Episode #42: Published December 9, 2019
Stories in this episode: Ken’s professional future is uncertain until a unique series of dreams leads him down the right path; A challenging move to Fiji and a brush with dengue fever leave Craig and his young family desperate for a message from Heaven;. After the death of her colleague’s son, Emily receives a unique message of hope for her grieving coworker.
This episode of This Is The Gospel is sponsored by #LightTheWorld. Receive daily service prompts through texts by texting the word “LIGHT” to the number: 71234 and make sure to visit LightTheWorld.org to watch the new short nativity film "The Christ Child".
Mistaking the source of a dream is not uncommon, and uninspired dreams have often caused mischief for Latter-day Saints. President Charles W. Penrose taught, “From time to time through the whole history of the Church every now and then somebody has started up with a dream or a vision or a revelation of some kind, and endeavored to lead other people away from the straight path.”19
Brigham Young observed that “there are certain keys to prove” that a dream is from the Lord.20 Here are some general guidelines that can be used to determine the source of our dreams:
Living a righteous life can aid us in understanding if a dream is from the Holy Ghost. Dreams are not given to bring someone to faith; rather, spiritual dreams are an addition to a testimony that has already been developed. President Boyd K. Packer said, “[We should not] expect revelation [including through dreams] to replace the spiritual or temporal intelligence we already have received—only to extend it.”21
President Brigham Young explained that in order to distinguish between truth and error and to properly interpret a dream or vision, one must be living a righteous life.22 Information obtained from spiritual dreams can be considered wisdom, knowledge, and hidden treasure. Observing the Word of Wisdom can be an essential key to obtaining knowledge and understanding of one’s dreams. BYU religion professors Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler explain that the Word of Wisdom “is not simply a health law. There would be little purpose in extending someone’s life if it were not replete with light and truth. To avoid cancer, for example, as marvelous as that may be, is not as important as being able to dream dreams, entertain angels, or get answers to your prayers.”23 Those who keep the commandments may receive dreams from the Holy Ghost that can change lives.
A recipient of a dream must have the Holy Ghost’s assistance in order to determine the source of a dream. Heavenly messengers have the power to make impressions upon the mind during our sleep to convey important messages.24 In order to understand those messages, there are certain requirements of worthiness. Simple questions can be asked by those who receive such impressions to ascertain whether the source is the Holy Ghost. An experience President Harold B. Lee had as a stake president can be applied to those who purport having received a spiritual dream. A man in President Lee’s stake had been excommunicated for immorality. This man’s brother came to President Lee and proclaimed, “‘I want to tell you that my brother wasn’t guilty of what you charged him with.’” President Lee replied,
“‘Would you mind if I ask you a few personal questions?’
“He said, ‘Certainly not.’
“‘How old are you?’
“‘What priesthood do you hold?’
“He said that he thought that he was a teacher.
“‘Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?’
“‘Well, no.’ He used tobacco, which was obvious.
“‘Do you pay your tithing?’
“He said, ‘No’—and he didn’t intend to as long as that blankety-blank-blank man was the bishop of the Thirty-Second ward.
“[President Lee] said, ‘Do you attend your priesthood meetings?’
“He replied, ‘No, sir!’ and he didn’t intend to as long as that man was bishop.
‘“You don’t attend your sacrament meetings either?’
“‘Do you have your family prayers?’ and he said no.
“‘Do you study the scriptures?’ He said well, his eyes were bad, and he couldn’t read very much.”
President Lee then explained:
“In my home I have a beautiful instrument called a radio. When everything is in good working order we can dial it to a certain station and pick up the voice of a speaker or a singer. . . . But after we have used it for a long time, the little delicate instruments . . . begin to wear out. When one of them wears out, we may get some static. . . . Another wears out, and if we don’t give it attention, the sound may fade in and out. And if another one wears out—well, the radio may sit there looking quite like it did before, but because of what has happened on the inside, we can hear nothing.
“Now, . . . you and I have within our souls something like . . . a counterpart of those radio tubes. We might have . . . a ‘go-to-sacrament-meeting’ tube, a ‘keep-the-Word-of-Wisdom’ tube, a ‘pay-your-tithing’ tube, a ‘have-your-family-prayers’ tube, a ‘read-the-scriptures’ tube, and . . . the master tube of our whole soul . . . the ‘keep-yourselves-morally-clean’ tube. If one of these becomes worn out by disuse or inactivity—if we fail to keep the commandments of God—it has the same effect upon our spiritual selves that a worn-out tube has in a radio.
“Now, then, . . . fifteen of the best-living men in the Pioneer Stake prayed last night. They heard the evidence and every man was united in saying that your brother was guilty. Now you, who do none of these things, you say you prayed and got an opposite answer. How would you explain that?”
The man replied, “‘Well, President Lee, I think that I must have gotten my answer from the wrong source.’”25
Those who do not keep commandments they have covenanted to obey do not typically receive inspired revelation.
In addition to being worthy, a dreamer must possess faith in order to understand messages conveyed by the Holy Ghost. Although the Holy Ghost may give an inspired dream to an unworthy recipient, that person may not adhere to the dream. Dreams themselves do not convert. If a dreamer has not previously secured a testimony or does not act on the dream’s information to cultivate the Spirit, the dream’s message may be null and void. President Wilford Woodruff explained, “There are a great many things taught us in dreams that are true, and if a man has the Spirit of God he can tell the difference between what is from the Lord and what is not. . . . Whenever you have a dream that you feel is from the Lord, pay attention to it.”26 Dreams do not produce faith; instead, they act as a catalyst for men and women to take the necessary steps in prayer to obtain a witness of the gospel’s truthfulness.
