Posts Tagged ‘Ricks’
This is going to be a little difficult to write because it is both a sacred and a sensitive subject. It is sacred because it involves personal revelation that is intended to be just that – personal. It is sensitive because I know from many years of experience and dialog with other members of the church that not everyone feels the same way or has had the same experiences I have had with the Holy Ghost and in particular, the feeling of the burning of the bosom that I have experienced.
You asked if I thought if everyone can experience or feel the burning of the bosom. I like what Elder Oaks had to say about that: “What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.”
Burning of the bosom
Elder S. Dilworth Young said, “It is a feeling which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace, a further witness that what one heard is right. Once one recognizes this burning, this feeling, this peace, one need never be drawn astray in his daily life or in the guidance he may receive.” Elder Romney taught this many times – that we can make life’s decisions correctly using instructions in D&C 9:8-9.
Elder Packer taught, “This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.” Another apostle said, “As I have traveled throughout the Church, I’ve found relatively few people who have experienced a burning of the bosom. In fact, I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve become frustrated because they have never experienced that feeling even though they have prayed or fasted for long periods of time.”
Some do feel the burning
So, from both personal experience and from what we have been taught by Apostles and Prophets, yes, we can and many do feel the burning of the bosom at various times in their lives. But for many faithful members, and perhaps most, the burning of the bosom is either very rare or non-existent. I guess it all depends on how you describe it or what you expect. If Elder Oaks can say that he has never felt caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion then I accept that.
I guess I am the exception and can say without a doubt that I do often feel a warm sensation in the area of my chest when I am engaged in something that I know pleases the Lord. In contrast, I have felt a cold feeling or absence of warmth in that same general region of my chest many times in my life when I have engaged in actions or even thoughts that offended the spirit. For me it is a very real and discernable sensation that has blessed me throughout my life since I was a youth.
You asked about my experience at Ricks College in regards to receiving an answer to prayer. This was not my first experience with revelation, nor was it the last, but it was one of the most powerful and tangible up to that point in my life. It has also been one of the most memorable and influential spiritual experiences to come upon me even though it occurred over 35 years ago. As I noted, it is sacred, but I do feel it is appropriate to share with you since you have asked.
I was 17 years old at the time. It was in the Fall of 1974. My family joined the Church in 1962 when I was five so I feel that I grew up as a member, attending Primary, Sunday School, MIA and Seminary. However, during my Senior year of High School, there was about a six to eight month period of time that I hung with the wrong kind of friends and did not attend church. In short, I had some repenting to do and felt a strong desire to know my standing before the Lord.
Early in the Fall of 1974, I attended an assembly at Ricks College, now BYU Idaho, in which I distinctly remember President Eyring introducing Elder LeGrand Richards as our devotional speaker. I had heard Elder Richards speak in General Conference before but I had never been in the same meeting with him in which I could feel his spirit and sense his enthusiasm for the gospel. Something in me caused me to sit still and pay careful attention to what he was saying.
As he taught the gospel and bore fervent testimony of the work of the Lord I remember thinking to myself how much I would like to be able to speak with the power, confidence and enthusiasm that he had. A distinct impression came over me, and I attribute this to the whisperings of the spirit, that I could have that same witness that Elder Richards had and that I could teach like that someday if I would pay the price of study, devotion, obedience and especially of intense prayer.
Led by the Lord
As I left the devotional assembly I pondered the message I had felt from the spirit long and hard. Like Joseph said, I reflected upon it again and again. Never had anything penetrated my heart so deeply. I felt drawn to the possibility that I could know what Elder Richards knew and that I could receive it in the way he testified – through humble prayer and revelation from the Lord. I wanted to know what the Lord thought of my efforts to repent thus far in leaving my sins behind.
On Friday, I determined that I was going to put the promise to the test. My roommate was gone for the evening to a dance so I knew I would have a few hours alone to talk to the Lord in prayer. I felt filled with desire as I began my efforts and was impressed that the words flowed so easily. It was clear to me that the spirit was directing my thoughts and helping me to express myself. I am confident that I went on for a solid hour reviewing my life with the Lord as I prayed aloud.
The second hour was not so easy. In fact, it became very difficult to confess my sins of the year that had passed and to have revealed to me the effects my actions had upon myself and on others. Tears flowed as I saw how I had hurt myself and others and again, the spirit impressed me how the Lord felt about my sadness and the misery through which I had passed. I felt no judgment or condemnation, only that the Lord was pained because of my pain and that he wanted to heal me.
