It sat there on the front seat of the pick-up truck, that angelic feminine face staring up at me with those huge brown eyes beneath the ethereal halo of light. We were saying good-bye to family and friend on a Sunday evening when I saw it. I said, “What’s that book?” “Oh, it’s called the “Second Comforter”. “Hmmm, that’s interesting. What’s it about?” “Well, you’d have to read it. It’s about Christ, of course. It’s a lot better than that ‘pablum’ you get from Deseret Book”.
Well, that set me off, although I didn’t say much other than to patiently defend Deseret Book and the content of its shelves. After all, I soooo felt the spirit when I walked into that store, right? I’m sure my friends were saying something about “True believing Mormons” and how naïve we were as they drove away. However, my interest was piqued. During a later discussion, the friend suggested that I re-read the chapters of Christ’s visit to the Nephites in 3 Nephi. I took his suggestion and began asking questions. I had been told that I shouldn’t read the book “until I was ready”, which, of course, perked me right up. “What do you mean, I may not be ‘ready’?” I thought to myself. Then, when I heard a couple of weeks later, “Well, you might be ready”, I went right off to Amazon and ordered my own copy of Denver Snuffer’s first book, “The Second Comforter – Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil”. Isn’t it funny how the Lord will even use blatant male pride to accomplish His purposes?
So I read. I was stunned. I was also frightened. According to the book, the Lord wants us, invites us, practically commands us (ok – that may be pushing it) to seek His face! The author supported his thesis using little more than scripture and the words of Joseph, with the occasional quote from other church leaders. My world changed just a little after I read it. Even though my perception of Jesus Christ suddenly got a lot more personal, my perspective on the gospel only changed “just a little”. I went on about my post-missionary business (my wife and I were less than 6 months returned from our mission in Paris), quite committed to pursuing life as a respected and faithful member of the Lord’s church.
Then, something prompted me to go back and read it again. This time the impact on my life was even greater. What stuck out this time, and what frightened me even more, was Denver’s assertion that a visitation from the Lord can only take place after your faith has been proven beyond any doubt, a process which will necessarily require great sacrifice…a scary degree of sacrifice…Abrahamic trial-type sacrifice…like agreeing to slay your first born if necessary based on the word of the Lord. It was with naïve courage and considerable passion that I finally brought myself to cry unto the Lord, saying, “Lord, whatever it takes, I submit myself! I desire this gift, this experience, so much that I will do whatever it takes, because I trust you and I know that you won’t give me any trials that I cannot handle! I know this is your desire – that I desire this gift – and I cannot reject your offer, for to do so would be to reject you!” I quietly, of course, over the next hours and days followed that up with, “…but please, don’t take my wife!”
I really had no idea what things, what sacrifices, what trials, He was going to ask of me. I honestly still don’t feel like I’ve been asked to go through any great trials in my quest to seek His face – to keep that “commandment”. I do feel, though…no, I know…that, ever since that day on my knees, when I said, “Whatever it takes, Lord”, He has been preparing me. It’s been almost 4 years now, and looking back I can definitely recognize His hand in so many things. After all, I firmly believe it is the journey into His presence that changes us, not the event. Sharing aspects of my journey, which is not yet complete, is what this post is ultimately about.
A Trail of Bread Crumbs
Do you ever wonder how people “get called” to serve the Lord? I have – for pretty much all my life. I think we Mormons are just pretty much conditioned to believe that we “get called” by a person through their inspiration from the Lord. Most, I’m sure, believe that Zion will be built by those who are called by the prophet or someone with priesthood keys to go build it. Such has decidedly not been my experience. Oh, the first few callings – over the first 4-5 years of my membership, were like that – someone was generously looking for a calling for the new guy, and I accepted it – but then that pattern stopped when Diana and I volunteered to serve an “inner-city mission” in Salt Lake City. Indeed, the last 5 callings I had in the LDS church, covering the last 12+ years, were callings I asked for. It wasn’t “aspiring” – they were just opportunities to serve in areas where there was need, and Diana and/or I “volunteered”. I was never satisfied waiting for someone to call me to a service. I desired to serve, and I sought opportunities. Now, I can’t really say my desires were totally altruistic. I also had, and still do, a desire for my service to be seen and valued. Such may not have been the primary motivation, but it was certainly a part of it. Fortunately for me, the Lord overlooked that part of me, and focused primarily on the desire to please Him. As a matter of fact, he’s always good at overlooking the rough spots, and magnifying the parts of us that He can use.
