Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have you ever seen heaven?

I happened to run across Spencer W. Kimball’s book Faith Precedes the Miracle and as I scanned though it looking for something that could help me, I ran across an incident he recorded. He was sitting for his portrait to be painted and the artist unexpectedly asked him, “Have you ever seen heaven?”

Spencer W. Kimball told the artist of when he officiated at a marriage in the temple and how he felt the Spirit of the Lord there and how he felt that was a vision of heaven. He then told the artist of visiting at a home in which the children were obedient and respectful and helpful and the parents were kind and loving and there was order and how he thought that was a vision of heaven as well. He told several other experiences, pointing to each one as a place where he had seen heaven.

As I was reading the first of Spencer W. Kimball’s heaven experiences, I at first thought that it was a total cop-out. I knew the artist wanted to know whether President Kimball had seen a vision of the celestial kingdom like Joseph Smith saw as recorded in D&C 76, and I thought President Kimball was trying to avoid the issue that he hadn’t really seen. However, I kept reading, and when I got to the story of the family that seemed like heaven, I started to remember some things. I thought of the hymn lyrics “Home can be a heaven on earth when we are filled with love”. I thought of how my own mother had tried so hard to keep peace in my family while I grew up. I thought of how my parents would sometimes point out little moments when we were so happy to be together that it seemed like heaven. That’s when I realized something startling.

I realized that we tend to think in terms of what can be taken to heaven and what will be eternal and what heaven will be like, when really, it is should be the other way around. Family isn’t something of the earth that we take to heaven with us, but it is something heavenly that we can have on the earth. The commandments aren’t something of the earth that get us to heaven, the commandments are celestial and we can have them on the earth! Principles we will live by in heaven have already been given to us to live on the earth. We make a heaven here so that we’ll be worthy of it there, along with celestial glory.

When I realized this, I suddenly saw that I had seen heaven over and over and over without recognizing it. I saw heaven when I got to welcome a woman into the celestial room of the temple after she got her endowments for the first time. I saw heaven at family reunions. I saw heaven when I was sealed to my husband for time and eternity. I saw heaven when I saw people donating their surplus to Deseret Industries. I saw heaven when I saw people serving each other at ward activities. I saw heaven in countless family home evenings and countless family prayers and sessions of scripture study, when the Spirit was there. I saw heaven in obedience, sacrifice, service, missionary work, temple work, and so on. I saw heaven in growing families, in continued courtship after marriage, in my husband’s love, in friendship, in forgiveness, in choirs singing triumphant, ringing praises. In every good holy thing I was seeing a piece of heaven.

Now we see that we must not only avoid procrastinating our repentance, but we must also not put off preparing for heaven. We have to put heaven’s principles to work here, we need to practice obedience here, we need to acquire integrity and generosity here, and make a heaven that the very angels can visit here.

I haven’t seen heaven like Joseph Smith saw it, but I expect someday I will, if I continue to sanctify myself. You will too, if you do the same. At the tail end of D&C 76, there is this:
“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; That through the power and manifestation of the spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory” (D&C 76:114-118, emphasis added).
This is a promise of seeing and knowing about heaven both through the Spirit, and with our very eyes. The spiritual part must come first, though, so that we will know what it is we see with our eyes, and recognize it for what it is.

Will you tell me about a time when you recognized a bit of heaven in your life?


Heather M. Collins said...

A realization I recently had, similar to the one you describe here, is when I realized what the Holy Ghost really does for us.

The Holy Ghost is the 3rd member of the Godhead. The gift of the Holy Ghost is to have Him to be with us. When He is with us, He brings heaven with Him. All I have to do is receive Him. There's no difference between what happens to me when I do that, and when Abraham, Moses, Adam, and Enoch did it. The product is no less meaningful to all of my generations.

I stopped, I listened, and it blew my mind:)

Michaela Stephens said...

Great thought, Paradox. Thanks for sharing that.

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...

I love this thought. I've also thought a lot about the scripture (somewhere) that says if we've ever seen in the stars moving in the heavens we've seen God. I think if we just opened our spiritual eyes more often we would realize we were surrounded by incredible power. Thank you for this thought. I especially need it today. My home isn't really feeling like heaven ;)