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Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 5: Envision the Real Yeshua


Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you on 9/11? Where were you...on The Perfect Day?

Chances are, it’s your heart’s sincerest desire to see Yeshua. To be in His presence, to see His face, to touch His nailprints. To bathe His feet with your tears.

It IS the Perfect Day. A day that will mean more to you than any other date on the calendar. A date that, when contemplated, brings tears to your eyes. For you, it’s undoubtedly the holiest day of your life. The date you were reborn.

It’s also a date when you discover something about He who created the oceans, the trees, the platypus and freckles: He has an awesome personality. He loves -- and I mean LOVES -- to add life and light to every word, every syllable, He speaks.

But there’s something else about meeting Him, dialoguing with Him, just...BEING with Him, that will endear Him to you in ways you hadn’t even considered.

It’s His personality.

It’s no secret, it’s no mistake, that Yeshua is called the light and life of the world. His personality is unlike any you have ever encountered in your life, because chances are, all the people you’ve met have been or are mortals. But His personality is that of a God. And it is so bright, so full of life, so technicolor, that you will be forever changed by it.

The importance of knowing Yeshua


Unfortunately, and as I’ve said several times on this blog, it’s been my observation that most of us know about Yeshua, but very, very few actually know Him. And that’s a problem, because no matter high up your church calling is, and no matter how spiritual you may be, if you don’t know Him, you will be cast away from Him:
“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)
D&C 20:37 (a scripture we’ll refer to towards the end of this post) also says:
"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 my opinion, the Lord here is discussing the first ones to be sifted out and cast aside at the beginning of the pre-millennial tribulations: He starts in HIS house, and first among those in the house are they who profess to know Yeshua’s name, yet don’t know Him.

Again, we see a distinction made between those who know His name and those who actually know Him.

So with those quotes in mind, let me ask you: How well do you know the Lord?

Yeshua’s personality


So, if you don’t know Yeshua, where do you start? Luckily, Joseph Smith had that answer:
“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.
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)
The scriptures also give us some insight into Yeshua’s personality. On both sides of the world, Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 3 Nephi 9:18).

Now, when I hear that someone’s the light of the world, I don’t envision someone who’s dark, gloomy, moody, always depressed, despondent, low-spirited or sad. Neither would He be emotionless, passionless, expressionless, cold, unexpressive, aloof, flat or just plain old spaced out.

But that is precisely the image of the Savior we have been and continue to be continually exposed to.

Here’s a fun little exercise: Which words match which pictures? Draw a line between the words on the left (synonyms for “joyous”) and the pictures on the right (which are pictures commonly found on websites and social media). Feel free to take your time as you work through this.

beaming
blissful
bright
bubbly
buoyant
cheerful
cheery
content
contented
delighted
ebullient
ecstatic
effervescent
elated
exuberant
genial
glad
gleeful
good-humored
gratified
grinning
happy
hopeful
in good spirits
in high spirits
jolly
jovial
joyful
joyous
jubilant
laughing
lighthearted
merry
on cloud nine/seven
optimistic
overjoyed
positive
radiant
smiling
sunny
thrilled
upbeat

So, how did you do? How many lines were you able to connect between the words on the left and the pictures on the right?

Why is it that some of our most popular images of the Savior depict Him as emotionless, dispassionate, perturbed, sad or mad? Could those be true depictions of our Savior?

If you found this a little challenging, let’s start over, beginning with some quotes regarding Yeshua’s true personality:
  • “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.” (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, “Seek Ye Earnestly,” 1970, p. 275)
  • “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.” (Elder Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 4:222)
  • “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.” (Elder Heber C. Kimball, Delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, June 7, 1857)
  • "The Lord wishes to establish a closer and more intimate relationship between Himself and us" (Pres. Lorenzo Snow, Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, Aug. 15, 1882, p. 1)
  • “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)
  • “Jehovah … talked with him [Noah] in a familiar and friendly manner....." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 171)
Now, based on this new information, let’s try this again. Which words match which pictures? Same words, different pictures (to match these descriptions of Yeshua’s personality):

beaming
blissful
bright
bubbly
buoyant
cheerful
cheery
content
contented
delighted
ebullient
ecstatic
effervescent
elated
exuberant
genial
glad
gleeful
good-humored
gratified
grinning
happy
hopeful
in good spirits
in high spirits
jolly
jovial
joyful
joyous
jubilant
laughing
lighthearted
merry
on cloud nine/seven
optimistic
overjoyed
positive
radiant
smiling
sunny
thrilled
upbeat

As latter-day saints, we are exposed to a curriculum, for the most part, which emphasizes Yeshua’s teachings and what He did for us, and not so much about how Jesus felt and the emotions that He had. The fact that He was and is the “light of the world” (John 8:12; 3 Nephi 9:18) is undeniable. The fact that we have forgotten that truth is inexcusable.

