Dreaming Dreams

April 15, 2005 | 22 comments

Two posts over on the Star (one on dowsing and divination as spiritual gifts and spiritual dangers, the other on Daniel’s dream), and an email my wife sent me reminding me of an important dream I had a couple of months ago, all came to my attention today. There seemed to be a theme.

Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, I’ve been praying a lot lately about dreams, manifestations, and visions. There are two reasons for that.

First, on the morning train to work I’ve been reading Mormon and Moroni’s warning that if miracles cease, it will be because of our wickedness. I’ve seen lots of attempts to explain these warnings away, but none that weren’t hog water. So I’ve been troubled by the lack of miracles and divine power in my life. And I’ve been excited by the flipside implication that miracles, revelations, and gifts might be available for the asking.

Second, I’ve had a real sense lately that this world and what it has to offer isn’t good enough. I’ve had a hole in my soul that only godliness, and the power thereof made manifest, seemed like could fill it.

The upshot is that I’ve been praying for a specific kind of dream, vision, or manifestation. (I’m writing elliptically on purpose.) Two interesting things have happened in response. First, during one prayer I felt reminded that my wife and my mother-in-law had both dreamed significant and nearly identical dreams on the same night a few weeks ago, both of the kind I’d been praying for. I felt a sense of divine impatience, a ‘was that not enough?’ Strange to relate, I then felt encouraged to keep praying for my dream, vision, or manifestation, as if that reminder was not an answer to my prayers, per se, but a way of stripping my prayers of their sign-seeking.

Second, my memory has been directed to several significant dreams that I’ve had in the last few months and more or less brought to think that they were from God.

The interesting thing about these dreams is the way they were similar to and different from the dreams we see in scripture. Like the dreams associated with Daniel and with Joseph in Egypt, their significance was symbolic and allegorical, and clearly meant to be so. Second, unlike those dreams, I received the impression that these dreams did not just teach through symbolism and allegory, but through experience. That is, that I had these dreams in part so that I could experience situations that I haven’t in life. As part of this learning through experience, all these dreams had as a common feature that at various points in the dream, after I’d made a bad mistake and seen the consequences, I was given the opportunity to back up, act differently, and see the consequences.

I do not really wish to spark a discussion of gee-whiz miracles and manifestations and dreams that people have had. That gee-whiz factor is, I’m pretty sure, much of what the scriptures are condemning when they condemn sign-seeking. (Though I would be interested in any insights into the difference between sign-seeking/Simon Magus-ism and ‘seeking after every good gift.’) I do wish to elicit discussion of two points. First, these recent happenings suggest to me that we consciously experience more miracles and divine power in our lives than we think. Do you think that’s true? Second, the differences between my dreams and those in scripture make me wonder if the way God uses dreams are not partly influenced by culture. Does God still speak through dreams today or are there other, more-favored modes? If he does speak through dreams, are there differences in how its done, as my experience would suggest?


22 Responses to Dreaming Dreams

  1. john fowles on April 15, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    these recent happenings suggest to me that we consciously experience more miracles and divine power in our lives than we think. Do you think that’s true?

    I certainly believe so. Remember the tender mercies of the Lord.

    As to the other question(s), I certainly think that God is going to communicate in a way that is consistent with aspects of culture that do not conflict with the precepts of the Restored Gospel.

  2. Costanza on April 15, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    I have had people in my gospel doctrine class ask if maybe we could be blessed with more such experiences (collectively and indivdually)if we were more righteous. Most of the class seemed to shy away from such discussions because they felt that to suggest that would be to imply that the Church is not functioning at 100% capacity. I personally believe that this topic shuold be discussed much more frequently. Your post also reminded me that I have actually had dreams where I make a tragic mistake and I awaken in a state of relief that it was only a dream–but that comes with a greater resolve to avoid danger. I had never considered the possibility that such dreams were inspired, but I am now pondering that possibility.

  3. Keith on April 15, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    You might be interested in reading Arthur H. King’s short essay “Dreams” in his book, Arm the Children. Here are the opening sentences to pique curiosity:

    “We seem to be agreed that what happens to us when we are awake is real and what happens to us when we dream is not. But that is a very stupid thing to think. Dreams are a part of out total mind and experience, and, more then we do, we need to ignore the difference between waking and sleeping, a difference that is a convention and only a convention”(311).

    Later he says, “My dreams are a moral tutor. Not very often, when I do the right thing, they bring someone I love from the dead–the sense of liberation and joy is greater than anything in my ‘waking’ life”(315).

