John the Beloved Ministry by High Priest Paul Winans
I am Delbert Smith and on this tape I am interviewing Paul Winans of Creston, Iowa who holds the office of high priest in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
First of all, Paul, I wondered if you would have anything to share with us before we get into the body of the interview.
Paul - Yes. We lived in Boone, Iowa up to 1955. I was pastor there and elder in the congregation for nine years. Then we had the opportunity to move to Creston. We were very happy about this because we felt we were moving into a place that had a new church, a fine group of people and some friends that we had known for years. We made the move and the congregation seemed to be what we expected it to be when we got there. Over the years from 1955-60, I could see a growth in the congregation toward the spiritual things that needed to be in the lives of our people. There were a few prophecies brought - about the congregation - that come to mind right now. One of them I can remember very definitely where they were told in 1955, in December, that the Lord had a special work for them from that place so that His work could be brought about. Then in 1960, in the fall, I was asked to be pastor of the congregation by Brother Harry Simons. In 1962, I was ordained a high priest under the hands of Brother Simons and placed on the Stake High Council. And I won't forget very easily the experience I had in this ordination.
Delbert - Well, would you tell us a little bit about it, Paul - this ordination experience?
Paul - It was at a stake conference and as I was ordained by Brother Simons and Brother Wilbur (?) Chandler and Brother Wilbur Prall, it seemed like the Spirit was there in such great power that I was raised up off the stool that I was seated on. Some of the promises that were made to me if I would be faithful were just almost unbelievable as far as I was concerned and I felt a Spirit there that I had never felt before and a great power and authority came to me that I had not felt before and I knew that if I could keep myself in tune with God, as the words told me to do, that we were going to have some outstanding experiences in the congregation at Creston, Iowa.
Delbert - Well, Paul, now you'll be talking here with some pastors. Let me ask you this? Were there any problems or was this really a model branch you felt like you'd moved into before you became pastor? Or was it a normal one or how did you feel?
Paul - Well, I thought it was about average. They weren't having prayer service at all because they couldn't get people out to prayer service. Once in a great while, they would have a prayer service in a home with an average attendance of ten to twelve. In the years past, however, previous to this, it had been a congregation that had had a lot of trouble and it had even been said by some of the church officials that even Christ Himself could not straighten out the problems at Creston. It was known all over the church as a problem congregation.
Delbert - That would indicate then that it might not be too different from some of the others that our pastors have.
Paul - That's right. All pastors have those problems.
Delbert - Well, listen Paul, did you have any misgivings or anything about becoming pastor of the congregation when you were asked to accept that responsibility?
Paul - I did - for one reason. We seemed to have in that congregation a group of people - some of them relatives - that were rather cliquish and I knew I was going to have to, in some way, minister to these people if we were going to bring them about to the place where they could offer ministry. This was one of the problems that I knew that I was going to have but I knew that I had good backing in Brother Simons and, with the help of Delbert Smith, we were going to be able to accomplish these things that the Lord would require of me as a pastor.
Delbert - Did you have any experiences or anything like this that kind of helped you to accept that responsibility?
Paul - Yes, I did -- several of them. One of them especially I was going to tell you about. Brother Delbert came into our congregation in 1960. He came to us with a large rack of visual slides or whatever you might call them - a kind of a big booklet of things that he turned over and talked about and in one of those sheets, it said something about the fact that we needed to pray for people more than we'd been doing and if I remember the wording correctly, Brother Delbert told us that if we really were concerned about the lives of people, if we would put them on our hearts and pray about them enough, that the Lord would move in their life. This really turned me on and helped me to realize that this was something we needed to be doing in our congregation - prayer and fasting. We started here, more than any place else, in trying to get ourselves in a mood of praying and in fasting like the Lord wanted us to do. I talked to the people - all the time - every opportunity we had as a pastor there, to preach or to teach or in prayer services, we talked this business of praying and fasting about people. We set a definite pattern of ten and one to pray for. I'd had it given to me through the Spirit, it seemed to me, that there were ten - five female and five male people of the congregation that needed our prayers very much and that if we prayed for them and fasted for them long enough, the Lord would move in their lives. Especially, one man that I was concerned about. The Lord seemed to tell me this was a very important man. This is where the ten and one came in. Gradually, as we did this, I could see more people taking part in this. Then we started pointing out to them the need they had in their lives to be obedient to the financial law and the Word of Wisdom. We went right down the line on the Word of Wisdom. We weren't a bit backward in declaring against coffee and tea and hot chocolate and the cola drinks and explaining to them that this was the will of the Lord - and talking about the filing of their inventory and paying their tithing. And gradually over a period of about a year and a half to two years, we could see our people joining in with this and being obedient to these things. I would say at least 75 percent of our congregation, by the fall, early fall of 1962, were very much in tune with these things that we had been bringing to them as a pastor.
