Call The People Together: Divine Manifestations for the Congregation

Call The People Together: Divine Manifestations for the Congregation April 2, 2020

“My dear friends, today I wish to share with you a special invitation. There are a few wonderful occasions in the scriptures when our Heavenly Father personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a specific charge to ‘Hear Him!’

Today, this most important invitation from our loving Heavenly Father to listen to the voice of the Lord and to follow His teachings is extended to us.

In this special year, as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?”  Russell M. Nelson

As a church, we’re days away from commemorating this 200th anniversary of the First Vision together. The image of the church congregation gathered together, but not necessarily physically together, reminded me of King Benjamin’s people.  They gathered together, but sat separately in families.  All of them pitched their tents towards the temple as they listened to their king and prophet.

And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

They came together offering appropriate sacrifice and thanking God for their deliverance.  They came worshipping and rejoicing. As they listened to King Benjamin, they had a collective spiritual experience.

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. …

And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days….

Their experience as a congregation reminded me of other congregations I longed to experience.

Moses and the Congregation of the House of Israel

When Moses led the House of Israel out of Egypt, the scriptures record 600,000 military-aged men.  Numbering women, children, and the “mixed multitude” among the congregation was potentially greater than 2.4 million people.

Imagine that intensity of 2.4 million people who saw Pharoah’s army approaching.  Conference convened immediately as recorded in Exodus 14.

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.

The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:

But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. …

And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. …

And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.

Mount Sinai

Three months later, one of the most amazing conferences ever occurred.  The children of Israel reached Sinai.  Moses spoke to the Lord on the mountain.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes,

And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

The people prepared themselves, but the people were scared by the Lord’s demonstrations.  They asked for Moses to speak to the Lord for them. After Moses revealed the commandments of the Lord, the people promised,

All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.

While the larger congregation declined, many still personally witnessed the Lord.

Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.

And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.

And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

The Lord delivered the people from slavery, delivered them from death, and offered the opportunity to enter His presence.  The invitation was made en mass and they chose their response.

Congregation in Bountiful

Another congregation with a similar opportunity gathered around the temple in Bountiful.  They’d experienced horrific natural calamities.  The Lord told them He saved them from the calamities because of their righteousness.  They assembled at the temple to discuss the changes that occurred.

Suddenly, they heard a voice they couldn’t understand.  They listened more carefully as the voice spoke again.  Finally, the third time the people could hear the voice and its message.

Behold my Beloved Sonin whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.

Apparently, their choice of location designated their choice for revelation.  They saw Jesus Christ descend from heaven.  He spoke to them!

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:

Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

Jesus revealed Himself to them!  He saved them from physical destruction and offered the opportunity to enter into His presence.  They accepted His offer.

Latter Day Manifestations in Gatherings

The Lord commanded the Saints to built a temple in Kirtland so that He could “endow [the people] with power from on high.” At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, thousands experienced outpourings of the Spirit collectively.

Joseph Smith said that he “gave them instructions in relation to the spirit of prophecy, and called upon the congregation to speak. … George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place.”

Zebedee Coltrin’s Recorded Visions

Several latter-day gatherings led to theophanies. Zebedee Coltrin recorded his visions of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

 Once Joseph gave notice to the school [School of the Prophets] for all to get up before sunrise, then wash themselves and put on clean clothing and be at the school by sunrise, as it would be a day of revelation and vision. They opened with prayer. Joseph then gave instructions to prepare their minds. He told them to kneel and pray with uplifted hands.

(Brother [Zebedee] Coltrin then gave an account of the appearance of the Father and Son as given in the minutes of the meeting of the 3rd inst.) Jesus was clothed in modern clothing, apparently of gray cloth. When he saw Him in the Kirtland Temple, on the cross his hands were spiked to the wood and he had around him what appeared like a sheet. He had seen Joseph giving revelation when he could not look on his face, so full was he (Joseph) of the glory of God, and the house was full of the same glory. About the time the school was first organized some wished to see an angel, and a number joined in the circle and prayed. When the vision came, two of the brethren shrank and called for the vision to close or they would perish; they were Brothers Hancock and Humphries. When the Prophet came in they told him what they had done and he said the angel was no further off than the roof of the house, and a moment more he would have been in their midst.

And,

At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, (the school being organized on the 23rd of January, 1833) when we were all together, Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling, with our hands uplifted each one praying in silence, no one whispered above his breath, a personage walked through the room from east to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did and Joseph answered “that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother.” Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; he was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw Him.

[When asked about the kind of clothing the Father had on, Brother Coltrin said:] I did not discover his clothing for he was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but this appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed I should melt down in his presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: “Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that they exist and that they are two separate personages.”…

At another time after fasting and prayer, Joseph told us that we should see the glory of God, and I saw a personage passing through the room as plainly as I see you now. Joseph asked us if we knew who it was, and answered himself. “That is Jesus, our elder brother, the Son of God.” Again, I saw passing through the same room a personage whose glory and brightness was so great that I can liken it to nothing but the burning bush that Moses saw, and its power was so great that had it continued much longer, I believe it would have consumed us.

And Now Us?

The world lies under threat of death by plague, yet in two days, we meet together as a people, as a collective congregation.  The prophet has issued an invitation to hear and receive the Savior during this conference.   Will we?


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