In the late 1980’s I attended a regional Priesthood Leadership meeting in Santa Monica California. I was in a bishopric at the time. Elder Packer was the speaker. He talked about how he should not need to travel to California to speak to us, that we were seasoned leaders, and that his time could be better spent in countries without multigenerational members. He particularly called out Mexico, where he had recently returned from forming a Stake. He lamented on the amount of boxes of “manuals and forms” that were delivered to this new Stake, and all the administrative stuff that now befell them.
His most interesting statement came when he was telling us we didn’t need Salt Lake to give us directions, but that we could get all the revelation we needed for our stewardship. He cautioned us not to hold out for a manifestations or audible voices when waiting for revelation for our calling. He then stated as best as I can remember: “I’ve never had a heavenly visitation, nor have I even heard an audible voice in answer to my prayers, and I know of none of my brethren that has had one either”. He then went on to emphasize the still small voice that comes to us.
I found it interesting that in light of the above statements, one could easy conclude that nether he or the rest of the Q15 have even seen a heavenly beaning, let alone the Lord. Yet 20 years earlier, when he gave his first talk as a newly ordained Apostle, he said the following
Occasionally during the past year I have been asked a question. Usually it comes as a curious, almost an idle, question about the qualifications to stand as a witness for Christ. The question they ask is, “Have you seen Him?”
That is a question that I have never asked of another. I have not asked that question of my brethren in the Quorum, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration, indeed, some authorization, even to ask it.
There are some things just too sacred to discuss. We know that as it relates to the temples. In our temples, sacred ordinances are performed; sacred experiences are enjoyed. And yet we do not, because of the nature of them, discuss them outside those sacred walls.April 1971 General Conference
But then we have Elder Oaks from a youth fireside in 2016. It was a questiona an answer format
What should we pray for to receive the same testimony and/or conversion that Alma the Younger experienced, for our friend who are not members?
Elder Oaks answers:
I’ve never had an experience like that and I don’t know anyone among the 1st Presidency or Quorum of the 12 who’ve had that kind of experience. Yet everyone of us knows of a certainty the things that Alma knew. But it’s just that unless the Lord chooses to do it another way, as he sometimes does; for millions and millions of His children the testimony settles upon us gradually. Like so much dust on the windowsill or so much dew on the grass. One day you didn’t have it and another day you did and you don’t know which day it happened. That’s the way I got my testimony. And then I knew it was true when it continued to grow.
There are also older quotes from Heber J. Grant and Joseph Fielding Smith wear they both deny ever seeing the Lord.
But again Elder Packer gave the following in 2016
After all the years that I have lived and taught and served, after the millions of miles I have traveled around the world, with all that I have experienced, there is one great truth that I would share. That is my witness of the Savior Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded the following after a sacred experience:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him”
Their words are my words.The Witness,” Ensign, May 2014, page 97
It is not just Elder Packer, many of the Q15 have given talks where they speak of experiences “to sacred to share” and imply it has to do with seeing the Lord. It was not too scared for Joseph Smith to tell of his seeing the Lord, AND his Father! This sacred experience is repeated probably thousands of times everyday by missionaries.
So why the equivocation today by the Q15? Are they afraid it will diminish their authority if they come clean and say point blank they have not seen Christ? And if they have seen Him, why not tell us?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
It should be obvious to all by now that no current General Authority has claimed to personally see that Savior. It is hopeful members that put that idea into circulation.
a few typos in this post; most are easy to ignore, but at the end, “sacred” when misspelled as “scared” completely skews the meaning. Probably would be good to clean it up.
All we are is dust on the windowsill…
Conversely, the dew on the grass is being dried up by dominant narratives which are not sustainable and by leaders with muskets.
First: we might start hearing more along the lines of “we (Q15) are witnesses to the NAME of Christ”, as opposed to Christ.
Second: RMN has watered down the concept of “revelation” to the point where it is anything he wants to say it is. So it’s not much of a stretch to then also say “we have seen Him”.
How does this all work? It’s choosing to believe. It’s wanting to believe. That doesn’t mean IT IS. But you can talk yourself into it if you try hard enough.
