Visions, Dreams, Visitations (1 Ne. 8:2)

 The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi shared an important gospel gem with his family when he announced, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.” (1 Ne. 8:2)  Lehi went on to describe his spectacular Vision of the Tree of Life.  This verse is a “scripture gem” because it explains that dreams can be visions and visions can come as dreams.   

 Many, if not most, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have experienced dream-visions. Because these dream-visions are personal and sacred, they are usually not shared publicly. But I know from personal experience  that dream-visions can and do occur.

 How do we recognize a dream-vision? What is the difference between a dream-vision and a regular dream?

One, dream-visions are very vivid

A dream-vision is much more vivid than a regular dream. This intensity makes it easier to focus and remember.

Two, dream-visions are spiritual, and gospel related

We often experience vivid dreams that are not visions because the subject matter is not spiritual.  For example, there are vivid archetypal dreams like: dreams of falling, dreams of losing teeth, and dreams of being chased. The subject matter of a dream-vision is always spiritual, and gospel related. That is a key difference.

 Three, dream-visions are inspirational and/or educational

We can actually learn something from dream-visions that we didn’t know before. Dream-visions can inspire us to change course, work harder, or do better.

Four, the message of dream-visions can be couched in symbols or imagery which must be interpreted

Examples of such dream-visions include: (a) Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life; (b) Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the golden image with feet of clay; (c) Robert Mason’s dream-vision of the dying orchard and the green sprout, which he shared with Wilford Woodruff; (d) Jacobs’s Ladder dream-vision; (e) Pharaoh’s dream-vision of the fat and thin cows.

Five, the message of dream-visions can be direct.  

During Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, he had a “guide” who explained the vision to him.

Another example, I know a person who had a dream-vision where a heavenly messenger appeared to him. The messenger gave him a panoramic view of the events in the Middle East prior to the Second Coming. The messenger explained several details and corrected some of this person’s misunderstandings. Decades later, this person noticed that the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 24 was exactly what the messenger explained.  During the dream-vision the messenger told this person to wake up and write down the details of the vision.  The messenger also cautioned the person not to share the most sacred parts of the dream-vision with others.

 Six, sometimes the dreamer is told to wake up during the dream and record the dream-vision.

 Seven, dream-visions sometimes foretell and prepare us for the future.

 If these are true dream-visions, then the prediction should come true.

I had a possible dream-vision when I was six years old. I use the word “possible” because although it was a very vivid dream that came true, it was not gospel related. 

 One night, in February 1957, I had a vivid dream that the next morning, the mailman would deliver a green toy scale model of a Plymouth with its large rear fins for the taillights.  It was a 1957 Belvedere, my “dream” car. (The large tail fins were my favorite feature.  The bigger, the better. Of course, big fins went out of style after a few years.)

  At breakfast, I told my parents about the dream. They looked at each with a weird “knowing” expression on their faces. It was as if they shared a secret.  

 When I came home from school my Mom said that the mailman delivered a package for me. However, I needed to wait until my Dad came home from work before I opened the box.

 Sure enough, the box contained a shiny scale model green 1957 Plymouth Belvedere with the large rear fins for the taillights.

 My parents explained that they had ordered the model as a Christmas present for me, but it never came. They had given up hope until I had my dream.

I have often wondered about the significance of my toy car dream.  It was not gospel related.  It wasn’t life altering. A friend suggested that it was a “training vision,” to teach me that I could learn from dream-visions and that visions can come in dreams. Perhaps.

Eight, dream-visions often help us make an important decision in our lives.             

Hundreds of people have joined the church because of dream-visions from the Lord.

For example, missionaries in Sweden in the late 1800’s approached my great grandmother and her friends, who were receptive. When my stubborn “old school” great-grandfather learned about the missionaries, he firmly “ordered” his wife to stay away from the them and their church. She had no choice but to obey.  She prayed for help and guidance.

 Sometime thereafter, my great-grandfather had a dream-vision.  He was standing outside a magnificent palace. Glorious choral music was coming from inside. 

 He loved music, and he loved singing. He tried desperately to enter the palace, so he could join in the singing, but the doors were locked. He was devastated. 

 The spirit revealed to him that the palace represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the sacred music was the restored gospel. He and his family would never to enjoy the inspiring sublime music unless they joined the church. 

 He immediately allowed his wife to be taught by the missionaries. His wife joined the church. Then, all of his children joined the church.  And then, he joined the church.  

Nine, dream-visions are life altering.

Why night-visions? 


First, the Lord has repeatedly commanded, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10; D&C 101:16) Sometimes we are so busy during the day, and our lives are so hectic, that we cannot hear the still small voice of the Spirit.  When we are asleep, we are “still,” the Spirit can speak to us. 

Second, much revelation comes from the Spirit speaking directly to our spirit. “The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit . . .” (Rom. 8:16)  Joseph Smith observed, “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirit precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies.” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 355.) (See also: Joseph Fielding Smith, “The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve,” Improvement Era, 69:979, Nov. 1966) There is less interference with the Spirit speaking directly to our spirit when we are asleep.

Dream-visions are sacred and personal

A final point on dream-visions. We must be cautious in sharing these sacred dream-visions publicly.

Jesus warned, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before seine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matt. 7:6)

Alma, the Younger, explained: “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless, they are laid under strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.”

“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of god until he know them in full.” (Al. 12:9-10)  

In other words, we should be hesitant to share sacred person spiritual experiences, like dream-visions, publicly, unless moved upon by the spirit.  

Once a dream-vision is published, then it is no longer private, but public. Although, it is still sacred.

Visitations verses Visions

 A final post script. Even more sacred, and rarer than a vision, is a personal visitation.  This is not a nighttime dream-vision, or a daytime dream-vision. It is an actual appearance of a heavenly messenger or deceased person.  This is perhaps the most sacred of all spiritual experiences.

 As I understand it, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, was not a vision at all, but a visitation.  Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ actually appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. They did not come to him in a dream or vision. This monumental event should be called the “First Visitation.”

Joseph Smith had other visitations. The angel Moroni personally appeared to Joseph Smith multiple times and taught the gospel and gave instructions. As I understand it, these were not dream-visions, but actual visitations.

The Prophet Joseph Smith had many other visions and visitations. That is part of his being the Lord’s prophet.

(I will share some published accounts of visitations and visions in future articles.)

(What are my “favorite scripture gems?” I try to share verses that are often overlooked, but when examined, contain profound and precious gospel truths.  These are not the well-known scripture mastery verses, which are also gems.  These are verses that we rarely hear cited in talks, articles and lessons.)

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