Increased Faith Yields Power, Miracles, and Joy
In his April 2020 General Conference keynote address, “Hear Him,” President Russell Nelson said:
“Hear Him.” When we hear that phrase, we think back to a couple of times in our sacred history where individuals or groups of people heard from God the Father directly. When He has found it crucially important to personally visit the earth, like in the Garden of Eden, on the Mount of Transfiguration, a year later near the Bountiful Temple to the righteous Nephites, to Stephen, or in the Sacred Grove and Kirtland Temple, if it is one-on-one event, God usually calls us by our first name, and then directs our attention to His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased, and concludes with the invitation to “Hear Him.”
Note that it is a divine invitation to specifically hear the message of God the Son. Moreover, we can logically infer He also means that we need not simply hear but also do what the Savior tells us to do. To take the message to heart. Of course, whether or not we do that is a choice that is up to each of us.
God asks us to hear His beloved Son, because He knows with absolute certainty that His Son will only say that which the Father would say. During his mortal ministry, Jesus himself bore testimony of that fact. His words and His deeds and His love and His compassion and His relationships with mortals — these are exactly what the Father would do if He were here.
But why does God ask us to listen to His Son? Why do we need an intermediary? Why do we need Jesus? Can’t we just have a two-way face-to-face conversation directly with the Father like we used to before we chose to come to this earth? Let’s see if we can’t answer those questions.
The Nature of Family
The Eternal Father of Jesus Christ, and you and me, as well as countless brothers and sisters distributed throughout the vastness of eternity and the vastness of the universe, on worlds without number, as difficult as it may be to comprehend, our Father and our God wants to have a personal relationship with us. Of course, He does. Why wouldn’t He? It is only natural and instinctual. It is what good parents want. They love their children and want to spend as much time with them as possible.
Chances are pretty good that at some point in your life you were likely a son or a daughter who once lived with parents or guardians. Chances are also good that they sacrificed a lot for you, most of which we don’t even remember nor appreciate. Our memories of growing up, except for the traumatic or dramatic or fantastic events, have largely been erased from our adult brains. And I’m told, that as you get less youthful, you even have a hard time remembering what you did last week. It is almost like we have had a “veil of forgetfulness” placed over our memories by divine design.
When thinking about the people who birthed us or raised us, I think we can agree that we wouldn’t be here, right now, without them. Therefore, we owe our very mortal existence to them. It is no wonder that one of the Big Ten commandments deals with our relationship to our fathers and mothers. If we want to be truly honorable, we will never stop honoring them for that life even though our parents were, just like you and me, flawed individuals. And so, if they are still alive today, we try to spend time with them as often as possible. Which they love. Probably even more than we love it.
But the same thing is true with our heavenly parents. But much more so. We spent far more time with them than we have here on earth. Our nature, character, talents, intellect, and spiritual gifts that we have discovered or have yet to discover, were developed and nurtured in our heavenly home under the tutelage of our heavenly family. Therefore, if we want to honor them, we will regularly return and report on our mortal stewardships. As we do that, we are given further instructions. And we do that through the avenue of prayer.
And we do that in the way Jesus asked us to do that. He didn’t ask us to pray to him, or pray to heavenly mother, or to other members of our heavenly household, or to dead prophets and “saints”, or to our mortal ancestors who have since passed on to the spirit world, or to “mother earth.” or to the mythical pantheon of false deities, idols, demons, or other imagined or mythical beings. Jesus asked us to pray to “Our Father which art in heaven.” Furthermore, we are to have these conversations with God the Father in the name of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
Because of the omniscience of our heavenly parents, and our lack of it, they knew that we would make a major mess of our mortal lives. Relatively speaking, and speaking spiritually, we were mere teenagers, who thought we knew everything and didn’t need any oversight at all. We were eager to leave home and experience mortality on our own. Always willing to defer to our agency while allowing us to grow and learn essential lessons away from His presence, God encouraged us leave our heavenly home where we would find ourselves in a lonely and dreary world, filled with noxious briars and, from time-to-time, even more noxious people. We call them career politicians.
Our divine parents knew that once we left their presence, and experienced the need to exercise faith with our spiritual senses, we would, disobey at least one of their celestial laws, as well as many of the lower terrestrial or telestial laws, which violation of even one law would disqualify us from living with them in their celestial kingdom, since only those who live celestial laws can live in celestial kingdoms and have celestial families.
After all, they made it clear that no unclean thing can, nor would want to, live with them in a state of filthiness. If you were covered with mud and muck from a pigpen and subsequently stank, would you feel comfortable walking into a pristine and heavenly environment? I don’t think so.
But like any parent who lives away from their grown children, our heavenly parents, even though their children believe they are out of their sight because they can’t see them, or even hear from them, that doesn’t mean they can’t see and hear us. They’re omnipotent beings, after all. They don’t need to lurk on social media to see what you’re up to. They are constantly observing all their creations, to see if they will do what they were created to do.
