36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.
37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.
The miraculous experience described in Helaman 5:21-52 occurred in stages:
- Nephi and his brother Lehi were imprisoned by the Lamanites for many days without food.
- When the Lamanites entered the prison to kill them, Nephi and Lehi appeared to be encircled by a pillar fire, but they were not burned. Because of the fire, the Lamanites didn’t dare to touch them.
- Nephi and Lehi spoke words of reassurance to the Lamanites.
- The ground and the walls of the prison shook.
- The Lamanites were surrounded by a cloud of darkness which filled them with fear.
- Three times they heard a quiet voice. The first two times, the voice warned them not to harm Nephi and Lehi. The third time, it said things that can’t be spoken by a human being.
- The walls and the earth shook again.
- The Lamanites were immobilized by the cloud of darkness.
- One of them turned and saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, shining like the faces of angels. He told the rest of the people to turn and see.
- They asked him what they could do to overcome the cloud of darkness. He told them to cry unto the voice. They did, and the cloud of darkness went away.
- Every one of them was encircled by a pillar of fire, and they were filled with joy.
- They heard the voice again, promising them peace, and they saw and spoke with angels.
What a remarkable experience! Tonight, I’m only going to discuss one small part of this experience, #9 in my list, which is described in the passage above.
At this point, everyone in the prison except Nephi and Lehi were overwhelmed by a cloud of darkness, which filled them with “an awful solemn fear.” One of them “turned him about, and…saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi.” My impression is that, before he turned, he saw nothing. Just darkness. But he made the effort to turn, to look for a glimmer of light. And he found it. He was still surrounded by darkness, but he could tell that Nephi and Lehi were not. He immediately invited his colleagues to turn as well, and they could all see the same glimmer of hope: if Nephi and Lehi were not overcome by this cloud then maybe they could escape too. That observation gave them the confidence to pray for the cloud to be lifted, which led to their deliverance. It all started when one of them turned to look for the light.
What “cloud of darkness” surrounds me? What kinds of circumstances do I encounter which overwhelm me or cause me to lose hope? Sometimes a project I’m working on meets a significant obstacle which looks insurmountable. Sometimes a person I care about seems trapped in patterns of thought or behavior which they seem unable to shake. Sometimes my best efforts to do what is right seem to be unappreciated and even ineffective. When I find myself in any of those circumstances, I’m going to follow the example of this man who “turned him about” looking for light. I will make the effort to look for some glimmer of hope, however faint. When I find it, I will let it give me courage so that I can find the help I need to overcome my own cloud of darkness.
Today, when I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I will “turn and look.” I will make the effort to identify the positive signs which can help me overcome my challenges and achieve success.