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.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Know the REAL Yeshua HaMashiach


For centuries, scholars and Christians have debated the reality of Yeshua. They have searched for proof that He walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Many argue that Yeshua is a myth or invention. 

There are hundreds of physical objects in Christian churches that have been linked to Yeshua. But is this evidence reliable? That's questionable and frequently problematic. The alleged fragments of the cross scattered around the churches of Europe are so numerous that, according to what the Protestant theologian John Calvin wrote in 1543, there are enough of them to fill a ship. A similar phenomenon has happened with the nails, which number up to thirty. There's also a crown of thorns and the Shroud of Turin, which has been carbon dated to well after the time of Christ.

But is there evidence of Yeshua outside the Bible? It turns out that the answer is definitely yes. 

Personal Experiences

The First Vision ushered in a revolutionary, transformative paradigm into Christianity: That mankind could approach God directly and have a physical audience with Him. Also, that such experiences need not be limited to an ecclesiastical elite limited by culture, church, gender, genealogy or age.

Since then, I have met or known about many unassuming, reserved, genuine people (both LDS and not) who have also been in the Savior's presence. 

Sadly, their testimonies are frequently discredited because "they aren't church leaders," "they haven't been endowed," "they don't have a temple recommend" and the ever-popular, "they haven't been baptized." What's fascinating is that none of those qualifiers are found in the following scriptures:

  • "Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore" (Psalm 105:4)
  • "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." (Psalm 27:8)
  • "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah" (Psalm 24:5-6
  • "And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life." (D&C 101:38

Unfortunately these days, there is far greater enthusiasm for buying Christmas presents than there is to seek the face of God. I often read that those who do are shunned and ostracized by fellow ward members. In fact, there are some in our church who have even equated seeing the Lord face-to-face in this life with the tactics of the adversary. 

It's no wonder that many have forgotten the central thesis of the restoration and have instead turned into modern-day versions of the ancient Israelites:

"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Exodus 20:18-19; also see D&C 84:21–26)

Also, it's been my experience that even among those who do seek the face of the Lord, fewer still are those who make establishing and deepening their personal relationship with Yeshua a paramount priority. Seeking His face without seeking a relationship with Him first is like a young adult at a dance, expecting marriage after just looking at that attractive man or woman across the dance floor. It's simply unrealistic.

Historical Evidence

There is little to no definitive archaeological proof that Yeshua even existed. However, we do have the writings of a few unbiased historians who knew His contemporaries and associates.

Tacitus

There is an account of Yeshua which appears in Annals of Imperial Rome, a history of the Roman Empire. It was written by Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, in 116-17 AD. In recounting the burning of Rome by Nero in 64 A.D., Tacitus said, 

"[N]either human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered [by Nero]. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts … whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christus, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate."

As a Roman historian, Tacitus did not have any Christian biases in his discussion of the persecution of Christians by Nero. 

Bart D. Ehrman, author of Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, said 

“Just about everything he [Tacitus] says coincides—from a completely different point of view, by a Roman author disdainful of Christians and their superstition—with what the New Testament itself says: Jesus was executed by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, for crimes against the state, and a religious movement of his followers sprang up in his wake.”

Lawrence Mykytiuk, a Purdue University library science associate professor and author of a 2015 Biblical Archaeology Review article on the extra-biblical evidence of Yeshua, said “When Tacitus wrote history, if he considered the information not entirely reliable, he normally wrote some indication of that for his readers. There is no such indication of potential error in the passage that mentions Christus.”

Josephus

Flavius Josephus was born a few years after the crucifixion of Yeshua. He was a well-connected aristocrat and military leader in Palestine who served as a commander in Galilee during the first Jewish Revolt against Rome 66-70 AD. Although Josephus was not a follower of Yeshua, he was around when the early church was getting started, and personally knew people who had seen and heard Yeshua.

In one passage of his book Jewish Antiquities (widely considered our best source of information about first-century Palestine), Josephus mentioned the execution of Yeshua’ brother James (Hebrew: Yakob), the leader of the church in Jerusalem: 

"Being therefore this kind of person [i.e., a heartless Sadducee], Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called a meeting [literally, “sanhedrin”] of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned."

Few scholars have ever doubted the authenticity of this short account. On the contrary, the huge majority accepts it as genuine.

Personal Associates of Yeshua

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a movie of the mortal life of Yeshua? His birth, infancy, teenage years and more?

We know very little about Yeshua’s mortal life; most of that information is found in the New Testament and a little bit in the Book of Mormon. 

Biblical scholars are pretty unified in their agreement that there were many books which were not selected for inclusion in New Testament canon. Known as New Testament apocrypha, these ancient non-biblical documents typically painted a more complete and accurate picture of Yeshua than is had in just the four Gospels. They often exhibited as much authenticity and insight as any canonized New Testament book you’ve read.

As we are told:

“And there are also many other things which Yeshua did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25).

Do you see that gap there? We know very little about Him, despite there being potentially vast quantities of information about Him.

What if you could learn about these authentic, genuine insights into His life? Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear about His life from those who saw it first-hand (including His mortal family members, the "desposyni," or blood relatives of Yeshua)?

Enter Glenn Kimball.

Although he passed away in 2010, Glenn’s research into ancient Biblical manuscripts, including and especially the life of Yeshua, is fascinating to me. He published two books -- Hidden Stories of the Childhood of Jesus and Hidden Politics of the Crucifixion -- which documents, with source citations, many accounts about Yeshua’s life. Between these two books and dozens of radio interviews, here are some of the things I’ve learned about Him:

Yeshua's birth

  • In-depth details surrounding the "Immaculate Conception"
  • Where was Yeshua actually born?
  • The spectacular story of the midwife who delivered the baby Yeshua.
  • Who were the Magi, and what countries were they from?
  • Why did the Magi visit the baby Yeshua?
  • What was the Star of Bethlehem?

Mother Mary

  • Who were her parents? What were their names? What country were they from?
  • How old was Mary when she married Joseph?

Father Joseph

  • What are the details about the prophetic selection of Joseph as the husband or the Virgin Mary?
  • Was Mary his first or second wife?
  • What was his occupation?
  • How old was Yeshua when he died?

