On perspective and matters of eternity.
The Spirit of the Lord asked Nephi, “What beholdest thou?” It is an interesting question to ask during a divine vision, and there is a fascinating lesson to be learned about teaching from that exchange. But today I wish to look at a different lesson: one about outlook, visions, and perception.
In the History of the Church, volume 1 chapter 16 (page 202) we read the following:
after we had encamped upon the bank of the river, at McIlwaine’s Bend, Brother Phelps, in open vision by daylight, saw the destroyer in his most horrible power, ride upon the face of the waters; others heard the noise, but saw not the vision.
Phelps was not, in general, one of the more visionary men on that trip; why could his eyes see this when others’ could not?
Sariah and Lehi agreed that Lehi was “a visionary man”, but disagreed if that was an asset or not. The brothers Jacob and Nephi described life in their community as “we did mourn out our days” and “we lived after the manner of happiness”, respectively. Where Solomon saw only “vanity and vexation of spirit” and that “he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow”, Alma saw that “all things denote there is a God” and Joseph Smith that knowledge was of eternal benefit.
When you look out into the world, what do you see? Do you see sympathetic joy or bitter envy in the friend that gains delights? In the silence after prayer do you behold peace from God or the absence of an answer? If you were blessed with wisdom to understand all things, would it be “vanity of vanities” or would your “soul rejoice”?
As far as I can tell, the glad and the glum both inherit the Kingdom of God. There are many righteous who see no visions, and many visionaries who fall from grace. I cannot tell that how we see the world today is of lasting importance. But I do find benefit in asking myself, as the Spirit of God asked Nephi,
“Self, what beholdest thou? Were another privy to the same sights as I, what might they behold?”
As anyone who has tried to participate in two simultaneous conversations knows, it is impossible for a mortal to observe all that is true in what they sense. Where is your focus?