Clearly, we latter day saints need to change our orientations, and fast. Elder Holland stated,
"The Lord has probably spoken enough . . . 'comforting words' to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, and gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter. . . . On that very night [of Gethsemane], the night of the greatest suffering the world has ever known or ever will know, [the Savior] said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14: 27). I submit to you that [this] may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed." (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Happy Like Jesus”, D. Kelly Ogden, Author)

Decision time


None of us know when the Lord will start implementing D&C 20:37. We don’t know when bad things will be happening “upon my house”. But the scriptures make one thing pretty clear: you procrastinate turning to the Lord at your own peril. If other things take a higher priority, a higher precedence than Yeshua, then don’t be surprised when you’re found undeserving of inclusion into His Terrestrial Kingdom. I like what Sheri Dew once said: "It simply isn't possible to be a disciple of someone you don't know." (BYU Women’s Conference address given May 1, 2014)
“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13)
I invite you to get to know Yeshua. As you show interest in Him, He’ll show greater interest in you (D&C 88:63). Here are four easy things you can do:

1. Start with something easy. 

Scrub your home of images depicting a Savior in a way that’s incompatible with what the scriptures say about Him and perpetuate a distorted view of Him. Replace those pictures with ones showing a Jesus who’s the light and life of the world.

Now, I need to make one thing clear. I don’t think for a second that Jesus was smiling, joyous and gleeful 100% of His mortal life. The scriptures tell us that Yeshua was also a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Yet I do think that He had a naturally cheerful, pleasant, lively and good-natured disposition. How could He not, with the spirit of the Father accompanying Him during His mission?

But replacing pictures is only the beginning. We also need to replace these distorted impressions we’ve had of Him which exist in our minds and souls, for possibly decades, with new ones which are more accurate. This will likely require some time and effort. But it’s been my experience, and the experience of dozens more I know personally, that the payoff far exceeds what you’ll have invested into these efforts.

2. Do something fun.

Watch some fictional TV episodes which portray Yeshua in a whole new -- and far better -- light.

I’ve long been a big fan of the 1999 “Jesus” miniseries, starring Jeremy Sisto in the title role. However, there is a new video series out about Yeshua. It’s called “The Chosen,” and it’s by far the best video production I’ve ever seen which depicts a Savior you’ll always want to be around. Although it’s not produced by the church, many church members are involved in the series, including its executive producer.

Get to know the series via its Youtube channel here, then download its mobile app in the Apple or Google Play stores (which allows you to watch all eight episodes for free, and even stream to TV). You can also order the DVDs. No matter how you watch it, you’ll experience a brand new -- and far more accurate -- Yeshua.

3. Show God you’re serious about knowing Him.

Probably the best book I’ve ever read that effectively addresses Christ's personality is John Eldredge's book (and Youtubes of) "Beautiful Outlaw". Here are the videos, in order:

Beautiful Outlaw

Overviewhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG_J6J4GICU
Chapter 1: The Playfulness of Godhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmUK0-mwMsk
Chapter 2: The Missing Essential -- His Personalityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIZqExZGOUo
Chapter 3: Is Jesus Really Playful?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jaopP-8eSY
Chapter 4: Fierce Intentionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0J8umh8sls
Chapter 5: The Most Human Face of Allhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aFXDGAChPE
Chapter 6: Extravagant Generosityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHPiz6uoIhk
Chapter 7: Disruptive Honestyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUhnRzfqlso
Chapter 8: A Scandalous Freedomhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcKWMx_X1Y0
Chapter 9: Cunninghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz2OoCCqwUI
Chapter 10: Humilityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkuZHKwuM5Y
Chapter 11: Truenesshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqfW9NBbzxQ
Chapter 12: Beautifulhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh42R_MW-GM
Chapter 13: Loving Jesushttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYfOblPC_q0
Chapter 14: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- With Youhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT5eqwjpEyQ
Chapter 15: Clearing Away the Religious Foghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9WfgpLFeFY
Chapter 16: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- Encountershttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z60dN2g94k
Chapter 17: Letting His Life Fill Yourshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tehcCQXuhLo
Epilogue: One Last Thoughthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJkguqEt7Ho

4. Hang out with people who are actively seeking to know Him.

A little over two years ago, we started a Facebook group which solely focuses on better knowing and being like Yeshua. To our knowledge, it’s the only one of its kind which is based on the latter-day restored gospel. Because of its focus and moderated dialogues, many people who aren’t even on Facebook to their friends and family just subscribe to this group, and that’s it.