(I don’t mean to be disrespectful)
My take on this was that for a long time there was an “Emperor has no clothes” or “imposter syndrome” situation. Somewhere along the way, in the early days of the Church because of the experiences claimed by Joseph Smith and other early apostles, the notion arose that members of the Q15 were indeed direct witness of Christ as claimed for NT apostles after the resurrection. While many (all?) latter-day apostles since the immediate times of JS had actually claimed they had any visionary experiences, they felt like they should have had that experience, and didn’t want to say that publicly because they would lose the confidence of church member and fellow GAs, so they didn’t claim visions, but they didn’t correct members when members said things like “we have modern day apostles who have seen Christ”. And they made statements that could be easily interpreted to suggest they had. But I suspect that over the past few years, the cat is a bit out of the bag and expectations needed to be strongly titrated. So certain GAs have been working hard to reframe the meaning of their witness. But the bottom line does turn out to be the same problem. If their experience with the divine is the same as mine, why should I give credence to their claims of a sad heaven where God rejects His LGBTQ children, when my experience with the divine says just the opposite?
Correction: While many (all?) latter-day apostles since the immediate times of JS had actually NOT claimed they had any visionary experiences,
Raymond, dyslexics of the world untie!
Though they won’t state clearly and directly that they have seen Christ face-to-face, they also make no effort to dispel the rumors, and they seem to get a lot of mileage out of perpetuating the myth. They still need some plausible deniability when the truth comes out.
I grew up in the Church, but I don’t ever recall being taught that apostles had literal in-person encounters with Jesus. I always thought the “special witnesses of Christ” thing was figurative or aspirational. It wasn’t until I went to college and was around Utah Mormons for the first time that I heard of the idea. I remember one zealous institute classmate proclaiming that the Q15’s upper-level conference room in the SLC temple had a 16th chair at the head of the table, reserved for you-know-who (that guy had a smug tone to his voice as if he was saying, “trust me, I’m from Utah, I just know these things” and also liked to name-drop the various GAs he’s shaken hands with). I rolled my eyes at notions like that, thinking it was weird that the only people on earth who could see Jesus with their own eyes were a dozen elderly white men from Utah, who looked and acted nothing like Christ’s original working-class Levantine apostles.
Somewhat tangential, but I also never grew up hearing that the 3 Nephites were still alive and wandering the earth. That is, until I went to college and heard Utah Mormons make dubious claims about their mission companion’s uncle’s best friend who got a flat tire outside of St. George and a nice man in white clothes showed up to help, then disappeared without a trace.
Fascinating juxtaposition of quotes. My take is that none of them has actually seen Jesus (of course, I doubt all claims to have seen the resurrected Jesus). When they claim to have seen him, it is in the metaphoric sense, with “spiritual eyes” or something to that effect. In that sense couldn’t anyone have claimed to have seen Jesus?
So why the seeming lack of consistency?
1) They want members to believe that people (Joseph Smith and scriptural figures) have actually seen Jesus appear to them, but that these apparitions are rare. The especially want members to be skeptical of other members, like Denver Snuffer and Julie Rowe, who claim to have had special revelations by God to them that give them directions not in line with what the leaders say. To make that point, they’re willing to say, hey, if we as prophets, seers, and revelators haven’t seen him (in actuality), then doubt your local ward member’s claim to have seen Jesus.
2) They have two main segments of followers who believe conflicting things about apparitions and want to maintain the allegiance of both. The first group (“Pentecostal” type) has a deep belief in the supernatural and could easily be led astray by the Denver Snuffers of this world. They need to, at some point, claim/hint at having seen Jesus directly in some vague way in order to persuade this group to view the FP and Q12 with a sense of deep spiritual awe. The second group consists of those who are more rational thinking and are turned off by claims to the supernatural. They are loyal to the church but could come to reject it if more Pentecostal types are brought into the leadership. So in order to please both types of believers, they engage in doublethink providing quotes and statements to make the Pentecostal types think that they’ve seen Jesus and also to make the rational types think that their spirituality is more in line with reason and not based on fantastic supernatural phenomena.
