Are you a first-timer to LDS Perfect Day! If so, welcome!
Click here to see what this blog is all about and how you can get the most out of it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Don’t Just Know About Christ…EXPERIENCE Him!

If you do not know Jesus as a person and His remarkable personality - His playful, irreverent, bold, forgiving, giving, anti-establishment, tender, fierce, witty, funny, sublimely confident personality - you have been cheated.

If you do not experience Jesus regularly, intimately, in any of these ways mentioned above - if you don't experience His comfort, His sense of humor, His eagerness to heal your brokenness, His over-enthusiasm to forgive you - you have been robbed.

Many of us have spent years, even decades, attending church. And in that time, we've filled our heads full of facts about Christ. We know that God is love. God is merciful. God is righteous. And yes, I agree: that's a terrific list…of His virtues.

But how well do you know Him?


That's precisely what the Prophet Joseph Smith asked 20,000 saints at a general conference held in Nauvoo, IL on April 7, 1844. It was one of the last times he addressed so many in his congregation. He was martyred less than three months later.

Here's what he asked them, and - I firmly believe - would ask you as well:
"I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own hearts, what kind of a being God is? Ask yourselves; turn your thoughts into your hearts, and say if any of you have seen, heard, or communed with Him? This is a question that may occupy your attention for a long time. I again repeat the question-What kind of being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen Him, heard Him, or communed with Him? Here is the question that will, peradventure, from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The scriptures inform us that "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3
It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible. 
If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being He is-if he will search diligently his own heart-if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle." (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/04/the-king-follett-sermon?lang=eng; emphasis mine)
So, how about you?

How often do you pray, and literally invite Christ into your home?
"On that night in Bethlehem there was no room for him in the inn, and this was not the only time during the thirty-three years of his sojourn in mortality that there was no room for him. Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to slay the children. There was no room for Jesus in the domain of Herod, so his parents took him to Egypt. During his ministry, there were many who made no room for his teachings-no room for the gospel he taught. There was no room for his miracles, for his blessings, no room for the divine truths he spoke, no room for his love or faith. He said to them, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head' (Matthew 8:20)." (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, Clyde J. Williams, ed., [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], p. 42)
How often do you dialogue with Jesus, as one man converses with another? How often do you hear His voice in your heart and mind?
"...mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts" (D&C 29:7
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27)
If you don't know His voice yet -- in fact, if you're not even acquainted with it -- get cracking:
"And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me." (D&C 84:52
"And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people." (D&C 133:63
"And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved." (D&C 45:2)

This is one of my favorite paintings of Him
Do What It Takes to Get to Know Him


In my March, 2015 post, "Spiritual Ascension Step #3: Align (KNOW Christ, Not Just Know About Him)", I invited you to know Christ, not just know about Him. I invited you to:
  1. Ditch the smart phone and/or computer games, Netflix, watching college or pro sports for a while.
  2. Resolve to get to know the real Jesus.
  3. Become acquainted with His personality.
  4. Calm your mind.
  5. Reach out to Him in your thoughts, and listen for His reply.
  6. Give it some time.
With respect to #3: Here are a few links which may help you come to better understand Christ's personality:
You now have a fantastic boost in your journey to knowing Jesus.

Being in His Presence


Actually being in His presence…

Let's face it: it's a difficult thing to visualize. Nevertheless, eventually, someday (in this life or the next), you will probably have that blessing.

There are very few accounts that I believe truly capture what it's like to be in that moment, because it's an intimate encounter that will likely be the most transforming event of your life. To experience His life, His joy, His love and ultimately His presence - firsthand - has no comparison.

However, I've found two that I feel come close.

