Friday, September 21, 2012
"VISITATION EVE" September 21st
On this night—September 21st—189 years ago, 17-year-old Joseph Smith claimed he was visited by an angelic spirit who told him of an ancient American history inscribed on gold plates, buried in a hillside in his upstate New York neighborhood, containing the fullness of the everlasting Gospel. For the next four years at midnight on this night, Joseph went to that hill where he claimed he was visited and interviewed by this angelic spirit to determine if he was ready to begin the prophetic career to which he had been called. For some Reform Mormons, the night of September 21st is a holiday: Visitation Eve. On this night Joseph’s stories of spirits, angelic visitations and gold plates (whether accepted as literal events or as symbolic tales) are remembered and used as vehicles for self-examination. And so tonight as I say my bedtime prayers and as I drift off to sleep, I will contemplate where I stand on the path of Eternal Progression. (Above: The attic bedroom of the restored Smith Farm House near Palmyra, New York, in which Joseph Smith claimed he was first visited on Sept. 21, 1823 by an angelic spirit.) I will try to be brutally honest with myself. I will envision a blazing angel standing before me, shining light into those dark places within I’d rather keep secret. I will envision a salamander or giant toad (characters from other versions of Joseph’s evolving story) smacking me down for allowing short-sighted greed or selfishness to undermine my attempts to develop within myself those Celestial attributes I envision my Heavenly Parents possessing. Come the morning I may not walk away from this symbolic angelic visitation with a Gold Bible tucked under my arm. But if I greet the day with a keener awareness of my weaknesses, coupled with a greater appreciation for the ever-present reality of personal revelation, Intelligence, Light and Truth—all of which will help me turn those weaknesses into strength—then I walk away with something more precious than gold plates.