Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

March 4, 2004
P. Alfred Pratte
BYU Professor of Communications, Retired

As a means to start this devotional, let's review a scripture many of us are familiar with in the Old Testament. It's in the second chapter of the book of Joel. Even though this revelation was given 850 years before the birth of Christ, and Israel is suffering from a drought and a plague of locusts, Joel sees something significant about young men and women such as you. It's something we need to be reminded about today, particularly when we have personal problems and need help to be delivered from loneliness, depression, temptation and trial.

As you read this scripture, keep in mind it is so important that it was quoted by the apostle Peter[1] just before he prophesied the latter-day restoration of The Church. [2] Joel's words were repeated by the angel Moroni when he appeared to Joseph Smith in September, 1823.[3] Like many other scriptures in the Bible and Book of Mormon these words carry both symbolic and literal meaning. Joel tells us three things we all need to know about our day.

Youth shall prophesy and see visions

28: And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

29. Also upon my servants and upon my handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

Wondrous things will happen

30. And I will show wonders in the heavens, and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

31. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord.

Deliverance will come by "a remnant" called by The Lord

32. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

Since the time of Joel there have been many visions. These are impressions, or displays or knowledge, appearing in the minds of worthy men that go beyond their ordinary understanding. Prophecies have to do with intuition, insights, foresights and even predictions about the future such as Joel saw abut wonders. There will be many more "marvelous works and wonders" in our lifetime. The prophecies and warnings to the world, of course, will come through our living prophets and apostles as they have since the beginning.

But the main thing we need to be reminded of today is that each of us can also have our own mental pictures and prophecies for ourselves, for our families, and for the benefit of those we will serve throughout the world. Joel uses the word "pour" two times to show the liberality and love of the Lord in the last days. In case you might have missed it, that's what the massive storm that smashed Oahu did last week. The rain did not did drizzle on this campus. It did not sprinkle. It did not even fall. It poured and poured. That's what Joel says Our Heavenly Father is doing for us in these days. He is pouring out his Spirit through the Holy Ghost.

Verse one of the hymn "The Spirit of God" we sang this morning says that the spirit of God is "burning" and that the "visions and blessings of God are returning." In verse two we are told the knowledge and power of God are "expanding" and "the veil is beginning to burst." In verse three we are told that through our faith "we may begin to inherit the visions and blessings and glories of God." That is quite a message about our day isn't it? That is the good and glorious news that Joel broadcasts from his generation to ours. Another point I wish to make is that each of us has the potential to boost our level of spirituality and become a Joel, or an Esther or a Nephi or a President Hinckley. Granted, very few of us will become prophets for the world. But at the very least, Joel hints that we are entitled to visions and prophecies for ourselves and our families.

The massive blessing of receiving personal visions and prophecy and the ability to foresee our own future, however, is conditional. The Lord is bound when we do what He says. But when we do not what he says we have no promise.[4] The blessings Joel promises us, come only through obedience to the laws upon which personal prophecy and visions are predicated.

As Joel predicted for humankind, the consequences of not paying attention to visions of prophets, will be "darkness, blood, fire and smoke." The darkness and failure to allow ourselves to be delivered will occur if we do not recognize the prompting of our own revelations from the Lord through the Spirit. Deliverance comes through the prophets and from the remnant whom the Lord will call to work with the prophets. The remnant, my friends, is you and me.

My purpose this morning is to remind you from the Scriptures and from the words of others, there are basic rules of personal prophesy and visions as well as our role together realizing and carrying them out. The Greek philosopher Demophilus[5] said "It is with youth, as from plants, from the first fruits they bear, that we learn what may be expected in the future." This idea of youth bearing its first fruits as young plants helps us understand what August W. Hare[6] meant when he said that "unless young people bear blossoms in the spring, he or she will look vainly for fruit in the fall."

