Ken Alford: Dreams As Revelation

Wed Jul 24 10:00:42 EDT 2019
Episode 39

Do our dreams carry spiritual significance? And if so, how do we know? Ken Alford, a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, looks back at the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the history of the Church to explore the idea of dreams as revelation.

Find the new book, "Dreams As Revelation" here.

Show Notes
2:37- Why Study Dreams?
9:23- Distinguishing a Dream of Significance From Other Dreams
12:36- Are We Entitled To Revelatory Dreams or Are Some People Dreamers
16:18- Nightmares
18:38- Interpreting Our Dreams
20:15- Dreams In Church History
29:16- Receiving Dreams For Other People?
31:10- Advance Notice of Church Callings
34:54- Dreams about the Savior
38:14- Scriptural Dreams
40:48- Dreams as Tender Mercies
44:14- What Does It Mean To Be All In The Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones: A quick note before we get into this week's episode, if you enjoy the episode and find yourself wishing you could listen to the audiobook of "Dreams as Revelation," for free, turns out you can. Simply visit www.deseretbook.com/allin and you'll be able to listen to the entire book on us. I hope you enjoy the episode.

I don't know about you, but I can sing almost every word to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Like the entire musical. I owe Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Donny Osmond for helping me understand a good chunk of the book of Genesis. I've also always thought that if the Bible teaches us that Joseph had a gift for interpreting dreams, there has to be something to dreams as revelation. Turns out, the words and experiences of prophets and apostles would agree. Dr. Ken Alford is a professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and is one of the authors of the new book, "Dreams as Revelation." He retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army in 2008 after serving almost 30 years on active duty. He holds a bachelor's degree from BYU, master's degrees from USC and University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from George Mason University. He and his wife, Sherilee, are the parents of four children.

This is "All In," an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I'm so grateful to have Ken Alford with me here today. Ken, welcome.

Ken Alford: Thank you, glad to be here.

MJ: Well, I am so excited to talk about this topic. I think my whole life I've always said, I'm like, you know, there are some things where it's like, "Is that real?" And for me, dreams are one of those things where it's like it's in the Bible, we know that Joseph had dreams, interpreted dreams. And so to me, it's like that has to be real, that has to be a way that God communicates to us. But then on the flip side of that, it's like, well, sometimes I have some really weird dreams. So how do we kind of understand what's revelation, what's dreams, and this new book gives us an opportunity to kind of dive into that. So, so excited to talk with you today about this.

KA: Thanks. It's a fascinating topic. And it's something that we've found interests just about everyone.

MJ: Yeah.

KA: You know, there's dreams and then there's revelatroy dreams, and we draw a distinction between the two.

MJ: Yeah. Well, I think you're right, it's something that everyone is interested in. Why? Because all of us, at some point in our lives, have had dreams, right? So first of all, how did you become interested in this topic of dreams as revelation?

KA: Well, let me just back off and talk about how this book kind of came to be. Because I'm kind of the johnny-come-lately in the project.

MJ: Okay.

KA: In about oh, let me see, it was probably around 2000 or so, Mary Jane Woodger, who's one of the authors, was attending a Mormon History Association conference in England. She stayed at Preston, at the temple housing there and while she was there, she had a dream. And in the dream, her father appeared to her and said that one of their family members needed some assistance. And she woke up and it was a very real dream. She remembered specifics, she remembered even that they were driving an American car and had the steering wheel on the wrong side for Britain. So they're at the temple patrons housing, she tried to get ahold of a phone, tried to call her family member. And it took quite a while but she finally did. And when she reached the family member and explained the dream, the family member explained that it was right on what she'd been told in the dream, she was having those challenges, she appreciated the call. And that kind of started Mary Jane looking down this line. And so she started collecting things, and had then, branching out to a research assistant, because she was at Brigham Young University as a faculty member, her research assistant was Jamie Mansell and Jamie's father is a faculty member. And so Craig got involved with Mary Jane and they worked on this for several years, and around 2007 or so they started drafting chapters. And then the project just kind of got put on a shelf. They were drafting chapters in a narrative way but quite frankly, there's only so many ways you can say that "X" had a dream about "Y".

MJ: Right.

