"Our lives are crossed by a kind of fear. Men are afraid that they might hear the voice of an angel--
afraid they might wake up and see an angel by their bedside. There are some young women who
are afraid if they hear a noise and will cover their heads. Why? I believe if we were prepared to
understand the plan of salvation from the first to the last, it would not only be within the range of
possibilities, but within the reach of probabilities that there might be angels surrounding us, and we
might see them"
— (Joseph Smith III sermon in Lamoni, IA)
"Being expectant as a priesthood and as a Church"
Our lives our filled with expectation and anticipation. When we are expecting good things to happen, there’s typically an excitement that accompanies that expectation. We have a certain level of confidence and assurance that the expectant thing will come to fruition, and that produces good feelings.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, when we are expecting bad things to happen, there’s an anxiousness and trepidation that follows that expectation. We think we know what’s about to occur, and therefore we dread it until the moment or moments pass.
With the good things in life, we welcome the expectations, and with the bad things, we wait in nervousness and dread.
From the same sermon I quoted at the outset, Joseph the Prophet gave a personal example:
Jesus’ suffering and death opened the door of mercy. Because the penalty has been paid, our repentance is made effective, and when we express and exercise our faith in Him in the waters of baptism, God wraps us up in His arms, mercy, and grace. God claims us because His Son atoned for our sins. We are washed clean. Held guiltless. Justified. Saved. Redeemed.
"Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord; neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose, and went to Eli, and said, Here am I, for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Therefore, Eli said unto Samuel, Go; lie down. And it shall be if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak, for thy servant heareth.”
We read in verse 7 that Samuel didn’t know the Lord yet. Because Samuel didn’t know the Lord yet, he didn’t know who was calling him or even how to respond. Fortunately, Eli still had some wisdom left and counseled Samuel to ask of the Lord.
As I read this, two separate but related points came to mind. The first and most obvious, because it’s in the text, is that Samuel didn’t know the Lord or the word of the Lord. And secondly, because Samuel didn’t know the Lord, Samuel wasn’t expecting the Lord.
It’s certainly possible to not know someone and still expect them. But we see that Samuel was lacking both. However, the whole story changes when Eli finally realizes that the Lord is calling the boy. Samuel still doesn’t know the Lord, but this time, Samuel is expecting the Lord. He is expectant, and that makes all the difference.
It took the Lord calling Samuel three times until he was finally expecting the call from the Lord. What’s the takeaway for us? Each of us has come to know the Lord. We have all been called to do the work of the Lord and minister unto His people. We have a head start on Samuel in this story.
Yet, maybe it’s the second part that’s more difficult for you and me. Are we expectant--do we expect to hear from the Lord--to receive his instruction, to see His angels?
There are good and bad expectations, and surely those possibilities can be categorized as good expectations.
Joseph Smith III went on to share this experience about angels:
“I can remember the first one I ever saw. I was only a child then. I was not half as fearful then as I am now. I had hardly passed the line of accountability when I saw the first one. I never shall forget how it looked. It was the face of a child, a beautiful child. It did not speak to me; but as I looked upon its face, there was that peculiar look of comprehension, of care and anxiety, that peculiar expression we call rapport; I saw the face of this angel. I was not afraid.”
Joseph was not afraid, and neither can we be. We have to expect to see angels; we have to expect to see miracles; we have to expect to see Christ, and to see the Kingdom of God on this Earth.
If we don’t expect, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that we lack the necessary faith. But I know we all have that necessary faith, so we should be expectant this day, insomuch that we will be able to witness the things of old and to minister as directed by the Lord. If we are expectant, do we not, then, make preparation? Typically, an individual doesn’t prepare for something that he or she is not expecting.
Throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon, there is example after example of Prophets in their days foretelling of Christ’s birth as Savior of the world, because Christ is the only expectant person in all of human history. No one else was told of from the beginning. The people needed to expect His coming, to recognize Him as the Son of God made flesh and as the Savior of a fallen world. Expectation allows for preparation.
When we come to worship, we have to come expectant to meet God and to commune with the Holy Spirit. The scales have to be lifted from our eyes, and our minds and bodies must be empty vessels ready to receive.
Ever since I read this sermon by Joseph, I have made a conscious effort to wake each day more expectant to see God and his angels in whatever form they may manifest themselves. And do you know what I’ve found? My attitude is different, and therefore my days are different. There’s a hope and optimism that was not always there before. I haven’t seen an angel to my knowledge, but I, like Joseph after his Sunday School lesson on Samuel, I have a grand thought that I might see an angel today or tomorrow. And if you don’t have that same grand thought, I encourage you to hunt for that thought and make it an expectation.
If that is truly and sincerely our expectation, then I pray that when the Lord calls to us, we will not just respond, “Here am I,” but we will say, “Speak, for Thy servant heareth.”