Of course, they still pine after us, watch over us, seek for our well-being, and hope we will decide, sooner than later, to choose to return to their presence, and help other people do the same thing. In fact, this is their entire purpose and the thing that brings them the most joy. They glory in it. That is their family business. To share immortality and eternal life with anyone who wants it.
Our heavenly parents knew that we would need help here on this beautiful and diverse planet. They knew that we would all fall short, that we would need rescuing, that we would need prophets and prophetesses, that we would need good shepherds and shepherdesses.
They also knew that we could never return to their presence and see them and hear them with our eyes and ears because of our transgressions and fallen nature. We needed someone who could clean us up, get us clothed in robes of righteousness, and usher us back into the presence of our heavenly parents and heavenly siblings and other heavenly creations. And that person is, of course, Jehovah, the firstborn son, the one with the birthright blessing and the birthright responsibility to care for his younger and less mature brothers and sisters.
Jehovah is the master builder of not only our heaven and earth, as well as countless other worlds populated by numberless children of God, but also the master builder of our souls. It is only through Him, that one day, after an intentional change of attitude and behavior on our part, he will make up for our vast weaknesses, and make it possible to worthily approach the throne of God — not because of our worthiness, but because of His worthiness. This reunion would never happen without his personal intervention and supernal grace.
Unlike the countless other peopled worlds Jehovah created under the direction of God the Father, this world, our world, would be an extra special place for three reasons.
The First Reason Our Earth Is Special
First, this is where the noble and great ones were sent to live. We read about some of them in our scriptures, but, if I may be so bold, we also rub shoulders with some of them in our daily lives. If you’ve covenanted to participate in the family business to help others follow Christ, then you are part of this hand-picked group of imperfect and struggling under-shepherds. Like a school of tiny fish, our task is to swim up the mighty Mississippi, against the massive current, against the gargantuan force. Not an easy task. Especially when you consider the second reason our earth is special.
The Second Reason Our Earth Is Special
In addition to some of the best, this world is also home to some of the worst spirits ever begotten. It is here, on this earth only, that Satan freely roams as a miffed, monstrous, malevolent misanthrope. But he isn’t alone, he commands a vast army consisting of a third part of the host of heaven who were banished to this earth, our earth. They rejected the plan of light and truth and chose the plan of darkness and damnation. They opted out. As far as we know, these miserable minions don’t occupy the other inhabited planets — just ours.
Because of their bad attitudes, as spirit beings, they do everything they can to make us miserable. So, we get a very significant extra dose of badness and temptations that the other children of God on other worlds didn’t have to endure. But Father assured us that we could handle it if we turn to him and receive his divine protection from this unseen mob, who know us far better than we know them, so they know exactly which weaknesses to target.
In fact, the evil here is so strong, that this is the only place in the universe who would reject and crucify its creator, and symbolically do it over and over again, millennium after millennium.
The Third Reason Our Earth Is Special
Which brings us to the third reason why this earth is extra special. This is the where the great Jehovah would experience mortality for himself. But he too, in order to become like God, needed to receive an unglorified physical body from his mortal mother, experience the veil of forgetfulness, and learn to exercise faith in his Father.
It is here where he spent 33 years learning the lessons of mortality and faith bit by bit, line upon line, grace upon grace. With a corruptible body he also experienced all the hungers, pains, desires, and limitations that its carnal nature craves. And yet, he chose to always exercise faith and follow the commands of his father, which he acquired through prayer, through fasting, through good works, through self-discipline. He did not choose, ever, to violate a commandment of God. Something no one else would ever do.
And to top it off, in in a way that none of us will ever be able to understand, experience, or comprehend, because he loved each of us so much, he also wanted to perfectly understand each one of us. So he voluntarily endured every physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social affliction that you and I encounter, as well as everyone else in the entire universe encountered, or will yet encounter during our mortal experiences. He knows because he experienced it for himself.
Furthermore, this is the place where he suffered in a garden and on a cross to pay the divine penalty for everyone’s intentional mistakes. Now he has volunteered to become our proxy and serve the spiritual sentence for billions upon billions of children of our heavenly parents, more than the sand grains from all the seas. Here, on this planet, he wrought an infinite and eternal atonement that caused him, the greatest of all, the creator of worlds without number, to tremble from pain and anguish and bleed from every pore.
It is no wonder that, as we read in scriptures and other writings, such as those from Enoch, that this earth is the spiritual, if not literal, center of the universe, where all of the creations of God watched what Jesus did here in the meridian of time with bated breath. That is putting it infinitely mildly.
Everything hinged on what Jesus would do and would not do during his 33 years on earth. He too, had a choice. He didn’t have to choose to do all of these things. But our faith in him, and the faith of all of the other creations of God in him, was also infinitely powerful. We all knew, from past experience in the premortal realms, that he would perfectly keep his word and do what none of us could do. He alone could ransom and redeem and repair and remedy and rebuild and restore and resurrect those who elect to receive his gift of immortality and eternal life. Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, everything the Gods created would be for naught. There would be no purpose, no hope, no light, no truth, no future, no growth, just the same darkness and damnation currently experienced by Satan and his pitiful perditionites.