I couldn’t be more proud of our subscribers, and especially the group’s admins and moderators. Everybody in this group enthusiastically participates and wants to help each other get closer to Yeshua.

I invite you to join our group. Just click here to get the ball rolling!   



Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Definitive Guide to "Sacred, not Secret"


Imagine a religion in which there are no scriptures. Absolutely no discussion of ordinances like baptism, confirmation, sacrament, priesthood advancement, baptism of the dead, initiatories, endowments, sealings. No explanations of garments.

Imagine zero evidence of spiritual gifts and personal revelation. No testimonies. No personal inspirational stories.

In fact, imagine a theology banning all discussion of the creation of the earth and mankind, the atonement, the resurrection and any appearances or dialogues of God to man.

What you’ve just read about is a religion which places a paramount importance of sacredness over secrecy. After all, isn’t the atonement sacred? Of course. The First Vision? Definitely.

Aren’t families sacred? Marriage? Freedom? Justice? The U.S. Constitution?

When you stop and look at the list of things we consider sacred, it can get pretty long:
  • The Sacred Grove’s a sacred place. But anyone can visit it.
  • The same holds true for our temples. We invite anyone -- anyone -- to pass through them during Open Houses. In fact, we allow into our temples members who are later proven, in courts of law, to have been conducting evil, criminal actions while holding temple recommends (and presumably using said recommends).
  • Baby blessings, baptisms, confirmations, sacrament meetings and priesthood blessings are sacred, but can be attended by anyone (believer and non-believer) as well.
  • Our garments are sacred, hidden and not discussed. But on October 22, 2014, the church posted the video “‘Mormon Underwear’ is the Temple Garment and is Sacred to Latter-day Saints”.
  • People continue to post sacred testimonials to open Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter, blogs and podcasts.
Thus, we have a situation where the most sacred events in history are freely discussed, our most sacred places are visited by some who may not match the sacredness of the property, our most sacred clothing is freely publicized and our most sacred thoughts and dreams are freely bandied about on social media for anyone to mock and denigrate.

Sacred, NOT Secret.


All throughout history, God has declared certain sacred places and things as “off-limits” to the unworthy:
  • The Garden of Eden was a sanctified site. After Adam and Eve were expelled from it, they were denied entrance back into it (Genesis 3:23).
  • Moses was commanded to remove his sandals because he stood on holy ground (Exodus 3:4-5).
  • Since the exodus, God has denied entrance by just anybody into His tabernacles and temples. In fact, back then, requirements as to who could enter the tabernacle were stricter than they are today. Only Levites could serve in the tabernacle (Numbers 3:5-10). Even then, only the sons of Aaron could serve as priests (Numbers 16:3-10). And even among the sons of Aaron, only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16). There is no indication that Yeshua disapproved of this practice when He was alive.
  • God brought leprosy upon King Uzziah and burned Nadab and Abihu to death for offering sacrifice in the temple without proper authority.
  • God punished Uzzah with death for steadying the Ark of the Covenant.
Nothing was secret about Moses’s tabernacle, Solomon’s temple and the Ark of the Covenant. All knew about them, their purposes and who could enter or touch them. While their secrecy was questionable, their sacredness was undeniable. Perhaps this is what Pres. Hinckley meant when he decoupled the terms “sacred” and “secret” with respect to the temple almost 10 years ago:
“These buildings, different from the thousands of regular Church houses of worship scattered over the earth, are unique in purpose and function from all other religious edifices. It is not the size of these buildings or their architectural beauty that makes them so. It is the work that goes on within their walls.
The designation of certain buildings for special ordinances, as distinguished from regular places of worship, is not new. This was the practice in ancient Israel, where the people worshiped regularly in the synagogues. Their more sacred place was, first, the tabernacle in the wilderness with its Holy of Holies, and then a succession of temples, where special ordinances were performed and where only those who met the required qualifications could participate in these ordinances.
So it is today. Prior to the dedication of a temple, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invites the public to go through the building and inspect its various facilities. But when it is dedicated it becomes the house of the Lord, vested with a character so sacred that only members of the Church in good standing are permitted to enter. It is not a matter of secrecy. It is a matter of sanctity.” (“Why These Temples?”, Ensign, October 2010; emphasis mine).
(Personally, I believe that Pres. Hinckley could see that with the advent of the internet, there was no way the church could credibly contain the secrecy of temple ordinances. To call them “secret”, while every word of the endowment was being displayed on websites (and soon thereafter, on YouTube) would be tantamount to denying the sun shines at midday. But calling the temples “sacred” would be a continuation of Old Testament teachings regarding holy sites).

