Cobbled together by Dennis B. Horne
Note: In his earlier years, in some talks given in the 1970s, as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone referenced a marvelous spiritual experience he received. The below contains both published text and newly transcribed wording that was withheld for whatever reason (perhaps felt to be too sacred then), from the published version, that gives further insight into the experience. Links are provided so readers can listen to both of the talks at their convenience:
Let me tell you the greatest experience I believe I have had in all my readings of the scriptures—and I am sharing something that is very tender with me. I remember the night that I read 3 Nephi the 17th chapter [3 Ne. 17]. That is when I discovered the Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, my Savior, my personal Savior; and I believe that is where I finally found the description of the Savior as I thought him to be.
He had been with the Nephite people all the day long, you will recall, and finally said:
“I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.
“Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and … I come unto you again [on the morrow].
“But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.”
And here I believe is where I found him.
“And … when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and behold they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.
“And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you. . . .
“And the multitude did see and hear and bear record … and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred [and ONE] souls” who were in that beautiful experience with the Savior. (See 3 Ne. 17.)
I want you to know I was there. I wouldn’t know any more surely if I had been there than I would know having read this book. (“,” General Conference, October 1972.)
[A few years later at BYU, he explained the quoted wording of his Conference talk; again quoting 3 Nephi 17 and again ending with verse 25; the explanation wording is in the audio recording but not the published transcribed text]:
“And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.” [3 Nephi 17:2–13, 16–25]
As I said in a talk sometime ago, there were not two thousand five hundred—there were two thousand, five hundred and one. I was there. I wouldn’t have been any more surely there if I had actually been there than I was as I read that. I have an absolute witness that those beautiful things transpired.
[Published text resumes:] Finally, in this last day, the Prophet Joseph said:
“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. . . all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice. . . .
“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; . . . and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision: I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” [Joseph Smith 2:24, 25]
To me that is so thrilling. I was there. I knew the Prophet Joseph had those experiences. It isn’t hard for me to believe, without one particle of doubt, that the Prophet Joseph Smith saw our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and that this great God referred Joseph Smith to Jesus Christ. “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith 2:17). I would think, as President Kimball said, that if all we could tell the world was the Joseph Smith story, we could convert the world. We have so much to offer in this Church.
We have those in the Church who think if they only could understand more about the Adam-God theory—or they ask if Jesus Christ was married. You know, what a great thing it is if we understand what faith is. What is faith? How does it work? Do you have total faith? When we come to a full and total understanding of faith, then I think we ought to move on to repentance. When we understand that totally, then we should move through the principles. But I doubt we will ever really get through an understanding and complete knowledge of faith in a lifetime. I don’t care how intellectual you are, or how long you study, I doubt you will ever come to an end of the study of faith, the first principle of the gospel. The gospel is so simple that a fool will not err therein, but it is so beautiful and so sophisticated that I believe the great intellectual can make a study of faith and never come to an end of understanding. (“.” BYU Speeches, March 30, 1975.)
Note: Those that listen to the audio recordings will notice that Brother Featherstone butchered his quotations of scripture (he was probably going from memory); it seems that either he or an editor has cleaned them up to match the scriptural text.