The strongest spiritual impression I ever had was that my boyfriend “would wait for me” during my mission. I heard a voice and felt so peaceful. Fast forward 18 months and he’s married. Was my “revelation” simply wishful thinking? What does it mean for me since my biggest spiritual experience was a complete dud? Did God not take the agency of my ex into account when He told me he’d wait? Why would God tell me something that He knew wouldn’t happen?
Confused by the (In)actions of God
You are not alone in having this type of experience, but know this, it is against God’s nature to lie. He most certainly has the physical and mental capacity to do so, but He never has and never will. If God could lie, neither we, nor any other form of existence in the universe could trust in Him, nor in His plan. If that were the case, everything we are, know and believe could never have been. Because it would be against His perfect nature, He cannot lie. The scriptures bare specific witness of this fact. When the Lord spoke with the Brother of Jared, before showing himself to him, he tested him:
“. . . Lord, show thyself unto me. And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him. . .” (Ether 3:10-13)
The Brother of Jared’s acknowledgement and testimony of this aspect of the nature of God, was part of what prepared him to be the first man to whom the Lord ever had shown himself.
If there is any discrepancy in the inspiration you feel you received, unfortunately, it must be due to your own misunderstanding. Once again, this type of experience is a common occurrence both in our day, as well as throughout the history of the earth, that will continue to happen as individuals seek wisdom and knowledge outside that to which they are entitled or authorized. Sometimes, when pressed, the Lord allows people to stumble by their own hand.
Consider the following passages:
” And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples, Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.” (Luke 9:43-45)
But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they . . . sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark. . . God hath . . . delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)
In the first passage, the Lord gave his Apostles information about his impending trial and death at the hands of wicked men. Despite the fact that they were called to a great work, they had beheld miracles and marvels, and many had received a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost, they did not comprehend the intent behind this direct and verbal message from the Lord, and they did not inquire further. Consider that for a moment; even the Apostles called and chosen, in the physical presence of the Lord, misunderstood His words. Surely, then, it could happen to you or I?
In the second passage, we learn that the Jews desired knowledge for which they were unprepared. They continuously looked ‘beyond the mark’. They were not focused on the things they needed to be focused on. After being given the knowledge they desired, they were not prepared nor able to understand it, and as a result, they stumbled. Is it possible, that in seeking the answer to whether or not your boyfriend would “wait for you” during your mission, you were ‘looking beyond the mark’, and as a result, were unprepared for the intent behind the response you received?
When Joseph Smith was asked permission by Martin Harris to take the 116 manuscript pages home, Joseph received a clear and direct answer that he should not allow it. The Lord gave this same response twice in a row! After Martin plead with Joseph to ask a third time, he eventually relented and this time the Lord gave permission, but with conditions. If the Lord said “No” initially, why would He say “Yes” now? Could it be because Joseph sought from the Lord something he did not understand, and the Lord allowed him to stumble?
God generally does not directly answer questions that involve the agency of others where the recipient of the answer lacks stewardship. Consider Joseph Smith’s situation in this light. At the time of the loss of the manuscript pages, he had the gift of translation and had stewardship over the plates, but he was not yet given the authority nor the priesthood mantle of apostleship and presidency. He was told by the Lord not to allow Martin Harris to take the plates, but was not told why. From what we know, it does not appear that he asked. Regardless, the Lord did not reveal to Joseph the reasons why He said no, but merely imposed conditions to which Martin Harris was to agree to be faithful. Martin agreed, but then used his agency unwisely, and this resulted in the loss of the pages, Joseph’s temporary loss of the gift of translation, and an important life lesson for Joseph which has been passed on to the Church as a whole: Listen to the Lord the first time! Did the Lord lie to Joseph when He gave permission with conditions? No, had the conditions been adhered, everything would have been okay, but the Lord knew Martin and what he would do, despite not making it known to Joseph.
With these things in mind, in the future, I would encourage you to organize the verbiage of your prayers in advance, to avoid asking for answers that involve the agency of others not under your stewardship. As an example I will share an experience from the life of someone close to me (we’ll call him John to protect his identity):
When John was seeking revelation about marriage to the woman who is now his wife, because he had come to understand the relationship of stewardship and revelation, he made certain to ask questions that left her agency out. He did not ask Heavenly Father if he should marry her, instead, after making known his feelings to Heavenly Father, he asked, “Is she the type of person I should marry?” Once John had a confirmation in the affirmative, he proceeded with another question: “If I ask her to marry me, and she says yes, should I marry her?” Then with that also confirmed by the Spirit, he asked, “Should I ask her to marry me?” With an affirmative answer to those three questions John was prepared to go into a marriage proposal with faith and confidence in the will of the Lord and yet also with an awareness of the agency of all involved.
In the end, John and his wife are happily married to this day. However, even if she had declined his proposal, the confirmations he received would have remained accurate and valid; she would still have been the right type of person for him to marry; if she would have said yes he still should have married her; and it was right for him to ask her and receive for himself the knowledge of her answer and her desires in the matter.
Your biggest spiritual experience was not a dud, it is simply most likely that you misunderstood the witness you were receiving. To avoid this, in the future, be as specific as possible in your prayers, and avoid seeking answers that involve other’s agency. I would encourage you to go back and reevaluate the experience to help yourself determine where the Lord may have been guiding you, and how the message could be interpreted differently. Is it possible the Lord was answering a different question? Is it possible he was blessing you with comfort? Or perhaps might He have been indicating to you that it didn’t matter in His plan for you but that He did want you to serve a mission? Or could the Lord have been answering the question in a more literal way, while you were asking in a more figurative way? As shown above, sometimes the Lord gives answers to our questions, even if we will misinterpret it to our detriment.
Despite this trying experience, I testify that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ both love you deeply, and they desire for you to have joy in and through them and through the blessings that come with eternal marriage and companionship. These blessings will come in the Lords time as you continually strive to prepare yourself and live worthy to receive them. I hope you are able to come to a peaceful and confirmed understanding of the Lord’s message to you at that time, and that this experience strengthens you as you move forward in life.