Question: What does it mean when two people receive revelation with contradictory answers to the same question?

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Question: What does it mean when two people receive revelation with contradictory answers to the same question?

Introduction to Question

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the concept of personal revelation by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is said to be able to lead a person into the truth of all things.[1]

Occasionally, it is asked what it might mean when two people receive contradictory answers to the same question. Why would the Holy Ghost reveal inconsistencies to people? Hasn't God said that he isn't the author of confusion?[2]

This article will explore this question.

There are several different things that people could potentially refer to when answering this question so this article will direct to at least one other that answers one of the questions here.

Response to Question

People Receiving Spiritual Experiences that Motivate Them to Become Part of Other Religions

Some critics are referring to the fact that people from other religions have had experiences that seem to confirm to them the truth of their gods, sacred texts, and religious beliefs.

This question has been explored in depth elsewhere.

The Spirit Confirming to One Person that They Should Stay in the Church and the Other Leave

Some secularist critics affirm that they received revelation to leave the Church. Others say that the Spirit told them to stay. How can both be right? The article below explores this.

Receiving a Spiritual Witness About Any Book

Some secularist critics affirm that you can get a testimony of any book. This article explores that question.

Receiving Revelation that Contradicts that of the Prophet

Some people in the Church claim to receive personal revelation that contradicts the President of the Church. This article addresses that.

Receiving Revelation that Book of Mormon Isn't True

Some people affirm having received revelation that the Book of Mormon or the Church isn't true. This article addresses that.

Someone Wants to Marry Another

Another thing that critics/questioners might be referring to is like times where a person believes that they have received personal revelation that they are supposed to be married to them. The other person receives revelation that they are not supposed to marry the first. In these cases, we should remember the concept of stewardship in revelation. We can only receive true revelation for our own lives. Others are responsible for theirs. As then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

First, we should understand what can be called the principle of “stewardship in revelation.” Our Heavenly Father’s house is a house of order, where his servants are commanded to “act in the office in which [they are] appointed” (D&C 107:99). [3] This principle applies to revelation. Only the president of the Church receives revelation to guide the entire Church. Only the stake president receives revelation for the special guidance of the stake. The person who receives revelation for the ward is the bishop. For a family, it is the priesthood leadership of the family. Leaders receive revelation for their own stewardships. Individuals can receive revelation to guide their own lives. But when one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own stewardship—such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church—you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord. “There are counterfeit signals.” [4] Satan is a great deceiver, and he is the source of some of these spurious revelations. Others are simply imagined. If a revelation is outside the limits of stewardship, you know it is not from the Lord, and you are not bound by it. I have heard of cases where a young man told a young woman she should marry him because he had received a revelation that she was to be his eternal companion. If this is a true revelation, it will be confirmed directly to the woman if she seeks to know. In the meantime, she is under no obligation to heed it. She should seek her own guidance and make up her own mind. The man can receive revelation to guide his own actions, but he cannot properly receive revelation to direct hers. She is outside his stewardship.[5]

Cases Where Joint Revelation is Possible Given Joint Stewardship

There are other cases where the stewardship over a particular situation may be joint such as when a husband chooses to collapse his authority to guide his family into a joint stewardship with his wife, where they petition God for revelation about a question together, and aren't getting the same answer.

In these cases, we can do one of two things:

  1. The man can reinstate his status as head of the family momentarily to receive the revelation singularly.
  2. We can continue to pray until we receive the same answer. The Lord told the Saints during Brigham Young’s administration that “[his] people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that [he has] for them, even the glory of Zion[.]”[6] Receiving a unified revelation will logically be part of that requirement. We should continue to pray while having an open heart and clean hands to receive true revelation.

Conclusion

It is the author’s hope that this article will be good gathering point for resources for anyone struggling with this type of a question.

Notes

  1. Moroni 10:5
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:33
  3. Doctrine and Covenants 107:99.
  4. Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers and Answers,” Ensign 9, no. 11 (November 1979): 20.
  5. Dallin H. Oaks, "Revelation," New Era 11, no. 9 (September 1982).
  6. Doctrine and Covenants 136:31