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Public Health professor Brianna Magnusson spoke at Tuesday’s BYU Devotional about personal revelation and learning through our mortal experiences.

Magnusson began by comparing classroom learning to learning through our mortal experiences. In both situations, we learn through tests and challenges. “The experience of a spiritual test can heighten our own efforts to learn from the Lord,” she said.

Magnusson also shared an example of someone who learned through their experiences: Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis. Semmelweis introduced hand disinfection standards into obstetrical (childbirth) clinics. Contemporaries did not embrace his findings because they did not align with then-accepted beliefs about infection, but his findings saved lives and later proved to be correct.

Like Semmelweis, we may be met with opposition and may not be able to explain our findings. As mortal beings, we have an imperfect knowledge, so we need to trust in God and expand our knowledge through personal revelation. How do we do that? Magnusson outlined a few steps.

Ask questions

In science, questions often fuel discovery. The same can be true of spiritual questions, as they can “serve as a starting point for receiving personal revelation.”

Professor Magnusson shared her own experience about asking questions and being uncertain about her faith. She felt like those around her “knew,” and while she had faith, she still had questions.

Be vulnerable

To deal with this uncertainty, she suggested being vulnerable. “We dislike the feeling of not knowing because we feel vulnerable. Yet this vulnerability can actually be a sacred space,” said Magnusson.

Exercising faith in our uncertainty helps us keep in touch with the Spirit and grow closer to our Savior.

Prepare for personal revelation

“Learning to receive personal revelation is a process of preparation and consistent effort,” said Magnusson.

When we have questions, we must pray, ponder, search and listen. We must then follow through with the actions we are prompted to take.

Trust His timing

We must also learn to trust in the Lord’s timing, Magnusson counseled. Answers do not always come right away. Even Joseph Smith’s answers were not immediate. He likely had to spend time searching for his direction before receiving revelation.

The Lord asks us to trust and wait, shared Magnusson.  

Always remember

Lastly, Magnusson said that to gain revelation, we should remember the spiritual experiences we have already had. That will make it easier for us to recognize the influence of the Spirit when it comes again.

“The opportunity for further revelation is enhanced when we humbly remember the witness of the Spirit we have already received,” she said.

Magnusson closed with a quote from President Nelson: “I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation.’”

Next Forum: Randal Beard, Annual Distinguished Faculty Lecture

Randal Beard, recipient of the 2017 Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecture Award, will deliver the next BYU Forum on Tuesday, May 22 at 11:05 a.m. in the de Jong Concert Hall.

Beard's remarks will also be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio and will be archived on speeches.byu.edu.