August 16, 2007

When Left To Ourselves

Jedediah M. Grant
March 11, 1855

Lorenzo Snow expected his strong spiritual experiences he had before baptism to continue and strengthen immediately after his baptism, but he said afterwards he felt "stillborn" into the Church. He repeatedly prayed for more spiritual witnesses, but felt, instead that the heavens were "as brass" over his head. He remained determined and went to a place he had often prayed in seclusion.

Lorenzo described the Spirit descending upon him, hearing the sound like the "rustling of silken robes." He said the feeling of the Spirit upon him and every part of his body was more tangible than feeling the actual water of his baptism.

After the dearth came the flood. After the famine came the feast. After the night came the dawn. He received a powerful witness after the trial of his faith, (see Ether 12:6; Biography and Family Records of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Eliza R. Snow, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1884, pp. 7–8).

Jedediah M. Grant[1] talked about the influence of the Spirit, and why we may sometimes feel left to ourselves as Lorenzo Snow did:

We have received many testimonies of the goodness of God, our heavenly Father, in sickness and in health; He has heard our prayers, and supplied our wants; in distress He has administered unto us consolation; and when the light of His Spirit is upon us we comprehend clearly the dealings of the Lord, but when that Spirit is absent from us we do not so clearly comprehend His mercies and blessings bestowed upon us individually, and as a people.

I presume that in the order of the providences of God He has considered it necessary, at times, to leave His children to themselves, without the aid of any special influence of the Holy Spirit, that they may learn to comprehend and appreciate it when bestowed upon them.
When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail he was troubled, not only by the degrading circumstances, but by the terrible situation the Saints in Missouri were facing. About 8,000 of them were being forced from their homes due to the extermination order of Governor Boggs. Joseph must have been in dire straights and it seems, at least for a moment, he wondered where God had gone:

O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? (D&C 121:1-3).
Joseph Smith didn't pray about whether God was there, or not, he already knew from experience he existed. Joseph wanted to know where he had gone, as it seemed he had been left alone for a time. As B.H Roberts said, Joseph

...made Liberty jail, for a time, a center of instruction. The eyes of the saints were turned to it as the place whence would come encouragement, counsel—the word of the Lord. It was more temple than prison, so long as the Prophet was there. It was a place of meditation and prayer.

… Joseph Smith sought God in this rude prison, and found him (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:526).

In Lehi's dream in which he saw the iron rod notice that mists of darkness were inevitable. Everyone, it seems, at some point in the dream passed through the mists of darkness.

Sometimes, our wise Father may leave us to ourselves, without the full blessings of the Spirit to guide us, to prove us, stretch us, and help us grow, as Jedediah explained:

...the blessings you enjoy every day for a week, a month, or a year, you do not prize so highly as you do the blessings you receive more seldom. Deprive a man of any common article of food, even the bread you now enjoy, keep it from him for a week, for a month, or for a year, and when he again obtains it he will appreciate it very much.

It is measurably so with the Spirit of the Lord; we do not enjoy it at all times, we do not receive it under all the circumstances of life, the same as we do under some special condition that we may be placed in, where we particularly need the Spirit of the Lord to assist us.
Jedediah tied in the concept of prayer, saying in a humorous way, sometimes the Lord might seem distant if our prayers are not expressed as a humble way of discovering God's will, rather than dictating to the Lord what we want to happen:

We pray for many things; and I have heard some people pray in a manner that they would be very sorry, in their sober moments, if the lord should actually answer their prayers.

If the prayers of the people were written down, so that they could read and reflect upon them, I have no doubt but what they would wish to have a new edition. I have heard people pray for the Lord to do this and that; indeed, I have heard them pray for Him to do a thousand things that they themselves would not attempt to do (Journal of Discourses 3:272-279).
Jedediah died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1856 at the age of 40, leaving his wife to raise an infant named Heber J. Interestingly, Heber experienced exactly what his father had spoken of; Heber called it "a dark night of the soul." The young man felt inadequate when called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve and experienced great doubts, even becoming apprised of some mumbling about his lack of experience for such a high and holy calling among some members. He felt left to himself, as Lorenzo Snow had.

A while after he was set apart as he was journeying through Arizona he separated from his group to ponder the new calling. As he did so, he described a type of vision with Joseph Smith and his father Jedediah discussing the vacancies in the Quorum and appointing Heber to the fill one. His mind became settled and he never questioned his call again.[2]

Regardless of why the Lord may seem distant, be it personal transgression, pride, a trial of faith, or anything else, it is vital we continue to pray and cling as close to the Lord as we can. The mists of darkness will come; it is imperative-especially in those times- to grasp the rod and never let go.


President Grant, b. Feb. 21, 1816, was a fiery speaker who joined the Church at a young age, participated in Zion's Camp, and shortly thereafter was called as one of the first missionaries to Maryland, North Carolina, and what is presently Virgina. In 1844 he was among the men chosen to travel the country campaigning for Joseph Smith's presidential bid. He served as a President of the Seventy helping to organize westward migrations.
He became the first mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, beginning in 1851. In 1854 he was ordained an apostle, but instead of being in the quorum of the 12 he served as second counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young. He toured the Church in 1856 on assignment during the so-called Mormon reformation, when the church was exhorted to remember their covenants, most of them being rebaptised. His fiery discourses earned him the nickname "Brigham's Sledgehammer."
After this tour he contracted pneumonia and died on Dec. 1, 1856, nine days after the birth of his son Heber J. Grant. He had seven wives and thirteen children. (source: Wikipedia)

See "Heber J. Grant," by Ronald W. Walker; Biographical Essays of Presidents of the Church, ed. Leonard Arrington, pg. 232-233. The concept of a "dark night" traces, as far as I have seen, to a 16th century mystic, St. John of the Cross, who described his trial of faith in a poem called "Dark Night of the Soul."

[eds. note: There is more information on different reasons we may be left to ourselves. See "Cling Close To The Lord," for example.
Also, I may add in the future Dallin H. Oaks on asking for too much; Henry B. Eyring on pride creating a noise, etc.]

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