In the last General Conference, one talk that jumped out at me was by Elder David A. Bednar. I loved how he pointed out that, “we can not only know about the Lord but also come to know Him” (Oct. 2016, emphasis mine). It’s a subject I’ve studied a lot over the last several years, and I’ve discovered many different quotes from the Brethren that encourage us to do the very same thing. Here are just a few of my favorites:
F. Enzio Busche: [The] real treasure . . . [is to] to develop a close relationship with Christ, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Messiah, Jehovah, the Only Begotten of Elohim, and let him and his Spirit take possession of our lives. . . . I am speaking about the treasure of having found Christ, of being able to know him—not merely to know all about him, but really to know him. (The Only Real Treasure, New Era, Dec. 1979).
M. Russell Ballard: I would like to encourage you with all the strength of my soul to learn to build a real relationship with the Savior of the world (Ensign March 1979).
Lorenzo Snow: The Lord wishes to establish a closer and more intimate relationship between Himself and us (Journal of Discourses, 23:193).
James E. Faust: Is not the greatest need in all the world for every person to have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior? . . . We should earnestly seek not just to know about the Master, but . . . to be one with Him (A Personal Relationship with the Savior, Ensign, Nov. 1976).
To be honest, there’s nothing I want more in the world than to know Christ like that. When I hear Him call certain disciples His “friends” in verses like John 15:13 and D&C 84:77, my heart yearns to hear Him say the same thing about me. And after reading what the Brethren said above, I feel completely comfortable pursuing that kind of relationship with Him. I believe it’s the only way we can truly come to Christ in the way Elder Bednar described.
Recently, I’ve been working my way through the Book of Mormon to see what I can find about building that kind of personal bond with the Lord. So far I’ve only made it through 1st and 2nd Nephi, and already I’ve discovered a gold mine of information on the subject. For one thing, the friendship or connection Nephi had with Christ was amazing. I also noticed that one of the main ways he nurtured that relationship was by communicating almost continually with the Lord—about his life, his struggles, his relationships . . . literally anything and everything. Again and again, the prophet stopped what he was doing and took the time to counsel and communicate with the Lord directly about whatever issue was concerning him (see 1 Ne. 2:16, 7:17, 15:8, 17:7-14, 18:1-3 and 2 Nephi 4:30-35, 5:1 for just a few of the many examples. I also wondered if I could assume when Nephi said “Lord,” he was talking about Christ. But then I found verses like 1 Ne. 10:14, 19:18, 21:7, and 2 Ne. 6:18 & 10:7 that showed Jesus truly is the “Lord” of the Book of Mormon).
Now, I’ll admit that this idea of talking and counseling with Christ stirs up some very difficult questions. (At least it has for me.) The main issue is that the scriptures make it clear we’re to pray to the Father in the name of Christ (2 Nephi 32:9, 3 Nephi 13:9, 20:31, etc.). It’s something the Lord Himself taught throughout His ministry both in Israel and among the Nephites. And I believe it’s a very important part of the gospel.
But the question is, does that instruction about praying to the Father mean I can’t ever talk to the Savior? Looking at the life of Nephi, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Like I said, he discussed things with the Lord all the time. So is it okay for me to do the same thing? And more importantly, how can I build a real relationship with Him (or in the words of the brethren above, a close, intimate, personal, ongoing, and daily relationship) without talking to Him? How can I grow close to Him without communicating with Him one-on-one?
As I’ve pondered these questions over the last several years, I’ve found some direction that’s brought a great deal of clarity. For starters, I absolutely love this quote from President Brigham Young:
The greatest and most important of all requirements of our Father in heaven and of his Son Jesus Christ, is . . . to believe in Jesus Christ, confess him, seek to him, cling to him, make friends with him. Take a course to open and to keep open communication with your Elder Brother or file-leader—our Savior (Journal of Discourses, 8:339).
So here we have a prophet of God encouraging us to “open and keep open” a line of communication with our Savior. We’re told to talk to Him, cling to Him, and even make friends with Him. Or in other words, to do exactly what Nephi did in the Book of Mormon. To counsel directly with Him about all the various issues in our lives.
I also found the same idea taught by the Lord in D&C 6. Notice the emphasized phrases in the following passage:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth (v. 14-15).
Then, just to make sure we know who is talking, the Lord identifies Himself and continues His instruction:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? (v. 22-23).
These verses show Oliver asking the Lord about some concerns he had, and being rewarded with both instruction and peace. I also found the same idea (that of talking to Christ) in other parts of the D&C. I think the most interesting one is this passage from section 29:
Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins;
Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer (D&C 29:1-2, see also D&C 30:6 and section 109 where Joseph’s prayer alternates between praying to the Father and Jehovah).
Now, I’ll be the first one to say that I don’t understand how it all works. I also know it’s a pretty new idea to our LDS way of thinking and we should definitely proceed with caution. That’s the reason I used so many quotes and scriptures in this post – so this wouldn’t seem like my own thoughts, but a product of the words of prophets and apostles that anyone can study for themselves.
But regardless of the specifics, I do know that I’ve loved drawing close to Christ, not just by following Him or serving HIm, but by communicating with Him directly. Yes, I still pray to the Father often in His name (and we do as a family as well), but now I also talk to the Lord on a very personal level. And it’s radically changed the way I feel about Him and His role in my life. In fact, I believe this kind of communication is absolutely crucial if we want to come to know Him as our Savior. At the very least, it’s something each of us could ponder and study further, for as the Lord has promised us, “if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you knock it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 11:5).
***If you’d like to learn more about this idea, turn to 3 Ne. 1:11-13 (v. 13 shows who Nephi is talking to), Ether 3:1-16 (v. 14 identifies who it is the brother of Jared has been addressing in his prayer), Ether 12:22-41 (v. 22 shows who Moroni talks to for the entire second half of the chapter), and Abr. 2:6, 8 (Abraham prays “to the Lord” in v. 6, and v. 8 identifies exactly who he’s talking to). You can also check out 3 Nephi 19 and Alma 36:18, 37:33-37, and 38:8 for further insight.