Recently, I was poking around some older posts and came across this post by our own J. Stapley, regarding Spiritual Gifts and our possible abandonment of them. I have always been keenly interested in Spiritual Gifts, and in reading that post found myself yearning for the experiences of some of the early Saints. Some of these gifts are easily witnessed by others–speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, for example–while others are virtually invisible to all but the possessor, such as implicit faith in the testimony of others. In particular, and one that is most certainly private, is what I would call the gift of visions or dreams.
I believe in visions and dreams–or at least I think I do. In my life, I have had three dreams which have exerted significant spiritual impact on me. However, before I start declaring myself to be a visionary man like Lehi of old, I recognize that none of these were of the “pick up your family, build a boat, and go to Panama” sort–rather, they were simply deep, spiritual experiences that left me with a profound and lasting closeness with God. The feelings I experienced in each of those three dreams return whenever I meditate on what I saw in them, despite the fact that many years have passed since.
A few weeks ago, while reading the personal journal of my GGG Grandfather, Apostle Charles C. Rich, I came across the following account of a dream he had after falling seriously ill during a stay with his uncle in during the fall of 1832:
I dropped asleep and dreamed I saw myslef at the outer edge of an immense assemblage of people, that seemed to extend as far as the eye could reach- all looking toward a center, where there was a large double two story house, with porches between the two buildings. A man near me said to me “The Saviour had corne and was in that building.” I thought to myself that was what I was looking for. I started for the house and notwithstanding the pelple seemdd crammed close together I did not have to request anyone to stand aside to let me pass; but as I came to them they moved themselves and let me pass on.
When I came to the house I walked up the steps leading from the ground to the second porch – as I faced to the fight there was a door leading into the room, and a man appeared to be doorkeeper, standing partly in the door with his left shoulder against the left door cheek, looking inside. Right before me on the back side of the room stood the Savior who appeared to be engaged in speaking. As he placed his eyes upon me he stopped and looking at me smiled- the most beautiful smile I ever saw. The man at the door said “he knows we are his servants.” I then walked in and s at down, Joseph and Hyrum, Lyman Wight, and a number of others I did recognize were there. The Savior continued his instructions- his body seemed transparent and it seemed to me that I could see the Holy Spirit in him. It seemed to me in the dream to be the time spoken of when the Saviourswould come to minister “wine on the lees well refined.” After he was done talking we all knelt down while the Savior prayed. We then walked out on the porch and beheld the immense multitude of people in every direction all looking with joy toward the building where we were standing. When I awoke I was filled with the Holy Spirit and was healed of my infirmities to the astonishment of my friends. I could not remember distinctly the words of the Savior, they had passed from me with the dream.
I am sure that many individuals throughout time have had dreams in which they saw or met the Savior–perhaps some of you have had such at one point or another. However, this dream is of particular curiosity to me because it is almost identical to a dream that I had several years ago. A few of the details are different–it was a different building, and the individuals present my contemporaries, rather than C. C. Rich’s. Among them were several of my closest friends, including one of my dearest childhood friends who had left the Church. However, my GGG Grandfather’s account of approaching a building, having an individual inform him that the Savior was in the next room, and walking in, seeing Him smile toward him, being overcome with the warmth of His presence and love, and then seeing the Savior pray–these are all part of my memory of my own dream from years ago. Similarly, in my dream the Savior spoke to me, but after waking up, I could not recall what He said.
I do not believe that this dream was a vision of some future event that will actually take place; similarly, Charles C. Rich never hinted that such a meeting eventually came to pass. As a friend mentioned to me once while we were talking about this topic, “Read the old journals and they are chock full of dreams…and to be frank, they often got it wrong.” So, clearly I am not suggesting that any dream–spiritual or otherwise–need be more than just a dream. Still, it feels oddly incorrect to think of my dream as “fiction,” because it, remains among the more memorable and choice spiritual experiences I’ve had, and has had a “real” effect on me by altering to some degree how I perceive and interpret the feelings and sensations we often associate with the Holy Ghost.
What say, ye? Shall I put a lid back on the can of crazy? Or are dreams a real, legitimate source of communion with God, inasmuch as they are interpreted correctly? Can a person discern between random and inspired brain activity during sleep?
 I call it a spiritual gift, because it seems to me to be an appropriate descriptor, though I know it is not listed in the standard locations in scripture.
 I am descended from the youngest son of the C.C. Rich’s first wife, Sarah D’Armon Pea. Any other Rich descendants out there in the ‘nacle?
 See History of Charles Coulson Rich, pp. 5-7 (manuscript), pp. 4-5 (typeface). The spelling and grammar from his original manuscript are maintained here.