    My ‘regular’ dreams can be instructive and, in some sense, give experience (even if something like a literary experience). The few dreams that I had that were clearly something sent, something more revelatory, are much the same, but reveal/instruct and give experience in a greater degree.

  4. J. Scherer on April 15, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    Sometimes I am astonished at the miracles that I’ve witnessed whwn I make the effort to realize them. The frequency of such events seems much greater over the past two years since I’ve joined the church. None have been enormous, but they have been what I needed. There have been things good and bad that the lord has put into my life in a miraculous way and each has brought me closer to him. The area where I see the most divine intervention in people’s lives has been the trials they’ve endured while investigating or preparing to join the church. For instance, in my own case what are the odds that a family would have a miscarriage, a blocked sewer line, a broken car and serious extended family problems all within two weeks of being baptised? These problems helped us to learn the healing power of prayer and the divinity of scripture, especially the Book of Mormon. I believe that as we obey, these miracles are put into our lives, the challenge being to recognize them as such and give thanks for them.

  5. A. Greenwood on April 15, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for the link, John. We had to travel during that session, couldn’t be helped, so I’d missed out on this talk.

    You’re right about our discomfort with talking about why there aren’t more miracles. The problem is that Mormon and Moroni seem to have set up a fairly objective and unsympathetic test for righteousness. No miracles, no righteousness.
    Your experience with your dreams is much like mine. I remember waking up thinking, ‘wow, I really learned a lot,’ but it wasn’t until the last couple of days that I realized the learning might have been sent.

  6. A. Greenwood on April 15, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    “give experience (even if something like a literary experience)”

    Yes, this sounds exactly right. I originally had a section in the original post comparing my dream ‘experience’ with my literary ‘experience’ and concluding that they were of the same kind.

  7. Jonathan Max Wilson on April 15, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    I think that inspired dreams are quite common in the church, but because of stewardship constraints, most members, properly, keep their experiences to themselves and share them only within their families.

    I’m, not sure that the dreams that we read about in the scriptures are very different from the one you describe. Though the dreams that we read about in connection with Joseph and Daniel seem to be only allegorical, Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon is interesting in that, like your dream, it has very symbolic elements, but it also has an element of instruction via experience. Lehi experiences the wandering in the dark and dreary wilderness until he calls upon the Lord. He experiences the anguish of the refusal of Laman and Lemuel to partake of the fruit. Lehi experiences the mocking of the people in the great and spacious building.

    Also, the Guide to the Scriptures at the official church website says of dreams: “Inspired dreams are the fruit of faith.

  8. lyle on April 15, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    adam: these recent happenings suggest to me that we consciously experience more miracles and divine power in our lives than we think. Do you think that’s true?

    Well, I don’t have a conference reference for you, but if we are less obedient than the dust, and not to trust in the arm of flesh, it would seem to follow that much of what we accomplish is substantially, if not almost solely, due to divine intervention that in our pride we attribute to our own works.

  9. anon on April 15, 2005 at 4:33 pm


    This is my favorite thing you have written. Thanks.


  10. A. Greenwood on April 15, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Thanks, Anon.

    I take your point about the similarities to Lehi’s dream, J. Wilson. Perhaps any dream, no matter how symbolic, in which you yourself participate, is unavoidable experiential. Like the temple.

  11. yddy42 on April 15, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    Do any of you do anything to specifically remember your dreams? I have a real hard time remembering my dreams (warning or regular). Sometimes I wake up and realize that I might have been ‘sent’ a message, but for the darndest can’t remember anything. Oh well – back to the knees…

  12. Jack on April 16, 2005 at 12:24 am

    After I turned thirty I started having, what I would consider, “message” dreams regularly. I believed for some time that they were a special gift that had been given to me. Only recently, after having psychologically crashed and burned, did I begin to understand that many (if not all) of these dreams had to do with the undoing of coping patterns that, for the most part, I was unaware of. Most of the dreams delt with a strange sort of duality that I had mistaken for a call into a more refined way of living the gospel. In a way, it’s a relief to discover that these “messages” are, by and large, of my own making. And yet, strangely, I do feel that perhaps there was/is a bit of gift giving going on in these dreams–the gift being a sort of preparation for that terrifying step that I would inevitably take of throwing off the shackles of a brutally compulsive taskmaster which would never again be mistakened for the voice of God. In these dreams I have been able to get a feel for the dichotomy between the two worlds in my mind that, as of late, have been waging war against one another. I have a better sense of which side I need to be fighting on. In the world of psychology this would be attributed merely to the utterances of the subconscious which never lies–merely the mind’s way of working loose from the chains compulsion. Yes, it is all of this, but I would be untruthful if I didn’t acknowledge the added gift of being able to discern a little more clearly that which comes from heaven by learning alot about that which does not. I must also confess the miracle of a constant sustaining power that has carefully bridled life’s circumstances in such a way so as to open a tractable path toward healing.

