Cardboard Connections and the Doorway to Heaven

Sister Kimberly Thueson

Online Instructor Evaluator
Devotional given at BYU-I on 2 Mar 2021

Sister Kimberly Thueson

Online Instructor Evaluator
Devotional given at BYU-I on 2 Mar 2021

Thank you, choir, for that inspiring music, and thank you for your help, Trey, Amanda, and Katelyn. I invite the Holy Ghost to join us and pray that you all will hear exactly what the Lord wants you to receive.

 

After I graduated from BYU in Provo, Utah, I returned home to Salt Lake City and took a job downtown working on the 6th floor of the Utah Woolen Mills building across the street from Temple Square.

 

One December night, I finished work and rode the elevator down to the ground floor. I exited the building through the front door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. 

 

I was used to seeing people holding cardboard signs that had messages written on them, usually asking for money. And a similar sight presented itself in front of me that night.

 

The man was sitting, cross-legged, on the brick sidewalk, his head was bent down behind his sign, and I could not see his face. I noticed his dirty stocking cap, his bulky brown winter coat, his Levi’s, and his very well-worn tennis shoes. 

 

I also noticed his cardboard sign with words written in big, black capital letters. It said, “NEED HELP TO GET HOME. GOD BLESS.” 

 

Instantly, in my mind, heaven and earth collided. I saw irony in the man’s request as I lifted my eyes from where he sat on the ground to the brightly lit Salt Lake Temple directly behind him. In a split second, I thought of the light and truth, blessings and covenants, comfort and peace that are available to all who enter the Holy House of the Lord.

 

I looked back down at the man; he was obviously seeking blessings of comfort and home, but I knew that the “Home” on the cardboard sign was not referring to the spiritual blessings of the Lord’s House. He probably wanted to go home to his family. 

 

I knew that this man needed, more than anything that night, temporal blessings—I’m sure he needed money, transportation, and, likely, some food. But on that cold, winter night, I wanted so much to have him stand up, turn around, and fully understand the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy House of God that was, literally, just steps away.

 

When heaven and earth meet, like they did for me that night, we can get glimpses into the eternal perspective. When we recognize, even for brief moments that the heavens are open, that God, our Father in Heaven, wants to communicate with us, and that we can, at any time, and any place, communicate with Him, we can actively seek for and receive messages and blessings from our Heavenly Home.

 

The universal longing for home is not haphazard. We are sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven; we lived with Him in heaven before we came here to earth. Our Father loves us, and His plan of salvation, also known as the plan of happiness, is the plan that will bring us home to Him again.

 

When we are away from home and family here on earth, sometimes we find ourselves getting homesick, and we look for ways to connect through technology or travel.

 

Home can bring feelings of comfort, guidance, and love. Seeking connection with our heavenly home is no different despite its distance and current, veiled location.

 

Our Father in Heaven knew that earth life would be difficult and that we would need help during our mortal journey away from our heavenly home. Because He loves us and wants us to succeed and be happy, our Father in Heaven has given us gifts and blessings that help us communicate with Him and establish conduits of connection between this earthly state and our heavenly home.  

 

Among the gifts and blessings that come to us from our Father in Heaven and that are readily available to us include:

 

  • The Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ with its redeeming and enabling powers.

  • The all-encompassing gift of the Restoration of the true and living gospel of Jesus Christ—just as it was when the Savior walked the earth.

Among the attendant blessings of the Restoration are:

 

  • Temples—dedicated, holy houses of the Lord where covenants are made and eternal blessings are received.

  • Living prophets and apostles who speak for the Lord and show us the way to peace and happiness.

  • Priesthood power and authority from God with priesthood keys that allow us to receive ordinances, covenants, and blessings.

  • The scriptures—the word of god, letters from heaven that open the door to heaven for us immediately when we turn to them for guidance, truth, and love from our Father.


 

These are just some of the countless blessings the Lord has given us to help us on our journey through mortality. He has provided everything we need to live a life of happiness and peace while we are here, and He has provided everything we need to find our way back home to Him. Our Father in Heaven is loving, kind, and merciful.

 

I invite you to ponder, Are you using these gifts and blessings to their full potential in your life? Are you leaving any of these gifts and blessings unused or unopened, and, therefore, unreceived? If you will listen to the Spirit, you will recognize which of these gifts and blessings you might be able to incorporate more effectively into your life.

 

Another gift from our Father in Heaven that comes from and enhances the other gifts and blessings just listed is the gift of personal revelation. Revelation from God is a personal blessing that can inspire and direct us and help us use the other gifts and blessings from the Lord.

 

Since becoming president of the Church, our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has spoken numerous times, and on different occasions, about the importance of personal revelation. He has said,

 

One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind . . . is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children.

 

Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.

 

I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. . . . Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly. [1]

 

Are you doing the work that is necessary to increase your capacity to receive revelation? Are you actively seeking connections with and guidance from heaven? The heavens are open, but they might as well be closed if we don’t look up and receive what the Lord is sharing.

