Receiving Revelation: Line Upon Line

By Lauren Madsen

My daughters were three and seven when they shared a small bedroom. I was busy with a new baby and didn’t always remind them to pick up after themselves. When Saturday morning rolled around, I would ask them to clean up their messy room and they would slowly crumple to little heaps on the floor as they cried, “Noooo! We don’t know how! There is toooo much!” The poor little gals were paralyzed. Overwhelmed. They didn’t know where to begin. The task felt too big.

Rather than cleaning the room for them--which would have gotten the job done, but wouldn’t have taught them anything--I would give them just one simple task at a time. “Start with the books. Pick up every book and put it back on the shelf.” When the books were put away, I would say, “Now the clothes. Pick up any dirty clothes you see and throw them in your hamper.” On and on we went. I’d give them one direction, they would go do it, they would report back, and I’d give them a new one.

I’ve been thinking lately about that routine we fell into, me and my little girls. We went from complete meltdown-mode to a totally manageable situation because I broke it down for them into simple steps. After the first time we used this strategy they knew that they could do it again the next time. They trusted me to help them and understood their part. As so many parenting moments do, I am seeing connections between what I experienced with my daughters and what I am learning about personal revelation.   

We learn from the scriptures that God gives to the faithful line upon line. It is a phrase found in the Old Testament, The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants and a principle I have come to appreciate as I practice hearing Him in my life. In 2 Nephi 28:30 the Lord tell us: “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more.” Elder David A. Bednar calls it a “central feature of the Lord’s pattern.”

When I was in elementary school I remember typing my county, state, and country reports on a typewriter. When we wanted to know the answer to something, we’d call one of my uncles. If he didn’t know, we’d try the library. Sometimes we had to accept that we might not ever find the answer to our question. By 7th grade we brought home our first computer and during the next decade as the internet expanded we could find information for just about anything within seconds. Recipes, how to fix things, movie quotes, you name it! While the advances in technology are miraculous and valuable in many ways, I wonder if this same technology has also spoiled us into a whole new level of impatience. We are so used to having answers at our fingertips we don’t even know how to wait anymore. 

To many of us it may feel a bit frustrating that when we are earnestly seeking for answers, guidance, and blessings we may not receive what we seek right away or we may not receive it all at once. President Nelson taught, “Revelation need not all come at once. It may be incremental.” Receiving in increments in turn helps us learn patience and perseverance, which “are part of our eternal progression.” For me it helps to think of the example of my daughters and their messy room. Too much all at once seemed impossible. Step by step, with guidance and trust, made all they needed to do within their reach. Elder Bednar taught that “recognizing and understanding this pattern is an important key to obtaining inspiration and help from the Holy Ghost.”

Line upon line--it is how we receive revelation. Precept on precept--it is how we gain knowledge. Step by step--it is how we make progress. Day after day--it is how we endure. One revelation at a time. One commandment at a time. One prompting at a time. It seems to be an eternal principle. It is how Nephi’s family made their way from Jerusalem to the promised land. It is how Joseph Smith began to restore Christ’s church to the earth. It is how every prophet following Joseph has moved forward in the ongoing restoration.

We don’t expect babies to walk as soon as they leave the womb. It would be ridiculous to expect an aspiring artist to be able to paint a masterpiece in mere minutes. Eventually, that baby will walk. Eventually, that artist will paint a masterpiece. But they have to learn, practice, and master one skill at a time and build upon each one as they go. As we listen and act on each prompting, each idea, each bit of inspiration we receive, we are paying the price for eternal growth. When we choose to obey, to take a step--even with all the unknowns--we position ourselves to receive more guidance. As Sister Julie B. Beck taught, we develop “the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.”

Lauren Madsen is a photo-taking, scrapbook-making, kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom of four. She loves reading, writing, family history work, spending time outside with her kids, and Friday night dates with her husband. Lauren currently works as a member of the SALT Gathering team. You can connect with Lauren on Instagram @a.lingering.light

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