I contemplated that for a moment and came to the stark realization that I had never prayed about Joseph Smith and his prophetic calling. In fact, I had never specifically prayed about anything with regards to the Church. I grew up in the Church and kind of accepted things to be true by the testimony of others. But now, I realized that I had to boldly declare to strangers in a foreign land for the next 2 years that I knew something to be true for myself. Could I do that and have the Spirit testify to what I was saying? At that point, I didn’t know for sure.
So I prayed. I prayed for a while, in fact. It was one of those Enos prayers that lasted for hours. Now, there was no theophany or any audible voices or manifestations, but I received a distinct confirmation of what I was asking about. Interestingly, however, my prayer was answered more in the form of, “You already know this to be true, why are you asking me now?” At that point it hit me, I had known these truths for years, I just never knew that I knew it. Through countless temple trips, testimony meetings, scripture studies, prayers, family home evenings, etc, I realized that I had been receiving revelation of truth all along without being aware of it.
I feel this happens to many of us quite often, members and non-members alike. To Oliver Cowdery, the Lord explained that “for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time” (D&C 6:14) (emphasis added). It's often the case that only as we grow in the things of the Spirit are we able to look back on our lives and realize how completely our course was actually directed by the Divine.
The Lord continued to Oliver, “Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth” (D&C 6:15) (emphasis added). In other words, the Lord verified that Oliver had in fact been receiving revelation all along, and that his prayers had been consistently answered.
Those of us who are maturing spiritually commonly have comparable experiences. For example, the two disciples of Christ did not realize who taught them on the road to Emmaus until the day’s end and Christ ultimately departed from them: “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Even more remarkable is the account of the Lamanites who, after their conversion, “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20) (emphasis added).
Though he didn’t realize it, Oliver Cowdery was led by the Divine to Palmyra to teach school and eventually take up lodging with the Prophet’s family. Responding to this same Spirit, he was eventually guided to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he became the Prophet’s scribe.
In my case, my experience in the MTC made me realize that I was also prepared and directed through the Spirit via countless revelatory experiences to eventually become a missionary. As I eventually discovered for myself, one of the keys to becoming conversant in the language of the Spirit is to learn to recognize the feelings of peace and comfort that accompany revelation. These feelings can be had on a daily basis if we are prepared to receive them.