Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them who love him. (1st Corinthians 2:9)
It is my belief, that those who are doing their best to travel the path leading to exaltation have experiences in this life that taste of eternity. Before continuing the mighty testimony the Prophet Alma bears to his son, Helaman, let me impart of my own testimony. It has steered me through the days of great trials foreseen by my Heavenly Father (according to my Patriarchal Blessing) and foreseen by me as part of the mission I agreed to perform for him in the pre-existence. This is a sacred experience, and one I share only because I was also advised, in that blessing, that my trials would be given to me, so that I could understand and bear testimony always of what I learned from them. This is a divine pattern, given to us in the scriptures, notably by the prophet Alma, as we learned in the first verses of Alma 36 in my last column.
When we lived in Southwest Missouri, I was engaged in full-time genealogical research. I had a three-year-old, a seven-year-old, and an eleven-year-old. I became very inventive in devising activities for them when they were home, so that I could solve the mysteries of my family’s history. In the genealogy library, my three-year-old sat next to me and used the microfilm reader, running through film after film. To his eternal credit, he was patient and never bored.
You can imagine, therefore, how happy we were when “our temple” was dedicated in Dallas. A seven-hour drive was nothing, compared to the great outpouring of the spirit we felt there. On one unforgettable occasion, David and I were the witness couple. The temple was very crowded that day. We had to wait nearly an hour for our turn to perform that ordinance which is the apex of the endowment and leads us to the Celestial Room.
As I sat, waiting our turn, my mind turned to the early Saints and what their temple must have meant to them. From there, my thoughts traveled to the Prophet Joseph. A love
for him swelled my heart with gratitude, sweetness, and heart-enlarging emotions I cannot even name. I do not cry over sorrows, sadness, grief or pain. But that day I cried because my heart was so full that there was nowhere for the emotions to go, so I guess they came out in tears. Perhaps I was fanciful, but I felt that the Prophet was very near us in the Dallas Temple that day. Indeed, I felt that he was just beyond me, in the Celestail Room. My heart yearned to reunite with him.
Once I was in the Celestial Room, I was “stricken” with a Spirit so powerful that I could not stand. Into my heart poured a love so pure, so accepting, so sweet that it completely overcame me. I had never felt anything like it. I realized that the Holy Ghost was giving me a piece of my Savior’s love and my Heavenly Father’s love. It was so overpowering that I couldn’t explain it, even to my husband who sat by me and watched me sob with an unearthly joy. We love you, it seemed to say, Your life has already been full of trial and pain, and there is more to come, but this is what awaits if you stay the course. This is the magnitude of our love. It will heal you, fill you, and delight you. It will show you an unearthly brilliance you cannot even imagine. This is just a taste of its sweetness and how it will fill your soul.
We stayed there for a least an hour, though we had children waiting in the motel and a long way home. But I could not be moved away from the source of that love. My soul craved it and didn’t want to let go. I knew it would be taken as soon as we left the temple.
It was. But everytime I worked on my genealogy, I could feel a fragment of that peace and love fill my heart. I knew from my own experience what my ancestors craved, as they awaited in the Spirit prison.
I was a driven woman, until one day I was felled by the mental illness that had been seething, unknown inside me. Years and years of terrible trials passed. But I was maintained and kept alive by remembrance of the taste of what awaited me if I stayed my course.
This brings us back to Alma, and his great Chiasmus in Alma 36. In my last article, we covered the verses that told of his conversion and his attempt to describe what he felt:
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
Yea, I say unto you my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and bitter as were my pains.Yea, and I say unto you again my son that, on the other hand, there could be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
Yea, methought I saw, as Father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; and my heart did long to be there. (Alma 36: 20-22)
From these verses, stirring the soul of those who love the Lord, Alma moves outward again, verse by verse, in the Chiasmus. Notice how the corresponding verses depicting the inward journey to the masterful account of his redemption are mirrored by these new verses, the difference being that the outward verses reflect that change which has taken place in his heart: verses 14 and 15 tell of all the damage he had done in the Kingdom, “murdering” the children of God by luring them away from God. On the outward journey of the Chiasmus, Alma states in verses 24 and 25:
Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to the exceeding joy which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceeding great joy in the fruit of my labors.
We know that Alma experienced many discouraging trials after his conversion and during his ministry, but his remembrance, now near the end of his life, transports him back to that taste of exalting joy. He knows his God, and He knows what awaits him when he has completed his earthly mission.
As Alma was preparing Helaman for his mission as the next prophet, nothing could have been as powerful as this testimony. One surmises that Helaman, though not in need of so drastic a repentance, grew to have his own personal testimony of God.
We do not need to see God and angels, as Alma did, to feel that sweet, unimitable peace that he did. Elder Uchtdorf’s powerful address in October General Conference gives a mighty and beautiful testimony of our worth to our Father in Heaven:
Brothers and sisters, the most powerful being in the universe is the Father of your spirit.
He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.
God sees you not as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to him. (“You Matter to Him,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign, November, 2011, p. 22.)
There are three witnesses in this article, telling you that you matter to the Lord. It is my hope and prayer that you will be blessed in your struggles in these latter days, remembering always that He is there. Picture your pre-existent self, held in His loving arms, as He tells you what your mission is to be in this earth life. Imagine the faith He has in you. Imagine yourself standing before him at the end of your earth life, saying like Paul, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. (2nd Timothy 4:7)
G.G. Vandagriff is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a writer. In addition to her long-time stint as a Meridian columnist, she also writes a weekly blogpost for Latter-Day Woman Magazine, and columns for DeseretConnect. Her own daily blog posts can be found at http://ggvandagriff.com/blog. GG is the author of 10 novels, and two non-fiction books, one of which is Deliverance from Depression: Finding Hope and Healing through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. All her books can be found on Amazon.com.