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Email response: Do I need to meet Jesus to have a personal relationship with him?


I worry that my drive to do good is more for the people I serve than the God I serve. At the moment, I derive most of my joy and encouragement from serving those in my life. Making their life more fulfilling and more full of joy. I understand that this light and this joy comes from God alone. However, as much as I love God conceptually, my love in him is based on faith. It does not feel as full as it could and should be. Having a relationship with God as one person can have with another feels so necessary to my heart. However, I have not met my Lord. Is there any other way to build that personal relationship with the Lord than by meeting him?

Short Answer:

You don't develop a personal relationship with the Lord by meeting him, but by serving him. Through loving others as God would in your place, you come to better understand the value of the love he has already shown you, and you also come to see more of his love. To love another is to suffer for their benefit, which in its fullest expression not only requires you to care more about them than you do yourself, but also to know what benefits them the most more than they do. To the extent your service to others deviates from what God would actually do in your place, the benefit you do is less than it could be if you knew more about God. You come to know God better by living up to what you already know about him and seeking to know more about him.

Long Answer:

Seeing Jesus and knowing Jesus are not the same thing. It is possible to meet Jesus and not know him:

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:23)

15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. (Luke 24)

God created the heavens and earth and gave the life of the Son in order to provide us with the opportunity to come to know him more than we did before:

...I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Mortality, when properly lived, is the vehicle through which we come to know the Father and the Son.

What is the process?

Before casting Adam and Eve out of Eden, God gave them the commandment to till the earth, have dominion over the beasts of the field, eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, and have children. They kept God's commandments (see Moses 5:1-2). Having been true and faithful to all they had received, they "called upon the name of the Lord," and he spoke to them further (though they did not see him), instructing them to sacrifice the firstlings of their flocks, and "Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord" (Moses 5:4-5) God sent them an angel, who explained more about the meaning of the sacrifices they had made, and told them:

Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:8)

Each day, we are meant to live every moment "in the name of the Son," doing what we believe he would do in our place, and "call[ing] upon God" for further guidance to refine our estimate of what he would do. We do this because of "the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth." (Moses 5:7)

The life of Christ demonstrated what truth is. The Lord said: "...To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." (John 18:37)

The life of Christ was full of grace, because through it the world was shown what the Father is like:

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1)

The sacrifice of Christ showed what love is. When an angel showed Nephi the Lord's life many years before it occurred, he saw that he would suffer many things in order to demonstrate the Father to the world through doing what the Father would do in his place. The angel said this was to demonstrate to the world "the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things." (1 Nephi 11:22)

In this life, we are meant to learn what Jesus would do in our place and do the same so that we might become a part of the chain of witnesses from Adam until the end. We do it by continuously living how we believe he would in our place, first based on what we already know. What we already know will be a composite of all the witnesses we have access to, both recorded in the scriptures or provided by living individuals.

When we first repent of our sins by ceasing to deviate from what God would do in our place, according to our sincere understanding, we gain incremental access to the Holy Ghost, through which he will tell us more about himself from time to time.

14 that you keep the commandment without fail and without fault, as far as our Lord Jesus Christ shows,
15 as he will show you privately from time to time, the most joyous and only source of all power, the King who reigns over and through all kings, and the Lord over and through all lords. (1 Timothy 6, Author's Reflection)

The daily sacrifice you will make is to always do what Jesus would in your place, including to explain to others what he has taught you so that they can do the same:

And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. (Moses 5:12)

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— (Mosiah 18:9)

The Holy Ghost operating within you makes you an agent of demonstrating God to others in specific situations, providing even more powerful reasons for them to believe and greater progression when they do than if they were left to general guidance subject to their own individual reasoning.

And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Nephi 16:29)

In your service to others, through the Holy Ghost, you will serve as a demonstration of the love of God to others:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

It is through your daily sacrifice in learning and doing what benefits others that you will come to know the Lord:

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:13)

This is eternal life, and there is no other way to achieve it than this. This is both the way that you will come to see the Lord and the way you will know him when you do.

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14)

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2)