It’s weird just how much offense Elder Packer took at someone asking whether he, a self-described Special Witness of Christ, had actually seen Christ. Perhaps that was a point of insecurity in his part. I don’t envy him. The weight of that particular bit of cognitive dissonance must have been crushing.
Contrast his hush-hush/breach-of-protocol attitude with the disciples in the NT after the resurrection, running breathlessly to reunite with one another, shouting joyously, “We have seen the Lord!” The truth of it aside, one’s clearly a better story.
I mean, I have to give them credit for their honesty in this case, but is it any wonder so many of us are leaving if all they have to offer us is dust on the windowsill?
It’s pretty simple: 1) They want you to have the belief that they are special so the likelihood that you will obey them is increased, and 2) they don’t want you to think that you should expect such an experience for yourself, because you may eventually become disillusioned and less likely to obey them when it doesn’t happen.
I’m one of @Jack Hughes Utahans but absolutely grew up believing that the apostles and prophet had seen Jesus face-to-face. And in the three nephites :-). I can’t remember when exactly I was disabused of that notion but I agree they like to skirt around it. I suspect if you polled people, many would answer that the apostles have seen Jesus.
If they haven’t, I am at pains to understand what makes their witness “special”? I’m not saying it can’t be but honestly trying to understand what’s different between them and everybody else. Or, as mentioned above, why I would need to defer to them on all manner of issues from family planning to how I spend my time and money.
Interesting post and comments.
Somehow, we have morphed from being a Church started by people having heavenly visions, to being a Church, with its accompanying culture, that looks askance at people having visions. The last Chuch leader to have a Vision, I think (please correct me if I am wrong) was Joseph F. Smith, who in 1918 saw a Vision/Dream on what happens in the Spirit World after we die. He died a month after receiving this vision. Many years later, SWK proposed in GC that JFS‘ Vision be canonized, and it eventually became DC 138. I don‘t think that SWK‘s 1978 Revelation about Blacks receiving the Priesthood, welcome as it was, qualifies as a vision.
Joseph Smith established that only the Church President can receive revelation for the whole Church. Understandable if we are not to have chaos, with countless voices competing with each other. But we seem to be stuck in a groove of predictability, and there is a general cultural attitude that “promptings of the Spirit” are the usual way that God interacts with us and our Church leaders. Fair enough. I have from time to time in my life received definite spiritual promptings.
Speaking facetiously, I would love it if RMN announced that he received a vision that all non-vaxers are to have their names removed from Church records. But I am not being serious, here.
But I AM a bit sad that we seem to have moved away from an Age of Visions. I suspectthat people sometimes still have personal visions, but keep the fact to themselves, because they don‘t want to be viewed as kooks by their neighbors and give their Stake President heart failure.
Twenty-ish years ago I converse with a bunch of missionaries in this topic over the course of my two year mission. The conversation generally started by talking about how apostles never actually claim to see Jesus, but they do imply it. I would talk about a certain seminary teacher who would list a whole bunch of apostolic quotes to that effect and then ask the class, “do you think this means they said they have seen Jesus”, and inevitably someone in the class would say yes, but in my head I would think no. The teacher responded, but did they really say that? No answer.
Almost always the missionary would bring up Bruce Mcconkie’s famous testimony of approximately “I won’t know any better then than I know more.”
At the end of this conversation I would ask them if they thought the apostles had seen Jesus, and to the best of my memory they all said yes. For my self, I was never sure, I think, but I did at times believe it, but my memory is a bit fuzzy.
Today, it boggles my mind a bit that I ever believed such an extraordinary thing *that the apostles don’t even claim to be true*, but I’m convinced that a very high number of members in the pews not only believe it, but also believe that it is an essential belief that is core to their testimony.
