A misty fog covered the world, especially in low-lying areas around the rolling hills of the pasture. The little grove of trees sat in the distance, seeming to hover within the fog rather than sitting rooted to the ground.
Ashley sat on the top rung of the fence looking out over the early morning scene and pondering again, as she’d done so many times since the big storm, how her cows had instinctively stayed safe in that little haven of trees.
She hadn’t felt compelled to spend time in the barn yet to do the chores, just wanting to enjoy the solitude of the morning. It was early fall and the frost had just recently started coating the ground each night.
Harvest season was almost complete and soon it would be time to put away the farm equipment. She wasn’t ready for that, and she didn’t quite know why. She wasn’t the one who spent time up on the tractor. The change in farming routine really wouldn’t alter her life in any way. She was back in class every day at the university.
Still, it was something about the changing of the season that bothered her. It was another little chapter in her life that reminded her the really important decisions had yet to be made. Even as her heart was weighed down by her frustrations, she pushed them to the back of her mind. It had been an irresolute few months, getting through the clean-up from the storm and starting the new school year. But today she just wanted to relax in the moment and enjoy the peace of the morning.
She wasn’t surprised to hear soft footfall behind her, but she didn’t turn to look at him. Paul’s strong arms wrapped around her waist and she leaned back against him with a content sigh. It felt so good to have him holding her. Neither of them spoke for a long time.
Ashley reached up and rested her hands on his arms, folding them around him in a soft hug. She wasn’t afraid of falling as she released her hands from the fence post, because she felt the security of his embrace. She was reminded again of how comfortable it would be to have him as her husband. She wouldn’t have to change her life in any way.
He was already buying his father’s farm. All they would have to do is build a little house off in one corner of his property, get married, and take that one last step to complete their lives. They would be happy and content. They were in love. They would finally be able to let down the curtain that had been holding them apart all these years. They would be able spend every day together… every night together.
The thought made Ashley smile and she sighed again. She had always tried not to let her physical attraction to Paul dictate her decision. Yet, she knew it was impossible to deny how her body reacted to being in his arms. She wanted to finally be able to let those feelings flow through every part of her life. They always had to be so careful, so controlled. She didn’t want to be controlled anymore. She wanted to be able to let down her guard and just see where it would take them. She wanted to finally tell him that she wanted to marry him.
Even as she thought it, her heart pulled her away again. It wasn’t time. She still wasn’t ready. She knew that there was another man who made her feel the same way. She closed her eyes, trying to push away all feelings for Caleb so that she could focus on Paul. But it wouldn’t work. He was still there.
When she opened her eyes, the sun finally poked its head over the horizon and light flooded across the landscape. They both held their breaths as they were taken aback by the beauty that suddenly surrounded them. The mist was highlighted by the soft white rays of light. It took Ashley a moment to express with words how it made her feel.
“Oh how lovely was the morning,” she whispered.
“It is lovely,” Paul whispered back. His breath was so close to her ear that it made her shiver in the cool morning air.
“It reminds me of how Joseph must have felt that day,” she whispered again.
“Who’s Joseph?” he asked. He almost sounded jealous and it made her giggle. She turned and smiled at him softly, then planted a quick little kiss on his lips.
“Joseph Smith,” she said with finality, as if he should just know what she was talking about.
“That prophet who started your church?” Paul’s voice softened to a more relaxed tone. “What is it about this lovely morning that reminds you of him?” he whispered.
“Because this is how he described the morning when he knelt in a grove of trees and prayed about which church he should join,” Ashley explained, still whispering.
“Why would he pray about which church to join, but then go and start his own church?” Paul’s question was laced with confusion.
Ashley turned to him again and looked into his eyes. She was surprised that he hadn’t heard this story before. How could she have been with him all these years and not shared with him the story of Joseph’s first vision.
“He was fourteen at the time,” she told him.
“A fourteen year old started your church?”
“No, he was fourteen when he had his first vision of God.” She stopped, letting him take that in. “He was confused by all the ministers in his area telling the people that the only way to be saved was to join their church. Of course he wanted to be saved, so he decided to pray about which church was the right church, the true church… God’s church.”
“So what happened?” He sounded curious now.
“He knelt in a grove of trees—” She paused and looked back out at the little forest off in the corner of her father’s land, now bathed in the soft light of dawn. “Joseph said that he saw a pillar of light above his head that descended upon him and within the light he saw two personages. The one pointed to the other and said ‘this is my beloved son, hear him.’ Joseph saw God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
“But I thought they were one person,” Paul whispered, confused.
“That’s what the world had always thought,” Ashley agreed. “But Joseph couldn’t deny what he had seen, even as the people in the community mocked him. He was told not to join any of the churches, and so he didn’t. Over the next few years he saw lots of other visions too, and it wasn’t until years later that he organized the Church.”
“Hmm…” Paul rested his chin on Ashley’s shoulder and pulled her close.
“But his first vision was on a morning just like this,” Ashley added. “It must have been beautiful that day, if it was anything like today.”
“It must have been,” Paul agreed. He nuzzled his face against her neck and breathed deeply, just resting there, holding her. “Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with me on this beautiful day. If I had a chance to see God, I would want it to be on a day just like today.”