Sunday, January 18, 2009

Can A Man See God?

When but a young man of 14, Joseph Smith was confused about the subject of religion, and acting under the counsel of the scripture James 1:5, he went to a grove of trees to pray to ask God which church he should join. In response to his prayer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to not join any of the churches. The ancient church was then restored through Joseph Smith.

There are many today who believe that a person cannot see God and live. The scriptures teach us, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. John 1:18. We believe that this is a mistranslation, owing to the fact that the scriptures tell us of people who did see God. We believe that the correct translation should be, "no sinful man has ever seen God". The Savior restated this when he said, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” (John 6:46.)

In Exodus 24:9-11 we read, " 9 ¶ Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink."

Acts 7:55,56 gives us another such event that happened to Stephen: " 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."

Clearly, there are those who have seen God, but we also read that a change takes place in a person in order to withstand the glory of God. The scriptures refer to this change as "transfiguration". This transfiguration occurred to Moses when he spoke with God face to face on the mount. "7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:" 2 Corinthians 3:7

Of his experience seeing the Father and the Son, Joseph Smith wrote: "It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
24 However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise
25 So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation. ." Joseph Smith History 1:23,24

I ran across a saying by Brigham Young today. He said that one of his greatest fears was that the people of the church would take everything he said at his word without asking God to verify the truthfulness of it. We say the same for Joseph Smith's experience. A person has the God-given right to study Joseph's testimony out in their mind and decide for themselves if it is true, then to ask God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true. God will give answers to those who ask with sincerity of heart. This was the promise in James that Joseph followed, and we may follow it as well. "5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." James 1:5,6

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