This contains several quotes from non-LDS writers, particularly regarding “mysticism.”
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Shortly after meeting the Savior
God gives to all people liberally
Mystical (spiritual) experiences are the lifeblood of one's belief system
Prove dynamic perceptions and hold fast static perceptions
All people are enlightened by the Spirit of the Gods
People of other religions may have great spiritual experiences
Some may think you are dishonest
Some may think you are delusional
Some may think you have been deceived
Fruits produced from a genuine experience
The form of godliness and the power of godliness
Some may think you are boasting
Temptations to avoid
You may be concerned about revealing mysteries to the world
There will be future manifestations
The witness of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy
Seeing the Savior is not necessarily the same as the more sure word of prophecy
Meeting the Savior is not the same as knowing Him
Follow the Spirit
List of Abbreviations
JD = Journal of Discourses
TPJS = Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
This study journal assumes that you have an understanding of basic gospel principles and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Some people have claimed to have met the Savior.
Some of these people may be deceiving.
Some of these people may be delusional.
Some of these people may have been deceived.
Some of these people may be telling the truth.
Ultimately, what others say regarding their experiences does not have direct bearing on our own individual salvation.
However, hearing about authentic experiences may be a source of encouragement for some.
Shortly after meeting the Savior
Oh, how joyful it will be
When our Savior we shall see!
(“Come Ye Children of the Lord,” Hymns, #58)
Words cannot adequately describe the experience itself, so I will forgo any comment about that.
Even vividly imagining the experience can be quite an emotional experience for a Christian.
Shortly after the experience, perhaps you may have exultant emotions.
“Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God!” (3 Nephi 11:17).
“Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God” (Revelation 19:1)!
You may be filled with extreme gratitude.
“Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people” (1 Chronicles 16:8).
“And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with” (D&C 46:32).
You may wonder why you, of all people, could be blessed with this type of experiential knowledge.
Neal A. Maxwell said, “all knowledge is not of equal significance. There is no democracy of facts! They are not of equal importance. Something might be factual, but not be important. For instance, today I wear a dark blue suit. That is true, but it is unimportant. As, more and more, we brush against truth, we sense that it has a hierarchy of importance. Some truths are salvationally significant and others are not. It is clear from the verses of scripture that some truths may turn out to have a place in a yet-to-be-revealed hierarchy of truth which the world doesn’t anticipate. The scriptures tantalize us by saying ‘all truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it’ (D&C 93:30). One even wonders if truths, like planets, might belong to a particular order (see Abraham 3:9)” (“The Inexhaustible Gospel,” Ensign, April 1993).
Recognizing that the event was not something you particularly deserved or were entitled to, perhaps you have learned humility, or perhaps you have learned more about the love and grace that God has for you.
Perhaps you have learned how generous God is in allowing you have that experience.
God gives to all people liberally
The scriptures sometimes mention what various people were doing shortly before some of their great spiritual experiences.
Lehi was praying in behalf of his people (1 Nephi 1).
Nephi had great desires to know of the mysteries of God and did cry unto the Lord (1 Nephi 2).
Nephi desired to know the things that his father had seen, believed that the Lord was able to make them known unto him, and pondered in his heart (1 Nephi 11).
Alma was praying for the solution to a problem (Mosiah 26).
King Lamoni cried unto the Lord asking for mercy upon him and his people (Alma 18).
The Nephite disciples were gathered together and united in prayer and fasting (3 Nephi 27).
The brother of Jared was praying for the solution to a problem (Ether 3).
Moroni was praying on behalf of the Gentiles (Ether 12).
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were translating the Bible (D&C 76).
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had just finished saying silent prayers (D&C 110).
Joseph Smith prayed to know which church was true (Joseph Smith—History 1).
As far as can be determined from the above instances, these people received much more than what they asked for.
We often receive more than we ask for.
Spiritually, we always receive more than we deserve.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5; cf. 2 Nephi 4:35, D&C 42:68).
“Now I would that ye should understand that the word of God was liberal unto all, that none were deprived of the privilege of assembling themselves together to hear the word of God” (Alma 6:5).
“And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day” (Deuteronomy 15:12-5).
We are truly blessed that God gives to us liberally.
Are the “spiritual” experiences that we are given the same as so-called “mystical” experiences?
It may depend on how one defines mysticism.
Various people have attempted to define mysticism.
“Mysticism is the belief that direct spiritual union with God is possible through meditation upon him and his laws and through surrender to his will. In theory this is true; man can become one with Deity by learning his laws, surrendering to his will, and keeping his commandments. It is possible to have personal revelation, to gain knowledge from God by direct spiritual insight, to be a prophet of God. But this means accepting Jesus as the Christ and Joseph Smith as his prophet; it means coming into the fold of Christ which is named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In practice, the so-called mystics of the world are seeking union with God through their own mental aberrations and outside the true gospel framework. Their brand of mysticism is an apostate religion, one created in imitation of the true system of salvation, one that will never lead them to their professed goal” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 524).
From William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, 370-2:
One may say truly, I think, that personal religious experience has its root and centre in mystical states of consciousness. . . . The words ‘mysticism’ and ‘mystical’ are often used as terms of mere reproach, to throw at any opinion which we regard as vague and vast and sentimental, and without a base in either facts or logic. For some writers a ‘mystic’ is any person who believes in thought-transference, or spirit-return. Employed in this way the word has little value: there are too many less ambiguous synonyms. So, to keep it useful by restricting it, I will do what I did in the case of the word ‘religion,’ and simply propose to you four marks which, when an experience has them, may justify us in calling it mystical for the purpose of the present lectures. In this way we shall save verbal disputation, and the recriminations that generally go therewith.
1. Ineffability— The handiest of the marks by which I classify a state of mind as mystical is negative. The subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, that no adequate report of its contents can be given in words. It follows from this that its quality must be directly experienced; it cannot be imparted or transferred to others. In this peculiarity mystical states are more like states of feeling than like states of intellect. No one can make clear to another who has never had a certain feeling, in what the quality or worth of it consists. One must have musical ears to know the value of a symphony; one must have been in love one’s self to understand a lover’s state of mind. Lacking the heart or ear, we cannot interpret the musician or the lover justly, and are even likely to consider him weak-minded or absurd. The mystic finds that most of us accord to his experiences an equally incompetent treatment.
2. Noetic quality— Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.
These two characters will entitle any state to be called mystical, in the sense in which I use the word. Two other qualities are less sharply marked, but are usually found. These are:
3. Transiency— Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except in rare instances, half an hour, or at most an hour or two, seems to be the limit beyond which they fade into the light of common day. Often, when faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in memory; but when they recur it is recognized; and from one recurrence to another it is susceptible of continuous development in what is felt as inner richness and importance.
4. Passivity— Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated by preliminary voluntary operations, as by fixing the attention, or going through certain bodily performances, or in other ways which manuals of mysticism prescribe; yet when the characteristic sort of consciousness once has set in, the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power. This latter peculiarity connects mystical states with certain definite phenomena of secondary or alternative personality, such as prophetic speech, automatic writing, or the mediumistic trance. When these latter conditions are well pronounced, however, there may be no recollection whatever of the phenomenon and it may have no significance for the subject’s usual inner life, to which, as it were, it makes a mere interruption. Mystical states, strictly so called, are never merely interruptive. Some memory of their content always remains, and a profound sense of their importance. They modify the inner life of the subject between the times of their recurrence.From Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, 2002, Dover Publications, 72, 80-2, 90, 94, 444-5:
Mysticism, in its pure form, is the science of ultimates, the science of union with the Absolute, and nothing else, and that the mystic is the person who attains to this union, not the person who talks about it. Not to know about, but to Be, is the mark of the real initiate. . . .
Now, returning to our original undertaking, that of defining if we can the characteristics of true mysticism, . . . I propose to set out, illustrate and, I hope, justify four other rules or notes which may be applied as tests to any given case which claims to take rank amongst the mystics.
1. True mysticism is active and practical, not passive and theoretical. It is an organic life-process, a something which the whole self does; not something as to which its intellect holds an opinion.
2. Its aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual. It is in no way concerned with adding to, exploring, re-arranging, or improving anything in the visible universe. The mystic brushes aside that universe, even in its supernormal manifestations. Though he does not, as his enemies declare, neglect his duty to the many, his heart is always set upon the changeless One.
3. This One is for the mystic, not merely the Reality of all that is, but also a living and personal Object of Love; never an object of exploration. It draws his whole being homeward, but always under the guidance of the heart.