First: a first-hand account by Elder Melvin Ballard:
"I had sought the Lord . . . and that night I received a wonderful manifestation and impression which has never left me. I was carried to this place-into this room. I saw myself here with you. I was told there was another privilege that was to be mine; and I was led into a room where I was informed I was to meet someone. As I entered the room I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious being I have ever conceived of, and was taken forward to be introduced to Him. As I approached He smiled, called my name, and stretched out His hands towards me. If I live to be a million years old I shall never forget that smile. He put His arms around me and kissed me, as He took me into His bosom, and He blessed me until my whole being was thrilled. As He finished I fell at His feet, and there saw the marks of the nails; and as I kissed them, with deep joy swelling through my whole being, I felt that I was in heaven indeed. The feeling that came to my heart then was: Oh! If I could live worthy, though it would require four-score years, so that in the end when I have finished I could go into His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in His presence, I would give everything that I am or ever hope to be!" (Elder Melvin J. Ballard, "Crusader for Righteousness," Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 65-66; Improvement Era, 1932, vol 35, p. 714-715; https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/the-blessings-of-sacrifice?lang=eng)
Second: An account which was written anonymously (NOT me; I have no idea who wrote it). Like Elder Ballard's, it can't be confirmed. However, it rings true to me:
"This is what I prayed, 'If I have ever done anything to harm anyone, I am truly sorry; and if there is a God I want to know you.' Immediately, something like scales came off both my eyes. It looked like the gray scales that I remembered from snake's skin when molting only with the fragile consistency of a cigarette ash. I watched these gray scales drop and via reflex reached out to catch them with both my hands. I felt nothing material. I was just trying to grasp what had happened, when above me a brilliant light appeared. It was the most beautiful crystal clear white light I had ever seen. It was brighter than a million suns, yet it did not hurt my eyes. It filled the entire room with light and the light bleached out everything in the room. The walls, the furniture, the floor, the bedding, our clothes, everything was bleached to the whitest color white imaginable--except for the skin on our faces and that not covered by clothing. Our skin color remained the same. At the very same instant, I was aware that I was in some new kind of time, a timelessness that was beyond time in the usual sense that we know it. I could see my friend still seated with his eyes closed and his head bowed, but he did not seem to notice this same light. The light was alive. It was a being of light. Immediately the light spoke to me, but not in words; it spoke directly to my mind. The being of light said, 'I love you exactly the way you are.' As soon as this being spoke to me, we were alone in some place that was beyond 'place.' The room seemed to disappear and it was just this being of light and me. I was not frightened, but I was transfixed on this beautiful being of light. 
When the being of light said his first words to me, I felt he knew me perfectly. He already could see my past, present and future. He knew it all in one moment, and so in saying this, he had no illusions about me; he saw my warts and all. Yet, I felt this most profound unconditional love beyond comprehension. It was a relief to be so totally known and loved at the same time. It is hard to put into words. Somehow, I 'knew' that this being was loving me at that moment, as if it were all the moments of my existence, past, present and future. He loved me as if I was the most loved human from the beginning of human history to the end of human history. I felt loved as if I were the only human being that ever existed. Yet, I knew that this being loved everyone exactly the same way, and that was no contradiction. At the same time, I knew this being of light awakened some part of me somewhere deep inside, a reserved place made for him and him alone, a part that had some direct knowledge of him that seemed as if it had been dormant and now awakened. I could truthfully say, I knew him even as what and who he was beyond my finite knowing. And so he was like meeting my very best friend, the best friend I had longed to meet all my life. No words can describe this. 
I knew him, yet I cannot explain how. I just knew him. It was as if he had been present in every moment I ever felt loved and then far beyond these moments to all moments. He was so alive, so joyful, so free, so mirthful, so playful, and so utterly alive with joy. He radiated joy as if he was the source of all life, joy, truth, goodness, beauty, truth, like a living fountain that continually flowed up, but a living fountain that was its own source of water. This being had absolutely no condemnation or judgment of anyone or me. It just was not there. I felt totally liberated from all the shame I had internalized from my past while in his presence. I felt totally free to be alive and joyful, too. It was like I had come to life for the first time. 
Time did not exist anymore, time without time. I know that doesn't make sense, but that was what it was like, timelessness. I 'knew' that I had all the time I wanted with him. There was no rush, no sense of urgency. He was not distracted or preoccupied. For this time, I seemed to have his complete attention. The being seemed totally delighted to be with me. I did not feel self-conscious or awkward. His very essence seemed to be made of love, as if loving was all he could do, but he did so with total freedom, total delight. It was contagious. And, I tell you that no one on earth has ever loved like this being. 
Troubled by my own doubts about my masculinity since I was a teen, I decided this was my chance to ask this being a question that plagued me for a long time. So, I asked my question by sending my thoughts to him, which was so natural, so easy, and so effortless, like I had telepathically spoke all my life. I asked him, 'Is it alright to be gay?' Now, I know it sounds like a strange question, that question out of all the questions I could ask an eternal loving being, but it was sincere and at age 22 that was my question. Today I would ask entirely different ones and not stop at one question. But, the being of light, laughed and smiled, I cannot tell you how I knew this, but I just knew it. And, with great love in his voice he said, 'That is not the most important question.' I wish everyone could hear the gentleness, the tenderness I heard in his voice. This is not a God of wrath and judgment. That response really surprised me, as my heart was beating in my throat, when I asked it, and I expected to be given a stern lecture of condemnation. But, the being let me know that he had full confidence in me to figure out what the most important question is. At the same, time I knew he wouldn't give me the most important question, that he wanted me to discover it for myself. 
Again, I wish I could convey how I felt so loved by his confidence in me, so touched, so respected. This being of love has such a profound respect for me, for everyone. He did not want to pressure or push me. He simply trusted that I would find out the question and the answer at another time in my life. He did not say when, but somehow I knew it would happen one day. So before I could ask, 'What is the 'most important' question, the being of light touched the top of my head. I cannot tell you how I knew he touched the top of his head, but I knew he did; and then, suddenly my whole body became translucent. Amazingly, I could see right through my hands, arms, feet and whole body. I had clothes on but they were transparent too. I could see all the external details of my exposed arms and hands, despite them being translucent. I was amazed. I could see right through me. Then, suddenly, this being of light poured this pure golden light into my translucent body. It was not like ordinary light as it was alive. It was far brighter and purer than the purest gold. The golden light was not material, but I have to say it poured into me from above. It was alive; the golden light was totally alive with pure joy. 
Slowly, I could see the golden light fill me up from the soles of my feet, my legs, my lower torso, my upper torso and then the top of my head and overflowing. I felt one with this being, one with its eternal peace, joy, and love-love without a beginning or end, eternal love. I decided right then I did not want to stay on this earth. I had found who I was looking for and I saw that this earthly existence by contrast was no comparison. So, I realized that I could will my soul to leave my body. It was as natural as an eagle taking flight with his wings. So, I did will it, and the being of light instantly vanished. I did not feel lost or abandoned, just wonderful. 
Immediately, I asked my friend who still had his head bowed and his eyes closed, 'Did you see the light?' At first, my friend thought I was mocking him, but I won him over. He later told me he did see a great light in his mind as we prayed, but he did not see the light in the room. I can still remember this experience as if it happened five minutes ago. And to tell you the truth, it did, but not in a literal sense. When I saw that light at age 22, it is hard to explain. I also saw that light at every moment of my life. That light broke into all my past, present and future. So, I say I can still see that light real and fresh in my memory. And, do you want to know the most important question? At age 58, I think I know it. The question and the answer is the same: love." (Anonymous, https://iands.org/nde-stories/nde-like-accounts/561-the-question-and-answer-love.html).

