Latter-day Saint Life

A Hawaiian Man Shares His Dream of Heaven That Might Change the Way You Pray


The following originally ran on LDS Living in June 2017 and is an excerpt from the book The Way of Aloha: Lanai by Cameron C. Taylor. You can also read about the powerful lessons Taylor learnedwriting the sequel to this book, The Way of Aloha: Moloka‘i, here.

Manu is a Hawaiian Kahuna teaching two missionaries, Elder Taylor and Elder Balane, who are serving on the Hawaii island of Lanai. Keahiakawelo, also known as Garden of the Gods, is a rock garden located in the mountains of Lanai. The following is a fictional story based on real events and conversations.

Manu gestured to the scene before us. “Welcome to Keahiakawelo, the Garden of the Gods,” he said.

This landscape was different from anything I’d ever seen. It was as if we’d traveled to a different planet. The garden’s beauty went beyond merely its external appeal. The Garden of the Gods had a distinctive spirit of peace and serenity. There was a feeling that the heavens and the earth connected here in some way.

Manu motioned for us to follow him, and we came to a rock formation, which seemed to rest on the pinnacle of the topography. The vista was breathtaking. It was a clear day and Moloka‘i could be seen easily across the ocean channel. Manu pointed into the distance. As we gazed outward, we could see the island of O‘ahu.

After taking in this panoramic feast, Manu had us surround the rock formation, facing inward.

“One of the legends told of Keahiakawelo is that God placed each of the rocks here for a divine purpose,” he said. “It’s also believed that the formation we are gathered around was a prayer altar for one of Lāna‘i’s ancient kahunas. You obviously know that we pray surrounding altars in the temples. The ancient Hawaiians also prayed around altars, and families had altars for prayer called Pule Kuahu. Under the Law of Moses, the altar was used for offering animal sacrifice. Today, with the Law of Moses fulfilled, we no longer offer animal sacrifices. Have you ever wondered why we still pray around an altar?”

“Today we pray around an altar to make the offering of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” I said.

Manu nodded. “When we were at the heiau (temple), we talked about the importance of ho‘okupu (offerings). Our offering is submitting our will to the will of the Father. ‘Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God’[1] but to know the will of God. As we’re gathered around this altar, I’ll share with you a dream I had that helped me better understand prayer.”

Manu paused, his gaze growing distant as he recalled the dream. Elder Balane and I looked on in hushed silence, eager to hear what he wanted to share with us.

“My dream began as I stood at what is often referred to as the pearly gates of Heaven,” Manu said. “As I stood at the closed gate, I saw a man in vivid white clothing, approaching from the other side. As he got closer, I was overwhelmed by the power and beauty of his countenance and fell to my knees. When the man spoke, his words not only penetrated my ears, but my entire being. Speaking to me both physically and spiritually, he said, ‘Manu, arise to thy feet. There is only one before whom you should kneel, and that is the Master, Jesus Christ. I am His servant, Peter.’

“As I rose to my feet, the gate swung open. Peter greeted me with an embrace and said, ‘Welcome home, my brother.’

“I returned the embrace and was filled with the pure love of Christ that exceeded any possible earthly description. As our embrace concluded, I asked, ‘Where am I?’

“Peter answered with a smile, ‘This is Heaven.’

“‘So, am I dead?’

“‘No, you are not dead. You are dreaming. I have been instructed to show you one building in Heaven. Would you like to see it?’

“As Peter asked the question, I was consumed by the Spirit and quickly answered in the affirmative. Peter instructed me to follow him. I walked at his right side and we passed through the pearly gates, following a path of gold. Looking ahead, I could see that the gold path led to a large building up on a hill. The path was lined with flowers, grass, shrubs, and trees that were unlike anything I’d encountered on earth. These plants were not only vibrant and bright, but they radiated color, light, and spirit. There are millions of colors that await us in Heaven not found on the earth.

