I am not trying to make my mind up about Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have long ago sorted out my views. They are not going to change.
Although my views are explained in this blog, I do not debate them. You are welcome to have contrary views, to disagree and to think I am altogether incorrect. But you shouldn’t waste the effort to try and persuade me to change my own view.
My testimony of Christ is informed both by what I have studied and what I have witnessed. It has taken decades of devotion in study and living to obtain a stable, firm view of the Lord and His role in my life. No one should expect to acquire an unchanging view of the Lord without paying a significant price in their time and effort. I can try to help, give advice and make suggestions. I can explain my views. But, in the end, every person must determine for themselves what Christ means and how they intend to relate to Him.
I believe the truth exists independent of your view or my view. Just because someone believes a false notion does not make it so. Eventually we will all come into agreement by the things which we experience. For most of the world, that will be some time after they are dead.
Debate is not necessary. And I am just a lay member of the Church, without any reason for you to consider what I have to say. Therefore, you ought to measure my views against the scriptures and the Spirit, and let the truth be the single standard for deciding to accept something.
I quoted a few ideas from Mark Twain in a post a while back. You ought to re-read them if you don’t remember them. They were chosen with some care. They summarize ideas which I believe to be important.
I was asked:
“I’ve wondered about this for a long time. In the blog post about ‘Why wait?‘ there is a phrase that says ‘This appearance is not merely “in the heart,” but is an actual appearance or visit.’ The ‘in the heart’ is my question. Once in a while this concept doesn’t contradict but at the moment it seems to. In D&C 88 it says: ‘Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise.’ So how can it be a false sectarian notion about God the Father and Jesus dwelling in a man’s heart (D&C130:3) and yet a few sections later in the D&C when referring to the second comforter it says contrary. [Also Eph. 3: 17 says: ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.’] I at one point saw how this worked — but can’t seem to at the moment. How do those two seemingly contradictory things work?”
To have the promise “abide in your heart” is to keep inside your heart the knowledge there is a promise given by God, who cannot lie about such matters, that you have the promise of eternal life. This is referring to the promise, and keeping it dear to you, or in your heart. This, of course, is not the same thing as the appearance of the Son in the form of another Comforter, as promised by Christ in John, Chapter 14, verse 18, where Christ declares: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” It is the promise that the Lord will come or appear or take up His abode with you which Joseph declared to be literal. He is saying those who believe or teach this to be merely a feeling “in the heart” are teaching an “old sectarian notion” because they deny its literal possibility. (D&C 130: 3.)
The culmination of the Lord’s ministry is the promise of eternal life, as I explained in an earlier post. But the actuality of that ministry as an appearance to a person is not merely “in the heart.” When His ministry does culminate in the promise, then the promise should “abide in the heart” of the person to whom the promise has been given. They ought never let it pass from within their hearts that they have obtained a promise from the Lord assuring them of life eternal.
These are two different subjects. But the question is quite a good one. Thanks for asking it.
Isaiah 53:11 states:
“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
The One who shall see the travail is the Father. The Father will be “satisfied” that the suffering of the Son, the payment made for mankind’s debt of errors, has been sufficient to then inform the Son about salvation. Without descending below, the Son would have been unable to comprehend what mankind needs to overcome. Therefore Christ’s suffering needed to be complete.
Upon receiving the full “wrath” of sin, Christ was then able to know how to overcome all that mankind must overcome to return to the presence of the Father. It is “by His knowledge” that Christ is able to “justify many.” He possesses the knowledge, has the experience and suffered “for all” so that they might be instructed by Him. (D&C 19:16-17.) He knows. He comprehends. By the things He suffered, He gained all that is needed to redeem, comfort and succor any man or woman in their extremity. (Heb. 2:18.)
This great burden was, however, merely His preparation; and not His completion. (D&C 19:19.) He now uses His “knowledge” to “succor” and tutor each soul who will permit Him to minister to them. (Alma 7:11-12.) The most complete description of what He suffered and what He gained is set out in my testimony in Come, Let Us Adore Him.
Christ has gained “knowledge” which will save each of us, no matter what we are called to pass through, if we will come to Him, heed what He tells us, and follow His encouraging counsel. There is no depth we descend to which He does not already comprehend, having been there before us. (D&C 122:7-8.)
