After writing two days ago about the importance of firsthand spiritual knowledge, and after writing yesterday about the role of prophets in helping us to grow closer to God, I was thinking today about the variety of ways that God sends us messages. Here are some examples:
- Dreams and visions — The Book of Mormon opens with a vision. In the city of Jerusalem, Lehi “saw and heard much” after offering a sincere prayer on behalf of his people (1 Nephi 1:5-14). Later, as the family traveled in the wilderness, Lehi described to his family a dream “or in other words” a vision which he had seen (1 Nephi 8). These were interactive learning experiences in which Lehi was a full participant, not like watching a movie on a screen. When Lehi’s son Nephi wanted to see the same things his father had seen, he experienced a different kind of vision in which an angel showed him multiple scenes and provided explanations of what Nephi was seeing (1 Nephi 11-14). Many years later, we read about a Lamanite woman named Abish, who was converted to the gospel because “of a remarkable vision of her father” (Alma 19:16). We don’t know anything about this vision except that it resulted in her conversion to the gospel.
- Prophets — When the people of King Noah were sinking into greater and greater wickedness, God sent the prophet Abinadi to warn them that they were in danger, and if they didn’t repent they would be destroyed (Mosiah 11:20-29). Instead of taking the message seriously, the people rejected the messenger. Alma the Younger and Samuel the Lamanite both had experiences where their message was rejected but they were told to go back and try again (Alma 8:16, Helaman 13:3). Samuel emphasized to the people how foolish they were to listen only to messages which are easy to hear (Helaman 13:24-29).
- Angels – Sometimes God sends earthly messengers—prophets. Other times, He sends heavenly messengers. But people can be so hardened that they fail to respond even to miraculous messages. Nephi reminded his brothers that they had seen an angel of God who had spoken to them, “but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Nephi 17:45). Similarly, in the years leading to the visit of the Savior, the people experienced so many miracles that they “began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven” (3 Nephi 2:1).
- Friends and family members — The sons of King Mosiah asked their father for permission to preach the gospel among their enemies, the Lamanites. He prayed and received a promise that God would protect them during their service (Mosiah 28:7). The king of the Lamanites trusted Mosiah’s son Ammon when he told them that the believers should immigrate to the land of Zarahemla (Alma 27:12). Jared asked his brother to pray for guidance on behalf of the family at the tower of Babel (Ether 1:34). Sometimes, we receive messages from God through people we know who are close to Him.
- The scriptures — The written words of ancient prophets contain messages that are relevant to us. Nephi enthusiastically shared the words of Isaiah with his brothers, not for their historical significance but for their current applicability: “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning,” he said (1 Nephi 19:23). Abinadi rebuked the priests of King Noah, who had studied the scriptures but had not “applied [their] hearts to understanding” (Mosiah 12:26-27). Therefore, they had completely missed the messages the Lord was trying to give them.
- Our daily experiences — King Benjamin reminded his people that God created us and that He continues to “preserve [us] from day to day, by lending [us] breath, that [we] may live and move and do according to [our] own will” (Mosiah 2:21). Alma told Korihor, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). Just because we experience some miracles on a regular basis, and just because we routinely take them for granted, doesn’t make them any less miraculous.
Today, I will be grateful for the many ways God communicates with me. I will remember that my Heavenly Father regularly sends me messages, and that it is my responsibility to recognize them and to be receptive to them. I will remember that His messages may stretch me and require me to change. I will open my heart to accept this guidance, knowing that He loves me perfectly and is helping me become something better than I am today.