Monday, June 6, 2011

I saw a pillar of light...

So I may have snapped at the sisters while I was teaching Relief Society yesterday... Like, snapped my fingers at them...

For the last hour of church in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the men and women split up into different classes to better discuss and learn how we can be (or prepare to be) better husbands and fathers or wives, mothers, serve each other and our neighbors, and otherwise better apply the teachings of Jesus Christ in our everyday lives. The men go to priesthood meeting or Elders' Quorum and the women attend Relief Society.

As can be inferred, my presence in Relief Society was somewhat of an extenuating circumstance. My responsibility in our ward is with the missionary work and so the Relief Society president asked if I would co-teach the lesson yesterday with another sister to help get the sisters excited to share the gospel with their family and friends.

The lesson reached a point where we were discussing testimony and we began to talk about the one of the powerful testimonies of the prophet Joseph Smith. As a fourteen-year-old boy, Joseph Smith prayed out loud for the first time in a grove of trees near his home. In answer to his humble prayer, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, beginning the long-awaited restoration of the fulness of the gospel. This experience is now called the First Vision and the grove where it happened is called the Sacred Grove.

The First Vision account and experience is very important and very sacred to me. I rarely feel the Spirit stronger than when the First Vision is begin discussed or recounted word for word. I know that Joseph Smith did, in fact, see our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. My testimony of every other aspect of the gospel and the Church largely stems from how strongly I feel about that very first vision of Joseph Smith.

In the lesson as I began to recount the words of Joseph Smith, I stumbled over the words and after several attempts realized that I did not remember the First Vision in English. Feeling a bit embarrassed and also disappointed that I could not retell the account from memory, I reached for my scriptures to read the account, knowing that reading the account just does not quite hold the same spirit as having it memorized. In a split-second decision as prompted by the Spirit, I decided to just tell the story in Russian as I could do so without prompts. As I began the account in Russian, many of the sisters began to giggle and without breaking stride I snapped my fingers at them to bring them around and to let them know that was a sacred event and could be a great spiritual experience for all of them. In Russian:

"я увидел прямо у себя над головой столп света ярче солнца, который постепенно спускался, пока не упал на меня... Когда же свет почил на мне, я увидел Двух Лиц, стоявших в воздухе надо мной, чьи блеск и славу невозможно описать. Один из них, обратившись ко мне и назвав меня по имени, сказал, указывая на другого: “Сей есть Сын Мой Возлюбленный. Слушай Его!"

The sisters immediately sobered up and the spirit which filled that room as the testimony of Joseph Smith concluded was palpable. I have no doubt in my mind that each sister felt the incredible strength and presence of the Spirit at that time. It did not matter that what was being said was in a language no one understood; the Spirit testified to all that the experience we were discussing truly did happen. Testimonies were strengthened as the Spirit touched the hearts of those in the class. Indeed, we all experienced and shared a tender mercy of the Lord as He poured out His Spirit upon His daughters and me at that moment in that room.

To those of you who are reading this, please consider the significance of Joseph Smith's first vision in the Sacred Grove. As he knelt and humbly sought the will of God, he received an answer. Said he:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved  Son. Hear Him!

This most sacred and wonderful experience changed the world. Let it change your life.