Six months before He was to give His life, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain. There they were transfigured, with their mortal bodies temporarily changed to withstand an intense spiritual experience. Many outward details have been recorded, but of human language we have only Peter’s short comment, beginning “Master, it is good for us to be here.” Some may wonder why the statement was so simple and direct, considering the complexity, depth, and significance of the experience, or why so little was recorded. Considering the context as well as the content of the statement may help us understand how both its nature and brevity are sufficient for our need.
The transformation is recorded in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. As common with retellings by different authors, the basic facts sufficient for understanding are the same, but may be treated with different language and emphasis.
The Savior’s face was “altered” as he prayed ( Luke 9:29), and “did shine as the sun” (Matthew 17:2). His clothing was “white as the light” (Matthew 17:2), glistening [as lightening] (Luke 9:29).
Moses and Elijah appeared “in glory” and spoke with Christ about His coming sacrifice. Luke mentioned that the apostles drifted in and out of sleep. The others left out that detail. All described the bright cloud that overshadowed them and the voice from the cloud: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”
All related the intense fear the apostles felt, though only Matthew included that “they fell on their face[s].” All quoted Peter’s comment, but only Mark related that Peter was so frightened “he wist not what to say.”
Simple language is often sufficient for understanding. Much is conveyed in “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”
Peter may have assumed that their involvement should be acknowledged, and he was often the spokesman. Peter did not waste time or words. The simple statement was sufficient for what he needed to say.
Some of our most profound experiences and emotions are actually most effective in simple language.
Many of us have been deeply moved by a simple prayer that makes us feel closer to God, a modest piece of music or poem that brings us to tears, or a few words spoken that we know are sufficient for increasing knowledge or testimony.
When my brother Roger served as a bishop, he sometimes felt overwhelmed combining his bishop’s responsibilities with those of being a husband, father, and teacher. One Sunday he felt so physically and emotionally drained that he was barely able to drag himself out of bed.
As the emblems of the sacrament were blessed, Roger remembered halfway through the prayer that he should be following along in the scriptures to make sure the young priest said it correctly. Roger had forgotten, and he hoped the priest had remembered better than he had.
Roger took the emblems—somewhat habitually. But as he did so, he felt his spirit renewed. By the end of the meeting, he felt energized and able to continue because He remembered the Lord was yoked with him onto the heavy load.
Roger was glad he had obediently and meekly gone through the motions until he felt the emotions. It was good for him to be there. He did not need emotional language to process his experience. “Good for me to be here” was sufficient for him.
A detailed account of the transformation cannot and should not be published. When the climax—the Father’s words—was finished, Jesus gently touched his apostles and comforted them. “Arise, and be not afraid” was sufficient for them.
Lifting their eyes, they saw that only Jesus remained with them. He instructed them to tell no one about this vision until after He “had risen again from the dead,” previewing His suffering to come. The brief reference was not sufficient for them to understand, as they “questioned with one another” about this afterward.
The apostles would need to assume leadership of the Church when Christ was no longer with them. They needed the impact as well as the information revealed in this experience. Joseph Smith explained that they received at this time the keys they would need (published 1938).
Sacred experiences should be revealed only to those who have worthiness and preparation sufficient for receiving them. Spencer W. Kimball (1982) mentioned that when he gave a blessing that would include “special healing” he would tell the individual, “And when you are healed, tell no man who laid his hands upon your head.” He referred to such a healing as “a sacred, intimate miracle.”
Boyd K. Packer (1980) explained for his calling, “We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so.” Permission has been received for some intimate revelations to be shared, but publication may not occur until the individual is no longer living.
The accounts of this transformation are deceptively simple in language and content detail. Their simplicity allows them to be deeper and more profound, as distraction is minimal and impact is inherent.