I believe in “heavenly treats.” We give our children treats as rewards, encouragement, and tokens of our love. We even give our pet dogs and cats treats for the same reasons.
Similarly, Heavenly Father also gives us treats. Sometimes heavenly treats are called “tender mercies.” Sometimes they are called “miracles.” Whatever they are called, we all enjoy receiving heavenly treats.
On a Sunday in 2015 I received a very memorable heavenly treat. It took place during my small Gospel Essentials Sunday School class.
My lesson was on “Miracles.” The theme of the lesson was that faith precedes miracles for two reasons. First, if we have faith, we see the miracles that surround us. Second, if we have faith, miracles will take place in our lives. I focused the lesson on the miracles surrounding missionary work.
I shared the story of a most remarkable missionary, Joseph William “Billy” Johnson in Ghana, Africa. He is a modern-day Wilford Woodruff.
In 1964, Billy read the Book of Mormon and was converted to its truth. Shortly thereafter, he had a vision in which the heavens were opened and he was commanded to preach the gospel on the streets of Ghana. He did so for fourteen years without holding the priesthood or an official church calling.
His deceased brother appeared in a vision explaining that he was investigating the true church on the other side of the veil, that “Come, Come Ye Saints” was one of the hymns of the true church, and that Billy needed to stay faithful, so he could be baptized for his dead brother. Prior to the vision, Johnson had no clue about the work for the dead, baptism for the dead, or “Come, Come Ye Saints.”
Several other ancestors appeared to Billy in dreams and visions. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young also appeared to him, and he named his son Brigham.
When the church finally sent official missionaries to Ghana in 1978, Billy had ten unofficial LDS congregations ready for baptism.
Brother Johnson was called as the first branch president in Ghana, and its first patriarch. He was also called as a temple sealer in the new Ghana Temple.
As I explained this story, an African-American brother came into my class and sat in the back. I immediately recognized him as Alex Boyé, the internationally renowned LDS singer and performer. I am a big fan. I love his music videos. Since I knew he lived in Utah and traveled all over the world, I was surprised to see him walk into my little Sunday School class in Orange County.
As I concluded my narrative about Billy Johnson, Brother Boyé raised his hand. He explained that, in 2012, he sang at the funeral of Billy Johnson in Ghana. He said that thousands of people attended. He explained that the funeral speakers shared the same experiences, miracles, and visions that I had described to the class. Brother Boyé concluded by bearing his testimony of the miracles of the Lord’s work.
What are the odds! International singing star Alex Boyé just happened to visit our ward! He just happened to come to my little class! He just happened to attend while I was talking about Billy Johnson and the miracles surrounding the missionary work in Ghana! He just happened to have performed at Billy Johnson’s funeral where the same stories were shared! And he just happened to raise his hand in front of a bunch of strangers and share his experience and testimony!
Whether we label this experience a “miracle,” a “tender mercy,” or a “heavenly treat,” it was very special.
(Sources: “Pioneers of Africa,” LDS DVD; E. Dale LeBaron; “African Converts Without Baptism,” BYU Devotional, Nov. 3, 1998; E. Dale LeBaron, “Steadfast African Pioneer,” churchofjesuschrist.org; Elizabeth Maki, “Our Heritage: A People Prepared – Joseph W. “Billy” Johnson,” africawestlds.org; Maurine Proctor, “Joseph W.B. Johnson – Ghana’s Face of Light,” Meridian Magazine.)