Sacred AND Secret.


So, if everything from “How God helped me find my car keys” to the tabernacle/temple to the atonement is sacred, then when does the “secret” part kick in?

I think much of the “sacred, not secret” practice comes from Yeshua’s’ parables, where He likens the mysteries to feeding pearls to swine:

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

In many of these teaching situations, there were mixed audiences; His disciples were likely far more ready to receive His mysteries than were the Pharisees, Sadducees or Scribes they were sitting next to. So, it was entirely legitimate to not share certain sacred information:
“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
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.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)
These mixed audiences are even more significant in the internet age. Today, it can be a real challenge discerning who has or hasn’t had a legitimate spiritual experience.

So it seems as though there is some legitimacy to denying entry into sacred locations, and denying certain knowledge, to those who would profane the sanctity of the site or information.

However, I have seen some members say that it is improper to discuss anything that happens in the temple. Anything! As far as I can recall, this is not what is requested of us. In fact, placing a blanket gag order on the temple is counterproductive, as Pres. Ezra Taft Benson elaborated:
“The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren.
As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.
I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his.” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” an address given at the Logan Temple Centennial, May 17, 1984; emphasis mine).
Today, it seems many have forgotten Pres. Benson’s talk. In considering anything and everything sacred and secret, they “play it safe”, leaving nothing shared. Are there consequences to this? If Pres. Benson’s quote is any indication, the answer is a definite “yes”.

For example, here is a comment recently posted in this blog’s Facebook group:
“I have a friend that is no longer allowed to hold any teaching callings and is not asked to speak in church because she openly talks about seeking gifts, miracles that are happening, etc.” (Facebook group subscriber)
Like the temple, if we refuse to discuss the existence of and benefits from spiritual gifts, then after a while, those gifts will become a rarity, an anomaly. And when something becomes extremely rare, the belief in them can also wane into almost non-existence. And when the belief in gifts teeters on unbelief, that’s trouble:
“Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!” (3 Nephi 29:6
“And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.
And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one.” (Moroni 10:24-25)
Unfortunately, many of us tend to take things to too far...to the detriment of everybody.

So, where is the dividing line between “OK to share” and “not OK to share”?

“Appropriate”


In June 1971, Elder ElRay L. Christiansen (an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and the church’s Temple Coordinator) wrote an article for the New Era magazine. In it, he said,

“The ordinances of the temple are so sacred that they are not open to the view of the public. They are available only to those who qualify through righteous living. They are performed in places dedicated especially for this purpose. Their sacred nature is such that discussion in detail outside the temple is inappropriate.” (emphasis mine)

President Howard W. Hunter reiterated Elder Christiansen’s emphasis on appropriateness:
“Let us share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple. And let us teach them more earnestly and more comfortably the things we can appropriately say about the purposes of the house of the Lord.” ("Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter", 2015, p. 184; emphasis mine).
If we roll with Pres. Hunter’s suggestion, discussing something that’s truly sacred becomes less a factor of quaint little phrases like “too sacred to share” or “sacred, not secret” and more a factor of appropriateness...a conversational consideration based on what the Lord -- not you -- dictates.

For example, you may want to share a spiritual insight with a few people. After consulting with the Lord, He would approve your sharing it with Person A, but not Person B, based on what He deems appropriate at the time.

We mortals, typically operating at a small, almost imperceptible fraction of the insight and wisdom of God’s, are abysmally poor arbiters of appropriateness. However, when we unreservedly rely upon the Lord and His wisdom, we will never, ever get such decisions wrong.