It All Starts with a Prayer


Although I won't share my experiences with Christ with you on this blog, I feel it's appropriate to testify to you that I do know Jesus Christ. I know His voice as well as my spouse's. I know His personality. I know His face. I know what it's like to kneel, and sob uncontrollably, in His presence.

I say this not to brag, but to testify. I am no one of any significance - by lineage, profession, church calling or otherwise. If I am able to bear this testimony, then I have zero doubt whatsoever that you can, too.

Here is a close approximation of the prayer I uttered which got me on this path - a prayer which God has fulfilled in my life many, many times, consistently beyond my expectations:
"Father, You are my everything. So please be merciful with me regarding this request: 
I pray to know You. I pray to know your Beloved Son. Please show me, and free me from, any constraints, and any falsehoods, that have held me back in truly knowing You both.  
Please touch my soul, so I will feel You both.  
Please touch my deaf ears, so I will hear.  
Please touch my blind eyes, so I will see. 
Please touch my destiny, so that I can worship you, adore you and love you throughout all the eternities."
Please join me. Sing a new song to Him who sits on Heaven's mercy seat!

I invite you to bear a personal testimony of Him to more people than you could ever dream of. A testimony which is not a wish, not a hope, not a belief, not a desire, but instead, a testimony rooted in pure knowledge…that you KNOW Jesus Christ.

7 comments:

  1. This was beautiful, soul stirring, validating, and pure gospel. I loved it. Thank you for your testimony!

    ReplyDelete
  2. One of the best posts I have read. Thank you for sharing brother.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved it. Moving forward in faith now....thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks so much for your kind words. They're from my heart. I hope they help you on your journey back to Him.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I thought this was beautiful. I have learned much from your website. I am sincerely seeking to converse with the Lord and was wondering if you could help me with a nagging question that I have, which may just demonstrate my unbelief. In this and other posts, it seems to suggest that one can pray directly to Jesus Christ in addition to praying to the Father in the name of Christ. This seems to go against everything I have learned as a latter-day saint, yet at times also seems very natural. Any further explanation you can provide would be much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you have been left with the impression that we are to pray to Christ. No. Instead, we emulate Christ in praying to the Father -- in our case, in the name of our mediator, Jesus Christ.

      At the end of the post which was just published a minute ago, I challenge you to listen for Jesus. He likely speaks to you often. Just carry on a conversation with Him. As Brother Joseph said, "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).

      Delete
  6. I just finished the book "Beautiful Out law" that was recommended. I found it extremely enlightening and seemed to confirm some of the things that I knew in my heart. Had a bit oaf an anti-religion bent and I think we would all benefit from some clarification about why The Church was established and what it provides to many individuals who may not be ready for going solo. I did agree that many are comfortable with the culture of Church, but miss the ultimate objective which is to literally lead us to Christ so that we may actually experience him.

    ReplyDelete