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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,

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

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thank you very much for teaching this particular series.just been studying Ether 4 and rending the veil of unbelief and you post this.may you one day experience the gratitude of all those you have helped come to Jesus.