Finally, in the third hour, I was in agony as I pled with the Lord to forgive me and to restore to me the innocence and happiness I had once felt before the days of my rebellion. I asked again and again for relief. I wanted to know that I had been forgiven and that I would yet be able to make something of my life in spite of the sin and disobedience of earlier days. I pleaded and begged for a witness or a manifestation of the Lord’s love for me and that I had been forgiven.
Opposition is real
It was towards the end of the third hour that I saw clearly in my mind’s eye the reality of the existence of unclean and evil spirits. As I recalled moments of my sinful behavior, the Lord showed to me that I was not alone, that there were beings from the unseen world participating with me in my sin. I was appalled at the scenes I was recalling and abhorred the fact that the adversary had used me during those moments. My pain was real and I was suffering terribly.
Just as I was about to give up in despair that I would receive no relief from my torment and just as I had about decided that my emotional outpouring of grief and despair were in vain, I realized that something unusual was happening about and within me. I began to sit very still and to pay close attention to what I was feeling or rather sensing. A tangible feeling of peace came over me and a feeling of happiness, almost euphoria entered into my heart and mind. It was powerful!
Warmth filled my being almost from head to toe. I did not see, but I sensed light all around and within me. Now this is the most difficult and personal part to describe of what I experienced. I did not see anything with my eyes. I did not hear anything with my ears. But I knew that I was not alone at that moment. I began to hear words, no, full sentences in my mind and saw myself at some future time in my life, participating in sacred and powerful events related to the gospel.
I cannot adequately describe what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my heart, but I will tell you that I sat transfixed for what seemed like another hour as scene after potential scene of my life was revealed to me. I both saw and heard myself speaking and teaching the gospel with the same kind of confidence that I had seen in Elder Richards earlier in that week. I knew as I was seeing this that it was not guaranteed, but was conditional upon my willingness to prepare for it.
That’s why I say that from then on, everything changed. I knew that I would soon be going on a mission. I knew I would marry in the temple. I knew that I would accept and serve faithfully in many callings over the years. I knew I would serve in a leadership capacity in my local ward and stake. I saw myself doing all these things and especially saw myself teaching and speaking from the pulpit, hearing specific things that I would be saying and teaching. It was amazing to me.
Now, as I said this is personal and sacred. One who is not familiar with the revelatory process could describe this as the frenzies of a deranged mind, brought on by emotional distress over the imagined need to repent for what I considered sins. Anyone can say what they like, but it was real to me and nobody will ever be able to take away this experience that I still hold sacred. The feelings that accompanied this revelatory experience are indescribable but filled me with joy.
Summary and conclusion
Yes, what I experienced that night at Ricks College so long ago was much more than a burning of the bosom. It was a tangible immersion in the spirit. I felt like I was baptized by fire and yet I knew at the same time that I had so much more to do to qualify for a real born again experience. It was the beginning of a long path to realize the dream of being able to teach and speak like I had seen demonstrated to me by an Apostle of the Lord. I still have a long, long ways to go.
Thanks for asking me to share this with you. I think I would like to post it on my blog. I haven’t felt inspired to write much there lately but this experience might do some good for someone else. I hope I have answered your questions about the burning of the bosom and about the reality of the revelatory process. I am a personal witness that it is real. The Lord answers prayer and will give to us what we ask for in faith, if it is something that we need and will be for our good.
When I was a young lad of seventeen, I attended BYU Idaho. No, I’m not from Idaho or even Utah. I was born and raised in California, where I still live. If you have been to Rexburg, Idaho in the dead of winter, you might wonder why anybody would want to leave the Golden State to obtain an education there. What is the attraction of this school in the Snake River valley?
My two oldest sisters are BYU Provo graduates while my brother, two other sisters and I each attended Ricks College, as it was called at the time. My academic experience at Ricks was not particularly stellar, but my parents said that their money was not wasted. I brought something back from Idaho after just one year that was far more valuable than a transcript.
I’m sure there was some anxiety in my mother’s heart as she sent her children off to this church sponsored school so far away. What did she hope we would obtain there? She must have been disappointed that I did not stick it out to the end of the Spring semester, but I did not hear her complain. She sensed that something had changed in me and I think it pleased her greatly.
Seminary and Institute
In my high school days I went to early-morning seminary. Getting up between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning was not my favorite thing to do. But once I was in class, I appreciated the warm and comfortable spirit I felt there. I will be forever grateful to dedicated seminary teachers who sacrificed to teach the gospel and strengthen the testimonies of their young students.
In my later college years I participated in the Institute program. Seminary was an introduction to the basic sacred texts of the church. Institute classes brought in-depth study of the doctrines found in those scriptures. I enjoyed each of the classes I took, but my favorites had to do with church history. I was fascinated by the background story of the Doctrine and Covenants.