KA: And so the project was was shelved. And I came along, joined the faculty in 2008 and I'd been interested in revelatory dreams and have enjoyed a couple of these kinds of things and so I was interested. And I had just sent a book to a publisher at the University of Oklahoma called "Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record." It's a civil war documentary book. But in that book, I let the records speak for themselves, I didn't try to paraphrase them, I just reprinted them wholesale. And the topic of this project came up somehow, I think I saw it on Craig's shelf or something and pulled it down. And I just suggested, why don't we approach this like a documentary edited project and let the dreams speak for themselves, reprinting the published original version of these dreams, rather than trying to paraphrase them. Because there's only so many paraphrased words you can use.

MJ: Yeah.

KA: And we all agreed that was the way to do it and we were off to the races, relooked everything, and the book came out in July 2019.

MJ: Wow. Well, so this has been a long time coming.

KA: It's been several decades incoming. Yes.

MJ: Wow. That's amazing. Well, I have to tell you, so when I was prepping for this, I was reading parts of the book and I was like, wow, there's so much here. And I'm curious what people are most interested in. So I actually put it out on Twitter, where all good questions come from and then tried to select the ones— we talked about this prior to starting this interview, but you are an expert on history and not a psychologist. And so we've tried to pick the questions that relate to history, rather than the questions that would be better suited for a psychologist about dreams. But specifically, we're talking about dreams as revelation and we can look back at the history of the church, and even back to the Bible, to see kind of where this is all coming from. So as we have this conversation, we're going to kind of talk a little bit about dreams in general and then talk about these historical records that we have of dreams. So first question for you is, is it worth it to look for symbols or signs in our dreams?

KA: Yes. Let me begin by stating that when you have— a regular dream can come from any number of causes. And psychologists I'm sure would give us lots of reasons. Revelatory dreams, as we look at the words of prophets and apostles, are in a different category. They're sent with a purpose. And the purpose may be to comfort us, it may be to warn us, it may be to teach us, it may be to help us clarify and understand a gospel principle. But revelatory dreams, which I will tell you are rare, most dreams—and there are statements that go back as far as Brigham Young saying that most dreams are not revelatory or spiritual in nature, most dreams are just dreams.

MJ: Right.

KA: But there is a category and class of dreams that are from the Lord, that are revelatory, that are scriptural, that are, basically, a tender mercy to us. That at that point in our life, we benefit for some reason, the Lord chooses to give us this dream at that time. When those dreams come, we found a common thread, and also a great deal of prophetic commentary. We talk about this in the early chapters of the book. But people, when you have these kinds of dreams, you just know, that dream was different. It was, it was just different. There was something about it, the clarity of the dream, the reality of the dream, just there was just something different. A lot of times there's a spiritual feeling that accompanies the dream. And when you get those kinds of dreams, those are the ones to really pay attention to. Brigham Young's got a really funny statement in his collected works that says, you know, "People tell me all the time they're having different dreams and they're dreaming that the Prophet should do this." And he says, "Those are not from the Lord." He said, quite frankly, "You can have a lot of dreams that just are from inside your head."

MJ: Yeah.

KA: But when you have these revelatory dreams, it is helpful to look to see what the Lord might be trying to tell you because sometimes symbols are involved, other times, it's just very straightforward and plain-spoken. Elder Scott and Elder Eyring and others have spoken about dreams quite a bit, it turns out, and have taught that sometimes in our dreams, the Lord will send someone in the dream that we respected in life, whether they're living now or not, but someone that we respect and understand, to teach us a principle through some of these dreams. There's just lots of different ways they can come. Sometimes they are full of symbols, but not always.

MJ: So interesting. So how, my next question was going to be, how do we tell if a dream is revelation or just a dream? And you mentioned that the main thing is, there's just something different about it. Is there anything else any other way to distinguish a revelatory dream from just a weird dream due to your psychosis?

KA: That was one of our big questions when we got into this. And quite frankly, we were really surprised at the number of these kinds of dreams that exist, we found many more dreams than are even in the book, this is not a complete recitation by any means. We did cherry-pick what we thought were some really great and fun ones by different categories for the book. But there are, it turns out there are a lot of these in this dispensation. And as you do it, we then looked for prophetic commentary on how do you tell if dreams are a legitimate way for the Lord to communicate with his children? How can you tell? How do you know yourself? And so we've got a whole series of guidelines, I'll just share a couple of them. One of them is that spiritual or revelatory dreams concern important matters. You're probably not going to get one of these dreams about what kind of beans you ought to buy at the grocery store.

MJ: Right.

