Tuesday, February 6, 2024

One Wheel

 And as many as are not stiffnecked, and have faith, have communion with the holy spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men according to their faith.

—Jarom 1:2 RE 

When I was 14 years old, I received a unicycle for my birthday and I wanted to learn to ride it. I was pretty good on two wheels, so I figured one wheel wouldn’t be that much harder. 

I was very wrong. 

It turns out that riding a unicycle is vastly more complex than riding a bicycle. When you’re on two wheels, balance only requires not falling to either side. If you can maintain forward motion, staying upright is a matter of learning to control the bike only in the left/right axis. The only way to fall is sideways.

But on a unicycle, you can fall in any direction at any moment, and an absolute symphony of muscle and sensory integration are required to stay upright. Motion must be maintained, but that motion can be forward, backward or alternating forward and backward. Along with avoiding uncontrolled leans in *any* direction, there is also the matter of controlling spin. It turns out that pedaling on one side then the other causes the Unicycle to want to rotate on its axis and spin like a top, which naturally throws all other balance out the window immediately. A bike requires balance in one dimension, while a unicycle requires it in three. 

My point is it’s difficult and cannot be learned in a few minutes. Nor in a day. In my case, it took nearly two weeks of daily effort just to get the rudiments down. Yet try as I might to explain the difficulty to friends, they invariably said something along the lines of, “Let me try! I bet I can do it.” And they invariably ended up splayed out on the ground seconds later. Nobody can simply jump on and ride.

Here’s how I learned:

I started by trying to ride between parked cars where I could reach out and hold on to a car on either side as guard rails to balance myself. This alone was incredibly difficult, and I took a lot of nasty spills because the unicycle would inevitably shoot out from under me, either forward or backward. So next came exercises of rocking forward and backward, learning to regulate the motion that forms the central balance of the unicycle effort.

Eventually, after a lot of effort, I learned to control the motion enough to ride beside just one car, still very much holding on for balance, and falling frequently. Finally, I could ride short gaps between cars without holding onto anything (though often falling headlong into the next car when I reached it.) 

Eventually, it all came together and I could actually ride around a parking lot, for longer and longer stretches, until I had mastered basic riding. From there I learned a couple of tricks, how to navigate a couple of stairs, and how to ride very tall unicycles (six foot and ten foot). Eventually, I even rode in a parade. 

But even after all that, I’m still a basic-level rider. I can’t do tricks, I can’t ride backward, and my riding is sometimes jerky and awkward. I’m often on the verge of falling, even though I don’t. 40 years later, I can still get on a unicycle and ride at will, though my skills are rusty. People see me do that now and think it must be easy. To this day, it’s not.

So what’s my point? 

I’d like to use my foray into one-wheeled travel to discuss a different careful balance that requires time and effort to learn. I’m referring to receiving personal revelation, which is something I get asked about far more regularly than I get questions about unicycle riding. 

As with the unicycle, I’m no expert. I’m still very much at the basic level, but I’ve learned a few things that may be helpful, and I offer them in case anyone finds them useful. I’m not claiming what I offer here is the “right” way or the “only” way. As with learning to ride on one wheel, there are a variety of approaches that will get to the same goal. If you find something here helpful, great. If not, feel free to discard these ideas. 

Guard Rails

Learning to connect with the Holy Spirit is much more useful than learning to ride a unicycle, but the process is similar in many ways. The best place to start is within the guard rails of scripture, reading with new eyes and an open mind. Since the point is to learn to hear and recognize the Lord’s voice, beginning at a bonafide source of his voice is critical. The Book of Mormon and revelations of Joseph Smith are the best of all sources. 

As you read, stop to consider the words, the speaker, the situation that elicited the words, and why things are worded the way they are. Consider how the words apply to you, to others and to the world. Ask questions, even if just to yourself. Then look for the answers to those questions. Take time, think, ponder, consider. 

If you’re stuck on a question, or better yet, if you think you’ve found the correct answer, take the question to God in prayer, then follow the promptings that come to mind as you search the scriptures for your answer. The scriptures will provide the guard rails on either side within which you can balance, and the direction forward in which you can ride.


