Tuesday, May 30, 2017

To know Him

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session from the April 1976 Conference.
Several years ago as I was preparing to teach a lesson on the Godhead to the Young Women, I suddenly wondered, "How do we come to know Jesus Christ?" I knew that Christ should play a central role in our lives; that His atoning sacrifice made repentance possible. And I knew the statement that "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

But HOW to know Him? I felt that I was getting to know the Father by talking with Him in prayer. I felt that I was getting to know the Holy Ghost by learning to recognize His presence and follow His promptings. But where did my interaction with Jesus Christ occur? When and how should I come to know Him?

I started looking up talks about the subject, and almost immediately I discovered, to my horrified surprise, that the subject was "controversial."1 I didn't want controversy! I didn't want to take sides or criticize people or sort out some complex doctrinal problem—I just wanted to know how I should follow the commandment to "know Jesus Christ"! But sorting through the different viewpoints wore me out. So, in confusion, I just kind of…gave up on the whole idea!

Recently, after hearing President Nelson's talk in the April 2017 conference about drawing the power of Jesus Christ into our lives, I've been thinking again that "knowing Christ" is something I should be trying to do. But I still struggle with figuring out HOW to do it! President Nelson specifically advised us to read the words of Christ in the scriptures, and to study The Living Christ, and I'm trying to start doing that. Then, this week, I ran across two relevant phrases in the April 1976 General Conference. The first (from this talk) was just a forceful reminder not to give up on the attempt to know Christ:
To know God the Father and his Beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, is life eternal. Do men truly know them—their attributes, characteristics, and powers? Surely such knowledge can be had: otherwise, our Savior would not have made this statement. 
To me, that says that my discouragement in the whole idea a few years ago was premature. This IS a worthy and possible effort. It will just take time.
And the second phrase (from this talk) stood out to me so powerfully that it's almost funny—because it doesn't SEEM like a new idea. It probably seems completely obvious to everyone reading this. But it astounded me.
Do you know him who was called Jesus?…To know him is to keep his commandments
I know, it's so simple! But I can't stop thinking about it. Sometimes the "what would Jesus do?" test just seems so inadequate, because I lack confidence about what He actually WOULD do in so many situations! There are so many things I don't understand about how God does things! And I know his ways are not our ways and some of it is beyond our comprehension. But how much of that will be resolved as I just…keep His commandments? Maybe in those moments of doing what He has told me to do, some of His reasoning will become clear to me as well, and I will begin to understand Him.

It doesn't solve the whole difficulty of how to follow Christ in every single situation. But there are plenty, even a majority, of situations where I DO know exactly what the commandments are and how I should be acting. And it's encouraging to think that every time I follow through and OBEY those things I know, I will be coming to know Christ a little better. Maybe gaining insight into how and why He does what He does! And thus preparing myself to be a better Christian even in the situations that now seem baffling to me—because I WILL know "what Jesus would do."

"To know him is to keep his commandments." "Surely such knowledge can be had"!



1 And having looked into it more, I don't even really want to dignify the whole thing as a "controversy." I honestly think it was all sort of a problem with semantics…and context…and it's been blown out of proportion by people who WANT to find arguments and dramatic situations within the church. But, I realize now I've brought it up, I should at least explain what I'm talking about. Basically, the idea of a "personal relationship with Christ" had been talked about by a lot of people, including in this talk at BYU (which you can still find at lds.org), and then Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a talk which seemed really (maybe unduly) critical of that idea—except that I think he was actually responding not to the whole idea of "a relationship with Christ," but to some specific concerns he had about ways people were taking it too far. This post and this short item do a good job of explaining it, I think. And talks like this one, given after Elder McConkie's, show that there is nothing wrong with the idea as such.

Other posts in this series:

6 comments:

  1. May I just say that I intensely dislike the whole, "What would Jesus do?" thing. He is a God and therefore can do things that I can't. Such as read people's thoughts and the intents of their hearts; such as heal them instantly of any sort of malady, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual; such as raise them from the dead; and so forth. I believe a better question is to ask, "What does Jesus want ME to do?" or "What am I commanded to do?" Then I can begin to know of him and his ways. My husband and I are reading the New Testament together for our scripture study, and I feel like I'm again getting to know Jesus better through the eyes of the men who wrote of him. Matthew, Mark, and now Luke; (haven't gotten to John yet). I've had some sacred, personal experiences with the Savior so I know he is real, he loves me and completed the Atonement for me. Following him, as hard as it sometimes is, seems to me to be the only way to live after all I know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. I love those questions! Such a good perspective. I also like the idea of getting to know Jesus through his personal friends in the NT. I need to do a study of the gospels specifically thinking from that angle!

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  2. As you know I've struggled to figure this out myself. I love the simplicity of keeping his commandments. And maybe it isn't just getting a better understanding for how he would do things and thus his character (though certainly that), but maybe just a tied blessing -- "Do what I say and you'll come to know me better as a reward." Also so often he is speaking in the scriptures that even though we don't pray to him, we have lots of opportunity to hear him talk to us! Just this morning I was reading an old journal entry about a time I was feeling afraid and hopeless and I was praying for help and slowly thoughts and comfort came to my mind -- which I guess I associate with the Holy Ghost since he's the medium or even our father since he's the one I was praying too, but afterwards, when I began to feel peace, I had the scripture "I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you." come to mind. Forcefully and with conviction like he was saying "Whh would you doubt. I WILL NOT leave you afraid." And that was Christ speaking. To all of us, but specifically to me in that moment. And that tiny moment made me feel like I certainly knew something amazing about him and his unwavering dedication to even just me. Of course it's still all jumbled sometimes when I try to constantly get which if the three is helping or whatever clear in my mind. And often I'm sure it doesn't matter as they are one in purpose and as we come to know any of them we are coming to know the others. Still, having thoughts like the ones in your post here help me make more sense of things!

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    1. Oh, this is so great! Wow! I never thought of it that way, but I often have words of scriptures come to my mind when I'm seeking answers too, and of course it often is from the first-person viewpoint: e.g. "I will come to you". I love thinking of that as Jesus "speaking" to me--yes, through the spirit, but still HIM. So great. And yes, I've also wondered if maybe it's pointless to even really care or distinguish who is "really" speaking since of course the godhead is all one in purpose anyway--but I like trying to figure it out, especially in context of Pres Nelson saying how knowing the Savior better changed his life so much.

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  3. I think I'm still stuck on the chapter of Bednar's in Act in Doctrine where he talks about coming to know the character of Christ. It was so powerful for me. If we know what His character is, then we know what characteristics we should have. Also, President Eyring's book where he talk about serving others and how that makes us like Christ--literally. That every time we serve others the Holy Ghost is with us and we are being purified. So for me, the two most important things are to understand Christ's character so we can start to exemplify the same good traits (which pretty much equates to obey the commandments) and serve others, because those two things will help us become more like Him and thus know Him better. It still feels fuzzy to me, but much less fuzzy than it did a year ago when I started trying to diligently learn more about the Savior and develop a relationship with Him.

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    1. I remember now that we were talking about this, and I meant to start reading that book! I'm glad you reminded me. And yes. I think those two things are probably a great start in getting to know the Savior. I love the idea of being purified every time we serve!

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