  13. Bro. Brandon B. on April 16, 2005 at 8:11 am

    Adding to the paragraph cited in Comment #1,
    these recent happenings suggest to me that we consciously experience more miracles and divine power in our lives than we think. Do you think that’s true?

    I think that Heavenly Father desperatly tries to communicate to all of his children on a very regular basis. I think that the gift of the Holy Ghost helps us to fine-tune ourselves to hear HIS messeges and to better understand them. Without the church, we are like a radio player with dying batteries, once we have the blessings that come along with baptism, confirmation, and callings I think that our batteries are recharged and that we are better able to identify and hear the messages that HE gives us. (and yes, I did get that radio parable from Sunday school, for any who payed attention) I think that dreams can help to be an important part in our learning and understanding of all things.

  14. Todd on April 16, 2005 at 10:19 am

    One of the things I discovered from studying church history seems to be that in the early church–up until around 1900, enough members engaged in enough miraculous experiences that the leadership sought to temper such to some degree…the source of such concern seemed to be based in concerns about members seeking miraculous events then getting them from the wrong source.
    This has influenced how I think about things–on one hand, I think today there are decidedly less, or perhaps less dramatic, experiences than there were in the past–and that might be intended. On the other hand, I regularly meet far to many members of the church who have had no such experience. I don’t think we should seek for dreams, miracles, etc–because we may find them from the wrong source and have difficultly discerning such. But on the other hand, I think we need to be more *open* to them. Allowing for the possibility of such to exist is the first enabler of the experience. How many of us really genuinely know that when genuinely needed, we can have access to the Savior at whatever level is required to assist us?
    I also think, that based on the experiences of those in the early church, that once the door to such is opened, it doesn’t really close (except through perhaps general loss of faith, transgression, etc).
    For me, I’ve never had a dream that I think meant something spiritually, but the door to miraculous experience has been opened enough to where I’ve experience some things and no longer doubt their existence. Yet it’s not opened enough do to what I view as simply some frank limitations of my own faith.

  15. Bro. Brandon B. on April 16, 2005 at 11:36 am

    “I don’t think we should seek for dreams, miracles, etc–because we may find them from the wrong source and have difficultly discerning such…. How many of us really genuinely know that when genuinely needed, we can have access to the Savior at whatever level is required to assist us?”
    It is my opinion that all you need is the H.G. and some common sense. Leadership as well. If you feel as if you have been divinely inspired and you want confirmation, seek the Holy Ghost and pray earnestly about it. If what you are being prompted to do seems questionable in any way or form, speak with your Bishop about it. He will help, he’s there to guide you. As a general rule tho, follow your heart and your promptings if you do this, the spirit shouldn’t direct you to do anything too radical or out of place.

  16. Sheri Lynn on April 16, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    I heard the Voice of the Lord when I was seeking to know if I should join this Church, during my very first sincere prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Nothing can take the place of that experience. Miracles? Sure, I’ve absolutely had experiences that could be nothing else but miracles in my life. But I don’t need them to supplement what I know is true.

    I’ve taken enough physics and chemistry to know how wonderful and improbable the universe is…let alone life…if not for an Intelligence behind every aspect of it. The exact, invariant properties of the ubiquitous electron! If it were just a little massier, if the charge were not so constant, atoms would fly apart instantly. The capacity of deoxyribonucleic acid to produce the proteome of an entire individual all from something that fits neatly into a single tiny cell; the ability of two individuals to combine that DNA and produce more distinct and viable members of their species. The ability of wheat kernels to stay viable–and edible–for centuries. Bread. Honey. Birthday cake! Roses shipped from far away, because human intelligence has made it possible for a laborer to buy more than bread, but even such luxuries as flowers and cake and medicine, and live comfortably, many places around the world. We call the poor, the poor, who never miss a meal, in this country. We speed help to people who really are poor and devastated by natural disasters–and we send what we can by jet. Amazing. Miracles all around us and we don’t even notice.

    Muck around all we will with the physical world, allocating values, bickering, squabbling, fighting too much–nonetheless, we can access all the spirituality and revelation we’re prepared to handle. Miracles? We’re here, well-fed, warm on a planet miraculously habitable in a universe seething with deadly energies…and we have a living prophet, personal revelation, and the Book of Mormon too. Seeking for much more almost seems unnecessary.

