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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lectures on Faith 2, Part 1: Why Its Absolutely Essential For You to Hearken to God

Within the last decade, there's been a resurgence in those seeking the face of God. New books and YouTube videos on the subject have motivated a new generation of believers in the doctrine. And I'm not just talking Mormons, either; those of other Christian faiths, Jews and even Muslims are also reportedly seeing Christ. Many lives are now on totally different (and far better) trajectories. It seems the truths in D&C 93:1 are definitely applicable to all worldwide, Mormon or not.

There's no doubt that we should be seeking the face of God:
"Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life." (D&C 101:37-38)
We know that all things are governed by law, and that "when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (D&C 130:20-21) "For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing," the Lord says, "and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world." (D&C 132:5).

I believe the law that governs seeing the face of God is contained in D&C 93:1. For those who are pure in heart, it's a perfectly stated, marvelously simple yet comprehensive formula:
"Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am." (D&C 93:1

Check Your Expectations

As a result of this explosion of understanding and interest in the Second Comforter, there has been a dramatic increase in expectations -- that one must receive this blessing (of seeing the Lord) while in mortality, or they have lost claim on eternal life. I don't know how many times I've conversed with someone who has diligently sought this blessing and not yet been granted it. Over time, they get frustrated because nothing has happened yet. The frustration gives way to disappointment and discouragement, which are a hop, skip and jump from having a loss in faith, which is essentially the wrong direction they should be headed.

That the Second Comforter is available to mortals is clear from the scriptures and Joseph Smith's teachings.

What isn't as clear is the existence of an unambiguous scripture saying we MUST receive the Second Comforter in this life in order to be exalted, saved in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, etc. Although such is definitely possible, no timeframes are ever given (not even Joseph Smith realized in mortality all the promised blessings given him).

What I have consistently read is that we should be steadfast in seeking the Lord -- in our hearts, minds and actions -- and trusting in His timing:
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isa. 55:6-7)  
"Seek the Lord, and ye shall live. . . . Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion. . . . The Lord is his name." (Amos 5:6, 8)  
"Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness." (Zeph. 2:3
Returning to the aforementioned D&C 101:37-38, it says we should "seek the face of the Lord always" -- not "see the face of the Lord" -- "that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life". To me, this says to keep seeking His face, and for Pete's sake, be patient about it! And don't worry -- you'll get your wish...someday.

So, if seeking the Lord is so essential, then what should we be seeking? His face, right? Well, that's quite an assumption that that's ALL we should be seeking for.

Enter Lecture on Faith 2.

"they continued to hear his voice"

Lecture on Faith 2 contains within it a hidden gem which helps prioritize your life in truly profound ways. And with every passing day, as we approach a day when God begins separating the wheat from the tares in more dramatic fashion, the importance of this gem significantly increases...for you.

In Lecture 2, we read about God's dealings with mankind's progenitors. In verses 1-12, we read how Adam and Eve communed with God, without a separating veil. In verse 18, we see that God conversed with mankind face-to-face in the Garden of Eden. Mortals heard God's voice and received instruction from it. In verses 19-21, we understand that even though our first parents were expelled from Eden, God never ceased to speak to, and be heard by, man. This is summarized in verse 30:

"The object of the foregoing quotations is to show to this class the way by which mankind were first made acquainted with the existence of a God: that it was by a manifestation of God to man, and that God continued, after man's transgression to manifest himself to him and his posterity: and notwithstanding they were separated from his immediate presence, that they could not see his face, they continued to hear his voice." (Lecture 2:30, emphasis mine)

I want to repeat that last part: "and notwithstanding they were separated from his immediate presence, that they could not see his face, they continued to hear his voice."

Did you get that?

Do you understand that passage's significance?

If you're not seeing His face, you can continue to hear His voice!

In fact, the Lord is so passionate about this principle, that He reminds us in Lecture 2:30 that Cain heard God's voice after killing Abel! So here's a reality check for you -- if Cain can hear God after having committed murder, then it's probably safe to conclude that you, too, can hear His voice.