“Gentle music filled the air. I couldn’t discern a source for the music, but it filled the immensity of space around us. The sound was not directional. It was as if I was underwater in a swimming pool, but instead of being surrounded by water, I was submerged in music.

“Unlike earthly melodies, these sounds were received more by my spirit than by my ears, radiating to all my senses. ‘I can’t tell you how different it is from what you hear on earth! It feels like joy, looks like love, smells like flowers, and dances like butterflies. Music there is alive! You can even taste it.’[2]

“We approached a building and I was astonished by its immense size, brilliant architecture, and splendid beauty. I was surprised to see my name, Manu Nāpela, written on the front of it.

“I asked Peter, ‘Why is my name on this building?’

“‘This is your heavenly warehouse, Manu. There is one of these warehouses for each person on earth, and each warehouse is identified with that person’s name.’

“‘What you call a warehouse looks to me more like a palace,’ I exclaimed. ‘It exceeds in every way any building I have seen on earth.’

“Peter nodded. ‘What you say is true, but wait until you see the palaces of Heaven. They are much more splendid than this warehouse.’

“The gold path ended in front of two large double doors. The doors were set inside a beautiful arch. The hinges, symbols, and door knobs had the brilliance of gold. The doors reminded me of the exterior doors of the Salt Lake temple. However, they were a color I’d never seen. Pointing to the door, I asked, ‘Peter, what is the name of this color?’

“Peter answered, ‘Ahina. Isn’t it beautiful?’

“The word sounded Hawaiian although I didn’t recognize it. Discerning my thoughts, Peter explained, ‘The ancient Hawaiian language was derived from the language of Heaven and thus, the similarities. Ahina is the name we use for this color in Heaven.’

“I noticed writing on the door knobs in a language I couldn’t read. ‘What is written on the doorknobs?’ I asked.

“Turning the knob, Peter answered, ‘It says ‘Holiness to the Lord’ written in the language of Heaven.’

“Peter opened the door, held it open, and motioned for me to enter.

“As I entered, I was engulfed by crisp, fresh air that invigorated my body and spirit. I turned my head from side to side in awe and wonder. The building was filled with thousands upon thousands of shelves. The shelves were in perfectly uniform rows with exact spacing and symmetry. All angles appeared to form a perfect square. I looked down one of the rows; the shelf continued as far as my eyes could see and appeared to have no end. Each of the shelves was filled with beautifully wrapped gifts of all shapes, colors, and sizes.

“Peter followed me into the warehouse and closed the door behind him. I turned and asked, ‘May I look at one of the gifts?’

“Peter answered, ‘Of course. That is why we are here.’

“I walked to one of the gifts that caught my attention. The wrapping paper, ribbons, and decorations formed exquisite color combinations. In this one small gift, there were more colors than all the colors visible on earth. I noticed an ornate tag attached to the gift. On the tag was my name in elegant, hand-written cursive. I looked at the tags on the surrounding presents and found that each of the tags had my name on them as well. I turned to Peter and asked, ‘What are all these gifts with my name on them?’

“Peter brought me a chair that was sitting along one of the walls and asked me to be seated. Once I’d taken my seat, Peter answered, ‘These are all the gifts and blessings from God that you failed to receive.’

“As I heard his words, my heart sank. A wave of pain flashed through my body at the thought of having rejected gifts from my God and my Savior. I looked into Peter’s eyes. With great concern, I said, ‘I would never knowingly reject a gift from God. Why didn’t I receive these gifts?’

“Peter came to my side, placed his hand upon my shoulder, and said, ‘I know, Manu. You have a pure heart and real intent. Please let me teach you how the warehouse works. Follow me.’

“I followed Peter as he walked down and across several aisles. Although he walked at a quick pace, he didn’t seem in a hurry. When he finally stopped, I noticed that all the shelves in this particular area were empty.

“‘Why are these shelves empty?’ I asked.