Yeshua's family

  • The story of Yeshua and His family when they were in exile in Egypt.
  • The untold story of the birth of John the Baptist, the murder of his father and the death of his mother.
  • Who were Yeshua’s brothers and sisters?
  • Was his family poor or rich?
  • Who in Yeshua’ family was the 3rd richest person in the world?
  • Whose writings about Yeshua were more popular than those of the apostles?
  • Who in his family was a personal friend of Tiberius Caesar himself?

Yeshua's childhood

  • The childhood playmates of Yeshua, including Judas.
  • Untold stories of miracles that Yeshua performed as a child.
  • What did he do and where did he go for all those years in between when He was 12 (at the temple) and adulthood?

Yeshua's adulthood

  • Did He go to college? If so, who were His classmates?
  • Was He married?
  • Did He have offspring?
  • What did He wear?
  • Did He like music?
  • Who was His best friend?
  • The story of when Yeshua healed the son of the prince of Pharaoh.
  • Yeshua performs miracles with his mother and father.
  • The death of Joseph in the words of Yeshua himself.

Yeshua's death

  • What were the justifications used to execute Yeshua?
  • The story of the first time Yeshua met the thieves who were crucified with him.
  • When was he actually crucified?
  • How old was He when he was crucified?

This last fall, I spent dozens of hours listening to these recordings and doing extensive research into the life of Yeshua. As a result, I feel far more familiar with Him. He is more real to me than ever before.

I know there are many who choose to just be satisfied with knowing only the four gospels and 3rd Nephi accounts of Yeshua. But if you truly desire to be immersed in all things Yeshua, then I invite you to take advantage of these two presents:

  • Listen to those Glenn Kimball interviews (linked above).
  • Join this blog’s Facebook group. It’s a safe, moderated forum where we talk about one thing only: Yeshua -- all about Him, and how to become more like Him. There’s no other LDS-aligned forum on the internet whose sole topic is the Savior. Hundreds have testified that it’s helped them grow closer to Him. Are you pretty tight with Him now, or could you use all the help you can get? 

This holiday season, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m excited about what we’ll be exploring on this blog, and discussing in our Facebook group, in 2021!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 16: Coming Down from the Mountain


This is my last post in this series about “The Best Friend You Never Knew.”

In this series, you learned that those who are close (and growing closer) to the Lord:

  1. Couldn’t care less about the praise of men. They have absolutely zero sense of self importance.
  2. Never, ever cast the spotlight upon themselves. They’ll never get close to humble bragging nor virtue signalling, no matter what everybody else is doing.
  3. Know the true characteristics of the Lord enough to be able to visualize Him.
  4. Know and use the real name of the Lord, and understand the symbolic and literal significance of it.
  5. Know the true personality of Yeshua, not the distorted one which is predominant among members.
  6. Look for opportunities to unleash the power of God in others.
  7. They remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, knowing that they will never be considered true disciples until they do.
  8. Know that it’s imperative to be non-judgmental of others. They avoid saying and even thinking lame statements like “I’m concerned,” “I’m worried,” “I just want you to be happy,” “I’m only looking out for you best interests” or “I’m only trying to protect the good name of the church.”
  9. Are very passionate about seeking Him.
  10. Because they’re watching the signs of the times, they have a sense of urgency in establishing a meaningful relationship with the Lord.
  11. Sift out the voices of those who stand in between them and the Lord.
  12. Seek to hear the actual, direct (usually non-audible) voice of the Lord in their daily lives.
  13. Converse with Heavenly Father in the same direct, trusting, and sincere manner that you converse with friends and family members. They can also carry an ongoing dialogue with the Lord as long as they desire.
  14. Invite Father and Yeshua to visit and make their abode with them, as promised.
  15. Seek the highest blessings one can receive in this life (which surpasses the Calling & Election and Second Comforter).

Those who desire to stay on this path should not only know, but also expect, that they will have to pass through tremendous, soul-wrenching, even life-threatening, trials and tribulations -- “descents” -- in order to qualify for the ascents they seek. This is OK with them, because above all else, they seek to be one with Yeshua, as He is one with Father. They do this by making Father and His will their everything, just like the Lord did during His mortal ministry.

“The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. …” (Teachings of Joseph Smith Manual, Chapter 37, p. 429)

This journey is often characterized in the scriptures as “mountains” or “valleys.” Indeed, even many songs have been written and sung which have described these heights and depths. Want a good example of what they’re like? Listen to some of the songs whose roots are found in slavery. While this is definitely a stain on mankind’s history, I believe these songs are full of light, for they acknowledge the pains and weaknesses of mortality and the strength which can only come from our Savior.


The Place of Exaltation


Of all the places in the scriptures, none compares with the mountain tops. None. It was from there that God placed His hand over the eyes of the weak and lowly, humbled and beaten down, and showed the immensity and grandeur of a universe teeming with life and light. There, man knelt in utter amazement at God’s endless creations and limitless love. They often lamented how inadequate mortal words were in describing what they not only saw, but also experienced, as God unveiled Himself, and His creations, to them. 

Mountains are consistently equated with righteousness, Zion, the glory of God and exaltation:

"Now Moses...came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." (Exodus 3:1-2)

"In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain..." (Ezekiel 40:2)

"And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain" (Exodus 19:3)

"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:1-3)

"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him..." (Matthew 28:16-17)

"And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10)

"For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot" (1 Nephi 11:1)

"And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me..." (1 Nephi 17:7-8)

"The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain, And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence." (Moses 1:1-2)

(For more mountain references, click here)

If you want to see God face-to-face, then you are going to be dialoguing with the Lord way before you see Him.  And more than likely, it will not be just once or three times a day, but ALL day -- the literal fulfillment and fulness being known as "walking and talking with God."

Of all these instances, none compares with the story of the Brother of Jared (see here and here). His story gives us a pattern (detailed here) of what it took to see the Lord and His creations. The bottom line: The Brother of Jared was not only dialoguing with the Lord, but also solidifying the Lord’s trust in him, long before the Lord unveiled Himself.

We are no different. If you want the Lord to unveil Himself to you, then you’d better start dialoguing with Him regularly (after all, who wants to be chastised like the Brother of Jared for failing to regularly dialogue with God?). You’d also better be praying for the Lord to start introducing you to the mountains and valleys so that you, too, will someday be invited to the top of The Holy Mountain. 