4. Living union with this One—which is the term of his adventure—is a definite state or form of enhanced life. It is obtained neither from an intellectual realization of its delights, nor from the most acute emotional longings. Though these must be present they are not enough. It is arrived at by an arduous psychological and spiritual process—the so-called Mystic Way—entailing the complete remaking of character and the liberation of a new, or rather latent, form of consciousness; which imposes on the self the condition which is sometimes inaccurately called “ecstasy,” but is better named the Unitive State.
Mysticism, then, is not an opinion: it is not a philosophy. It has nothing in common with the pursuit of occult knowledge. On the one hand it is not merely the power of contemplating Eternity: on the other, it is not to be identified with any kind of religious queerness. It is the name of that organic process which involves the perfect consummation of the Love of God: the achievement here and now of the immortal heritage of man. Or, if you like it better—for this means exactly the same thing—it is the art of establishing his conscious relation with the Absolute.
The movement of the mystic consciousness towards this consummation, is not merely the sudden admission to an overwhelming vision of Truth: though such dazzling glimpses may from time to time be vouchsafed to the soul. It is rather an ordered movement towards ever higher levels of reality, ever closer identification with the Infinite. . . .
Mysticism entails a definite Psychological Experience.
That is to say, it shows itself not merely as an attitude of mind and heart, but as a form of organic life. It is not only a theory of the intellect or a hunger, however passionate, of the heart. It involves the organizing of the whole self, conscious and unconscious, under the spur of such a hunger: a remaking of the whole character on high levels in the interests of the transcendental life. The mystics are emphatic in their statement that spiritual desires are useless unless they initiate this costly movement of the whole self towards the Real. . . .
Mysticism is seen to be a highly specialized form of that search for reality, for heightened and completed life, which we have found to be a constant characteristic of human consciousness. It is largely prosecuted by that “spiritual spark,” that transcendental faculty which, though the life of our life, remains below the threshold in ordinary men. Emerging from its hiddenness in the mystic, it gradually becomes the dominant factor in his life; subduing to its service, and enhancing by its saving contact with reality, those vital powers of love and will which we attribute to the heart, rather than those of mere reason and perception, which we attribute to the head. Under the spur of this love and will, the whole personality rises in the acts of contemplation and ecstasy to a level of consciousness at which it becomes aware of a new field of perception. By this awareness, by this “loving sight,” it is stimulated to a new life in accordance with the Reality which it has beheld. . . .
Far from being academic or unreal, that history [the history of the mystics], I think, is vital for the deeper understanding of the history of humanity. It shows us, upon high levels, the psychological process to which every self which desires to rise to the perception of Reality must submit: the formula under which man’s spiritual consciousness, be it strong or weak, must necessarily unfold. In the great mystics we see the highest and widest development of that consciousness to which the human race has yet attained. We see its growth exhibited to us on a grand scale, perceptible of all men: the stages of its slow transcendence of the sense-world marked by episodes of splendour and of terror which are hard for common men to accept or understand as a part of the organic process of life. But the germ of that same transcendent life, the spring of the amazing energy which enables the great mystic to rise to freedom and dominate his world, is latent in all of us, an integral part of our humanity. Where the mystic has a genius for the Absolute, we have each a little buried talent, some greater, some less; and the growth of this talent, this spark of the soul, once we permit its emergence, will conform in little, and according to its measure, to those laws of organic growth those inexorable conditions of transcendence which we found to govern the Mystic Way.From Vernon Howard, The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power, 1999, New Life Foundation, 17:
Every person, then, who awakens to consciousness of a Reality which transcends the normal world of sense—however small, weak imperfect that consciousness may be—is put upon a road which follows at low levels the path which the mystic treads at high levels. The success with which he follows this way to freedom and full life will depend on the intensity of his love and will, his capacity for self-discipline, his steadfastness and courage. It will depend on the generosity and completeness of his outgoing passion for absolute beauty, absolute goodness, or absolute truth. But if he move at all, he will move through a series of states which are, in their own small way, analogous to those experienced by the greatest contemplative on his journey towards that union with God which is the term of the spirit’s ascent towards its home.
We want to settle for an accurate definition of mysticism. As used and abused as the term is, we must clarify our thinking for the purposes of our study. We can state our definition in several different ways, realizing that they all describe the same essential thing. Mysticism is: a. An advanced state of inner enlightenment. b. Union with Reality. c. A state of genuinely satisfying success. d. Insight into an entirely new world of living. e. An intuitive grasp of Truth, above and beyond intellectual reasoning. f. A personal experience, in which we are happy and healthy human beings.From Robert M. Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, 1991, Bantam Books, 73, 124, 133, 427:
The central reality of mysticism, the reality that Phaedrus had called “Quality” . . . is not a metaphysical chess piece. Quality doesn’t have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions. . . .
A subject-object metaphysics is in fact a metaphysics in which the first division of Quality—the first slice of undivided experience—is into subjects and objects. Once you have made that slice, all of human experience is supposed to fit into one of these two boxes. The trouble is, it doesn’t. What he had seen is that there is a metaphysical box that sits above these two boxes, Quality itself. And once he’d seen this he also saw a huge number of ways in which Quality can be divided. Subjects and objects are just one of the ways. The question was, which way was best? . . .
Not subject and object but static and Dynamic is the basic division of reality. . . .
Dynamic Quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things, completely simple and always new. . . .
The Metaphysics of Quality identifies religious mysticism with Dynamic Quality.So depending on one’s personal definition of mysticism, it is possible that some people could consider spiritual experiences to be the same as mystical experiences.
Mystical (spiritual) experiences are the lifeblood of one's belief system
“Mystical states, when well developed, usually are, and have the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the individuals to whom they come. . . . . The mystic is, in short, invulnerable, and must be left, whether we relish it or not, in undisturbed enjoyment of his creed” (William James; The Varieties of Religious Experience; 422, 424).
Someone, of any belief system, who experiences a sufficient quality and/or quantity of mystical (i.e. “spiritual”) experiences will stay with that belief system and weather through any illogicalities, inconsistencies, and imperfections associated with that belief system and/or its adherents.
Those who do not experience a sufficient quality and/or quantity are more amenable to give more weight to negative aspects of their current belief system, and less weight to positive aspects. This will eventually allow them to justify looking elsewhere for further light and knowledge.
I have gratitude for the LDS Church, which I have membership in, which laid the groundwork for my being given an absolute knowledge of certain important things.
“For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time; so that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not there faith is weak; and where faith is weak the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them” (Lectures on Faith 6:12).
Prove dynamic perceptions and hold fast static perceptions
In my study journal Journey to the Promised Mind it was suggested that on a mental-spiritual level of symbolism, Zenos’ allegory discusses interactions between new, dynamic perceptions and static, established perceptions in one’s mind.
The dynamic aspect of the Spirit will be inspiring us to continually progress, to seek to not be bound under any static law of a particular level of existence, however great it might seem to be. “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).
However, to someone focused solely on one static level of reality, anything not on that level could appear dynamic or chaotic.
Perhaps one difference between something dynamic and something chaotic is that the dynamic builds upon the static patterns already developed, to try to add to them. There is increasing “order” as one progresses, so the dynamic adds to order, while chaos detracts from order. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Prove, or test, that which dynamically comes to you. Hold fast to the good portions of that dynamic by incorporating them and making them a static part of you.
What things are good?
“And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is” (Moroni 10:6).
“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. . . . every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God” (Moroni 7:13, 16).
“[T]ry the spirits whether they are of God . . . Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).
Dynamic processes eventually need to be rooted in the foundation of static patterns.
Life can’t exist on Dynamic Quality alone. It has no staying power. To cling to Dynamic Quality alone apart from any static patterns is to cling to chaos. . . .
Static quality patterns are dead when they are exclusive, when they demand blind obedience and suppress Dynamic change. But static patterns, nevertheless, provide a necessary stabilizing force to protect Dynamic progress from degeneration. Although Dynamic Quality, the Quality of freedom, creates this world in which we live, these patterns of static quality, the quality of order, preserve our world. Neither static nor Dynamic Quality can survive without the other. . . .
A Dynamic advance is meaningless unless it can find some static pattern with which to protect itself from degeneration back to the conditions that existed before the advance was made. Evolution can’t be a continuous forward movement. It must be a process of ratchetlike steps in which there is a Dynamic movement forward up some new incline and then, if the result looks successful, a static latching-on of the gain that has been made; then another Dynamic advance, then another static latch. . . . Without Dynamic Quality the organism cannot grow. Without static quality the organism cannot last. Both are needed. . . .