“‘These shelves contained all the blessings and gifts God gave to you which required no effort or work on your part. Thus, the shelves are empty because they were all given to you while you were on earth,’ answered Peter.

“I frowned, trying to understand. ‘Well, what about all the other shelves full of gifts? Why wasn’t I given them?’

“‘Some of the gifts required work or effort on your part before they could be obtained,’ Peter answered.

“We walked to a new section of the warehouse and Peter had me look at the tags on the gifts. I saw my name on one of the tags and on another tag, was written the requirement to receive the gift. The first tag I read said, ‘Pray and ask for it.’ I looked at each tag to find the same statement: ‘Pray and ask for it.’

“‘You mean all I had to do to receive all the gifts in this warehouse was to pray and ask for them?’ I said.

“‘You’re getting ahead of me,’ Peter replied. ‘This section of the warehouse contains all the gifts God wanted to give you; and all that was required to receive them was to pray and ask for them. Heaven has warehouses full of undelivered gifts because many have not learned that God has countless gifts to give if one will only ask. My fellow apostle, James taught, ‘ have not, because ye ask not.’[3]’

“‘Peter, how was I supposed to ask for these gifts when I didn’t even know they existed?’ I asked incredulously.

“‘You must pray and ask to know what to pray for,’ Peter said. ‘You need to pray to find out what is in your warehouse. You should pray and ask God to tell you what gifts to pray for. It is a wise man who knows what to pray for, and you can know what to pray for by the Spirit.[4]’

“‘There is something I still don’t understand. My warehouse is full of gifts, yet there were times on earth when I prayed and asked for things and did not receive them. Can you please explain this?’ I asked.

“‘It could have been one of two reasons,’ Peter said. ‘Either you were asking for something that was not in your warehouse,[5] or what you were asking for required more than simply asking to receive.’

“To demonstrate his point, Peter took me to another section of the warehouse and said, ‘As I mentioned earlier, God has placed a requirement for the receipt of each gift. When you receive any gift from God, it’s a result of fulfilling this requirement. Asking in prayer is only one of many possible requirements.’

“I began to look at the tags on the gifts in this section and found the requirements: get married, attend church, start a business, care for the poor, adopt a child, and visit a widow. Some of the gifts contained a long series of requirements to obtain the gift.

“As I looked through the many tags, Peter stood off to one side and related an experience from his earthly ministry: ‘One day, a man brought his son who was possessed by a devil to me and the other disciples, and asked us to cure him. But we were unable to. Then Jesus came and rebuked the devil and the child was cured that very hour. We asked Jesus, ‘Why were we unable to cast out the devil and cure the child?’ Jesus replied, ‘Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’[6] From this experience, I learned that gifts can require more than asking to receive.’

“Peter paused to let his words sink in. I stopped looking through the tags on the gifts and turned my full attention to Peter. ‘Another example can be found in the translation of the Book of Mormon,’ he said. ‘Soon after [Oliver] Cowdery began work on the Book of Mormon, he wanted to exercise of translation. Characteristically, Joseph made no effort to monopolize the work...he held out the expectation throughout his life that his followers could receive revelations or see the face of God as he did. The first revelation to Cowdery promised a ‘gift if you desire of me, to translate even as my servant Joseph.’ Hearing this, Joseph remembered, Cowdery ‘became exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him.’ Cowdery tried the experiment but failed. He began and then stopped, apparently mistakenly believing that he needed only to ask God and look in the stone.’[7] Christ explained in a revelation what Oliver’s mistake had been. ‘Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right, you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.’[8]

“My chest burned with fire as the truth of his words engulfed me. ‘Oliver was not present to watch Joseph develop and learn to use the gift of translation,’ Peter said, shaking his head. ‘Oliver arrived after the first one hundred and sixteen pages had been translated by Joseph, and lost by Martin Harris. ‘All knowledge and skill are obtained by consistent and determined study and practice, and so the Prophet found it to be the case in the translating of the Book of Mormon.’[9] Joseph had to learn how to translate the curious characters on the gold plates.[10] When he first received the plates, he was unsure how to begin. It took time and various attempts to develop a method. Joseph was diligent in his effort but it took much study and practice to learn how to use the gift of translation.[11] Likewise, there are gifts the Lord has for you that require diligent effort to be received.