KA: These are going to be important events in your life. These kinds of dreams will always strengthen your faith. They will not tear down your faith, they will not cause you to question your testimony, these are, if they're from the Lord, they will strengthen your faith. They're almost always accompanied by a spiritual feeling, as I mentioned. They will always tell you to do things that are in accordance with guidance from church leaders and the commandments. If you have a dream that tells you to do otherwise, you can pretty much take it to the bank that it's not one of these kinds of dreams because they will be in accordance with revealed revelation and prophetic counsel. Also, they will not tell you to do things and receive counsel for those above you. It's just not the way things work. I will never receive a revelatory dream that tells the Prophet what to do, it's just not the way it works. So there are these guidelines. One that we found that was mentioned several times by General Authorities is that oftentimes, these kinds of dreams seem to come towards the end of the night in the early hours so that they're on your mind as you're kind of in that half asleep, half-awake state. And it allows you, as Elder Scott said, to jot it down immediately. If you remember in recent conference, President Nelson mentioned that— or sister Nelson, I think also mentioned it in a fireside discussion— that President Nelson keeps pen and paper by his bed to write down these kinds of things. And that's probably just a good idea. They are rare, but when they come you certainly want to capture them.

MJ: Absolutely. So these guidelines that are in the book, are the result of these prophetic statements that you've found.

KA: Yes. This isn't the author speaking, we relied on prophetic commentary to help us understand and there's a great checklist from President Monson that applies to this kind of topic. There's just, I would send listeners if they have it to chapter two. Chapter two's got— it's just full of guidelines on how you tell.

MJ: Okay. And is everyone entitled to revelatory dreams? I feel like some people are dreamers and some people maybe are just like, you know, I don't ever remember my dreams. So what distinguishes those, do you know, in terms of receiving dreams as revelation?

KA: Boy, that's a great question and if we could answer that we'd probably be very popular with the psychologists in the nation. There are people in church history that just seem to be dreamers. Brigham Young is one of them. In the collected works of Brigham Young, I did a search, and Brigham talks about dreams almost 200 times.

MJ: Wow.

KA: And he shares just dream after dream. And some of his dreams are just really simple, he'll just make it a side. For example, there's one that he says in Nauvoo in August of 1845. This is after Joseph's death, of course, but he just tells the folks he's speaking to he says, "This morning, I dreamed I saw brother Joseph Smith. And as I was going about my business, he says, 'Brother Brigham, don't be in a hurry.'" And then Brigham says, "This was repeated the second and a third time, and it came with a degree of sharpness." And so Brigham would just kind of throw these things in his talks, saying, look, I had a dream about this, I had a dream about this. And then often what Brigham would do is say, "And here's what it means brothers and sisters for us."

MJ: Right, interpreting it.

KA: That's one thing I really like about Brigham Young when he shares a dream. There's one, if I can just share a quick story, he tells us a story of a dream his father had. And he tells this in 1854, in the old Adobe tabernacle on temple square, and he said, "My father dreamed that the devil came to him. And the devil gave him a special mirror. And this mirror looked like a mirror, but when you held it up to look in it, you could see through it, and the people behind the mirror, it showed you their faults, and it didn't show you your own faults." And then Brigham draws the conclusion "Isn't that basically the way Satan works? He always wants us to look and pick at other people but not correct ourselves." And so with Brigham, he'll share the dream and then give us the bottom line. Wilford Woodruff is a great dreamer, lots of dreams in his journal. But we have just— some people seem to be more receptive to this if you like, some people don't receive any of these in their lifetime, others receive many. You asked if we can be entitled and I think the key is: these come as a tender mercy in the Lord's time. And they are rare, they're wonderful if you receive them. We certainly, I would feel, that we can ask for them. But it's not the kind of thing that we're entitled to per se, but that may like most spiritual gifts, be granted if it's going to bless our life or the lives of those around us.

MJ: Yeah. Well, it seems like we talk about the way that we receive revelation and the way that the Spirit communicates to us. You mentioned President Nelson, and I think it has been fascinating to see, he has such an emphasis on revelation, and on understanding how the spirit communicates to us. And so I think this is an example of one way that the Spirit might communicate, that God might try to communicate with us as His children, but there are many different ways that we can receive that revelation and that communication.

KA: And even for people that seem to be these revelatory dreamers, like Brigham and Wilford Woodruff and others, even in their lives, it's still a relatively small number. Most nights are just nights.

MJ: Yeah. Well, one thing that I thought was interesting in the book— so as a little girl, I used to have bad dreams a lot. And my dad would say, you know, say a prayer that you won't have any more bad dreams. And it seemed to work like a charm, I would go back to sleep, and I wouldn't have the bad dream anymore. And even as an adult sometimes I do that, but you have some content in the book that talks about bad dreams. And so if God can communicate to us through our dreams, why do we have nightmares?