Phaedrus saw nothing wrong with this ritualistic religion as long as the rituals are seen as merely a static portrayal of Dynamic Quality, a signpost which allows socially pattern-dominated people to see Dynamic Quality. The danger has always been that the rituals, the static patterns, are mistaken for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the Dynamic Quality they were originally intended to preserve. (Pirsig, 139, 169-70, 440-1)
All people are enlightened by the Spirit of the Gods
Everyone is constantly receiving perceptions from various sources. Any person can be led by the Spirit. “God distributes his Spirit to all, both Christian and Pagan” (Brigham Young, JD 7:134).
“There are three phases of the light of Christ that I want to mention. The first one is the light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world; The second phase is the gift of the Holy Ghost; And the third is the more sure word of prophecy” (Marion G. Romney, “The Light of Christ,” April 1977 General Conference).
“For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father” (D&C 84:45-7).
“I do not believe for one moment that there has been a man or woman upon the face of the earth, from the days of Adam to this day, who has not been enlightened, instructed, and taught by the revelations of Jesus Christ. ‘What! the ignorant heathen?’ Yes, every human being who has possessed a sane mind. I am far from believing that the children of men have been deprived of the privilege of receiving the Spirit of the Lord to teach them right from wrong . . . There is no one that lives upon the earth but what is, more or less, enlightened by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. It is said of him, that he is the light of the world. He lighteth every man that comes into the world, and every person, at times, has the light of the Spirit of truth upon him” (Brigham Young, JD 2:139, 14:201).
“There is and always has been a spirit abroad in the world which is really a portion of the Spirit of God, which leads mankind, in many instances, to discriminate between good and evil, and between right and wrong. They have a conscience that accuses or excuses them for their acts; and although the world of mankind is very wicked and very corrupt, yet it will be found that almost all men, though they may not do good themselves, appreciate good actions in others. The scriptures say that God ‘hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though he be not far from every one of us.’ The Scripture further says, He has given unto them a portion of his spirit to profit withal” (John Taylor, JD 23:320-2).
“It is not the Holy Ghost who in person lighteth every man who is born into the world, but it is the light of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the source of intelligence, which permeates all nature, which lighteth every man and fills the immensity of space. You may call it the Spirit of God, you may call it the influence of God’s intelligence, you may call it the substance of his power, no matter what it is called, it is the spirit of intelligence that permeates the universe and gives to the spirits of men understanding, just as Job has said (Job 32:8; D&C 88:3-13). . . . The Spirit of God which emanates from Deity may be likened to electricity, or the universal ether, as explained in our manual, which fills the earth and the air, and is everywhere present. It is the power of God, the influence that he exerts throughout all his works by which he can effect his purposes and execute his will, in consonance with the laws of free agency which he has conferred upon man. By means of this Spirit every man is enlightened, the wicked as well as the good, the intelligent and the ignorant, the high and the low, each in accordance with his capacity to receive the light” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 60-1).
People of other religions may have great spiritual experiences
People of all nations have some degree of light given to them.
“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. I ought not to harrow up in my desires, the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience. Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called? Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth? For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true. I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me” (Alma 29:1-10).
Sometimes those most skeptical of others’ professed experiences are those who have not had similar experiences.
Sometimes those least skeptical of others’ professed experiences are those who have had similar experiences.
Visions, and the images in those visions, may be in the context of the religion or mind frame of the person having the vision.
There is imagery in the scriptures that could reflect the fact that the prophets are trying to describe things in their contemporary, inadequate language. The next two paragraphs could be examples.
“None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind: Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions” (Isaiah 5:27-9).
“And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails . . . I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. . . . For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt” (Revelation 9:7-10, 17, 19).
The mystic, as a rule, cannot wholly do without symbol and image, inadequate to his vision though they must always be: for his experience must be expressed if it is to be communicated, and its actuality is inexpressible except in some side-long way, some hint or parallel which will stimulate the dormant intuition of the reader, and convey, as all poetic language does, something beyond its surface sense. Hence the large part which is played in all mystical writings by symbolism and imagery . . .
If we would cease, once for all, to regard visions and voices as objective, and be content to see in them forms of symbolic expression, ways in which the subconscious activity of the spiritual self reaches the surface-mind, many of the disharmonies noticeable in visionary experience, which have teased the devout, and delighted the agnostic, would fade away. Visionary experience is—or at least may be—the outward sign of a real experience. It is a picture which the mind constructs, it is true, from raw materials already at its disposal: as the artist constructs his picture with canvas and paint. But, as the artist’s paint and canvas picture is the fruit, not merely of contact between brush and canvas, but also of a more vital contact between his creative genius and visible beauty or truth; so too we may see in vision, where the subject is a mystic, the fruit of a more mysterious contact between the visionary and a transcendental beauty or truth. Such a vision, that is to say, is the “accident” which represents and enshrines a “substance” unseen: the paint and canvas picture which tries to show the surface consciousness that ineffable sight, that ecstatic perception of good or evil—for neither extreme has the monopoly—to which the deeper, more real soul has attained. The transcendental powers take for this purpose such material as they can find amongst the hoarded beliefs and memories of the self. (Underhill, 79, 271)
The Lord communicates to each of us according to our own language and mental framework.
“We may come to Jesus and ask Him; He will know all about it; if He comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child” (TPJS, 162).
A vision can be difficult to differentiate from reality.
“And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision” (Acts 12:8-9).
A vision requires correct interpretation.
“I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things” (Daniel 7:15-6).
“Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate . . . While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (Acts 10:9-17, 19).
Peter initially could have misinterpreted the vision to mean that he should now eat unclean beasts. However, he learned by the context, the circumstances at that time (and presumably the Spirit), that the actual meaning was to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
“And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold” (Numbers 12:5-8).
As can be seen on the Internet, Christians of other faiths claim to see the Savior also.
God’s spirit will be poured out upon all people, not just Latter-day Saints. “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:28-31).
“God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye that Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest” (TPJS, 149).
The presence of the Son represents a terrestrial level. Those of the terrestrial glory (and higher) “receive of the presence of the Son” (D&C 76:77).
Righteous people will be on the earth during the Millennium.
“When the Kingdom of Heaven spreads over the whole earth, do you expect that all the people composing the different nations will become Latter-day Saints? If you do, you will be much mistaken. Do you expect that every person will be destroyed from the face of the earth, but the Latter-day Saints? If you do, you will be mistaken. . . . the order of society will be as it is when Christ comes to reign a thousand years; there will be every sort of sect and party, and every individual following what he supposes to be the best in religion, and in everything else, similar to what it is now” (Brigham Young, JD 2:316).
“When all nations are so subdued to Jesus that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, there will still be millions on the earth who will not believe in him; but they will be obliged to acknowledge his kingly government. You may call that government ecclesiastical, or by whatever term you please; yet there is no true government on earth but the government of God, or the holy Priesthood. Shall I tell you what that is? In short, it is a perfect system of government—a kingdom of Gods and angels and all beings who will submit themselves to that government. There is no other true government in heaven or upon the earth. Do not blame me for believing in a pure and holy government. Is man prepared to receive that government? He is not. I can say to these Latter-day Saints, You are not prepared to receive that government. You hear men and women talk about living and abiding a celestial law, when they do not so much as know what it is, and are not prepared to receive it. We have a little here and a little there given to us, to prove whether we will abide that portion of law that will enable us to enjoy a resurrection with the just. . . . A man who has had his mind opened to the operation of the Priesthood of the Son of God—who understands anything of the government of heaven, must understand that finite beings are not capable of receiving and abiding the celestial law in its fulness. When can you abide a celestial law? When you become a celestial being, and never until then. When you hear men and women talk about living a celestial law, you may know that they are ignorant of the fact that no finite being is living in its fulness, or can. As it is written, we have line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, and it is something that accords with the capacity of finite beings, and you improve upon this, and the Lord will open your minds to receive more, and let you see the order of the eternal Priesthood; but if you do not live your religion, you cannot receive more” (Brigham Young, JD 7:142-3).
“Some members of the Church have an erroneous idea that when the millennium comes all of the people are going to be swept off the earth except righteous members of the Church. That is not so. There will be millions of people, Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Mohammedans, people of all classes, and of all beliefs, still permitted to remain upon the face of the earth, but they will be those who have lived clean lives, those who have been free from wickedness and corruption” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:86).
“And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. . . . For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever” (Micah 4:3, 5).
Righteous people should at least be able to tolerate each other’s different beliefs.
Perhaps the “mystic” could at least accept that the skeptic, agnostic, or atheist has not (yet) had a similar experience.
