Our prophets and apostles have been set apart as special witnesses of our Savior Jesus Christ. While we do not need to see our Redeemer face to face to testify of His divine life and mission, some Church leaders have shared remarkable accounts of when they saw the Lord, whether through dreams or visions. Their experiences testify of the love, grace, power, and glory of our Savior.
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1. President George F. Richards
“Last night I dreamed of seeing the Savior and embracing him. The feelings I cannot describe, but I think it was a touch of heaven. I never expect anything better hereafter. The love of man for woman cannot compare with it. May we be faithful and make every sacrifice necessary . . . to live in His presence forever” (Lucile C. Tate, LeGrand Richards, 47, quoted in Dreams as Revelation).
During the April 1974 general conference, President Spencer W. Kimball related a dream President George F. Richards shared while in a meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
"'The Lord has revealed to men by dreams something more than I ever understood or felt before.' I heard this more than once in quorum meetings of the Council of the Twelve when George F. Richards was president. . . . He said, 'I believe in dreams, brethren. The Lord has given me dreams which to me are just as real and as much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar . . . or the dream of Lehi who through a dream led his colony out of the old country across the mighty deep to this promised land, or any other dreams that we might read in the scriptures. "'It is not out of place for us to have important dreams,' he said. 'And then more than 40 years ago I had a dream which I am sure was from the Lord. In this dream I was in the presence of my Savior as he stood mid-air. He spoke no word to me, but my love for him was such that I have not words to explain. I know that no mortal man can love the Lord as I experienced that love for the Savior unless God reveals it to him. I would have remained in his presence, but there was a power drawing me away from him. "'As a result of that dream, I had this feeling that no matter what might be required of my hands, what the gospel might entail unto me, I would do what I should be asked to do even to the laying down of my life. . . . "'If only I can be with my Savior and have that same sense of love that I had in that dream, it will be the goal of my existence, the desire of my life'" (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Cause Is Just and Worthy").
2. President Lorenzo Snow
When Allie Young, granddaughter of President Lorenzo Snow, was a young girl, she used to visit her grandfather in his office in the temple. One night, while walking Allie out of the temple, President Snow suddenly stopped Allie in the hallway and told her about his heavenly experience in the temple. The following is excerpted from The Lord Needed a Prophet:
"President Snow suddenly stopped and said, 'Wait a moment, Allie. I want to tell you something.' Allie listened intently as her grandfather told her of an unforgettable experience he had once had at that place in the temple: 'It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff [as President of the Church].' "President Snow held out his left hand and said, 'He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though he stood on a plate of solid gold.' "Still speaking in hushed, reverent tones, President Snow told Allie that the Savior’s appearance was so glorious and bright that he could hardly look at Him. "President Snow put his right hand on Allie’s head and said, 'Now granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the temple, and talked with him face to face'" (Susan Arringtom Madsen, The Lord Needed a Prophet, 82–83).
3. President George Q. Cannon
While serving as a missionary in Hawaii, President George Q. Cannon had a sacred experience with the Savior.
"On one occasion, while praying in a garden behind Nalimanui’s home, President Cannon received a powerful divine manifestation so sacred to him that he seldom mentioned it in public and never supplied details," Daniel Peterson wrote shared the Deseret News. "Later, though, he recorded that God 'revealed himself to me as he had never done before. . . . Many things were revealed to me during those days, when he was the only friend we had to lean upon. A friendship was thus established between our Father and myself, which I trust will never be broken or diminished. . . . He condescended to commune with me, for I heard his voice more than once as one man speaks with another."
President George Q. Cannon's personal and powerful witness of the Savior was later recorded in 1898 in the journal of Joseph Dean, who attended a meeting in the Salt Lake Temple. Dean shared:
"I never felt a more heavenly influence in my life, especially the last hour. We did not get away until 12:30. The last hour our hearts were so melted that the most of us were sobbing and weeping for joy. Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon began to speak at 11:30. He was saying or began to say that he knew that Jesus was the Christ, for he had seen his face and heard his voice. His emotions here overpowered him, and he had to stand and say nothing for a few moments until he could control himself. He also testified that he knew that God lived for he had seen his face and heard his voice. He also knew that the Holy Ghost was a living being for he heard his voice" (Joseph H. Dean Journal, 3 April 1898, LDS Church Archives).
4. Elder Orson F. Whitney
“Then came a marvelous manifestation, an admonition from a higher Source, one impossible to ignore. It was a dream, or a vision in a dream, as I lay upon my bed in the little town of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’ “As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to Him; I loved Him with all my soul, and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else. “Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with Him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sin upon His shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through His sensitive soul—and they could not watch with Him one poor hour! “Returning to His place, He offered up the same prayer as before; then went back and again found them sleeping. Again He awoke them, readmonished them, and once more returned and prayed. Three times this occurred, until I was perfectly familiar with His appearance—face, form and movements. He was of noble stature and majestic mien—not at all the weak, effeminate being that some painters have portrayed; but the very God that He was and is, as meek and humble as a little child. “All at once the circumstance seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with the three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend to Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with him. “I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped, raised me up, and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real. I felt the very warmth of His body, as He held me in His arms and said in tenderest tones: ‘No, my son; these have finished their work; they can go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.’ Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face—for He was taller than I—I besought Him fervently: ‘Well, promise me that I will come to you at the last.’ Smiling sweetly, He said: ‘That will depend entirely upon yourself,’ I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning. “‘That’s from God,’ said Elder Musser, when I related to him what I had seen and heard. ‘I do not need to be told that,’ was my reply. I saw the moral clearly. I have never thought of being an Apostle, nor of holding any other office in the Church, and it did not occur to me then. Yet I knew that these sleeping Apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post—as any man is who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another. “But from that hour, all was changed. I never was the same man again. . . . I did not give up writing, . . . but not to the neglect of the Lord’s Work. I held that first and foremost; all else was secondary" (Orson F. Whitney, Through Memory’s Halls, 82–8, quoted in Dreams as Revelation).
5. Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon
Most Latter-day Saints know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ visited Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in 1820, but many might not know the Savior appeared to Joseph many times later in his life.
In 1836, after the dedication of the Kirkland temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were praying on the first floor of the temple. The curtains dropped around the pulpit area and they saw the Lord at the pulpit. Of the Savior, Joseph wrote, "His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah" (D&C 110:3). Christ said He accepted the temple and many people would be richly blessed because of the ordinances available.
In 1831, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon moved to Ohio to work on Joseph's translation of the Bible. During the time they worked on the translation of the Gospel of John, they realized many truths regarding salvation had been lost. About six months after arriving in Ohio, the two saw a vision of God and Jesus Christ in the Celestial Kingdom and the other degrees of glory. This vision is now recorded as D&C 76.
6. President David O. McKay
In 1921 President David O. McKay was touring the Church's missions around the world when he had a dream aboard a ship destined for Apia, Samoa. About this dream President McKay wrote:
“Towards evening, the reflection of the afterglow of a beautiful sunset was most splendid! The sky was tinged with pink, and the clouds lingering around the horizon were fringed with various hues of crimson and orange, while the heavy cloud farther to the west was sombre purple and black. These various colors cast varying shadows on the peaceful surface of the water. Those from the cloud were long and dark, those from the crimson-tinged sky, clear but rose-tinted and fading into a faint pink that merged into the clear blue of the ocean. Gradually, the shadows became deeper and heavier, and then all merged into a beautiful calm twilight that made the sea look like a great mirror upon which fell the faint light of the crescent moon! “Pondering still upon this beautiful scene, I lay in my berth at ten o’clock that night, and thought to myself: Charming as it is, it doesn’t stir my soul with emotion as do the innocent lives of children, and the sublime characters of loved ones and friends. Their beauty, unselfishness, and heroism are after all the most glorious! “I then fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously-tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe. . . . Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their Leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold! There was a peace about him which seemed sublime—it was divine! “The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness. “But who were they? “As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words: ‘These Are They Who Have Overcome The World— Who Have Truly Been Born Again!’ “When I awoke, it was breaking day over Apia harbor" (David O. McKay, Cherished Experiences, 101–2, quoted in Dreams as Revelation).
7. Elder Melvin J. Ballard
“When I was doing missionary work with some of our brethren, laboring among the Indians, seeking the Lord for light to decide certain matters pertaining to our work there, and receiving a witness from Him that we were doing things according to His will, I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night, in that sacred building, the Temple. After a season of prayer and rejoicing, I was informed that I should have the privilege of entering into one of those rooms, to meet a glorious Personage, and as I entered the door, I saw, seated on the raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes ever have beheld, or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, he arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and he smiled as he softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, and pressed me to His bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When He had finished, I fell at His feet, and as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of Him who hath all things in His hands, to have His love, His affection, and His blessings was such that if I ever can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be, to feel what I then felt!” (Bryant S. Hinckley, The Faith of Our Pioneer Fathers, 226–27, quoted in Dreams as Revelation).
8. Elder LeGrand Richards
On Monday, May 10, 1926, LeGrand Richards, who was then serving as a missionary in New Bedford, Massachusetts, recorded a divine dream he had of Jesus Christ. The dream came after a particularly frustrating day in his mission:
"I had a very beautiful dream last night. I dreamed that while we were met together in priesthood meeting, the Savior appeared [in a pillar of light], and immediately we began to sing 'Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to our Lord.' It was a most wonderful feeling, and I awakened with the thought that, though the world doubted his coming, I had actually lived to see it. It was a sweet and beautiful climax. I do hope I will be worthy of him when he does appear, for I do know he shall come" (Lucile C. Tate, LeGrand Richards, 124–25, 136–37, quoted in Dreams as Revelation).
Lead image from ChurchofJesusChrist.org and BYU Speeches.
Many times, the Lord's involvement with His children takes the form of significant dreams and visions.
In Dreams as Revelation, BYU Church history professors Mary Jane Woodger, Ken Alford, and Craig Manscill share prophetic guidance and other counsel to help readers recognize when a dream is revelatory in nature.
With a foreword by Robert L. Millet, this book includes chapters about scriptural dreams, dreams in Joseph Smith's family, as well as original accounts of carefully selected dreams received throughout our dispensation, including dreams of the Savior, temple work, comfort, and more. In addition to being personally applicable for how to better understand your own revelatory dreams, this interesting and informative book is a valuable resource for talks, lessons, and family home evenings.