But there were some things about church history that I did not find in the official CES texts. I knew about them because my mother was a church history enthusiast. She had owned an LDS bookstore and had filled our house with all kinds of books that added to the official curriculum. Since mother was a teacher, I got more of my church history from her than from the classes.
Religious education in the home
When the subject of polygamy came up in the early morning seminary classes, I wanted to know more. I asked mother about it when I got home. After telling me a few simple facts, she handed me a book and said, “Here, you can read about it yourself.” That’s when I learned about Joseph’s plural wives. I wondered to myself if the seminary teacher even knew about this.
My mother’s attitude toward the whole issue of plural marriage was one of quiet nonchalance, as if it were no big deal and nothing to get all worked up about, so I didn’t. Although mother was a convert, she had studied this and dozens of other controversial subjects out in her own mind. Because she was not bothered by what she discovered in church history, neither was I.
The next time the subject of plural marriage came up in class, I volunteered a few facts that I had learned and was a little surprised by the reaction of the teacher as well as my peers. The teacher was flustered and my classmates were open-mouthed in surprise. It was obvious that I had said something that they didn’t know and had never heard before. I got quiet real quick.
A mother’s loving instruction
The same thing happened when the subject of translating the Book of Mormon came up. When I asked mother about the Urim and Thummim, we discussed it and then she mentioned that Joseph also used seer stones or peep stones as they were called. She could see I was interested so once again, she handed me a book and said, “Here, tell me about what you find out.”
Do you see the pattern? Mother would not overload me with information. She just answered a few basic questions at my level and then invited me to learn more on my own. I could tell that she knew more than she was sharing. As soon as I got to her level through independent study, we were able to discuss it openly and freely. Sometimes we reached the limit of her knowledge.
When that happened, mother would say, “That’s all I know about it but I’m sure there’s more. Why don’t you take it to the Lord in prayer?” Now this didn’t happen very often and at that point in my life I didn’t really understand what mother was talking about so I didn’t pursue it. I’m sure it frustrated mother and contributed to her desire to have me go to Rick’s College.
My church school experience
Of course it is mandatory to take religion classes at church schools like BYU and Ricks. I didn’t mind. In fact, my Book of Mormon class from Keith Sellers (1966-1995; B.S., M.S., Ed.D., BYU, 1959, 1962, 1965) precipitated some of the most awesome spiritual experiences of my young life up to that time. Dr. Sellers’s enthusiasm for what he was teaching went straight to my heart.
Although attendance at the weekly devotional is not mandatory, it was because I went to these events that I can say that I obtained real and direct revelation for the first time in my life. As President Eyring sat on the stand, I listened in reverence and awe to Elder LeGrand Richards share his wonderfully enthusiastic testimony of the gospel to the students and faculty in 1974.
That night I knelt in my dorm room and prayed like I had never prayed before. I wanted to know what LeGrand Richards knew. I wanted to know what Keith Sellers knew. I wanted to know what my mother knew. The experience is too sacred to share in this format but I can say that I obtained a kind of knowledge that night that changed my life forever.
Revelation changes everything
So many things changed for me with that one experience. I knew that I loved the Lord. I knew that everything I had been taught by my mother about the church and the gospel was true. I knew that what I had been taught by my primary, Sunday School and seminary teachers was true. I knew I wanted to go on a mission. I knew I would only marry in the temple.
After that experience I understood why we don’t share everything we know when we teach the gospel. It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s just that we can’t. The phrase “constraint of the spirit” found in D&C 63:64 suddenly made more sense to me. I found that I could not really talk about what happened that night with anyone who had not experienced it for themselves.
That was not the only time I have experienced direct revelation. There were several others just as powerful that were provided at a time when I was preparing for my mission. I spent a solid six months of intense daily personal study immersed in the gospel as found in the scriptures and supplemented by all those books mother had so thoughtfully provided over the years.
Summary and conclusion
If you look at my official transcript from Rick’s college you might be tempted to say that my parent’s investment in my education was wasted. But mother knew differently. Even though I felt like an academic failure, I carried with me a new sense of purpose and commitment that I did not have before I was taught by Keith Sellers and heard LeGrand Richards speak.
I still had much growing up to do. The mission changed my study habits and taught me the importance of paying the price of hard work in order to achieve something worthwhile. Marriage in the temple blessed my life with covenants that have led to my greatest happiness so far. Years of service in the church have only served to deepen that initial revelatory experience.
When I teach the gospel or speak in church I cannot share everything I know but I don’t have to. When I prepare well and speak under the inspiration of the spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost carries the depth of what I can’t say to the hearts of my students and listeners. It is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences to speak under the influence of that sacred spirit.