Perhaps the skeptic, agnostic, or atheist could at least accept that the “mystic” had some kind of powerful, life-changing personal experience. “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).
From James, 414-20:
(1) Mystical states, when well developed, usually are, and have the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the individuals to whom they come. . . . As a matter of psychological fact, mystical states of a well-pronounced and emphatic sort are usually authoritative over those who have them. They have been “there,” and know. It is vain for rationalism to grumble about this. If the mystical truth that comes to a man proves to be a force that he can live by, what mandate have we of the majority to order him to live in another way? We can throw him into a prison or a madhouse, but we cannot change his mind—we commonly attach it only the more stubbornly to its beliefs. It mocks our utmost efforts, as a matter of fact, and in point of logic it absolutely escapes our jurisdiction. Our own more “rational” beliefs are based on evidence exactly similar in nature to that which mystics quote for theirs. Our senses, namely, have assured us of certain states of fact; but mystical experiences are as direct perceptions of fact for those who have them as any sensations ever were for us. The records show that even though the five senses be in abeyance in them, they are absolutely sensational in their epistemological quality, if I may be pardoned the barbarous expression—that is, they are face to face presentations of what seems immediately to exist. . . . The mystic is, in short, invulnerable, and must be left, whether we relish it or not, in undisturbed enjoyment of his creed. . . .
(2) No authority emanates from them which should make it a duty for those who stand outside of them to accept their revelations uncritically. . . mystics have no right to claim that we ought to accept the deliverance of their peculiar experiences, if we are ourselves outsiders and feel no private call thereto. The utmost they can ever ask of us in this life is to admit that they establish a presumption. . . . The fact is that the mystical feeling of enlargement, union, and emancipation has no specific intellectual content whatever of its own. It is capable of forming matrimonial alliances with material furnished by the most diverse philosophies and theologies, provided only they can find a place in their framework for its peculiar emotional mood. We have no right, therefore, to invoke its prestige as distinctively in favor of any special belief, such as that in absolute idealism, or in the absolute monistic identity, or in the absolute goodness, of the world. It is only relatively in favor of all these things—it passes out of common human consciousness in the direction in which they lie. . . .
(3) They break down the authority of the non-mystical or rationalistic consciousness, based upon the understanding and the senses alone. They show it to be only one kind of consciousness. They open out the possibility of other orders of truth, in which, so far as anything in us vitally responds to them, we may freely continue to have faith. . . .
[T]he existence of mystical states absolutely overthrows the pretension of non-mystical states to be the sole and ultimate dictators of what we may believe. As a rule, mystical states merely add a supersensuous meaning to the ordinary outward data of consciousness. They are excitements like the emotions of love or ambition, gifts to our spirit by means of which facts already objectively before us fall into a new expressiveness and make a new connection with our active life. They do not contradict these facts as such, or deny anything that our senses have immediately seized. It is the rationalistic critic rather who plays the part of denier in the controversy, and his denials have no strength, for there never can be a state of facts to which new meaning may not truthfully be added, provided the mind ascend to a more enveloping point of view. It must always remain an open question whether mystical states may not possibly be such superior points of view, windows through which the mind looks out upon a more extensive and inclusive world. The difference of the views seen from the different mystical windows need not prevent us from entertaining this supposition. The wider world would in that case prove to have a mixed constitution like that of this world, that is all. It would have its celestial and its infernal regions, its tempting and its saving moments, its valid experiences and its counterfeit ones, just as our world has them; but it would be a wider world all the same. We should have to use its experiences by selecting and subordinating and substituting just as is our custom in this ordinary naturalistic world; we should be liable to error just as we are now; yet the counting in of that wider world of meanings, and the serious dealing with it, might, in spite of all the perplexity, be indispensable stages in our approach to the final fullness of the truth. . . .From Underhill, 24-5:
Mystical states indeed wield no authority due simply to their being mystical states. But the higher ones among them point in directions to which the religious sentiments even of non-mystical men incline. They tell of the supremacy of the ideal, of vastness, of union, of safety, and of rest. They offer us hypotheses, hypotheses which we may voluntarily ignore, but which as thinkers we cannot possibly upset. The super-naturalism and optimism to which they would persuade us may, interpreted in one way or another, be after all the truest of insights into the meaning of this life.
In mysticism that love of truth which we saw as the beginning of all philosophy leaves the merely intellectual sphere, and takes on the assured aspect of a personal passion. Where the philosopher guesses and argues, the mystic lives and looks; and speaks, consequently, the disconcerting language of first-hand experience, not the neat dialectic of the schools. Hence whilst the Absolute of the metaphysicians remains a diagram—impersonal and unattainable—the Absolute of the mystics is lovable, attainable, alive.
“Oh, taste and see!” they cry, in accents of astounding certainty and joy. “Ours is an experimental science. We can but communicate our system, never its result. We come to you not as thinkers, but as doers. Leave your deep and absurd trust in the senses, with their language of dot and dash, which may possibly report fact but can never communicate personality. If philosophy has taught you anything, she has surely taught you the length of her tether, and the impossibility of attaining to the doubtless admirable grazing land which lies beyond it. One after another, idealists have arisen who, straining frantically at the rope, have announced to the world their approaching liberty; only to be flung back at last into the little circle of sensation. But here we are, a small family, it is true, yet one that refuses to die out, assuring you that we have slipped the knot and are free of those grazing grounds. This is evidence which you are bound to bring into account before you can add up the sum total of possible knowledge; for you will find it impossible to prove that the world as seen by the mystics, ‘unimaginable, formless, dark with excess of bright,’ is less real than that which is expounded by the youngest and most promising demonstrator of a physico-chemical universe. We will be quite candid with you. Examine us as much as you like: our machinery, our veracity, our results. We cannot promise that you shall see what we have seen, for here each man must adventure for himself; but we defy you to stigmatize our experiences as impossible or invalid. Is your world of experience so well and logically founded that you dare make of it a standard? Philosophy tells you that it is founded on nothing better than the reports of your sensory apparatus and the traditional concepts of the race. Certainly it is imperfect, probably it is illusion in any event, it never touches the foundation of things. Whereas ‘what the world, which truly knows nothing, calls “mysticism” is the science of ultimates, . . . the science of self-evident Reality, which cannot be “reasoned about,” because it is the object of pure reason or perception.’”“The Mystic Path is a personal experience, not a mere discussion of ideas. Who wants to hear a description of a beautiful symphony, when he can feel the music for himself? No one is convinced of anything until he inwardly perceives that it is true. We can read about a spiritual precept, talk and reflect about it, but the final proof is internal witness. Then we know. If everyone else on the face of the earth disagreed, we would still stand securely upon the rock of inner illumination” (Howard, 47).
Some may think you are dishonest
On the Internet you can come across people who claim that they have seen the Savior.
You may ask yourself if you should share your experience(s) with others.
You may wonder if your experience(s) would be treated with skepticism.
Perhaps some would wonder, “You? You have so many flaws!” Perhaps sometimes they may be ones who are closest to you.
“And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house” (Matthew 13:54-7).
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
“And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people” (John 7:12).
“However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise. So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith—History 1:24-5).
Some may think you are delusional
Perhaps some would think that you aren’t purposefully trying to be deceptive, but that you really do think you met the Savior, but that it wasn’t really the Savior you met.
There are times in the scriptures where people telling the truth were thought by others to have been “mad.”
“And now when the king had heard these words, he said unto his priests: Away with this fellow [Abinadi], and slay him; for what have we to do with him, for he is mad. And they stood forth and attempted to lay their hands on him; but he withstood them, and said unto them: Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time. But I must fulfil the commandments wherewith God has commanded me; and because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. And again, because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” (Mosiah 13:1-6).
“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He [Jesus] hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?” (John 10:19-20).
“And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished” (Acts 12:11-6).
“That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:23-5).
From Pirsig, 427-8:
The Metaphysics of Quality identifies religious mysticism with Dynamic Quality. It says the subject-object people are almost right when they identify religious mysticism with insanity. The two are almost the same. Both lunatics and mystics have freed themselves from the conventional static intellectual patterns of their culture. The only difference is that the lunatic has shifted over to a private static pattern of his own, whereas the mystic has abandoned all static patterns in favor of pure Dynamic Quality. . . . modern psychology cannot distinguish between a patterned reality and an unpatterned reality and thus cannot distinguish lunatics from mystics. . . .