In modern times the Harvard political scientist Edward Banfield in a book called The Heavenly City, tells us that modern youth are unable to help overcome personal and societal problems if they live only from day to day and are limited in their ability to see the future.[7] Banfield says that problems such as poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, crime and the breakdown of the family have less to do with race or class. The "highest" class of people in the United States are able to foresee the future and work toward that goal. If such is the case, then each of us in the room today is "high class." If we are going to get to achieve highest class in this life and the next, our efforts must begin in the earliest part of our lives as children, as teenagers, and now more so as mature youth. It is crucial to us to always be worthy and ready and receptive to the wonders and marvels that surround us if we have the spiritual eyes to recognize them, and to look beyond for more miracles as motivation to inspire and stretch us to perfection and Godhood.

But sometimes the incredible or hard-to-believe happenings are so common, so repetitious, even "boring" that we reject them because they appear plain or run-of the mill. An example of this is what takes place each Christmas when much of the world rejoices in the celebration of the birth of Christ in fulfillment of predictions made by ancient prophets, with angels as witnesses. But as our returned missionaries will testify, many people in the foolishly reject prophets and angels in our day and time.

Even though there is marvelous news all around us today, there is an even great need to be spiritually alert. Because your generation has been prophesied of by Joel and other prophets from the beginning of time, you are not only foreordained. You are also marked men and women by forces working double time to distract you from your potential for personal righteousness and power. Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve warns.

"Lucifer, who has no future, desperately desires to persuade men that they have no future either. He desires that all men might be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:27) Misery likes company- especially ultimate misery!" [8]

Satan has designated each of you for distraction and destruction. He works to lead you away from your righteous destiny. His day is nearly over and so he desires to detract and deny your potential. He does this most effectively though the mass media, through false fashions in clothing and by addicting you to strange sounds conspiring men claim is "music." He works through your peers or superficial media role models that entice you from the straight and narrow path for a few moments, here and there. The young prophet Nephi also saw what Joel foresaw:

"There shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink and be merry; nevertheless,fear God--he will justify, in committing a LITTLE SIN ; yea LIE ALITTLE, take advantage of one because of his words, Dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die, and if it be so that we are guilty, God will beat us WITH A FEW STRIPES, and at the last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God." (2 Nephi 28:8)

Please notice that key word in this scripture relates to size. The word is not large, or easily recognizable. It is "little" or what we dismiss as unimportant or insignificant. A similar word is used by another Book of Mormon prophet advising his son. Helaman is the one that whose father Alma blessed and told him to "remember to learn wisdom in his youth; and learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.[9] This is one of the most quoted of all scriptures in the Book of Mormon.

Often overlooked, however, is the warning that goes with it. This time Alma uses a similar qualifying word. Alma also provides us with an image that tells us that living the gospel is not difficult if we work at it hard. According to Alma, the miraculous and visionary instrument, the Liahona, prepared and pointed the way for the people, according to their faith.

"Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey. (Alma 37:41)

Alma himself allowed small distractions in his youth to lead to iniquities and bigger sins. They caused him to leave the Church, sow a few acres of wild oats, and "murder" the testimony of others. It took an angel to get Alma back on the path so he could carry on his destiny as one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived.

What Are The Small Things Keeping Us From Our Visions?

Just what are some of the "small things" that keep us from the promise of seeing the visions and bringing more miracles into our own lives and the lives of others? Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, an Area Authority Seventy in Brazil, warns us that by shrugging off the little wrongdoings or misdemeanors of daily life as being too trivial to repent of, is like not taking time to have regular medical checkups. Then suddenly one day we learn we have cancer that can no longer be treated. In particular, Elder Aidukaitis says that if we rationalize committing small acts of dishonesty it becomes easier to commit progressively larger sins. "Sometimes we hear of people who are "very honest," "mostly honest," or even "a little honest. There are no degrees of honesty. Either we are honest or we aren't.[10]

Another "little thing" Nephi talks about that keeps us from Christ is lying a little, "taking advantage of one for his words, and "digging pits" for our neighbors or roommates. Most of us know what it means to lie. It is a deliberate attempt to take advantage of someone when you know exactly what the truth is. When we take the words of someone else when we are writing term papers so that the writing appears as our own, this is a form of dishonesty we call plagiarism. This is a plague like Joel was seeing. It is sweeping across higher education today and has even touched this campus. For those of you on the faculty who have to enforce this academic rule, I applaud your efforts to halt this plague before it gets out of control as it is at many colleges. For those of you who engage in this practice, I encourage you to speedily repent.[11] and stop this day.