Another way to tell if a dream is from a divine source regards our ability to understand the message we have been given. To receive the interpretation of a dream or to understand a dream, our motives must be pure. President Henry B. Eyring further explained, “If you want to receive the gifts of the Spirit, you have to want them for the right reasons. Your purposes must be the Lord’s purposes. To the degree your motives are selfish, you will find it difficult to receive those gifts of the Spirit that have been promised to you. That fact serves both as a warning and as helpful instruction. . . . God is offended when we seek the gifts of the Spirit for our own purposes rather than for His.”27
Dreams that come from the Holy Ghost will not be about trivial matters, such as what shirt to buy, what dress to wear, or what cereal to eat for breakfast. Such unimportant issues are not within the framework of the Spirit’s communication. In Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–27, we are told that the Lord simply does not care when suitable alternatives are acceptable. President Boyd K. Packer instructs, “We are expected to use the light and knowledge we already possess to work out our lives.”28 President Dallin H. Oaks affirms, “I suggest that there is not a right and a wrong to every question. To many questions, there are only two wrong answers or two right answers. . . . I believe the Lord expects us to use the intelligence and experience he has given us to make these kinds of choices.”29 When we can make up our own minds on matters of inconsequence, the Lord will not send a dream to instruct us.
On the other hand, President Boyd K. Packer observed, “Some answers will come from reading the scriptures, some from hearing speakers. And, occasionally, when it is important, some will come by very direct and powerful inspiration.”30 A dream is a very direct and powerful form of inspiration; therefore, dreams that come from the Holy Ghost usually deal with important events and have purpose. A faithful man or woman may have dreams about what he is involved with in his daily life. President Brigham Young instructed:
“The Lord will not condemn any man for following counsel, and keeping the commandments; and a faithful man will have dreams about the work he is engaged in. If he is engaged in building the Temple, he will dream about it; and if in preaching he will dream about that, and not, when he is laboring on the temple, dream that it is his duty to run off preaching, and leave his family to starve; such dreams are not of God.”31
One of the reasons that dreams are hard to identify as revelation is because many dreams only apply to a specific time or situation.32
For a dream to be revelation, its message must be in agreement with commandments the Lord has already revealed. The Lord will never give a dream whose message goes against His commandments. As President Boyd K. Packer explained, not all dreams come from God: “The evil one has the power to tap into those channels of revelation and send conflicting signals which can mislead and confuse us. There are promptings [including dreams] from evil sources which are so carefully counterfeited as to deceive even the very elect.”33 One safeguard against such deception is to remember that our Father in Heaven will never give us a dream that will go against counsel given by His prophets. In Deuteronomy 13:3–4 the Lord instructs: “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”
A dream will not contradict gospel principles, church programs, or procedures that have been established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. President Thomas S. Monson gives us questions we can ask to determine whether any type of revelation is from God. We might ask ourselves these questions about our dreams:
1. Is the dream contrary to instructions from a living Prophet?
2. Is there anything secret?
3. Does it bring harmony and peace of mind?
4. Does it square with the scriptures?
5. What have you done yourself to ask of the Lord?
6. Are you keeping the commandments?34
By answering these questions affirmatively, we can know by the Spirit whether the information given in a dream aligns with the Spirit.
President Charles W. Penrose told of a visit from a woman who was a great believer in dreams. She asked him to interpret a dream, and President Penrose’s first question was, “‘Sister, what did you have for supper last night?’” She answered, “‘I had some fried pork and onions.’ ‘Well,’ [he] said, ‘that is the interpretation.’” President Penrose went on to explain:
“I do not want you to infer from this that when the Lord gives a dream to anybody, or persons dream something which is enlightening to their souls and comforting to their hearts and seems to be clear and plain, I wish to attribute that to anything else but what they think it is; but I do say and repeat, that nothing is to be received in this Church by way of direction and commandment, outside of the order which God has established in his Church, and which is most wise and beneficent and beneficial. Follow the counsel and advice and commandment revealed through the head of the Church to the Church and we will not go wrong.”35
When considering the messages we receive through dreaming, we would be wise to follow the counsel President James E. Faust of the First Presidency gave about voices that are contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. If a dream does any of the following, we can be assured that it did not come from the Lord:
• Requires the dreamer to conjure up perceived injustices or abhor challenge and work.
• Offers sensual enticements.
• Lulls the sleeper into carnal security.
• Professes sophistication or superiority.
• Encourages the dreamer to rely on the arm of flesh.
• Puffs the dreamer up with pride.
• Destroys hope.
• Promotes pleasure seeking.
• Tempts the dreamer to spend money for things that are not of worth.
• Encourages the dreamer to labor for that which cannot satisfy.36
Even if a dream seems logical or has merit, if it goes against what is already established by prophets, seers, and revelators, a Latter-day Saint may be sure it is not from God. In 1913, the First Presidency stated:
“Be not led by any spirit or influence that discredits established authority and contradicts true scientific principles and discoveries, or leads away from the direct revelations of God for the government of the Church. The Holy Ghost does not contradict its own revealings. Truth is always harmonious with itself. Piety is often the cloak of error. The counsels of the Lord through the channel he has appointed will be followed with safety, therefore, O! ye Latter-day Saints, profit by these words of warning.”37
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.