KA: Well, the key is again, most dreams, the heavy, heavy percentage are not from the Lord.

MJ: Right.

KA: They're probably out of our subconscious somewhere and I'm not sure how all of that works. They're not sent by God. Can prayer help? Absolutely, as it can in all areas of life. But you have to recognize that this is such a small number of dreams and that nightmares are not from the Lord. There are dreams though, some of the revelatory dreams are scary in nature.

MJ: Like warnings?

KA: Warnings especially. Joseph Smith received several of these kinds of dreams. Interestingly, in the weeks leading up to the martyrdom, Joseph had a couple of dreams. In one dream, he was traveling in a carriage down Mulholland Street in Nauvoo and he saw two snakes locked in bitter combat, and they were both biting each other. And a companion in the dream told him that what he was seeing was that these were two of his enemies. These were the folks that were intent on doing him harm. And the companion with him said, "Actually, they're doing themselves more harm." But to see that would have been frightening. Joseph has another dream in which he's cast in a pit. And nearby is a bear and a snake and then an angel comes and rescues him in the dream. And he has a dream as he's in Carthage Jail. One of the last things that's said the night when they're down in the debtor cell is he says something like, "$1 for the best dream in the morning." And then when they wake up, he relates a dream where he has seen armed conflict. And he says it bodes ill for him, and that he will not be returning to Nauvoo.

MJ: So I'm curious, one thing that you've mentioned is Brigham Young and Joseph, they both kind of interpreted their own dream it seems like. They were prophets, so obviously they're entitled to that ability to be a seer. For us, how do we interpret our dreams? If we think, if we have one where we're like, that was different, that seems significant, how can we try to figure out the meaning of the dream?

KA: Yeah, therein lies the rub, If they're symbolic. Most of the dreams that we've recorded in this book, though, are not symbolic interestingly, they're very straightforward. And the Lord communicates in a very straightforward manner, it's not hidden, sometimes there is symbolism involved, like in Joseph's dream, but in the heavy majority of these, there's really no symbolism involved. In my experience, and as I related from Mary Jane or the other authors, things are pretty straightforward and in my experience, the meaning was pretty clear, without having to sort through it. If you do have a dream that is symbolic, because the Lord certainly teaches through symbolism, then I would say, you approach it just as you do symbolism in the Scriptures, and, you know, ask the Lord for guidance and help on it. But I would say that in the heavy majority cases, symbolism is not going to be the point. When these dreams come, they're meant to bless and comfort and instruct and the Lord, in my experience. makes it pretty straightforward and you get the message.

MJ: Yeah. Thank you for that. I think one thing now that I'd like to kind of delve into, if possible, is to kind of have you share some of these stories. So hopefully, these questions will prompt different stories, and we'll be able to share some of the things that you all have researched, but what kinds of counsel and instruction have people received historically from regulatory dreams?

KA: That answer is as varied as the number of dreams, I think. Sometimes people will have dreams that relate to themselves. And that seems to be the most usual kinds of dreams, their concerns, their fears, instruction for them. There are times when family members are blessed through the dreams and the things that they learn. There are other times that they're able to reach out and share information and support someone that is not directly a family member. Let me share a dream that Elder Bednar shared in general conference in April of 2005. He talked about a priesthood leader who felt inspired to learn the names of the youth in his stake. And then this leader had a dream and it was about one of the young man in his stake, as I recall, the young man wasn't really active at the time. And in the dream, this church leader saw this young man in a white shirt and a missionary tag with a tie. And so he approached the young man the next time he saw him and he said this, he called the young man by name, because he'd been prompted to learn the names and he said, "I'm not a dreamer. I've never had a dream about a single member of this stake, except for you. I'm going to tell you about my dream and then I'd like you to help me understand what it means." I thought that was kind of novel, you know, he gets a dream and so he approaches the person the dream's about. And then, choking with emotion, Elder Bednar said, the young man simply replied, "It means God knows who I am." And the remainder of the conversation between this young man and the priesthood leader was most meaningful and they agreed to meet and counsel together from time to time during the following months. So a revelatory dream that came to this priesthood leader, that benefited the life of that young man. Let me give you another one. There's one this is— I stumbled on this one long before I became part of the project and I just kind of set it aside because I just thought it was just a cool story. It's actually found in a journal by a guy named Nephi Jensen, he was a missionary around the turn of the 20th century in the Southern States Mission.