Please demonstrate your support for keeping this college as a model of inspired students who inspire others and help them fathom the future. You can show your appreciation by conscientiously and seriously adhering to our BYUH rules of the road, both big and small, by adhering strictly to the Honor Code, by working hard in your classes, by graduating and returning to your homelands. Doing these things will be among the most profound ways you can honor your parents or other friends and benefactors who have helped to support your educational goals.

The Plague of Pornography

An even worse plague than plagiarism, polluting the youth of the Church, because of the back-handed blight of new technology is the growing addiction to obscene or prurient pictorial images that imbed themselves in our minds and make it impossible to obtain personal revelation. Neal Maxwell sees the plague as an integration of ancient evils with a modern twist.

"It is clear in our time that lust and greed, the ancient alliance, have re-formed and commercialized around pornography, trying to clothe themselves in the First Amendment, and making it difficult to deal with them."[12]

In a speech at BYU Provo when I was on the faculty of the Department of Communications, Dr. Victor Cline warned that internet pornography and its attendant evils is among the most addictive influence or power over the mind to scramble your brain and drive the Spirit of prophecy and revelation out of your life. Pornography, or the "writing of harlots," is more addictive than tobacco, alcohol and even cocaine. It spreads like an oil slick to all classes of people: the blue collar, the middle and the upper class. It is an equal opportunity destroyer of men--as well as women and even children.

One of my saddest experiences as a branch president at the at the MTC was interviewing young men who could not get those evil images out of their minds as they tried to learn foreign languages and feel the spirit in that sacred place. It was not an easy job to purge those pictures from their minds. Please think of this the next time you are tempted to sneak a peak, or wear clothing that reveals or provokes, or attend a questionable movie or play, or listen to musical lyrics that do not uplift and inspire.

Little Things That Inspire

In the same way that little things exclude us from the spirit of personal revelation, little things also bring us closer to the source of that inspiration that we must have if we desire the blessings of which Joel prophesied and of which we sang this morning. June and I have become very aware of this as we live in the married students housing on this campus over the past seven months and witness the many little things you do to help each other. We see the same thing at on Tuesday nights when we work together at the Polynesian Culture. We are touched by cheerfulness, energy, smiles and the sincere caring you share with the visitors who come from around the world.

It's the little things that help make this university different from any college on the face of the earth and make the university as well as each of you worthy of a special spirit. Such little things are integral to our life style and culture, the culture of the Kingdom of Christ and help us stay close to the spirit. One of the first things that visitors notice about BYUH and the PCC besides our lovely campus, is the feeling they get when they are here.

June and I are particularly moved by the uplifting and occasionally miraculous music that is so much a tradition BYUH. It helps create a mood for moments of personal revelation. Even though I can barely carry a tune, I am moved closer to a spiritual realm when I hear the Men's and Women's Chorus, the Concert Choir, your University Chorale, and even your Brass and Jazz Band, your Shaka, and Polynesian Drum Ensemble, your Guitar Ensembles well as the Hawaiian, Polynesian and other ethnic music from around the world. Even your ala mater, borrowed from Brahms, is inspirational to me each time I hear it.

Many of us experienced such a special moment last week when we gathered together to witness "The Secret Garden" under the inspired direction of Merrilee Webb, and musical director Michael Belnap. It was reported today in a review in yesterday's Ke Alakai'i as well as letter from Sister Carolyn Shumway.[13] For those of you who were not blessed to hear that musical outpouring, the talented singers shared with us the idea that young people are influenced by others " perhaps even their ancestors, those beyond the veil, as they "comfort, cheer, cry, pray and laugh with us."[14]

I've had the chance to review plays and musicals on Broadway for papers in Canada, Hawaii and Utah. June and I have also had season tickets and seen every musical and drama at BYU in Provo for 19 years. But both of feel that the music on this campus and community is as good as it gets anywhere we've been. Good and uplifting music truly adds to a spiritual environment and helps us be more receptive to the Spirit.