Delbert - Well, that's a pretty good percentage. But I want to ask you something now. Were all of your priesthood already filing tithing statements when you began this project?
Paul - No. In fact, we had a very poor record - about ten percent of our congregation. And if we'd had our priesthood - just even our priesthood alone - we'd have had about twenty percent of our congregation. So you can see there about half of them that were in tune with this we were talking about.
Delbert - Yes. Well, that's fine. Where did you begin to teach this? Did you just start preaching in sermons or how did you go about getting this going? You said you got it kind of started here.
Paul - Well, first of all, we had a lot of priesthood meetings. I called my priesthood together. I had a couple of wonderful fellows to help me as my counselors. I had an assistant pastor that was very much in tune with what I was trying to do. We taught this in a lot of priesthood meetings. We a lot of prayer services for the priesthood with this in mind. We had many classes that we taught. We were always teaching a class on the law of tithing, or the sacraments or the ordinances and so forth - so they'd become acquainted with their priesthood office. One thing I always tried to do in my work with them as their pastor was to see that they worked in their office - in their calling. The priests were out in the homes visiting, the deacons were out in the homes visiting and coming back and reporting to the pastor what was needed in the homes so he could send one of the other priesthood members out. The teachers that we had - two of them - were visiting in the homes and doing their job and overall the priesthood had, during this time, quite an educational program going. I appointed one of the elders of the congregation to supervise the work of the Aaronic priesthood. He was able to organize them. He would bring them to the church when they went on their visiting. He would bring them over there and he would talk with them individually about what he expected them to do in those homes. And he would read to them out of the scriptures and he would pray with them. Then they would go from the church and go into the homes really prepared to minister in the way they should.
Now I wanted to mention a specific instance here that kind of meant something to me. It was important to me that sometimes little things make a big difference. You remember one time in your home we were visiting with Brother Shakespeare?
Delbert - Yes.
Paul - And we talked to him. Now I've seen quite a change in him since he had come to the Creston Congregation from another congregation.
Delbert - Yes.
Paul - And when he came there, you'll verify this - he wasn't too active as a priest, was he?
Delbert - No, he wasn't.
Paul - And, you'll remember too that he has become very active and, I've felt, instituted one of the finest home ministry programs that I have seen in the church.
Delbert - That's right.
Paul - Now do you remember his testimony that night when I asked? I said, "Alma, how do you account for the change that has come in you?"
Delbert - I don't remember that night but I know what happened to him.
Paul - Well, the thing I was specifically remembering was that he said, "Well, Brother Delbert, he said, "I can mark the day of my spiritual growth from the day that I became willing to give up my coffee."
I'll tell you about that experience.
Delbert - O.K. Fine!
Paul - Alma came into our congregation, he and his wife, and they wouldn't even come to church. I was rather surprised when I found out that he wasn't an elder because I had in my mind that he was but he was a priest. And every time I would see him on the street or any place, I would ask him to come to church. One Wednesday night, he decided he would come to church. He brought his wife with him and he sat there in the congregation and it just came to me -- through the Spirit -- by discernment -- that I could just read what that man needed in his life -- what he was doing that was displeasing to the Lord -- the reason that he was disinterested -- the reason that the Lord would not bless him in the way that he should. So I went to his home immediately and I said to him that we wanted him to continue to come to church. But I also said to him, "Alma, I know what's lacking in your life that's causing you not to be interested in the church as much as you should be as a priesthood member." I said, "Alma, the Lord has revealed to me that you and your wife are imbibing in coffee and coca cola and things that we've been talking about in our congregation for a long time that are injurious to your body and your mind. The Lord just cannot bless us unless we are a clean vessel."
I could see right away that I'd hit on a kind of touchy point there because his wife showed her rebellion immediately. She did go, though, and got the Doctrine and Covenants out and we read what it said about the Word of Wisdom. She also admitted that she'd been playing cards which she knew was not the right thing for them to do. She said, "I just knew you were coming down to see us." And she said, "Alma and I both said when we got home, "We just don't want him to come and see us." They were rebelling, you see, about this. But in our talk that evening - why through some understanding and reading his patriarchal blessing, where he was made some wonderful promises - promises that he could not have fulfilled unless he was in the office of elder -- why, they came to an understanding that, at least, they should try this. And they said afterwards, that after we left, they said, "Well, what harm can come in trying this, at least?" And so right that night, they made their pledge with God that they would try this thing. And have kept it up to this day as far as I know. Marge said she got over her headaches. She got over her nervousness and she became practically a well woman again.