Ken enlisted in the ROTC while attending BYU for his undergraduate degree.
Ken with his family while serving in Germany.
Ken and fellow faculty members at a National Defense University graduation.
Ken (left) Mary Jane Woodger (middle) and Craig K. Manscill (right) at BYU. All three are authors of the book Dreams As Revelation.
Craig with his three small children in Fiji. Craig and his family moved to Fiji after Craig was offered a job teaching English.
While in Fiji, livestock was often "on the hoof" or not yet butchered as Craig and his family soon found out after their move.
While struggling to adjust to the move to a new country, Craig had a dream that helped give him and his family the motivation to stay.
KaRyn Lay 0:05
Welcome to "This Is the Gospel," an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay and if you can't tell, I have a cold. But don't worry, you can catch it through the podcast so I think we're safe. And I hope you can still understand me. I'm not exactly sure where I got the dream book, probably in the discount section of Barnes and Noble where I got almost all of the books that were not textbooks in college. Or maybe it was a gift. But wherever it came from, it was a hit at parties. Someone would just mention the word dream in casual conversation and I'd immediately run to the shelves and come back armed with this book that was somewhere between a dictionary and a comic book. I think it was even called "The Dictionary of Dreams." So anyway, I'd have the person tell me all the specifics of their dream, every little detail, and then I would look up every symbol so that we could try to interpret the dream together. Did you dream your teeth were falling out? Well, according to the book on page 72, you are feeling insecure about some aspect of your life. There was a chicken in your dream? Page 193 says that something new and exciting is coming around the corner. Abraham Lincoln showed up fighting vampires in your last dream? You have a strong and honest character, or you don't and you need to clean something up. Like I said, hours and hours of party fun. Now I know what you're thinking, "Wow, I really want to come to one of KaRyn's riveting parties." But maybe you're thinking, "That's a load of psychobabble," as my dad would call it. And I have to agree on some level. As hokey as all of this dream stuff might sound, there is definitely precedent for dreams and their interpretation making an appearance as an important tool for revelation of truth. Lehi's dream ring any bells? Well, today we've got three stories about the way God sometimes uses our dreams to talk with us as we navigate our way through discipleship.
Our first story comes from Ken, whose experience with two revelatory dreams in his life helped to guide him in his career in two very different directions. Here's Ken.
Ken Alford 2:13
In the fall of 1978, I was wearing an ROTC uniform to the first day of class at Brigham Young University. It was a political science class, I still remember the classroom. And just as the class was ready to begin, we had no professor in the room. And the professor came running into class just seconds before the class began, had a big stack of books, dropped it on the desk, and we all expected he was going to begin class. Instead, he looked around the room, he zeroed in on my army cadet uniform and ran up to my desk and said, "It's just so good to see a uniform."
And so I said, "Well, why would you say that?"
And he said, "Well, I just retired, after 30 years, serving the country in the United States Army and now I'm a professor here at BYU."
And so I asked what was probably the dumbest question I could have asked. I said, "You can do that?" Well, obviously you could do that because he had done it. But he was very patient. He said, "Yes, I, I just retired just a week or two ago. And now I'm teaching here." And in the back of my head, I could hear the spirit say, "If you do it right, you can do this too." And that day in 1978, the seed was planted to come back and be a faculty member at Brigham Young University. So after that experience in that classroom, I finished my senior year, along the way got engaged to the cutest girl at the school, and she became my wife. That actually was quite a week. On Thursday, graduation week, I was commissioned in the army by my father. The following day, I graduated from Brigham Young University. Then five days later, I married my sweetheart over the altar in the Salt Lake temple. And then the following day, we left for Fort Harrison in Indianapolis and that began kind of a whirlwind experience in the army.
I had a very unusual military career. I never served in a division. I had the opportunity in my career to do lots of educational things. First, the army sent me for a master's degree. And then I taught computer science at West Point for four years. And then I had the opportunity after working in the Pentagon, to reapply to West Point and I was selected again, this time for a Ph.D. in computer science. And then I went back to West Point for four years. But while I was doing my Ph.D. program, I was kind of, quite frankly, a fish out of water because I had a political science background as an undergraduate. I had a Master's at that point, but I hadn't done anything really advanced in computer science. My Ph.D. dissertation was on large scale databases, and they had given me three years to finish what's—the average in our program was four and a half to five years—and they gave me the loving advice "Be dead or be done." And I decided I would rather be done than be dead so I was going to finish in three years. But what that meant was that you had to do your dissertation research in a very compressed manner. And at that time, large-scale database search engines, Google was brand new, they were on the cusp of what was happening and we were all trying to figure this out together. And so I reached a point in my research where I was kind of stuck. Because in the sciences and computer science included, you have to advance the field in order to get your Ph.D. You just can't report what others have done. I went up to talk to research lab personnel and other Ph.D.'s and they said, "Yeah, you're kind of stuck." And what happened was in December in January of 1999, and then into the winter of 2000, over a period of about three weeks, I had the most amazing experience. I would dream—it wasn't every night but it was most nights—I would dream the next portion of my research and my dissertation. And I would wake up in the morning and it had been handed to me. And I would get up and write it down and it would work!