For those of you who may be struggling to obtain or maintain that same Spirit and more, you may wish to follow the steps taken by another young person who had to learn how rely on the Savior. Like you, Nephi, underwent many of the same tribulations that you face: loneliness, frustration, temptation, depression, anger and danger. Nephi certainly had his bad days as well as his good ones. He also shows us how to overcome the down days he called the Valley of Sorrow.

Nephi's Self Help Methodology

In one of the more remarkable chapters of self-help and self-counseling in the history of the Scriptures, Nephi teaches us to be worthy for an outpouring of the Spirit in a Psalm found in 2 Nephi 4:14-35. For me, the verses are among the most significant ever written about how we may help ourselves repent before going to the Savior. I used Nephi's words as a major tool for four years at to help Elders who got discouraged or had other problems at the MTC. I wish that Chad Schumaker or someone else with exceptional musical talent could turn this words into another symphony or a concerto or something that will touch us more deeply to feel Nephi's deep sense of temptation and sin, his alienation and his desire to repent. His words are an emotional roller-coaster that takes us from the heights of spiritual ecstasy, down to the depths, and then miraculously up, up to the heights again.

In the prelude (verses 14-16) Nephi describes how he is able to commence his spirituality. Nephi says that he "speaks," he "reads" scriptures, he "delights" in the scriptures, he "ponders, Then he "writes" scripture. We should take special note that Nephi writes for the "learning and profit of his children." In a similar way we should follow Nephi's admonitions to write things down to help us get closer to God. I was reminded of the value of keeping count this past Sunday during a Sacrament meeting talk by Gregor Herb, a student from Germany, and his wife. They remind us about the importance of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost in our lives.

Brother Herb recalled that when he was in England, missionaries were encouraged to keep a careful count of their spiritual experiences and record them in their journals as soon as they happened. Louise Plummer, a visiting professor of English now on this campus, says that because of the tendency for many of us not to write things down because we think it takes too much time, we need to develop the habit of writing in our journals in five minute bursts.

Each of us could try for at least five minutes a day. We must not allow the miracles and revelations to in our lives and on this marvelous campus escape us. We must capture them and record them not only for reminders of the good days, but because they are important to remember when we struggle with the bad days. The important relationship between writing and the recollection of Spiritual moments. Is described in six steps.

1. "Wretched" man--despite great goodness (17-19)

Just like each of us, Nephi got disheartened at times. Notwithstanding the "great goodness" of the Lord he is NOT always able to keep his spiritual balance. This happens after his father has just died. He has had to assume the leadership of a dysfunctional family. Two of his brothers have become his enemies and would like to kill him. As might be expected, Nephi is discouraged. He admits he is angry. In Nephi's own words, he describes himself as "wretched" with a "sorrowing heart." Because of his "flesh" he says he suffers from a "grieving" soul due to iniquities. He says he is "encompassed because of temptations and sins that easily beset him." When he wants to rejoice, his heart "groans" because of his iniquities.

It sounds like a few us in the audience today, doesn't it? Please be aware that Nephi's anguish and suffering carries an important message for each of us. The harder we strive to get close to God and be worthy of His spirit, the more we will become aware of our iniquities, especially the little ones. The big sins are no-brainers. You don't have to be bright to recognize the evils such as tobacco, alcohol, fornication and damaging your brains with drugs and pornography. That's just plain stupid. More than that, It's suicide.

According to Sterling Sill, the little transgressions are like a small puncture in a tire. Unlike a sudden blowout, the little punctures just oozes your eternal life away, a tiny bit at a time. Nephi's advice is good for all of us, especially in a corrupt world where we tend to dismiss the little things as being common or irrelevant and not worthy of repentance.That is why it is so exciting to watch Nephi change Just when it seems as if Nephi is about to go give up, he suddenly exclaims "Nevertheless, I know in whom I trust."