How, then, if not by inspired callings from a priesthood leader, does the Lord call one to His service? How does one receive his “calling” directly from the Lord? Well, I liken the process to following a trail of bread crumbs – kind of the reverse of the story of Hansel and Gretel. It’s a pretty simply process, really – very similar to the concept of “line upon line, precept upon precept – here a little, there a little”. The first step is for us to say, “Here I am Lord. I want to serve…use me”. At some point, the Lord will most likely drop a bread crumb. It might be something as seemingly insignificant as going to visit a sick neighbor, or as overwhelming as “write a book”. If you pick up the bread crumb, He will soon drop another. You might very well skip over one and not pick it up. If you do that, it will probably be a little longer before you see another one, but you will have another chance. Obviously, the more bread crumbs you pick up, the more frequently He will drop them and the bigger they will be. The more bread crumbs you accumulate, the quicker you end up arriving at wherever they lead.
A Personal Experience
Please forgive me for sharing so many personal experiences. It’s just that they’re the only ones I can share with complete confidence that what I’m sharing really happened. Although I’m sharing my experiences, the message cannot be about me – it must be about the Lord; about His love, compassion, empathy, mercy, and justice; and about hoping that my experiences provide insight that perhaps someone can use. Toward that end, I share the following:
It was February 27, 2015 when the Lord first broached the subject of me quitting my job. I was shocked. I had planned to work for 7-8 more years before retiring, and there is no way I’m financially prepared – at least not according to the wisdom
of the world. A week later, He was more adamant about me laying my job on the altar, but at the same time He was re-assuring – telling me to take it easy, begin to learn to shun babylon, and – as always – to trust Him. Another week, and He said, “Love your job while you have it”. I almost laugh out loud as I go back and read these things in my journal and reflect on the timing and upon His gentleness. He said, “It is not yet time…you will know”. Finally, about 6 weeks later, I knew. I just…simply…knew. He had told me I would be ready, and I was. There was no longer any hesitation or any doubt – so when He said I was to quit by the end of September, I was ready. Now, I find the job to be a burden interfering with the real work of my life.
So, what happened here? How did I, in the space of about 8 weeks, go from being shocked that He would ask me to “sacrifice” my job, to “Ok, Lord, I’m ready now…how long do I have to wait?” I’m sure you can see that this episode is really a metaphor for the life of one who “answers the call”. He beckons, we recoil, he waits and beckons again, we recoil not quite so much…I’m sure you get the picture. I can’t say I really know the answer to the question, “how did it happen”, but, if you’re interested, maybe we can figure it out together. Then hopefully, we can all understand better how the Lord works in the lives of those who are willing to…”Come Unto Me”. Even more importantly, perhaps we can understand better what is required of us – how we need to respond and what we need to do and understand in order to even be able to respond to the call.
Putting the Pieces Together
First, I think we need to learn to really love Him. He actually makes that pretty easy – even if we only meet Him halfway. I remember one time reading of an encounter by Joseph F. Smith with the Savior, in which Christ bemoaned the fact that His children had all deserted Him. I can’t find the reference, and it doesn’t matter if it’s true. What matters is my own reaction, which was to immediately get on my knees and, with great emotion, cry unto the Lord that I never, never wanted to be one who had deserted Him. I still feel that way today, only even more so.
Next, a bit of a dichotomy. On the one hand, the Lord demands of us a broken heart and a contrite spirit, coupled with an awareness that we are indeed nothing without Him – even less than the dust of the earth. On the other hand, though, I think we need a sort of confidence in Him and in His love, compassion, empathy, mercy, and justice. If we have a testimony of His atonement, we should not fear Him, no matter how aware we are of our weakness. After all, He did promise that He would “…make weak things become strong…” (Ether 12:27). The result of melding these two seemingly opposite conditions is an oddly organic sort of peace. We are, and should be, stripped of pride before Him, yet have such confidence in Him and His loving nature that we have no fear of meeting Him, of hearing Him, of accepting the fact that He truly wants to be our friend – just to be our friend. In this way, we become willing to listen to His words – the thoughts that come into our heads as we pray – and to accept them and act on them.
We need to build a relationship on 2-way trust and honesty. What do I mean by “2-way”. Obviously, I’m referring to trusting and being honest with each other, but I also mean trusting in Him and in ourselves…being honest with Him and with ourselves. This is the ultimate peace, the sort of integrity that I believe will withstand His glory when He returns to reclaim His kingdom. Without it, I believe we will most certainly be burned at His coming. There are scriptures and scholars who speak of the need to have a special witness, of having to see His face, to receive of His fullness if we are to be able to stand in His presence. I’m sure they’re right to a great extent, but I think it all really boils down to complete honesty with Him, which requires, of course, complete honesty with yourself. If we are pure, He will accept us as His. How else could one even hope to have a relationship with a perfectly righteous being, after all?
Repentance is most certainly a major component of this – but there comes a point, I think, when it’s not even repentance and confession to Him that’s required, it’s more of an honest and loving repentance and confession to ourselves. He already knows our faults and weaknesses – but He loves us anyway. It’s very much like a marriage – the bride to the bridegroom – in that it is like my relationship with my wife. Her love is as near unconditional as is humanly possible. I rarely need to ask forgiveness, because I rarely do anything that requires her forgiveness, but when I do (I prefer Dos Equis?), I simply confess my imperfection, proclaim how worthless I am, and manipulate the situation so that she can’t possibly punish me any more than I am already punishing myself. Ok – that’s a joke – but seriously, I think there comes a point in our relationship with Christ where our love for each other and our understanding of each other transcend “confessional” type repentance. That doesn’t mean we get casual – we love Him too much for that – it just means…”trust me – relax” and “my love is unconditional”.