I’m with joshh, 10ac and Elisa. This is just another example of church leaders obfuscating about supposedly the most important reason they’re called to their positions in the first place. The whole “I’d never ask about such sacred experiences” thing is just a smokescreen. No one wants to come out and actually admit that they haven’t seen the face of Jesus, but also no-one wants to come out and say they have, either. To me, that’s an obvious indication that no-one has and they don’t want to admit it. I think 10ac is right that the Q15 has been working hard to reframe the meaning and nature of the “witness” of Christ. I’m sure we’ll get more obfuscation and hemming and hawing until eventually they’ll pull out the old, “we never said that” line. And Kirkstall is certainly right that it’s a marked change from the days just after Christ’s resurrection. I thought we were all about the restoration of how things were when Jesus was on the earth. If that’s so, I’d expect regular reports from the 15 on their encounters with Jesus and detailed reports about what he told them.
Those are interesting quotes about not seeing the Lord. I remember seeing framed art with a GA’s quote about how he’ll see Jesus after death and then something to the effect of “but it won’t be any surer witness than what I have now” (I can’t remember the wording and it might have been Bruce R. McConkie but I can’t say for sure). I thought the First Presidency saw Christ regularly. I had a seminary teacher (Utah) who was a janitor in the temple and he talked about vacuuming the Celestial Room in the SL Temple and being cautioned about vacuuming around the Holy of Holies because Christ had appeared there. The idea that the GAs *haven’t* seen Christ was kind of a let down for me.
Taiwan Missionary’s point about visionaries being viewed as slightly off their rocker is a good one. If the GAs said they’d seen heavenly beings and heard angelic voices, that would be concerning. Visual and auditory hallucinations are signs of mental illness, as are delusions of grandeur (like thinking you’ve got a special mission straight from God). I don’t think spiritual experiences are a sign of mental illness. Someone who experiences guidance, intuition and comfort when suffering is full of love and connection to humanity; those are spiritual experiences that enhance mental health. The more extreme and unusual a spiritual experience gets, the more you start suspecting something is wrong with a person’s neural wiring. I personally know someone who claims he has had his calling and election made sure in an experience too personal to talk about, and mostly I just think he needs psychiatric care.
On that same point. In seminary and church, I’ve heard the comment that Joseph Smith couldn’t have written the Book of Mormon in such a short amount of time so it must have been translated, and is of divine origin. I’ve had some odd creativity surges during my life, in which I’ve produced a whole lot of writing (nothing like the Book of Mormon, but still writing I thought was inspired and others have admired and loved). Eventually, I landed in a psychologist’s office to find out if I have bipolar II disorder. Bipolar I is the full-blown mania. Bipolar II involves hypomania where you’re surging with energy and ideas but you still remain connected enough to reality to function so people think you’re inspired instead of insane. I glitter with charisma and dazzle people when I’m having one of my creative surges. It’s gotten a little harder to handle as I’ve gotten older (I’m about a decade older than Joseph Smith was when he died). I’ve had (literally) crazy amounts of what felt like inspiration but it turned out to be a symptom of a mental illness. The psychologist eventually decided I’m not bipolar, but I learned enough about the disorder to wonder if maybe . . . I mean, the disorder involves hypersexuality too. Bipolar II symptoms would actually explain a lot about Joseph Smith.
I recall being on my mission when the FP and Q12 released The Living Christ. I was hopeful these proclamations were going to become common and sort of a modern day D&C for my times. I remember hearing there was a video that accompanied the proclamation and couldn’t wait to watch it. But even then, as a believer, I remember being quite let down with the video. It seemed their knowledge of Christ was no different than anyone’s who had studied the synoptic gospels. And for the reasons OP notes about me sharing the First Vision literally on dirty, noisy street corners every day with people that hardly seemed interested (we were encouraged to teach the first discussion when we street contacted), I never bought that it was too sacred to share. But also being a Utah Mormon by birth, it’s my recollection that EVERYONE believed they conversed with Christ in the temple on a quasi-frequent basis.
Fast forward to today, and I’m with Elisa 100%. What about their witness is special, and what about their witness would ever lead me to look to them when making important life choices? Elder Holland recently told the youth of London not to leave; essentially that they should consider that he has life experiences that validate his membership and they should take that seriously. The problem is, he never clarified what those experiences were, and why anyone should elevate those experiences above their own. The future will not engage with these tactics. Because I said so is not good enough anymore.