MJ: Okay.

KA: And his mission president was a guy by the name of Ben E. Rich. Ben E. Rich was the son of Charles C. Rich, who was an apostle. And the dream, though, is neither Ben E. Rich nor Nephi Jensen, but the dream is by a guy by the name of Frank Snow, who is also in the mission at the same time with Nephi Jensen. And so Nephi, I'm assuming, hears Frank relate this and writes it down. But Frank Snow was living in Idaho, and he had a dream. And in his dream, he was called as a missionary to serve in the Southern States Mission. So in his dream, he's kind of calling himself to be a missionary. In this dream, he obeys the call, he goes to Chattanooga, and it's a cold winter day when he arrives in his dream, and I would just add, that something about these revelatory dreams, that oftentimes the details are just crystal clear, much clearer than other kinds of dreams. Lots of people talk about this smells and touch and color and feel and it's very real in many of these dreams.

MJ: Whereas at other times it can be more foggy.

KA: Very fuzzy, yeah. But Frank said he dreamed he was in a large house, and he saw his mission president, Ben E. Rich, who he hadn't met. Any he saw his mission president killed in front of him in his dream. So a few months later, and as I recall, his father is a guy by the name of Lorenzo Snow, who happens to be Prophet of the church.

MJ: Right.

KA: And so he is called on a mission. And he's called to, you guessed it, the southern states. His mission president is a guy by the name of Ben E. Rich, he does arrive in winter, it is cold, and the ground is covered with snow exactly as in his dream. But Elder Snow is assigned to serve in Virginia. And a few months later, he and his companion are, you know, in the city where a church conference is going to be held. They're walking down the street, it's a few days before the conference and as they turn a corner, Elder Snow, kind of, you know, gasped because he recognizes a house on the street. And it's the house in his dream, he has seen this house before. So he takes his companion, I can only imagine what the companion's thinking. He takes the companion up, they knock on the door. The people that answered the door say, "Elders, we're so glad to see you!" It turns out they're Latter-day Saints. They didn't know there were missionaries in town, they didn't, you know. And so they told him, as they're talking, they're invited into the home, they said, "Oh, your mission, President Ben E. Rich is going to be staying here tomorrow night." And in fact, I'm sorry, in fact, that very night. And Elder Snow says, "Look, he can't stay. He just can't stay. Just trust me on this one. He can't stay." The journal doesn't relate if he goes into details, but he just is adamant he can't stay here. So President Rich arrives in town and then Elder Snow shares his dream and asked him not to stay in that home. He says, President, you just can't stay there." And so President Rich makes other arrangements and stays somewhere else in town.

MJ: Yeah.

KA: The following day though, he learns that a mob that night had assembled outside of that home with the intent kill the Latter-day Saint mission president, Ben E. Rich. And so that dream that he had in Idaho before he's called as a missionary, seeing that house and that event, saves President Ben E. Riches life. So just kind of a, you know, there's just some really fun and dramatic kinds of dreams. There are other dreams, though, that are just much simpler. There's a story that's recorded in a journal of a man by the name of John F. Heidenreich and I'll just just share it here. He says "One night I had a spiritual dream." Again, he just recognizes this is different. He says, "It was as vivid as life. I'd never before had such an experience or have I since." And in his dream he says, "There's a man lying on a couch with a book in such a way that his face was hidden from my vision and I couldn't identify him. But I knew he was reading a copy of the Book of Mormon. So I said to the man, 'Do you believe what you were reading?' And the man on the couch said, 'No, I don't believe it.' I became annoyed at this rude fellow, who hadn't the courtesy to rise from the couch to even acknowledge my presence. So I spoke to him abruptly, 'Well, I know the book is true and I can tell you why it has to be true.' As I was repeating the sentence, the man on the couch lowered the book from his face and I saw it was me. Some days later, the meaning of the dream snapped into my mind. In my dream, the man of faith I would someday become was talking to the man that I was. That rude, faithless man on the couch." And so from that dream, he turns his life around and changes and becomes the man who chastises the man on the couch and so this dream is sent purely for him.

MJ: That gives me chills. That's amazing.

KA: Let's give you one from the area of missionary work. This was told by President Henry B. Eyring.

MJ: Okay.

