Last week's LDS General Conference is just being watched this weekend in Asia in place of regular Sunday services. One of the many little ironies of life in China is that by being 14 hours ahead of Utah, we get conference a week late--recorded conference, played off a DVD. There are much bigger ironies that I want to talk about sometime, including some issues in which the West gets so many things about China completely backwards. Resisting the urge to diverge, I'd like to mention that Elder Scott's talk on receiving personal revelation was an especially meaningful part of conference to me. One part that intrigued me was his call to pay more attention to the efforts of the Lord to teach us in dreams:
Revelation can also be given in a dream when there is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. If you strive to capture the content immediately, you can record great detail, but otherwise it fades rapidly. Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost. However, He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect.

When it is for the Lord’s purposes, He can bring anything to our remembrance. That should not weaken our determination to record impressions of the Spirit. Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation. Such recording of direction of the Spirit should be protected from loss or intrusion by others.
Now dreams can be crazy, random, and troubling, especially when we have been filling our minds with troubling thoughts and images. In recalling some of the disturbing and ugly dreams that have bothered me over the years, I think that many of these can be traced to my mind dealing with troubling images and scenes of violence from movies and sometimes a video game. Yes, I have wasted a handful of hours during my mortal journey on video games. Curse you, Donkey Kong! And how much psychotherapy will it take to ease the trauma of that recurring dream, trying to escape the huge yellow teeth of Pac Man?

My experience, though, has been that when I'm trying to be focused on things that are good, dreams can be remarkable tools to change my perspective, better recognize my weaknesses, understand a decision more clearly, or sense and feel the love of God. Since the theme of overcoming materialism and helping those in need has been prominent in this Conference (haven't seen it all yet), starting with President Packer's touching accounts of dealing with beggars and the poor, I'd like to share a couple of very recent dreams I had on the topic of dealing with money.

In my first dream of a few days ago, I had just filled up my wallet with cash. It was thick. As I walked past a food court in a busy public place, I saw delicious ice cream being offered. Someone called out the price, and I said, "No trouble, I've got plenty of money." I ordered an ice cream cone and began eating it as I took out my wallet with my free hand. I brought the wallet up to my other hand to take out some money and accidentally wiped the wallet with the ice cream cone. A thick layer of soft ice cream was now on my wallet. No problem, I just stood there and began licking the wallet. Ah, delicious. Delicious, delicious money, delicious wallet. And then I awoke, disgusted and embarrassed. Could that have been me? Um, yeah, that was me in the dream, misled by the temptations of money and food.

Then the other night, another poignant dream. I was standing at an overlook of some kind, a beautiful place. A little green LED light went off on a computer behind me indicating that I had just received mail from a particular relative whom we had just sent flowers. Without opening her email, I knew what it would say and knew how the flowers would be helpful to her at a difficult time. I felt really good about the simple, easy act of giving the flowers. As I turned and looked out from the beautiful, flower-covered balcony I was standing on, there was a warm, gentle voice: "It is better to give than to receive." It filled my soul with delight and crystallized that teaching. It was suddenly so obvious, so laughably, delightfully obvious that I marveled how anybody could have missed this, how I could not have fully grasped that for so long. And then I awoke, resolving to give more and seek the Lord's inspiration more in knowing how to give wisely.

I hope by blogging about these experiences and recording them in my journal, I will be better able to retain the perspectives these dreams provided. The temptations of mortality never let up, even here in China, so it's important to renew and refresh our memory regularly. That can be aided by daily prayer and scripture study, weekly attending Church and partaking the sacrament, and, yes, regular, sound sleep so we have a chance to get meaningful dreams as part of the many ways the Lord can teach us.

By the way, both dreams were triggered by actual events. The night before the wallet dream I had extracted a thick stack of Chinese cash from an ATM and put it in my wallet. And the night of the giving flowers dream, I had gone online and sent flowers to a couple of special people in our lives. Now I recognize that dreams are a natural phenomenon (a brilliantly designed feature of the miraculous human brain--sorry, Richard Dawkins, you're not even coming close to explaining the brain as the natural outcome of random mutations and natural selection). But it's a phenomenon that I believe is open to external tweaking, to the operations of God when, perhaps only rarely, there is an appropriate opportunity to teach us something of great value. I would love to know the physics and neurochemistry behind the external tweaking: what actually has to happen for God to intervene and influence a dream or give us a thought in our sleep (or any other time)? I think no discussion here will make any sense or have any value until we understand what spirit is and what are spirits are. Some kind of matter, yes, that Joseph Smith said was "finer" than the visible matter we see. As we begin learning about matter, the concept of finer matter makes a lot of sense today. Physicists already know that we are immersed in streams of neutrinos that interact only weakly with regular matter, and have evidence suggesting that much of the universe is composed of "dark matter" and "dark energy" that we can't yet see. Is that part of the answer? There is so much, so very much, that we don't understand. Some things we think we have figured out may be ridiculously wrong when the big picture of the universe finally becomes clear. Until then, we must remain as children in our attitudes, recognizing the need for faith in God and not trust in the arm of flesh, much less the sticky wallet of flesh. Ah, there, it happened again, falling into the temptation to diverge. I suspect there's going to be a dream about that tonight.
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