God wants to speak to us. God yearns for it, and many of us yearn for it too. God wants us to know Him ourselves, in our Selves. This is the very definition of Eternal Life (John 17:3). But we must do our part. We must get out of our own way. We must surrender and submit our egos, our egoic mind and “natural man,” in order to allow God to speak to us. The Prophet Joseph Smith seems to have known how to do this, but we seem to have lost this ability today, even the kinds of practices that lead to it.
It seems that Joseph learned how to enter into mystical altered states of consciousness early in his childhood through folk magic practices, such as using seer stones (which I believe were “meditation objects”), and perhaps other mind-altering mind-bending means. Meditation is not the only way to do it, but it is one of the most tried and true (being called various names throughout history including contemplation, centering prayer, silent prayer, etc.).
It seems Joseph may have had several people near him who may have taught him these archaic mystical practices, and helped him learn how to attune his mind appropriately so as to perceive Divine dimensions and insights. We’ve lost many of these ways in our technological modernized rationalized society today, particularly in the disenchantment of the West.
Consider the account of how Joseph found one of his seer stones, as noted in the 1826 “Glass Looking” Trial records:
Mr. Smith was fully examined by the Court. It elicited little but a history of his life from early boyhood, but this is so unique in character, and so much of a key-note to his subsequent career in the world, I am tempted to give it somewhat in entenso. He said when he was a lad, he heard of a neighboring girl some three miles from him, who could look into a glass and see anything however hidden from others; that he was seized with a strong desire to see her and her glass; that after much effort he induced his parents to let him visit her. He did so, and was permitted to look in the glass, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. He was greatly surprised to see but one thing, which was a small stone, a great way off. It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the mid-day sun. He said that the stone was under the roots of a tree or shrub as large as his arm, situated about a mile up a small stream that puts in on the South side of Lake Erie, not far from the Now York and Pennsylvania line. He often had an opportunity to look in the glass, and with the same result. The luminous stone alone attracted his attention. This singular circumstance occupied his mind for some years, when he left his father’s house, and with his youthful zeal traveled west in search of this luminous stone.
He took a few shillings in money and some provisions with him. He stopped on the road with a farmer, and worked three days, and replenished his means of support. After traveling some one hundred and fifty miles he found himself at the mouth of the creek. He did not have the glass with him, but he knew its exact location. He borrowed an old ax and a hoe, and repaired to the tree. With some labor and exertion he found the stone, carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing-Eye. He arose with a thankful heart, carried his tools to their owner, turned his feet towards the rising sun, and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home.”
(Source: http://richkelsey.org/1826_trial_testimonies.htm. The “All-Seeing-Eye” is depicted in the stonework on the Salt Lake Temple, as can be seen in the photo at the top of this post.)
This doesn’t make any sense to us today. We are so far removed from these kinds of mind-stretching practices that it seems ridiculous to us, even impossible. “Surely he must have been lying!” Or so we think. Joseph looked at a stone in a hat and all time, place, space, and distance were annihilated in his consciousness, and he possessed the “all-seeing eye” of Deity? This is gibberish to us today, or else some kind of quantum entanglement special relativity woo woo. We just can’t comprehend it. We have no such experience in our own life and consciousness, not anything that even resembles it. We’ve lost this ability to stretch our minds as Joseph did, and as the ancients did, in order to perceive God and things Divine.
Joseph once said,
The things of God are of deep import, and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search into and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and expand upon the broad considerations of eternal expanse; he must commune with God.
(Source: “Letter to the Church and Edward Partridge, 20 March 1839,” p. 12, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed April 6, 2017, http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-the-church-and-edward-partridge-20-march-1839/12.)
I perceive Joseph was not just referring to great book learning here, or advanced school study, but rather serious and deep psychology, even consciousness-shifting and consciousness-stretching mystical and contemplative practices that could bring our consciousness into oneness with Divine consciousness.
If we desire divine communion we must recover how humanity communed with God.