JESUS THE CHRIST

By President David O. McKay
Extracted from Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City, Utah:
Improvement Era Publication, 1953, pp. 33-45.

THE POWER THAT CHANGES HISTORY. Nearly two thousand years ago a little group of men faced a future that was just as threatening and foreboding to them as that which the world faces today. The men in that group were Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, James and John, sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. A short time before that gloomy period Jesus had said to them:

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." (John 14:1.)

He promised them the Comforter who would testify of the Christ, who would bring all things to their remembrance, who would show them things to come.

Notwithstanding all those promises and divine exhortations, the disciples, following the crucifixion of their Lord, were depressed in their feelings. Their hopes were shattered. Their future, so far as Christ's triumph on earth was concerned, seemed all but blighted. They had been called and set apart to be fishers of men, and to Peter had been given the keys of the kingdom. Notwithstanding all this, in that hour of despondency, Peter turned to his old vocation, and said: "I go a fishing," and the others replied, "We also go with thee." (See John 21:3.)

They were in that state of mind when the resurrected Christ said to the discouraged leader of the Twelve: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" Peter answered, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." Said the Lord, "Feed my sheep." I have my own interpretation of what "these" means. Keep in mind, will you please, that it was his vocation -- what he would get. He had there before him the products of his morning's fishing, for he had fished all night and caught nothing. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" "Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." "Feed my sheep." (See John 21:15-17.)

On that occasion Peter became conscious of his responsibility not only as a fisher of men but also as a shepherd of the flock. It was then that he sensed finally and completely the full meaning of the divine injunction, "Follow thou me."

With that never-failing light, those twelve humble men succeeded in changing the course of human relations. -- CR, April 1948, pp. 66-67.

"WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST?" "What think ye of Christ?" was the question Jesus put to a group of Pharisees when they, with scribes and Sadducees, sought to entrap, to confound the Great Teacher by asking him entangling questions. He silenced the Sadducees in their attempt to ensnare him with regard to paying tribute to Caesar. He satisfied the scribes regarding the first and great commandment. He put to silence the Pharisees regarding their anticipated Christ.

To the Church, and to the world I repeat this question as being the most vital, the most far-reaching query in this unsettled, distracted world.

Great minds in all ages who have contributed to the betterment of mankind have been inspired by noble ideals.

History is replete with men, who, as Wordsworth expresses it, "By the vision splendid, were on their way attended."

The highest of all ideals are the teachings and particularly the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and that man is most truly great who is most Christlike.

What you sincerely in your heart think of Christ will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be. No person can study this divine personality, can accept his teachings without becoming conscious of an uplifting and refining influence within himself. In fact, every individual may experience the operation of the most potent force that can affect humanity. Electricity lightens labor in the home, imprisons alike on a disc the warbling tones of the mockingbird and the convincing appeal of the orator. By the turn of a switch, it turns night into day. The possibilities of the force resulting from the breaking up of the atom seem to be limitless either for the destruction or the blessing of life. Other and greater forces are already glimpsed.

None, however, is so vital, so contributive to the peace and happiness of the human family as the surrendering of our selfish, animal-like natures to the life and teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. -- CR, April 1951, pp. 92-94.

THE GREAT IDEAL. Christ came to redeem the world from sin. He came with love in his heart for every individual with redemption and possibility for regeneration for all. By choosing him as our ideal, we create within ourselves a desire to be like him, to have fellowship with him. We perceive life as it should be and as it may be.

The chief Apostle Peter, the indefatigable Paul, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and other true followers of the risen Lord recognized in him the Savior of the individual, for did he not say, "This is my work and my glory -- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man?" -- not the sacrificing of the individual for the perpetuation of the socialistic or communistic state.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ are under obligation to make the sinless Son of Man their ideal -- the one perfect Being who ever walked the earth.

Sublimest Example of nobility.
Godlike in nature.
Perfect in his love.
Our Redeemer.
Our Savior.
The Son of our Eternal Father.
The Light, the Life, the Way.