The entire founding of our religious movement is predicated upon men who have claimed spiritual experiences, visions, and authority sufficient to organize and direct members on how to live during this life and how to please God. The idea that this no longer occurs begs the question, “Why not?” The fact they are essentially admitting it begs the question, “Why give added weight to their counsel or direction?”
If our leadership now is admitting they do not have those same experiences, I do not see our church institution being “living and true” in the sense that may have been intended in the 1830s. If we are simply led by managers who are not regularly communing with God, I do not see much difference between our church and any other Christian denomination promoting the gospel of Christ.
Does that mean our religion is worthless? Of course not. Can we find value in certain doctrines or teachings? Sure you can. But letting go of the idea that these men are in regular contact with the resurrected Savior is a blessing and a curse to engagement in this Church.
I grew up in Utah and am still in Utah. I did not grow up with the idea that the apostles literally see Jesus and I don’t hear people say that. Not sure why my experience is so different. I feel like they are fairly consistent in saying their witness is via the Holy Ghost.
Taking it a step further, let’s not forget that we teach the doctrine of the Second Comforter—that anyone can see Jesus in this life if they’re righteous enough (curious how many of you had this taught to you—it’s in the Topical Guide at least). I not only believed and taught that the apostles spoke to Jesus face to face, I entertained the possibility that I could too some day (after overcoming the natural man of course, probably not though because sin and stuff). I’ve heard stories in various Sunday Schools and family meetings of ancestors’ journal entries that mention such visitations.
Hold the phone though, because if the prophet and the apostles don’t even get the Second Comforter, then who does? Did Elder Packer and Elder Oaks close the book on this particular doctrine?
Yep @kirkstall. I just don’t think it is debatable that these things have been taught in lots of church settings. You can Google second comforter and find plenty of written references to it in Church publications and for sure it was implied that not only could we receive that if we were righteous enough, but that the prophet and apostles had. Also, strongly suggested that the second anointing involved that kind of visitation.
If apostles are “special witnesses of Jesus Christ,” then we should be able to see the Christ in their words and actions. All the talk about visions and being in the presence of the risen Christ makes for interesting, maybe be even fascinating, chatter. But show me why this person is a true witness of Christ.
Grabbed this some time ago, always loved it:
“If Jesus stood beside you
I would run, just like my Uncle did.
Uncle G. was in the USMC in the Solomon Islands in WWII and survived some of the worst combat horrors imaginable. Nothing could rattle him. He lived a block from one of the old pioneer temples and worked there as the janitor. A couple years after the war a severe blizzard struck and the temple president called him on the phone to tell him to go close a window he had left open in the west tower. By that time it was snowing so hard that G. couldn’t drive or even walk there without using a rope and going slowly from tree to tree along the street.
When he got to the temple and unlocked the door and was climbing the tower stairs he heard footsteps; when it was impossible for anyone to be in there. And he reports that he somehow recognized them. He ran out of there in an absolute panic and straight into a tree and was knocked unconscious for several hours.
G woke up around dawn and went back into the temple. He found the window closed, a patch of snow on the floor a few inches deep proving the window had been open. Some of the snow had melted and ran down the floor to near the splicing of an electric wire which would have caused a fire if there had been even a little bit more snow. In the snow were a few bare human foot prints, about size 9, and little pyramids of snow in the middle of each foot print as if outlining piercings in the feet.
A memorable family folk tale that sent me to shivering every time I heard Uncle G tell it many years ago. We used to fear our Gods; now we have turned them into nannies.”
Indeed we have.
Bro Sky, I immediately distrust and disbelieve people who talk about spiritual experiences that are too sacred to be shared, but apparently not so sacred that it prevents them from hinting that they’ve had a “special” ie unique, experience. It’s sort of like the missing section of the BOM: it cannot be repeated because discrepancies will show up, better just say it was taken back to Heaven and/or YOU guys aren’t spiritual enough to hear it…although I did.
