“When I first began waking up, The Lord gave me three visions to teach me about faith. In the first, I was standing alone, everything I knew well-lit behind me. Before me was absolutely dark. Like, right at my toes, almost touching my nose, before me. I understood that moving forward into that was faith, and assumed that meant one careful step at a time.
The second one came days later and began the same, me standing in that place, the light behind, the thick darkness before. This time I knew that I stood at the edge of a cliff, the depth & width of the abyss before me completely unknown. I gathered myself, sprinted two steps with everything I had and with arms open wide threw myself into the black.
I finally understood faith.
A few days after that, I had an experience in prayer that answered the choice I had made in the second vision. As I began praying I felt compassed about by evil spirits–individual intelligences of ill intent. I prayed for protection, and I felt wings rising from my shoulders as I knelt, broad & gloriously white gryphon’s wings. Then, much to my surprise, He gave me a tail, just as strong & beautiful: a gryphon’s tail that with one swing banished every one of those spirits behind & around me. The tail & wings protected & covered me as I prayed, and I felt such power, such blessing.
The first vision showed me where I was. In the second vision, I made a choice and acted on it. And in the last one, Jesus showed me what He gives to those who trust Him so much they don’t just step cautiously into the dark.”
This young lady receives visions, and she described this one in a spectacular manner. I rarely receive visions. I receive sensations, understanding, even words and knowledge. No visions, but even so, I know of a surety what this young lady is talking about. I don’t know what happened in my case, really, or how it happened. It wasn’t as sudden, but it was just as sure. It wasn’t as flashy, but it is equally certain. Somewhere along the way during the last 5 years, I reached a point of no return. Somewhere along the way, without really realizing it, I gathered myself and leapt into the black. The thought gives me chills as I write this. Perhaps my arms weren’t as wide open as Annalea’s were, but at some point the Lord said, “Jump”, and I jumped. And I flew. I’m flying now, lifted by the wings of His spirit. Let me tell you how it feels.
I think about the Lord constantly, and that feels good. I think about His goodness and His love. I think about His vision of Zion; the vision that He shares joyfully with all who will listen; the vision that is described repeatedly throughout the scriptures, if one has the eyes to “see”. I think about the forgiveness that I know he gives freely if I will simply keep getting back up after I stumble. I think about how I can better please Him. I think about reaching out and anxiously asking for the blessings that He has promised to those who love Him (D&C 84:33-38). I mourn for the sins of the world, and for those who don’t know Him as I do – especially those who focus on His judgment more than they do His love. I mourn because they do not listen; they do not see. I am filled with hope for the future that my wife and I have been promised, because I have experienced nothing over the past years to indicate that our life experience will not continue to blow my mind. I know that as I continue to exercise faith, I will continue to learn more of Him, and He will manifest more of Himself – of His true, divine nature – to me.
It feels consuming – in a good way. My life has no other context than the gospel. Everything about my life is viewed within that context – my successes, my failures…my growth. All are experienced only through the magnifying lens of the gospel. Everything around me and inside me is meaningless without the gospel. It is the core of my existence. I think I’ve been converted.
It feels scary. Babylon offers no comfort because I’ve “seen” Zion – not in vision but in spiritual knowledge. I guess you could say I’ve “felt” Zion. Regardless, having done so, I can no longer settle for less. To consider “settling” would be painful if I had the courage to go there. I can only go forward toward this dream that I don’t fully comprehend, but which I know is real, achievable, and glorious. I remind the Lord daily, “Lord, I have turned it over to you. I’ve passed the point of no return. I cannot turn back. I need you, I crave you…I love you. Please teach me, guide me, nurture me. Please protect me, and please forgive me for the times when I am weak and selfish, or when I lose focus…squirrel!”.