Once there, and because He is no respecter of persons, God will show you, too, the mysteries of nature, the mysteries of the universe and the mysteries of godliness...of things not written in the scriptures, of things we might consider science fiction, yet are real (and perhaps more real) than the nose in front of your face.


Descending from the Mountain

 
I have a few favorite authors: Brother Lawrence, John Eldredge, Stephen Covey and of course my friend, John Pontius. Oswald Chambers is another. He was born in 1874 and died in 1917. Although he was not a member of the church, his insights into God have profoundly inspired millions globally. You can read a huge collection of his quotes here, or an abridged version of his quotes I assembled here.

The most successful of his thirty books is My Utmost for His Highest (1924), a daily devotional composed of 365 selections of Chambers’ talks, each of about 500 words. The work has never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages. You can check out a blog based on this book at utmost.org. Here are some quotes from it:

“When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted friendship -- when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question -- then He begins to teach us.”

“God gives us the vision, then he takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience.”

“We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley. 

We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.

We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character. The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something. There is a terrible trap in always asking, “What’s the use of this experience?” We can never measure spiritual matters in that way. The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.” (https://utmost.org/the-place-of-exaltation/)


“Lifting up the demon-possessed people in the valley”

 
One could look at Chambers’ statement as telling us that yes, you can spend time on the top of the mountain with God while in mortality, but you can’t stay there. Your destiny lies in coming down from the mountain and lifting up the demon-possessed people in the valley.

As I’ve blogged before, I am blessed to interact with people all the time who want their calling and election made sure, or to have an audience with Yeshua in the flesh. While these are righteous desires, I think it’s important that you stop and ask yourself (as I did in March 2017 and November 2016):

“Why do you want this experience? Is it because, in the final analysis, it's all about good 'ol you? Maybe to claim some degree of respect or legitimacy? Come on -- why do you want this experience? Is it because the Lord told us to seek His face, and you want to be obedient? Is it because He commanded us to? So how is this self-centeredness congruent with the terrestrial principles of Zion (Moses 7:18)? Do you think He's inclined to reward selfish intentions which aren't even terrestrial in nature?”

“When we want something, we often treat God as if He is a cosmic vending machine. We bargain with Him, saying, "If I do A, then can I get B? Please???? It's for ME, and I'VE been (or promise to be) so good!!!"

We prioritize, as high as possible, OUR Baptism of Fire, OUR spiritual gifts, OUR parted veil, OUR visions, OUR dreams, OUR conversations with angels, OUR Second Comforter and OUR Calling and Election. While these things are critically important, it's our prioritization of them -- our love affair with individualism -- which becomes the very reason why those blessings are often withheld from us.

We wonder, "When the crap starts hitting the fan, where will I go? What about MY tents and MY food/clean water supply? What about MY kids and MY loved ones?" We have become the poster children for the "I / ME / MY" generation, and are baffled why successive generations are even moreso.”

It’s no wonder that we’re told,

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6; emphasis mine) 

"O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways." (2 Nephi 12:5; emphasis mine) 

"They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall." (D&C 1:16; emphasis mine) 

So, I believe that one of the reasons that many (and perhaps you) don’t see God is that they have all turned away from God and prefer the warmth and comfort of their own wills. Oh sure, they may profess to want to do God’s will, but when you get right down to it, other things -- including and especially our own fears and apprehensions, dreams and desires -- get the best of us.

Ask yourself this:

  • Which do I spend more time doing: Watching TV/interacting on the internet, or with He who loves me the most?
  • Why do I really want my calling and election and Second Comforter?
  • Am I prepared to sacrifice my health, my reputation, my relationship with my family, friends, co-workers and ward members -- in fact, anything and everything -- to know Him? Am I prepared to go through (perhaps years of) loneliness, pain, sickness, humiliation and more as part of a descent phase?
  • Am I ready, willing and able to bear testimony to others now, or do I hide my testimony? Do I often use the phrase “It’s too sacred to share” when, in hindsight, I probably could have shared?

That last point has direct relevancy to coming down from the mountain. To a one, those who have come down from mountains invariably testified of God, and in some cases, gave their lives for Him. NONE of them -- I repeat: NONE -- ever kept to themselves nor used the phrase “It’s too sacred to share.” 

As I mentioned here,

“...we just don’t talk about them [spiritual experiences] anymore. It’s just too sacred to talk about! That makes the experiences even more and more rare, to the extent that -- over time and over generations -- when something legitimately spiritual happens, it's considered a myth or a heresy. We just don’t believe it’s possible anymore.”

“We just don’t believe it’s possible anymore” = a self reinforcing status of “unbelief” (I’ll examine that word in a subsequent post).

It’s no wonder the Lord said,

“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them. And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have.” (D&C 60:2-3)

As Pres. Benson said,

“The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See  D&C 3:6–7  D&C 30:1–2  D&C 60:2) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?” (April 1989 General Conference)

As we’ll see in an upcoming blog post here, this general reluctance among church members to testify of spiritual things has turned the truth (of gifts and miracles) into fables, to where (as one friend once told me), “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.”

So, if you’re wondering why spending time with the Lord at the top of the mountain seems a little elusive, you might want to consider the possibility that you’re currently unwilling to do what would be required of you upon coming down from the mountain. The Lord literally has no reason to justify appearing to you, and expecting you afterwards to proclaim and testify of Him with more passion, when you’re not only passing up opportunities to testify of Him now, but you’re also actively doing your part (even by being silent) to help turn truth to fables by perpetuating unbelief in gifts, miracles, visions, dreams, appearances, etc.

“A man may betray Jesus Christ by speaking too many words, and he may betray him through keeping his mouth shut.” (Oswald Chambers)

“Some of us are like the Dead Sea: Always taking in, but never giving out, because we are not rightly related to the Lord Jesus.” (Oswald Chambers)

The great English scholar and writer C. S. Lewis was vocal throughout the years that followed his adult conversion to Christianity about his admiration for, and his debt to, George MacDonald.  MacDonald once posed an important question and then answered it himself:

"Is every Christian expected to bear witness?

Answer: "A man content to bear no witness to the truth is not of the kingdom of heaven. One who believes must bear witness. One who sees the truth, must live witnessing to it. Is our life, then, a witnessing to the truth? Do we carry ourselves in [the] bank, on [the] farm, in [the] house or shop, in [the] study or chamber or workshop, as the Lord would, or as the Lord would not?" (emphasis mine)


"Take now your son…" (Genesis 22:2)


We also fail to obtain the Lord’s trust by not acting on His promptings without delay. “Oh, I’ll get to it in a minute. I have to finish _________________ first.” or “I’m sure He’ll be fine if I get to it later today.”

