“Have You Ever Seen the Lord?” Ensign, June 1987, 34
Some time ago, I was asked to escort a group of visitors through the Church Office Building. They wanted to know something more about the doctrines of the Church, the functions of Church leadership, and the organization of the Church. They seemed very interested, and we had a pleasant discussion period.
During the tour, one young woman held up her hand and asked, “Brother Sill, have you ever seen God?” I was a little bit startled, as I had not expected this kind of a question. I said to her, “If you don’t mind, I would like to give you three answers to that question.
“Answer Number One, which I am sure comes closest to the spirit of your question, is no, I have not. But that answer by itself is not complete, nor is it altogether accurate. So I will add a second answer and say, I have not seen Him since the day of my birth on March 31, 1903. But I saw Him many times prior to that time.”
The scriptures are very clear about the fact that we lived with God in heaven before our earth-life began. He is our Eternal Father. Each of us has seen and heard Him many times. We often hear the inspired statement from the poet Wordsworth, who said:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
The great philosopher Socrates contended that all learning is merely remembering. God is our teacher, and much of what we are we brought with us from His presence in heaven.
“Now for the third answer: While it is true that I have not seen God during my mortality, it is also true that I have not seen my own spirit since my mortal birth, and yet I am sure I have one.”
While I have not seen the Lord personally during this life, I have read very carefully several times the four great volumes of scripture He has caused to be written. I know how He thinks. I know what He wants me to do. I know from the testimony of people who have seen Him what He looks like. And I know many other things about Him.
For example, the resurrected Jesus appeared to John the Revelator on the Isle of Patmos. John says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he heard behind him a great voice, as of a trumpet. John turned to see who had spoken to him, and he saw “one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about … with a golden girdle.
“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire.” (Rev. 1:13–14.)
When the Prophet Joseph Smith had his vision of the Father and the Son, he said that their “brightness and glory defy all description.” (JS—H 1:17.)
There are some experiences, even in this life, that we have trouble describing. For example, if I were to attempt to describe the look in my little granddaughter’s eyes on Christmas morning when she is radiant and happy and expectant, I might have a little trouble in doing so. I might try by saying “her eyes twinkled,” or “her countenance beamed,” or “her face was aglow.” None of these things are so, actually. My granddaughter’s eyes are the same size, the same shape, the same color on Christmas morning as they are on any other day. But something is shining out through her face that I can understand but may have difficulty describing.
In describing the resurrected Jesus, John said His eyes were as a flame of fire. It isn’t a twinkle anymore. This quality of radiance and glory is magnified many times. John tried to describe the voice of the resurrected Lord by saying it was a great voice, as of a trumpet. I have a very good friend who has one of these “trumpet” kind of voices. It has a clear, harmonious resonance that is easily understood and beautiful to listen to. His enunciation is near perfect.
Some speakers have another kind of trumpet which Paul described by saying, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8.) Some speakers have a trumpet that is not loud enough to be heard nor clear enough to be understood nor interesting enough to hold attention.
I imagine the voice of the resurrected Jesus to be as far above my friend’s voice in resonance and beauty as the glow in the Lord’s face excels that of my granddaughter.
The Prophet Joseph Smith also saw the Lord face-to-face after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. In describing what He looked like, the Prophet said, “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun.” (D&C 110:3.) That is pretty bright!
But these are qualities that other of God’s children may possess in some degree. For example, the resurrected Moroni also appeared to Joseph Smith, and the Prophet gave us a detailed description as follows: “His whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning.” (JS—H 1:32.)
Not only was his person glorious, but even his clothing was brilliant. The Prophet said: “He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant.” (JS—H 1:31.)
Socrates was said to be a very homely man; but he prayed to God and said, “Make me beautiful within.” We have all seen plain people who have become beautiful by the working of a radiant spirituality. A godly spirit can make the plainest body beautiful.
Although I have not seen the Lord in this life, yet I know His word. I know of the great Atonement made on behalf of all of God’s children. I know about the Lord’s glorious, celestial resurrection, a resurrection similar to that which He has promised to all of those who keep His commandments. I know the course of that strait and narrow way and how to follow it so that we might qualify for the celestial kingdom.
On one occasion the Lord said to Thomas, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: [more] blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29.) The Lord himself promised, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:48.) With all of these advantages, I should be able to make it on my own until He comes in clouds of glory for His millennial reign upon the earth when every eye shall see Him and every heart shall rejoice in His blessings.
In preparation for that great event, let us strive to get a more radiant light in our eyes, a greater glow in our hearts, and a finer fire in our souls. Then at that day, when we do see Him for ourselves, we too can be made glorious.