It’s not necessarily peaceful. I recently wrote a piece called “cognitive dissonance”, (which I did not publish publically, but which I will share upon request) describing the truths that I’m learning and how they don’t exactly harmonize with the “truth” that I formerly understood. I have realized, though, that if our understanding of truth were completely harmonious, that must necessarily mean we had conquered that “one great whole” into which all truth may be circumscribed. In other words, we would know all and we would be God. So, if you think about it, if we are not experiencing “cognitive dissonance”, we are either asleep (literally) or we are being intellectually and spiritually lazy by not actively seeking further light and knowledge. Learning is the result of intellectual and spiritual conflict. There is no other way to learn. There is no other way to receive light unto that perfect day (D&C 50:24). Furthermore, this necessary conflict between truth and what we think is truth can only be resolved through the power of the Holy Ghost. Inasmuch as this process of learning by the spirit resolves into light and truth, it brings us ever closer to Christ, who is the source of all truth. This truth, however, must be approached in love and charity, with complete trust and confidence that the Lord will ultimately resolve the conflicts. Jealousy, fear, and pride are the enemies of this sacred process. (D&C 67:10)
It feels committed. I feel very much like Peter as recorded in John 6:67-69:
Then Jesus said unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
As I said earlier, there’s just no turning back. If I were to turn back now, I would be left hollow and empty. I have not received all light, but the light I have received as greatly enlarged my soul, as Alma promised in his great sermon on faith (Alma 32:28-43). It is continuing to expand daily. I’ve also come to realize that this is not something that can be stopped. To stop would be to deny the Holy Ghost; even to deny Christ Himself. I would risk becoming a son of perdition (honestly, it may already be too late). The “outer darkness” spoken of would be inside of me. We’ve all heard of the “Big Bang Theory”. Well, I feel like the Lord has set off a “Big Bang” inside my soul, and it is expanding with light – expanding inexorably until I am filled and beyond. As I continue to turn my will over to Him, I will be perfected.
Having taken the leap just like Annalea did – just as so many others have, I understand even more surely the meaning of 1 Nephi 9:41, which says:
O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (emphasis mine)
The Israelites, during the great Mount Sinai drama, told Moses:
“…Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”(Exodus 20:19)
The context of this makes it clear that, with all the thunderings and lightnings of this episode, the people were clearly frightened, yet allegorically the message remains that the people preferred to have Moses approach God for them because they were afraid. They did not know God as a merciful, loving God, as we do. They had just recently referred to him, in Exodus 15:3, as a “man of war”. We know God differently, yet I think we are still afraid to approach Him ourselves. Doing so takes great effort and implies great responsibility. It is risky. It requires that we leave the security of Babylon behind, and that we be willing to do as He commands us, even if it means sacrificing all that we “possess”. It is much easier to have the prophet or the church speak to God for us. By this arrangement, we only need to keep the commandments that are given to the whole church. The Israelites were quite willing to keep the Law of Moses which was recorded in Exodus, chapters 19 through 23, but they didn’t want to talk to the Lord themselves. They didn’t want to be personally responsible. I fear that too many of us also don’t want to be personally responsible. We are afraid to take that leap and fly.
I began making personal covenants with the Lord before I even joined the church. My first covenant was that I would “seek to know thee” – a covenant made initially in complete ignorance of John 17:3, which says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”. I have absolutely kept this first covenant, and I have continued to make personal covenants with the Lord ever since. We can’t approach the Lord without making personal covenants. We cannot “know Him” if we allow others to communicate for us. We can’t come unto Him simply by keeping the commandments that He gives to everyone else.
I did have a “vision” once, I guess, while praying – a vision through my spiritual eyes. The Lord stood before me. He was not in my immediate presence – he stood a few meters away. It was not a “visitation”. I did not see His face, but I saw His figure, His white robes, and I saw His arms beckoning, saying “come unto me”. I knew then that I was on the right path, and I wanted to run to Him. I was not ready at that time to jump into the darkness, but I was ready to heed His beckoning. It was a thrill to realize that HE was beckoning to ME! It was also sobering. I have come to realize that no man can to speak to God for me. No man understands my needs, my weaknesses, and my desires as he does. I may learn from others – from their studies or from their testimonies – but there can be no truth until it is confirmed directly by the Lord, spirit to spirit. If I let others speak for me, I am surrendering my own responsibility before Him. I cannot approach him as commanded. Frankly, I can never know Him.
Brethren and sisters, the way is straight and narrow. There is only room for one person on the path, and we each have our own. He employeth no servant at the gate, and He cannot be deceived. The temple endowment teaches clearly that we must come straight to him, one by one, in humility and sincerity, desiring Him with all our hearts, having placed all on the altar. We cannot be afraid – “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear…” (1 John 4:18) – for we must trust. We must trust in Him and in His promises. We must believe Him. If we can do this, HE can perfect us. HE can fill us with light unto that perfect day. HE can bring us home to Zion. There is one way only, and it is through Him. If we each personally honor these truths, the day will come, if it hasn’t already, when He will call upon us to
…sprint two steps with everything we have
…and with arms wide open, throw ourselves into the black
Fly we will, gloriously…into eternity…into His arms.