Those who know me, know that I am a big fan of Hugh Nibley1. Brother Nibley has left us countless writings and recordings. I have yet to find an instance where he spoke, or wrote, in and of himself. What I mean is that his opinions and theories always referred back to a place that he considered authoritative, in whole or in part. He could certainly read into a text, his own interpretation, but I venture to say that his interpretation has been correct more often than not.
I mention brother Nibley because he is the one who has prompted me to study, not only, our own canon of scripture2, but to seek other sources that are not necessarily considered canonical. He, more than anyone I’ve read and listened to, wanted to know everything about a thing of interest, not just the basics but all that were possible to know. He loved the milk, but the meat is where he lived. I daresay he ate the entire animal and asked for more afterward than any of us could likely stomach.
In that vein, and through his lectures, I have discovered the Nag Hammadi, including the Gospel of Thomas. Of particular personal interest is verse 37:
37) His disciples said, “When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?”
Jesus said, “When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample them, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid.”
Let me state that I have not, yet, seen the Savior, at least not with my physical eyes. This verse, from the Gospel of Thomas, is interesting due to a personal experience in the Nauvoo temple in the late spring of 2002. I will not write about the experience as it is private and sacred to me, but I will bear my testimony as follows.
When we are finally judged, He sees us as we are, as we have become, all things present, nothing hidden. There are no equivocations, no sophistry on our own behalf. We do not present our case in the last court of judgment. There are no attorneys. We have but one advocate, and He knows the truth about us, even everything in absoluteness. Every word we have spoken, every thought we have had and every action we have taken, good or bad, uplifting or discouraging, righteous or evil is there, part and parcel. Nothing is hidden from Him. He also knows our heart and all circumstances surrounding every moment of our mortal lives. In fine, He sees what, and who, we have become, and why. We know with a perfect knowledge that He sees us naked as it were.
Through that context, His words, in the Nag Hammadi scripture, make perfect sense. We will see Him:
- When we strip without being ashamed.
- When we take our clothes off and put them under our feet like little children and trample them.
I know that if we have not used our agency wisely, making correct choices; if we have not repented during our probation constantly and consistently, we are wracked with torment and eternal disappointment in ourselves.
I had always believed The Savior would judge us with furrowed brow and pointing finger, consigning us to eternal damnation for our sins. To my wonderment, He is simply not like that.
If we have become anything less than our best selves; if we have taken the wide road and not listened to His promptings, He looks upon us with great sorrow, and with tears in His eyes embraces us. In His deep, profound sadness, and ours, we both realize that our opportunity to choose is gone. We have failed. In spite of all the promptings from The Light of Christ, which is in us all, we did not use our agency to choose righteousness. We have failed God, our Father, and it is now eternally too late to change. We must take the walk of shame to our eternal reward, which is anything less than exaltation, the Celestial kingdom.
Make no mistake. If we arrive at the judgment bar after having travelled the popular road, we will remember with a sureness that He, Jesus Christ, tried again and again, to warn us, to prompt us, to prick our conscience into remembering Him and into repentance. We will see it clearly at that point, as all things are present. We will be utterly left without excuse and we will know this. There will be no argument. We will understand and agree with His judgment as being entirely just and righteous, even more merciful than we deserve.
Seeking His Face
When The Lord reveals Himself, we see him with our physical eyes. At that point we are no longer required to have faith. We now have a perfect knowledge. He sees us as we truly are, as He saw the brother of Jared, and we see Him as He is.
It is my proposition that brother Moriancumer3 had lived his life as a single, solitary individual. That is, he had no duality. He lived in such a way as to show publicly the man he was privately. He had taken off his clothes, as it states in the Gospel of Thomas, and trampled them under his feet. In this way, he would not have been afraid to see The Savior. Yes, Ether 3:8 says that “he feared lest he [The Lord] should smite [him]”, but the fear was because he had never realized that The Lord had flesh and blood, not because he had anything (sins) to hide.
Why would The Lord show Himself to us before we are ready? He would not. We cannot see Him until we have disrobed, as it were, and lost our duality. Otherwise the experience would leave us unable to stay in this life.
Notice that in Alma’s experience in chapter 36, he did not see The Lord. He saw an angel, but his real education was spiritual, not physical. The Lord did not appear to him, but he saw and understood the nature of his own final judgment. Alma was not ready at that time to see The Lord.
We become reconciled with The Lord, once we have become a solitary individual, the same in the light as we are in the darkness. We are then sanctified, and we may have the privilege of seeing His face, in His own due time.
If we reach the judgment bar without having learned faith and exercised repentance it is too late. But if we choose the narrow path, the strict road of righteousness while in this life, our second estate, we can eventually seek his face, if we live long enough. He does not reveal Himself before we are ready. He gives us every possible opportunity to become who we really are before He reveals Himself. I propose that once He does, our test is essentially over. We may stay in the flesh, afterward, for a variety of reasons, to help others, etc. We must prepare ourselves before we are able to seek His face.
I pray that we, all of God’s children, will be able to strip off our clothing, lose our duality and seek His face in this world, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was one of the most gifted scholars in the LDS Church. He graduated summa cum laude from UCLA and completed his PhD as a University Fellow at UC Berkeley. He taught at Claremont College in California before serving in military intelligence in World War II. From 1946 until his death in 2005, he was associated with and taught at Brigham Young University.↩
Canon: A word of Greek origin meaning “a rod for testing straightness,” now used to denote the authoritative collection of the sacred books used by the true believers in Christ. Our Standard Works, including the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments), The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.↩