Tuesday, September 20, 2016

To see God

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session from the October 1973 Conference.
My son and I were going into Target the other day. It was a SuperTarget, in fact, and Abe was grumbling about the fact that it was called that. He said disapprovingly, as we were walking in, "I don't see what entitles them to make that claim. There's nothing particularly 'super' about it." 

We were laughing about it as I kept trying to come up with adequate justification for the title.
"Well…look, they've got so many shoes! Rows and rows of them! Just think how many people could be shoed here!" 
"Hah, any store might have those. Doesn't seem 'super' to me."
"Look though, they have groceries. A whole store's worth of groceries! Not just any Target has groceries."
"Adequate, maybe. But I would hardly call that 'super.'"
"But don't you think all these TVs and phones are super? Modern wonders, these are!"
"ANY store might have those. I'm not impressed. I'd expect more of something 'super.'"

We got sillier and sillier as I started waxing eloquent about how amazed the pioneers would have been to enter a store like this (Abe loves it when people point out to him, "You know, in pioneer days, they didn't have televisions, they didn't have computers or washing machines like we do today." Ha ha), and about how much human effort went into making even a simple piece of clothing. I may have even started quoting "I, Pencil." Abe, for his part, became more and more extravagant in his disdain. "Thousands of man-hours? Insignificant," he'd say, waving his hand dismissively. "Hardly 'super.' Show me something impressive for once."

I thought of our "SuperTarget" exchange as I read President Harold B. Lee's closing remarks to the Oct. 1973 Conference. He quotes this scripture I've always loved, from the Doctrine and Covenants:
The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God… Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power (D&C 88:45-47, emphasis added).
The scripture continues, though President Lee didn't quote this part:
I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehendedThe light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
It struck me, not for the first time, how vast the differences can be in what we see. Like Abe in SuperTarget, we can be witness to the most amazing miracles and still, through our prejudices or our blind spots, stubbornly refuse to see them or admit that they are anything special! No one can MAKE you believe that SuperTarget is "super." You have to decide that for yourself.

I was thinking along similar lines while driving up in the canyon looking at the Fall leaves this week. I thought, "Here are all these people enjoying and marveling at the beauty of God's creations. And yet probably half of them don't even know that is what they're seeing! They may even really love and appreciate nature, but they have no idea that God is the author of it all." I suppose, even if someone lacks the specific knowledge of who He is, an appreciation of nature is akin to a sort of appreciation for God. I would guess that when those people finally meet God, they will have some recognition of Him, because they have seen and loved what He made. That's probably one of the reasons He DID make this beautiful earth for us!

But in spite of the partial reverence nature inspires, without true knowledge of and gratitude for the Creator, we are missing so much! It's such an amazing statement in that scripture quoted above: those who have seen the sun and moon in their glory have seen God! Practically anyone on earth would give anything for the chance to "see God!" They'd imagine that experience as being amazing, miraculous, earth-shattering, life-changing. And yet they have seen Him. In this sense, we all have! But…to see God without knowing it is practically the same as not seeing Him! If we don't comprehend the light, it can't lead us, it can't comfort us, it can't show us the way—to us, it's as if it weren't there at all.

President Lee then extends the scripture even further:
In the Church, we have been witnessing some of the most dramatic things, and I can testify that you are seeing what the Lord is revealing for the needs of this people today. May I paraphrase what the Lord has said in this great revelation from which I have quoted: any man who has seen any of the least of these happenings among us today, has seen God today moving in his majesty and in his power. Let us make no mistake about that.
I know we all go through periods of blindness, to some extent. And probably no one fully "comprehends" the light of God. But I can't help thinking how much we miss when we make up our minds to see the church or its leaders as flawed, imperfect, bureaucratic. Or when we decide our fellow church members are ignorant and prejudiced and petty. Certainly we are those things, sometimes. But as we follow our leaders and do our small parts as best we can in the church, we become the instrument of "God moving in his majesty and in his power." Sure, we can decide not to think of it that way. The decision not to see God in His church is aptly self-fulfilling: when we won't see Him, it's as if He isn't there.

But President Lee saw the truth. God is there, at the very center of it all. Even "the least of" the efforts toward salvation and perfection we engage in can unveil his presence. And the more we look for it, the more we will have the promise fulfilled: to see God!

I've experienced it myself every once in a while, when I remember to listen and watch and be grateful. It's one of those gifts I wish I could keep with me all the time: when I begin to see God everywhere—in His prophets. In His instructions. In His creations. And most amazing of all, in those around me.

Other posts in this series:

2 comments:

  1. I love this. It actually made me think of that Ellsworth talk you shared with me -- the part where he talks about us experiencing spiritual things (God and his existence and influence i suppose) constantly in all the good and love and light we feel or experience day to day but how we often don't recognize it for what it is because it's so natural and comfortable and like home to our spirits. I was talking with Megan about this today. How quickly we recognize the opposite or absence of God in anger and unkind feelings, etc (unless we've gotten immune to it), but how important to see the Spirit and God in our daily lives and even in our feelings (joy, goodwill, etc). I know it's a little different from what you were saying, but it's what your post made me think of. And maybe it isn't really different anyway.

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    1. Yeah, I think it is the same thing, really. I try to tell my kids that their lives are pretty much as good as they believe they are. And that's something I need to remember for myself too! I'm more happy when I'm grateful and aware of all the good.

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