Sometimes, our minds can fool us into thinking that something shouldn’t be shared or discussed, when in fact, it was alright to begin with. Case in point: my last blog post. I was pretty concerned some might take it out of context, misinterpreting some of my statements as attacks on others. Interestingly, the criticisms never materialized. In fact, just the opposite happened: People noted how much the post benefited them. I was completely amazed. My fears and concerns were unfounded, and God’s wisdom reigned supreme, proving that despite my myopic sense of sacredness, He, not we, is the best and therefore only arbiter of what’s appropriate to share, and when.

One of my favorite scriptural examples is the Brother of Jared. Now, here was a guy who had a personal visitation with the Almighty that was so sacred, the veil got yanked. He saw God, totally unfiltered. Just by the nature of what he saw, I’d say it would have been a safe bet that he wanted to keep that experience pretty close to his chest. Publicizing it to billions, thousands of years later, as canonized scripture, probably wasn’t the top of his consideration list. But no, that’s not how it played out. God had other plans for his information that were likely way above his perception level.

If it were true for him, it’s pretty likely true for you, too...depending on what Yeshua tells you.

I invite you to ditch the “sacred, not secret” and “too sacred to share” phrases today.
You can’t find them in the scriptures.
Yeshua never said them, and neither did Joseph Smith.

And for good reason: We. Wouldn’t. Have. Scriptures. If. Prophets. Didn’t. Share. Their. Stories. But your tingly chest-feelings are too private to share? No. Something’s not right here. The logic and reasoning is inconsistent.

Start thinking in terms not of what’s sacred, not what’s secret, but what is the Lord’s will? What does He say about sharing specific information with someone? If you don’t hear His voice and know how to discern His will, then immerse yourself with some of the advice found on this blog, maybe starting with the Discernment and Prayer sections of our “Posts by Topic” page.

God’s will always trumps man-made phrases. Always has. Always will.



Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 4: From now on, call upon Jesus by His real name



Your word of the day: “Epistemology”


Since the restoration of the gospel, differences of opinion regarding various doctrines have naturally developed. For example, Apostle A will believe one aspect of a doctrine, while Apostle B will believe just the opposite. These differences existed during the Apostolic era of the church, during the initial years of the Restoration right up to today.

I see these differences of opinion not as a sign that the gospel isn’t true; not at all! It’s a healthy discourse which ought to drive us all to our knees, asking God to reveal the truth of these doctrines to us (just like Joseph Smith did regarding James 1:5).

Over the years, I’ve found that the best arbiter of these differences of opinion is, of course, the words of God:
"If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion." (Pres. Harold B. Lee, The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24–26, 1973, Reports and Discourses, p. 69) 
“All that we teach in this Church ought to be couched in the scriptures. It ought to be found in the scriptures. We ought to choose our texts from the scriptures. If we want to measure truth, we should measure it by the four standard works, regardless of who writes it. If it is not in the standard works, we may well assume that it is speculation, man’s own personal opinion; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, it is not true. This is the standard by which we measure all truth” (Pres. Harold B. Lee, “Using the Scriptures in Our Church Assignments,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1969, p. 13). 
“If you want to measure truth, measure it by the four standard Church works. … If it is not in the standard works, you may well assume that it is speculation. It is man’s own personal opinion, to put it another way; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, you may know by that same token that it is not true. This is the standard by which you measure all truth. But if you do not know the standards, you have no adequate measure of truth.” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 148–49).  
"Search the Scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory, nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how he will save them." (Joseph Smith, HC v1, ch 20, p. 282; emphasis mine).
The scriptures are an incalculable blessing to me. They have been my refuge, my comfort, my security blanket amidst a society so filled with half-truths and counterfeits. I’ve also taken great solace, and have found peace, in the statements of Joseph Smith. In the D&C, the Lord stood by Joseph and his words. I do, too. My reverence for, and belief in, Joseph knows no bounds.

I guess you could say that these two sources form the core of my epistemology -- “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. What distinguishes justified belief from opinion.”

“What a friend we DON’T have in Jesus”...?


I started this post addressing truth because it’s essential information if we are to learn the true nature of our relationship to God.

You see, for nearly 40 years, we latter-day saints have been told that we can’t or ought not to seek after achieving a close proximity to God. This belief can be broken down into four subpoints:
  1. We should be “modest” in our expectations of God.
  2. It is improper to have a special and personal relationship, a friendship, with Jesus.
  3. It is proper to expect and maintain a “reserve”, a “reverential barrier” between us and God.
  4. We should not have casual conversations with God.
Let’s discuss each of these points, and see what the scriptures and Brother Joseph say about them. I then invite you to study these points in more depth, reach your own conclusions and take them to God (D&C 9:7-9).

