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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 3: Discover His true presence in your life at a whole new level


Reorient


In this series’ most recent post, we discussed how taking your focus off of yourself, and redirecting it at God, is an essential first step in drawing closer to Him. Jesus Himself summarized this best when He said,

“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:67-68; emphasis mine)

Once you’re squarely focused on Him, once your eye is
single to His glory, it’s not if, but when, you’ll see Him.

At that point, it’s logical to ask the next question, “What should I be looking for? What’s He’s like?”

Sure, of course, He’s forgiving, merciful, just, loving and more. C’mon, we’ve known those things since we were Primary-aged.

You know all about God. But how well do you know Him? This may have been what Joseph was referring to when he said to the Saints:
"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." (Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, IL Conference, April 7, 1844; emphasis mine)
We need to quit making up excuses for why we don’t have a personal knowledge of Jesus, and why we don’t have a really meaningful, active relationship with Him. This was a foremost concern of Jesus’:
“Verily, I say unto you, It is not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
For the day soon cometh that men shall come before me to judgment, to be judged according to their works.
And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:30-33 JST; emphasis mine)
Note that in Greek, the word "know" is pronounced ginosko. It occurs 246 times in 208 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV. It means "to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, to feel." In Hebrew, it implies a highly intimate knowledge between a man and a woman. Ginosko is not some kind of passive, surfacy, unassertive, quick and immediate action verb; it’s intimate, private, personal and highly, highly profound.

So, with those excuses aside, how do you get to ginosko Jesus?

Receive -- and envision -- what you’ve already been given


One possibility: You start by not only appreciating, but also receiving, that which you’ve already been given.

“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” (Alma 12:10)

For us latter-day saints, that means the scriptures.

But here’s the problem: Ever since we were young, we’ve been told to read our scriptures. And so we enthusiastically take part in initiatives which have us reading the Book of Mormon in three months, six months or a year. And what are we left with? Latter-day saints who’ve read the scriptures, but really don’t know Jesus -- or, the status quo. And that’s unacceptable.

You need to be doing more than just learning about Jesus. You need to experience Him. For many, it’s pretty hard to do that when your mind is reading black letters on a white background. You need to do something different.

Luckily, we’ve been given some clues:
"Visualizing the Scriptures: When students create a mental picture of what they are reading, the persons and events in the scriptures will become more real to them. Help students visualize the scriptures by asking them to describe how they “see” in their minds certain people or events taking place in the scriptures. Encourage them to focus on words and phrases in the scriptures that help them better understand the scriptural context." (here
"Visualize. This means to see in your mind’s eye the characters and events portrayed in the scriptures. Such an empathetic effort will help you understand the situation that produced the teaching. Then you can relate that situation to yours and distill the universal principle that may apply in both. When you visualize, you’re exercising faith. Visualizing is a powerful mental process, one of man’s unique endowments. Most of us neglect this power." (Stephen R. Covey, “Likening the Scriptures Unto Ourselves”, Ensign, September 1974) 
"The Restoration of the gospel in the latter days provides an important companion account of the Savior’s birth in the Book of Mormon. My message highlights this additional description of the first Christmas. As we consider this episode together, brothers and sisters, I invite you to visualize yourself in these events and not merely listen to the words." (Elder David A. Bednar, "The Light and the Life of the World", Dec. 2015, here and here
"I love to read scriptural passages about His sinless life, and after reading the scriptures which tell about the events experienced by Him, I close my eyes and try to visualize these sacred moments that teach me and strengthen me spiritually. Moments such as:
  • When He spat on the ground and, having made clay of the spittle, anointed the eyes of the blind man and said unto him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” And the man obeyed, “and washed, and came seeing.”
  • When He healed the woman who had an issue of blood and had touched the border of His garment, believing that just by touching Him, she would be healed.
  • When He appeared to His disciples, walking upon the sea.
  • When He went with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened the scriptures to their understanding.
  • When He appeared to the people in the Americas and told them to come unto Him and thrust their hands into His side and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and His feet so they could know that He was 'the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and [had] been slain for the sins of the world.'” (Elder Claudio Costa, "That They Do Always Remember Him", October 2015 General Conference, here).
"Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me." (D&C 19:23). 
"In our quest to discover our callings in life, the first and most fundamental thing we must do is to follow the Savior. Learn of him. Learn what he did, then do it. The things that he did, even though they occurred nearly 2,000 years ago, have universal application." (Elder John H. Groberg, "What Are You Doing Here?" New Era, Jan. 1987, p. 34, emphasis mine)

Putting it all together


Here’s an example of how one could put the above quotes together into a single, logical, easily-implementable strategy:
  1. Click here to be taken to the online scriptures -- 3 Nephi 11.
  2. Once you’re there, at the top right of the page, you’ll see an icon that looks like a down arrow with a line under it. Click that.
  3. Clicking that button will give you three options: To download the chapter as a male- or female-voiced mp3 or a PDF. Pick the desired mp3 option and save it to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  4. Set aside a peaceful, comfortable place and time when you can listen to the mp3 without distraction.
  5. When you’re ready, play the mp3 and close your eyes.
  6. As you’re listening to the verses, visualize -- see in your mind’s eye -- the characters and events portrayed in the scriptures. Even better: place yourself in the scene (of the person being healed or is interacting) with Jesus. One scenario might be imagining that you are blind and you are seeking Jesus. What would you be thinking and feeling? Would you have doubts? Would you be apprehensive? (Note that there are no wrong answers). Take yourself from the beginning to the end in as much detail as you can. Pay particular attention to Jesus. Feel the love He has for those He interacts with.
  7. Once you have seen that chapter in your mind’s eye, pray for -- and be aware of -- opportunities to go forth and do what you saw Jesus do. Seek to have the spiritual creation transformed into a real, physical creation.
  8. When you’re ready, move on to other chapters featuring Jesus -- primarily the four gospels and 3 Nephi.
Realize it or not, control it or not, the spiritual creation precedes the physical creation in all things. Most of life’s battles are lost in this private phase. Just as prayer (a personal, secret conversation between you and God) can precede very public miracles, so too can visualization precede other public miracles.