Even the idea of insanity as “possession by the Devil” can be explained by the Metaphysics of Quality as a lower biological pattern, “the Devil,” trying to overcome a higher pattern of conformity to cultural belief.From James, 417-8:
But more remains to be told, for religious mysticism is only one half of mysticism. The other half has no accumulated traditions except those which the text-books on insanity supply. Open any one of these, and you will find abundant cases in which “mystical ideas” are cited as characteristic symptoms of enfeebled or deluded states of mind. In delusional insanity, paranoia, as they sometimes call it, we may have a diabolical mysticism, a sort of religious mysticism turned upside down. The same sense of ineffable importance in the smallest events, the same texts and words coming with new meanings, the same voices and visions and leadings and missions, the same controlling by extraneous powers; only this time the emotion is pessimistic: instead of consolations we have desolations; the meanings are dreadful; and the powers are enemies to life. It is evident that from the point of view of their psychological mechanism, the classic mysticism and these lower mysticisms spring from the same mental level, from that great subliminal or transmarginal region of which science is beginning to admit the existence, but of which so little is really known. That region contains every kind of matter: “seraph and snake” abide there side by side. To come from thence is no infallible credential. What comes must be sifted and tested, and run the gauntlet of confrontation with the total context of experience, just like what comes from the outer world of sense. Its value must be ascertained by empirical methods, so long as we are not mystics ourselves.
Once more, then, I repeat that non-mystics are under no obligation to acknowledge in mystical states a superior authority conferred on them by their intrinsic nature.
Some may think you have been deceived
Perhaps some would think that you were deceived by someone masquerading as a divine personage.
“Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me” (Moses 1:19).
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-5).
Korihor stated, “the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel” (Alma 30:53).
“Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come, for there should not any come, save it should be a false Messiah which should deceive the people; for there is save one Messiah spoken of by the prophets, and that Messiah is he who should be rejected of the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:18).
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. . . . For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:4-5, 24).
“Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart” (Jeremiah 14:14).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Fruits produced from a genuine experience
You feel you have received a confirmation or witness from the Spirit regarding the truth of the experience. At the moment of the experience, through the Spirit you know that you have not been deceived by some special effects hologram or hallucination induced by drugs, illness, or other causes.
“When you see a vision, pray for the interpretation: if you get not this, shut it up: there must be certainty in this matter. . . . There will be great manifestations of spirits, both false and true” (TPJS, 161).
“The devil may appear as an angel of light. Ask God to reveal it; if it be of the devil, he will flee from you; if of God, He will manifest Himself, or make it manifest. We may come to Jesus and ask Him; He will know all about it” (Ibid., 162).
“We often hear it said that the living oracles must be in the Church, in order that the kingdom of God may be established and prosper on the earth. I will give another version of this sentiment. I say that the living oracles of God, or the Spirit of revelation must be in each and every individual, to know the plan of salvation and keep in the path that leads them to the presence of God” (Brigham Young, JD 9:279).
However, as the time passes after that experience, perhaps memories of the confirmatory impressions also start to fade.
Although you yourself are not trying to deceive anyone, perhaps you are concerned about the possibility that you were delusional or deceived.
Fruits that result from this experience could help provide ongoing positive confirmation.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
Earlier in this study journal, what things are “good” have already been briefly discussed.
Good seeds, whether they are thoughts, words, emotions, or actions, will bring forth or lead to other good seeds.
“And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness. Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away. . . . ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good” (Alma 32:31-5).
“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:18, 22-3).
“For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).
If noetic quality is a correct criterion for a valid experience, then the acquisition of some form of knowledge can be another fruit.
“Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me. And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them” (2 Nephi 4:23-5).
“[W]hen any man obtains this last Comforter, . . . the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, . . . and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions. . . . The Spirit of Revelation is in connection with these blessings. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.,) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus” (TPJS, 150-51).
The form of godliness and the power of godliness
Another fruit is the encouragement to obey God’s ordinances.
“And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances. He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances” (D&C 52:14-6).
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C 84:19-22).
Some have thought that the power of “godliness” is equivalent to the power of “God.” However, that does not seem to be how the word “godliness” was used in the past.
“Ungodliness” is translated from the Greek asebeia “impiety.”
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour” (Titus 2:11-3).
“Godliness” is generally translated from the Greek eusebeia “piety” or “devoutness” (religious devotion). The only exception is in the next paragraph:
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness [theosebeia “devoutness/reverence toward God”]) with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
What people say, wear, and do can reflect one’s devoutness.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:15-6).
“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).
Having a form of godliness would be having the outward appearance of devoutness.
Some people may expect piety in others. Alma told Corianton, “when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words” (Alma 39:11).
If done for the right reasons, there is nothing wrong with the outward form of godliness/devoutness.
It is not a mind-less devotion, but a mind-ful devotion. It is about being sober and quick to observe.
What is wrong is having the outward form of devoutness while denying the power of devoutness (hypocrisy).
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:3-8).
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue . . . And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:3, 5-7).
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:11-2).
“During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three . . . I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament. In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28-9).
After having a life-changing spiritual experience, people may naturally feel the desire to appear more devout outwardly.
“And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness” (Moroni 7:29-30).
“Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory. Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest. For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name” (D&C 19:7-10).
The ordinances are the pinnacle of outward forms.
Our lives in the Church are punctuated by ordinances.
In the ordinances, the power of religious devotion is manifest.
“Their sequence in history suggests that principles emerge from ritual, not the other way around. That is, we don’t perform religious rituals because we believe in God. We believe in God because we perform religious rituals” (Robert Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, 443). “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
“Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them [so that would mean the scriptures], can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject. . . . The organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeable to the most perfect order and harmony: their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to in their heavenly estate by themselves, and were by our first parents subscribed to upon the earth. Hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth by all men upon the earth that expect eternal life. I assure the Saints that truth, in reference to these matters, can and may be known through the revelations of God in the way of His ordinances, and in answer to prayer” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:50-1).
Hopefully your day-to-day outward actions of piety and devotion, in addition to obedience to the ordinances, would help people feel that you are not being dishonest, delusional, or deceived.
Some may think you are boasting
Perhaps some would think that you truly did have the experience, but that you are telling others in order to boast.
People’s pride may cause them to compare. They may wonder why it hasn’t happened to them, and why it has happened to you.
In my other study journal, The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life, I already wrote sections entitled “Grace” and “Passive Salvation.” We certainly have no reason to boast about ourselves, ever.
“And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2:23-4).
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy—yea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times” (Alma 38:14).
“And it came to pass that when Ammon had said these words, his brother Aaron rebuked him, saying: Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting. But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever” (Alma 26:10-2).
Temptations to avoid
Although you may not be intending to be boastful, it would be good to avoid the temptation of thinking that you are better than everyone else.
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
“Seeing the Lord does not make a man a Saint, seeing an angel does not make a man a Saint by any means” (Brigham Young, JD 2:316).
“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come” (Mosiah 4:11).
Avoid the temptation of complacency. After having such an experience, a person may be tempted to think that they should follow the exact same course they’re on (continue the same lifestyle and behavior, etc.). Complacency could hinder further spiritual progression. Seeing the Savior is not the end of our spiritual journey (this will be discussed later).
Avoid the temptation of thinking that everything you think, everything you say, and everything you do is now acceptable and right.
You may be tempted to think that you know the exact path that everyone must take to have such an experience. Perhaps with good intentions, you may attempt to write down a “cookbook” or “checklist,” based on your own experience, that you can pass on to others. (For example: “Step 1. Pray twice a day; Step 2. Go to the temple once a week;” etc.). However, don’t assume that everyone must do the exact same things you did, or avoid the exact same things you avoided. It is likely that the path varies for each individual.
Avoid the temptation of thinking that all of your ideas regarding the gospel are now all correct. Remember that you still have a limited mind.
“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2).
“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galatians 6:3).
You may have a desire to share certain things that you have learned, but be aware of the level of capacity and understanding that those people around you are currently on.
“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
Avoid priestcraft. The focus should always be the Savior, not ourselves.
“Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor” (Alma 1:16).
“He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Nephi 26:29).
“And my vineyard has become corrupted every whit; and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds” (D&C 33:4).
Avoid the temptation of negative emotions that may come over time after having withdrawn from a divine presence. After a great theophany, when you are back left alone to yourself, you realize what great light is now missing. You may long for that light again.
“And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:9-10).
“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” (TPJS, 149-51).
“We should consider that of ourselves we can do nothing. We are the children of God. We are in darkness, [unless] God enlightens our understanding. We are powerless, [unless] God helps us. The work that we have to do here is of that nature that we cannot do it unless we have the assistance of the Almighty. … Here is the great trouble with men of the world, and too much so with the Elders of Israel; we forget that we are working for God; we forget that we are here in order to carry out certain purposes that we have promised the Lord that we would carry out” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 180).
