I’ve come to realize that whenever I recount stories of things that have happened to me over the years, I’m writing not an autobiography but a biography, because I’m talking about someone I used to know. The events are all true (in case you wondered), but sometimes they seemed to have happened to someone else, and I often feel like a curious onlooker or someone trying to remember a dream. The mortal experience of reacquainting yourself with Heavenly Father and His plan nurtures the sneaking realization that you were sent away on a sabbatical, or basic training. There’s always that subterranean awareness that this feels like a temp gig, an experiment in growth, a testing ground, so you better be taking good notes ’cause you can’t turn to your neighbor and ask, “What did He just say?”
The mind boggles when one considers their true spiritual self witnessing and participating with their mortal consciousness. Do our minds sometimes flit for a nanosecond to pre-mortal cognizance, to sit back and consider significant moments? Are there occasions when our unencumbered dreams allow us to access pertinent information our conscious minds can’t process? Do we “step out of the body”? And where the hell is my roach clip?
There was a story that passed around the MTC when I was there and it’s now a staple of Mormon legend. I still have my original copy in my old scriptures:
The following event took place in a ward in Salt Lake City in 1974. It occured during Scarament Meeting and was told to me by a Regional Representative of the twelve, who was in the meeting. A young man, just before leaving on his mission, stood in Sacrament Meeting and bore, in essence, the following testimony. “My Brothers and Sisters, as you know, during the past few weeks I have been awaiting my mission call. During the time I was waiting I had a dream I was in the pre-existence and was awaiting my call to come to earth. I was filled the same excitment and anticipation that I had before I received my mission call. In my dream, I was talking to a friend. He was a very dear friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I’ve never met him in this life. As we talked, a messenger came and gave me a letter. I knew it was my call to go to earth. In great excitment my friend and I opened the letter I gave it to him and asked him to read it aloud. The letter said: You have been called to earth in a special time and to a special land. You will be born into the true church, and you will have the priesthood of God in you home. You will be raised with many advantages and many blessings. You will be born in a land of plenty-a land of freedom. You will go to earth in the United States of America. “My friend and I rejoiced as we read my call. And while we rejoiced, the messenger returned. This time he had a letter for my friend. We knew it was his call to earth. My friend gave me the letter to read aloud. The letter said: You have been called to go to earth in circumstances of poverty and strife. You will not be raised in the true church. Many hardships will attend your life. Your land will be frought with political and social difficulties which will hinder the word of the Lord. You will be born in Costa Rica. We wept, my friend and I as we read his call. And my friend looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “when we are down on earth, you in your choice land and me in Costa Rica, my friend, come and find me.” Then this young missionary, with tears in his own eyes, said, “Brothers and Sisters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica. There is a special sequel to this story. About a year after this Sacrament Meeting, the Bishop to this Ward received a letter form the Missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it, and on the sheet was written in inch-high letter four word: I FOUND MY FRIEND.
(From the Journal of Floyd A. Hill.)
The more I encounter priesthood power and get opportunities to play the Lord’s servant, the more my testimony burns and the more I just get surprised. I treasure those times spiritual witnesses tell me NOT to bless the afflicted that they will recover; when sincere, faithful prayers for something desperately needed sooner than later, are met with delayed responses. I think it might even have the opposite effect on me if we were to just cry “Heal!” on every occasion. In a perverse, subconscious way my adversity feels like a precious gift and when bad things happen I can’t help but feel a whisper of gratitude under all that pain. It’s like I hate what just happened, then why am I perceiving liberation? Like the sweet burn of a workout. If I keep it together, my faith– and Christ’s love– turns my ravaged scar tissue into powerful muscle.
Keeping it together, that’s the key, and I feel the trick to this (perhaps not the only one) is to keep my spiritual life separate from my personal one. In other words, as a representative of the Lord– Melchizedek priesthood holder, home teacher, HPGL, temple-goer, servant to God and to my brothers and sisters– I do all I can; and while there may be harsh personal challenges in my life that beat me down (work, health, finances, family issues)– even hopeless, abysmal tragedies– if I stay focused on the holy duties I came to do, it’ll all come out in the wash– it will. This is a proving ground, a driver’s ed simulator– a holodeck, if you will– programmed to prepare us for greater– and realer– things. Tragedies are lessons, not the end of happiness. Ruination is an opportunity to regroup. Distractions need to be recognized for what they are. We get so wrapped up in minute points of doctrine and history when we should be focusing on what we’re doing on this wandering star in the first place. “…and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Hey, I get sucked in by The Now as much as anyone. Sometimes I forget I get it– like the stage manager who tells the ventriloquist to move the dummy closer to the microphone.
And on that note, I’m sure my spirit’s rolling its eyes at me right about now.