Updated: 4 July 2017
The Conversion of St. Paul William Congdon (1912)
But, while traveling near Fresno that morning on California Highway 99, my journey was interrupted by a gentle voice, which eventually got my attention. It had been quietly speaking to me, repeating over and over a future assignment, until I began to listen.
"You will one day be the prophet", said the voice.
When the message finally registered in my consciousness, I became alarmed and asked "Why me?"
"It's your job", came the quiet reply.
"But I don't know anything", I argued.
"You will know when you need to know", quiet and simple.
"But I don't have any experience."
"You will be equipped as needed", quiet, simple and steady.
"Oh, no!" I exclaimed. "I do not understand these words and what is happening to me. I do not trust you, whoever is speaking to me, or myself. I do not trust my ego or any of what is being said. All my life I have been conditioned never to seek such things. I do not want this. However, I do not want to offend the Spirit! You must speak to me in a different language. If you can speak to me in a way that I can understand and accept, I will take it like a tiger!"
Had I not been in a state of 'fasting and prayer' with so many good friends and family having joined me in support, I doubt I would have ever trusted what happened next!
What happened next is that my heart began to grow! And it continued to grow and grow and grow until I began to feel it would come out of me!! Then, as I relaxed to allow and observe what was happening, I went into a state of bliss and ecstasy that I cannot even begin to describe. All sense of sin and guilt that I'd ever felt disappeared as I felt embraced and filled with a blinding Light-filled sense of Divine LOVE. I became giddy and silly and began laughing and crying and shouting. I could speak only one word aloud without feeling blasphemous. Here is that word repeated three times:
Towards Tioga Pass
July 17, 1965
Highway 99, Near Fresno
My journey's purpose had been interrupted, but I now felt assured that my distressed friend would be taken care of. With that assurance, I began to feel the need to get on top of a high mountain and so turned the car toward nearby Yosemite National Park to find the highest peak. (What happened on top of the mountain is captured in a story called "Heart Planting", written 10 years later with my then 9-year-old son Michael in mind.)
Coming down from the mountain, I headed for the home of my best friend who lived nearby. From there I called family and friends as I'd promised to do when the crisis was over. Only one friend had already broken the fast. He, a Mormon bishop, close friend and patron, would take charges out against me less than a year later, which would lead to my first excommunication.
(Note: Seven years later (1972), this now former bishop learned where I was in Oregon and called me to apologize for his action, saying that three years to the date after he had pressed those charges, he himself was excommunicated for the very same charges he'd brought against me! And would I forgive him? With great joy we reconciled and began communicating and visiting each other. Many years later, shortly after his untimely death, his young, Jewish widow in California called me in New Mexico to ask that I sing at his memorial in Corona del Mar. In his will he had stipulated that at his memorial I sing a song that he had written decades earlier for my voice called "Hope". I was thrilled to accept.)