“Jesus said to his disciples, to them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them that were without, it was not given. If we were to examine the subject closely, we should learn that a very scanty portion of the things of the kingdom were ever revealed, even to the disciples. If we were prepared to gaze upon the mysteries of the kingdom, as they are with God, we should then know that only a very small portion of them has been handed out here and there. God, by His Spirit, has revealed many things to His people, but, in almost all cases, He has straightway shut up the vision of the mind. He will let His servants gaze upon eternal things for a moment, but straightway the vision is closed, and they are left as they were, that they may learn to act by faith, or as the Apostle has it, not walking by sight, but by faith” (Brigham Young, JD 1:264).
“When the vision of your mind is opened by the Eternal Spirit, you measurably see Zion in its beauty and perfection, and are filled with ecstacies of joy; but when the vision closes, you still find yourselves in this dark and benighted world. In a vision of Zion in its glory, you do not see your own and your brethren’s foibles, while you are struggling from day to day to prepare yourselves to participate in the glory you gaze upon while you are in the spirit” (Brigham Young, JD 7:333).
You go back to your day-to-day “struggling” on this fallen world, perhaps yearning for the next great spiritual experience. If nothing of the same magnitude arises for some time, you could feel that you are having a “dark night of the soul.”
“And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Luke 5:33-5).
When the Savior is present, you will feel filled. When the Savior is absent, you will feel relatively empty.
It is possible that as the years pass, and the former sensations and emotions fade in your memory, there might arise the temptation of doubt, as you ask yourself: Did it really happen?
“O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Mosiah 2:41).
“I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings” (Psalms 77:11-2).
“[A] man is confronted with all forms of illusion, not only the illusions of the senses, but also those of abstract thought and religious emotion. It is in the testing of, grappling with, and ultimately destroying, these illusions that he develops still higher powers, those of discrimination, spiritual perception, steadfastness of purpose, and calmness of mind, by the exercise of which he is enabled to unerringly distinguish the true from the false, both in the world of thought and that of material appearances. . . . He has not only realized the darkness of desire; he has also perceived the vanity of speculative philosophy, and so rids his mind of all those metaphysical subtleties which have no relation to practical holiness, and which hitherto encumbered his progress and prevented him from seeing the enduring realities in life. And now he casts from him, one after another, his opinions and speculations, and commences to live the life of perfect love toward all beings. With each opinion overcome and abandoned as a burden, there is an increased lightness of spirit, and he now begins to realize the meaning of being ‘free.’ . . . The pursuit of this Path brings about the development of still higher powers of mind, and these powers are—divine patience, spiritual equanimity, non-resistance, and prophetic insight. By prophetic insight I do not mean, the foretelling of events, but direct perception of those hidden causes which operate in human life, and, indeed, in all life, and out of which spring the multifarious and universal effects and events” (James Allen, Entering the Kingdom, chapter 3).
You may be concerned about revealing mysteries to the world
The Spirit reveals the mysteries to an individual. We are to seek the mysteries of God. (This has already been addressed in “The Mysteries of God” section in The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life.)
Until a prophet, seer, and revelator reveals a mystery to the world, the mysteries are a subject of individual study and are generally not to be revealed to others.
“Oh, ye elders of Israel, hearken to my voice; and when you are sent into the world to preach, tell those things you are sent to tell; preach and cry aloud, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.’ Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand” (TPJS, 292).
Joseph Smith stated that the principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation (Ibid., 297). Lucifer, not knowing the mind of God (Moses 4:6), thought that he could save all mankind (Moses 4:1). Therefore, he thought that all could attain to the same level of knowledge. The Savior knew that there would be some who could not be saved, so there are people who cannot bear certain levels of knowledge.
“I ask myself why it is that people do not learn to be satisfied and contented with what they do know, until they are instructed and learn more, and practice this principle in their lives. We are taught here all the time to be passive and contented, to do the things we know how to do. Still I have no question, but what, if I could unobserved and unknown to them listen to the remarks of many of the Elders, or of brethren and sisters, I should hear doctrines taught and suggestions made which God never designed to have His servants teach. At the same time remarks such as these might be dropped, ‘I am impressed and the Spirit leads me thus and so; true, I believe all that is written and taught, but I tell you that brother Brigham does not tell us all of it; he says he does not, but that he tells us as fast as we can understand and practice what he does teach.’ Now that is true; but all do not stop and reflect, neither do they fully understand the principles of the Gospel, the principles of the holy Priesthood; and from this cause many imbibe the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the devil has power over them to lead them on to unholy ground; though this is a lesson which they ought to have learned long ago, yet it is one that was learned by but few in the days of Joseph” (Brigham Young, JD 3:318).
Many times it may not be helpful to reveal the mysteries to others anyway; some are not prepared.
“Behold, thou shalt observe all these things, and great shall be thy reward; for unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but unto the world it is not given to know them” (D&C 42:65).
But the doctrine that Jesus Christ lives is not a mystery. The doctrine that people can meet the Savior in these latter days is not a mystery. These facts have already been revealed and taught by the prophets. The Standard Works document His premortal and postmortal appearances to some.
As you read people’s testimonies of seeing the Savior in the next two sections, you can think about these witnesses and ask yourself: Do you feel that they were dishonest, deceived, delusional, or boastful when they testified that they saw the Savior?
“Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. And the Lord appeared unto them” (D&C 107:53-4).
Enoch “saw the Lord, and he walked with him, and was before his face continually” (D&C 107:49). He testified, “I turned and went up on the mount; and as I stood upon the mount, I beheld the heavens open, and I was clothed upon with glory; And I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face” (Moses 7:3-4).
“And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him” (Genesis 12:7). “I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made” (Abraham 3:11).
Jacob stated, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).
“And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink” (Exodus 24:9-11).
Isaiah wrote, “In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up . . . mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:1, 5).
Ezekiel said, “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (Ezekiel 1:26-8).
Amos said, “I saw the Lord standing upon the altar” (Amos 9:1).
The brother of Jared “could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him” (Ether 3:20). “And the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross” (Ether 4:1). So the brother of Jared was even told to write these things down for people in the future to read.
Emer “even saw the Son of Righteousness, and did rejoice and glory in his day” (Ether 9:22).
Lehi, “being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day” (1 Nephi 1:8-9).
“I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words. Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him. And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Nephi 11:2-5).
King Lamoni said, “For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer” (Alma 19:13).
“While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful; And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance” (D&C 138:18-9).
“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:9-14).
Stephen, “being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).
Paul testified, “I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:15-8).
Paul stated, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
“And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children” (3 Nephi 17:25).
Mormon said, “I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Mormon 1:15).
Ivan J. Barrett wrote, “in this last dispensation, more than a score of others testify that they have seen the Savior and that he in very deed lives” (“He Lives! For We Saw Him,” Ensign, August 1975). He has collected accounts of Martin Harris, Alexander Neibaur, and Alfred Douglas Young seeing the Savior.
Newel Knight “saw heaven opened, and beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, and had it made plain to his understanding that the time would come when he would be admitted into His presence to enjoy His society for ever and ever” (History of the Church 1:85).
Lyman Wight “saw the heavens open and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father” (Ibid., 1:176, footnote).
During a meeting of the School of the Prophets, “Many of the brethren saw a heavenly vision of the Savior” (Ibid., 1:335).
After the High Councils of Zion and Kirtland were anointed, “Some of them saw the face of the Savior” (Ibid., 2:382).
During the Kirtland Temple dedication, “The Savior made His appearance to some” (Ibid., 2:432).
“Frederick G. Williams . . . bore testimony that the Savior, dressed in his vesture without seam, came into the stand and accepted of the dedication of the house, that he saw him, and gave a description of his clothing and all things pertaining to it” (George A. Smith, JD 11:10).
“I thought I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. . . . His face, which was towards me, streamed with tears” (Orson F. Whitney, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia 1:660-1).
“As I was riding along . . . I seemed to see, and I seemed to hear, what to me is one of the most real things in my life. . . . In this council the Savior was present, my Father was there, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was there” (Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, April 1941, 4-6).
“I then fell asleep, and beheld in Vision something infinitely sublime. . . . I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. . . . Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their Leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and body, I recognized him at once as my Savior!” (Clare Middlemiss, ed., Cherished Experiences: From the Writings of David O. McKay, 1955, Deseret Book, 102).