Here’s Oswald Chambers again:

“God’s command is, “Take now,” not later. 

It is incredible how we debate! We know something is right, but we try to find excuses for not doing it immediately. If we are to climb to the height God reveals, it can never be done later— it must be done now. And the sacrifice must be worked through our will before we actually perform it.

“So Abraham rose early in the morning…and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). Oh, the wonderful simplicity of Abraham! When God spoke, he did not “confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Beware when you want to “confer with flesh and blood” or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings— anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God.” (https://utmost.org/classic/the-supreme-climb-classic/)

The gospel is practical because it’s as concerned with your doing something as it is with your being something. Good works alone won’t get you into heaven, but once you receive new life in and from Jesus, He expects you to do what he did for the rest of your life. It comes with the territory. 

Godly people do godly things...or they aren’t godly.

As I close out this series about “The Best Friend You Never Knew,” I bear you my testimony that I not only know Yeshua lives, but He has also appeared to me. I not only know His eyes, His smile, His smirk and His laugh, but also His jokes, His love of music, His love of food and His love for His family and friends, especially our Father and Mother. Whatever I know, whatever I have been given, has been an unanticipated gift from He who is the source of all gifts.

I’m grateful to know He is, if anything, overly-anxious and overly-enthusiastic to spend time with us, to laugh and cry with us. Despite being all-knowing, He’s still very apt to ask you how your day is going. Because He is a God, He’s able to be in infinite locations at the same time, including beside you...

Not only on the tops of the mountains, but also on top of the water.

Ahhhhh, walking on water...now there’s an interesting topic we should discuss soon!



Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 15: The Third Comforter


What’s the greatest blessing one can receive in this life?

That’s a question I've wondered about, and asked others, my whole life. The answers have been fairly consistent: “Calling and Election”, “Seeing Jesus” or “Second Comforter”.

But over the years, I’ve come to discover that there’s a blessing that’s higher than these. It seems to happen only to those who have their calling and election, and have personally received profound blessings from our Lord.

I’ll let others explain the details and particulars of this blessing. But suffice it to say, it’s called The Third Comforter. It’s when you are introduced to Father.

The First and Second Comforters


“In the New Testament, the Greek word parakletos, translated “Comforter” in the King James Version, appears only in the writings of John. The word is composed of para, meaning “beside,” and kletos, meaning “one who is summoned.” A parakletos is one who is summoned to another’s side as a helper, intercessor, or advocate. In John’s writings, the title parakletos is applied to two individuals: the Holy Ghost and Jesus Christ.” (New Testament Student Manual, Chapter 26)

Before His ascension, Yeshua told His disciples, 

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:16-17, 26)

It’s interesting that the Lord would say that there’s “another” Comforter, the Holy Ghost. Obviously, both He and the Holy Ghost are Comforters. Joseph Smith confirmed this fact:

“There are two Comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter [is the] Holy Ghost. …

“The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.

“Note the 16, 17, 18, 21, 23 verses. …

“Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” (History of the Church, 3:380–81).


The Often Unacknowledged Factor: Profound Descent


As I read Joseph’s excellent summary, I’m struck by the paths associated with the various blessings (which come later):

A person wades through sin --> repents/baptized/receives Holy Ghost --> First Comforter

Hazards and thorough proving --> found determined to serve Him through all of that --> C&E and Second Comforter

In my opinion, the path to obtaining one’s Second Comforter is one of hazards and thorough proving. 

“God never bestows upon his people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 338).

How severe could this trial be? Elder Orson Hyde said, 

“True it is, that in the most trying hour, the servants of God may then be permitted to see their Father, and elder brother. But says one, “I wish to see the Father, and the Saviour, and an angel now.” Before you can see the Father, the Saviour, or an angel, you have to be brought into close places in order to enjoy this manifestation. The fact is, your very life must be suspended on a thread, as it were. If you want to see your Saviour, be willing to come to that point where no mortal arm can rescue, nor earthly power save! When all other things fail, when everything else proves futile and fruitless, then perhaps your Saviour and your Redeemer may appear; his arm is not shortened that he cannot save, nor his ear heavy that he cannot hear; and when help on all sides appears to fail, “my arm shall save, my power shall rescue, and you shall hear my voice, saith the Lord.” (JD 1:125)

Why is it called a “Second Comforter”? Because nobody but the Savior can adequately comfort you.

I’ve heard of people say they received their Second Comforter for introducing someone to the church, after having crawled out of debt, watched an inspiring movie or had a warm, inspired feeling after a blessing. While all of these things may make you feel good, they are neither hazardous, proving anything nor suspending your very life on a thread. And they do not demand the comfort that only a Savior can provide you.

Others have said they have felt a good yet invisible personage next to them, comforting them, even laying their hands on them. These experiences are also holy and inspiring, but they are not necessarily personal ministrations of the Lord. Angels and other heavenly messengers can have a similar effect on us.

But show me someone who has endured decades/a lifetime of pain, abuse, persecution, profound sickness, neglect, etc. -- all while staying true to God and praising Him -- and yes, those are hazards and can thoroughly prove one’s dedication.

As I've stated here several times before, you can learn a lot from someone who is going through tremendous depths in their life, because the exact and opposite inverse -- tremendous highs -- are often right around the corner.

"Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent: When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt." (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, "Restore My Soul" [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17).


“Seeing and Knowing” Father


What’s the inverse of a profound, life-altering descent?

I believe it’s a profound, life-altering ascent.

Brother Joseph elaborated on this above, then he said what could happen to a person after they have had an audience with the Savior:

...he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” (History of the Church, 3:380–81).

At some point, Yeshua Himself becomes a testator, and personally introduces us to Father. There’s nothing unusual about this, for all throughout Yeshua’s mortal ministry, He was steadfast in testifying of Father. 