Delbert - Well, I certainly am thrilled to see what has happened in their lives - for me observing this.
Paul - Alma started coming to church with a renewed desire to serve and it wasn't long until he was called to the office of elder. And in his calling, he was told that he would especially be gifted with many gifts that he could use for the good of people in the church. And this is the way it has turned out with Alma. He's had a wonderful gift of healing, a gift of prayer and he's had a gift of prophecy for our people in the church.
I want you pastors that are listening to this, or any of your priesthood members, to know that it isn't easy for a pastor to go to a man like this and tell him the truth about himself but if we really love our men that are under our care and our members, when we see them doing things that are displeasing to the Lord, realizing their responsibilities and the talents and gifts that they have to offer the church, the way we can show that we really love these people is to go to them and inform them of what the Lord has revealed to us. You'll find ninety percent of them will receive this with open arms and really believe it. And make sure that you're right, however, that this is what the Lord wills for them and then when you go to them with this kind of love and this kind of ministry, great blessings will come to the people.
Delbert - What you're saying here, Paul, as I catch it, is that this kind of admonition should be given under the Spirit of God.
Paul - Oh, yes! Every time! Not just because you feel like this is your own wisdom but pray about it and fast about it and the Lord will reveal to you what you need to do for the life of this individual.
Delbert - Well now, Paul, I wonder if you'd in the next little while, share with me just some of the highlights of, and with these men, some of the highlights of the spiritual experiences which you've had during this period -- maybe something of how they began and so forth.
Paul - All right! You remember I stated here just a while ago about how we had worked on this problem in our congregation from 1960 until early in the fall of 1962? Now we know now from something that the Lord brought to us that on June 20, the Lord said to John the Beloved, "Go to Creston and minister to my saints there." Now I'll tell you more about that later but you can see why this started. This was June 20 of 1962. You can see why we started to have an outpouring of the Spirit. And it seemed like prior to July the fourth, we were having quite a few people that were just so much involved with this that they could hardly wait to get to the church. And they had a testimony that they'd never had before in their lives, especially my assistant pastor who was a man that had come into the priesthood not too long before this and who was doing a wonderful work amongst the people there - showing his love to so many people. And on July the fourth, in our town, we have an area-wide celebration. Sometimes, there's been as many as fifty thousand people come into our town the day before the Fourth and on the Fourth. All the young people seem to congregate there and everybody has a good time. We have ball games and horseshoe games and tennis games and boat races and band concerts and talent concerts - just about everything you can imagine - and fireworks. This was to be a big day but this time the Fourth of July happened to light right on Wednesday when we were supposed to have a prayer service and I just felt led through the Spirit for three weeks previous to this that we should have our prayer service regardless of this great celebration. I talked with my companion and my other friend who is the oldest elder in our congregation - the father to the congregation - and they both discouraged me from having this prayer service because they felt that maybe this one time, we should let the bars down and let our young people, especially, go out and have a good time. But the Lord seemed to say to me, "Have the prayer service and let those come that will." And I decided to do it that way and we had our prayer service and, much to our surprise, all the young people that we had in our congregation came to the meeting that night and brought some others including these five girls that we'd been concerned about and praying about all this time.
We had a wonderful outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord during that time and as I got up to close the prayer service that night, the Spirit came over me very strongly to speak to the people about some things the Lord wanted them to know. And so the message came to me to counsel the two young girls that were known then as the Long twins, about some things that would come into their lives if they were faithful. There was some other information brought to us through the Spirit and as I spoke that night, the swinging door at the back of our church opened and coming in through the two doors were two beings that I knew to be angels. It rather astonished me because these two were just as identical as anything that I'd ever seen in my life. They looked just exactly alike. They had white robes on. They seemed to float more than they did walk - around the pews. They both had real black straight hair and it's just impossible to describe what they looked like because I knew them to be heavenly beings. And one of them came up the aisle and put his hand on the shoulder of a man that I'd been praying about - a problem that I needed an answer to - and this was my answer because he designated to me that this was the man that I just use in this certain way.
The other one went around behind the other side of the aisle and came up and put his hand on the head of a young boy that a mother was holding - helping me to know that something special was in the life of this young boy that had come into this home as an adopted child. And then at the close of this experience, after the angels had left, the Lord said to these people that if you are faithful as you have been in the past, that he would pour out spiritual blessings upon our congregation that we could hardly realize were possible - that not only would the Melchisedec priesthood be bringing to us gifts that we needed amongst our people, but they would even be experienced by the Aaronic priesthood. The only thing the Lord asked us to do was to do four things really - three definite things - well he said you must be obedient through prayer and fasting, you must continue to be obedient to the Word of Wisdom and to the commandments that are found in my scriptures and if you do these things, I will promise you these blessings.
