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Friday, April 8, 2016

The Savior and #LDSConf

Upon tweeting about #LDSConf on twitter shortly before the event, a certain twitter user retweeted my link about my article encouraging others to watch live that weekend.  I had used the phrase "feast upon the words of Christ".  This guy who retweeted me was claiming that the Savior wouldn't even be mentioned.  Upon looking at his twitter page to possibly deduce a reason why he would say such a ludicrous thing, it became obvious to me that he had once been a member of the LDS church but had defected from it and was now working twice as hard as he possibly ever had to be faithful to the gospel in his efforts to tear down the church.

This is for you, retweeter.  I won't mention who you are because you don't need attention for lambasting someone's faith, but in case you ever read this and remember your retweet of @LattrDayWarrior's link, just so you know there were over 900 references to the Lord Jesus Christ throughout General Conference April 2016.  I counted 100 references in President Eyring's sunday morning talk alone!

Let me clarify something first, then I'll offer you an invitation.

According to Stephen H. Webb (professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College) back in Feb 2012, "...what gives Christianity its identity is its commitment to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And on that ground Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians who do not take seriously the astounding claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him. It adds to the plural but coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the four gospels in a way, I am convinced, that does not significantly damage or deface that portrait. I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time ... When I actually read this book, however, I was utterly surprised ... There are many characters in this book, but they change as little as the plot. Nobody stands out but him. “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26). And not just Jesus: A whole gospel in all of its theological details—right down to debates about baptism, the relationship of law to grace, and the problem of divine foreknowledge—is taught to the people of the New World centuries before Jesus was even born."

He continues later in his article: "Still, the Book of Mormon raises a question for Christians. Can you believe too much about Jesus? Can you go too far in conceiving his glory? Let me answer that question by posing another. Isn’t the whole point of affirming his divinity the idea that one can never say enough about him?"

Perhaps, [Mr. Retweeter], if we were to consider your claim that Christ wouldn't be mentioned from the face value or possibly even just the mood of the word "mentioned", which in the American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) defines the noun as "The act of referring to something briefly or casually", I think you'd be right.  Christ is in no way mentioned briefly or casually in LDS General Conference.  Instead, He is glorified, worshiped and revered in ways you won't see in any other church on earth.  Professor Webb seems to agree, "Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him."

Seriously, my friend, Joseph Smith taught faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the very first principle of the gospel.  The prime purpose of the Church's missionaries is to "invite others to come unto Christ...".  The "primary responsibility" of the Church's prophet is "to bear witness of Christ".  Joseph Smith declared "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it".  The LDS author Tad R. Callister wrote about Jesus, "He has mastered each and every law.  He is polylingual; there is no such thing as a foreign language to him.  He knows the cure for every virus, every disease, and every ailment.  He has created worlds without number.  Nothing escapes his grasp."  Of the depth of the Savior's atonement he wrote, "There need be no equivocation, no back-pedaling, no apologizing - the Atonement is infinite in its depth..." of the challenges of mortality he wrote "the scriptures are replete with evidence that the Savior did not exempt himself from any of these but rather faced each of them 'square on.'"  The LDS Church has an entire subdomain of lds.org, jesuschrist.lds.org, dedicated entirely to Him.

Would you like more?  We are so blessed in our day with revelation from God that I have more quantity, depth and quality of evidence of the love and worship of the Savior in the Mormon Church than I even know what do with.  If you actually meant the word "mentioned" to be that He wouldn't even be spoken of in any way, my testimony and personal witness to you is as follows.

You are mistaken.

Go back and read every talk from every General Authority.  You won't find a single talk (possibly excluding  two very brief technical reports) that does anything but teach something about our Lord.

I know from my own personal experience that this is His church.  I have felt the Holy Ghost testify powerfully and unmistakably to me on many occasions that this is where His gospel is preached in it's fullness, where His priesthood power and authority lies, where His atonement can truly be accessed in all it's infinite, joyful, glorious power, and where the souls of mankind can find His way to "happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come." (last paragraph of The Living Christ).  I know from my own personal education from on high that He is the force behind The LDS Church, it's Captain, it's "Chief Corner stone" (Ephesians 2:20).

Lastly, I would like to offer my own thoughts of consolation and hope for you.  The parable of the prodigal son goes a long way here.  You have had the blessings of the gospel in your life.  You have felt the Spirit confirm to you the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Otherwise you likely never would have joined the church in the first place.  No matter your membership status now, think back to those times when you first felt the Holy Ghost teach you something that only faith could explain, that time(s) when you had a question that no earthly source could help you understand.  Think back to the peace you felt when you got the answer you needed.  Remember the joy you had in your heart, that incomparable, totally consuming and ever satisfying completeness you felt in a moment(s) where you knew the truth of our Savior, not because someone had proved it to you by mortal means (not to say that that's always a bad thing), but by the intelligence and power of God.

I invite you to follow the Lord's counsel, "Return unto me" (Malachi 3:7), to seek for "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding..." (Philippians 4:7)

I promise you that the negativity and resentment you feel in your heart towards any church that even tries to be Christian will be totally dissipated by the light of Christ, should you choose that road.  Besides, the Savior said that contention is of the devil and encouraged us to "revil[e] not against revilers" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30).

"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free." (Doctrine and Covenants 128:22)

Come back brother.  Come back and be free again.