A passage from what is now 1 Nephi 2:2-4 stood out to me during my study this morning:
And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
I’ve read these verses many times before, and I’ve often pondered at Lehi’s quick and unquestioning obedience to the Lord’s commandment. That is indeed admirable, and a quality I still hope to develop within myself. Today, however, I was blessed to recognize in these verses another attribute Lehi held which poses a challenge for me: he recognized and did not entertain uncertainty about the revelation he was given.
Dreams are a curious thing. I’m not a neuroscientist—not even close!—so I can’t tell you the details of what goes in our brains to make them. I do know it has to do with electricity and tissues inside our skulls that transmit and process information from our thoughts and experiences as it works to restore us for another waking day. My dreams, however fanciful in retrospect, often feel very real when I am inside them. And yet, more often than not, I forget them either before or shortly after waking.
On very few occasions, I have awaken with a resonant feeling from a dream, whether or not the details of the dream remain with me (sometimes they do). At those times, I wonder if it was a divine message or inspiration from God. I’d like to believe that I had the courage to act, if it was.
Honestly, though, I can only remember two instances specifically where I thought my dream was some kind of revelation. They were both very strange plots that involved acquaintances I had never been particularly close with (friend-of-a-friend type situation, where we shared the same circle of friends but rarely interacted directly). In one, I had a very honest and heartfelt discussion with one about the struggles of their life and shared with them The Book of Mormon.
It was terrifying, but in both cases, I decided to reach out and send the person a message—not to preach or proselytize, but simply to initiate contact and see what would result. In both cases, nothing resulted, beyond a single brief but friendly exchange. I still have no idea whether my actions were truly inspired.
Another time, when I was a missionary, I had a dream about a friend from college who had written/emailed me only a handful of times. Before my mission, we had hung out on occasion, but mostly in large groups, and I didn’t feel that I knew them well. I don’t recall the details of the dream at all, but I remember the feeling I had when I woke up. It was the feeling of closeness and connection you feel when you are around your best friend, particularly after having enjoyed a great adventure together. It seemed an obvious sign that this person was going to become a dear friend—but I also recognized that the feeling would remain entirely one-sided unless I took some action. A few more letters were exchanged during my mission, and the Lord saw fit to put us into the same ward when I returned to BYU—a circumstance that brought its own challenges but mostly contributed a series of additional blessings (including at least two hopefully-lifelong friendships).
Although I’m glad to have had the above opportunities to practice deciphering revelation (or what I think may have been revelation) that arrive in the form of a dream, I am certain that there are many more examples of times when I should have taken action but did not. Either I forgot the dream, didn’t understand the message, or was too shy or reluctant to act. Perhaps the most likely is my tendency to doubt (or ability to rationalize) whether a dream was revelation at all.
That is what impressed me most about Lehi during my reflection this morning. It would have been easy to write off his dream as a working of his imagination, the reparation efforts of a tired mind that had endured much persecution and mockery. But he did not write it off. To our knowledge, he did not even question it. He immediately took action—readying his family and departing into the wilderness, a complete unknown to them all.
I don’t wish for revelation to come to me through dreams, though if that’s what the Lord sees fit to give me then I will try to be open to it. I do, however, aspire to be receptive to whatever promptings I do receive. I aim to be as confident in my own revelation and the invitations I receive as Lehi was in his. My ability to be an effective disciple and servant of the Lord depends on it.