My purpose in writing this blog is not in any way to demean the soul-defining experience of seeing the face of our Lord and Savior in vision. For most of us who have prayed to have such an experience, it still awaits – beckoning – a mighty hope that has, thus far, remained just that, a hope, perhaps even a promise, for the future.
Just today I received an e-mail from a dear friend describing how he received that experience for himself. He shared it with a select few, his purpose being to confirm that such experiences are not a myth – that someone whom we know very well, someone who endures faults and imperfections like we all do, has actually been blessed in this glorious manner.
Among those of us who declare openly that we believe it is not only possible, but practically a commandment to seek the face of the Lord, we largely believe that this experience of receiving a visitation from the Lord, either in dream or waking vision, is the event whereby we receive the Second Comforter. I’ve seen no scriptural support for that belief. I suggest, instead, that there is much more for us to learn about this Second Comforter, and that it is not necessarily synonymous with “seeing the face of the Lord”, in vision or dream. Allow me to explain.
Whether it was by coincidence, or as a result of shared interest between my friend and me, or by heavenly design, I had prayed about this very topic just before reading His e-mail this morning. I was also seeking assurance that the experiences I had had over the past months were real; that I hadn’t “made them up” to satisfy my own lusts; and that they had indeed come from true heavenly messengers. I had prayed that I only wanted to hear the voice of the Lord, and that, in the name of Jesus Christ, I rejected all other influences. While I was praying, my mind was directed to the story of the brother of Jared, and I was reminded of the following:
- The brother of Jared was already highly respected among his people as a man who, in a time of great impending calamity, could be asked to approach the Lord on their behalf. He was “a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord” (Ether 1:34). Upon asking the Lord, he received revelation that the language of their family would not be confounded. Then, at Jared’s request that his brother “Cry again unto the Lord”, this favored circle was enlarged to include friends of the family.
- Through the brother of Jared, the Lord guided this chosen community to the Valley of Nimrod, with a promise that he would bless them and their seed…”and raise up unto me…a great nation. (Ether 1:43). And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me”.
- Through the brother of Jared, this family was led toward a promised land, even building barges to cross a great inland sea – seemingly a dress rehearsal for an even greater miracle to come. The Lord went before them in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel, eventually leading them through lands where “never man had been” (Ether 2:5) to the shore of the great sea that divided the lands.
- After 4 years, perhaps 4 years of rest, the Lord came again to the brother of Jared in a cloud and “chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord” for all those years (Ether 2:14). He forgave the brother of Jared and His family their sins, but warned that “my Spirit will not always strive with man” (Ether 2:15). Nevertheless, he promised again a land for their inheritance which is “choice above all other lands”.
- The Lord then proceeded to instruct the brother of Jared in how to build the barges that would take his people – now, I’m sure greatly enlarged after many years of traveling together in the wilderness – across the great sea to the promised land.
Here we have a picture of a man, the brother of Jared, which is very similar to that of Abraham, Moses and Lehi. The brother of Jared clearly hears the Lord, receives instruction, great blessings, and promises on behalf of his people, and acts in every way as a designated prophet of God. Yet – this all happened before he saw the Lord. In Ether 3:15 the Lord says:
And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.
Again, I do not mean to diminish anyone’s experience of receiving the Lord in vision or dream, of feeling his hands, perhaps touching His face, and feeling of His love. The accounts seem to vary widely from a face of fiery glory to one that is accessible and welcoming. The scriptures that speak to this are legion, whether directly or by implication. I hope to have this experience myself, but let’s examine whether this experience is really synonymous with receiving the Second Comforter.
In the oft-quoted talk from the Prophet Joseph, he says:
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; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions — Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn. (TJPS, pgs 149-151) (emphasis mine)
Notice, that Joseph does not describe how the second comforter is received, only that when any man does obtain “…this last comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time…” Note again, that these are not presented a conditions of receiving the Second Comforter, but of events that will unfold in the future, as indicated by the usage of the phrase “…from time to time”. These are clearly the results of receiving the Second Comforter – perhaps manifestations of having received it – but not so much the means by which the Second Comforter is received.
Let’s consider, also, what it means to have the Savior and the Father take up their abode with him – or to “abide with him”. This abiding can certainly be manifested in multiple ways, but 1 John 3:24 says,
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
What are “his commandments”? In their simplest, and purest form, they are “Love God” and “Love your neighbor”. So, according to John, if we truly love God and love our neighbor, we can dwell in Him and He in us. The Lord wants to be with us, and if we will purify ourselves by keeping His commandments, He will do just that. The First Epistle of John is rich with understanding of this concept, and I highly recommend absorbing it (upcoming blog post). This makes me wonder if a lot more of us might have received the Second Comforter than realize it – having received it “…by the spirit which he hath given us” through our obedience to His commandments.
There is clearly much we have to learn about obtaining this intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that we have come to call “Receiving the Second Comforter”, and how it manifests itself in our lives. I have come to believe that we often conflate this blessing with that of “seeing His face” and receiving a personal visitation in dream or open vision. Again, I do not desire to devalue that incredible experience. I just hope that we don’t devalue ourselves, or our service, or our ability to exercise His priesthood power and/or authority, or His love for and trust in us simply because we haven’t yet seen His face. The brother of Jared is an example of how a man who was clearly a prophet of God could hear His voice, follow His direction, and lead His chosen people without having seen His face.
Finally, I have been cautioned more than once not to compare my experiences with that of others – the implication being to be sure not to devalue the experiences I have had with the Lord just because they do not match that of others. I think this is probably good advice for all of us – lest we fail to recognize and be grateful for what we have received because we are focusing on that which we think we should receive.
I love my Savior Jesus Christ so much. He is so gentle and so merciful and so understanding and compassionate. I long to see His face, to feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and to lose myself in His embrace. I cannot imagine not continuing to seek Him and His fullness. Until that perfect day, however, I remain grateful for the ways in which He has come to me, taught me, comforted me, and lifted me. I invite Him daily to abide with me. I thank you, my Lord and my God for your love.