If you’re serious about this, if you truly want a personal relationship with Jesus, then it’s up to you to make the first move. And that first move will always -- always! -- involve some form of a spiritual creation.

Below are some more links regarding visualization.

Personally know the God you never learned about in Sunday School


“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”  (Augustine of Hippo)

It’s indescribable to know Jesus. No words can be written, no tongue can pronounce, just how wonderful He is. A few people who may have known Him have said this about Him:

  • Joseph Fielding Smith: “God is full of energy, and should we mortals stand in his presence, unless his spirit was upon us to protect us we would be consumed. That is how much energy there is in a celestial body.” (“Seek Ye Earnestly,” 1970), p. 275)
  • Heber C. Kimball: “I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit. That is one reason why I know; and another is—the Lord said, through Joseph Smith, “I delight in a glad heart and a cheerful countenance.” That arises from the perfection of His attributes; He is a jovial, lively person, and a beautiful man.” (Journal of Discourses, 4:222)
  • Heber C. Kimball: “You have heard me say that I felt joyful, funny, and jocular, according to the portion of the Spirit of the Lord I enjoyed. Do I feel like dancing and jumping? Yes, and like doing everything else that is good and comfortable. When I have the Spirit of the Lord, I feel so; and that makes me think that my Father in heaven felt so before me.” (Delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, June 7, 1857)
  • Pres. Lorenzo Snow: "The Lord wishes to establish a closer and more intimate relationship between Himself and us" (Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, Aug. 15, 1882, p. 1)
  • Moses: “And I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face;” (Moses 7:4)
  • Joseph Smith, Jr; “Jehovah … talked with him [Noah] in a familiar and friendly manner....." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 171)
To this list of characteristics, let’s add one more.

Of all the things I’ve known about Jesus, perhaps His favorite thing to do is to heal. He heals in so many ways -- His thoughts, His voice, His smile, His laugh, His expressions and yes, His hugs. He’s not only good-natured, but also has a fantastic sense of humor that can leave you laughing one minute and tearing up the next. And when you’re with Him, He’s not rushed. He’s not thinking of all the millions of things Gods should be contemplating. No. He’s entirely and singularly focused on YOU. In that moment in time, you know and feel one profound truth: YOU are His universe, His everything.


You’re invited


When I was in my younger 20s, I had almost no idea how to woo a potential girlfriend. I mean, I could have asked out a rock and it would have hemmed and hawed. Then one day, my best friend, Rob, gave me some advice that resonated with me in just the right way and at the right time. He said,

“Attention equals affection.”

One could say that’s true not only with women, but also God:

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63)
Draw near unto Him. Seek Him, spiritually, with your eye of faith. Everything is first created spiritually, then temporally. The same holds true for frequent, meaningful experiences with Jesus to where you can “know for a certainty the character of God.”

After weeks, months and years of doing just this, you’ll likely develop a far greater realization of His presence in your life. Because of this,
  • You naturally drop the first-person pronouns of I / me / my, because you realize that all along, those I’s / me’s / my’s were actually we’s / us’s / our’s.
  • You learn just how much you need Him -- His forgiveness, His wisdom, His compassion, His guidance.
  • And you learn first-hand what He’s really like. You sense His friendly advice, His laughs, His cries, and more. MUCH, much more.
His presence in your life will be like sweet honey on your lips...like the sound of a symphony in your ears...like holy water on your skin.

You’re invited to practice doing this every day. Let us know how it’s going. Let us know how we can help.

And in the meantime, we’ll be praying that your spiritual experiences with Jesus will precede future physical experiences with Him.



3 comments:

  1. Great Article. This is exactly what was taught by Ignatius Loyola (St. Ignatius who founded the Jesuit Priest or Society of Jesus movement) in the the 1500's. It is taught and referred to today as Ignatian Contemplation or Imaginative Prayer.
    Through this process, we can experience - first hand- the events described in the scriptures. President Howard W. Hunters testimony of the Savior in the Garden, I believe reflects this. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1974/04/his-final-hours?lang=eng

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  2. This is just what I needed! Thank you!

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  3. This is from an anonymous blog reader...

    "I am still practicing this visualization, but I wanted to share a couple of things with your readers that might help them. I have a real problem opening my spiritual eyes, and that's why I tried this visualization in the first place.

    When I first started the visualization, everything was black. I saw nothing. But then I started imagining small details. Walking down a road. Kicking a rock in the road. Watching the leaves move and listening to them rustle. As I did this, the scene became visible. I was very surprised and glad to finally be making progress.

    Then, following along with the visualization, I reached the top of the stairs and opened the door. I really wanted to see the Lord inside, and he was there. But he was just sitting there. There was no interaction. He just sat there doing nothing, saying nothing. I didn't know what to say, so I just stood there. It wasn't until I got tired and started yawning and falling asleep that the Lord finally said something to me and gave me something. It was then I realized that until I started nodding off, I was trying too hard to control things and make them happen, as opposed to just letting things happen. When I lost control, I gave up control. That's when the Lord was permitted to take over. The lesson I learned was "Let go and let God." I learned the lesson the hard way because just then, the interview ended. I look forward to trying this again."

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