"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure" (Moroni 7:48).
Sunday, in stake conference, I felt the Spirit strongly as a young woman spoke about her experience at Moroni's Quest - a three-day youth retreat where the youth and their leaders dressed in period costume and re-enacted scenes from the Book of Mormon. As with most youth I've heard report, the crowning moment for her was the re-enactment of the Saviour's appearance to the Lehites, where he personally connected with every single person in a gathered multitude. As she related her experience, it was clear that she understood that it was a re-enactment and that the person who hugged every one of the gathered youth was actually her stake president dressed up as Jesus. But that is not how she experienced it. For her, it was real, to the point that she described his robe as being so bright that it illuminated the area around him. And the love she felt, as he embraced her, was not the love of her stake president. Jesus Christ was palpably present and it was His love that filled her and changed her.
Five years ago, when my youngest son returned from Moroni's Quest in another stake, he gave virtually the same report -- that in some inexpressible way, it was Jesus who embraced each person in attendance, even though it was actually the stake president dressed up to represent the Saviour.
I found myself wondering if this repeated, unspeakably sacred experience illustrates what it means to fully become "the sons of God" (3 Nephi 9:17; Moroni 7: 26,48). Is it possible that the Lord invites each of us to become so full of His love that people's experience with us can be with Him, as in Moroni's Quest? When Alma asks if we've received His image in our countenances (Alma 5:14,19) might he be alluding, in part, to the possibility, of becoming so like Jesus Christ that people can look at us and see Him?
I'm reminded of how early saints described the mantle of the Prophet Joseph falling upon Brigham Young so "that he had the same appearance, the same voice, as the Prophet" (BYU Studies, "The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: A Collective Spiritual Witness" ).
I am also reminded of George Ritchie's account of a glimpse into the afterlife that he was given during before he was brought back from clinical death. In Return From Tomorrow he recounts being unaware that he was dead. He was consumed with the need to get home for Christmas. He ran from his hospital room and raced toward home. Eventually, he became aware that he was both insubstantial and invisible to the people around him. He returned to the hospital in search of his body, which he found covered by a sheet. Suddenly, he understood he was dead. Then he became aware of an impossibly bright light, which he came to understand was actually a Being in the room with him. The thought, "You are in the presence of the Son of God," came to his mind with total certainty, along with the understanding that Jesus knew absolutely everything about him, and loved him with a powerful and unconditional love that he never dreamed was possible.
He was shown the anguished and frustrated state of other souls who, like he had been, were focused on earthly concerns and trying desperately to accomplish their goals, but without the capacity to make any difference or even to be heard. He came to a plain filled with insubstantial people, howling at and trying, without success, to do violence to each other. And then he perceived that the plain was being hovered over by beings of light, like the One at his side. Each was seeking to minister to an unhappy soul on the plain, but those souls were so preoccupied with their own rancor that they could not perceive anything above it.
Were these bright beings angels? Was the Light beside me also an angel? But the thought that had pressed itself so undeniably on my mind in that little hospital room had been: You are in the presence of the Son of God. Could it be that each of these other human wraiths, wretched and unworthy like me, was also in His presence? In a realm where space and time no longer followed any rules I knew, could He be standing with each of them as He was with me?" (Ritchie, Return From Tomorrow, chapter 5).
The prophet Mormon invites,
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is;" (Moroni 7:48).
I have long believed that ministry in the Spirit World will involve becoming the sons of God so fully that we can bring others into Jesus's presence by being with them. Now I begin to suspect that it's even possible in mortality. Like at Moroni's Quest.
Is this something that only belongs to stake presidents? I don't think so. I think it belongs to any who have taken upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, who seek to receive His image in our countenance, who pray earnestly for charity that we may become the sons of God. Male or female. We have all made the same covenants and have the same opportunity.
After stake conference, we had a regional devotional with the Nelsons and Renlunds. Sister Nelson told us in definite terms that Pres. Nelson does not hyperbolize or exaggerate. Then she referenced his words from two weeks ago in General Conference:
"In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns “with power and great glory,” He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful" (Russel M. Nelson, "Overcome the World and Find Rest", October 2022 General Conference).
Could there be a more glorious privilege, blessing or miracle for the faithful than to become the sons of God, to the point that they can bring others who are willing into His presence? I have trouble imagining a greater manifestation of the Saviour's power.
I don't know if it's possible. But the goal is glorious: to learn to live in such a way that I can carry the unfathomable and inexhaustable love of Jesus Christ into every interaction.
My quest: to know the one true God,
To know by love
And so be gathered to His bosom.
But I –
I can’t approach.
I can not even contemplate
This boundless Being
Who lives outside of time.
Eternity itself confounds my mind
And just the thought of His numberless creations
When the lightning of His majesty
Makes my soul to quake
And I must fly away
Lest I be consumed,
How then can I know His love
And call Him home?
Ah, but His love,
Burning brighter even than His majesty,
Bequeaths His name and, yes, His Self
Upon His Son.
This Father I can start to contemplate.
Time-trapped like me
He even needed sleep,
Had dusty feet,
But oh, His love,
His boundless love
That drank my shame
And held me
Sweeter than His life!
Oh yes, His goodness staggers me.
Still, I can see enough to seek
Who tells me that His love
Is from our Father.
And I begin to know.
Again a miracle:
He bequeaths His name to me
And bids me to receive His self,
To bear His love to all the world.
Could it be
That someone, somewhere,
By the brightness of the light of Christ
Might yet be warmed
By its reflection
In frail me?