I know he lives and his power is potent; that he is the Son of God, and that he has restored in this dispensation the complete plan of salvation. -- CR, April 1951, p. 98.

THE INFLUENCE OF A SINGLE LIFE. J. A. Francis wrote a tribute to Christ, as follows: "I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that were ever built and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has this one, solitary life." -- CR, April 1950, p. 179.

TRUST IN THE LORD. Absolute trust in the Lord will awaken a desire, at least, to try to live in accordance with Christ's teachings, chief of which is to love, not hate one another. -- CR, October 1941, p. 55.

CHRIST AND CHRISTMAS. Christmas is a fitting time to renew our desires and to strengthen our determination to do all that lies within our power to make real among men the message heralded by the angels when the Savior was born. Let us glorify God by seeking the good, the true, the beautiful! Let us strive to establish peace on earth by exercising that same good will toward one another which God has shown toward us! -- MS, 85:802 (1923).

In northern climes particularly, Christmas is the happiest season of the year. At first thought, it is strange that it is so. The days are short and gloomy; the nights, cold and long; trees are leafless, and the landscape barren or covered with snow. Excepting the fur-clad and a few other hardy animals, all nature lies asleep. No warbling songsters fill the air with music; no flowers nor brilliant foliage gladdens the eye. The rippling streams that lured the heart in summer are frozen and still. The pine-covered hills are uninviting, if not quite inaccessible. Everything is gone which made springtime joyous, the summer delightful, and the autumn glorious! Notwithstanding all this, Christmas, in the depth of winter, is full of happiness and cheer.

This is because in Christian lands the yuletide festivity is impregnated with the Spirit of the Christ. At that time more than at any other, we think of others and try to express either in word or deed our desire to make others happy. Herein lies the secret of true happiness. "He that will lose his life for my sake and the gospel's shall find it," is sound philosophy, which the true Christmas spirit helps us to understand.

Love for God and for one another should be the Christmas theme. Such was the divine announcement by the heavenly host that first heralded the "glad tidings of great joy!"

"Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will toward men!"

How simple the words! How deep, how comprehensive their significance! At Christmas we celebrate his birth in whose mission on earth (1) God is glorified; (2) earth is promised peace; (3) all men given the assurance of God's good will toward them!

If every man born into the world would have as the beacon of his life these three glorious ideals -- how much sweeter and happier life would be! With such an aim, everyone would seek all that is pure, just, honorable, virtuous, and true -- all that leads to perfection; for these virtues he would glorify who seeks to glorify God. He would eschew that which is impure, dishonorable, or vile. If every man desired to show good will toward his fellow men and strove to express that desire in a thousand kind sayings and little deeds that would reflect unselfishness and self-sacrifice, what a contribution each would make toward universal peace on earth and the happiness of mankind! -- MS, 85:801-802 (1923).

"ALL MEN SEEK THEE!" What a glorious condition will be in this old world when it can be truthfully said to Christ, "All men seek thee!" Selfishness, envy, hatred, lying, stealing, cheating, disobedience to parents, cruelty to children and to dumb animals, quarreling among neighbors, and fighting among nations -- all will be no more when it can be truthfully said to the Redeemer of mankind, "All men seek thee!" -- AA, p. 23.

SIMPLE MORAL TRUTHS. What are the moral ideals and the spiritual teachings of the Man of Nazareth? Down through the centuries there have come ringing these words: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12.)

Do Christians really believe this? If so, they are hearing his other ringing words: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33.)

His teachings are simple, and sometimes they seem so simple that we toss them aside. -- CR, October 1935, p. 100.

The world needs fundamentals, eternal verities that never change. It needs to adopt the teachings of the man into whose hands the soldiers drove the iron spikes, "the only world conqueror who came with clean hands." -- CR, October 1935, p. 99.

NEGATION OF THE RULE OF FORCE. To all who accept Christ as the risen Lord, there can be no question as to the error of the doctrine that "might makes right," that all who are weak must yield to those who are strong, or that any man possessing either political or financial power has the right to use human beings as mere things or chattels to be disposed of as any other pieces of property. -- CR, April 1939, pp. 111-112.