CLAIM #1. We should be “modest” in our expectations of God.

On March 4, 2017, Elders Holland and Eyring held a special young adult “Face to Face” video fireside. In it, Elder Holland stated,

“be modest in your expectations. God is close, and He loves you. And He would love to have a conversation, but remember He is God. And the idea that you're going to--I always worry when someone is speaking to Him in too familiar a way, because it is not easy. Heavenly Father's words, His ideas, are not exactly ours.”

While I’ll address the topic of conversations with God shortly, I think it’s important to note that God has always encouraged us to raise our expectations of Him. That’s because “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27):
  • Imagine if the Israelites had modest expectations of God as they were pushed up against the Red Sea, while Pharaoh and his chariots rushing towards them.
  • Imagine if Joseph Smith had modest expectations of an answer from God.
  • Imagine if the woman taken with an issue of blood had modest expectations when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garments.
  • Imagine if those in a room with Jesus had modest expectations of His ability to raise a girl from the dead.
  • Imagine if the family of Lehi had modest expectations in the Liahona or Nephi’s ability to work it by faith.
  • Do you think Peter expected Jesus to overflow his nets and his boat with fish? 
  • What happened to Peter when he lowered his expectations of walking on the water? 
  • What did Jesus say to Thomas, who had modest expectations of the Lord’s resurrection? “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27; emphasis mine)
Throughout history, God has encouraged and pleaded with us to aim higher, reach further and attain greater! Time and again, Jesus shows us that our modest expectations of Him are unbecoming of a true believer. His atonement single-handedly defies any modest expectations in God. In fact, it’s safe to say that God delights in exceeding our expectations:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” (Ephesians 3:20)
The scriptures also give us ample examples where we can expect God to bless us with miracles when we go and do the things He commands (see 1 Nephi 3:7). We can also expect God’s help and healing when we have trials, troubles and afflictions:
“And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.” (Alma 36:3,27)
Even Joseph Smith said,
“For I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.” (JS History 1:29)
CLAIM #2. It is improper to have a special and personal relationship, a friendship, with Jesus.


In a March 2, 1982 BYU devotional, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught,

“There are yet others who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous.

I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church.”

All of us need a personal relationship with the Savior. Isn’t that what His atonement is all about?

It’s unmistakable that Jesus considers us His friends. Here are just some of the verses where the Lord calls His followers “friends”:

John 15:13-15
Zechariah 13:6
D&C 45:52
D&C 84:63
D&C 84:77
D&C 88:62
D&C 88:117
D&C 93:45
D&C 88:3
D&C 88:62
D&C 93:51
D&C 94:1
D&C 97:1
D&C 98:1
D&C 100:1
D&C 103:1
D&C 104:1
D&C 105:26

I especially like these two passages:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:13
“Verily, I say unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., or in other words, I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me—” (D&C 93:45)
So it seems to me that there’s a very real potential for Jesus to consider you His friend. The only question left is, are you willing to reciprocate His friendship?

President James E. Faust said,
What is the greatest need in the world?’ … ‘Is not the greatest need in all of the world for every person to have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior?’ Having such a relationship can unchain the divinity within us, and nothing can make a greater difference in our lives as we come to know and understand our divine relationship with God.” (“A Personal Relationship with the Savior,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 58; emphasis mine).
CLAIM #3. It is proper to expect and maintain a “reserve”, a “reverential barrier” between us and God.

If we are to be Jesus’ friend, then are we to be a distant friend of His, or a close one? Just how much of a distance should there be -- or should there be any barriers -- between us and the Lord?

Elder McConkie also stated,

“Those who truly love the Lord and who worship the Father in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit, according to the approved patterns, maintain a reverential barrier between themselves and all the members of the Godhead.”

“Would it be amiss if I reminded you that Jesus maintained a reserve between him and his disciples and that he did not allow them the same intimacy with him that they had with each other?”

“It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood.”

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), after the prodigal son “came to himself,” he arose and went to his father. How did his father react?
“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
After reading this parable, are you left with any impression whatsoever that the prodigal son expected his father ahead of time to greet him with “the best robe,” “a ring,” “shoes,” “the fatted calf” and a party? No. God exceeded the son’s expectations. Was there a reverential barrier between the father and the prodigal son, or (to personalize things a bit), God and the penitent? No; none at all.