Now this was on July 4 and immediately we could see another change coming over our people. This seemed to really thrill them and they didn't even want to leave the church that night. Our young people, instead of going out to the late carnival and the late fireworks that were going to take place, they went over to another home and had a Zion's League meeting and didn't even go out to the place where there were so many worldly things going on. And it was just a short while after this when the first one of these five men that we'd been praying about came forth and was baptized into the church. Now he stands as one of our very fine deacons living in Independence. A short time later, one other one joined the church. At the time of his baptism, I can remember very definitely that the evidence was given to me that he would hold priesthood. And he did. He was ordained a little later on into the priesthood of the church. Another young man was baptized out of these five. Shortly after that, the fourth one came forth to be baptized and I want to tell you a little about the experience with him because it was such an outstanding experience.
Delbert - Is this the one that was the high school principal?
Paul - Yes. I had an experience with a man by the name of Don Davis who was the principal of the Bridgewater Continental School System. This man was a very intelligent man. For many years, his wife had been a faithful church member and had tried to get him to know that the Book of Mormon was true. But for some reason or another, he could never believe in this book. And so one night as he came to our prayer service, he was spoken to through the Spirit and told that if he really wanted to find out about the truthfulness of this book and if he would put the book under his arm and go off by himself in a secluded place, seven different days in seven different weeks, and pray to Page 8 - Creston, Iowa
God, that He would reveal to him the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Unknown to his wife or to any of us, this man carried this out to the letter. However, when the seventh day was through in the seventh week, he came to his wife and said that now he had kept his bargain with the Lord and the Lord had revealed nothing to him at all. She was very upset about this.
She came to me and cried about it and said, "Now, what shall we do?" I told Sister Davis that she should not be concerned - that the Lord hadn't promised that He would reveal anything to Don immediately - for him to continue to pray and I knew that the Lord would reveal this to him.
About three weeks after this, he came to prayer service again and this night he was spoken to through the Spirit. And he was told in this message that as he was making one of his tours in Mexico, looking over the ruins and investigating the records of the Book of Mormon, that he was in a museum and was looking at a tablet of stone. As he noted this tablet of stone, he was so thrilled at the message behind this. And the message went on to say that "I, the Lord, am going to tell you about this tablet of stone." And this was the message that came to him, "That, as Ammoron, who was the son of Amos, was fleeing the Gaddiantons* and he was so afraid that he would be destroyed and the records would be destroyed that were in his possession, that he secluded himself in a cave for a period of two years and he put some of these records on these tablets of stone so that they could not be destroyed . . ." and the Lord said, "And I am revealing this to you and this is something that I have not revealed to anyone on the face of the earth since the restoration of my church." And this, of course, was the testimony that this man had been praying for - that the Lord would reveal to him something that had not been revealed to anyone else. And after that service that night as he came by me in the receiving line, he said to me, "I think it's time that I joined the church." And the next Sunday he joined the church and is now one of our elders and doing a real good work in the church and has a marvelous testimony to bring to people about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
Delbert - This is one of the interesting things to me that it isn't just a matter of having, say, spiritual experiences but it's the changes in the lives of individual people like this which I was really thrilled in my experiences of living along beside this.
Paul -- That's right. You know, I think, Delbert, one of the greatest blessings I could see coming amongst our people there was the fact of the testimony that they had. The young children even - four years old - five years old - were bearing testimonies and praying like you never heard before from children. And our prayer services were just so filled with the Spirit that many times they were two hours long and sometimes even three hours long and there was no way of shutting them off. We didn't have a lot of songs. We had an opening song and we had a closing song. The rest of the time was given to prayers and testimonies. And the young people were so much involved in this that they came with great expectation of every service we had and they came questioning the Lord about certain things that they wanted to know in their lives and hardly ever did the Lord not bless us in some way during that service - through gift of song, the gift of prayer, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues - most of all, the gift of testimony and prayer - and this was a great testimony to me of the truthfulness of this that was happening.