 

Why has our prophet urged us to increase our ability to receive revelation? What is so important about that gift?

 

President Nelson explains, “No matter who you are, you can pray to your Heavenly Father for guidance and direction in your life. If you learn to hear the Lord through His promptings, you may receive divine guidance in matters large and small.” [2]

 

He has also warned, “Satan has marshaled his forces and is raging against the work of the Lord and those of us engaged in it. Because of the increasing dangers we face, our need for divine guidance has never been greater, and our efforts to hear the voice of Jesus Christ—our Mediator, Savior, and Redeemer—have never been more urgent . . . . The Lord is ready to reveal His mind to us.” [3]

 

It is important that we understand the purposes that we have during our time here on earth while we are away from our heavenly home. What responsibilities do we have in building the Lord’s kingdom, gathering Israel, and preparing for the second coming? Learning to connect with heaven and receive revelation the Lord has for us will help us understand what it is that we are supposed to be doing in our own lives and in the Lord’s work.

 

How do you connect heaven and earth in your life and open the door to your heavenly home through personal revelation?

 

As I read through your responses in this week’s discussion board about this topic, I appreciated your sharing your experiences and insights. You shared that you can receive revelation in a variety of ways and that you prepare to receive revelation through prayer, fasting, reading the scriptures, general conference talks, or learning about the topic of your inquiry; you shared how personal revelation can often come through others in conversation or as they are prompted to reach out to you. What I learned from you this week is that our personal revelation is just that: personal, as our Father in Heaven provides revelation exactly how and when we need it.

Thank you so much to all who participated in those conversations. I appreciate that opportunity for all of us to teach and learn together.

 

Knowing that we can receive revelation and being admonished by the prophet to increase our ability to do it is one thing; how do we put that plan into action?

 

In order to connect with heaven and receive the revelation available to us, we need to make the time for it, create a place for it, and put forth effort into it. Let’s first talk about making time for revelation.

 

Many years ago, in a stake conference meeting I attended, the visiting Area Seventy asked the question, “At what point in your day do you allow the Holy Ghost to communicate with you?”

 

He pointed out that many of us turn on the radio, the news, sports, or other media immediately upon waking, then, throughout the day, we are either listening to the same media events or we are engaged in school, work, or other pursuits.

 

We typically end our day, again, with music, TV, movies, social media, or other distractions. This inspired elder then challenged us to find time in our day when the Lord could actually communicate with us.

 

As a result of this challenge, I quit listening to music when I was in the car. It was not easy at first. At the time, I was teaching here on campus three mornings a week, and I had 30 minutes, round trip, alone in the car on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I decided to use that time to just listen and try to hear what the Lord wanted me to know that day. I have since come to sincerely appreciate the “quiet” times in my day that I create deliberately for the purpose of trying to hear the Spirit communicate the Lord’s messages to me.

 

If we are making time to receive revelation from our Father in Heaven and actively attempting to open that door to our heavenly home, we could ask any number of questions like the one the Area Seventy asked me. You could ask yourself, “At what point in my day do I make time to . . .” then fill in the blank with something that will help you increase your capacity to receive revelation. It could be, read your scriptures, pray, study a general conference talk, work on family history, or, simply, make yourself available to receive revelation. If we heed President Nelson’s initiative, we might say, “At what point in my day do I make time to ‘hashtag Hear Him’?”

 

In general, you could ask, “At what point in my day do I make time to connect with heaven?”

 

One of the transcendent things about revelation is that it can be received anytime and anywhere that it is needed. Sometimes, we need to not only make a time to receive revelation, but we need to create a place where heaven and earth can meet.  

 

Illustrating this point about creating a place for revelation, President Nelson recently explained how the Nephite cities were fortified to create “places of security”: “A place of security is  anywhere you can feel the presence of the Holy Ghost and be guided by Him . . . and you can ponder sincere questions about the gospel in an environment of revelation.” [4]

 

Do you have place in your life for an environment of revelation?

 

Sister Virginia Hinckley Pearce shared insights in a BYU Women’s Conference talk that changed the way I look at the places where I can connect with heaven and receive revelation. She explains the Celts call spaces of connection between heaven and earth “thin places”; these are places “where the door between this world and the next is cracked open for a moment and the light is not all on the other side.” [5]

 

“Thin places” are places where heaven and earth meet. Familiar thin places are Mount Sinai, the shores of Galilee, the Sacred Grove, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Temple. [6]

 

Liberty Jail was a thin place—“a ‘prison temple,’” where, despite the horrible circumstances, “Joseph’s very suffering and despondency made him ready to receive God.” [7]

 

“A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is nearly transparent. It is a place where we experience a deep sense of God’s presence in our everyday world. A thin place is where, for a moment, the spiritual world and the natural world intersect.” [8]

 

When we experience or establish a connection with heaven, we create a thin place and an opportunity for the Lord to communicate with and guide us and for us to communicate with and receive guidance from Him. President Nelson has said, “When we receive revelation, we spend time in the presence of God as He reveals His mind, will, and voice unto us.” [9]

 

A thin place can be anywhere you need it to be—anywhere you create a place where you connect heaven and earth through prayer, scripture study, family history work, temple attendance, or any other method of inviting personal revelation; it can be in your home, out in nature, at the church, at the temple, or anywhere else where you open the doorway to your heavenly home. 