One of the problems that I had was trying to figure out how to load quickly such large amounts of data. And the answer just came in a dream and I did it and it worked and it ran in just a fraction of the time of what I'd been doing. And it's cut weeks off my research, and it came from a dream. Other times, I would wake up and I knew exactly what to write, I knew exactly how to approach the problem. And it was just day after day after day, and it got to the point where it was exciting to go to bed because I couldn't wait to see what the next part of my dissertation was going to be. And then, as soon as I reached the point where I was kind of over the hurdle and now just needed to write it up, it stopped. It just stopped. It was just—I don't know what else call it—it was just a tender mercy. But it came at the exact right time, in the exact right amount. If I'd gotten the whole thing in one night, I would have been frustrated, I couldn't have remembered. But it became in just these doses that were perfect to help me finish my Ph.D. And I finished on time and went to West Point and taught as a Ph.D. professor. And I was not dead. The experience I had over that series of weeks, and from my perspective, it was just truly miraculous, it was just a wonderful, wonderful time. And exciting to see what was coming next because I was just sometimes as surprised as anyone else. And I remember my advisory Professor kept saying, "Where'd you get this from?" And I really didn't know how to answer the question. I couldn't say, "Well, I dreamed it last night." But it was one more confirmation kind of along the way that the thought I'd had, the impression I'd received in 1978, that If I do it right, I can return to BYU one day, was just kind of confirmed along the way.
So I was able to finish my Ph.D. on time. And really, quite honestly against all odds as my dissertation chair kept telling me, and then we went to West Point just a few weeks later and began four wonderful years there. Fast forward, in 2006, I went into the kitchen in our home in Virginia, and there was a Michael Buble, a song called "Home." And my wife and I started dancing in the kitchen. And I just turned to her at the end of that song after one of the lines and I said, "It's time." And she said, "It's time." It's time for us to start thinking about what's next. And so that's when we turned and began looking at applying to BYU to see if what had happened in 1978 we could bring it to fruition. Throughout my career, especially in Virginia, Brigham Young University used to send out to recruiters and they would talk about what you have to have to even apply to teach at BYU. And so I went to several of those meetings before I had my masters or before I had my Ph.D., and learned what the requirements were. And so I just kind of made sure I did all of those. I don't know if the folks in the church history and doctrine department had planned on having that requirement filled with a computer science degree who had published on databases and taught at the Military Academy, but it met the requirements of the law. 30 years as a full military career, I was approaching the 30-year mark. And it's a fairly traumatic thing when it's time to leave that military environment. It's similar, in many ways, to the kind of environment that the church provides, people just as wonderful I will say. There was never an opportunity in my entire career where the military ever tried to place me in a position where I had to consider whether or not I would compromise any of our values, or break the word of wisdom or anything else connected with the church. I worked with just a wonderful group of people.
But in the back of my mind, I wanted to pursue the opportunity with Brigham Young University. And so I had applied to teach religion. I had been teaching institute and seminary as a volunteer for over 20 years and wanted to do something different in retirement other than leadership or computer science. And what had happened is I was kind of in a box that I really didn't see the way out of because of timing. Brigham Young University is a wonderful place and has wonderful things. But one of the things it does very slowly is hiring. I've heard them described as glacial. So what was happening is I would not hear from Brigham Young University whether or not I had been hired until the window would have closed for me to submit my retirement papers in time to begin the fall semester at Brigham Young University should I actually be hired. We were trying to decide what to do. It was a matter of our daily prayer, my sweetheart and I were asking the Lord, you know, what's the way forward? What's the way out of this?
So I went to bed, and in the dreams of the night, and it's just as vivid today as when I had the dream—the details of this dream are just so vivid. I found myself viewing a meeting. It was in a small office, there were several individuals seated around a small little table and they were in the process I could see of counting votes. And so I listened in, I recognized two of the people in the room and knew exactly who they were. And they were counting votes and discussing a vote that had just taken place among the faculty. And I soon, very quickly realized that I was watching the hiring meeting where the faculty had voted on whether or not would be selected as the next faculty member. And the votes were tallied. And at the end of the meeting, the department chair said, "Well, then it's agreed. We will send forward Ken Alford's name to fill this position that we're looking for on the faculty." And they went around the room and everyone concurred with that decision. And then the meeting ended.
When I woke up, I recognized that that dream was just different. There was just a spiritual nature about it. And I was just absolutely comfortable that the time was now that I was to go ahead and "drop papers" as the army slang is, that I was to drop my retirement papers and to move forward in faith. Even though I hadn't heard from Brigham Young University yet that I was hired, I had absolutely no fear at all whatsoever. I talked with my wife, I said, here's what happened. She felt very good about it as well. And she said, "Are we going to do it?" I said, "We're going to do it." And about two days later, I turned in my papers and then several weeks later, it was actually about two months later, I got the call from the department chair. He confirmed what I had seen in the dream and I was hired to be a professor in church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, in many ways, against all odds.