“I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me.” (3 Nephi 11:32)

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

And in a few recorded instances, Father has revealed Himself to His mortal children:

“There are few recorded instances of God the Father appearing to or speaking to man. The scriptures say that He spoke to Adam and Eve (Moses 4:14–31) and introduced Jesus Christ on several occasions (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28–29; 3 Ne. 11:3–7). He appeared to Stephen (Acts 7:55–56) and Joseph Smith (JS—H 1:17). Later He appeared to both Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76:20, 23). To those who love God and purify themselves before Him, God sometimes grants the privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves that He is God (Matt. 5:8; 3 Ne. 12:8; D&C 76:116–118; 93:1).” (“God the Father,” Guide to the Scriptures

There you have it -- that last sentence there. Let’s read it one more time:

“To those who love God and purify themselves before Him, God sometimes grants the privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves that He is God”

So we CAN see Father. And the path there has also been detailed: 

  • Have faith in Christ.
  • Repent of your sins.
  • Be baptized for the remission of your sins.
  • Receive the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands).
  • Continue to humble yourself before God.
  • Hunger and thirst after righteousness.
  • Live by every word of God.
  • Have the Lord say unto you, Son (or Daughter), thou shalt be exalted. 
  • Be thoroughly proved by the Lord, and found that you are determined to serve Him at all hazards.
  • Find your calling and his election made sure.
  • Receive the other (Second) Comforter (have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend you, or appear to you from time to time).
  • The Lord will manifest the Father unto you.
  • They will take up their abode with you.
  • The visions of the heavens will be opened to you, and the Lord will teach you face to face, and you may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.

(Note that the Lord's manifesting Father to you is listed after the Second Comforter, which is itself listed after calling and election).

I’d like to add that there’s at least one personality trait associated with those who are nearing Father:

“The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. …” (Teachings of Joseph Smith Manual, Chapter 37, p. 429)


When Father Spontaneously Appears


Jeffrey Marsh wrote a really interesting article for Meridian Magazine last year on the “Visitations of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith” (found here). One of those visitations was quite dramatic:

“In Kirtland, during the winter of 1832-1833, the Lord directed Joseph Smith to organize a school to prepare the brethren to serve missions, and to train them in all things pertaining to the Church and the gospel. The Prophet officially organized the First Presidency and the event was accompanied by revelation: “I exhorted the brethren to faithfulness and diligence in keeping the commandments of God,…with a promise that the pure in heart should see a heavenly vision; and after remaining in prayer, the promise was verified…Many of the brethren saw a heavenly vision of the Savior, and concourses of angels, and many other things, of which each one has a record of what he saw” (History of the Church, 1:334-335).

One particular morning, the Prophet asked the brethren to come fasting, having washed and wearing clean clothes. During the meeting, a marvelous manifestation of the Father and the Son occurred.

John Murdock (whose twins were adopted by the Prophet Joseph and Emma, after his wife, Julie, died during their birth) recorded what he experienced: “During the winter of 1833 we had a number of prayer meetings in the Prophet’s chamber [in the Newel K. Whitney store]. In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver gray, curled in most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I have ever before seen. His countenance was most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree” (John Murdock Journal, typescript, p. 13).

Years later while living in Utah and speaking to a group of High Priests in Spanish Fork, Zebedee Coltrin recounted his experience: “I saw a personage passing through the room as plainly as I see you now. Joseph asked us if we knew who it was and answered himself, that is Jesus our elder brother, the Son of God. After the vision closed Joseph Smith told those present to again resume their former position of prayer, which they did. Again I saw passing through the same room, a personage whose glory and brightness was so great, that I can liken it to nothing but the burning bush that Moses saw, and its power was so great that had it continued much longer I believe it would have consumed us. After this personage had disappeared from the room Joseph Smith announced that the men had seen the Father of Jesus Christ.” Zebedee Coltrin concluded his testimony by saying, “I saw him.” (Zebedee Coltrin, High Priests Records of Spanish Fork, 5 Feb 1878, LDS Church Archives.) He added: “The appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones” (Salt Lake School of the Prophets, 3 Oct 1883, p. 60, LDS Church Archives).

What Bro. Marsh didn’t mention is what that “former position of prayer” was. According to Zebedee Coltrin, it was “silent prayer, kneeling, with hands uplifted each one praying in silence” (Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883, p. 44) -- a posture specifically mentioned in my post about formal prayer to Father (here).  

In describing Father, Bro. Coltrin said,

“I did not discover His clothing for He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but His person.  I saw His hands, His legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man.  He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seems I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marow of my bones.” (ibid, p. 58-59; also see Calvin Robert Stevens, “The Life and Contributions of Zebedee Coltrin,” 1974, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6137&context=etd)


Introductions Are in Order


Sometimes, Father doesn’t just appear. Instead, the Lord introduces Him to us. Here is what one man communicated to me:

“Years ago, I worked as a TV reporter. Where I worked, the TV newsroom’s head guy was the News Director. The #2 guy was the person who assigned what stories would be covered and by whom. This was the Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor. 

I had a dream in which I was standing next to a man who looked just like the Assistant News Director, but I knew it was Jesus looking like this guy. We were ascending, and finally ascended into a white room with a round, white table and two chairs. As we walked to the table, I could see that the News Director was sitting in one of the chairs. If the table were a clock, the News Director was sitting at the 10 o’clock position, and the other chair was at the 6 o’clock position.

When we reached the table, the Savior said my name and presented me to Father. At that point, Father invited me to sit down. Jesus walked about 10-12 feet away to my right, sitting in another chair. So essentially He passed me off to Father, then waited nearby while Father and I chatted.

I have no idea what we talked about, but I remember this dream like it was yesterday (I had it about six years ago).

As I awoke, I was left with two impressions: First, this was not a physical encounter, but being that all things are created spiritually first, then physically, I can look forward to the physical version of my meeting at some point in the future. Second, I feel I was promised to know many mysteries, which have been subsequently imparted to me since that encounter.” 

Two posts ago, we read about how many prophets of old, and even Yeshua, formally prayed to Father. To me, it’s profound to see the symbolism of these prayers, as we totally subjugate ourselves to the level of the dust of the earth. Yet through it all, amidst all that lowliness, we reach with upraised/uplifted hands towards heaven, where Father is more attentive to us than ever.

It’s comforting to know that others, like John Murdock, Zebedee Coltrin, Joseph Smith and other members of the School of the Prophets approached Father in just this way, and saw marvelous manifestations of Him.