RIGHT THINKING. No principle of life was more constantly emphasized by the Great Teacher than the necessity of right thinking. To him, the man was not what he appeared to be outwardly nor what he professed to be by his words: what the man thought determined in all cases what the man was.

His teachings regarding man's duty to himself as well as man's duty to his neighbor are pervaded with the truth that thought in all cases determines the man's right to happiness or his condemnation for sin. -- MS, 85:520 (1923).

THE INVITATION. How utterly foolish men are to quarrel, fight, and cause misery, destruction, and death when the gifts of a divine and loving Father are all around us for the asking -- are already in our possession if we would but recognize them. Christ's invitation is still extended to all peoples:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30.)

THE PATH TO PEACE. When Jesus was talking to his disciples immediately preceding his betrayal, explaining to them that he would have to leave them he said: ". . . ye believe in God, believe also in me." (John 14:1.) He desired them to understand, as he wants the whole world to know, that only through him can man find the life abundant. Those were not mere words of defiance which Peter uttered as he and John stood prisoners before the high priests. He proclaimed an eternal truth when he said: ". . . for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12.) That truth is reiterated in the Doctrine and Covenants -- ". . . all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God." (D. & C. 20:29.)

I like to associate with that word saved the power that man gets in this life to rise above his animal instincts and passions, power to overcome or resist social evils that blight men's and women's souls and shut them out not only from the peace of the world, but also from membership in the kingdom of God. Men may yearn for peace, cry for peace, and work for peace, but there will be no peace until they follow the path pointed out by the living Christ. -- CR, April 1948, p. 68.

THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE SON OF GOD AS THE SAVIOR OF MANKIND. The world wants peace, the winning of which seems to be more difficult than the winning of the war.

No peace, even though temporarily obtained, will be permanent unless it is built upon the solid foundation of eternal principles.

The first of these the Lord gave to Moses on Mount Sinai -- "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God." Consider what that means. When we sincerely accept God as our Father and make him the center of our being, we become conscious of a new aim in life. No longer is the chief end of daily life merely to nourish and to pamper the body as all animals do. Spiritual attainment, not physical indulgence, becomes the chief goal. God is not viewed from the standpoint of what we may get from him, but what we may give to him. Only in the complete surrender of our inner life may we rise above the selfish, sordid pull of nature. Divine and eternal as an element in the acquisition of peace is Christ's admonition: ". . . seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; . . . " (Matt. 6:33.)

Of equal importance is the acceptance of the Son of God as the Savior of mankind. -- CR, April 1948, p. 67.

HOW PEACE COMES. The peace of Christ does not come by seeking the superficial things of life, neither does it come except as it springs from the individual's heart. Jesus said to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. . . ." (John 14:27.) Thus the Son of Man the executor of his own will and testament, gave to his disciples and to mankind the "first of all human blessings." It was a bequest conditioned upon obedience to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is thus bequeathed to each individual No man is at peace with himself or his God who is untrue to his better self, who transgresses the law of right either in dealing with himself by indulging in passion, in appetite, yielding to temptations against his accusing conscience, or in dealing with his fellow men, being untrue to their trust. Peace does not come to the transgressor of law; peace comes by obedience to law; and it is that message which Jesus would have us proclaim among men. -- CR, October 1938, p. 133.

"PEACE IS WITHIN YOU." Peace, as Jesus said of the kingdom of God, ". . . cometh not with observation:

"Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there!. . ." (Luke 17:20-21.)

Behold, the source of peace is within you.

This fact is emphasized throughout the teachings of Jesus, most particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. Each Beatitude names a virtue and contributes to the perfect state of peace for the individual. The opposite attitude or condition of mind shows the source of confusion and strife.

The poor in spirit are they who are conscious of their destitution -- not of worldly possessions but of heavenly riches. Those who experience this condition run counter to them who arrogantly manifest pride in personal accomplishments or acquired possessions.

