Lately more people are coming out and sharing their experiences with the Savior. At first I found this to be comforting. I enjoy hearing about these kinds of experiences, because it encourages me to seek Christ and obtain my own experiences with Him. However, every now and then I’ve noticed something happening that is concerning.
I’ve seen some people insisting their experience with the Savior is superior to another’s, and claim the Jesus they met is better than the Jesus someone else met. To paraphrase, your Jesus might chew out someone and rip into them harshly, but my Jesus would never do that, because He is loving and merciful. Or, your Jesus oozes with too much love, but my Jesus is just and lets the hammer drop, etc.
It was getting to the point where I felt like Joseph Smith when it came to trying to decide which church to join. Except in my case, it was, “Which Jesus do I follow? People’s perspectives seem so different at times, and the result is that they are at odds with each other. What’s the deal?” I posed this question to my husband. He grew very thoughtful and then told a story about six blind men and an elephant. It may be a familiar one to some; it is an old fable from India.
“Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, ‘Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.’They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, ‘Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.’ All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.’Hey, the elephant is a pillar,’ said the first man who touched his leg.’Oh, no! it is like a rope,’ said the second man who touched the tail.’Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,’ said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.’It is like a big hand fan,’ said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.’It is like a huge wall,’ said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.’It is like a solid pipe,’ Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.”
My husband ended the story there, looked at me and asked, “Who of the six is right?” I thought about it for a moment, and thinking about it in the context of our discussion about the numerous perspectives of Jesus, I replied, “All of them are right.” I then told my husband the problem is that they are all arguing and insisting their perspective is correct while the other’s is wrong.
An impression quickly came to my mind, one that I had heard before when pondering this issue. “You need to experience and know ALL of my characteristics and attributes.” This old story proved the impression to be true. What if, instead of the blind men arguing, they moved around the elephant to a new spot, and the one who touched the tail got to touch the elephant’s belly? He would gain added perspective to what he already knows from touching the tail. He knows the elephant a little more fully.
So it is with our experiences with Jesus. The other guy who met a Jesus who is the Almighty Judge, may actually be correct. But we won’t know until we seek Jesus and ask Him to help us understand that attribute in Him, just as we won’t know Jesus is merciful unless we seek to know. If we do that faithfully, Jesus will not only reveal those characteristics and attributes, but He will teach us how to obtain them ourselves.
I’ve always believed Jesus to be a just judge, who will let the punishment drop when it is needed. I also believe He is longsuffering and merciful. I also believe that two characteristics that seem to be at odds with each other actually work together. In short, I believe the Lectures on Faith to be correct in its description of Christ’s characteristics and attributes.
“And again, the idea that he is a God of truth and cannot lie, is equally as necessary to the exercise of faith in him, as the idea of his unchangeableness….” (Lecture 3:22; emphasis added)All of Christ’s characteristics are equally important and are harmonious, even if we don’t see that right away. Seek Christ and ask Him to help you understand how His characteristics work together. Ask Him to help you obtain the same characteristics with the same balance and harmony. Do the same with His attributes. Take time to consider another’s experience with Jesus, as they may have encountered an aspect of Him that you didn’t.
“And lastly, but not less important to the exercise of faith in God, is the idea that he is love…” (Lecture 3:24; emphasis added)
“And it is not less necessary that men should have the idea of the existence of the attribute of power in the Deity.” (Lecture 4:12; emphasis added)
“It is of equal importance that men should have the idea of the existence of attribute of judgment in God…” (Lecture 4:14; emphasis added)