Delbert - Now I'm thinking, too, of a couple of lives that were affected by this in particular - some that kind of stand out to me. You mentioned a while ago the Long twins and I'd just like to get on here a little preface to this of my experience with them and then let you carry it on from there if you would. Sharon Long was there in the companionship of one of our young church member boys and as I sat in the service there, I saw Sharon. I didn't know who she was but the Lord made known to me that this young lady wanted to be baptized. So I went to her when I found the couple together there away from others and I told her I had this experience and I said, "The Lord made it known to me that you wanted to be baptized. Isn't that right?" And she said, "Well, yes, it was." She was a little surprised that I knew it though. She said she hadn't told anyone but she said she would need to get her parents' consent before she was baptized and I certainly urged her to do this. Well, then as she went back to get her parents' consent, and you were on the other end of it, from my understanding of it, though, they really had quite a fuss over this. Her sister and her twin sister almost rejected her and maybe you can tell a little bit about some of this and then how the sister finally came.
Paul - Yes. This is what happened to Sharon. She worked for me in my office as my office girl and we talked about a lot of these things. And her sister, at first, did make all kinds of fun of her because she believed in this Book of Mormon. And I think the turning point probably in the sister, really to help her to understand some of these things, was when she started coming to church with her twin sister. And one night, through the Spirit of the Lord, I was allowed to speak to these young ladies in the gift of an unknown tongue. It just absolutely thrilled these two girls and as I looked down at them, and remembering this experience, I can remember how much they looked like two Indian maidens sitting there. The Lord counseled them very much about His love for them and how they should be obedient to their parents and actually gave them direction just what they should do with their lives. Through this, this girl also became perhaps the strongest of the two - this other twin sister. The way it turned out, I think, she's the strongest of the two in the church at the present. Finally, they made their decision that they wanted to join but they had to wait until they got to be the age of eighteen.
Delbert - Why did they have to wait for that?
Paul - So they wouldn't have to have the permission of their parents.
Delbert - Why? Were their parents opposed to this?
Paul - Oh, their parents were opposed to it right up to the last Saturday night before the baptism. I can remember very plainly that the two girls came up to me on a Friday night before this baptism and crying about how their mother had carried on and threatened them that they were going to put them out of the home and everything else if they joined that old Latter Day Saint church. I was up in my pastor's study with them and Brother Cecil, who is my assistant, and I prayed for them and we joined hands and had prayer and I told them then to have no fear that the Lord was going to work in the life of their father and this would be the thing that would bring this about. And a little experience later - one of these girls just about this time also was going with one of our young men in the congregation. They were engaged to be married. They were going to be married in June. This was along in March. They were afraid to go home and tell the parents about this engagement. I can remember again that as Brother Cecil and I talked with this young couple, I told Sheryl to go home and take Sherman with her and announce the fact that they were engaged to be married and that they were going to be married in June. And, of course, her being eighteen, she would be able to do this too - after April. I told her I thought, very much under the influence of the Good Spirit, that the Lord would come and soften the heart of her father and this would bring about the approval of he and his wife for the engagement. They went to the home and Sheryl said when they announced it, her mother flew mad and she reared out of the door as hard as she could go and went into the car - her father right after her. And they drove around until past midnight. And when they came back, why Sheryl said she could see a change had come over her father and he had talked to the mother and they came back and gave her permission for the engagement.
Do you remember we said that there were five women and five men in this ten and one we were talking about? The one that we were praying for, by the way, was this man that was the educated man and the prize catch, we looked at it if you want to put it in a crude way - of the group. We still had one to go and I'll tell you about him later on but these two girls and there were three other girls - they all now, up to this time, have been baptized in the church. And a very unusual thing about these five young women - they're not only members of the church but they are all married to priesthood members of the church.
Delbert - That's interesting - very interesting.
Paul - During this time, none of the congregation knew who they were praying for, Delbert. They knew that they were praying for ten and one. Later on, it was made known to me, as the pastor that we should pray for forty and four hundred if you'll remember - you've heard me pray for that. The reason for that was the Lord said if we were faithful and do what we should there, that the day would come when we'd have four hundred members of the congregation and forty priesthood members. We haven't been able to live up to that because we haven't reached that yet but we did accomplish the other - the number eleven man or the ten and one man - was baptized in the spring of 1964. So we lived to see the day when all of these ten and one that we had been praying for so long - the men all from divided homes - come into the church and are now members of the church.
Delbert - You felt maybe the prayers were worthwhile then?
Paul - The prayers were worthwhile. They certainly were. And I know if a congregation any place will take on a project like this and really pray and fast and be obedient to the things we were asked to be obedient to, that these great experiences that we had there would come into their lives. Now, Delbert, we knew something very unusual was happening in the congregation. We knew that something had to be going on that we just couldn't realize really, some of us, how a people could be so lifted up and so much in tune with everything about the gospel as these people were. Now we wouldn't want anybody to believe that we had one hundred percent cooperation from all of our members because there were some that were not behind this at all. But about seventy-five percent of our congregation was. And one day I had it made know to me just exactly what had happened that we had such wonderful help in the congregation during this period of time. Do you want me to tell about that?
