Blessed Are the Pure in Heart…
When I was a teenager of simple faith and hopeful heart I once encountered a man, a fellow Christian I believe, who told me my faith could not be true because nobody had ever seen God. He was referring to my belief that a teenage boy had gone alone into a grove of trees and upon offering humble prayer was answered with a vision, or visitation if you will, from God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ. This man’s faith questioning statement took me back a little bit. I do not think that I had ever considered the idea that man could not see God. Why would we not be able to see God? I had always known Him to be present. I had always felt the comfort of His watchful eye and protecting hand. Just because I had not seen Him with my mortal eyes, did not mean that I could not see Him if need be. The faith of my heart rallied to my defense and I simply referred the man who had questioned my belief to the Lord’s own words found in Matthew 5:8 of the New Testament: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
Since then several decades have passed and I have pondered much the idea of what it is to be pure in heart, so pure in heart that we may see God. I believe we all start out in life pure in heart. As I referred last week to looking into the eyes of a newborn child, I think there can be no doubt that there is a purity and innocence that is undeniable, and if anybody can see God it is a little child. Frankly I do not doubt that little children can see God, I just cannot confirm in most cases when and where it has happened. The question then is set forth, “How, once we have lost some of that humble innocence of childhood, can our hearts again be purified sufficiently to see God?”
To be pure of heart seems to me an essential ingredient of what it is to be Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ. I am not suggesting that one need to be perfect, or have a perfectly pure heart, to be a follower of Christ. However, the desire to have one’s heart purified sufficiently to see the Savior, is in and of itself part of a purification process that prepares our hearts and leads us to Christ. As we move closer to the Lord by following His commandments, and repenting when we fall short, our hearts become more pure and we can more fully draw upon the powers of heaven to be closer to Him.
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” — Jesus Christ
Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson
As we grow closer, our hearts grow more pure, guile diminishes, and so forth, until our intentions become pure enough sufficiently that we can receive the full and purifying power of God’s grace, His atoning sacrifice. As Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “To be without guile is to be pure in heart—an essential virtue of those who would be counted among true followers of Christ.”
Becoming pure in heart once again, after having lost the pure innocence of our youth, is a process of sanctification. We have to put our hearts and our minds into doing the right things and having the right intentions, but it is of necessity that the powers of heaven are drawn upon to bring us to a place where we can once again become worthy to really see God. As the ancient prophet Alma taught, “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (Alma 13:12).
The answer to how we become pure of heart is found in the scriptures, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on His holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into His rest” (Alma 13:28-29).
As our hearts enjoy this sanctifying process and become pure again, we can rejoice. “Thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—the pure in heart; therefore, let Zion rejoice” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21).
There is good cause for joy and celebration as we gain the gift to see God and His Christ again. This cause is of infinite worth even if only to see Him figuratively and have our hearts converted, that we can become followers of He who has redeemed us all with His blood and sacrifice. I believe though, that by becoming pure in heart we, as prophets of old and in the latter days, as the men, women and children who walked with Him in life and after His glorious resurrection, may see God by the power of His Spirit and with sanctified hearts and eyes made pure in the blood of the lamb. We may become pure in heart and we may see God, even as He has said.
I believe in Jesus Christ and in His atoning power to free us from spot or blemish, sin or impurity. I believe that there have been the pure in heart throughout the ages, and they are those who have seen to know and follow Christ, all by the Spirit and many with eyes opened to understanding and seeing Him, as Moses revealed, “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). I believe that God is all powerful, all wise, all knowing, and all able to show Himself unto His children if He chooses so to do, and I believe He has. May we all be sanctified and have pure hearts to see our Savior, to follow Him, and to know our God and Father, even as He knows us. May we be so blessed. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.