I’m also comforted by the facts presented in my last post, where we read what Yeshua said in John 14:23:

"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

Joseph Smith’s words leave us a blueprint of how to make our way back to Father (I doubt he would have mentioned them if they were unattainable). The actions of Joseph and others show us what they did to beckon Father. And Yeshua gives us the promise, the hope, that these endeavors will not be in vain, but will produce profound fruits...which we call

The Third Comforter



Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 14: "We will come unto him, and make our abode with him"


In my last post, you got all the tools you need to initiate contact with both Heavenly Father and Yeshua. Prophets of old likely performed many of the steps summarized in that post, and they parted the veil and conversed with God. Make no mistake: You can, too.

The response from the other side of the veil to your consistent entreaties may be immediate, or it may take a while -- a week, a month, a year or more. But respond they will. And when that day comes -- when you sense a message in your heart and mind that says “I love you so much” or “I’m so proud to be your brother/sister” or “Mom and I are so proud of the decisions you’re making,” you’ll know full well who that came from. And that day on your calendar will never be considered the same again. Your life will never be the same. Because you will know God spoke to you, you heard it and felt it.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

But that’s not all God has in store for you! That’s just the beginning. It’s the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first page of the first notebook of dialogue God will have with you. The more serious, the more consistently you take that relationship, the more God will, too.

And like any relationship here on earth, you are free to let it soar into the stars, with no limits to what your relationship with God can and will become in your life. And despite anything those doubters and naysayers say to elevate their own standing while denigrating your own, you’ll know, deep down inside, that you have a personal, intimate, close and daily-replenished relationship with Father, Mother and Yeshua.


The Junior Primary Line We Adults
Continually Tell Ourselves...and Get Stuck On


I’ll let you in on a little pet peeve of mine. I cringe every time I hear “God loves you,” “God is aware of you,” “God knows your circumstances” or the ever-popular “God knows your name.” This is because after you’ve enjoyed such a close relationship with God, you know -- YOU KNOW -- that God is far, far more involved in your life than just those superficial stereotypes. Of course God knows your name! Of course He knows your circumstances! If God knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7), I think He’s got your name down pat, too. God is way, way, way down the road in terms of name identification with you.

(Imagine your being a child again and living with your parents. Your father is away on a business trip. You wonder if your father loves you. You ask your mom, and she says, “Sweetie, of course He does! He even knows your name!!!!!).

Still, like any relationship, your relationship with Father, Mother and Yeshua needs cultivation every day. Like a plant needs sunlight, food and carbon dioxide, your relationship with Deity needs light, communication and desire. 

And like any relationship, it will grow and develop. Your closeness will be so real, so alive, that you’ll wake up each morning knowing that today, you will hear from God. In some way, He’ll leave you a love note wrapped inside a magnificent sunrise, a bird’s song, a spectacular sunset, a shooting star, or a million other variables.

Every day, you can live a life knowing that He wants to be your everything. And He will stop at nothing -- even to the shedding of His own blood and giving His own life -- to be your everything.

Hehe “He knows your name”???? Are you kidding me? He knows you far, far better than you know yourself. And despite all the screw-ups, mistakes, regrets and stupid things you’ve done in your mortal life, you may someday discover that all that realy kinda pales in comparison to one thing:

He just wants you back in His arms. And He will literally and figuratively move heaven and earth, blood, sweat and tears, to make it so.

The Visit


As your relationship with God continues to develop, you may eventually be confronted with a thought:

“Invite Father, Mother and Yeshua into your home.”

When this is combined with real intent, nothing wavering, and many of the “Formal Prayer” concepts elaborated in my previous post, you’ll discover that this is no ordinary request. It is spirit-inspired. It’s God wanting you to boldly, yet humbly, take your relationship with them to an even higher level.

Are they willing to do just this? Absolutely! Check out John 14:23:

"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

A couple of notes on this verse. In Greek,

  • The word “love” is agapa -- a verb denoting “to love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem.” (https://biblehub.com/john/14-23.htm)
  • “We will come’ is eleusometha, which is a 1st person plural, future indicative verb. At least both of them -- the Father and the Son -- will come.
  • “Make” is poiesometha, which means to make, manufacture, construct.
  • “Him” is auto, which is actually not gender-specific. It could mean He, she, it, they or them.

The Lord also said,

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Again, like the previous verse, “him” in Greek is auto -- a non-gender-specific designation. 

Thus, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, married or single, old or young, black or white. You have the opportunity to invite He who loves you most to your abode. He may knock on your door, or just appear there. 

And examine that invitation carefully. It doesn’t say, "I will come in if you are good enough" or "I will come in provided you have never done this or that" or “I will come in if you promise never to ......" It only says, "If you will open...I will come in.”

In fact, when you’re taking God up on His offer while knocking on the doors of heaven three times a day (see this post), it would be ungentlemanly for Father or Yeshua to turn down such a consistent -- and heartfelt -- invitation. And it would also be ungentlemanly for the Lord not to return the favor. For He also has an outstanding invitation for you to sup with Him at His feast. The ultimate one, to be held at a future time (see Luke 12:37)

I seriously doubt that such inspired invitations would be given to someone who’s steadfastly lukewarm in their relationship with God. As one pastor once said, “God wants us to allow Him to consume us — God wants our all. We need to be on fire for Him. But as it turns out, many times we are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, for Him. Being lukewarm will keep us from a relationship with God and keep us from inheriting eternal life with God.” (source)

Those who are not lukewarm, and are dedicated to taking God up on His gracious suggestion, can definitely expect spectacular results.

They Invited God into Their Homes...and Saw Their Wishes Fulfilled


“we will obey: as on conditions of our obedience He has promised us great things; yea, even a visit from the heavens to honor us with His own presence.” (Joseph Smith, DHC 1:316–317).

Our first example is from a man who’s passed on, but while he was alive, he lived a life wholly dedicated to God to a very, very, high degree: 

"Brother G" was a tremendously devout Christian all his life. Sometime in the mid- to late-1960s, during his prayer and meditation time, a thought popped into his head:

"Son, would you spend time with me as a friend? I don't have anyone who will just spend time with me as a friend. Everyone always comes with a petition, with intercession, with various requests, but they never just want to be with me for who I am."

Brother G was a very busy man. His days were full. He considered what the Lord had said, and didn't want to commit to something he couldn't fulfill. Finally, Brother G said, "Lord, the only time I have is from 2:00am to 3:30am, but I'll do it."

