to us, we are expected to study it out in our own minds and hearts. Sometimes, the Spirit will tell us to follow before we have understanding. But we are never expected to throw away our agency, that power over which we fought a war, or our personal relationship with deity.

  33. was the book “Secret Ceremonies” by Deborah Laake?

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0440217806/ref=redir_mdp_mobile/179-0543878-7543057

  34. ji – I appreciate your perspective. I think that there is a subtle distinction between what you are describing and the common interpretation of the doctrine. It seems like a big deal to say that Priesthood leaders cannot receive revelation for members under their stewardship. But I don’t think your comment really contradicts the principle of stewardship.

    Kaphor – I want to say how much I admire your willingness to say that there may be a distinction without a difference. I can’t speak for ji, but what you described seemed in harmony with what I read (and personally believe.) I think that the inspiration we receive can be about and intended to benefit another person, and ultimately what God tells me is what I should do. Sometimes, I may be prompted to express a specific commandment from God (like a Bishop extending counsel through the discipline process or a parent for a young child. I guess I’m just uncomfortable with asserting that my interpretation of a prompting is perfect. I can own that I am prompted to say or do something, but maintain ownership of the responsibility.

    Speaking to the question posed in the post – I think the opportunity to use (and respond to) persuasion, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned is more valuable than mere compliance. Neglecting that opportunity is a great disservice to everyone involved.

  35. #29 – Douggy, I’ve always believed in asking someone to think, pray and talk about a possible calling before actually asking if the person will accept the calling. Revelation can and does clash sometimes, and I’m totally fine with that duality.

    For example, I have been in a leadership position more than once and had undeniable confirmation that a certain person would be the best person for a position in the ward or stake – but, after discussing the potential calling with that person, realized that it wasn’t appropriate at that time, sometimes after the person thought, talked and prayed about it and sometimes in the initial conversation. Those experiences didn’t invalidate the original revelation in any way, but they made me realize we often get answers that are “correct” within our limited understanding but “incorrect” with the illumination of further light and knowledge.

    Having said all that, my simplest answer is that I don’t like Lucifer’s plan.

  36. “I think the opportunity to use (and respond to) persuasion, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned is more valuable than mere compliance. Neglecting that opportunity is a great disservice to everyone involved.”

    Beautifully said, Kevin.

  37. Good rule of thumb for me regarding personal revelation. If it’s not convenient for me and/or not what I wanted and yet I still feel that it right because it benefits someone besides me, good chance that real revelation is occurring.

    If the “revelation” is convenient for me and just what I wanted, and I didn’t have to toil and think through the ramifications from the viewpoint of what may be best for others, and/or the “revelation” came easily, it probably isn’t revelation.

    Revelations are rarely convenient and rarely easy because the Lord doesn’t have to reveal to us what we already wanted to do anyway. If you’re actually in tune with the Spirit, questions pertaining to what YOU want and what YOU need aren’t going to be occupying much of your mental bandwidth. And that’s my other rule of thumb for determining whether I’m in tune with the spirit: How much of my mental bandwidth is devoted to others and what they need? If the answer is not “most of it,” then I’m to some degree out of tune.

  38. kaphor,

    Your story in no. 16 isn’t in opposition to the thesis of my no. 14; rather, your story helps to make my point perfectly.

    YOU received a revelation: a revelation to YOU for YOU to deliver a kind message of hope to someone else. Any command in the revelation from the Lord was to YOU, not him. Any duty to act was on YOU, not him. Your revelation contained no commandment for him. So I would say that your revelation was for YOU, not for him, and it was in this frame of mind that I wrote my no. 14. The difference is the object of the preposition.

    That’s why I wrote, The only person for whom one can receive revelation is him- or herself. I believe this applies everywhere in the pastoral church. I also believe that no person can demand the obedience of any other person in the pastoral church based on any revelation — it can only be through persuasion, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned (the D&C 121 pattern).

    Note: I use the term pastoral church to describe the ecclesiastical church, of wards and stakes and even the general church, but to exclude the corporations at the general church level — there, it is appropriate to expect employees to obey their supervisors.

  39. On reflection after an overnight, I regret my emphasis on YOU in my no. 38 as improvident — my intention was not to stick anyone in the eye, so to speak, but to emphasize my point. I do believe the point is correct, but I also want to act with charity.

  40. I don’t know, Lorin. I’ve had revelation that came easily to me simply because I hadn’t thought of it before, as soon as I did, I was willing. I’ve also had the type you’re talking about, but one thing I’ve learned in my short time here is that putting communication from the divine into a box isn’t generally wise. Outlining guidelines is one thing, claiming a certain method of revelation could never happen is another.

    Even when it comes to agency. Now that I think about it, there have been many recorded times of people receiving commandment by way of revelation for others. Pretty much every prophet, actually. That doesn’t keep the recipients from exercising their agency. It’s not the type of revelation that is the problem, but the pride of the one who believes he is receiving it, that he DESERVES to be obeyed. Right there, it betrays he is not receiving revelation because he is not acknowledging that it is God issuing the commandment, not him. If the command is from God, then God is the one who needs to worry about whether or not it is obeyed, not the prophet.

  41. 40. Agreed — don’t put God in a box. He can put things into anybody’s mind however he wants, and sometimes it comes easily. That’s essentially what I meant by “rule of thumb” — guidelines that are generally true, although there are many exceptions.

    My major point of 37 is that generalized or momentary self-absorption tends to be an important factor when someone mistakes his or her own personal desires for revelation. Conversely, real revelation tends to come to people who are genuinely devoting their mental mental bandwidth to helping others and trying figure out how to do the right thing — not consciously or unconsciously focused on having certain personal needs met.

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