Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Don't We Hear about Visions of God and Heavenly Visitations Much Anymore?

I've said this before, both here and elsewhere, but I think it's important to be precise when we talk about visions and visitations.

Visions of God appearing to people are mentioned in our scriptures, but they aren't "commonplace". Seriously, if you want to have an eye-opening experience, read our entire cannon and see how many people record visions of that kind. I think most people would be surprised - and that's in records covering thousands of years and in cultures that didn't have problems accepting visions.

Then there are visitations: Um, there are almost none in our scriptures that aren't phrased in such a way that they absolutely had to be physical visitations and not visions. The brother of Jared?  Sounds like a visitation, but not 100% clear.  Could have been a vision. Moses on Mount Sinai? Worded pretty clearly as a visitation.  Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (the only instance in his mortal life, interestingly)? Yes, definitely worded as a visitation.  Jesus appearing to the Biblical disciples and the Nephites? Absolutely visitations.   and . . . who else? Even Joseph Smith's initial encounter with God is called the "First Vision" - notwithstanding how many member have morphed it into a physical visitation. 

I'd like to have more visions and visitations reported in our day, but I'm realistic enough to believe that such events just don't happen much - when viewed through the lens of our recorded scriptures.

I probably should clarify that last statement:

If we are talking about "visions" only and defining them as broadly as possible, they happen quite regularly still. I know of people who have had visions of some kind or another, and I don't question most of them. I've even had one moment where I might say I had a vision.

There are all kinds of visions, if we are talking about prophecy, "seeing into the future" and/or "pure strokes of intelligence". My own experience was like that - getting a flashing glimpse of what would happen in the Deep South if the people ever could let go of their racist viewpoints - both some members and lots of non-members. It was an amazing experience, and it was "visionary" in a way - but that's not what I meant.

I think those types of visions happen all the time still - but when I say visions and visitations are relatively uncommon in our scriptures, I mean God appearing to someone and/or seeming to visit that person. Those are rare - and if they are rare in our scriptures, in times and cultures where they were accepted relatively easily, I understand why they are even rarer now in our modern, industrial, technological society and culture. 


larryco_ said...

Nice thoughts on the tenuous distinction between a visitation and a vision. I think even Moroni's visit to Joseph is up to interpretation. This happened prior to the Smith's moving into the house that Alvin built, so they were living in a small cabin. I'm sure that there were other Smith boys in the room sleeping with him. One might assume that they would have seen the bright light and heard the voices. While not casting doubt at all on the validity of the event, I have still pondered exactly how it took place and what that says about other communications from God. How many are intrinsic and how many are extrinsic (if those are the right words to use)? I have no idea.

Belle said...

A comment on the deep south...
I'd be interested to hear your about your vision.

I live in the deep south.

I am a minority in my community (I have peach skin and blue eyes). I don't sag my pants. I use correct English (I know how to conjugate my verbs...and I use verbs often). I believe in raising my children in marriage. I don't abuse the welfare system. I don't carry expensive purses while my children eat free lunch at school. I don't let my teens run through the neighborhood with guns (yes, it happens here).

The cultural difference here is so extreme that, in some cases, we view our "neighbors' through very colored glasses. Is that racism? Probably not...but it sure prejudice. Fair skinned-people are afraid to anger dark-skinned people for fear of being sued or called out for racism.

I find that in my area, the majority are really oppressing themselves.

Case in point: A recent city council meeting promised to be a hot bed for a race issue. Before the meeting started, the local "Black Baptist Church" showed up and all sat on one side of the council chambers. Later, the rest of the population wandered in and sat in the only empty seats...on the other side of the room. After the meeting, the pastor of the church was quoted as saying that it was sad that there was such a racial divide in that room and that obviously the south wasn't ready to accept differences.
Nevermind his flock purposely separated themselves from others by their actions.

It's stuff like that that, until it changes, will always cause prejudice. It will always be a source of discontent. :(