KA: This was told in the April 2014 conference. And he says, "Heinrich Eyring, my great grandfather, lost both his parents and had a great inheritance. He was penniless, he felt his best hope lay in going to America, although he had neither family nor friends there. And so he goes to New York and then he goes to St. Louis. In St. Louis, he has a Latter-day Saint coworker friend, okay. And from him, he gets a pamphlet that's written by Parley P. Pratt.

So he studies every word of it, he looks at it for months, he prayed to know if there really were angels, if this really was true, you know, is there a prophet, is the church restored on the earth? He studies for months, okay. And after two months, President Eyring said, "After two months of careful study and prayer, Heinrich had a dream in which he was told he was to be baptized. A man whose name and priesthood I hold in sacred memory, Elder William Brown was to perform the ordinance." So he's told all this in the dream. And then President Eyring relates, "Heinrich was baptized in a pool of rainwater on March 11, 1855, at 7:30 in the morning, by that elder that he saw in the dream."

MJ: So cool.

KA: So just yeah, just fun, fun, fun things. There are dreams of death, there are dreams of comfort, dreams of instruction. Yeah, it's just, there's just so many different kinds of dreams.

MJ: Well, the first two stories that you mentioned brought up a question that I have, and I know, it's addressed in the book, this idea of receiving revelation for other people. And I think it's interesting because both of those dreams concerned other people, right? So the missionary warning his mission president, obviously, that's something for someone else. But on the flip side, and it's funny because this specific situation was mentioned in the book, and then someone on Twitter asked the same question. They said, "Someone told me that they had had a dream that they were supposed to marry me." And that seems to be a fairly common one. So how do you tell if someone has received revalation? Can you receive revelation for other people? Because obviously, in that situation with the missionary, he kind of did.

KA: Well, there's some great quotations from general authorities and other church leaders on this exact topic. And we've got one or two of those in the book.

MJ: Yeah.

KA: Basically, with the situation where someone says, "I've had a revelation for you to marry me," the prophetic counsel goes like this, and I'll paraphrase, "Dear sister, until you have also received the same revelation telling— no."

MJ: Right, right.

KA: That kind of revelation is not— that would not be one cited.

MJ: Let's go ahead and get that one out of here.

KA: You will never receive revelation that will direct church leaders or council church leaders, provide guidance for those that are not your colleagues. You may receive information, as Frank Snow did, that may assist someone. But when it comes to life-changing events, and church directives and those kinds of things, standard rules of revelation and the lines of direction in the church always apply.

MJ: Interesting. Okay. So another question in relation to these revelatory dreams is, did you find any examples in your research of people receiving advance notice of church callings?

KA: Oh, yes, in fact, numerous times. Elder Mark E. Peterson, before he was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, relates that he had a dream in which a member of the Quorum of the Twelve died, he saw the headline in the newspaper, he was a newspaperman. And it was very disturbing to him. As it turned out, the member of the Twelve in his dream who he saw died, was excommunicated and removed from the quorum. And Elder Peterson was called to replace him, but he had been given that warning. And there's another story that involves Elder Peterson as well. Elder Mark E. Peterson and Elder, then Elder Spencer W. Kimball, were out organizing a stake. And they were interviewing the stake leaders and they just had not received the revelation as to who should become the Stake President, who should be called until midnight. They were they were counseling together and he said that, "We received this information about midnight." Well, it was too late to go wake the brother and say, "Hey, we would like to call you to be the Stake President," but they had Stake Conference the next morning and so they thought, you know, we better warn him. So they went to his home early the next day and interrupted his breakfast. It was, as I recall, was about eight o'clock in the morning. And they went into his home and they began to call him to be the new stake president. And he kind of just stopped him and said, basically, well, "Let me tell you, I knew you were coming. My eight-year-old daughter had a dream last night and when she walked up this morning, she told me, 'Daddy, a really tall man, and a really short man are going to come and call you to be the new stake president.'" And so he said, "I knew you were coming." And elder Peterson was very tall and Elder Kimball was very short. And there are other instances where people are given advance notice.

There are other members of the Twelve that dream in great detail of their calling, even down to the point of who would set them apart and be voice when they were ordained as an apostle. There are other similar kinds of things involved. For example, the mother-in-law of President Ezra Taft Benson, Barbara Amussen, was widowed prior to her death. And she had a dream one night that her husband, Carl, appeared to her and basically said, "Oh, sweetheart, the time, when we're going to be separated, is going to come to an end. And you will come and be with me next Thursday. You'll be coming home next Thursday." So she woke up, she told her family, and her daughter said, "Oh, Mom, you're just probably feeling ill, this will pass." And she said, "No, sweetheart."