2. Nephi trusts, and remembers his own marvels (20-25)

After the "wretched" Nephi declares his trust in Christ, he begins the tortuous road back to reunion with Christ. The word "trust" is a key word in the process. To show his trust, Nephi looks back in memory and begins to list all the good things that have happened in his young life.

He remembers he has the "support of God" and that God has "led him" through the wilderness and "preserved his life" on deep waters. Further, God has allowed Nephi to "confound" his enemies and make them "quake." Our Heavenly Father has also "filled Nephi with love to the consuming of his flesh." Nephi particularly calls attention to the spiritual blessings such as knowledge "by visions" during the night.

In the day time he remembers God has heard his prayer. Nephi also remembers he was "ministered to" by angels, and "carried away" to high mountains. He has seen "many great things," some so great he was commanded not to write about them. In all Nephi lists 12 great blessings God has poured out on him. It compares to only five sorrows listed when he views himself as "wretched."

Those of you majoring in accounting can testify that good things in his life outnumber that bad but more than two to one. That's not too bad a ratio for a young man who just reported how wretched" he was. Granted, you may think Nephi has had a few more awesome experiences in his life than you have--or has he? Perhaps the spiritual experience and marvels in your own lives to date have been equally as important to you as were Nephi's.

3. Since I Have Seen Great Things--Why? (26-27)

After Nephi is able to count his blessings "and name them one by one," he seems to realize that things are not quite as bad as he had imagined. This is when he begins to ask himself a series of honest questions. They are ones you might try to answer for Nephi and for yourself the next time you get depressed and are trying to regain the Spirit. See if you can help Nephi answer the following questions. I call this the "why" part of self counseling.

  • "Why should: my heart weep and my soul linger in the Valley of Sorrow?"
  • "Why should my flesh waste and my strength slacken because of my afflictions."
  • "Why should I yield to sin because of my flesh?"
  • "Why should I give way to temptations that the evil one puts in my heart to destroy my soul and afflict my soul?"
  • "Why am I angry with my enemy?"

The answers are that Nephi should not be angry with his enemies. As we learn from President Eric Shumway"s octopus story, anger can result in our death. Nephi should continue to "frankly forgive" his wayward brothers. Why should we give way to temptations? We should not. Neither should we allow our flesh to waste away or our souls to linger and feel sorry for ourselves. With Nephi we need to get out of the Valley of Sorrow and get on with our lives as quickly as possible.

4. A Wake-Up Call. Remedies For Self-Counseling.

Nephi tells us how we can actually pull ourselves up to be personal prophets He becomes his own coach and counselor. In his counseling session with himself Nephi subjects himself to one of most honest wake up calls in the scriptures. "Awake, my soul, he appears to shout. Next, he advises himself to "no longer droop in sin." To the sad soul in the Valley of Sorrow, he exclaims "Rejoice, my heart, and give no place for the enemy of my soul."

As part of this wake-up call, Nephi commits to stop "slackening his strength" because of his melancholy. It is as if he is saying to us: "It's time to stop feeling sorry for myself and stop wasting my time, do my home teaching and get to the temple more often." Then after Nephi has done all that can in his own self- counseling session and committed himself to change, he is close to the finale necessary for reconciliation and forgiveness.

5 "Wilt Thou" -- The Savior's Part in Helping (31-33)

Even after all he has done in the personal repentance process Nephi knows there is still something else that has to happen. He knows that after all is said and done about sin and salvation, it is only through the Savior that we can wash away our wretchedness and iniquities. After questioning himself, Nephi next reaches up to God and asks: "Wilt thou redeem me and deliver me and make me shake at the appearance of evil." Only Christ through his Atonement is able to do that for us.

Depending on the severity of our transgressions, we sometimes have to go to others such as a Bishop before we are in a position to ask Christ "Wilt Thou? " But the main point to remember from Nephi's Psalm is that we need to do a great deal of problem solving on our own before the Atonement takes effect. Although the model Nephi provides appears to be brief, repentance often takes time. It depends on the severity of the sin and upon the extent of our sighs and sadness.

