Here are 3 talks from General Conference, all by Apostles of Jesus Christ, that give very clear information about what personal revelation is and how we receive it.
Boyd K. Packer http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/guided-by-the-holy-spirit?lang=eng
David A. Bednar http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/the-spirit-of-revelation?lang=eng&query=revelation
Richard G. Scott http://lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/to-acquire-spiritual-guidance?lang=eng&query=write+down+(name%3a"Richard+G.+Scott")
I would like to respond to a few points from an article that this reader shared. The link is here if you would like to read it for yourself. While this is obviously a well thought-out presentation, it is the work of a man. However well-intended and educated this man may be it is not from God in an official sense. I think the writer would have to agree that his work is not revelation, based on his conclusions.
As I thought about this question and how to respond, I was naturally led to ask "Why do we need revelation? Why do we have it?" I have concluded that the the answer lies in another uniquely LDS doctrine, that of our relationship to God. We believe he is our Father, literally the father of our spirits, and that he loves each of us as any father loves his child.
My impression of non-LDS beliefs about God is that he is a distant observer, sometimes interacting with us, sometimes not, depending on his whims. There is a sense that God might be too busy for us or that he will create and destroy according to his impulse. It seems that we are all merely subject to him as servants or pawns and nothing more. I even had one person tell me that God loves those who obey as anyone would love a creation that turned out the way they planned. Many seem to reject the idea that God's love is unconditional and that our relationship to him is significant.
In the book of Moses, part of the Pearl of Great Price, our Heavenly Father has said "This is my work and my glory -to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." Moses 1:39 God has nothing better to do. Everything he has created is for us, his beloved children. (Moses 3:9) Does he get angry with us? Yes. Does he punish the disobedient? Yes. Does he weep for our wickedness? Yes.
"And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?" (continue reading Moses 7:28-40)
I have come to understand, at least a little, how much we really depend on God from moment to moment, just as King Benjamin explains. "I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2:21) I suspect he is more present than most of us can even imagine.
So, what does this have to do with revelation? Everything! If He is our Father and loves us and wants what is best for us then he will guide us. That doesn't mean that everything we are guided to do will be successful, at least in the worldly sense. The article uses the example of being inspired to start a business. If that business fails then maybe you weren't inspired after all. My thought was that maybe you were inspired to do that so you could learn something or be humbled or interact with someone who you otherwise would not have met. The possibilities are infinite!
This thought led to another concept that differs from many of our Christian counterparts; that we are eternal beings. Some believe we don't exist until conception or birth. While most Christians believe in an afterlife there is much confusion about what it is like and what we will do/be after we die.
LDS doctrine is not so vague. We believe that we lived before we were born as spirit children of God and we can continue to learn and grow and even reproduce for eternity.Our view of "Heaven" or "eternal life" is not floating on clouds playing harps. Nor is it running errands for God. The things in life that bring the most joy -working, learning, being with loved ones, serving one another and serving our Father- are the activities that will continue to bring us joy throughout eternity.
This relates to the question of revelation in a very practical way. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19) In the case of the business, learning valuable lessons that include overcoming failure and trying again will only bring that person blessings in the long run.
Both the article and the reader asked how we can claim divine revelation if we are wrong sometimes. From my personal experience I have learned a few lessons about this.
A) Sometimes I do what seems like the best idea without asking Heavenly Father for guidance. I have had experiences where I didn't see any other option at the moment but I later realized there was a better option. If I had prayed and been guided to act in that way it would have required great faith but it had the better outcome.
B) Sometimes I feel prompted to act a certain way and I don't. Sometimes I later see that I should have done it and regret my choice. Sometimes I don't see what might have been. A few of those moments have left significant impressions on me.
C) I have had some very intense, undeniable moments when I received a very strong prompting to do or not do something. Again, some of these seemed fruitless or inconsequential. Is that because I misunderstood? NO. As I said, the impressions were unmistakable. I can't know what the Lord had in mind. I even felt the peace of knowing that I did what the Lord required and it is out of my hands. Most of these are so significant that I can not speculate about other possibilites. That would mean denying the voice of God.
The article said that if a person isn't 100% accurate 100% of the time they can't trust anything to be from God. The longer I think about this the more it makes me sad. Revelation is a process. It also takes practice and effort in the way it might take effort to know and understand our own parents. We learn through study and experience. As our relationship with our Father matures, we come to see his will more clearly and recognize his voice.
This subject has left one very unsettling question in my mind: if this is true, why are so many kidnapped, abused, deceived, even murdered? If God speaks to his children why doesn't he warn them?! This is a tough one!
Through revelation to his chosen prophet, God has restored the priesthood authority to perform vicarious work for those who died without knowledge of the truth. In a nutshell, those little girls in Asia who are killed for being girls will be able to receive all the blessings of God even though they were not raised in Christian nations. Those young men who are killed in tribal wars in Africa or the Middle East will have a chance to hear and accept the gospel in the Spirit World.
The Lord has also said "Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost." D&C 50:40-42 , emphasis added. (see also Neh. 4:14; Ps. 56:4 (4, 11); 118:6; Jer. 1:17 (17–19); Luke 12:5 (4–5); 2 Ne. 8:7 (7–12); D&C 3:7; 98:14; 122.)
God also looks after each of these as his children. The Atonement of Jesus Christ not only erases sin but erases pain. I like this story best. I was privileged to hear Brother Hoffman tell his story in person. I am including a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing this song. (Now tell me you don't feel the Spirit when you hear this!)
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11)
I know that there are things in this world we can not understand fully. I know that God's ways are higher than our ways. He knows things we don't. He gives commandments we struggle to understand and not only does he forgive us repeatedly, he works with us to change and become what he knows we can be. He is our greatest cheerleader and truest friend. We can rely on him to ALWAYS guide us to what is best for us.