E: If you think the Q15 have “clearly” said that they have not seen the Savior (not hinted that some things are too sacred to talk about), then you’ve got more clarity than a lot of seminary teachers and BYU religion teachers out there who smugly imply otherwise.
TK: Or conversely, they don’t want to encourage members to seek this because what if those members *do* receive this type of witness that they themselves have not? That would undermine their institutional authority (e.g. Denver Snuffer). I have a post teed up for next week on this topic, actually. There’s something to this about squelching non-instutitional gifts among the membership. We say that leaders aren’t the *most spiritual* person in the ward, for example, but we also don’t want someone to emerge who is clearly more spiritual because that can lead to schism and undermine the role of the Church as mediator.
When we visited Kirtland years ago, the guides shared a list of nine experiences among the early Church members in which they saw the Savior or other celestial beings. One of these was during a meeting of the School of the Prophets in the room above the Newel K. Whitney store where Joseph & Emma were living at the time (in an upstairs bedroom across the hall from where the School of the Prophets met), where she complained about the tobacco spittle and smoke (resulting in the Word of Wisdom), and where Joseph would shake hands and look each brother in the eye as they entered to ascertain their worthiness (the earliest worthiness interviews). This small upstairs room with one small window behind them must have been something indeed, full of smoke and tobacco, shoulder-to-shoulder men (23 men were in the room during one manifestation), sweating it out in the summer heat. In context, the story bears so little resemblance to anything recognizably Mormon that I suspect we just can’t really understand the early Church or the experiences they recorded.
I can imagine the following exchange between an apostle and a member, after the apostle bears the usual apostolic testimony:
“I”m touched by your rock solid testimony of the Risen Christ. What would we do without latter-day apostles?”
“Yes, we are special witnesses of Christ.”
“So, does that mean you and other apostles have had actual encounters (not just dreams) with the Risen Christ, to which you can bear witness?”
“Well, we’re special witnesses, but not quite *that* special.”
A couple of years ago I heard a senior apostle visiting our local ward discussing and clarifying from the pulpit that apostolic testimonies are witnessing to the *name* of Christ. Which is a distinction I’m sure 99% of listening members miss, but it almost certainly is meant to shield apostles from the obvious question, “How can you be witnesses of Christ if you haven’t seen him?” [Recall the requirement to join thej early apostles in Acts was that one had seen and heard Jesus during his mortal ministry.] Response: We didn’t say we were actual witnesses of Christ, just that we are witnesses of the *name* of Christ. It’s the kind of distinction a Jesuit would have come up with back in the day.
Color me slightly cranky on how this post and its comments have developed. I hope what I say here will help, but this topic seems to have hit a nerve with a lot of people.
I wish I could cite you chapter and verse for the following anecdote I read a couple of years ago on one of the Mormon blogs, but I can’t. So for me, it is a second-hand story.
In that brief period between BKP’s death and Thomas Monson’s death, RMN was President of the Q12. During that time, a man was hiking in the local Utah mountains on a Saturday with his daughter. Who should they bump into but RMN, also hiking, accompanied by a young man who appeared to be a bodyguard. RMN struck up a conversation with the hiker, whereupon the bodyguard retreated to a distance where he would not be part of the conversation.
According to the hiker, who wrote an account of his meeting with RMN on one of the blogs, he, his daughter, and RMN had a pleasant conversation. During the course of the conversation, the hiker asked RMN outright, “Have you ever seen Jesus Christ?”’ According to hiker, RMN smiled and simply answered, “No.”
Take the account of this meeting for what it is worth. Having never been a a fan of RMN, I am nevertheless inclined to take the account at face value.
I will acknowledge that there is a sensationalist part of Mormon culture that feeds on claims that the Q15 have all seen the Savior. But I think it stems from a gullible need to have a Santa Claus testimony. Gullible people start these claims, gullible people accept them, and then people who realize that the Church is not an air-brushed portrait by Norman Rockwell get upset by the claims of apostles seeing Christ.
In the meantime, I remain a disillusioned believer, despite members of the Q15 not having seen Christ. To me, this is not a big issue. There are other, more serious issues facing the Church.