In fact, throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Savior likens His relationship to us as a Bridegroom (Jesus) and Bride (His disciples). The Millennium is itself the marriage feast. I ask you, what is more intimate and close than the expectations placed upon a bride and bridegroom on their wedding night? THAT is how close He wishes to be with us, in a spiritual sense.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus did not maintain a reserve between himself and His disciples:
“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23)
Jesus Himself said,
“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).  
He also asked Father, in His great intercessory prayer,
“That they [those who believe in Jesus] all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21; emphasis mine)
Brigham Young once said,
“The greatest and most important of all requirements of our Father in heaven and of his Son Jesus Christ, is . . . to believe in Jesus Christ, confess him, seek to him, cling to him, make friends with him. Take a course to open and to keep open communication with your Elder Brother or file-leader—our Savior.” (Journal of Discourses, 8:339; emphasis mine)
More recently, Pres. Nelson encouraged us in an April 2017 General Conference talk to
“reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air.”
CLAIM #4. We are not to expect or hold casual conversations with God.

Elders Holland and Eyring continue:

“God is close, and He loves you. And He would love to have a conversation, but remember He is God. And the idea that you're going to--I always worry when someone is speaking to Him in too familiar a way, because it is not easy. Heavenly Father's words, His ideas, are not exactly ours. And so the idea of having really a conversation where you're chatting with Heavenly Father is probably a little bit of a lofty goal.”

“And They [God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ] are so far above us in terms of Their powers that--in fact, I've been with people who chat as if they're chatting when I've heard them pray. And I thought, ‘You're a little more familiar than I am with that one.’"

“We talk with each other, and it's very personal. Elder Holland and I have had wonderful conversations. But I don't have conversations with Heavenly Father like that, at least I don't. I do a lot of the asking. And then I wait and then I wait. And then answers come, but not in what you'd call a conversational mode.”

“Again, what you're saying is, I realized that the feeling that I am going before the throne, there's a beautiful way of thinking of that, that God is real. He's on a throne. And when I approach in prayer, I'm approaching a throne. And the way you do that is different than if you just say, ‘I'd like a chat. I want a conversation.’"

There are two issues here: (A) are prayers monologues or dialogues/conversations, and (B) is it appropriate to speak to God casually in prayer?

Anyone who has read the Book of Enos can quickly and easily discern it as a dialogue, a conversation, between Enos and God:
Enos: “I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul”
God: “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.”
Enos: “Lord, how is it done?”
God: “Because of thy faith in Christ…”
Enos: [“I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites.” and “And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me”]
God: “I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.”
Enos: [“I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records”]
God: [“he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time.”]
These dialogues/conversations can be conducted just “as one man converses with another”:
Ether: “Then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another . . . concerning these things . . . .
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written.” (Ether 12:39, 41
Enoch: “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)
And here’s Joseph Smith:
“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” (Documentary History of the Church, 6:305). 
“Be plain and simple and ask for what you want, just like you would go to a neighbor and say, ‘I want to borrow your horse to go to mill.'” (“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Mar. 1, 1892, p. 151-52; Donald W. Parry, "After This Manner … Pray Ye", Ensign, January 1996
“Jehovah … talked with him [Noah] in a familiar and friendly manner....." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 171)
I hope I’ve demonstrated via these scriptures and quotes that you needn’t be “modest” in your expectations of God. Expect great things from Him. Even then, He’ll likely exceed your expectations. Jesus wants a relationship as intimate as possible with you. He wants no barriers between you and Him; in fact, He asks you to draw closer and closer to Him. And you can do so while behaving and acting as a friend, conversing with Him as one man converses with another.

If you have trouble believing you can have such a relationship with Jesus, then I invite you to click here for a Google doc with testimonials of subscribers to this blog’s Facebook group who enjoy such a relationship.

If you believe that you and Jesus can be friends, and enjoy a personal relationship, then keep reading.

Saved. Delivered. Rescued.


All throughout their history, Israelites have sought salvation. A redeemer.

