Sometimes my family actually manages to have scripture study together. Hooray for us, we read together tonight and then had a discussion that went from interesting to profound, thanks to my children.
We read Helaman 5 tonight. Feel free to go read it. I'll wait.
To summarize for the rest of you: brothers Nephi and Lehi (named for their beloved forbears) take the gospel of Jesus Christ on the road, leaving the increasingly wicked Nephite people to preach to the Lamanites and Nephite dissenters. They have much success; thousands are converted. Eventually, they make their way to the land of Nephi and are tossed into prison by the Lamanites, where they spend "many days" without food.
Then something truly amazing happens.
When the Lamanites came in to fetch Nephi and Lehi with the purpose of killing them, a fire appeared, encircling the brothers, but not harming them. The Lamanites were afraid to approach, and the brothers told them, "Hey, don't be afraid, it's God preventing you from killing us" (yes, I paraphrase).
Then there was a great earthquake, and the Lamanites became enshrouded in a cloud of darkness and they were filled with fear. In the midst of the darkness, the Lamanites heard a voice telling them to repent. The voice, though quiet, shook the prison and Earth again. They heard the voice 3 times (which seems to be a pattern when God speaks), and one man, who was a Nephite dissenter, noticed Nephi and Lehi talking to angels. He told the Lamanites to repent and pray until they have faith in Christ.
When the darkness lifted, they were all encircled by the fire and they had a marvelous conversion experience because of their faith and willingness to obey, humble themselves and pray.
|The Pillar of Fire by Steven L. Neal|
So now to my point.
After reading this great chapter, I mentioned that sometimes I (perhaps unrighteously) wonder why I don't hear about these sort of grand conversion experiences anymore. I have a son (18) who has left the church, and I wish for an Alma-the-Younger experience to happen to him. Something big and humbling and life-changing. I said, "Where's the cloud of darkness for our time?"
But in my circle of friends and family I haven't ever heard of such a thing happening in our time. There are many, many smaller miracles happening all the time- don't get me wrong. The conversion of one heart in a quiet, humble moment is a wonderful event.
So I mentioned this. My son (20) who recently returned home from his mission said that (in a related story) he had a member ask him why he thought that God worked so many huge miracles in the lives of the Israelites (manna from Heaven, etc.) when they were escaping Egypt and wandering the wilderness, but the Mormon pioneers didn't have any such events. (Unless you count the seagulls & crickets, but they were no longer wandering at that point). He said they talked about how maybe the people who came to Earth to be pioneers were righteous enough that God knew they would be strong and valiant without such an experience.
And maybe God knows we don't need those kinds of experiences, either. I was told I was part of the "Rising Generation" and my kids have been told multiple times that they were reserved for the last days because of their valiant spirits in the pre-existence.
Then my daughter, 13, spoke up and said something that I thought was profound.
She said first that she wasn't a recently returned missionary, so maybe she shouldn't even comment. I assured her that her thoughts and ideas were just as valid and insightful as her brother's.
She said (and I'm paraphrasing again, apologies), "Well, we're always being told that it's the last days. Maybe we're getting so close to the second coming of Jesus that His return will be that last "big event" that will help people be humbled, and converted to Him. When Jesus comes again, it's going to be bad for the wicked, but it will serve as their cloud of darkness."
|from a mural that is in the Washington D.C. Temple, not sure of the artist, sorry|
Think of it. We have records of so many conversion events throughout the scriptures; Paul and Alma and Alma's son & the sons of Mosiah and others I can't think of.
And there are millions of us who have found faith in Christ and have kept it without those experiences, but we appreciate these events and understand the greatness of them.
But imagine the numbers of those who will experience the second coming personally, and have their hearts changed: who will humble themselves before the Master, our Savior, and will repent and follow him from that moment on.
Sometimes my kids amaze me.