Mormon Times guest blogger Kate Jensen wrote about some of her memories from growing up in Texas in the 1980s. In a piece titled “To see forever,” Ms. Jensen provided a little background on her Mormon faith as she explained, “its true that all church members seek to develop and maintain personal relationships with God the Father and the Savior, Jesus Christ through the Gift of the Holy Ghost.”
I was interested in Ms. Jensen’s reference to developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ because, as she was growing up in Texas in the ‘80s, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie was speaking out publically against seeking, developing and maintaining a personal relationship with Christ.
On March 2nd 1982, Mr. McConkie spoke at Brigham Young University and delivered an address he titled, “Our Relationship With the Lord.” He began by telling his listeners that he would explain what must be believed relative to the Father and the Son “in order to gain eternal life.” He continued, “I shall express the views of the Brethren…everyone who is sound spiritually and who has the guidance of the Holy Spirit will believe my words and follow my counsel.” Bruce McConkie, as a Latter-day apostle, counseled (in part),
- “Now, it is no secret that many false and vain and foolish things are being taught in the sectarian world and even among us about our need to gain a special relationship with the Lord Jesus.” (Our Relationship With the Lord, typed transcript, 2)
- “…the devil would rather spread false doctrine about God and the Godhead, and induce false feelings with reference to one of them, than almost any other thing he could do. The creeds of Christendom illustrate perfectly what Lucifer wants so-called Christian people to believe about Deity in order to be damned.” (3)
- “We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost.” (5)
- “Now, in spite of all these truths, which ought to be obvious to every spiritually enlightened person, heresies rear their ugly heads among us from time to time. There are those…who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous. I say perilous because this course, particularly in the lives of some who are spiritually immature, is a gospel hobby which creates an unwholesome holier-than-thou attitude.” (18-19)
- “Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because of some special friendship they feel has been developed. In this connection a current and unwise book, which advocates gaining a special relationship with Jesus, contains this sentence: ‘Because the Savior is our mediator, our prayers go through Christ to the Father, and the Father answers our prayers through his Son.’ This is pure sectarian nonsense.” (19-20)
- “Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ. It will seem to them as though I am speaking out against mother love, or Americanism, or the little red school house. But I am not. There is a fine line here over which true worshippers will not step.” (20)
- “ And you have never heard one of the First Presidency of the Twelve…advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.” (21)
- “I am well aware that some who have prayed for endless hours feel they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before. I wonder if this is any or much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us they have been saved by grace and are assured of a place with the Lord in a heavenly abode…I wonder if it is not a part of Lucifer’s system to make people feel they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true [LDS] Church.” (22)
- “I do not suppose that what I have here said will be an end to controversy or to the spread of false views and doctrines. The devil is not dead and he delights in controversy. But you have been warned, and you have heard the true doctrine taught.” (24)
As a Christian, I treasure the amazing, intimate relationship I have with my Savior – a profound and deeply personal relationship He graciously offers to all people who seek Him. I find it impossible to believe that a true apostle of Jesus Christ would teach such things; for, as Jerald and Sandra Tanner have pointed out,
“From beginning to end the New Testament stresses the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In Matthew 11:28 we find Jesus Himself saying: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ This same theme continues right into the book of Revelation where Jesus says: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ (Revelations 3:20) The Apostle Paul certainly taught a close personal relationship with Christ in his epistles. For instance, in Philippians 3:8-10 we read: ‘Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;’”
Now this–the call through the Word of God to a special, personal relationship with Jesus Christ–is true doctrine.