In fact, they have a word which means “to save, to rescue, to deliver” -- yasha (yaw-shah). It was used quite a bit in the Old Testament (https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3467.htm)

Now, in Hebrew, yasha has a masculine noun version: yesha (yay-shah), which means deliverance, rescue, salvation, safety, welfare. It’s also used in the Old Testament (https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3468.htm)

Yehoshua (yeh-hoe-shoo-ah) is another word that’s based on yasha. It was (and is) the Hebrew name of Joshua, Moses’ successor. Every time you read of Joshua in the Old Testament, the proper name that’s being used in Hebrew is Yehoshua (https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3091.htm)

Yeshua (yay-shoo-ah) is a shortened form of Yehoshua (much like Mike is a shortened form of Michael, John is a shortened form of Johnathan and Don is a shortened form of Donald). It’s found in 1 Chronicles 24:11, 2 Chronicles 31:15, Ezra chapters 2, 3, 4, 8 and 10, Nehemiah chapters 7-12 (https://biblehub.com/str/hebrew/3442.htm)
“Matthew 1:21 provides the beginnings of the Christology of the name Jesus. At once it achieves the two goals of affirming Jesus as the savior and emphasizing that the name was not selected at random, but based on a Heavenly command.”: (Wikipedia)
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS (Hebrew: YahushuĂ , a derivative of Yeshua): for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21; emphasis mine)
Notice the play on words there: Yahashua (or Yeshua, which is a proper noun which means to save, rescue or deliver) shall do what? “Save his people.”

Also (emphasis mine):
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:10-12)

It’s all Greek to me


By the time the New Testament was written, “Yeshua” had been transformed into the Greek version, Iesous (Greek had no equivalent to the “sh” sound, so it was replaced with an “s”). From Greek, Iesous moved into the Latin IESVS, where it stood for many centuries. Using the letter J (as opposed to “I”) became common in the 17th century (early 17th century works, like the first edition of the King James Version of the Bible, continued to print the name with an I. (Image of the first edition of the King James Version of the Bible, Gospel of Luke. From http://nazirene.peopleofhonoronly.com/. Retrieved March 28, 2006).

His name is Yeshua


Jesus was probably never called Jesus in His life. Although it’s not 100% certain, it’s highly likely He had a given name in Aramaic that approximates Yeshua -- the name which His family and friends, prosecutors and defenders, called Him.


There’s no doctrine, no policy, which requires you to refer to Him as Yeshua or Jesus. I suspect He doesn't have a strong preference because He hears our hearts regardless of what name we use (Luke 9:47). As we see in 3 Nephi 9:15 and D&C 6:21, Yeshua says, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

Yet others have found it rewarding to refer to Him as Yeshua. As one Facebook subscriber once said,
“I love the name Yeshua most. I repeat it softly to myself as a way to bring his energies to my heart. It seems to me to fit his nature better than Jesus. Yeshua sounds so strong and yet compassionate. It reminds me of the rushing of waters. Living waters. Loving waters.”
I myself have found a newfound power and strength when using the name of Yeshua. When I factor in the fact that we are to take upon ourselves His name, Yeshua carries far more significance and meaning to me than the Greek/Latin Jesus.


“The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15:2)
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
Imagine enjoying and commanding greater strength, more deliverance and redemption from life’s challenges, because you speak strength to it! Yeshua is the answer to everything: Rescuing. Safety. Deliverance. Salvation.

But I do think there is something that matters to Yeshua.

Now that you’ve taken upon yourself His name, what are you doing with it?

Do you actively promote Him to others, or are you ashamed (and come up with a multitude of excuses) to do so?
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of  God unto Salvation to every one that believeth." (Romans 1:16)
Are you taking your concerns, challenges and problems to Him? Are you putting His name -- as a rescuer and deliverer -- to the test?
“The name of the Lord [Yeshua] is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
It’s now 2020. Now’s the time to start the new year off right. I invite you to take Yeshua up on His offer: Look unto Him in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (D&C 6:36)

Regarding this blog post, I want to make one thing crystal clear: This post’s primary focus isn’t about general authorities or their opinions. As you’ll note, I haven’t editorialized their statements, because I [1] sustain them and [2] don’t believe in publicly criticizing church leaders. This post is about dispelling myths, and highlighting scriptural truths, concerning your potential relationship with Yeshua.

I testify that as you draw near unto Him, He will draw near unto you. Seek Him diligently, and you’ll find Him. (D&C 88:63)

P.S. Future references to Jesus on this blog will refer to Him as Yeshua.
“thou shalt call his name JESUS (Heb.: Yeshua): for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)