I was pruning my bonsai Oak tree when I heard a fluttering. Turning around, I saw a white dove. It seemed so tame and fluttered from the grass up to a tree branch just above me. I was so surprised. Looking around for my German Shepherd, I gave her the command to “leave it.” I continued snipping the small branches of my Oak tree, my head down, when I felt something on my left shoulder. I was shocked. The white dove had landed right on me.
What Joseph said about the sign of the dove:
In 1841, while Joseph Smith was in the Vinson Knight home, he talked about John the Baptist and explained the sign of the dove:
The dove which sat upon his (Christ’s) shoulder was a sure testimony that he was of God. Brethren be not deceived nor doubtful of this fact a spirit of a good man or an angel from heaven who has not a body will never undertake to shake hands with you for he knows you cannot perceive his touch and never will extend his hand but any spirit or body that is attended by a dove you may know to be a pure spirit. Thus you may in some measure detect the spirits who may come unto you. (Words of Joseph Smith: p. 66; 21 March 1841 Vinson Knight Home, Howard and Martha Coray Notebook.)
There was no point upon which the Prophet Joseph dwelt more than the discerning of Spirits. (Minutes of Meetings held in Provo City, 28 Nov 1869, Church Archives) This may be true because the Prophet insisted that true religion was one of individual participation in revelation from God but that in their zeal many could be deceived. (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 21)
At another time, Joseph was speaking in the Temple, on 29 Jan. 1843 about John the Baptist. He explained that John prepared the way and had the great privilege to baptize
the son of God into the waters of baptism & beholding the Holy Ghost — in the sign the form of a dove — with the sign of the dove. instituted before the creation — Devil could not come in sign of a dove —Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage — does not confine itself to form of a dove — but in sign of a dove. (Joseph Smith Diary by Willard Richards, in Words of Joseph Smith, p. 160)
The Times and Seasons 4 (15 May 1843) published Joseph’s talk where he explained why John was the greatest prophet ever born of woman: (1) he prepared the way for Jesus, (2) he baptized him and beheld “the Holy Ghost descend upon him in the sign of the Dove” and (3) he had the Levitical Priesthood from his father Zachariah. (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 163)
What Jesus said about the dove:
Jesus referred to doves as being “innocent” or “harmless” when he sent his disciples out into the world:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16, NIV)
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16, KJV)
White Doves and Pigeons:
During weddings and special occasions, people sometimes “release” Rock Doves or White Racing Pigeons as a sign of peace and love. These birds are often used in a “release” because they have the ability to “home” — to return home, hence the name “homing pigeon.” Doves will not home and so they are not used for dove releases — hence the name of the dove and pigeon are used somewhat interchangeably — though they are slightly different.
Homing pigeons are gifted with a superior eyesight and memory that helps them find and remember landmarks such as rivers, lakes, mountains, and building structures. Unlike humans, they have the advantage of a “bird’s eye view” that helps them recognize landmarks as far as their eyes can see!
Homing pigeons need sunlight to navigate. Unlike owls and bats, they cannot see or fly at night to find their way home.
Like most birds, homing pigeons cannot navigate in inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain storms. A bright sunny day provides the best conditions for a dove release.
The white dove that I saw in my garden had more of a flutter type of fly. So, I think it was a dove and not a white homing pigeon, since those are the strong fliers. White Doves are different than white pigeons. But they both have some great qualities. White pigeons return home, and white doves tend to flutter to the light.
White Doves are small birds, about 12″ from head to tail. They will live an average of 10 – 15 years, though some may live over 25 years. In the 1800’s & early 1900’s the Ringneck Dove and the White Dove were considered to be two different species/races of dove due to the difference in their coloration. They were labeled the “Blond Ringneck” Steptopelia risoria and the “White Ringneck” Streptopelia alba. (ref)
I wanted to keep the white dove — I could almost pick it up, as I followed it around the yard. But then it fluttered up to another tree branch, and I left it to return to its home. That was yesterday. I haven’t seen it today. It’s raining.
Orrin Porter Rockwell and the White Dove:
When I was put in Independence jail, I was again ironed hand and foot, and put in the dungeon, in which condition I remained about two months. During this time, Joseph H. Reynolds, the sheriff, told me he was going to arrest Joseph Smith, and they had received letters from Nauvoo which satisfied them that Joseph Smith had unlimited confidence in me, that I was capable of toting him in a carriage or on horseback anywhere that I pleased; and if I would only tote him out by riding or any other way, so that they could apprehend him, I might please myself whether I stayed in Illinois or came back to Missouri; they would protect me, and any pile that I would name the citizens of Jackson county would donate, club together, and raise, and that I should never suffer for want afterwards: “you only deliver Joe Smith into our hands, and name your pile.” I replied– “I will see you all damned first, and then I won’t.”
About the time that Joseph was arrested by Reynolds at Dixon, I knew that they were after him, and [yet had] no means under heaven of giving him any information. My anxiety became so intense upon the subject, knowing their determination to kill him, that my flesh twitched on my bones. I could not help it; twitch it would.
While undergoing this sensation, I heard a dove alight on the window in the upper room of the jail, and commence cooing, and then went off. In a short time, he came back to the window, where a pane was broken: he crept through between the bars of iron, which were about two and-a-half inches apart. I saw it fly round the trap-door several times: it did not alight, but continued cooing until it crept through the bars again, and flew out through the broken window.
I relate this, as it was the only occurrence of the kind that happened during my long and weary imprisonment; but it proved a comfort to me: the twitching of my flesh ceased, and I was fully satisfied from that moment that they would not get Joseph into Missouri, and that I should regain my freedom. From the best estimates that can be made, this incident occurred about the time when Joseph was in the custody of Reynolds.
In a few days afterwards, Sheriff Reynolds came into the jail and told me that he had made a failure in the arrest of Joseph. (ref)