MJ: This is it.

KA: You know, "Carl appeared to me, and I'll be leaving on Thursday." And she had the dream on a Friday. So less than a week. In church that Sunday, it was fast and testimony meeting as I recall, and she bore her testimony and said goodbye to the members of the ward. On Wednesday, she went to the bank, withdrew all her money, paid all her bills, turned off her water, turned off the electric and went to her daughter's home because she said, "I would like to die in the room where I used to tell the children's stories about the Book of Mormon and the church." And so she says goodbye to all the family members, this is Thursday. And she says, "I'm tired. Let me go upstairs and rest in the room for a few minutes. Don't wake me." And she passes away, exactly as she was told in the dream on the day.

MJ: Oh my goodness, that is fascinating. What about dreams about the Savior?

KA: There are several wonderful dreams that we found that involve the Savior. Elder J. Richard Clark told a wonderful dream in conference that happened to his great-grandmother. She was a relief society president down in southern Utah, and one of the women in her ward married and non-member and they had a baby. And the mother became deathly ill and just wasn't getting better and needed assistance. And so the Relief Society said, we'll step in and help. So Elder Clark's great-grandmother went around and asked sisters in the ward, will you help? Would you take part of a day, or a day and assist this family? And one by one, the sisters in the ward basically turned their back and said, "No, we won't do it." And so his great-grandmother was left, she said this family needs help, I'm here, I will do it. And so she would work, she would keep her own house, she was at the other house a lot, she would take the laundry home at night, do it after she returned home, take it back washed the next day and it was just wearing her out. And she did that week after week after week. And finally one day she was just so exhausted, she sat down for just a moment and fell asleep. And in her dream, she dreamed she was caring for the little child that she had been taking care of. But she related that in her dream, that suddenly the baby changed and it was the Christ child. And she said, "I heard very distinctly the Savior say, 'inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me.'" And she said, "When I awoke, you know, it just wasn't a burden anymore." She just received that little tender mercy.

MJ: Beautiful.

KA: Elder Whitney had a dream when he was a missionary. He dreamed that he was viewing the Garden of Gethsemane. And he said his heart was breaking within him as he watched the Savior and what he was going through and, and he said, "Then the dream very quickly changed." And he said the Savior and some of his apostles were, it was after the crucifixion, it was after the resurrection, the Savior was preparing to return to heaven. And some of the apostles were about to go with him. And so he said, "I could no longer contain myself." He said, "I left my hiding place where I was watching and ran out and asked the Savior, 'may I go with you?'" basically. And the Savior said, "These, pointing to his apostles, have done what they were to do on earth and have earned that right. Whether you will join me is completely up to you." And then he woke up. And he said, "I realized I had kind of been asleep at the switch." He said, "I vowed at that moment to do everything I could to qualify for that."

MJ: Yeah.

KA: So yeah, they're just some wonderful other, there are many others as well. But that's two that immediately come to mind.

MJ: Yeah. Well, I want to, before we wrap up, I want to touch on this concept of scriptural dreams. I think like I said in the beginning, that's one thing that for me is always kind of strengthened my testimony of the idea of dreams as revelation is it's there in the scriptures. Can you kind of speak to that, what accounts there are of dreams in the scriptures?

KA: Surprisingly, we only found 24 dreams in the scriptures. There are 14 in the Old Testament, most of them are connected with Joseph.

MJ: Right.

KA: And then the second person connected with dreams is, of course, Daniel. And then in the New Testament, there are six dreams and they're connected to Joseph, Jesus' stepfather. And so it's interesting that in both the Old and New Testament it's a Joseph that's the primary dreamer. In the Book of Mormon, there are four dreams. Of course, the dream of the Tree of Life figures so large and is so important in the Book of Mormon, but it's one of just four dreams. And there are no dreams recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. And there are no dreams recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. But dreams are referenced scripturally several times. Moses references them, for example, in Numbers 12, it says, "and he said, Hear now my words if there will be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and I will speak unto him in a dream." Jeremiah and others also talk about dreams. But when dreams are in the Scriptures, they often are key turning points. We have the dream of the wise men in the New Testament, one of the few dreams is not from Joseph, and it turns out them from going back to Herod to report to him as he requests. As you look at Joseph's dreams in the New Testament, they involve the Savior. He learns in a dream that the Savior's— that Mary's pregnancy is is divine, it's divine in origin. He learns that he has to take the Savior and flee into Egypt, he learns from a dream when it's time to come back from Egypt. They play just crucial roles. Joseph of the coat of many colors fame, Israel's son, as dreams that let him know before he's incarcerated in Egypt, that his life holds meaning and he will yet play a key role in the history of Israel. And so these dreams just play a just a really interesting role in the Bible, and as well as modern scripture.