 “‘Manu,’ Peter said, ‘prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the greatest of God’s gifts. Prayer is not to tell God which blessings and gifts He should give you, but to ask for gifts that God is already willing to give and is simply waiting for you to ask for.’[12] One of the most repeated phrases by the Savior is, ‘ask and ye shall receive.’ This passage is found over forty times in the scriptures.

“‘Heaven has a warehouse of gifts for each person on the earth, but sadly many of the gifts are never opened. Some are like the woman who approached Jesus while He was sitting by a well. She didn’t recognize Jesus or the gift He had for her. Jesus said to this woman, ‘If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you.’[13]

“‘Manu, I will give you these departing words: You have seen and know the gifts God has for you. As a child of God, accepting His gifts should be natural and instinctive. With the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, you can joyfully open your beautifully wrapped gifts from Heaven. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’[14]

Read more with The Way of Aloha: Lanai and The Way of Aloha: Moloka'i.

In The Way of Aloha: Lanaibestselling author Cameron C. Taylor masterfully weaved ancient Hawaiian history and culture into an inspiring and engaging story set on the beautiful island of Lāna‘i. You will be transported to a tropical paradise for an adventure of a lifetime. As you visit sacred locations throughout the island, you will be taught by a Hawaiian kahuna the principles for joyful living. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Hawaiian kahuna unfolds powerful insights into the gospel of Jesus Christ as he illuminates a more excellent way—the way of Aloha—the way of Zion. Learn the principles to create your own island paradise where ever you are. Paradise is not a location. It is a way of life. 

In The Way of Aloha: Moloka'i, Manu and Elder Taylor are reunited after two decades of separation on the beautiful island of Moloka'i. As you visit the sacred places of Hālawa Valley, Kapuaiwa Royal Coconut Grove, and Kamakou rain forest, you'll learn truths about Aloha, slowing down, guardian angels, simplicity, and connecting with your creator. At locations throughout the leper colony of Kalaupapa, you'll be taught how to minister like the lord Jesus Christ. This book will transport you to a tropical paradise to be touched by the light and love that radiates from the people and places of Moloka'i.

[1] Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” p. 752–753.

[2] Akiane and Foreli Kramarik, Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2006), 12.

[3] James 4:2.

[4] Romans 8:26.

[5] James 4:3.

[6] Matthew 17:14–21.

[7] Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Random House, 2005), 73.

[8] Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–10.

[9] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 3 (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1956), 216.

[10] Joseph had the plates for two hundred and two days before the first page was translated. During this time he worked on developing his gift and tried various approaches but only translated a few figures and characters. The translation of the book of Lehi began on April 12, 1828 and took sixty-four days to translate one hundred and sixteen written pages. The book of Lehi was translated at an average rate of 1.81 pages per day. With the loss of the book of Lehi, Joseph’s gift to translate was taken from him for a season. The translation work was resumed with Oliver Cowdery as Joseph’s scribe on April 7, 1829. They began the translation of the portions of the gold plates we have today as the Book of Mormon. It took eighty-five days to translate four hundred and sixty-six written pages. This translation was done at a rate of 5.48 pages per day—over three times faster than the first one hundred sixteen pages. The increase in Joseph’s translation speed is an illustration of this truth: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted by President Heber J. Grant. “Seventieth Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” The Deseret News, 1900, p. 63)

[11] Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Random House, 2005), 63–64.

[12] Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” p. 753.

[13] John 4:10, New Living Translation (NLT).

[14] Matthew 7:7.


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