To add another exclamation point to this doctrine, we learn that over the first generations on Earth, mankind relied on the personal testimonies of those who interacted with God (verse 53) to motivate them to seek God and learn His character, perfections and attributes. They then processed that information, went on to personally commune with Him, behold His glory, be partakers of His power and stand in His presence (verses 34, 56).

True prophets point to God, and God alone. False ones sure do tend to point to (or mention) themselves quite a bit, don't they.

Back to the generations and stories told in Lecture 2 -- there's one common denominator: These people sought God's voice. They heard God's voice. They communed and interacted with God's voice. And as they developed their relationship with God, it progressed to the point to where they eventually enjoyed God's presence.

In other words, generations of people learned and did what we often forget: that if you're not seeing Him, you can and should be seeking His voice, heeding His words and developing your relationship with Him until (and beyond) when He manifests Himself to you.

Hear Him Or You're Toast

We often see the word "hearken" in the scriptures. Although the dictionary says it means "to give heed or attention to what is said; listen", I have a simpler definition: "hear and do."

Christ's sheep not only hear His voice, they hearken to it. He then gathers His sheep. So, hearing His voice isn't just a good idea, or something we can seek with a certain degree of curiosity. Quite the contrary, it's a matter of spiritual and physical life and death:

You must receive His voice: "And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me." (D&C 84:52)

and hearken to it: "And even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice." (D&C 33:6)

Hearkening goes both ways: "They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble." (D&C 101:7)

You must hear His voice before you can see Him: "Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;" (D&C 93:1)

Hearken or be cut off: "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)

Hearken or not be gathered: "Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer." (D&C 29:2)

Hearken or die: "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)

It is absolutely positively critical for you to "Connect to the Lord's Network...Before It's Too Late".

Do More Than Hearken to Him -- Experience Him!

If we are to be as humble as a little child, then there is no better exemplar of this characteristic than Jesus Christ -- the greatest in God's kingdom with the exception of our Heavenly Parents (Matthew 18:3-4; Matthew 23:12; Philippians 2:8). The instances of His mortal life where He exemplified profound humility are plentiful.

Even today, when I speak with those who I seriously believe have seen Jesus in the flesh, they mention how humble He is. In fact, when you do meet Him, you're likely to be hit with a lot of dynamics at once, including:
  • His enthusiasm for you to finally see Him. As one person remarked to me, "He is so humble, that He makes you feel like the dignitary, not the other way around." I have had personal spiritual experiences which mirror this claim.
  • His overwhelming love for you. As one friend remarked, "When I was with Him, His love for me was almost crushing. I never thought a person could love another as much as I felt He loved me." Others remark how they want to stay with the Savior longer, which mirrors Elder Melvin Ballard's account of meeting the savior (here). 
  • His eagerness to forgive you of ALL your sins. In two of his accounts of the First Vision, Joseph Smith mentions that the Lord forgave him of his sins (Smith, Joseph (1832), "History of the Life of Joseph Smith", in Jessee, Dean C, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book (published 2002), ISBN 1-57345-787-6, archived from the original on November 20, 2008).
  • His sense of humor. If you think Christ is always serious and always somber, think again. How can He be the light and life of the world AND dull and monotonous? Dullness is the absence of brightness in our soul, while Christ is the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). If you can find an abundance of life within a drop of water, how much more life do you see in He who created all of Earth's bodies of water? I personally testify that Jesus Christ is not only full of light and life, but also has a sense of humor to match it. He can have you smiling, even laughing, one moment, and shedding tears of joy and appreciation the next.
Still, each and every one of these points can be experienced without even seeing Him. Now, again, while I'm not saying you should not seek His face (because you should!!), you can and ought to experience His personality (or get "acquainted with my voice"), His voice and even His presence without actually seeing Him....just like the patriarchs of old described in Lecture on Faith 2.