I had an interesting experience yesterday, similar to several other experiences I’ve had involving dreams. Shortly before I woke up, I had a couple of dreams about an LDS Hmong girl I know in Appleton. I used to be in our local Hmong branch and still maintain contact with a number of Hmong members, but it had been a couple of months since we had visited her and her family. In one dream, I knocked on a door belonging to a Hmong family and she was the one who opened it and greeted me warmly. I don’t recall the other dream except that she was in it. When I awoke, I knew that I needed to visit her.
After our three-hour block (1 PM to 4 PM), while driving home, I asked my family if they wouldn’t mind stopping at Lee’s house on the way home. We had a busy schedule for the evening and taking time at the moment was somewhat inconvenient – it meant they might not have time to eat for a couple more hours – but they were willing (hoping for a brief visit, naturally). We pulled up to her house and I knocked on the door. Interestingly, Lee was the one who opened the door – something that I can’t recall happening on past visits. This sweet but very strong 18-year-old girl has been struggling with serious health problems and was near death for several months starting about a year ago, so usually someone else from her large family would open the door. She was excited to see us and told me that it was really strange that we came by today, since she had just had a dream (I believe it was the night before) that she saw me in a midst of missionaries (standing out by virtue of being taller) and was excited to see me again and waved to get my attention.
I’m not sure why this visit was so important. We had a good chat and learned of some exciting progress and even of an award her former high school gave her for her example of courage. I think the visit was helpful both for her as well as for my family, but there was no obvious urgent need that was being met that would seem to require a visit that day driven by guidance through divine intervention. Nevertheless, I believe that there was a reason why we needed to be there, if only to help maintain her ties to the Church (her father has left the Church, and she is pretty much the main Latter-day Saint of the family, and still hasn’t been able to be at Church for a very long time).
I’ve had a number of other experiences where dreams provided important guidance on issues. It’s only about 2% of the time for me that some significant new insight or inspiration comes from dreams, but that small fraction of what I believe to be inspired dreams prove to be very helpful. Related to dreams, sometimes there is just a thought of something important that I must do that is strongly present right before I awake, and those thoughts often prove to be accurate or meaningful when I pursue them.
About two months before I was called to be Bishop, I had a dream that I was sitting in the chapel when my boss from my previous job came and sat next to me (Dr. Richard Ellis from my days as an associate professor at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology on the Georgia Tech Campus). He is not LDS, but for dream purposes was a nice choice of a respected authority figure whom I trusted and admired. He leaned over to me and whispered, “You know you’re going to be called as Bishop, don’t you?” I didn’t know, but that dream made me confident that it would happen and helped me get a head start in preparing for that challenging task.
Interestingly, there was a time when I sensed another calling coming, and through what I believe to be divine guidance from several different angles, including a dream, I was able to be firm in doing what I had never done before: turning down a calling. (I am quite sure that I needed to say no – that is not to say that issuing the calling to me was wrong, and in fact it was very logical, but I believe it was right for me to turn it down. My first experience ever issuing a calling, by the way, as a counselor in the Tucker Ward of Georgia, was a case where I believe the Bishop was inspired in having me issue the calling to a less active woman, but it would have been wrong for the woman to accept. When I issued the calling tears came to her eyes – was this an spiritual experience for her?? – and then she blurted out: “I need to get out of the Church. How do I do that?” Well, she needed the Bishop’s attention, if only to resolve her membership status, and the calling set things in motion that otherwise would not have happened. I’m OK with that.)
Regarding dreams, the scriptures point to many cases where they are a means of providing revelation to members and non-members alike. I think we should be grateful for this divine tool and not overlook the possibility of inspiration or teaching that may be provided in them occasionally.