“And then more than 40 years ago I had a dream which I am sure was from the Lord. In this dream I was in the presence of my Savior as he stood mid-air” (George F. Richards, quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, “The Cause Is Just and Worthy,” Ensign, May 1974).
“I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him” (George Q. Cannon, Ibid.).
Before him stood the resurrected Savior, who told him what he needed to do. President Snow later told his granddaughter Alice Pond about this experience. Alice recorded the conversation she had with her grandfather in the Salt Lake Temple:
“. . . [I]n the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grandpa when he stopped me and said: ‘Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’
“Then grandpa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’
“Grandpa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.
“Then he came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, granddaughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grandfather, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face.’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 238-9)“I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night in that sacred building, the temple. After a season of prayer and rejoicing I was informed that I should have the privilege of entering into one of those rooms, to meet a glorious Personage, and, as I entered the door, I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, he arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and he smiled as he softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, pressed me to his bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When he had finished, I fell at his feet, and, as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of him who hath all things in his hands, to have his love, his affection, and his blessing was such that if I can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be, to feel what I then felt!” (Melvin J. Ballard, “Classic Discourses from the General Authorities: The Sacramental Covenant,” Ensign, January 1976).
“The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected, and the election made sure. ‘I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives,’ said John Taylor, my predecessor, ‘for I have seen him.’ I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of the Church,” Ensign, May 1978).
“Here are men who say they have actually received revelations from God; that God has poured out the Holy Ghost upon men and women; that Jesus has actually visited the earth in person, and been seen by living men; and that angels have been seen and conversed with by living men. They state this in all solemnity and in all truth, and as a test of the sincerity of their statements, they say to their fellow men: ‘If you will take a certain course that God has pointed out, and that we are authorized to designate; if you will take this certain course, you shall know also of the truth of our testimony. We do not make these statements expecting you to receive them simply because we make them; but we say to you, if you will take this course, if you will accept the conditions which God has prescribed and comply with them in sincerity and humility, you shall receive these blessings and this testimony for yourselves, and you then will be numbered as witnesses with us’” (George Q. Cannon, JD 25:24-5).
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon testified, “[T]he record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision. . . . And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God” (D&C 76:14, 22-3).
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery testified, “We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun” (D&C 110:2-3).
What kinds of thoughts and emotions do you get when you read about these kinds of theophanies?
Do you feel grateful that these people recorded them for you to read?
Or do you think that they should have kept silent, that they should not have recorded those sacred things?
Nephi writes, “. . . the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet . . . And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying: Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (3 Nephi 11:10-11, 14-17). They had been in his presence and they could testify. . . .
In a little schoolhouse in Michigan in 1834, Edward Stevenson heard him [Joseph Smith] testify: “I am a witness that there is a God, for I saw Him in open day. . . .” Stevenson then recorded, “Oh how these words . . . filled me with joy unspeakable, to behold one who, like Paul the Apostle . . . could with boldness testify, that he had been in the presence of Jesus Christ.”
Spiritual knowledge and spiritual experiences must not and need not disappear from the mind of modern man, because the testimonies of ancient and modern prophets have been recorded for man’s own benefit, and today believers testify of these truths. Modern man must replace uncertainties and doubt with a desire to know more of Jesus. (David B. Haight, “What Does Jesus Mean to Modern Man?”, Ensign, May 1974)
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, . . . he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12:1-2).
The above scripture is very interesting. The Savior was telling the multitude, not just His disciples, to testify that they have seen Him, and know that He lives. And by so doing, others will believe their words and become converted.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:1-2).
There will be future manifestations
“Jesus has been upon the earth a great many more times than you are aware of. When Jesus makes his next appearance upon the earth, but few of this Church and kingdom will be prepared to receive him and see him face to face and converse with him; but he will come to his temple” (Brigham Young, JD 7:142).
“Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God, who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge respecting his character and glory will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until, like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to behold him face to face” (Lectures on Faith 2:55).
“And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last” (1 Nephi 13:42).
“And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith” (2 Nephi 26:12-3).
Alma said, “I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all. Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God” (Mosiah 27:30-1).
“And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together” (D&C 101:23).
“The word of the Lord is precious . . . the veil spread over all nations will be destroyed, and the pure in heart see God” (TPJS, 93).
The witness of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy
Not all of the eyewitnesses quoted earlier were people sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. However, Moses did say, “would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29).
“Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation” (TPJS, 148).
“I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
“Alma went and began to declare the word of God unto the church which was established in the valley of Gideon, according to the revelation of the truth of the word which had been spoken by his fathers, and according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called” (Alma 6:8).
“If any person should ask me if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, as that would give me the lie; for, according to John, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, if I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness; but if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy, and that constitutes a prophet; and any man who says he is a teacher or a preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophecy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; and by this key false teachers and impostors may be detected” (TPJS, 269).
People who have a testimony or witness of the Savior can make prophetic statements regarding future events. Something as simple as the statement that one will be resurrected someday is a prophetic statement, since it’s a statement of an event that hasn’t occurred yet.
“I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-6).
“I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father” (Enos 1:27).
“I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God. I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name” (Alma 5:45-8).
“And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).
“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:20-1).
“I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day” (Mormon 2:19).
“And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come” (Jacob 1:6).
“You are praying every day, ‘Thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ You never can know how it is done in heaven, unless you can see it by vision; or the kingdom, when it does come, unless it is revealed to you by the spirit of prophecy, or in dreams and visions; then you know it” (Orson Hyde, JD 2:84).
“It is the privilege of every man and woman in this kingdom to enjoy the spirit of prophecy, which is the Spirit of God; and to the faithful it reveals such things as are necessary for their comfort and consolation, and to guide them in their daily duties” (Wilford Woodruff, JD 9:325).
“But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3).
“For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth” (Alma 3:27).
“And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them” (Alma 10:12).
Discernment can be related to the spirit of prophecy. In terms of making predictions, the person with discernment is identifying where the other person is mentally headed, regarding intent and motivation. “Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy” (Alma 12:7).
It is relatively easier to correctly understand someone on an equal or lower mental-spiritual level than yourself. It is relatively more difficult to correctly understand someone on a higher mental-spiritual level than yourself. “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13).
“Oh that the testimony of Christ, which is the spirit of prophecy, were freely shed upon all this people! It would be, if we were all pure and worthy. Then one need no longer say to another, Know ye the Lord; for they would all know Him, from the least unto the greatest” (Orson Hyde, JD 5:72).
“Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come” (Alma 25:16).
“Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (Jacob 4:6).
“After the days of Moses the children of Israel, from time to time, corrupted themselves before the Most High; they would not abide even in the lower law; but there were a few individuals in the various generations of Israel, such as Prophets, Schools of Prophets, &c., which received the higher law, and obtained the higher priesthood, and were blessed of the Lord, and had the privilege of entering into his rest, being filled with the spirit of prophecy and revelation, having the power not only to prophesy and to obtain revelation, but to come up by virtue of the higher law, into near communion with the Father and the Son” (Orson Pratt, JD 15:69).
Seeing the Savior is not necessarily the same as the more sure word of prophecy
Although seeing the Savior is a great experience, it is not the end of your spiritual journey. In spite of the wonderful emotions that would accompany the event, after the event has passed, you find that there still remain areas in which to progress.
The more sure testimony or witness of Jesus can be associated with the key of knowledge and the more sure word of prophecy.
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:16-9).
“[T]here is ‘a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed.’ There is revelation, a means of direct communication from God to man, a power which can rend the veil between us and god, open the eyes of our understanding, and bring us into proximity to him, so that we may know him as he is, and learn from his own mouth and from the mouths of his holy messengers his laws and will concerning us, as anciently. This is the principle by which Adam knew God in the garden where he was placed in the beginning. God came to him day by day, and converses with another . . . Men have enjoyed privileges from that day to this, in proportion to their worthiness, through every Gospel dispensation, thereby obtaining a knowledge of God for themselves . . . From time to time the Lord raised up Prophets, to whom he has appeared, either himself or by his messengers, as to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the Prophets from the beginning, revealing his will and making known his requirements, so that they have had a positive knowledge given to them of God himself. We claim that in this dispensation this key of knowledge has been restored to man, and we stand upon the same footing with the ancients, and are not left in uncertainty or doubt, the truth of the Gospel being confirmed upon our understandings by inspiration and revelation from God, ‘line upon line, and precept upon precept,’ until we have obtained a knowledge of God” (Joseph F. Smith, JD 15:327-8).