To overcome all sin ourselves, we must accept His guidance and counsel. His comfort alone will rid us of our guilt. He knows how to shed the pains of sin, because He has first shed them, and therefore knows what must be done. Only in this way can we relieve ourselves of the suffering which is felt when an unclean person is exposed to God’s presence. (Mormon 9: 4-5.) He can lead you to cleansing, because He has been made completely filthy and covered with the wrath of God. (D&C 19:15-18.)
His “preparations” are complete. He can “succor” you back to God’s presence. But you must choose to allow Him to use this hard won “knowledge to justify you” before the Father. He has borne your infirmities before you bear them. He knows how to heal from them. There is nothing which you are called to pass through that He does not already comprehend. It is this great “knowledge” which renders Him the greatest, “most intelligent of them all.” (Abraham 3:19.) He now has no perplexity from sin.
“He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
The idea of our Messiah emerging from “prison and from judgment” was a bit shocking to his listeners. There is little wonder at Isaiah’s original question about who would believe the report. Should not the Messiah emerge from a palace? From a university (center of learning)? From a recognized hierarchy? From a notable family? From respectable circles? We would think so, wouldn’t we?
Because of the presumptions, we do not look for Him as a prisoner, or one against whom judgment has been rendered. Nor do we expect His messengers to come, as they have so often in scriptures, from obscure places, bearing obscure names and having no credentials.
When Isaiah adds that the Messiah will be “cut off from the land of the living” he made a startling point. The Messiah will die! The Redeemer will not avoid death and the grave. He will lose His life. What follows adds to the wonder of it all: “For the transgression of my people” will the Messiah be cut off into death.
Now the focus has changed. Isaiah’s message shifts from the suffering of the Messiah into the transgression of Israel. It is Israel’s responsibility that their Messiah must suffer so. They will need a Messiah who will undertake this suffering, for they will not abandon their transgressions and will need a sacrifice made for them. They will need to confront love so great that it will die to redeem them. The proof of the Messiah’s devotion to them will be shown by His humiliation, suffering and death. This is His proof. This is His credential. This is the record which will show for all mankind what great lengths God will go to reclaim His beloved people. They transgress, He atones. They sin and wander off as lost sheep, He pays to re-gather them with His blood.
His suffering may surprise them, but their surprise should be astonishment at the great love He holds for them.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
These three references to Him refraining from “opening his mouth” and being “dumb” (meaning silent) are referring to more than His failure to respond to Herod’s inquiries. (Luke 23: 8-9.) This is a reference to Christ’s “Word,” which if employed, could have moved mountains, held armies at defiance, and summoned “twelve legions of angels” to His defense. (Matt. 26: 52-53.) Pilate was told that he may have been the Roman Procurator, but he had no power over Christ which Christ did not permit. (John 19: 7-11.)
Christ remained silent, choosing to exercise meekness in the face of the threat aimed at Him. (“Meekness” as explained in Beloved Enos, which is really a great power.) It was in this sense the Isaiah found His silence to be prophetically remarkable. One of the great signs of the Messiah. He would be the One whose words could have exercised power to defy armies, but who refrained from speaking those words. He would, instead, voluntarily submit to the abuse and scorn of those who hated Him.
As to our Lord being shorn, Isaiah also foretells His beard being plucked by those who would smite, abuse and strike Him. (Isa. 50: 6.) Surely our Lord was indeed “shorn” as a “sheep” before His sacrifice.
Christ was prepared eighteen years prior to the time His ministry would begin. He stood by ready, and “waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come.” (JST Matt. 3: 24-26.)
Prepared and waiting.
Even the Lord, who was “more intelligent than them all,” waited. (Abr. 3: 19.)
The Lord’s counsel to all is that they must not “run faster than they have strength.” (Mosiah 4: 27; also D&C 10: 4.)
There is no rush to receiving an audience with the Lord. When it happens it is always in His own time, His own way, and according to His own will. (D&C 88: 68.)
We must ask. Then we wait upon Him. If He waited, what makes you think you are entitled to rush ahead without paying a similar price to develop the necessary patience in waiting on the Lord.