Those who mourn are they who weep not because of loss of wealth or of earthly emoluments but who sense their own deficiencies in spiritual possessions. That feeling runs counter to the calloused the indifferent, and the self-satisfied.

Meekness is closely allied to the poor in spirit, but in addition to consciousness of a dearth of spirituality, meekness connotes a reserved dignity -- a reservoir of self-control. A meek person may be quiet, unrevengeful, and not pusillanimous. Jesus said of himself: ". . . I am meek and lowly in heart: . . ." (Matt. 11:29) and as he stood before Pilate saying: "My kingdom is not of this world: . . ." (John 18:36) the Roman governor beheld one who possessed all the attributes of greatness, and caused him to declare: "Behold the man!" (John 19:5.) The unmeek are proud, resentful, revengeful.

Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness have hearts and minds yearning for the truth. Those who are opposite seek the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and bask in the pride of life.

Those who show mercy will obtain mercy. "Forgive and ye shall be forgiven." The opposite of mercy is hard heartedness, cruelty.

The pure in heart are those who are sincere. Inward purity stands in contrast with painted hypocrisy. One who cherishes his virtue is always in the best of company. He lives nearest the Eternal. Surely it is he who will see God. -- IE, 48:104 (1945).

TRUE CHILDREN OF GOD. The peacemakers are truly the children of God. They stand in direct opposition to the quarrelsome and contentious. -- IE, 48:104 (1945).

MERE BELIEF IN JESUS AS A GREAT MAN INSUFFICIENT. A mere belief in Jesus as a great teacher or even as the greatest man that ever lived has proved inadequate in combating the ills of the world. Among many writers and many thinking people, there is quite a general agreement as to the greatness of Jesus. By one, for example, he is designated as "the peerless personality in history"; by another (Renan) "whatever may be the surprises of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed." Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll once wrote: "When a boy in Peoria, Illinois, I may have said silly things about Jesus, but now I regard him as the one perfect man." "Christ stands for the highest development of man," writes Keable, "and try as we will, we cannot see any other intelligent mind than man's in the universe. To other forces that we dimly sense, we cannot attribute personality, but to the Christ we can and must. He is our God. We are not ashamed of him, and the less so as he is a man."

Manifestly the need of the world, and particularly in the present crisis, is more than a mere acceptance of the Man of Galilee as the greatest of all men. What is really essential is faith in him as a divine Being -- as our Lord and Savior. It is such faith as the Apostle Peter experienced when he declared: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16:16.) It is such faith as called forth Paul's testimony as he stood a prisoner before Agrippa and bore witness that Christ had appeared to him, and said: "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:. . ." (Acts 9:5.) It is the faith that enabled the doubting Thomas to say: "My Lord, and my God." (John 20:28.)

It is such faith as must have sustained the eleven Apostles and at least seventy disciples who met Christ after the resurrection. In their minds there was absolutely no doubt of his personality. They were witnesses of the fact. They knew because their eyes beheld, their ears heard, their hands felt the corporeal presence of the risen Redeemer.

It is that unwavering faith which brought forth this glorious vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father --

"That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." (D. & C. 76:22-24.)

Those who have such assurance in their hearts accept him as "The Way, the Truth, and the Life," as the one safe guide in this perplexing universe. -- IE, 47:12 (1943).

JOB'S ASSURANCE. "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

"And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

"Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." (Job 19:25-27.)

Thus was spoken the heartfelt assurance of Job, expressed in humiliation when everything else was taken from him and even his body utterly wasted in affliction.

If a few more million men in the world could feel that testimony -- the testimony of the reality of our Redeemer -- selfishness would be less manifest, war among nations would be eradicated, and peace would reign among mankind. Do you believe that, my fellow workers? -- CR, April 1951, p. 92.