From the time we arrived and kind of signed in to the university, it's just felt like home. That was just so wonderful. And then after I arrived at Brigham Young University, several years later, someone just mentioned, just off the cuff, "Oh well I was on the hiring committee at the time you were hired." And it was one of the individuals that I had recognized in my dream. The other individual, I recognized, the department chair at the time, and when I saw the room where the meeting was held, I recognized the room from my dream. I recognize that these revelatory dreams that I'd been blessed with—and they're really a rare event. I'm in my mid-60s and it's happened a couple of times in my total life. But I recognize, I just see them as just tender mercies, just kindness that they came in times when I'd reached a point where I needed outside help. I needed information I didn't have or I needed an understanding that I didn't have. It's just so wonderful and reassuring to know that Heavenly Father knows who I am, He knows what I need, and He's just so willing to help. The revelatory dreams I've shared here that happened with my dissertation, and then also to know that it was okay to go ahead and retire and leave the army at that point. They all, even at the time, they just kind of seemed to fit with the thoughts that have been placed in my head and 1978. It just seemed to be kind of like the next piece and I was just getting a little nudge and it was just really fun to be on the receiving end.
KaRyn Lay 15:15
That was Ken Alford. Ken is one of the authors of a new book called "Dreams As Revelation." And he, along with Craig Mansell, whom we're going to hear from next and Mary Jane Widger have spent years researching and seeking to understand the nature of our dreams from a spiritual perspective. After he was done telling his story, I asked Ken a few questions about how dreams work in real life.
So, Ken, I have this reoccurring dream and it's where I'm in a station wagon. I'm in the front seat, but you know how they used to have those benches in the old station wagon?
Ken Alford 15:46
That face backward?
KaRyn Lay 15:47
Yeah. So I'm in the front seat, but there's no seat belt and I'm in the middle and there are no pedals. And I can't stop it and it's going over a cliff. So, that's not revelatory, right?
Ken Alford 15:58
I think not.
KaRyn Lay 15:59
Okay, okay, that gives me some peace. Actually, I don't think I've ever had a dream that is revelatory. I think God speaks to me in a totally different way. As the author of this book, you've done tons of research about dreams as a revelatory tool. What would you say to someone like me who's never had a dream that we can count as revelation?
Ken Alford 16:19
While researching this book, we learned very quickly that revelatory dreams are the exception and not the rule. And not everyone has them and that's okay. God speaks to us each individually in many different ways. And some people seem to be more prone to these, that God can speak to them this way. Other people have other ways of receiving information from the Holy Ghost. And it's an individual matter and there's nothing wrong with anyone if they haven't had these. And in fact, quite frankly, those who do have them, when they look at it objectively they're very rare. This is a very rare event over the course of your life.
KaRyn Lay 16:58
Yeah, because you said you'd had them a couple of times—smaller ones—before that dissertation "Bonanza," I don't know what else to call it. And then the big dream that helped you to know to "drop your papers" before you knew what was coming next.
Ken Alford 17:15
Very briefly, it's kinda like this. We think of the Apostle Paul as a visionary man and we talked about Paul's visions, the road to Damascus. But when you look at Paul's life, it is a very rare event, even in someone who is considered a visionary. Or Joseph Smith, we consider him as being so visionary, but if you look, most days are not attended by angels, most days are not accompanied by visions. And it's absolutely the same situation for even people that do experience occasional revelatory dreams. They are a rare and unique and wonderful opportunity, but they are not the only way God surely communicates with man.
KaRyn Lay 17:54
So what would your advice be to somebody who does have one of these dreams?
Ken Alford 17:59
First, I would just caution that you listen to the spirit to see if this is a revelatory dream. Because we don't want to convince ourselves that something that's occurred is something that it's not. It's also important to recognize that revelatory dreams fit within your stewardship. You won't receive dreams to direct others, you won't receive dreams to direct the church, and that this is something sacred from the Lord. And, for example, the dreams about my dissertation, I haven't really shared that much until now. But I felt the time was right to be able to do that.
KaRyn Lay 18:38
So seek counsel from our Father in heaven about how and when you share these things?
Ken Alford 18:42
I would say very much. You need to be comfortable and recognize that there's a time and a place for everything and every place is not the time to share everything.
KaRyn Lay 18:52
And just be grateful.
Ken Alford 18:54
Oh absolutely. Be grateful when it does occur, but be open to all of the ways that the Lord can speak to you.
KaRyn Lay 19:01
Thanks for sharing.
Ken Alford 19:02
KaRyn Lay 19:04
So, friends, there's the good news. Not every dream that you have about vampires and Abraham Lincoln under your bed is a revelation. And one thing that I really appreciate about Ken's book is that it contains some pretty well-researched guidelines that can help you and me as we try to determine whether our dream is revelatory, or just that late-night Philly cheesesteak coming back to haunt us. That actually happens to me. We're going to have an excerpt from that part of the book in our show notes because we all need a little bit of help figuring out what's real.
Another thing that I, as a storyteller, really love about this book is that it's essentially a collection of stories written down from church history, from Joseph Smith to modern-day prophets and apostles and visionary women, covering all the many ways that those dreams can appear. The dreams in their purposes and the stories are as varied as the people who experienced them. For instance, some dreams are warning dreams and some dreams are teaching dreams. Some are guiding like they were for Ken and some, like the one in the story we're about to hear from Craig, they just help us to know that we're exactly where we should be doing exactly what we should be doing.
Not all dreams are revelatory, but some are. We have Lehi's, and that dream led his family out of Jerusalem into the wilderness.
I had been led out of Ogden, Utah, into the wilderness and life was tough.