Why It Matter To Whom We Pray
Which is why when we pray, we pray to the Father, as Jesus himself commanded. Not to him, as deserving as he might be, but to his Father and our Father. He is only doing exactly what his Father has asked him to do. But he didn’t have to do it. He made the choice to do it because he loved his forever family more than he loved himself. Our pleas, our cries, our prayers find their way into celestial space to the ears of our God though the grace and power and love of our spiritual intercessor, Jesus Christ. He made it possible for our voice to be transmitted and heard across the vastness of time and space to the throne of God. Without him, eternal life for you and me, as well as every other unholy and impure and imperfect creation, would not be possible.
Should we pray to the Father? Absolutely. If we truly love God we will naturally want to spend time talking with Him. Not just listening to His living prophets or those who spoke for him in years gone past, but learning to listen for His voice. He isn’t easy to hear, because he dwells in yonder heavens and doesn’t speak to our ears. But he speaks to our spirits, which we interpret through our hearts and minds. Furthermore, the only way we can hear the voice of God, is if Jesus makes it happen. And to do that, since he, like the Father, is a resurrected being who can only be in one place at one time, relies on the third member of the godhead, the Holy Ghost, an unembodied spiritual being, who has the incomprehensible ability to speak simultaneously to every soul in the entire universe.
The Mission of The Holy Ghost
Jesus, because of his goodness and charity and love for us, pleads with the Father to send the Holy Ghost to communicate with us on his behalf, which the Father agrees, as long as we are trying to repent of our sinful attitudes and behaviors.
The Holy Ghost, just like our heavenly parents, cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. But because Jesus asked God to send the His Spirit to his followers, the Holy Ghost can communicate with us. We can know, for ourselves, the mind and will of the Father, which is executed by the Son, and felt through the Holy Ghost. We can, if we want it, receive divine revelation that will enlighten our minds, purify our hearts, and perfect our souls — even as we imperfectly struggle through our day-to-day lives.
We can know, through the Spirit, the truthfulness of everything, including the words of our prophets and leaders and scriptures and teachings and policies and procedures and programs and history. This revelation is open to everyone who approaches God, in the name of the Son, because he promises to never upbraid or reject those who are sincere and repentant. He stands at the door, waiting for our knock. Waiting for us to get off our couches and join him in the family business — which is blessing the lives of all heavenly father’s children.
Again, this is all possible because it is the Father’s will. And the Son and the Holy Ghost do nothing except their Father’s will. They are strictly obedient and recommend that we do the same thing too. Therefore, if we want to “Hear Him,” truly hear him, not just through music and scriptures and conferences and meetings and ordinances and priesthood blessings — but hear the voice of the Father, through the Holy Ghost, in the name of the Son, then we can.
Making Eternal Life Choices
The choice is entirely ours to make. God is no respecter of persons. This experience is open to all, both male and female, bond and free, earthling or other worldly. We can all have this communication. But we have to seek, knock, open, and listen. We have to do stuff. Physical stuff, emotional stuff, intellectual stuff, social stuff. Stuff that indicates that our eternal spirits are truly in control of at least some portion of our physical lives. We have to intentionally take time to pray, exercise considerable effort to pray, focus our thoughts and feelings, bridle our passions, and then, when we aren’t actually praying, make sure we are always remembering him.
Always — an interesting word where there’s not a lot of room for sometimes or occasionally or seldom. But if we do that, and we do it persistently and consistently, with all of the intentionality that we can muster, our hearts and minds will be illuminated with light, and love, and truth, and joy, and peace, and forgiveness, and compassion, and trust, and courage, and faith, and every other divine virtue. It is what will propel us into a Zion people.
Oh brothers and sisters, I desperately need to become a better pray-er, especially as our times become increasingly desperate. We look around and clearly see the signs that the people on the earth are ripening in iniquity. Let’s not be part of that ripening. Take a good whiff of yourself. Get rid of that which stinketh. If we must ripen, then let us ripen in righteousness, a righteousness that indicates we are regularly producing good fruit. Notice the difference. One is self-focused and self-absorbed where you turn into a piece of fruit; the other is other-focused where you plant, and nurture, and dung, and prune a tree that produces bushel after bushel of fruit, year after year.
A ripening of righteousness occurs when we take our unique collection of talents and strengths and attributes and experiences and allow God to use them to bless his children. A righteousness that indicates we have aligned ourselves, as have all the innumerable celestialized hosts of heaven, with the very mind and will of God, just as Jesus has done. This can only happen as we follow the example of Christ and follow him as he leads us back to our heavenly home. This can only happen if we choose to be in constant contact and have crucial conversation with the Father, in the name of the Son, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
These are the thoughts of my heart and the yearnings of my soul. May we all have more faith in Christ and become more loving, more dedicated, more committed, more disciplined, more used, more self-sacrificing, more charitable, more gentle, more meek, more patient — more like Jesus.