Brother G kept his word. So every night at 1:50am, he would arise from his bed and go to his sitting room, where he could spend some time with the Lord. In doing this, he would practice "properly framing a picture" of Jesus sitting across from him. He wasn't worried about the accuracy of his mental picture of Jesus, but instead, he would sit down and talk with Jesus like a good friend. "How's your day been, Jesus? What do you think about this or that?" He would also listen to what was on the Lord's heart that evening. He so enjoyed spending time with the Lord, as a friend, that he looked forward and anticipated each evening, when he could be alone with the Lord.

About a year later, as Brother G was sitting down in his chair at 2am, he heard the back door open and close. Then he heard footsteps walking down the hallway.

Into his sitting room walked Jesus, who then sat down in a chair across from Brother G.

How and why did this happen?

The Lord told Brother G that it was because he had been willing to spend that time with the Lord as a friend. It was also because Brother G practiced a very important principle:

“What you focus on, you'll eventually connect with.”

Here’s another man’s (or should I say couple’s) experience:

“My wife has done a tremendous job over the last two years of filling almost every room with either pictures of Jesus or things that symbolize him. Everywhere we turn, Jesus’s pictured presence is there. Also, in our nightly couple’s prayers, we have invited and welcomed Father, Mother and Jesus into our home. We have reminded them of the scriptures in the Bible that says they will sup with us. We have pleaded with them to take our invitations seriously and to surpass our expectations.

They have done just that. Although they haven’t gone visual, their presences have been very obvious and defined. Mother, Father and Jesus have different personalities, different mannerisms, different ways of talking and expressing themselves. They have reached out to us, and we have responded back. Their responses impressed upon both our hearts and minds with insights far above what we would have come up with. 

I have zero doubt that at a future time, they will go visual. It may be one or all three of them. To us, the important thing is knowing that they are intimately involved in our daily lives, and there to help us make our way back to them.” 

Sometimes it’s not a matter of being dedicated, but childlike. Here’s an experience one parent sent me:

“In early 2019 our family was suffering and breaking apart at the seams.  My youngest son (then 6) was in my room as he was afraid.  We were all deep asleep.  Around 2:00 or 3:00am my son woke me, very excitedly.  Saying the same thing over and over, trying to whisper but too excited to posses a silent whisper.  

Once I finally woke enough to understand, I see his big excited brown eyes staring in the dark.  He said, “mom, Jesus was here.”  I said, “how do you know?”  He said, “because I saw him.”  

He quickly jumped from the bed, to stand at the foot of our large bed.  He put his arms in the air like wings.  He said, “he came to the bottom of the bed, smiled big, raised his arms and said it’s going to be alright.  Then as soon as he did this he backed up into the wall, which was actually a giant bright light, but I feel happy mom. It’s going to be ok.”

I will never forget the joy in my sons face that night or the peace I felt in the room.”


Why God Likely Doesn’t Visit More Homes Very Much Anymore


You see, it’s not a question of “if” Jesus comes knocking on your door, but “when” He comes knocking on your door. My bet: He knocks everyday on the door of your heart, wanting come in to you. As you consistently and passionately let Him through the door of your heart and mind, you can then explore further ways of Jesus entering your life.

The testimonies and scenarios I’ve just presented to you are, in my opinion, extremely unique. Although they’re meant for everybody, it seems like hardly anybody gets to experience them. There’s likely a bajillion reasons why not. 

I think a huge reason why we don’t hear many more of these experiences is because, well, we just don’t talk about them anymore. It’s just too sacred to talk about! That makes the experiences even more and more rare, to the extent that -- over time and over generations -- when something legitimately spiritual happens, it's considered a myth or a heresy. We just don’t believe it’s possible anymore. (Does it seem to you like I’m not the first one to be saying this?)

Another possibility is that we just aren’t willing to pay the price for these experiences. As Joseph Smith stated, 

"You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God... God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial kingdom of God" (Journal of Discourses, 24:197).

A third possibility is that one just loses steam on the way to the destination. Other things become more important, we’re too selfish in our motives, or we just give up on God. We lose sight of the fact that by its very nature, faith must be tested and tried. But if you really examine His life, you’ll see that Yeshua preferred to spend His time not with the learned, the powerful, the esteemed, but the rejected, the outcast, the contagious, those caked and drenched in sin, even the despised. If He can prefer to spend His time with these kinds of people, then there’s likely very good hope for you as well.

Seek Him. Invite Him. Welcome Him. Expect Him into your heart, your mind, your life, your home. Never give up. Never diminish your desire. Always know that Yeshua is a perfect gentleman, and when the time is best, He’ll take you up on your offer. And when He does, your friend (who loves to spend time with you) will radically revolutionize your life filled with the cool and abundant springs of living waters that will rejuvenate you, your family and beyond.







Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Best Friend You Never Knew Part 13: Formal and Informal Prayer


Negate the Naysayers


In my previous post, we detailed several humble, unassuming Christians who were blessed to walk and talk with God. This should come as no surprise to us, for we know that there have been several in history who enjoyed this profound blessing, and that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34), which means that what He offers to one He offers to all.

Yet there are some, even within our own faith, who denounce, condemn and mock these facts. They say that they “worry when someone is speaking to Him [God] in too familiar a way.” They say that “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.” They themselves describe their interactions with God as “not in what you'd call a conversational mode.” They say that in prayer, “the way you do that is different than if you just say, ‘I'd like a chat. I want a conversation.’"

These negative concepts do nothing to close and shorten the distance between you and God. They only increase and exacerbate it. 

Could you EVER imagine the Savior saying, “Sorry, Father and I are so far above you in terms of our powers that, well, we’re kind of lofty, so having a conversation with us is pretty tough.” He didn’t say, “Don’t expect a conversation with us.”

Absolutely, positively not! He said, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.” (D&C 88:63) There are no limits imposed on this command.

These distancing comments also fly in the face of facts delivered by the one mortal who knows more than anybody else about interacting with God -- 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, and that he was once a man like us;" (Teachings, p. 345–46, "King Follett Sermon", April 7, 1844; History of the Church, 6:305; as quoted in the church's "Doctrines of the Gospel" student manual).