I grew up in the Ogden area, and I come from a small family farming community called Farr West. I worked on a 250 cow dairy herd all my life. I knew what hard work meant. I love the mountains. I love to be, you know, around my family, that was everything to me. Soon after my mission, once faced with the decision of a career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I love to see what the teacher does in the classroom and how ideas change people's lives. And coming off a mission, I wanted to teach religion. So if I could teach Latter-day Saint doctrines, concepts in history, I would love that. And I would love to be able to work with the youth of the church. And so I was fortunate enough to be hired at seminaries and institutes. I began teaching in the Ogden area, and I was now living my dream. I met the sweetheart of my dreams and we married, we had had two children, we were teaching seminary, life was grand. And then a phone call came.
Administrators from seminaries and institutes, we appreciate all this and, and then he says, "Craig, we have a new assignment for you if you choose to receive it."
I go, "A new assignment? I've only been in my assignment here for just six months and now you would like me to change it?
He says, "Yes. We need someone to teach English as a second language in Suva, Fiji and we need to know the answer within 24 hours." I decided whatever the Lord asked me to do—discipleship was very important in my life—and the Lord's hand would be in it. Others were inspired, we took time to pray about it, talk to our parents, they all said, "Don't go." And I turned to my wife and I said, "The hand of the Lord is in this. We are to go."
And she says, "I'll support you." And we call them back and in two months, we found herself as Suva, Fiji. Now our administrators might have known how much of a cultural shock this was going to be because they gave us a round trip airfare, meaning we could come home if this wasn't going to work out. My wife, Jana, had never lived outside of the United States, let alone hardly Utah. And while I served a mission and traveled a little bit, this was new to her and she was very homesick. And so she was suffering from a lot of things, trying to deal with the language, trying to figure out how to, you know, make meals in a different culture. She would have to take a bus downtown to the open market area, and she would have to learn a different money system, different kinds of vegetables she's looking at, and the meat was on the hoof, or it was live. And I remember she said to me I'm going to bring home dinner."
I said, "Great. What's that going to be?"
She says, "Chicken." She says, "And oh, by the way, the chicken will be live. You're gonna have to kill it."
And I go, "Okay, yeah."
She said, "You grew up on a farm, you'll know what to do about that."
I go, "Yeah, but my dad's not here to show me what to do." And the truth of the matter is, is what happened is the chicken got loose on the bus and was sort of flying around. A Fijian lady grabs the chicken by the neck, and ringed it and killed it right on the bus. And she came home and the chicken was dead. And she says, "I'm sorry the chicken lost its life on the bus." And that was our first experience having our meal. And I plucked the chicken, cleaned the chicken and we had chicken.
It wasn't long after when we were there, we all came down with a fever. We learned that was called Dengue fever, which is a mild form of malaria. We suffered through that. Our two children were suffering with heat rash because it was so hot. We were sweating profusely and the humanity was high, I mean, we were just going through all of this. We began to question, "Oh my gosh, what have we gotten ourselves into? We have no friends other than the new people we'd just been introduced to up at LDS Technical College—which is the school I was now asked to teach at. They call it a college, but it really is a high school. And it had forums 3, 4, 5, and six. I was called in to teach forms four and five. And my job was to be able to help the students successfully pass the British system school cert exams. If you don't pass the exam, you cannot go on to form five, which is the pre-course to go to a university. And both math and science and English, all those courses at the school were failing and the students were not being able to move forward to the university. And the church went out on a limb and built this school and Fiji, primarily for its members, so that they could further their education of their young people, the dreams of their parents. And what the school has become nicknamed was "The low down school." Low down because they're so low on their scores, they'll never get their students into university. So the church took action and brought three "pelongis," three of us white folks into this multicultural, diverse situation to bring the scores up. And I was then, teaching English as a second language, something I had really never been trained to do. And so that added to the stress and the difficulty of making the adjustment. My biggest fear was whether I would succeed because if you don't have 80% or above, you have failed and mom and dad will take them out and just put them on the plantation. And their life is pretty much you know, that's what it's going to be the rest of their life.
So there I was, day in day out, I was working through what I was doing with my work. I needed something. I needed some answer, that this was the Lord's well for me. And I prayed about that, I fasted about that and I received my answer. It was in the form of a dream.
I remember, the dream is if it was yesterday, it never leaves my mind. I was in my very classroom, in the building that I teach at. I remember I was teaching. But as I was teaching, my students started looking and pointing, and they could see something behind me that I couldn't see. And I turned around and there was someone standing in the air, and he was dressed in white and immense light. And no words were spoken and I could see his feet, and I could see the wounds hit his feet.
Now at that point, everything in the classroom had just dissolved. The students who were there, they weren't part of the dream anymore. But I remember seeing His feet and I bathed His feet in my tears. And I held them close. And I recall, He lifted me up to Him. And He then encircled me in His arms, His ever-loving arms, and He pulled me close. And He said to me, you can do this.
And I woke up. I woke up at that point, I sat straight up in bed. I thought I was going to be in the presence of the Savior when I woke up. And then I clearly understood it was a dream. I left our bedchamber and walked over into our of the room. I sat there, just stunned what had happened. And I knew that this was different, a different experience than I had ever had before, my first experience of a revelatory dream.