At some point, in all of this, we will hopefully catch the vision. That vision is Zion. It is and has always been the Lord’s will for us in this mortal existence. Zion is a manifestation of His very nature, and if we can learn to live Zion, we can truly learn to know Him and gain eternal life. To accept the invitation to Zion is to accept Him. My experience is that, once we do this, we can never turn back. Our passion for His vision grows until it consumes us, and we are His. Babylon fades into insignificance, and there is little that stands between us and Him.
Once we have learned to love Him, to trust Him, to truly accept his friendship and trust just as He has always promised us; and once we have caught the vision of Zion, then we just need to pick up the bread crumbs, which are actually more like golden nuggets. He will begin asking us to sacrifice. This isn’t to try to punish us or even to make us prove we are willing to suffer. Actually, as I wrote previously:
…every time the Lord asks a sacrifice of us – be it praying and study time, fasting from meat, or laying one’s long-promised only son on the altar – He is saying, “Do you love this more than you love me?” If, by resisting the requested sacrifice, you answer “Yes – I love this thing more than I love You”, he says, “OK. I will wait,” and that “thing” will continue to stand between you and Him, preventing you from truly becoming one with Him.
So, each time He drops a bread crumb, He’s offering us an opportunity to shed something that stands between Him and us. He’s giving us an opportunity to build trust – not so much with Him – but with ourselves. The more we learn that we can shed the things of this world, the more confident we will become with Him, and in our ability to fulfill the greater and greater responsibilities that He has in store for us! Every time we obey Him, we gain greater confidence that we can obey Him. This is all done with the greatest love! He doesn’t need our obedience or our sacrifice. It’s all so that WE can learn not to be slaves to that which cannot save. It’s so simple and so true and so real!
The opposite of this – this willingness to sacrifice – is idolatry. Anything that we love more than Him is an idol. I don’t need to go into the litany of things that could qualify. I will leave that up to you, because although we might have many things in common, the list eventually becomes highly personalized, and one that only you can fully itemize for yourself.
Finally, there comes a time when He will “abide in you”. My testimony of this phenomenon is very personal and experiential. I’m not laying claim to any particular manifestations when I say this, I’m really just saying that it’s something I feel. There are scriptural evidences of this. Joseph, in speaking of the Second Comforter, said:
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a prefect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God;…(TJPS pg 149-151 – emphasis mine))
Moroni spoke twice, in Ether 12:41 and Moroni 9:26 of “…the grace of God the Father…and…Jesus Christ…be and abide in you (or with you) forever”. I think this is what I want to emphasize…that there will come a time when His spirit, His grace, will abide in you, and you simply know it. It’s not a magical event – at least not for me, although I’m sure it could be – but it is real, it is comforting, it is sustaining, and at times almost overwhelming.
You Will Know…
Of course, this is not really a step-by-step process. It’s all sort of happening simultaneously to some degree – even evolving – each aspect of our relationship building on all the other aspects as we grow closer, more intimate, more trusting, more confident in our interactions with Him. The result, though, is nothing short of amazing, and it is in this way that we end up recognizing a “calling” from the Lord, mostly because are now willing to hear, listen and act without fear. After all, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). When it comes, “you will know”. Not only will you know, but you will quickly recognize that it requires talents that are largely unique to you. I am to the point now in this process where I am also recognizing a few other things:
- I enjoy doing what He is asking me to do. I thoroughly enjoy it!
- I am passionate about something (His Zion) for the first time in my 62+ years of life.
- I am filled. I have much to learn, and my capacity for such will most certainly expand to receive more, but I am filled – with joy, with peace, with love, with understanding.
- I like myself. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m finally becoming the man I always wanted to be; I’m more than I ever thought I could be; and I’m confident in the knowledge that there is much more on the horizon. This not because of me, but because of Him. I am simply clay in the potter’s hands.
I testify, then, that He passionately desires a relationship with us. He wants to be our friend. Like any friendship, this one is built upon trust, compassion, understanding, and truth – all of which must go both ways. Once we can learn to truly love Him; establish a humble confidence in His presence; become comfortable with complete trust and honesty; aspire to a higher principle of repentance; and learn to embrace His vision of Zion while forsaking all the other idols that the adversary places in our path…once we have learned to stop passing over the bread crumbs that He places in our path, we will find ourselves not only called but chosen. His grace will abide with us. We will then truly know that when He says, “Come unto Me”, there is an implied promise that, “I will receive you”. You will not only be called, but you will be chosen. When He has chosen you, take His word for it…you will know!