Of Curious Workmanship
by Edgar G. Snow, Jr.
‘‘As It Were unto Us a Dream”
[p.40]A couple of years ago I read A Dream Workshop, a book about a dream incubation seminar run by a progressive Christian group in—you guessed it—California. Of the several biblical passages which were mustered by the authors as support for the practice of entreating God to speak to you through dreams, the most interesting one is Job 4:13: “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.” I figured after reading this book that I’d been missing out on a lot of instruction since I rarely remember dreams.
Following the book’s suggestions, I purchased a dream journal to be placed at my bedside in order to [p.41] write down all of my dreams so that I could perform some mental archaeology on myself. I was serious about this, since, as Joseph Campbell said, myths are like public dreams, and dreams are like private myths. It seemed to me that dreams were like little patriarchal blessings given to us every night. I was also hoping to pilfer my subconscious for some short story ideas too, because dreams, of course, are often a source of artistic influence. And maybe I’d even learn how to have “lucid dreams” in which the dreamer can shape the outcome of the dream.
In accordance with the dream incubation plan, I repeated to myself several times before going to bed that I’d wake up after each dream and write it down (that way you don’t forget it by morning when the alarm clock erases everything). The first night I woke up after a dream and hurriedly wrote it down and went back to sleep. The next morning I looked at what I had written to discover it looked like what a five-year-old writes when pretending to write cursively. I wanted my money back since the book had no tips about how to overcome this problem. Then I figured I’d just try to remember my last dream before waking and write it down the next day. This worked. Here’s a sample dream.
I dreamed I was standing next to Joseph Smith as he was digging in the Nauvoo quarry for stones for the [p.42]temple. No one else was nearby. I was wearing blue jeans and a sport shirt, Joseph a calico shirt—a dirty one—and striped pantaloons and worn black boots. He looked a bit overweight to me. He had not shaven in days. He stood in a hole resting his arm on his shovel, waiting for me to say something. Then it dawned on me that this was a once-in-a-life-time chance to ask the prophet a deep question so that I could have something to tell in a future testimony meeting. I said, “Tell me about the sword of Laban. “ He immediately jumped out of the hole, his shovel clanging to the ground. Standing next to me and holding his hand to his chest, palm facing downward, he said, “It was this tall and terribly heavy. It would take three men to lift it.” Then I awoke. This isn’t an exact transcript from my journal, because, well, I can’t find it.
You’ll note that, although not a dream of great theological significance, it did reflect my recent readings in Mormon history, and has a certain kind of charm, that is, if you’re interested in the sword of Laban. Now I don’t expect F.A.R.M.S. researchers to start noting my dream in footnotes in articles about the sword of Laban. But at least it was better than the dreams that soon followed in which I either went to work or church and wasn’t wearing shoes, pants, or some other article of clothing. I soon gave up on my dreams after reading a [p.43]quote from Brigham Young that said something like: “Some dreams come from God, some from bad cooks.”
My favorite dream in all of Mormon history, and, of course, the most peculiar and curious, is the dream of Thomas Durham, a choir director in Parowan, Utah, which led to a musical arrangement used in several publications, including the Relief Society Magazine in 1919, for “Oh My Father.” Reportedly, the melody came to Thomas in a dream in which one of the Nephites at the last battle at Cumorah played a tune on a horn, then repeated it, which Brother Durham immediately transcribed upon awakening. He said the Nephite couldn’t quite reach the last couple of notes, but that was okay, since he figured out what the Nephite was trying to do and made some musical adjustments. Upon publication, the tune was attributed to a “Nephite Lament” (see BYU Studies 36/1:43). I’m not certain whose idea the attribution was, but nowadays I’m sure it would be the attorney’s.