This is something I learned from Richard Klein who used to be the president of the Missionary Training Center. I remember the many times he scolded the young missionaries who came to him with problems they should have attended to before coming to the MTC. Some of the young missionaries thought repentance was a quick fix. They believed that all that was needed after sin was for them to utter a few prayers, and be disciplined with a few stripes, before carrying out the Lord's work.

Pres. Klein used to say: "That's the problem with the Pepsi-Generation, or the generation of fast food young people." He warned. "You think that everything, even sin, can be forgotten and forgiven instantly with the snap of a finger. " But Nephi teaches us that some sins warrant our visit in the Valley of Sorrow last a little longer. We need to go through the process that Nephi describes before we ask Christ to once again "encircle us with the robes of righteousness" and open the gates of righteousness so we are once again worthy of the visions and Spirit that Joel promised us.

6. Lord I Have Trusted Thee (34-35)

The final step in Nephi's poignant Psalm is to once again return to the theme of trust that Nephi has maintained in the Savior even from his lowest hours in the Valley of Sorrow. After climbing up from the Valley of Sorrow by seeing that the blessings of his life far outnumber the bad days, and after a sincere self-counseling, commitments and promises to Christ, he is able to feel the forgiveness of his Redeemer and know that he has been cleansed and delivered from his enemies, from Satan, and from his own doubts. As a final step Nephi prays and remembers the first cry he made when he determined to change. Nephi reaffirms his trust in God. He rejects trust in the arm of flesh. He recognizes the power and liberality of God who as a Loving Father will continue to pour blessings upon us.

In deep gratitude, Nephi says he will "ask," he will "lift up" his voice and even "cry" so his voice will "ascend" to the rock of his everlasting God. What a triumph for Nephi as he emerges from his self-doubt and self-hatred and becomes one who is delivered to the Father through the Atoning One. Each of us can duplicate Nephi's journey and have the spirit poured out upon us and upon this great school even more than is happening in this day.

Conclusion

Let me leave you with my witness that what Nephi has taught us about getting closer to Christ is true and essential in our lives as it was in his. Joel saw our day. So did Peter. So did Moroni. I too have felt the spirit of young men and women who have the spirit. I still see it in young men and women such as you on the sacred grounds of the MTC, and BYU Provo, and here on this prophetic campus where the Spirit is its strongest identifying characteristic.

The last days are certainly here and quite ripe in iniquity. But with young men and women such as each of you becoming even more worthy to dream dreams and to see visions, each of us can continue to make little and even big changes as the Lord continues to pour out his Spirit in our days

It is my prayer that each of you will continue to follow the vision of Joel and Nephi's passionate Psalm as well the prophets and your Bishops and home teachers. May you continue to enjoy your own personal revelations by keeping the commandments they are predicated upon, and by avoiding the little things that prevent us from claiming the pouring out of the Spirit just as we have been promised.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

ENDNOTES

[1] Acts 2:17.

[2] Acts 3:19-21.

[3] JSH 1:41.

[4] D & C 82:10.

[5] Demopholis, 749-

[6] August Hare, 1792-1834.

[7] Edward Banfield, The Unheavenly City: Revisted, Boston: Little/Brown, 1974.

[8] Neal Maxwell, Depositions, 14. in The Neal Maxwell Quote Book, edited by Cory W. Maxwell, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft: 1997, 81.

[9] Alma 37:35.

[10] Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, "Honesty in Small Things," Ensign, Sept., 2003, 28-30.

[11] D & C 109:21

[12] Neal Maxwell, We Talk of Christ, 98; Quote Book, 256.

[13] Carolyn Shumway, "Small campus is big on talent," Ke Alakai'i, March 3, 2004, 8. See also, Stephanie Joy Hawkins, "Theater Talent Shines in the "Secret Garden," Ke Alakai'i, March 3, 3.

[14] Merrilee Webb, director "The Secret Garden," Program notes, Feb. 26-28.