Class 4: The Experience at Creston, IA
What expectations do we have when we come to church? Do we feel that we receive enough from the Lord or do we feel that the Lord doesn’t want to give us more than we have received?
“We are to be persuaded by the Spirit of the truth that ‘God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself’ (II Corinthians 5:19). The persuasion is first upward toward God (Genesis 9:21-23). Second, and only second, it is outward toward men. As the disclosure of God in Christ draws men upward, so will it bring them together. Any attempt to begin at the other end, with the mistakes and ills of the world, calling on Divinity simply to heal these, will end in failure, or at best, in but partial success. A complete healing of the nations begins in a new man and ends in a new heaven and a new earth, and the new man is born from above as he cooperates freely and willingly with God.” Arthur Oakman – God’s Spiritual Universe (pages 11-12)
Gifts of the Spirit
I Corinthians 12:1-12
I Corinthians 14:12
Those that tarried
John the Beloved
“During the month of April I continued to translate, and he to write, with little cessation, during which time we received several revelations. A difference of opinion arising between us about the account of John the apostle, mentioned in the New Testament, John, twenty first chapter and twenty second verse, whether he died or whether he continued-we mutually agreed to settle it by the Urim and Thummim, and the following is the word which we received. A Revelation given to Joseph Smith, jr. and Oliver Cowdery, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth.-Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.” Times and Seasons Volume 3 Chapter 18:853
III Nephi 13:15-24, 50-53
IV Nephi 1:15
What happened in Creston, IA?
“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.” Paul Winans
What was the status of the branch?
“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.” Paul Winans
What started it all?
“…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.” Paul Winans
“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.” Paul Winans
“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.” Paul Winans
They continued this preparation for approximately two years until June 20, 1962 when the gifts of the Spirit became more evident.
“…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.” Paul Winans
“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 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.” Paul Winans
“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.” Delbert Smith
“…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.” Paul Winans
“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.” Paul Winans
This message came through Paul Winans at a prayer service:
“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 times, 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.”
“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.”
“During my visits in your home, I observed many things that were displeasing. 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 sorrowed 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.” As told by Alice Winans
“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.” Paul Winans
Del had made careful preparation for this Sunday evening sermon. Previous experiences had taught him the high standards of ministry the Creston congregation was accustomed to receive. The unusual devotion of young and old alike challenged all ministers who served the group to do their best. It was his best that Delbert had sought prayerfully to offer.
Now he knelt beside the pastor’s desk in the second floor study and prayed earnestly. “Dear heavenly Father, if you don’t want me to preach the sermon I have prepared for tonight, what do you want me to preach?”
During the prayer service that preceded the sermon Del discovered that his best was not an adequate offering for this night. It was the custom of the congregation to gather at the church, fasting, an hour and a half before each Sunday evening meeting. From five o’clock until six they prayed for the minister, for those whom they had invited to the service with whom they hoped to share the gospel, and for the presence and ministry of God’s Spirit in all that would be done in his name. When the prayers were ended, the people disbursed, going to pick up those for whom they had prayed, to reassemble for the preaching at six thirty.
As he listened to the sincere prayers of the Saints, Delbert became aware that the message he had prepared for the evening was not what would most adequately minister to their needs. God had something else in mind for that night. When the people went to pick up their friends, he quickly ascended the stairs to the pastor’s study to talk the matter over with the Lord.
As he prayed, a passage of scripture from the Book of Mormon was impressed upon his mind. Rising quickly from his knees, he found the text and read it. No revelation burst upon his consciousness. No new ideas or brilliant interpretations flooded his mind. In fact, he didn’t have a clue as to what he could or should say about that passage or the ideas it presented to bring ministry to the congregation already assembling below him. He was familiar with the inspiration of the Spirit and knew without a doubt that the Book of Mormon quotation was the scripture that he should read. Thinking that the setting for the passage might yield some enlightenment, he read that which went before, but even this did not help. Carefully he perused that which followed. Still there was no elaboration. Only the unmistakable assurance persisted that this scripture held the key to the message of the Lord for this people this night, obscure though that message remained to him. He read it again and again until it was fixed firmly in his memory.
