Thank you to a friend, Marc, who helped put into words some of what follows.
When you read scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon, you come across accounts of people having various degrees of interaction with God; including face-to-face interactions with Christ (Ether 3 – 4).
You can have confidence then that such interactions are possible in this life.
You will also read that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:35, Moroni 8:12).
You can now have confidence that such interactions are possible for you in this life.
Having established that such interactions are possible for you in this life, you may then consider whether they are necessary. The question, “Must one see Christ in this life?” can easily lead to confusion and disagreement between parties because it is too simple.
Must one see Christ in this life? The obvious answer to this simple question is no, since many people have lived and died without seeing Him.
When you clarify the goal/outcome, you can then make progress. Consider the following questions:
Must one see Christ in this life to be saved?
Must one see Christ in this life to be redeemed?
It is correct to say that while the Book of Mormon does invite all to come unto Christ, it does not explicitly declare that “you have to see Christ in this life to be saved.” However, to be saved is not the same as to be redeemed from the Fall. These are two distinct and different things. Furthermore, it does say throughout the Book of Mormon how one is to come unto Christ, particularly in Ether chapter 4 where Jesus Christ explicitly tells the reader that whoso should deny the manner in which He has declared to come unto Him will be accursed.
Ether 4:8 And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh…
It is Jesus Christ who speaks and helps us understand how “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” You cannot get any nearer to God than by rending the veil and seeing Him face to face as declared by Jesus Christ in Ether 4, unless you finds yourself encircled about in His arms of love, embraced by Him. It is one thing for someone not to believe or desire it, but it is another to deny its truthfulness and further to discourage others who might otherwise desire to do the same.
Ether 3:11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
First, the brother of Jared believed in the words of Christ sufficiently to act upon them in the way he had been invited to do. Through that, he came to know that the words of Christ are true and can be trusted. Once God speaks, it is as if we already have the thing He has promised if we will believe and ask. Because the brother of Jared knew these things, he was redeemed from the fall. And, being redeemed from the fall means that he is brought back into the presence of the Lord.
We have been taught how to return to the presence of the Lord. When that happens we will have been redeemed from the fall. The Lord has offered it. We can ask, seek and knock. The timing will be the Lord’s timing, but we must ask and seek and knock.
As for being saved, in section 76 we are taught:
D&C 76:42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them
What is the difference between being redeemed and being saved?
2 Nephi 2:2 Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
3 Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
Lehi declared to his son that he knew his son is “redeemed” because of the “Redeemer.” He also knows that Jacob saw certain things because Lehi also saw certain things. Now notice that Lehi used the words redeemed and Redeemer. He did not use the title of Savior, although Jesus Christ is also our Savior.
The brother of Jared also saw things.
Ether 3:13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
Jesus Christ is defining redemption. It is to rend the veil. It is to be brought “back into my presence,” which presence Adam and Eve once were…until they “fell.” When they fell, they were cast out into the world, being no longer in His presence and thus all their posterity were also fallen.
19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.
20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him.
Lehi was redeemed. Nephi was also redeemed and so was Jacob and the bro of Jared. They were redeemed from the Fall, which Fall brings about our place on this dark side of the veil, or in other words, the mists of darkness described in Lehi’s dream. This is why Nephi spoke so plainly in his final chapters with so much exhortation:
2 Nephi 32:4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
Regarding salvation, Nephi put it this way:
2 Nephi 9:23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
In D&C we read:
D&C 6:13 If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
Throughout the sermon on the mount Jesus declared repeatedly who will be saved “in the kingdom of heaven.”
And to quote Joseph Smith:
Salvation is for a man to be saved from all his enemies; for until a man can triumph over death, he is not saved…History of the Church, 5:403
In summary, a person is finally saved after the resurrection and upon entering the kingdom of heaven. A person is redeemed as soon as he/she rends the veil of unbelief like Lehi’s son Jacob and the bro of Jared.
In fact, a heathen king was converted and redeemed. His name was King Lamoni.
Alma 19:13 For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer…
Here is the passage where we read about Nephi and Jacob (and Isaiah) having seen Jesus:
2 Nephi 11:2 And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.
3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him…
Nephi knew that Isaiah “saw” the “Redeemer” just as both Nephi and Jacob “saw” the “Redeemer.” Notice the word Savior is not used in this capacity although Jesus Christ is our Savior. Context is important.
What is offered is far greater than what is generally desired, sought after and accepted. What do you desire? Many are called, but few are chosen.