One of the books we were allowed to bring with us on our missions back in the 70’s was Jesus the Christ by Elder Talmage. I remember reading it as part of our personal study time. The little white missionary handbook that laid out our daily schedule included one hour of personal study time but we often found time during lunch or just before we retired around 10:30 each evening.
Even with reading the book several hours each day, it took at least a month to get through it. I had to look up so many of the words that were new to me at that age. We were allowed to read The Articles of Faith and The Great Apostasy, both by Talmage, also A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards and D&C Commentary by Hyrum M Smith and Janne M Sjodahl.
Different Apostle for a Different Generation
Words are important. They convey a world of meaning. The little book that got me through Jesus The Christ was called Understanding Talmage, 1973 from Deseret Book – forty pages of words not found in the every-day language of middle-class 19-year old LDS missionaries. Talmage was on one level and I was way down on a much lower level when it came to his massive vocabulary.
Later in my life I read the Messiah series from Bruce R. McConkie. I found the books easier to read, mainly because I was older, had a college education behind me and frankly, I don’t think McConkie used quite so many erudite words. I felt a greater sense of majesty about the Savior as I read McConkie’s books, quite different from the rather scholarly approach I got from Talmage.
Except Some Man Should Guide Me
It was not until I read The Second Comforter and Come, Let Us Adore Him by Denver Snuffer that I began to feel a connection with the Savior as someone with whom I could relate. The Lord became a friend, a brother and a mentor. Something in Denver Snuffer’s books touched me in a way Talmage and McConkie could not. I’d like to investigate that difference in this short post.
I’ve read and heard many people say, “You shouldn’t need to have someone else interpret the scriptures for you. You should be able to get everything you need out of the scriptures.” Sorry, that doesn’t work for me. I’ve noted before, I feel like the Eunuch reading from Isaiah asked by Philip if he understood what he was reading. “How can I, except some man should guide me?”
Those Who Know Don’t Talk About It
I’m not saying Talmage or McConkie have not met the Lord. Goodness knows we adore Elder McConkie’s last conference talk as being a witness of that fact. On the other hand, neither of them ever came out and said, “I first met the Lord on such and such a date. He ministered to me. We embraced. I felt the wound in his side and touched the nail marks in his hands and his feet.”
There are many who continue to respond the same way to every essay I write which includes a reference to Denver Snuffer. “You can tell Denver Snuffer is a liar because God tells men not to talk about the experience when they come into the presence of Christ.” We have discussed this myth ad infinitum on this blog starting with my first post on Snuffer back in February of 2012.
Bear Witness of the Testimony of Jesus
I am a witness that God asks us to share sacred experiences as appropriate. I have been prompted by the Lord many times to relate some experience in conversing with the Lord through the veil. On the other hand, some things should never be shared, nor can they be shared because words fail when trying to relate such experiences. They are intended only to prepare us for the next life.
Perhaps I relate better to Snuffer because I’m older now. Denver and I are similar in age. He is an attorney, while I am employed as a computer professional. His vocabulary does not seem to overwhelm me. I enjoy his writing style, even though I have complained in the past about his tendency toward verbosity and replication. That skill is actually the sign of a good teacher.
Seek Balance Through Service to Others
My mother was a professional educator. My love of learning and of books comes from her. My personal library contains numerous books inherited from my mother. My sister, a librarian, has an equal number. I seem to spend all my spare time reading. Physical limitations kept me from participating in sports and kept me from following the military career exampled by my father.
The argument can and should be made about coming unto Christ through service. I fully agree, but there is nothing that can replace studying about a subject or individual to obtain a foundation upon which to build. Thus, coming unto Christ by reading is and has been my focus. I spend far more time reading than I do in service. I know that’s imbalanced, but it’s the way it worked out.
Reading and Learning Motivates Action
I’ve reviewed the Second Comforter in several previous posts. I tried to relate the points that I found enlightening. I was amazed to find multiple readers wanted to argue with me about the source. Their contention was that nothing from Denver Snuffer could be trusted, especially since the man had been cast off from the LDS Church for apostasy. That seems a little close-minded.