MJ: Well, I can't thank you enough for sharing these stories. I feel like you're a fantastic storyteller. I could listen to you tell these stories all day long. I wonder for you how this experience, all this research that you've done, the things that you've learned, how have these things strengthened your testimony?

KA: I love the concept of tender mercies. And I appreciate Elder Bednar's role in bringing that to the forefront of the consciousness of the church after he was called as a member of the Twelve, when he gave several talks about tender mercies. These kinds of revelatory dreams are just tender mercies. They're just so, they're just so wonderful. And it's really been a delight to find these, and to learn from them, and now to be able to share them with others. I've also been impressed by— they're kind of behind the scenes, but they play an important role at key points. Just a couple of quick examples. Joseph Smith Sr. in 1811. So, Joseph, he's six, his son, the future prophet. But Joseph Smith Sr. has a dream that is recorded by his wife, Lucy Mac. And in his dream, I mean, his dream as well, it has a desolate world, it has a rope instead of an iron rod, but it has a tree with white fruit that he describes us whiter than white. It has a spacious building in it, it has people making fun of him, a person accompanying him in the dream identifies the fruit as the pure love of God. He basically has Lehi's dream, but he has it in 1811.

MJ: Wow.

KA: And so I can only imagine what Joseph Smith Sr. thought the first time he read 1 Nephi chapter eight,

MJ: He's like I've heard this somewhere before,

KA: He's probably like, I've seen the movie, I've seen the Technicolor version of this dream. And so that just had to be a tender mercy to him, not only this wonderful dream but to have it reinforced through the work that his son brings forth to announce and herald the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this dispensation. There are just any number of things. I mean, the number of times that missionary work has been affected by dreams, it's just really amazing. Orson F. Whitney, just as a fun statement I'll just share it he says, "When my grandfather, Heber C. Kimball with Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and others went to England in 1837 to introduce the gospel there, they found many people prepared to receive them. Whole villages were converted, the Lord had prepared the way before them, and how had he done it?" And then he answers this. This is in conference in 1910, he says, "He, the Lord, had given some of the people dreams in which they'd seen these very men landing on the shores of England. And when they came to them with the gospel message, these humble factory or farmhands knew they were servants of God, because they had seen them in dreams." And so they have that tremendous baptismal rate in the early days of the church in Great Britain, and lots of them are connected to dreams. Dreams are just— they just play an interesting role and I just wasn't as aware of that before I got to work on this project with Craig and Mary Jane.

MJ: Right. Well, what a neat experience and I am so excited for people to have the chance to read this book. Before we wrap up, I just have one last question for you. And that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

KA: That's a great question. I think it means to me that we're valiant. That word appears in Section 76 as a defining characteristic of those that qualify to return to Heavenly Father and live the life He lives with Heavenly Mother. And Elder Bruce R. McConkey in 1974 the October conference, he defined what it means to be valiant. So let me just share one of my favorite quotes from him, to be valiant "is to live our religion, to practice what we preach, to keep the commandments. It's to be morally clean, to pay our tithes and offerings, to honor the Sabbath day, to pray with full purpose of heart, to lay our all on the altar if called to do so. It is to take the Lord's side on every issue, to say what he would say to do what he would do in the same situation." So I guess the apostle Paul kind of summed it up in 2 Timothy, Paul says this, and this is what I think it means to be all in. Paul said, "I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I've kept the faith." I think if we do that, we're all in.

MJ: Thank you so much. So many good thoughts here. Thank you for your preparation, thank you for the research that you've done on this book. I am anxious to finish it myself and I am looking forward to having other people have the opportunity to do the same. So thank you so much.

KA: Thanks for the invitation to be here.

MJ: Thank you to Ken Alford for joining us on this week's episode. Don't forget to visit www.deseretbook.com/allin to get your free trial of Bookshelf PLUS+ so that you can listen to the audiobook of "Dreams as Revelation." Or, if you prefer a hard copy, you can pick one up now at Desert Book. If you haven't already, please leave us a rating or a review on Apple podcast. And in the meantime, we will be working hard to bring you more great guests and interviews. Thank you so much for listening.

View More