Delbert - Yes, I'd like for you to share that with us.
Paul -- Well, as you know, I told you - I think I did - a while ago - about the Lord saying to John the Beloved on June 20 to go minister to the Saints in Creston. Now that was the twentieth of June - the twentieth before July fourth. During this six months - about six months there - when all this was taking place, we had forty-four gifts of this gospel exercised in our congregation. They included the gift of healing, the gift of preaching by all of our men including our Brother Delbert here who spoke to us many times under the influence of the Spirit - the Good Spirit. Our men that really weren't gifted in preaching at all were preaching with a knowledge that they hadn't had previous to this time.
Delbert - And with power!
Paul - And with power - great power! And we knew something very unusual was taking place. So one evening, I was over at the church at about 4:30 p.m. and I was praying to the Lord. It was my custom to go to the church quite often and pray to God about the congregation. These prayers were always offered behind the pulpit. We'd go to the rostrum, if there were other men with me, or by myself and we'd always kneel down behind the pulpit. I guess I had a rather funny idea about this but I felt like that there's where the exercising of the Spirit was more than any place else in that building because we'd had so many of the men that had spoken to us through the Spirit - those that were there and those that came into our congregation. There's where the Spirit of God was the strongest, I felt, so there's where we did our praying. I prayed there and then I went over and sat down on the end of a pew in the church and was just meditating about some of the things I still needed to do when the swinging doors of the church opened and in came an individual the likeness of which I just can't describe but the minute he came through the door, I knew who he was. And I was very amazed to see him there. And as I was about to say something, he spoke and said, "Don't touch me. I'm John the Beloved." And I knew that's who it was. I knew that this was John the Beloved and he came up and sat down on the other end of the pew. And we sat there for a half hour in converse one with the other. And it was wonderful to be there in the presence of this being - this spiritual being. I couldn't begin to describe to you what he was like. There's no way of describing what flesh of a man looks like that is perfect - or his hair - or his clothing - or his shoes - or anything. I can only say that they just weren't of this world. It was - it was something that - the cloth in his suit even was not ever seen by me any place. His hair was bushy and white. He was well groomed in every way. And we sat there and talked for this half hour. Then he got up and said, "I've got to go. Don't follow me." And I didn't. And he went out through the swinging doors. I could hear the doors close and he was gone.
Delbert - As you gave this bit of a description, I was reminded of a statement by Apostle Oakman. He said, "Some things like this are difficult to describe because we don't yet have a celestial language to express celestial things."
Paul - That's right. That's just right. I was told by him that these things that we had talked about I would not be able to tell anyone except as the Lord saw fit from time to time and as I was prepared and as the people were prepared, he would bring back to me and to my mind some of the things we had talked about. And only once has this ever happened that something came back to me that we had talked about that day and I can tell you about that if you want me to.
Delbert - Well, I think that would be real fine. May I make a comment here before we go into this? One of the things that I enjoyed there, Paul, was particularly in the young people, as well as the others, but I remember many times on a Wednesday evening they'd gather there at the church early and have a prayer and then you'd find them sitting there on the front rows before prayer service. This was always - well at first it was a little bit of a surprise to me - but then it began to be something that I just almost expected - whether it was preaching or prayer service - that they were there and they were - you could just see - they were spiritually prepared to receive of the Lord.
Paul - Yes, something I probably should have told previous to this but during this time that we were having all these experiences, too, our young people were going from the high school, Delbert, across the street to the home of one of our young elders and they were having prayer services there at noon. Instead of eating their noon meal, they were fasting and having prayer services. And quite a few of the non-member kids were going over there with them. And every Wednesday, especially, they would meet together and have prayer and prepare for the service of the night and they would eat no dinner and no supper. They would fast. And as you say they would come early and they'd be on the front seats and many times, if you remember, they'd be singing songs.
Delbert -- Right!
