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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 1: Introducing...the Church of the Latter-day Saints

NOTE: This post's title illustrates to what extent we've deleted or minimized Jesus from our church, not that a new church is being formed.

Of church resumes...

Two and a half years ago, I had one of those times which left me thinking, “That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back!”

I met with a very rich man who spent quite a bit of time recounting his "church resume" -- how he and his talents had come to the rescue of this and that church general auxiliary; his close working relationship with the Brethren, and more. His self-importance was also apparent in his body language and facial gestures.

After having spent that hour in utter silence (I'm sure he thought I was awestruck), I had a simple request of him : "So, tell me about your relationship with Jesus." He was silent, then hemmed and hawed, and eventually admitted it was something he "probably needed to work on.”

...and church conference speakers

Then there’s this first-hand account of a Young Single Adult Conference speaker (posted to an online group yesterday):
“I was at a YSA Regional Conference this past Sunday in San Diego and the speaker was Matthew Ball. He's the Public Affairs Director for the North America West Area. He asked that he be given 45 minutes for his talk. The theme to the conference was "The Restoration."
In the 45 minutes he had allotted himself he never once mentioned the word "Restoration" or Joseph Smith for that matter. Instead he "rambled" on about his life and name dropped every time he could. Some examples include that he was a dancer and despite never having formal dance lessons he was offered a part in Footloose. By the way, he mentioned in his talk that his sister encouraged him to go to the tryout, but he told his sister that "all dancers are gay and he's not gay."
He was in the Film and TV industry for 15 years. He wrote a script that Clint Eastwood was seriously looking at. He was at the beginning of Dream Works Studios and dropped names like Jeffery Katzenberg and Disney. Talked about all the work he did in graduate school, how fit he was and mentioned the miles he rode on his bike (hmmm...are we getting the Restoration yet?), shared a very intimate story of a child dying and seeing visions of his dead son and daughter that had not been born yet.
Then about 30 minutes in, he spoke of his duties in the Public Affairs office and how he has done amazing things because of all his connections (are we going to turn to the Restoration yet?). He spoke of how a high ranking diplomat in Mexico was so impressed with his returned missionary son that the diplomat wanted his son to come over and teach his sons how to be like him.
He then spoke how he almost single handily opened the humanitarian mission in Azerbaijan because of all his connections and he even got permission for Elder Stephenson to enter a country in ONE day in what normally takes 30 days. He then closed his talk.
So in the 45 minutes he never ONCE mentioned the Savior's name, the Restoration or any meaningful gospel principle. He was absolutely so full of himself it was beyond belief and many others I discussed the talk with agreed. He was funny and a spirited speaker but we can get that in a TED Talk (although he was never to that caliber). Only thing meaningful he mentioned was for YSA to follow their dreams even if the degree they got in college wasn't what they wanted to do.
A truly missed opportunity to speak to over 600 YSA's.....Why the Church has this person representing the Public Affairs office for the whole of North America West is beyond belief. EGOMANIAC!”
(I must give the speaker some credit, though: At least he didn’t spend the first half describing how someone called or texted him to assign him the talk).

They “walked no more with him”

2,000 years ago, Jesus had just fed — and filled — five thousand men (who knows how many women and children) five barley loaves and two small fishes (John 6:9-10). Afterwards, the men who had seen the miracle said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (verse 14). They were sold on Him. Totally sold.

Later, they found Jesus in a Capernaum synagogue. He gave a talk (maybe something similar to our Fast and Testimony Meeting) establishing Himself as the bread of life. Now, ordinarily, I’d say anyone who says “Anybody who eats my flesh and drinks my blood gets eternal life; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” is probably a little “off.”

Naturally, many of his disciples thought that, too. They murmured and essentially said, “What in the heck is he talking about?” As we read in John 6:66, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” This obviously hurt Jesus, because we read in the next verse, “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?”

Will we also go away?

In the 2,000 years since then, the informational resources about Jesus have exponentially increased. Much has been written, stated, drawn, painted, sculpted and filmed about our Savior.

I dare say that at no time in the history of mankind have we had so much knowledge about Jesus at our fingertips. We can go to libraries and bookstores, or even stay in the comfort of our own homes, read, hear and watch all about the minutest details about Jesus, the times and the environment in which He lived.

Yet it seems that those who have a personal knowledge of, and experiences with, the Lord are extremely rare in our church. Such testimonies are highly discouraged in our meetings and not sold in our bookstores. As a result, we’re not only not casting our pearls before swine, but we’re also getting our pearls and burying them so deep, no one will never know of their existence.

As a result, real, personal insights into Jesus have almost been snuffed out of existence. Many are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). We know all about Jesus, yet it’s apparent in our church meetings and almost all published works that few actually know Him.

Many in our church who accepted Jesus, were baptized and promised to follow Him for the rest of their lives, no longer walk with Him. They set at naught the counsels of God, follow after the dictates of their own will and carnal desires (see D&C 3:4) and walk under the apparent glow of their own self-importance, or Babylon.

Simultaneously, other issues, topics, doctrines, programs, policies and persuasive personalities have positioned for preeminence in our attentions:

  • Many have become idolatrous, living in costly homes with opulent interiors, expensive wardrobes to go along with our expensive cars, and of course our gold, platinum, diamond and double diamond statuses. 
  • Many pay tithing and fast offerings, and consider that sufficient enough charity. They pass by the beggar and essentially tell themselves, “It’s not my problem”.
  • Many eagerly and enthusiastically idolize and trust in the arm of flesh, despite repeated commandments not to. 
  • Many ignore and dismiss significant injustices and even crimes which occur under our own noses. 
  • Many prioritize the internet, sports and entertainment above meditation, the scriptures and dialoguing with the one who loves us the most.
  • And yes, many prioritize their church titles, church connections and church pedigrees over and above anything meaningful regarding Jesus. 

“Will ye also go away?”

It’s as timely a question today as it ever has been, because in all likelihood, we don’t have very many more years left until the pre-millennial tribulations are in full swing.
"And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord." (D&C 112:23-26; emphasis mine)
In other words, if you don’t know the Lord, then you’ll be one of the first ones invited to take your party elsewhere.

A peek into this blog’s immediate future

Now, let’s talk about you.

As one who has been baptized and supposedly taken upon yourself Christ’s name, how well do you REALLY know the Master?

OK, first off, let me just say that I know this post is a downer. It’s sobering to realize that with all we know about Jesus, we may not know Him. And you and I both know that developing a deep, meaningful relationship with anyone (including God) can’t be done with just a snap of our fingers. It’s going to take some time.

That’s why the next several posts here will focus on introducing you, or hopefully re-introducing you, to the best friend you likely have not known very well.

In this series' next post, you'll learn about some easy-to-implement, common sense, scripturally-based solutions to truly know Jesus. Once you take advantage of them, you’ll be on a thrilling journey, learning things about Jesus they don’t even cover in sunday school.

After that, you’ll learn Jesus' real name -- the exact Aramaic name Mary, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, John (both of them), Peter and others used and called Him by.

After that, you'll learn how to recognize Him.
"For to come to know Jesus intimately, as he is, as he wants to be known, is to release a redemptive landslide in your life. There will be no stopping the goodness." (John Eldredge, "Beautiful Outlaw", p. 11).
By the time you’re done reading this series of posts, you’ll have a proven set of strategies and tools which will eventually have you deepening your friendship with Jesus...

...heart to heart

...eyeball to eyeball.

P.S. I'm not forming a church. This post's title illustrates to what extent we've deleted or minimized Jesus from our church.