@Rich Brown, that’s a good point. Whether or not someone has literally *seen* Jesus isn’t so important (although I don’t think people should imply it if it isn’t true – that’s misleading). Someone can be a great witness of Christ if they bring people to Christ / reflect Christ’s love and character / etc. Men in suits don’t do that for me but YMMV.
@Dave B such classic lawyer speak.
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I was taught in (non-Utah) seminary, SS, PH, etc. that it should be the goal of every righteous saint to see the face of Christ literally and personally in this life. This was also taught in a few BYU religion classes.
I had a missionary companion (who later was determined to have pretty severe mental illness) insist on spending a P-Day in the woods praying for a visit from Christ. I knew that wasn’t going to happen but I sat under a tree for five hours until he was so discouraged that we went home.
Someone gave me Denver Snuffer’s book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift”. I hadn’t heard of Snuffer (and wished I Googled him, first). It was very familiar to what I had heard 30 years before. I eventually figured out that he was going to reveal his visit with Christ, but it was jarring when he gave the date of his first convo.
With my starry eyed youth well in the rearview mirror, don’t think it is in the economy of God to make personal visits. I don’t think Joseph or any of his successors saw any deities (or angels) either. There is no evidence that JS spoke much publicly of his 1st vision. The church didn’t really trot it out and teach it openly until after BY died – most publicly during the manifesto days (perhaps as a diversionary tactic to cement a religious stamp on the newly polygamy-free church).
Maybe we see him best when we truly see “the least of these”.
I could be wrong, but I vaguely remember hearing about Jesus appearing many many years ago in one of the temples—St. George?
I, too, remember while growing up in Utah, stories that the 3 Nephites were still on earth…
I also remember Pres Hinckley being interviewed for TV and being asked about communication with diety and he answered something to the effect of prayer and spiritual impressions/promptings.
@beenthere, we had an elder in my mission full on tell everyone he’d seen Jesus during a mission conference testimony meeting. I bet every mission has someone like that. And no, it didn’t seem super spiritual. It was v uncomfortable for everyone.
Prophets. Seers. Revelators. Chosen Apostles of The Lord Jesus Christ. Especial Witnesses of Jesus Christ. Holders of the Keys of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Each of these, in and of themselves, are mindboggling titles. Together? Wow. Only the top leaders of the Church claim all of these titles. In most cases, the definition of these titles are explained in the scriptures. The Lord, we’re told, will do nothing without first revealing what He is about to do to His prophets (Amos 3:7). The Lord will make Himself known to the prophets in visions (Num. 12:6). A Seer is even greater than a prophet (Mosiah 8:16) and a greater gift no man (or woman) has. It gives them the ability to see things which are to come, even secret and hidden things (v. 17) and is connected with the ability to translate ancient records (v.13). Prophets, when authorized, as in the case of Elijah and Nephi III, are granted a special version of the sealing power whereby they have power to smite the earth with famine, pestilence, and destruction (Hel. 10:6). To me, these titles overshadow any other title that someone could receive on this earth.
Heady stuff, and this is just a portion of the power granted by the scriptures to those who carry the above titles. All I know is that if I were one of the 15 men on the planet who claim to be all these things, I would be dang, dang sure that I truly am before I would allow my name to be presented before God, angels, and these millions of witnesses at General Conference to be accepted as such by them. I pray that they are.
Btw Bishop Bill—
We were in the Santa Monica 1st ward from 1983-1987. Perhaps we crossed paths?
Dave B: Why does “special witnesses of the *name* of Jesus Christ” sound like the distinctions Dwight Schrute is always pushing between “Assistant Regional Manager” and “Assistant to the Regional Manager”?