    How glorious that we may.

  17. Bradley Ross on April 18, 2005 at 12:42 am

    Elder Bruce Hafen wrote an Ensign article which has shaped my perceptions and expectations of miraculous events. He talked about two temple dedications: Kirtland and Nauvoo. The first was a massive outpouring of spiritual phenomena. The second was unremarkable. He writes:

    “Our youthful years as missionaries and students are, despite their typical growing pains, frequently a kind of Kirtland for us: a simple and beautiful time, filled with intellectual breakthroughs, private spiritual moments, and emerging idealistic convictions. Those years may lift us for a time above the noise and smoke and confusion of worldly valleys to a high mountain peak, where we develop a growing closeness to the Infinite.

    “But the day always seems to come when we must leave our Kirtlands. When we do, sooner or later, we may have our own kind of Nauvoo, perhaps more than once. We will have our own frozen rivers and parched deserts to cross, a moral or financial or intellectual wilderness to tame. It will not always be fun. Perhaps we will feel bewildered and disappointed, and we may look back longingly to those youthful years, wondering why we cannot recapture the way things were in our days of Kirtland.”

    That said, I too have been recently wondering what I ought to be doing to realize the many admonitions to seek the face of God. Perhaps paying more attention to dreams is a way to approach that goal. I want to keep in mind the things that Hafen taught me about expectations and yet still reach to expand my spiritual horizons.

  18. annegb on April 18, 2005 at 6:27 am

    I have had very specific, even psychic dreams, many times, about things that later came to pass (I have “and it came to pass ” down flat in Russian) exactly as I dreamed them. One was the chain of events that led to my husband’s death and my activitiy in the church. At the time, it was just a dream, but it was quite chilling after it came true. I still don’t pay as close attention to my dreams as I probably should, but I’ve had too many messages in them to ignore them.

    On another note, I have been to New York City. It is a wonderful and unique city, unlike any other I’ve ever been to–the people have attitude, I sort of fit in, except I decided not to affect (effect?) that blank business-like busy “have to be somewhere important soon” look and look into each person’s eyes and smile. Sometimes they looked back. Nobody looked manic, just purposeful. Plus I found myself cussing a lot, saying “Oh, fa Gawd’s sake!” Which I heard a lot, because I stopped to look at stuff and then people run into you and then somebody runs into them and they get really irritated. When people walked against a red light, I joined them and said loudly, “my friends, today we live or die together.” They got it.

    But I spent the majority of my time in the ER at Bellevue Hospital because my daughter came down with what we think–nobody is sure at the moment–is a sudden acute case of mono. It’s nothing like in NYPD Blue, they were very nice. In fact, everybody we met was nice, it was like there were angels with us every step of the way. Imagine being 2000 miles away from home with a very sick child in a strange hospital. That was from hell. Luckily, Robin Williams and I are closely related in some strange way.

    We went to church at the Manhattan Temple singles ward, I met a beautiful young man who is a male model and there were lots of good looking young single men, but my daughter slept through it and was underwhelmed. I met somebody who knew Kaimi (no clue now of his name). He said Kaimi’s name is pronounced something like CAWEEMEE. Not Cammie, like a girl’s name. The meeting was wonderfully spiritual. I also went for mashed potatoes in a pub (after being in the hospital all day, I needed comfort food, not exotic) and got my picture taken with three BBC sitcom stars at a table filled with empty beer bottles (I didn’t know they were on TV, they were sort of crushed that I was after the effect of the beer bottles and men in a bar, being a Mormon and all).

    But–there is a point here, I had friends there, but nobody was home when my daughter was at the ER, so I called the Elders and got this guy from Samoa who couldn’t speak English, but bless his heart, he got somebody to come give her a blessing. That very young man gave her the blessing (OY VEY, such a fuss, here it’s taken for granted), and came out and advised me to gear back on our trip. I listened, felt he was talking by the spirit, canceled our plans to go to DC and tour the White House and the Pentagon and we spent a solid day in our hotel room. The cost to change our plane tickets was prohibitive or we would have gone home.

    So for those who live in New York, good for you, not for me, but by far not the worst city I’ve been in. The loudest, but not the worst. Unique, with energy and attitude.

    The trip was my daughter’s dream come true, Broadway plays, museums, Canal Street (I had a blast while she slept against the wall at McDonald’s–one Asian woman said to me as I bargained: “You hahd, hahd, woman.”). We did some sightseeing, but instead of New York (aka Italy), I would say we went to Holland, those who have heard that analogy. Different lessons, different blessings, different joys.

