(Continued from last week…)
ORSON F. WHITNEY
As a young missionary (called at the age of 21) in the eastern states, Elder Orson F. Whitney related that while on his mission, he was writing for the newspapers in Pennsylvania, and not studying the books of the Church as he knew he ought to be doing. He “had been praying for a testimony of the truth, but beyond that had not displayed much zeal in missionary labor. Then,” he said, “came a marvelous manifestation, and admonition from a higher source, one impossible to ignore. It was a dream, or a vision in a dream, as I lay upon my bed in the little town of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.”
“I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other wide, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
“As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to Him; I loved Him with all my soul, and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else.
“Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with Him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through His sensitive soul—and they could not watch with Him one poor hour!
“Returning to His place, He offered up the same prayer as before; then went back and again found them sleeping. Again He awoke them, readmonished them, and once more returned and prayed. Three times this occurred, until I was perfectly familiar with His appearance—face, form and movements. He was of noble stature…majestic…not at all the weak, effeminate being that some painters have portrayed; but the very God that He was and is, as meek and humble as a little child.
“All at once the circumstances seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with the three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him.
“I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped, raised me up, and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real. I felt the very warmth of His body, as He held me in His arms and said in tenderest tones: ‘No, my son, these have finished their work; they can go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.’ Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face—for He was taller than I—I besought Him fervently: ‘Well, promise me that I may come to you at the last.’ Smiling sweetly, He said, ‘That will depend entirely upon yourself.’ I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.
“…I saw the moral clearly….I knew that these sleeping Apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post—as any man is…or any woman, who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another.
“But from that hour, all was changed—I was a different man” (Orson F. Whitney, Through Memories Halls, 1930, p. 82; as found in The Ensign, Aug. 1975, pp. 20-21).
Alexander Neibaur, a Jewish convert from England and a dental surgeon by profession, was asked by his son shortly before his death, “‘Father, you have been telling us of your long and hard experience, and we have listened with intense affection and interest, but let me ask you, is it worth it all? Is the Gospel worth all this sacrifice?’
“[Alexander] lifted his voice in firm…assurance as he said:
“‘Yes! Yes! and more! I have seen my Savior. I have seen the prints in his hands! I know that Jesus is the Son of God, and I know that this work is true….I would suffer it all and more, far more than I have ever suffered for that knowledge even to the laying down of my body on the plains for the wolves to devour’” (The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, 5:62.), (Ensign, August 1975, p. 19).
MELVIN J. BALLARD
Elder Melvin J. Ballard, when a missionary among the Native Americans, said: “I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night, in the sacred building, the Temple. After…entering into one of those rooms…I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld, or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, He arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and He smiled as He softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into His arms and kissed me, pressed me to His bosom, and blessed me until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When He had finished, I fell at His feet, and as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of Him…to have His love, His affection, and His blessings was such that if I ever can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I hope to be, to feel what I then felt!” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Experiences of Melvin J. Ballard, p. 18.)
(to be continued…)