After Jesus taught the sermon on the bread of life, some of his disciples said that he had taught difficult things. He asked if his teachings offended them and then added a few more things that clearly proclaimed that he was the Son of God. The response was immediate and very telling about why some people followed him.
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I am the bread of life
I have often wondered how the Savior felt to see the multitude leave him just after he had miraculously fed them and had shown forth such mighty miracles. Today, we read the sermon on the bread of life and perhaps do not see what it contained that was so difficult for the people to understand. Of course he is the Son of God.
But for some, what he taught was blasphemous and bordered on insanity. How could this man, whom they clearly knew as the carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary, claim to have come down from heaven? And then when they called him on it, to claim that he would ascend to heaven to take his place with God once again?
He could not deny it
When Joseph Smith first told of his visit in the sacred grove from the Father and the Son to a local minister, he was amazed at the response. What he shared was looked upon as blasphemy, and from the devil. It was not orthodox and did not meet with their expectations of a religious experience – revelation did not exist!
And yet, he knew that what had happened to him was real. He could not deny it. He never wavered from his claim and spent his life in bearing testimony of what he had seen and heard. How relieved he must have felt when others joined him in bearing witness of visions and visits from celestial beings – Oliver and Sidney.
We can know for ourselves
Joseph was the recipient of knowledge that put him in a unique class. At one point in time, there was nobody else on the earth who knew what he did – that the heavens were open and that man can receive visions and visits from celestial beings. Of course some looked upon him as a crackpot, eccentric and unusual.
Over time, Joseph’s visions have been accepted by a large number of people, none of whom were there at the time he received them. Nonetheless, we who accept them also know for ourselves that they took place, through the simple process of revelation, as the result of inquiry in prayer. It is as if we had been there ourselves.
When counsel is hard
Today, we have been given added direction and counsel from living prophets that goes beyond what Joseph Smith revealed and is intended for our day. Just as some in the Savior’s day turned and followed him no more, some in our day have turned away from the Lord’s church because of direction that has seemed hard to follow.
In Joseph’s day, there were some who turned against him after he revealed doctrines that were hard to accept, plural marriage being the prime example. How it must have hurt him to see good friends become bitter enemies when all he was trying to do was that which the Lord told him had to be as part of the restoration.
Testimonies are tested
In our day, a letter from the First Presidency turned into a trial of faith for some who were already on the fringes and do not understand or accept doctrine that most in the LDS church and the Christian world in general accept as being the standard of moral behavior – that marriage ordained of God is between a man and a woman.
Some have turned away and have decided that what they once felt and knew to be the true church of Jesus Christ could no longer possibly be true if the leaders of the church could ask us to do something so hard – to uphold morality in our society. It makes me wonder at the depth of their revelatory experiences with the Holy Ghost.
Knowledge from the spirit
We are counseled to seek knowledge by study and also by faith. Eventually, if we are faithful, we are going to come to the point in our lives through continued gospel study where we can feel relatively comfortable that we have mastered the basics of our religion. At that point, some things can only be taught by the spirit.
This is an area where we must be very careful because we can have revealed to us things that are not commonly or openly taught in the standard curriculum of the church. I want to be clear if we are receiving our knowledge from the right spirit then what we learn will always square with what prophets have taught in the past.
Signs of the times
I am confident that most of us agree that we live in the last days. The signs of the times are unmistakable. I am convinced, and have written several essays to this point, that we are on the verge of seeing prophesied cataclysmic and catastrophic events fulfilled in the very near future. The topic comes up more often these days.
Isn’t it reasonable to expect that the Lord would be willing to reveal to those who diligently inquire, just exactly how these events are going to transpire? It does not require that one be a General Authority to have the Lord reveal knowledge of the signs of the times that will be fulfilled with the approach of the Second Coming.
Summary and conclusion
We live in difficult times. These are also times of testing. Yet, the Lord is willing to reveal to us what we need to know to pass the tests and to be prepared for the future. This is not the time to turn away from the Lord because of the difficulty of the test but a time to turn to Him in study and prayer so we can be more faithful.
We do not have to walk alone. Our tests are not the same as those required of the Savior or of Joseph Smith. They were considered to be unorthodox and eccentric because of their unique knowledge. We can have that same knowledge if we but study it out and ask for it. That knowledge can keep us in safely in the Lord’s fold.