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Power From The Past: The Faith Of An Ancestor

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A Vision Of The Prophet

In May of 1848, John Davidson Burt had a vision of the prophet Joseph Smith. He had gone that day to listen to missionaries who had arrived in his town of Clackmannan, Scotland. “There,” he wrote in his journal, “for the first time in my natural life, I heard the true and everlasting Gospel proclaimed.”

John went home that night and pondered the words of the missionaries. They had shared James 1:5. “If any of you lack of wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” John knelt by his bedside and asked God for the truth. “This seemed to my mind to be the key to the whole situation,” he said, “and I was determined, there and then, to put it to the test.” As soon as John retired to bed, a vision was opened to him.

John found himself walking down a wide street in a large crowd. Ahead of him was a large white building with polished marble pillars and a grand staircase. John made his way up the stairs and was about to enter the doors when he heard someone approaching. “Coming toward me I beheld a noble-looking, dignified person, attired in broadcloth with a white neckerchief on and a cane in his right hand.”

The man asked John a few questions. He asked John to which denomination he belonged. John expressed his intent to join with the Latter-day Saints. “If you are a Latter-day Saint,” the man replied, “then you may go in.” John pulled open the doors and promptly awoke.

A few days after this vision, John was baptized and confirmed. One of the Elders invited him for dinner after the service. When John arrived at the Elder’s residence, he was astonished to find a large painting hanging on the wall of a man in broadcloth, with a white neckerchief and a cane in his hand. When John inquired, he was informed that the man was the prophet Joseph Smith.

John wrote of this experience, “Dare I attribute this concurrent train of circumstance to mere casualty or imagination? No, verily no! Rather, I do perceive and acknowledge n these manifestations the unerring hand of God, kindly guiding me, by his Holy Spirit, to the ever-flowing fountain of light and everlasting life, inasmuch as I may prove faithful to the end.”

Faithful To The End

John Davidson Burt was my great-great-great-grandfather. As amazing as his conversion story was, it is what he did after that inspires me. For the next fifty-eight years, he remained completely faithful. John moved to Utah in 1851. He served as a teacher, a High Councilman, and a bishop. He served missions in Great Britain and the Sandwich Islands. He served a special mission to Canada. He worked as a stonecutter on the Salt Lake Temple, and later in his life he was ordained a Patriarch. Through it all, and until John died in 1906, he remained steadfast and faithful.

Elder Dale G. Renlund taught that we can have a myriad of blessings when we turn to our ancestors, including “Increased refining, sanctifying, and moderating influences in our hearts.” When I face challenges in my own life, I can turn to John’s experience. His vision was simply the first seed of faith, and throughout his life he nourished it. I can do the same.  I invite you to turn to your ancestors. See if there is an example of faith in their lives, one you can lean on in times of trouble. One that will help you remain faithful until the end.

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Tyler Nelson
Tyler Nelson
After serving a mission to Samara, Russia, Tyler graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in Creative Writing. Tyler is the author of Away From The Sun, a short collection of his written works. He lives in Provo with his drop-dead gorgeous wife, enjoys playing basketball, playing the banjo, studying history, and collecting Pokemon cards. Follow Tyler on Instagram @therealtylerbnelson

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