Summary of “The Spirit of Revelation” by David A. Bednar

man praying

For religious people, the ability to receive revelation or inspiration from God is vital. Inspired thoughts can help us know what to do in regard to our families and marriages and relationships. What should I say to this person? Which school should I send my kids to? What should I do with my time? Who should I help today? All of these questions and thousands more can be answered by receiving revelation. However, sometimes it is hard to know or discern what God is saying to us. In an attempt to help people understand revelation, Elder David Bednar wrote this book.

For me personally, this book helped me to see the hand of God more fully in my life and how he was guiding me.

First, Elder Bednar goes over 10 principles of how the Lord often talks to people. These principles are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes they overlap and are mixed together.

10 Principles of Revelation

  1. The Still and Small Principle
  2. The Hearing What is Not Said Principle
  3. The Line upon Line Principle
  4. The Not Knowing Beforehand Principle
  5. The Not My Will, but Thine Principle
  6. The Diligence and Heed Principle
  7. The Proximity Principle
  8. The Repetition Principle
  9. The Scattered among Us Principle
  10. The What, not Why and When, Principle

The Still and Small Principle

God doesn’t speak in a loud voice. He is quiet. If you want to hear his voice, then you need to have time during the day when you are still and quiet. Being still can be hard for us because there are so many distractions and so much to do. But you need to slow down and be still in order to receive revelation. There are examples of revelation in the scriptures that comes in a big, powerful way. But usually it is the opposite: small and simple.

The Hearing What is Not Said Principle

Sometimes you are in a meeting, and what impresses upon your thoughts the most is something that wasn’t even said. The speaker was saying one thing, but you heard another thing. That is often the Spirit of the Lord. So pay close attention to thoughts you get or things that you hear that were not said.

The Line upon Line Principle

God doesn’t tell us EVERYTHING that we need to do all at once. Most often it comes a little bit at a time. Elder Richard G. Scott said that “Precious truth comes a small piece at a time through faith, with great exertion, and at times wrenching struggles. The Lord intends it to be that way so that we can mature and progress” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge”, Ensign, November 1993). The Lord uses a pattern of incremental learning.

The Not Knowing Beforehand Principle

Sometimes you don’t know how things are going to work out. You just have to start working. Taking action before knowing exactly what to do often brings revelation. At other times you don’t know that you have been inspired until afterwards. For Moses and the people of Israel, the water parted when their feet were wet (after they had the faith to go forward). The Lord wants us to move forward, to try things, to take action and then he will reward us with revelation or understand and help.

The Not My Will, but Thine Principle

A lot of times we know an impression is from God if it tells us to do something that we do not want to hear to do something that we don’t want to do. It is a thought that is in direct opposition with how we are normally thinking. In these situations, we often know it is from God because the thought definitely didn’t come from us.

God thinks differently than humans do. Humans try to avoid suffering and seek pleasure. God often gives us sickness and challenges so that we may draw closer to him in our anguish.

The Diligence and Heed Principle

When we are diligent and obedient to God’s commands and try to heed everything that He says to us, He gives us revelation. This principle also encompasses how we treat revelation. Do we write it down? Do we try to heed it? As we are diligent in trying to hear His voice, He will give us what we need. And if you don’t receive an answer about something, then be glad because the Lord trusts you to make a good decision (Elder Richard G. Scott, “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer”, Ensign, May 2007).

The Proximity Principle

Sometimes we don’t receive revelation about a specific thing until we are near it. Like you don’t know where to build a temple until you go to the spot that you are considering. I have experienced this a lot with people and places: I don’t know whether a person is a good person to date until I am around them. Or I don’t know whether a school is good for my kids until I go see it. We can’t receive the revelation when we are praying about it at home, we have to go out and be close to it. You may discern the needs of someone when you are visiting their home, not when you are praying on your knees about them.

The Repetition Principle

God will often teach us the same things over and over again. Repetition invites the Spirit to renew, expand, enrich, and enlarge the knowledge we have. It will cause the truths to sink deeper and deeper. So don’t despair when you are taught the same things over and over again.

The Scattered among Us Principle

Revelation for families or wards or communities doesn’t just come to one person. Oftentimes if you are working with multiple people, part of the revelation will come to one person and part to another. This means that it is very important to hear everyone’s opinion when working in a group, especially those that are usually quiet. No one person will be in the conduit through which all of the answers come. That is why family meetings and counsels can be a revelatory experience when everyone is allowed to share their thoughts and opinions.

The What, not Why and When, Principle

The Lord often tells us what to do, but doesn’t often give you the full picture like explaining why or when. I suppose he wants us to have faith. Maybe we wouldn’t understand or accept the reason. Adam the prophet said “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6)


The second half of the book goes over a lot of examples of seeing these principles in action. David Bednar gives example after example of experiences he and his family have had showing these principles. After each short chapter, you are asked to think about these questions.

  1. What principles of revelation do you see operating in this episode?
  2. When have you seen those principles in your life?
  3. What else is the Spirit teaching you?

I liked these questions a lot, especially the last one. If you want to buy the book, go to your local Deseret Book store or click below:

The Spirit of Revelation

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