Eventually there will come an ah-ha! moment in which you recognize the answer to the question you’ve been seeking. It’s somewhat like when an out of focus picture suddenly snaps into focus and you recognize what you weren’t able to see before. This sudden realization is the best way I’ve found to describe receiving something from the Spirit. 

And much like the first, tentative feet on the unicycle, it will take more practice and repetition to learn to do it reliably. You’ll start to feel the balance point and get back to it. Only for a moment at first, but then for longer periods. Repetition is key. 

Similarly, as you repeat the process in scripture study through continual practice your ability will grow as you learn to recognize the urging that leads you to truth. The repeated effort over time is a demonstration of faith, which grows as it is used. 

Eventually you will gain enough recognition and understanding of God’s voice to ask questions and reliably get answers. Note that word, “reliably.” This is not to say answers come quickly or easily, but they do come—when rightly pursued with patience and real intent. You can reliably balance on one wheel. 


It will not happen overnight and it is not easy or quick to learn. Effort over a sustained time period is required. Seeking to get “big-deal” answers to “big-deal” questions without paying the price in time and effort simply won’t work. Hopping on that unicycle first thing and starting to peddle with nothing to hold you up will most certainly result in an instant, and nasty crash. I’ve watched it many times. That’s why it’s important to put in the effort over days, weeks, months and years. 

It may only take 10 hours of effort to learn to ride a unicycle. But you can’t do it in a single, 10-hour day. New neural connections need to be established and strengthened. Muscles need to be built, and they must learn to respond in new ways. You must develop a whole new “feel” for the balance. 

Similarly, no effort for years, followed by a huge effort all at once is unlikely to produce reliable answers to prayers. But continual effort over time is VERY likely to bring you the kind of familiarity with the Lord’s voice that is necessary to recognize it and know it.

It all starts with scripture. That’s where you can hear his voice directly, and where, at least I’ve found, answers come most readily. The framework really helps the balance. 

In the end, whether riding on one wheel or receiving the Lord’s voice, a delicate balance must be maintained. It is by no means easy, even after much experience, but it is as real as the difference between riding and crashing. It can become a sure and reliable connection in which “…the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 14:1 RE)

When I am the Spirit of Truth, I can then reveal to you the record of heaven and knowledge will be poured into you. The spirit is the means to communicate my words, and my words will lead you on the upward path. The knowledge poured in to you will come from me. I will depart, but only briefly because when I ascend back to the Head of the Household of Heaven, I will also be by your side to guide you by my voice from heaven.

—Testimony of St. John 10:25

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Adrian. I appreciate this post! I love to learn how to learn!

    I especially loved the footnote on Alma in the Stick of Joseph.

    "* Alma is alluding to the concept in Judaism of the four levels of understanding known as Pardes. Pardes is the Hebrew word for "paradise." PaRDeS is also an acronym for the four levels of understanding of the Scriptures: Pashat (literal); Remez (implied, hinted); Drash (allegorical, homiletical; and Sod (hidden, secret). Alma is telling us that a person who has hardened his heart may be limited to the lower, "lesser" levels of understanding."

    I thought that was phenomenal that “paradise” is likened to both
    -levels of understanding and -hidden, secret (or mysteries.)
    We know of course that these mysteries are given to many according to our HEED and DILIGENCE.
    Heed- pay attention to, hear, listen, mind
    Diligence- a steady, earnest, energetic effort, (application to accomplish an undertaking)
    It reminds me of two places in the Bhagavad Gita (exact middle and at the end) where it talks about Knowledge and Wisdom. Knowledge is the hearing and listening to (heed) but Wisdom is in application of that knowledge (the doing) aka diligence.

    I have also appreciated and benefitted from the practice of Lectio Divina (Spiritual Reading) and using hermeneutics to help me understand Sacred Widsom Texts. Denver has said, " The mysteries of God are His hidden but simple truths." In studying hermeneutics, I have learned that truths are hidden only to the extent that we lack the ability to recognize them when we see them. Discovering them is just a matter of developing the ability to recognize that which is plainly visible.



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