Abraham was promised children, but waited decades to receive the promise. Anna and Simeon were promised they would behold the Lord’s Messiah, but were both well stricken in age before He came. (Luke 2: 25-38.)
Recognize the Lord alone will determine the timing. Our responsibility is to trust in Him and await His will. We can ask, seek and knock. He cannot respond unless we ask, seek and knock. But having done so, then we trust in Him to decide when He will make Himself known to us.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Those wounds He suffered were not His, they were ours. Those iniquities which were laid upon Him were never His to bear. He volunteered to take them. We were relieved of them, and He took them. He purchased our peace by what He suffered to reconcile us to God. His infirmity was to heal us.
Our rejection of Him was the means by which He became fully acceptable to His Father. He bore our abuse to make His compassion perfect.
What we lacked we put on full display in our anger at Him.
What we held in our hearts we poured out upon Him, shouting to kill Him! Crucify Him! Away with Him!
He took it to allow our rejection to become His bridge back to the Father for us all.
When the outcast makes intercession for those who despised Him, there can be no crime which He cannot forgive. Having suffered the guilt of all, He holds the keys of death and hell. He suffered both. It was perfectly unjust for Him to have suffered anything. Yet He suffered it all.
How can the gates of hell be opened? It requires someone upon whom death and hell could have no claim to go there. When justice itself requires Him to be released, then death and hell are conquered. This is what He would do. He would suffer the wrath of the guilty and vile, fully assume their punishment and abuse, and bear their penalty of death itself. When the fury relented, and the wrath ended, He could reclaim life. His captivity ended the captivity for all. Having then returned to life, because it was just for Him to do so, He acquired the keys of death and hell. Now He can open those gates for any and all because it was unjust for Him to have been put through either. He can now advocate for others by virtue of what He suffered and the injustice of that suffering. (D&C 45: 3-5.)
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
This Messiah of whom Isaiah testifies will bear “grief” and “sorrow,” but these will belong to us. They will be ours. In His suffering will be found our own shortcomings and failures. He will assume them for us.
As He suffers, we will think it is His own deserved punishment. We will think it is God’s doing. God will smite Him. God will afflict Him. After all, He was not truly God’s Son.
We miss the point of Isaiah’s message when we confine it to the Lord alone. His messengers will also come “as a thief in the night” to warn again before His coming. They, too, may fit the same pattern. If so, then we should be careful when we think another person’s grief and sorrows are inflicted upon them by a God who has smitten them. Such an assessment may, like those who lived and rejected the Messiah, put you on the wrong side of the confrontation.
The Lord’s doings are ever the same. The pattern simply does not change.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
The Messiah would be both “despised” and “rejected” by the very people who claimed to follow Him. The astonishing report of Isaiah was unbelievable. It makes no sense that the people who looked forward to deliverance would reject their Deliverer. Why expect them to “despise” and “reject” the very one they rely upon for their hope? It is little wonder that Isaiah’s report would not be believed.
Isaiah’s Messiah would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He would mingle with the commonest of people, bearing with their infirmities, ministering to them. All the while, He will be a thorn to those who despised His ministry. Those in good society would “hide their faces from Him,” and refuse to associate with Him. He had nothing to offer them. For them to acknowledge Him would require them to condescend. Better for them to hide their faces.
He warned them that if they were ashamed of Him, He would in turn be ashamed of them. (Mark 8: 38.) He also counseled them to be careful about their standard of judgment, because it would be applied to them. (Matt. 7: 2.)
Despite the coming Messiah’s teachings, and Isaiah’s testimony of Him, the chosen people nevertheless “despise” Him, and “esteem Him not.” It would simply be too difficult a task to confront Him in the flesh and find it possible to recognize Him for what He was.
We presume we could have recognized Him. However, the test He set up was one that He cautioned was coming. Our unflattering views of Christ’s contemporaries may, in turn, leave us without excuse should He choose as He does so often, to send us a message from an obscure or un-credentialed source.
I wonder how many of us would recognize the truth, if it came only with the power of veracity behind it. Forgetting all the messenger is lacking, could we be starving ourselves from truth by again rejecting the open hand the Lord extends us? Whether by His own voice or by the voice of a servant, it will always be the same. (D&C 1: 38.)