There was a knock on the sturdy door, and Paul Winans spoke. “It’s time to go into the service, Delbert.”
“Coming!” Del replied, closing his Book of Mormon slowly, still wondering what he would say when he faced the expectant congregation.
My husband loved the hymns of the church and was accustomed to singing them lustily when there was opportunity. During the opening of the service this evening, however, the sound of his voice was missing. Instead he continued talking to the Lord about the problem at hand.
“Father, what do you want me to say?” he pleaded. “If you don’t give me something to say, I’ll just have to read the scripture you’ve offered me and turn the preaching over to some of the other elders while I sit down. I know you’ve instructed us not to preach unless we have the Spirit,” he continued, “and my mind is a total blank!”
The singing ceased. Vaguely Del heard Paul introducing him as the speaker of the evening and asking the members to uphold him in prayer. If only they knew! Del thought as he smiled a little wryly. He sat a moment with bowed head before he rose to take his place behind the podium. “I’ll read the scripture, Lord, he prayed silently. “The rest is up to you.”
Planting his feet firmly behind the pulpit to still the trembling of his body, he opened the Book of Mormon and read the passage now so clearly established in his consciousness. I always could tell whether my husband’s sermons were inspired of God by the way he read his opening scripture. Tonight his voice was rich and full as he repeated the words of the ancient prophets. It reminded me of another time at reunion when, inspired by the Spirit of God, he had read the scriptures assigned to him so beautifully that High Priest Wilber Chandler had hurried to him at the close of the service, embraced him tearfully, and exclaimed, “Delbert, nobody can read like that!”
When he was finished, the congregation sang another hymn, but Del continued his prayer. “God, if you want someone else to bring the message this evening, I’d be grateful if you’d let me know who so I can designate my replacement.”
During the hymn a few ideas dawned in his mind. “I’ll present these thoughts,”” he resolved, “then I’ll just tell the folk[s] I don’t have the Spirit of preaching tonight and I’ll turn the pulpit over to whomever the Lord will indicate.”
Having made this decision, he felt a calm spread over his body. As he arose again and approached the pulpit he hesitated only a moment. During that moment he became conscious of a person standing behind and a little to the right of him. “Good!” he said silently, “Paul is going to preach for me. He’s just waiting for me to finish.”
Then ideas began to rush into his mind. With fluency he rarely experience he verbalized the ideas. While one portion of this mind comprehended and directed the verbalization, another continued to pray, “Lord, I’m totally dependent on you. I’ll say what you give me to say, then I’ll have to sit down.” Again he felt the presence behind him and fleetingly wondered why Paul, or whoever it was, was still standing. After that he became so engrossed in the message he was delivering for the Lord that he forgot to wonder who it was or why. As one train of thought was exhausted, another flowed into his mind. The sermon lasted nearly an hour.
“That was the most beautiful sermon we ever heard you preach!” “Your sermon really ministered to me!” “Thank you, Brother Smith! That was an answer to my prayer!” The hushed reverence and tearful thanks of the people as they left the sanctuary testified of the ministry they had received.
“Brother Smith,” Elder Dave Blair approached him when the congregation dispersed, “you had an unusual experience tonight, didn’t you?”
“I surely did!” Del agreed.
“I think I saw something you didn’t,” the older man continued, his face glowing with wonder. “There was a personage standing just behind you and to your right.”
“I know,” Delbert confirmed David’s testimony. “I felt him there, but I never did turn to see him.”
“When you seemed to have finished what you had to say,” David proceeded to explain, “ he would lean toward you, and it seemed that he whispered. Then you would speak again with conviction and power!”
“A messenger sent from God!” Del said, awed.
“God has many ways of keeping his promise to be with us – even to the end of the world, doesn’t he?”
– From The Master’s Touch by Mildred Smith page 192-195
“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.” Paul Winans
Things to ponder for next week:
What am I willing to give to have a closer association with the Lord?
What is the purpose of prayer and fasting?
How do these bring me closer to the Lord?