I could not journal it for the longest time. I couldn't bear to write it down in words because it was so sacred to me. And I was filled with this love that He had—my Savior—had shared with me. I was filled with this love that overcame all the obstacles that we had felt. I soon realized that I had transcended the pain and the obstacles that were still in front of us. But my wife had not because she was still suffering and I had now come above that suffering and could understand. She had noticed that something had happened to me. And I finally realized I must tell her about this dream. And so I sat her down and I shared it with her. And I said Jesus said, "We can do this." We can do this. And she says, "I knew something had happened to you. You've changed over the last couple of weeks." She says, "That makes all the difference to me, because if you can do this, then I can too." And it changed our life forever. We stayed three years. And what happened after the students had their exams, they went from the low 50-60 percentile that year, to 86%. And the following year 91%. And then the third year, they were up into the 94 percentile. We won the spelling bees and we won the drama events, we had the best yearbook competition. Every different way we could find to make English live in the lives of the students through lots of curricular activities with them. And it happened for science and for math and for English. When we left, they've never had to bring in a plunge again. And they've continued on and to this day, for 40 years. And from that experience in Fiji, every time the phone call comes, and they have come several of them. Jana, we've got another phone call. And she says, "Where are they asking us to go?" And I will tell her and she says, "Are we going to go?" I said, "We're going to go."
It comes back to the dream. You can do this. Not just Fiji, but it meant anything the Lord would ask me to do. I learned that God knew my thoughts and the intents of my heart that I wanted to be a disciple. But it was hard at that time. He knew my thoughts. I believe the Lord knew how to succor me and how to give me that answer. And for me, it was in a dream.
KaRyn Lay 33:50
That was Craig Mansell, one of the three authors of "Dreams As Revelation." That moment in Craig's dream when the Savior encircled him, is such a beautiful image. It makes me wish that I could remember a dream that I've had at some point in my life. I love to think that Heavenly Father can and does sometimes use our dreams just to comfort us, and in the process reveals something about ourselves that can help us move forward. For Craig and Jana, his wife, it was that reminder that our strength and sustaining power to complete our missions and callings here on Earth, doesn't have to come from us. Because when we are yoked with the Savior, embraced by him, we move together, and we have access to his power. And we can have hope in that kind of success so that when the phone rings next time, we're ready to heed the call and head wherever we're asked to go. Our final story comes from Emily who learned that while we can't receive revelation for another person, sometimes God does use our dreams to help us minister to one another.
When I came back to work full time, the man in the cubicle next to me became a really good friend. He had been hired by the same man who hired me. He was a mutual friend of ours who had died of cancer some years previous. And this colleague of mine had spoken at his funeral and we just were really close and had a great relationship. This colleague had a son, his only son, who had been introduced to drugs in elementary school and struggled with them for years and years. And finally, as parents they had to make him leave the home and have him try to figure out on his own what to do with his life. And he was figuring it out and had actually come home as an adult and was working on putting his life back together and making really good progress. So you can imagine how shocked they were when one day the sheriff showed up at their door and said that their son had died of an accidental drug overdose.
It was a terrible, terribly sad turn of affairs and my friend was devastated and sad, but faithful. And he spoke at his son's funeral, which I thought was incredibly courageous. When you're in that much pain and have that much grief, I just, I can't imagine having the strength to be able to speak at that funeral. But he wanted to tell his son's story. He wanted to be sure that people understood the whole picture, and how he knew that his son had been doing his best to return to the light.
So some months after the funeral, one night, I had a very vivid dream in which I dreamed of this young man who had died. The son of my colleague and it was really strange because I didn't ever meet him. I didn't know him at all, and I'm not even sure I knew what he looked like. But in my dream, I knew that that was who it was. And while I was watching him, a man came and put his arm around him and started walking with him and was sitting down with him, and clearly talking with him and working with him. And it was clear again to me that this man who was doing this was our mutual friend who had passed away, the man who had hired us. That it was that friend who was now working with my colleague's son on the other side of the veil. It's so interesting to think about how I recognized that it was our mutual friend who was helping this boy. I'm not even sure that I knew it from looking at him, although, you know, he was very familiar to me, of course, his face would have been very familiar to me. But it was almost more a feeling that I had, and it made so much sense to me, that it would be him because that was the kind of person that he was, that was the kind of friend he was. And I know he would have done anything he could have for my colleague. If he'd been here he would have. And so it made sense that he would continue to feel that way on the other side of the veil.