The book was published in 2006. Since then Denver has come out with numerous other books and multiple lectures, all focusing on the same subject of coming unto Christ. As far as I can tell his message has always been, “You can read about it all you want, but until you actually do what the Lord directs, you’ll never obtain the desired goal of entering into the presence of the Lord.”
A Book on How to Meet the Savior
I think that’s the difference I find in Snuffer’s books about the Savior as compared to Talmage, McConkie, or others who have written about the Messiah. Denver’s books invite us to action, and contain promises of results, to which he bears witness by personal examples. Church leaders today simply don’t come out and say, “I have seen him and so can you. Here’s how you do it.”
I suspect that’s the appeal of Denver Snuffer to so many like me who have long believed the promises of D&C 93:1, D&C 107:18-19 and D&C 88:68. I suppose that’s why hundreds flock to his lectures in spite of threats from local church leaders to “stay away from that apostate.” There are those who recognize not all truth comes exclusively through the LDS General Authorities.
Suffering in the Garden Came in Waves
I have written previously about my own witness of what I saw in the Garden of Gethsemane, but it was nothing compared to the witness borne by Denver in his book, Come, Let us Adore Him. I challenge anybody to read the chapter on Gethsemane with humility and then come away with anything but great adoration for the Lord and Savior of us all for what he suffered on that night.
Wave after wave of suffering, torment, grief and pain tore through his body. He healed himself using his own virtue because he was a God, even the Son of God. He suffered the pains of both those who caused the sorrow of others and those who were the victims. The greater suffering came in the second wave – that of the victims – who suffered anger, bitterness and resentments.
We Can Hear His Voice as we Read
How grateful I am to know we can have a direct and personal relationship with our Savior. He wants to talk to us, to commune with us and to dwell with us. I learned this in greater abundance through reading the words of a man now cast off by the LDS Church. Yes, I had read and knew this previously, but I didn’t internalize this until it was explained in words I could understand.
How can a man come to know the Master unless someone teaches him? How can someone teach of the Master unless they know him? There is so much out there written about the Savior. Those who have taken the Holy Ghost for their guide will recognize the Master’s voice, no matter what the source. His promises to come unto us, to dwell with us are real and can be literally fulfilled.
The Promises of the Lord to Us
One of the great promises of the Lord to us is that his work is not yet complete. What he did while upon the earth, teaching, preaching and then suffering for us, he called his preparations. For what was He preparing? He was putting into place the mechanism for us to fulfill our life’s work, which is to exercise faith in Him, to repent, and then to be baptized by water and by fire.
“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” One of the most common topics of my private emails seems to center on the process of how one can receive the baptism of fire.
We Can Know and Hear the Voice of the Lord
The second most common topic is how we can hear the voice of the Lord. The answer lies in the first question. Once you receive the Holy Ghost, you can speak with the tongue of angels. Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
The scriptures act as a Urim and Thummim or a conduit for the voice of the Lord to come unto us. The more familiar we are with the scriptures, the more familiar we are with the voice of the Lord. We learn to distinguish that voice, oftentimes delivered to us by angels and sometimes by the Lord directly, from all the other voices we hear. We can also speak by that same tongue.
Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy
Joseph Smith linked revelation from the Lord with our own salvation. Without it, we cannot be saved. “Salvation cannot come without revelation. It is vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy.” (DHC 3:389)
I thank God for the knowledge of Christ or the testimony of Jesus that has come into my life both through studying scripture and the words of those who know Christ today. My efforts to put into practice acts of kindness and service are directed by the ongoing voice of the Lord that comes to me through the Holy Ghost. We can know Christ. We can hear His voice. But we must study.
Learn by Study and by Faith
We must understand doctrine. We must study the scriptures. But more important than anything else, we must seek to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord directly. In this post I have focused on the importance of studying. I have strong feelings about studying because in my rebellious youth, I felt I didn’t need to study. The Lord showed me otherwise.
But there is a better kind of knowledge, one that has greater eternal impact. As Joseph said, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” He also declared that “the best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.”
May we do both with faith and diligent effort. God will bless us for so doing.