The key of knowledge as “the fullness of the scriptures” (JST Luke 11:53) helps unlock what we need to know from a particular scripture at a given time. “Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4).
“The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood” (D&C 131:5).
Although seeing the Savior can accompany having one’s calling and election sure, they could also be separate events.
“‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and he answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Nephi 27:27). Now there is a lifetime goal—to walk in his steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as he has done, to seek his face, and to work to make our calling and election sure” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Do Not Despair,” October 1974 General Conference).
The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants contain some accounts of people having their calling and election made sure.
“And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this? And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me. And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you” (Ether 3:9-13). This scripture applies if you consider being “redeemed from the fall” as having one’s calling and election made sure.
“And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things” (Ether 12:37-9).
“And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God. And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying: Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi. . . . And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people. Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine. And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed. Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep. . . . And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them” (Mosiah 26:13-5, 17-20, 33).
The Lord told nine of the twelve Nephite disciples, “Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest” (3 Nephi 28:3). He told the other three disciples, “when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father” (3 Nephi 28:8).
The Lord told Joseph Smith, “I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father” (D&C 132:49).
The greatest hope/expectation obtainable in this life is receiving this more sure word of prophecy. Receiving the promise of eternal life would be the crowning blessing of mortality.
However, even that is not the end of your spiritual journey. After having your calling and election made “sure,” you can still fall if you deny the Holy Spirit.
Such is the power of agency. An act of agency can even cancel out a “sure” thing.
Meeting the Savior is not the same as knowing Him
Meeting the Savior, and therefore knowing that He lives, gives you a wonderful piece of static information. It becomes a major steppingstone in your journey. However, as wonderful as it is, it is not the end of your spiritual journey.
The end, or goal, of your journey is knowing the Savior, which is eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
People, such as Judas Iscariot and Joseph Smith at age 14, have met the Savior, but did not have eternal life at that time. Therefore, seeing or meeting the Savior is not the same as knowing Him.
Lowell L. Bennion wrote, “Knowledge is geared to the past, faith to the future. . . . In the realm of knowledge we conform to life; in the realm of faith we create life. . . . In life as a whole, faith is as important as knowledge, and vice versa. We have no need to choose between them. We need to gain all the knowledge we can, and then push out by the light of faith beyond the limits of knowledge” (An Introduction to the Gospel, 11).
Paul lists faith, hope, and charity as the things that abide, that endure. He did not include knowledge. Knowledge as pieces of facts and information is static, incomplete, and partial. Faith is dynamic. Faith in something beyond our current knowledge is abiding, enduring. Both are necessary.
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. . . . And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 13).
If our eternal progression is like walking up steps, then static knowledge represents the steps themselves, and dynamic faith empowers us to walk up these steps.
Coming to know that the Savior lives is a wonderful, glorious step along the path to becoming like Him. Faith, hope, and charity help drive us to continue our ascent.
We strive to receive more than just His glory, but also His fullness (D&C 76:76).
We strive to receive more than just the presence of the Son, but also the fullness of the Father (D&C 76:77).
What distinguishes a terrestrial type of person from a celestial type of person?
In Lehi’s dream, two types of people partook of the fruit of tree of life. Both types pressed forward and caught hold of the end of the iron rod.
“I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed. . . . And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:24-5, 28).
“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree. . . . And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not” (1 Nephi 8:30, 33).
The first type was “clinging” to the iron rod, and became ashamed because of the scoffing people.
The other type was “continually holding fast” to the iron rod, and did not heed the scoffing people.
Those of a terrestrial mindset are perhaps too concerned about what others think of them. Perhaps they overly rely on the guidance of men and the arm of flesh, instead of relying more on the Spirit.
“These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (D&C 76:75).
Those who are valiant in their testimony or witness of Jesus can obtain the celestial glory.
“Wherefore, they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun. These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God” (D&C 76:78-9).
“All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 121:29).
“Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:2-3).
Follow the Spirit
Could being “valiant” in one’s testimony also be related to sharing or bearing one’s testimony?
The title of this study journal poses what may be a related question—If you meet Christ, should you tell others?
“We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
“The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:425).
So the answer, which you probably knew all along, is to follow the Spirit.
“If the Lord Almighty should reveal to a High Priest, or to any other than the head, things that are, or that have been and will be, and show to him the destiny of this people twenty-five years from now, or a new doctrine that will in five, ten, or twenty years hence become the doctrine of this Church and kingdom, but which has not yet been revealed to this people, and reveal it to him by the same Spirit, the same messenger, the same voice, and the same power that gave revelations to Joseph when he was living, it would be a blessing to that High Priest, or individual; but he must rarely divulge it to a second person on the face of the earth, until God reveals it through the proper source to become the property of the people at large. . . . If they had received from the proper source, the same power that revealed to them would have shown them that they must keep the things revealed in their own bosoms, and they seldom would have a desire to disclose them to the second person. That is a general rule, but will it apply in every case, and to the people called the kingdom of God at all times? No, not in the strictest sense, but the Spirit which reveals will impart the proper discretion” (Brigham Young, JD 3:318).
“Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons. . . . If a person understands God and godliness, the principles of heaven, the principle of integrity, and the Lord reveals anything to that individual, no matter what, unless He gives permission to disclose it, it is locked up in eternal silence” (Brigham Young, JD 4:287-8).
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. . . . Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings whenever and wherever He is disposed to bestow” (TPJS, 256).
“Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do” (2 Nephi 32:6).
“And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind” (JST Romans 7:24).
“Visions do happen. Voices are heard from beyond the veil. I know this. But these experiences are exceptional. And when we have a great and exceptional experience, we rarely speak of it publicly because we are instructed not to do so (see D&C 63:64) and because we understand that the channels of revelation will be closed if we show these things before the world” (Dallin H. Oaks, “In His Own Time, in His Own Way,” Ensign, August 2013, 27). He said “rarely,” but not “never.”
The scripture he referred to is key: “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation” (D&C 63:64).
If you are following the Spirit in what you say and don’t say, there is no condemnation. If you are not following the Spirit, then there is condemnation.
If the Spirit constrains you to not testify, then do not.
Sometimes some people are told by the Spirit to testify of something. Sometimes others are told not to testify of that very same thing.
“And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see. But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them. . . . I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John” (1 Nephi 14:24-6, 27).
“There are some living today who have experienced the glorious personal manifestation of the Savior, but who have been constrained not to disclose their experience” (Barrett).
Because different people can be given different instructions, we cannot judge others, whether they should be testifying or whether they should be silent.
If the Spirit constrains you to testify, then do so.
“I have spoken unto you, according as the Spirit hath constrained me” (2 Nephi 28:1). “I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them” (2 Nephi 4:14).
If the Spirit constrains or compels you to testify of sacred things, you will learn to speak carefully, and pray to have the Spirit to direct you in what you should and should not say. 2 Nephi 32:3, 5 states, “the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. . . . if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”
You will also be learning to whom you are allowed to testify (whether it be one person, a specific group of people, or the entire world).
You will also be learning in what manner you are to testify (verbally, online, etc.).
Testify of that which you are allowed.
“Write the things which ye have seen and heard, save it be those which are forbidden” (3 Nephi 27:23).
How you think others may react should not deter you.
D&C 122:9 states, “fear not what man can do.”
“Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
“I will be your king and watch over you. Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand?” (D&C 38:21-2).
“God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations. . . . I tell you by the spirit of prophecy, that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind. But if ye keep the commandments of God, and do with these things which are sacred according to that which the Lord doth command you, (for you must appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever ye must do with them) behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you” (Alma 37:14-6).
If you are doing what the Spirit directs you to do, rather than being fearful, you are to take courage.
“Of course we will face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. . . . A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh” (Thomas S. Monson, “Courage Counts,” October 1986 General Conference).
In the New Testament, when Jesus tells people to “be of good cheer,” the Greek tharseo is used—to have courage. (On the other hand, in Acts 27, when Paul, not Jesus, tells people to be of good cheer, the Greek euthumeo is used—to be cheerful, merry.)
Courage leads back to being valiant, which was discussed earlier. Alma 53:20 uses the phrase “valiant for courage.”
“Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27).
“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11).
D&C 68:6 states, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.”
“Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face; and thou shalt bear record of my name, not only unto the Gentiles, but also unto the Jews; and thou shalt send forth my word unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 112:4).
D&C 61:36 states, “what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you.”
D&C 78:18 states, “be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.”
* * * * * * *
I absolutely know that the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ lives, and that it is possible to meet Him during this mortal life.
I know this through personal experience, the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God.
Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.