 

A thin place can even be a spot on the sidewalk in front of a cardboard sign that reads, “NEED HELP TO GET HOME. GOD BLESS.”

 

In addition to making time and creating a place, we also need to put forth the effort to receive the revelation the Lord has for us.

 

As we recognize that the heavens are open and do the work to get better at opening that door from this side, we should be deliberate about inviting personal revelation. President Nelson says, “The Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.” [10]

 

When the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship, Nephi didn’t just expect the Lord to show him a YouTube video. Nephi needed to know every detail for how to construct the ship, including finding ore, making tools, smiting stones, and working the timbers. [11]

 

In order to receive this detailed guidance from the Lord, Nephi made sure he communicated frequently with the Lord: Nephi said, “I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.” [12]

 

Nephi made himself available, often, for revelation, and he prayed, often, to the Lord, in order to open the doorway to heaven from both sides. In return, the Lord showed Nephi great things. [13]

 

Several years ago, I attended a training meeting in Utah for BYU-Idaho Online Employees. We had a full day of meetings and activities, and one of the activities invited us to leave the Church Office Building where we were meeting and go walk around Temple Square or the surrounding grounds and figure out what the Lord wanted us to learn that day.

 

That idea sparked my interest. I had always looked at revelatory learning experiences in retrospect—an “after the fact” assessment—but, with that particular activity, the idea was that the Lord did, in fact, have something to teach me, and I needed to go find it.

 

I walked around and eventually made my way to one of the Church’s buildings and found a display that turned out to be meaningful to me; as I looked at the display, the Lord did reveal to me, through the Spirit, some insights that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a wonderful experience.

 

How often do you go to “the mount” to seek out the Lord and invite Him to show “unto [you] great things”? [14] What does the Lord want you to learn today? I invite you to make a plan and find out.

 

As you work to make the time, place, and effort to connect with heaven, your increased capacity to use personal revelation will enable you to more fully use the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His restored gospel.

 

Learn about the gift of personal revelation; study President Nelson’s admonitions and guidance “to take the necessary steps to hear the Lord better and more often so that you can receive the enlightenment He wants to give you.” [15] President Nelson suggests that you stay on your knees for a while after you finish your prayer and that you record your impressions so you will remember what actions the Lord would have you take. [16]  

 

Don’t worry if you aren’t immediately proficient at receiving all of the revelation you seek—connecting with heaven is an activity that is improved with practice, and, as Sister Julie Shiffler reminded us in her devotional last week, “Perfection is pending,” and the process of “becoming” takes precedence over “being.” [17]

 

Earth life is not easy. We all need help to get home.

 

In fact, as you travel throughout your day, if you will pay attention and use the gifts and blessings the Lord has given you, including the gift of personal revelation, you will probably notice the signs—signs all around us that say, “NEED HELP TO GET HOME. GOD BLESS.”

 

Who is the person in your life who is holding that cardboard sign today? Is it someone close to you? Is it someone the Spirit has mentioned in passing? Is it you?

 

The gifts and blessings the Lord has given us to navigate our mortal journey provide ways for us to connect with Him and our heavenly home now. The heavens are open; light and truth, knowledge, and guidance from our Father in Heaven is readily available to us so that we can find our way home to Him again.

 

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

NOTES:

[1] Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “The Story Behind My Prayer of Gratitude,” Ensign, Nov. 2020.

[3] Russell M. Nelson, “Grow into the Principle of Revelation,” Liahona, Jan. 2021.

[4] Russell M. Nelson, “Embrace the Future with Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 2020.

[5] Virginia H. Pearce, “Thin Places.” BYU Women’s Conference, May 1, 2014.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Russell M. Nelson, “Grow into the Principle of Revelation,” Liahona, Jan. 2021.

[10] Russell M. Nelson in “An Especially Noble Calling,” Ensign, May 2020.

[11] See 1 Nephi 17: 8–11; 18:1.

[12] 1 Nephi 18:3.

[13] See 1 Nephi 18:3.

[14] 1 Nephi 18:3.

[15] Russell M. Nelson, “Grow into the Principle of Revelation,” Liahona, Jan. 2021.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Julie Shiffler, “Perfect in Christ.” BYU-Idaho devotional, Feb. 23, 2021.

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This Speech has been Translated by
Katherin Sandoval & Natalia del
Villar