Paul - Beautiful songs! Unaccompanied. But they'd be singing. One thing we did, Delbert, if you remember we always did, my companion who was the organist always went to the church early. And she would be sitting at the organ playing music very quietly, on the organ, beautiful music and we wouldn't turn the lights on in the church. The only light we had on was the light up in the front in the middle of our church - just enough light for people to see to come in and be seated. And our people would come in and under that kind of an influence, and be seated quietly - no talking - no noise, and when the service was ready to start, everybody was in the mood to worship. And if you remember also, before we opened our service, then the organ would quiet down real low and we'd have one of our ministers who was in charge - and I always used an elder in charge and in all the time I've been pastor, I never had anybody take charge of a prayer service except he was, at least, an elder because they are the spiritual fathers of the congregation. And another thing you might have noticed also that, most of the time, almost all the time, the men that were on the rostrum were the Melchisedec priesthood. Once in a great while, I felt especially led to invite one of the Aaronic men up there for a special duty but there's where our elders should be bringing their greatest ministry at the worship services - prayer services especially - amongst the saints. And then one of our men, just before we opened our service, would read a scripture and offer a prayer. Then we would turn the lights on and we'd go into our prayer service. Of course, then the organ would cease playing. And our people were really prepared then to worship as they should. Another thing we did, Delbert, in the way of preparation for prayer service that I thought was of great value to us. The men always knew long ahead of time who was going to be on the rostrum that night and we would go to the church at five o'clock - the ones that were going to be up front - and we'd meet together and have a round of prayers and read some scriptures and make our plans for the service. And we were blessed so many times with the Spirit of God and the preparation that we made in this way. I know it paid us to do this and I would recommend this to every pastor - to take your men and go to the church and pray with them and worship with them ahead of time and get them in the frame of mind that they need to be in to really bring ministry to the people.
Delbert - Well, listen, Paul, I think you've kind of mentioned some of this before but do you think this would apply just in Creston Branch or do you think this would apply in any other branch?
Paul - Well, if you remember, Delbert, I wrote some of this and had an item in the Herald About "It Happened in Creston."
Delbert -- Yes, I remember.
Paul - I meant to write a sequel to that and entitle it "It Can Happen Anywhere" but I never did get around to that. And I know it can happen any place. All the Lord requires of us to do is for a group of people - you might say a majority of the a congregation to be spiritually conditioned where they can receive His ministry. You know what it say in Section 7 about John the Beloved and what his desired is to minister to the heirs of salvation. Now this is one of the works that he is supposed to do. And I know that any pastor, if he can lift his congregation up, and it has to start with the pastor -- it has got to start there. The people can't do it without him. You understand that? If he can work with his congregation - his priesthood first and then the membership - enough of them to show the Lord that they really mean business… I've often said this and you've heard me say this - you have to woo the presence of God - you have to do that. He wants to know if you really mean business and if you can get this done, then He will come to you and minister to you in a way that you just can't believe. Now I want to tell you something about the final service that we had while John the Beloved was still with us. Do you want to hear that?
Delbert - Yes, very much! In fact, I was going to ask you that.
Paul - Well, you probably remember very clearly because you were in on most of this. I don't know whether you were there that night or not.
Delbert - No, I wasn't able to be there on that particular service. I'm sorry I missed that one.
Paul - There were a lot of people there that night. It was the night after New Year's and our children - a lot of them - were still at home because it was a special night. It happened to hit on a Wednesday night. New Year's was on Tuesday and they had a few days yet before they had to return to their college responsibilities, etc. And so there was over a hundred people there. And our service had lasted three hours. And as I got up to close the service which had been a wonderful service it seemed like that something just took a hold of me and just pulled the spirit right out of my body. I could just feel myself leaving my body and standing over here to one side and as I looked back toward where I was standing, it wasn't me - it was John the Beloved. And, of course, I recognized him immediately because I'd seen him before. And he started speaking. The people didn't see him as John the Beloved but they heard his voice and they were very much moved by this experience we had. Now, Delbert, we have a record of most of the things that he said to us that night. We didn't have it recorded because this was kind of a surprise to us but there were several of the women in the congregation that took notes including my own companion. And my companion was taking down this that he said that we could remember and those notes that we took, and she has some of this, and I'd like to have her read some of this.
Delbert - That would be fine - especially some of the parts that would be generally applicable and helpful.
Paul - Yes! Hear what this great man said to us.
"I am John the Beloved, the same who walked and talked with Christ in His ministry here on earth. On June 20, the Father said, 'John, go minister to my saints at Creston.' Six months have passed and I must bid you farewell but before I go, I want to talk with you about some of the things which I have noticed as I visited in your homes, your places of business, and in your church services.
"I was here on July the Fourth and I brought the angels, Lehi and Nephi, sons of Helaman, with me and allowed them to minister to you. I have been here also with Peter and James, two different time, and this was made known to some of the priesthood of your congregation. I have heard your prayers and your testimonies as they have ascended to your Heavenly Father and want you to know that they were pleasing to Him. I have spoken to you twice before - once through the gift of wisdom and once through the gift of discernment. And even though I stand before you tonight in the person of my brother and you cannot see me, yet you can feel my presence and know that I am here. I am your brother. You are my sisters and brothers and I have been called to minister to those who are righteous and follow the commandments of God in these the last days.