THE TESTIMONY OF PETER AND JOHN. I feel it an honor to be associated with men and women who believe in the reality of Christ, our Redeemer. I should like to express what I mean by that, and so shall call attention to two incidents in scripture, the experience of two of the ancient Apostles, and the other the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Apostles one day, after the death and resurrection of their Lord, were preaching in the temple, and the Sadducees and officers came and arrested them and put them in prison. The next day Peter and John were brought before the high priest, before Annas and before Caiaphas, some of the very men who had been the means of crucifying the Lord. "And when they had set them in their midst they asked" (referring to the miracle which Peter and John had performed the day before by healing the impotent man at the gate), "By what power or by what name have ye done this?

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

"If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

"This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." (See Acts 4:7-11.)

To Peter and to John on that occasion Christ, the Redeemer, was a reality. They had associated with him in the flesh; they had sat in his company; they had seen his miracles; they had listened to his divine teachings; they had stood by, John, at least, when the Master was nailed to the cross. They had associated with him for approximately forty days after his resurrection from the tomb. And now clothed with the power which the Lord had given them, they faced the very men who had crucified their Redeemer and said: ". . . by him whom thou didst crucify is this man made whole." To them, Jesus was not an imaginary being; his life was not an idealism nor a mere mental conception. Christ, I repeat, was a reality. He was indeed the very Son of God, the divine Redeemer of the world.

THE TESTIMONY OF JOSEPH SMITH. Now listen to another testimony and this within the age of a few of the men -- I wish there were many -- who are here assembled today: "When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other: ` -- This is My Beloved Son: Hear Him!'" The Prophet Joseph's object in going to the Lord on that occasion was to inquire of him which of all the sects professing to be followers of the Redeemer was right. This, then, was his answer: "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: `they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'" (See P. of G. P., Joseph Smith 2:17-19.)

THE MEANING OF THESE TESTIMONIES. To him who accepts Jesus of Nazareth as the very Son of God, to him who believes with all his soul that Jesus lives today, that he can influence and that he does influence the world, to him, I say, who accepts that truth, Christ's teachings as well as his personality become a reality. You cannot profess to be truly a Christian and refuse to live up to the principles that Christ taught and obeyed. -- CR, April 1918, pp. 77-79.

I ask you if the Christians who profess to be Christians in reality believed in the doctrines and the teachings of the Redeemer as he gave them, should we have today the carnage, the bloodshed, the infamy that is now depopulating the Christian nations? I do not; I do not.

I will tell you what I am inclined to think: That many who profess Christianity are accepting Christ as an ethereal being and are inclined to look upon his teachings as impractical. They do not fully realize that before the world can be saved, they must accept his teachings; they must walk in his paths as individuals and as nations; they must accept as a veritable truth his saying: "I am the light of the world: . . ." (John 8:12.) -- CR, April 1918, p. 79.

THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN. God has spoken. The day of Israel is here, and the coming of the Son of Man is not far off. How many years it matters not. It is nearby. We must do our part and prepare for it. -- CR, October 1918, p. 49.

THE WORLD'S GREATEST NEED. ". . . because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29.)

So spoke Jesus to Thomas who had just confidently exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!" -- an acknowledgment indicating that doubt in the mind of Thomas had been supplanted by absolute certainty.

It is in this sense of unwavering trust that I refer to faith in Christ as the most important need of the world -- a belief that determines a man's religion. It is more than a mere feeling. It is power that moves to action and should be in human life the most basic of all motivating forces. It was in this sense that an eminent doctor of medicine, who had but recently lost his mother in death, admonished his students to keep their faith: "Those of you who have discarded faith will live to regret it. There are times such as this when science is entirely inadequate. I commend you to think seriously about these matters. They give comfort and solace which can be obtained in no other way. Many have discarded religion because it appears unscientific. I believe that you will find in the last analysis that it is scientific." -- IE, 47:12 (1943).

A PERSONAL WITNESS. Brethren, I know as I know I am looking into your faces that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that he is my Savior, as real as he was when Thomas said, with bowed head, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28.) -- CR, April 1949, p. 182.

 

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