Imagine for a moment the following scenario:
Christ appears to someone and visits with her in her living room. He has withheld His glory from her, like he did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, so that she does not know who He is. During their conversation, the Lord wants to teach her something. He gently asks a series of questions to help her to begin thinking about things in a new way. As He meekly begins to propose a new point of view, she interrupts Him. She knows what point He’s going to make. She’s heard it before; as a matter of fact, she’s been taught that it’s wrong. She thinks she knows better, so instead of considering what He wants to teach her, she tries to correct Him. She tells Him He’s got it all wrong and needs to be careful about what He believes.
The Lord, who’s long-suffering and meek, does not insist. Though disappointed by her pride, He makes no effort to contend or compel. He doesn’t rail against her, or try to force His point. He doesn’t persist until she concedes He’s right. He doesn’t try to devise some logical argument that will leave her without a response. He just listens.
Isaiah provided a description of the future Messiah when he wrote that He has “no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). The Hebrew words in this verse imply that He would not be distinguishable, clothed in glamor and fame. He wouldn’t hold any position that was respected or acknowledged by men. Even among the covenant people, He had no priestly office. He was not a religious authority. He was not a Levite, and did not have a recognizable form of priesthood. He ensured that He would not be recognized, even by the covenant people, because of His appearance or priestly status. He ensured that the only reason men would follow Him was because they recognized His voice.
As He Himself noted, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Or as Alma taught, “if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd… ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd” (Alma 5:38).
Recognizing the Shepherd’s voice is just as much a challenge today as it was then.
He speaks to us through His Spirit, which is a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12). He does not compel, but invites us to follow Him.
In D&C 121, Christ explains the proper way to lead: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41-42).
This attitude is reflective of His character. When He came, this is how He taught. This is how He led. This is how He continues to lead and guide us day by day. He doesn’t intrude, but stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20), except what He’s knocking on is our hearts. We have to be the ones to open up and let Him in.
The Mysteries of God
Whenever Nephi talks about learning truth from the Lord, He always defines it as “softening our hearts.” (1 Nephi 2:16; 14:1-2). Conversely, he defines rejecting truth from the Lord as “hardening our hearts” (1 Nephi 15:10 ; 2 Nephi 33:1-2). It’s clear he does this because he knows how the process works. Receiving revelation from the Lord is always a matter of humbling ourselves before God and opening our hearts to His Spirit. Nephi recounts that his initial answer from God about his father’s visions was a result of God softening his heart, causing him to believe (1 Nephi 2:16). As God continued to knock, and Nephi continued to open, he began to hear His voice (1 Nephi 2:19-24), then found himself in the presence of angels (1 Nephi 3:29-30), and ultimately had the heavens opened to Him, and beheld visions and things to come (1 Nephi 11-14). The key was softening his heart, and not resisting the Spirit of the Lord.
It’s been said that the Holy Ghost can carry the truth unto someone’s heart, but they must be the one’s to let it in. Unfortunately, our problem is that “there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them” (2 Nephi 33:1-2). We are often so prone to hardening our hearts against what God is telling us that we often don’t allow Him to get through to us. In this sense, we can be our own worst enemy; we’re so filled with fear of losing our temporal, natural man, things.
Alma taught this principle in these words:
“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:10-11)
Jospeh Smith taught that God had not revealed anything to Him that He would not reveal to anyone willing to receive it:
“This principle ought (in its proper place) to be taught, for 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…
“After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter…
“Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; 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.” (TPJS 150-151).
What are We Willing to Receive?
This principle is also depicted in the Star of David. The intersection of the two triangles represents God on the one hand reaching down to us, and us on the other, reaching up to God.
This triangle represents the relationship with the Father that we ought to strive for. This is the ideal. What it does not depict is that often, star is much more lopsided. God is constantly reaching down to us, trying to offer us more and more. Like Joseph Smith taught, the Lord will gives us greater revelation as soon as we’re able to bear it. He is currently giving us the maximum amount of truth we’re willing to receive.
Another way we might think of it is like a cup. The Lord is eager to give us as much water as we’d like. The question is not whether He is willing to provide, but rather if we’re willing to receive. How big do we make our cups? Those like Joseph, Nephi, Alma, and Isaiah, who received the mysteries of God, were willing to receive anything and everything the Lord had to give. We seem to usually approach the Divine Throne with tiny dixie cups rather than five gallon jugs. Can we only imagine what the Lord has in store for those who completely open their hearts? What kind of trust would we need to drop all of our conditions?
Our minds are covered in a veil. This is the veil that separates us from God. It’s the same veil depicted in the Temple, and it has a name: unbelief. This dark veil draped over our eyes prevents us from seeing the light and glory of God. His light always shines, but we must rend the veil in order to see it. Consider the conversion of king Lamoni:
“Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God.” (Alma 19:6)
The Lord has also revealed that “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).
His light always shines. He is always knocking on our hearts. It is our job then to receive the light, open our hearts, and cast away our dark veil of unbelief. The blessings that await are entitled “mysteries” because those who receive them in full are not permitted to share them with the world, “only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men” (Alma 12:9).
In the words of the apostle Paul, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-11)
It’s my genuine prayer we all be willing to soften our hearts and receive everything God would give us. We really do not know what great things God has in store for those who love Him.
Just as Joseph Smith wrote at the close of his vision of heaven, “great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; to whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; that through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory. (D&C 76:114-118)