"Many of you have not followed the commandments as the Father would have you do but because of fasting and prayer and obedience to the financial law and the Word of Wisdom on the parts of many of you present here tonight, the Heavenly Father has granted me permission to speak to you before I take my leave. One day, I talked with Jesus, my brother, while in the flesh and asked permission to remain on earth and minister to the people especially in the last days and this was granted unto me by Jesus, the Christ. I am not a physical body neither am I a spiritual body but am in a special spiritual condition which is not known to man but known only to God. Therefore, you cannot see me but I can see you and I have been in your homes - many of your homes. I have seen you in your homes as you have gathered your children around. This is the plan that the Father has. I have been in your places of business and in your classrooms at school. I have been in your kitchens and have whispered in your ears as you have been washing dishes."
We didn't get all of those words down and we didn't put them because we couldn't remember exactly what was said.
Delbert - Just the overall pictures. That's the important thing.
"I was with my brother Larry as he went to Lucas on a preaching mission and I stood by his side and whispered in his ear every word as he spoke to the people there. The ministry for this congregation has been under my supervision for this period of time. The last two Sunday evenings, I stood beside my brother and your servant, Delbert Smith, and whispered in his ear those things which he needed to bring to you for your spiritual growth. I have been in the home of the Long twins several times. I have seen the desires of your hearts and the wholesomeness of your lives and I have seen the tears you have shed over your parents. (This was to the girls.) I met with Sheryl and her young man at the church and was with them as they waited for her father to come and I softened his heart. I was with the elders many times during their administration to the sick."
There was more to be given there that we did not get down the exact words so we didn't try to fill that in but we did have many wonderful experiences.
"During my visits in your home, I observed many things that were dis- pleasing. Many of my brothers and sisters were wasting time in front of their television sets - many of my ministry who needed so badly to study the scriptures because of their lack of understanding. I sor- rowed when I saw how some of them disobeyed the Word of Wisdom. I tried to enter some of the homes and they closed the door and I could not enter. I have heard many of your discussions and was disturbed because many of you could not forgive, with your heart, your brothers and sisters. I have walked with you in the grocery stores and whispered in your ears as you were about to purchase something that was not necessary for you to sustain life. Many listened but many turned a deaf ear and listened to the whisperings of the evil one and purchased those things which were not a just want. I have been in your places of business and have seen you about to do those things which were not right in the sight of God and whispered in your ear. Some of you listened and some did not.
"This congregation of Creston has been blessed above that of any other congregation in the world. Now I must leave you but if you will continue in fasting and prayer, continue in obedience to the financial law and the Word of Wisdom, the Father will send you another Comforter for He desires to continue to bless you. I have been sent by commandment of God to be with you these six months. He will send you other messengers in due time. Now I must leave you for I have other missions to perform. God's blessings be with you and now I bid you farewell."
Delbert - Thank you, Paul and Alice, for sharing this testimony. A friend of mine asked if these experiences were really legitimate. He had access to certain statistics which I inquired about. The membership was about 105, ranging over an area of about a 45-mile radius. The average attendance on Sunday morning and Sunday evening had been 125. Wednesday evening attendance averaged between 85 and 90. Tithing Statement filers ranged from 70 to 80 percent. Baptismal increase was 10 percent. Then I asked again, "What to you think when Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them?'"
These principles are not too complicated - just obedience to the basic principles which Jesus taught of fasting and prayer, obedience to stewardship, obedience to the Word of Wisdom and the endeavor to love each other. I've found that this does work in other places as well.
Take the Osceola Congregation in Iowa - the book membership was 25, average attendance from 4 to 10 on Sunday morning. This soon jumped to 25. Tithing statement filers jumped to 100 percent. Baptisms jumped to 25 percent. In Corydon, Iowa, a medium sized congregation, the performance was very similar. These worked because they are the principles and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said in Section 76 -
"For thus saith the Lord, I, the Lord am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end; great shall be their reward, and eternal shall be their glory; and to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from the days of old; and for ages to come will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom; yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations; their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught; for by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will; yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man."
And again, from Section 81, paragraph 3 -
"I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."
The key to success in these spiritual things lies in obedience to that which Jesus has taught us and taking advantage of the promises of His Holy Spirit which He has said is available to us. May God bless you as you seek to fulfill these promises.