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A great 'cloud of witnesses' at Easter

"Joseph Smith's First Vision" in a stain glass window.
"Joseph Smith's First Vision" in a stain glass window.
Deseret News Archives

Since the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 and its formal organization in April 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has resounded with testimonies of the risen Savior.

Notable among these is the joint declaration of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the first president of the LDS Church, and Sidney Rigdon following their February 1832 vision of the three degrees of glory: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God …” (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-23).

Also noteworthy is the collective witness of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as it was expressed in January 2000 in a proclamation titled “The Living Christ.”

Less known are the statements of President George Q. Cannon that I discussed here a few weeks ago (see “Remembering the history of the LDS Church on the Hawaiian Islands,” Feb. 18, 2016): Speaking during the 1893 dedicatory services for the Salt Lake Temple, he testified of having “seen and conversed with Christ as a man talks with his friend, ‘face to face.’”

“I know that God lives,” he wrote in the Deseret Evening News on Oct. 6, 1896. “I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen him. … I testify to you of these things as one that knows — as one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Noteworthy, too, is President Lorenzo Snow’s September 1898 experience in the Salt Lake Temple. Just hours after the death of President Wilford Woodruff, the Savior appeared to President Snow, directing him to reorganize the First Presidency immediately and not wait for months or even years as had previously been done (see “A Visit from the Savior,” Ensign, September 2015).

Elder Orson F. Whitney, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles between 1906 and 1931, had a life-changing experience while serving as a missionary in Pennsylvania:

“One night I dreamed — if dream it may be called — that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw him as plainly as I see this congregation.” The vision continued, he said, until “I was perfectly familiar with his appearance — face, form and movements.”

“Then came the divine illumination, which is greater than all dreams, visions and other manifestations combined. By the light of God’s candle — the gift of the Holy Ghost — I saw what till then I had never seen, I learned what till then I had never known, I loved the Lord as I had never loved Him before. My soul was satisfied, my joy was full, for I had a testimony of the truth, and it has remained with me to this day. I know that my Redeemer liveth. Not even Job knew it better. I have evidence that I cannot doubt” (see “The Divinity of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, December 2003).

Elder David B. Haight, an apostle from 1976 until 2004, missed general conference in April 1989 because of a life-threatening health crisis that required a serious operation. In the October conference of that year, however, he reported on what had happened when he lost consciousness during his illness.

“The terrible pain and commotion of people ceased. I was now in a calm, peaceful setting; all was serene and quiet. … I heard no voices but was conscious of being in a holy presence and atmosphere. During the hours and days that followed, there was impressed again and again upon my mind the eternal mission and exalted position of the Son of Man. … I was shown a panoramic view of His earthly ministry. … I was being taught, and the eyes of my understanding were opened by the Holy Spirit of God so as to behold many things. … During those days of unconsciousness, I was given, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, a more perfect knowledge of His mission. … I cannot begin to convey to you the deep impact that these scenes have confirmed upon my soul” (see “The Sacrament — and the Sacrifice,” Liahona, April 2007).

It’s appropriate to recall such accounts — which might be multiplied considerably — at Easter season:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …” (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

Daniel Peterson teaches Arabic studies, founded BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, directs, chairs, blogs daily at, and speaks only for himself.