(Speaking about praying to our Father in Heaven), "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." (Joseph Smith, "Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith," Juvenile Instructor, Mar. 1, 1892, p. 151-52).

Others have said (in official church publications):

"Individuals should converse with Heavenly Father in the same direct, trusting, and sincere manner that they converse with friends and family members." (Donald W. Parry, "After This Manner … Pray Ye", Ensign, January 1996)


(Re: the formalities of prayer -- Please read that BYU Religious Studies article mentioned above. It's interesting. You'll learn that such formalities (“thee/thine/thou”) were originally INformal language when the KJV of the Bible was written).

Now, in none of these statements are we told to be irreverent or presumptuous in our relationship with Deity. God’s friendship and love for us should never be taken for granted. But neither should we increase our distance from Him.

And how do we grow closer to God?

You seek God’s will, receive it and do it without any delay. Repeat.

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." (D&C 50:24; emphasis mine because I like those last three words) 

Because all worthy endeavors begin and end with prayer, I believe there are two things you can do, which combined, thin the veil and your proximity to God:

Personal Formal Prayers


In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said, “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). 

There it is! God’s Will point #1: “Pray without ceasing”! “Give thanks”! I’m very confident that during His mortal ministry, the Lord did the same. There were also times when He broke away from His disciples and engaged in a deeper, more intimate form of prayer. 

Except for the “Lord’s Prayer,” we have no idea what Yeshua said and did in His personal prayers. Yet, we have some scripturally-based precedents:
  • It was likely at least three times a day: In Alma 34:21, Amulek advises us to “Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.” The prophet Joseph Smith added, "You must make yourselves acquainted with those men who like Daniel pray three times a day toward the House of the Lord" (TPJS, p. 161). This may be a reference to Daniel 6:10
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God." 

There is evidence that Joseph Smith and his family practiced this teaching. Eliza R. Snow recorded that "three times a day he had family worship; and these precious seasons of sacred household service truly seemed a foretaste of celestial happiness" (Jayann Morgan Payne, "Eliza R. Snow, First Lady of the Pioneers." Ensign, September 1973, p. 62-67). 
  • He first knelt... 
    • "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed" (Luke 22:41)
    • "And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
    • And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him." (3 Nephi 17:14-15)
  • ...and then may have assumed a posture of deep humility: 
  • ...and in so doing, in this state of humility, He came boldly unto the throne of grace. 
    • “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
  • ...addressed God...
    • "Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle." (Psalms 28:2)
    • "Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray." (Psalms 5:2)
    • "Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth." (Psalms 54:2)
    • "But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer." (Psalms 66:19)
    • "Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications." (Psalms 86:6)
    • See my November 26, 2015 post, “Alignment, Part 4 of 6: Dialogue with God” (especially the “Address God” section).
  • ...and then likely discussed how things were going...: 
  • ...and reasoned together:
    • “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18)
    • “And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand;” (D&C 50:10)
Imagine what these fruits would bring about in your life if you did this three times a day...every day!


Personal Informal Prayers


As was also mentioned in the previous post, some people have found it beneficial to not end their formal prayers, but to keep the lines of communication open with a different member of the Godhead -- Yeshua --  throughout the day. In these cases, they engaged in a less-formal, yet very real, ongoing dialogue with Yeshua.

“Look unto me in every thought” (D&C 6:36)

"Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you." (Alma 34:27; emphasis mine)

Prayer unto who continually? The Lord!

With 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, we see that Paul is saying that there's simply never a time, there's never a circumstance, there's never an aspect of your life, that you should not be in conversation with the Lord. It means that there's not an area of your life, there's not a time or a season or a period, where you're not regularly repeatedly turning and bringing your needs to the Lord in prayer.

This is probably why Yeshua counseled the twelve disciples and the multitude to "pray always" (3 Nephi 18:15, 18). The multitude was told that "they should not cease to pray in their hearts" (3 Nephi 20:1).

So it is today, that we see that "Prayer is often a brief communication, but it can also be an open and continuous dialogue all throughout the day and night (see Alma 34:27)." (Elder Kevin W. Pearson, "Improving Your Personal Prayers", Brigham Young University–Hawaii devotional, May 17, 2011; emphasis mine)

Re: this form of "Constant Contact" -- we are instructed, 

"There are certain characters that walked with God, saw him, conversed about heaven &c. God is not a respecter of persons, we all have the same privilege. Come to God weary him until he blesses you &c-we are entitled to the same blessings, Jesus, revelations, Just Men &-Angels &c. &c. not Laying again the doctrine of Christ go on unto perfection. Obtain that holy Spirit of promise-Then you can be sealed to Eternal Life." (Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 4 August 1839–C, as Reported by Willard Richards; https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-between-circa-26-june-and-circa-4-august-1839-c-as-reported-by-willard-richards/4; emphasis mine)

"Only with that faith will we pray with the diligence God requires. When God has commanded us to pray, He has used words like “pray unceasingly” and “pray always” and “mighty prayer.”" (Elder Henry B Eyring, “Prayer”, October 2001 General Conference)

"when we are not actually engaged in the formal act of prayer, we should always have a prayer in our heart, wherever we are or whatever we are doing." (Elder Francis M. Gibbons, “The Dual Aspects of Prayer”, October 1991 General Conference


Now that you know these things...


...congrats! You may be judged with the information you’ve now received.

I invite you to disregard any statements which increase the distance between you and God. Always remember that God wishes to converse with you as one man converses with another. 

I also invite you to do what Yeshua, and his prophets both ancient and modern have advised us to do: Stay in touch with Him continually, throughout the day. True, there may be times when you’re at work, and you can’t focus on a dialogue with God. There may be times that you’re working on homework with kids, and you’re more focused on algebra than the Almighty. That’s perfectly fine; just get back with Him when you can.

As you do these things, as you tighten your relationship with Father and Yeshua, you’ll hear Father’s words to you, and you’ll heed them. You’ll hear Yeshua’s words to you, and you’ll heed those, too. You’ll find them drawing closer to you, because your heart (intentions) and hands (actions) are in sync with them. 

And as a result, you’ll experience the same fruits as the prophets of old did in which they parted the veil, conversed with angels and saw God. 

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

Those aren’t idle words. They’re real. They’re literal. As you cultivate these conversations, these connections, both Father and Yeshua will literally -- LITERALLY -- take up their abode with you, in your home.

Ready for the next post in this series?