Personal Revelation (Pt 4/5): Dreams, Visions, Visitations, Theophany

Dream and Visions

Some revelations come “through the dreams of sleep or in waking visions of the mind.”  (James Talmage) As the prophet Lehi wrote, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.” (1 Nephi 8: 2)

How do we tell the difference between a mere dream and a sleeping vision?

  • First, visions are much more vivid than regular dreams. 
  • Second, visions are much more memorable than regular dreams.  Visions are imprinted on our mind and spirit. 
  • Third, the content of a vision is more doctrinal or spiritual than a regular dream.
  • Fourth, a vision is usually life altering. (See: blog article, “Visions, Dreams, Visitations (1 Ne. 8:2),” Dec 22, 2019)

Dreams and visions may not be as significant as the impressions of the spirit

Some people have never had dreams/visions.  But they can take solace from this statement by Joseph Fielding Smith: “The impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision.  When Spirit speaks to spirit, the imprint upon the soul is far more difficult to erase.  Every member of the Church should have impressions that Jesus is the Son of God indelibly pictures on his soul through the witness of the Holy Ghost.” (Improvement Era, Nov 1966, p 979) 

Personal revelation can come through audible voices

“Visions do happen. Voices are heard from beyond the veil. I know this. But these experiences are exceptional. …” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 14).

One of the classic examples of revelation through an audible voice involves the call of the prophet Samuel. One evening, as the boy Samuel slept, the Lord audibly called him by name: “Samuel.”  And he answered, “Here am I.”  Thinking that Eli had called him, Samuel ran to him and repeated the declaration, “Here am I.”  He was advised to return to his sleep. Three times the voice of the Lord came to him, with the same response.  Then the Lord called a fourth time, repeating the boy’s name twice: “Samuel, Samuel.” Samuel’s answer is a classic example for you and me.  He responded, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Samuel 3:1-11)

Personal revelation can come through heavenly visitations

The most sublime, rarest, and sacred type of personal revelation is a heavenly visitation.  This is where an angel or the Lord personally appears. 

Theophany: Appearance of God to Man

Each of the dispensations of the gospel began with a personal visitation from the Lord.  Our dispensation started with a visitation by the Father and Son to Joseph Smith.  This theophany should be called “The First Visitation” rather than “The First Vision.”  It was an actual appearance of God to man.

Theophany is an ancient Greek word meaning the “appearance of God to man.”

The Lord has personally appeared to more people than we imagine. Here are some of the scriptural references to theophany.

  • Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8-19; Moses 4:14)
  • Cain (Gen 4: 9-15)
  • Enoch (D&C 107:48-49; Moses 7:4)
  • Noah (Gen. 6:13; 7:1; 8:15)
  • Noah and his Sons (Gen. 9:1-8)
  • Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; Abr. 2: 6-11)
  • Jacob (Gen 32:30; 33: 1-2, 9-10, 13)
  • Moses (Ex 3: 16; 33:11, 16, 21-23; Deut 34: 10; Moses 1:2-6)
  • Moses, Aaron, Hadab, Abihu and Seventy Elders (Ex 24:9-11; Deut 5:24)
  • Isaiah (Is. 6:1; Jn 12:41; 2 Ne 11:2)
  • Ezekiel  (Ez. 1: 26-27)
  • Solomon (1 Ki 3:5; 9:2; 11; 2 Chr 1: 7-11; 7:11-12)
  • Amos (Amos 9:1)
  • Stephen (Acts 7:55-56)
  • Paul (Acts 9:5-10, 17-18)
  • Lehi (1 Ne 1:5-8)
  • Nephi (2 Ne 11:2)
  • Jacob (2 Ne 2:4)
  • Mormon (Mormon 1:15)
  • Moroni (Ether 12:38-41)
  • Brother of Jared (D&C 17:1; Ether 3:1-20)
  • Emer (Eth 9:22)
  • Joseph Smith (JSH 1:11-17)
  • Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76:22-24)
  • John Taylor “Joseph Smith and Brigham Young Appear to Successors,” Nov. 2021)
  • Lorenzo Snow (“Jesus Appears to Lorenzo Snow,” Dec. 29, 2019)

I know people who have had heavenly visitations.  These experiences are very sacred and very personal, and are a part of their abiding testimonies. 

For the rest of us, we do not need to have a heavenly visitation to have an unshakeable testimony.

Harold B. Lee explained: “Not many have seen the Savior face to face here in mortality, but there is not one of you who has been blessed to received the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism but that may have a perfect assurance of his existence as though you had been seen.”  (Youth and the Church, p 51)

May the Lord bless each of us to receive, recognize, and act on personal revelation.

See: these related blog articles:
 “Jesus Appears to Lorenzo Snow,” Dec. 29, 2019)
“Visions, Dreams, Visitations (1 Ne. 8:2),” Dec 22, 2019)
“Theophany: The Appearance of God to Man,” July 2, 2021)
“Joseph Smith and Brigham Young Appear to Successors,” Nov. 2021)

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