    Back to dreams, I think it’s a gift. My husband doesn’t have those kinds of dreams. But he sure as heck pays attention to mine.

  19. Adam Greenwood on April 18, 2005 at 8:18 am

    I was hoping and expecting to hear from you on this thread. Thanks for rewarding my simple faith. :)

  20. Zerin Hood on April 18, 2005 at 10:35 am

    Very interesting topic.
    I think there are more miracles occuring than we know — unrealized or kept private. As for dreams, I’ve had a couple that have come true, and a couple that I’m still waiting on but seemed divinely inspired at the time. The first was seeing my wife in dream before we met. The other was related to a calling.

    As for praying for spiritual gifts — certainly something we are admonished to do. For years I prayed for a couple particular gifts. Later, a church leader informed me that I had one of those gifts. I also came to realize the other.

  21. Madera Verde on April 29, 2005 at 1:34 pm

    Are dreams, and other foreknowledge always from either God or Satan?

    First a little discussion of causes and categorization. I suggest that they can be classified into four groups.
    God – This is God acting directly, and always purposefully (Divine intervention)

    Natural causes or mechanisms – There are immutable laws in the Universe. “God would cease to be god if he would lie” All key gospel principles seem to fall in this category. Laws of physics – I cannot tell. Logic would fall in this category. So would natural abilities and tendencies although we have those because of the creation (both physical and spiritual organizations) so they are thanks to God. I would say that in themselves they are neither evil nor good, but we must use them for either evil or good. And it appears that if we don’t conciusly try to harness our natures for good they will became perverted to evil ends. I think the light of Christ would fall into this catetory although its not absolutely “natural”, just like god created the earth but we would consider it to be natural and most earthquakes to be the results of this natural system following its laws. (Or did God just kill tens of thousands in India for some reason that is not clear to me?)

    Other Intelligences – This is us exercising our free agency to choose good or evil
    Satan – Always with a purpose

    I hope what I say about natural causes or mechanisms is not too confusing.

    So what I am asking is whether or not dreams or other foreknowledge might be a natural mechanism and not neccesarily divine intervention. Let me share some of my following experiences:
    I was on a trip. My father was driving and I was riding shotgun. We were passing a truck in the right lane. As we were almost in front of it, I knew that it was going to come in our lane. I had to communicate that to my dad so that he would go faster. Since I was a child and firmly believed then that if I concentrated really hard I could “think” things to people that is what I did. (Also I was afraid that if I told him to speed up I would look stupid and people would make fun of me). Sure enought the truch merged and hit us, luckily though, nobody was hurt.

    A CD was missing. This was causing a lot of contention because I thought that other members of the family hid it so that the computer would be available for them. I was meditating on it and on a whim tried to follow a technique I had read about. (Basically clearing the mind of all thoughts, end everything) I then saw the CD. It was standing on its side, in a dark place, next to same stained wood. I was so surprised that it was standing upright that I said to my brother, “The CD is standing on it side.” I took that to mean that I was correct in assuming that somebody had hidden it because how likely would it be to naturally fall on its side. Those searches were fruitless. When I rejected the hypothesis that they had taken it, and used my “vision” I deduced logically where it was, and there it was exactly (It had fallen thorugh into crack)

    Finally dreams. I have dreams that make that foretell the future. Not exaclty the physical circumstances but rather the feeling and abstract cirmcustance. (This will not make sense to you unless you have had same similiar experience). So I will be doing something, and I will say to myself. I’ve been here before.

    Another thing with dreams Is that I’ve dreamed the same dreams as my brother. I’ll start telling it and he can finish it supplying such detailed information as the color of objects and other things. This has also happend to other members of my family. In all these cases the dreams were random and meaningless, (And I’ve forgotten the dreams except some useless details. One involved my sister with a purple cast, which is odd because she had a pink cast. Later she did have a purple cast)

    Now, my arguments for this to be a natural mechanism.
    It would be purposeless for God or Satan to sync our dreams, as those were meaningless. Besides which I wasn’t seeking any such so it seems that satan or god could not do it as god can only intervene because of faith, and satan only has power of us proportional to our choosing it so, or god granting him that power as trying. (Although we might not see our choice for what it is)
    So either these are natural or I misjudge the charactar of God or Satan, or am foolish in some way that I can’t quite tell yet. I would like to know, so somebody please inform

  22. A. Greenwood on April 29, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    Very intelligent, Sra.Verde. I’m going to have to think your suggestion over for a bit.

    Shouldn’t that be ‘Bosque Verde’? In which case you’d be a Sr., not a Sra.


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