Taiwan Missionary: There is a statue outside the Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin that looks like a homeless person sleeping on a bench. Only when you look closer do you see nail holes in the feet of the sleeping statue. I think this idea goes nicely with yours that we only see the face of the saviour when we see it in “the least of these,” and most of us never really see “the least of these.” We are completely conditioned to overlook those in need.
rickpowers: The use of the titles “prophets, seers, and revelators” is a relatively modern invention (well, honestly the Church is a relatively modern invention, but I mean that we have not always used those titles for the apostles). When Brigham Young became Church president, he didn’t even claim the title “prophet.” He said we no longer had prophets, just apostles, now that Joseph was dead. But somewhere along the line (I’m thinking Joseph F. Smith, but historians, please correct me), adding these titles to all the apostles became important and was eventually (maybe in the late 80s or even the 90s?) added to the temple recommend interview (an attestation that the member *believes* that Church leaders are “prophets, seers, and revelators.”)
BY stated that except for Joseph Smith, none of his predecessors has seen Christ. Grant made a similar comment. The Q15 engages in a lot of doublespeak.
Long time co-blogger and brainiac. There’s a problem. You’ve hand-picked all the “con” evidence and I don’t see any methodology to objectively survey the literature and collect any of the visionary testimonies. People on the bloggernacle can swirl in the negative evidence, in a “social dilemma” way. Or, we can collect all the evidence in a proper *methodological* literature review, like the BYU researchers did with that magnificent paper “A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings About Heavenly Mother”. Essentially, you have to create a fair and broad methodology- throw a big net (to catch everything- not just the stuff that supports your hypotheses, but everything) and then analyze it. Wanna collaborate? Sounds like a great project.
I think you’ll find that Joseph Fielding Smith wasn’t the last Prophet visionary. Has anyone read “Temple Manifestations”? Oscar McConkie’s “Angles”, family histories? Has anyone read about the Kimball Family, the SWK biography? That is an extremely visionary family. And, if you dive into GA family history, you’ll also find similar testimonies told by their mothers, wives, fathers, daughters, sons, etc. But it’s not just GAs and their families! Your rank and file Saints tell countless stories beyond the veil that include the Savior, God the Father, Heavenly Mother, and the Holy Ghost. Countless. Crossing the veil at birth or death, stories of peril and joy, near death experiences, marriages and temple work, genealogy and missionary work name just a few. One of the more recent testimonies of the savior being face to face with us that I was privileged to revive and that spoke truth to my spirit, came from a little primary boy I knew who had just lost his young father.
The Mormon people are visionary people. Do what you will, diagnose is all with schizophrenia using the DSM-5. Mormonism has strong links to English and Nordic vision traditions, and powerful connections with other cultures and people who similarly “connect” in otherworldly ways (Native American, Native Hawaiian, Maori, Slavs, etc.) Like attracts like and Mormonism is a convergence of vision and belief.
I too lament the fact that our GAs cannot talk about these things in conference. Sometimes I wonder whether the size of the church and the lack of intimacy is the problem, or whether being a persecuted church has put us on guard. I also wonder if the GAs have to be careful to not discuss visions, as to not be accused of insanity and somehow put (or appear to put) the assets in danger. If that’s the case, it’s time to divorce “president” and “prophet”. If I were approached by strangers (friends or foe?) and put on the spot about sacred experiences, I don’t think I would be open and transparent.
And yes, I too have been annoyed at RMN’s broad definition of “revelation” which landed him in hot water in Hawaii as PQ15 when he spoke about the POX. The brethren are working hard to dispel myths about some sort of bat-phone in the holy of holies, so they emphasize the “warm fuzzies” instead of visions and miracles. And at the same time, I think they could lean into our uniqueness and the rich heritage of visions.
Anyone want to join me in sending RMN a “keep Mormonism weird” bumper sticker?
Just kidding. I’ll put a few more quarters in the swear jar for using the word “Mormon”.
Bishop Bill – an idea for you next year on Sunday Oct 30 – a discussion of visions of Satan or perhaps Bigfoot (Cain), starting with David W. Patten.
Unrelated but no word from our guy JCS recently…
If you look at the charge OliverCowdery gave to the original 12 it included the requirement that they see the Savior I have looked at this carefully over the last 50 years and can find only 5 apostles who have made that claim publically The most recent was David B Haight No president of the church since Joseph has made such a claim