When I woke up from that dream, I felt so calm and clear. And it was so clear in my mind that what I had experienced a certainty about what I had seen, and a clarity of detail in that whole interaction. I didn't hear anything that was said, I'm not even conscious of there having been sound, just of being an observer of this interaction going on. But I do remember feeling an urgency to capture that while it was clear in my mind, so I could share it. The next day, I wrote a letter to my colleague who had since retired. When I thought about sharing the dream with my friend, my first thought was, "That's a little presumptious." Like "Who am I to be getting a dream for you?" Which is why when I wrote to him, I tried very hard to make it clear, "I don't know why but I just want you to know this is what happened." So a little nervous, just because it seemed unfair, in a way, that it should be me and not him that would get the dream. And I said, "I don't know why I was given this dream and not you. It seems very strange to me because I don't have any skin in the game. There's no reason for this to have come to me, except that I think Heavenly Father knew I would tell you about it, I would share it with you and that maybe it would mean more to you, or might be easier for you to believe it, if it came to somebody who just didn't really have a stake in this. Maybe you would have thought it was wishful-thinking if it had come to you, but I want you to know that this is what I dreamed, and this is what I saw. And I feel certain that our friend is taking care of your son on the other side." Just another really interesting message that people who cared about us here, continue to care about us. That we have people who have been in our lives who really are a lasting part of our eternal lives and our eternal progression. I have wondered why Heavenly Father gave me that dream. The more I have thought about it over the years, the more layers I uncover about what it really means to me and what I've learned from it. And it was a really rare occurrence. It's not a way that the Lord typically speaks to me. And I think part of it is because he knew that I had the kind of friendship with my colleague that I would share it with him. And then I would actually write it and share it in a form that he would keep that is sort of my form of communication is writing so that he knew it would be a record for my friend. It makes me want to listen to my friends more. Someone says, "I've been thinking about you," or some of those kinds of things, it makes me want to listen more to my own feelings. I've been thinking about somebody, I should tell them, I better let them know that means something. I don't always get it that clearly, as clearly as it came in that dream. Not that I think you should get revelation for other people or should plan on doing it, because I don't believe that but sometimes I just think He's just generous in that way. But it was a good reminder that the Lord really does want to communicate with me and with his children, all his children. It really helps me to know that there are things that I can learn that are specific for my development or for the help of people that I love, that the Lord really wants to help us and He'll do it through whatever avenue will get us the help that we need.
KaRyn Lay 43:02
That was Emily.
I love that Emily's experience with this dream was a personal call to action. It would have been really easy for her to brush it off, or even share that one time and call it good. She didn't. And as a friend of Emily's, I can attest to the fact that she often sends the scripture, the note, the poem at just the right moment. And that is the beauty of our relationship with revelatory experiences and ministering. They're meant to open a connection between our earthly existence and our heavenly one, to unite our spirits and our bodies for a brief moment so that we can be different forever. And so I take two lessons from Emily's story. First, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to write it down. And second, to be the kind of disciple God can trust to let the dream or the prompting or the ministering assignment, change me.
While I've never had anything more than anxiety dreams, like the one I mentioned to Ken. Our producer, Sarah, has had so many symbolic and revelatory dreams. In fact, she even shared one with us in Episode 12 of this podcast. It's the episode called "Love Is What Brings Us Together Today." So of course, I had to ask her thoughts on this theme. And first of all, she echoed what each of the storytellers says about the dreams that they've had that have revealed something. They said, "This dream felt different. Other dreams are mostly nonsense, but for some reason, this one felt special, and I knew it immediately." Sarah also shared this thought, "In our dreams, we are sort of uninhibited. We're free from some of the constructs and constraints of real life, like the laws of physics or the passage of time. But also, we're not always free from some of the social constructs or the limits that we put on our thinking. And I think that juxtaposition of the freedom of physical law and the ways that we're still tied to the earth, I think that's kind of where the rubber hits the road. The contrast opens us up to seeing our world in new ways or learning something that we didn't expect to. Messages can come through with different clarity because we're in a different kind of world. I personally love that idea that God can use this unique revelatory tool to cut through some of what I often call 'Earth dust.' 'Earth dust' is that feeling that settles on us little by little that lulls us into thinking that the ways of the world are the ways of God, or that who we are here right now is all we'll ever be. That earth dust can be so subtle and so insidious, and really detrimental to our spiritual growth. I can't help but think what a gift it is to have a dream, a moment of otherworldliness and connection with our heavenly parents through revelation. Which by the way, the word revelation comes from the Latin, 'to unveil to uncover or lay bare.' Through revelation, however it comes to us, we are laid bare as true children of God in those moments and we see ourselves, and our true nature as problem solvers, creators, teachers, just as Ken did. Or we see ourselves as worthy, capable and embraced by Christ as Craig did. And we see ourselves as true friends and trusted allies in the work of ministring as Emily did. Every one of those revelatory moments helps us to be better able to move forward in our discipleship, despite the inevitable accumulation of more and more Earth dust. Revelation is a clearing off, a starting over. Whether your moments of heavenly connection and uncovering come through dreams or one of the myriad other ways God uses spiritual gifts to communicate with us, what we can absolutely trust is that He is doing everything He can to reveal us and our true nature to ourselves so that we can win, so that we can come home to Him.
That's it for this episode of "This Is The Gospel." Thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for putting up with my winter voice. And thank you to Ken, Craig, and Emily for sharing their stories and their faith. We'd also like to offer a special thanks to Dr. Mary Jane Woodger for helping us to make this episode happen. If you want more stories about dreams and revelation, well, you definitely need to check out the show notes at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. We'll have a link to "Dreams As Revelation," as well as an excerpt about the different guiding principles that can help you determine if your dreams are a revelation, or indigestion.
We really appreciate those of you who've taken the time to leave a review on iTunes for this podcast. You're probably sick of me asking but, hey, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I know that if we don't ask, we don't receive. So if you haven't already told us in a review how you feel about our stories about the podcast, please take a minute to do that. It really does help more people find the show. All of our stories are true and accurate as a firm by our storytellers. If you have a great story about your experience living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, well we want to hear from you on the pitch line. Leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179 and you can find out what themes we're working on right now by following us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. This episode was produced by Sarah Blake with story producing and editing by me, KaRyn Lay, Katie Lambert, and Kelly Campbell. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at LDSliving.com/podcast. Have a great week.