A central message of the Restoration is that heavenly beings are anxious to participate in our lives. The latter-day story is packed with angels, ancestors, and even the Father and the Son making visits to those of us wending our way through mortality.
The Restoration officially opened when an earnest boy went into the woods seeking guidance. He may have expected some impression in his mind and instead got a divine calling and a line-up of heavenly beings who would teach him things he never could have supposed.
Even our Restoration literature teaches us to expect heaven’s participation in our lives. Consider the inaugural chapter of the Book of Mormon, in which Lehi sees a pillar of fire and was carried away in a heavenly vision that included God, angels, and a book. Strong stuff.
Seems like a pretty clear invitation. Terryl Givens’ rejoiced:
The Book of Mormon is one of a panoply of heavenly portents that signaled the commencement of a new Christian dispensation. Theophanies, angels, gold plates, Nephite interpreters, magic compasses—the whole entourage of other-worldly visitants and priestly articles were like the vibrant and extravagant uncials in an illuminated manuscript, drawing attention to the inauguration of a new chapter in God’s conversation with humankind. (p. 106, The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction, 2009)
I love God’s invitation to connect with Him. And, I have a confession to make. When I was a young man, I was fascinated by talk of visions, angels, second anointings, and calling and election being made sure. The prospect of those transcendent experiences called to me.
I have lost interest in those. Or, rather, I have lost interest in pursuing them directly. My life experience calls me to look for God and His trademark goodness in my everyday doings. Because I see Him every day, I am unworried about having some historic theophany. I know that He will come in His own time and in His own way. My job is to cherish every visit He makes now.
For example, when I pull out my small plates of Wally—a simple journal of daily went-wells, I find a record of 44 heavenly visits in just the last week. None of these visits will be canonized. Yet, for me, they are sacred. Kathy Ward in sacrament meeting touched our hearts with stories of sweet compassion. I wanted to be a better disciple! Lorraine Barton transported my soul to heaven when she played “Come, O Thou King of Kings” as an organ postlude. I stood and rejoiced in the feeling. I felt the fire of pure truth when I told friends the story of John and Annie Glenn’s love. I wanted to be a better husband. I felt peace that came from Someone more peaceful than I as I shared ideas on a subject where we see things differently. I’m grateful.
These are not trivial. These experiences and forty more that I recorded are sacred gifts of love, joy, and peace. I am grateful! And I know to what source I must offer thanks. As we welcome God’s messages, He draws us increasingly into His work.
Sometimes I’m quite ashamed of myself for all the messages God sends and I lose track of. I remember that I had a keen inspiration or a subtle impression—but I forget them before evening arrives and I pull out my small plates to make a record. Sometimes, like in the midst of teaching a gospel class, the insights and impressions come in crowds and I just can’t keep track of them all!
Yet I am catching many of them. And I show my gratitude by making a record—a brief notation in my journal. And, at the end of each week, I try to weave them together into a letter of tribute to the big-hearted, open-handed God who graciously enriches my journey in this strange land of mortality. When I stay alert to His doings, I find myself humming Ammon’s words of rejoicing:
Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel. Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state? (Alma 26:16-17)
Life is not lonely and purposeless when we are alert for God’s dealings with us. As Miranda Wilcox observed:
Nephi illustrates how humans invite divine beings to participate in their mortal experiences and how divine beings invite humans to participate in the sacred story of salvation. In doing so, Nephi invites us to live within and through scriptural narrative by recognizing tender mercies in scriptural stories and then examining our own lives for evidence of divine mercy. Like Nephi and Joseph Smith, we should make a record in our own language, according to our learning, to record God’s tender mercies in the afflictions of our own lives, the lives of our families, our neighborhoods, wards, nations, and world. As we come to recognize how God participates in our life, we take part in God’s life in the unfolding narrative of salvation.” (p. 106)
Our days are packed with distractions—meetings, calls, the pull of phone and laptop, the bombardment of bad news of world events, and the demands of family life. God invites us to pause our busy-ness to notice His appearances in our lives. He invites us to make a record of His messages to us.
What a gracious Father! Every day we will see God showing up in our lives, sending loving messages and fresh insights–if we pay attention. Every day we decide whether our lives will be overrun with minutiae or lightened and renewed by His messages.
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Miranda Wilcox (2017). Tender Mercies in English Scriptural Idiom and in Nephi’s Record, in Adam S. Miller (Ed.), A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1. Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her insightful additions to this article.