The doctrines of the restoration contain a clear invitation for church members to draw near to the Lord, two examples, “draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you” (D&C 88:63). In another, especially powerful invitation, the Lord says they “shall see my face and know that I am” (D&C 93:1).
The Book of Mormon gives example after example of those individuals who were able to draw near to the Lord. Some of them even saw the the Lord, and talked with Him, face to face. They left a record showing those in our day how they did it, kinda of a “how to do it yourself” approach. I think this is why the prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (TPJS, p. 194).
Note the order of things contained in the invitation to “draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you”. Who needs to make the first move? We do! The Lord’s way is for us to “come unto Him”, not the other way around.
From one of our hymns we gain insight into the Lord’s respect for our individuality–our agency:
“Know this, that every soul is free To choose his life and what he’ll be, For this eternal truth is given That God will force no man to heaven. He’ll call, persuade, direct aright And bless with wisdom, love, and light, In nameless ways be good and kind, But never force the human mind.”
With this brief introduction, I’d like to get to the heart of the matter; first a question: what is the best course for church members to pursue to draw nearer to the Lord? I’ll make list of possible choices and then you choose the best answer:
1. Serve others by magnifying our calling
2. Attend church every week
3. Go to the temple often
4. Read the scriptures
5. Pray with real intent
6. Fast montly
7. Bear testimony
9. Read General Conference talks
10. Help the poor
I’ll bet we could put together a list of a hundred or more things to answer the question: what is the best course for church members to pursue to draw nearer to the Lord? Making a list is relatively easy, but how much more difficult would it be to put this list in order of priority? What would you put as number 1?
To help put in to perspective the answer to my question, I’m going to switch gears, and discuss something we’re all familiar with, cars. I’m going to make a list of 5 things we can do to keep our cars running at peak efficiency.
1. Keep the tires properly inflated
2. Change the oil every 3 to 5 thousand miles
3. Have your car tuned up as recommended by the manufacturer
4. Check the coolant level frequently
5. Replace the timing belt at the recommended mileage
OK, what’s the most important of the five recommendations? Can you put them in order of priority?
It’s time to give you an answer to both questions. The best answer doesn’t appear in either list. The best answer to the car question is to have gas in the tank. Without gasoline none of the recommendations will make a difference. A car has to have fuel to run efficiently.
The answer to the question, “what is the best course for church members to pursue to draw nearer to the Lord”, isn’t on the list either. The correct answer is to fulfill your baptism covenant by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Like the car question, without the Holy Ghost the other 10 ideas don’t really matter. Why, just as a car won’t run without fuel, we can’t make progress drawing nearer to the Lord without the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
On my next post, I’ll go into more detail why this is true. However, I will leave the following quote for you to ponder:
You may have the administration of angels, you may see many miracles; you may see many wonders in the earth; but I claim that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man. Woodruff, Wilford as quoted in G. Homer Durham, ed. The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946. 5.