I’ve often wondered why we had a lot of “thus saith the Lord” revelations back in Joseph Smith’s day (just look at the Doctrine & Covenants) and don’t get many at all nowadays (“The Proclamation to the World on the Family” and “The Living Christ” are the only ones I can think of, and even then they’re not directly in the Lord’s voice).
Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that the Church nowadays is led by God just as much as it was in 1830, and I likewise fully believe that our modern prophets receive revelation. I was just curious as to why the format seems to have changed over the years.
On Sunday I found my answer.
I was reading Melvin J. Petersen’s February 1985 Ensign article “Preparing Early Revelations for Publication” and came across this passage from John A. Widtsoe:
There is, in view of what has been said, need of continuous revelation. However, we must understand that there are two classes of revelation given by God to man. The first deals with the structure and content of the plan of salvation. Once given it does not need to be given again. Adam received it…. Christ gave the same revelation to man in His dispensation. So did Joseph Smith in his dispensation. The foundation, or platform, once given does not need to be given again unless men forget the truth.
Then there are revelations that fit the changes in our lives, meet our new needs, help us overcome unforeseen conditions—revelations for our daily guidance.
This great country, the United States of America, has found itself in a great depression. We have the Gospel. What did the Lord do? He spoke to his Prophet, and we have what is known as the Welfare Program. It is the application of the eternal principles of the Gospel to present day needs. It is as revelation. We have that type of revelation continuously.
So, when people say: ‘We ought to have revelation now as we did in the day of Joseph,’ we must answer, ‘Open your eyes; we do have revelation every day; such as we need from day to day.’
Revelations have been given to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith and President Heber J. Grant. Every one of them has had revelation whereby the Church has been guided.” (John A. Widtsoe, “Modern Revelation and Modern Questions,” The Deseret News, Church Section, 28 January 1939, p. 6.)
And there you have it.