I am very humbled and honored by this invitation to come and speak with you today on this beautiful campus. This is the first time in my life I have ever been here. I can’t believe it. I should have come here years earlier. This is a wonderful place and you are very blessed to be students here.
My wife and I had the opportunity to go to the temple this morning––this beautiful Rexburg Temple. How blessed you are to have this beautiful temple right next to your campus. I promise you, brothers and sisters, that if you go to the House of the Lord, right here where you’re living and going to school, that the power of God will come into your lives and you will have the Spirit of the Lord. Go to the temple.
I was reminded that when my wife and I were newlyweds 38 ½ years ago and we were students at Arizona State University, our very first apartment was right across the street from the Mesa Arizona Temple. And that blessed our lives. We attended that temple. We did some ordinance work in that temple and it is such a sacred place for us. Make this Rexburg Temple a sacred place for you.
In the 50th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read these words: “Wherefore, I the Lord, ask ye this question, unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter, which was sent forth to taste the truth. And if it be by some other way, it is not of God. Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth understand one another and both are edified and rejoice together.”
I pray that I will be able to speak by the Spirit, and that you will listen by the Spirit so that we will be edified and we can rejoice together. Today, I desire to speak on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the music which we have heard, and which we have sung, that has set the tone for this grand topic.
Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, says that “we preach of Christ; we rejoice in Christ; we talk of Christ; and we prophecy of Christ.” That is what I desire to do today with you––to testify of Christ. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are truly blessed. We are blessed to have more information about the Savior, Jesus Christ, than even our brothers and sisters of other faiths. Why? Because not only do we have the Holy Bible which they have, but in addition, we have the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the words of living apostles and prophets.
We know that Jesus Christ is the firstborn of all the spirit children of God. In the pre-existence we were all born of celestial parentage. But the firstborn was Jesus Christ. He announced that and He identified Himself as the first born in several scriptures. He is, therefore, our older brother. He is also the almighty Jehovah. To Abraham and Moses and Isaiah and many of the prophets, He identified Himself as the God of Israel and Jehovah.
When He appeared to Oliver Cowdry and Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, He identified Himself as Jehovah. Let there be no mistake about it. Let there not be any misunderstanding. Christ is Jehovah. When our Father in Heaven offered the great plan of salvation in the pre-existence, it was Jehovah who conformed and accepted the plan. He was foreordained from the foundation to be the lamb to be slain, to put that plan of salvation into effect.
Jesus, or Jehovah, was greater than us all, and the Father honored Him by calling the plan of salvation the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ, or the doctrine of Jesus Christ, is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins by proper authority, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in righteousness all of our days in mortality. It embraces the creation and the fall of Adam and the atonement of Jesus Christ. It contains all the principles and laws and ordinances that enable us to return to the presence of God. It is the glad tidings of great joy.
Jesus is the Creator. Under the Father, He was instructed and allowed and authorized to create this world and to create many worlds. And so, He is the Creator. He is the Lord God Omnipotent. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the great “I Am.” He is the Messiah, and He is the anointed One. We knew all of this before He ever came into mortality. Now when He was born into mortality, we know of what a miraculous birth it was.
Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father in the flesh. His father literally was our Father in Heaven, Elohim, and from His Father in Heaven He inherited immortality or the ability to live forever. His mother was the blessed virgin Mary, a mortal, and from her He inherited mortality, or the ability to die. Thus He is different from the rest of us because His mother was mortal and His father was immortal.
I love the words in the Book of Mormon that talk about this, where Nephi received a great vision. This is what he said: “He said unto me, behold the Virgin whom thou seest as the Mother of the Son of God after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit. And after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time, the angels spake unto me saying, ‘look,’ and I looked and beheld the Virgin again bearing a child in her arms. And the angels said unto me, ‘behold, the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father.’”
What a wonderful truth this is. Although the Almighty Jehovah who created this earth and was so powerful and mighty, He humbly came to this earth and was born in a lowly stable among the beasts of the field. Basically the world was unaware of His coming. There were some faithful saints that knew. There were some faithful shepherds that knew. They heard the angel that announced it. They heard the praises in the heavens that Christ had been born. But it was basically a lowly birth when He came in the meridian of time.
Now, how do we know so much about the Savior? There’s a wonderful scripture in John that says: “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testifies of me.” It is in the scriptures that we learn about Christ, and it is by the power of the Holy Ghost that we learn about Christ––through revelation and through the promptings of the Spirit. It is because we have living apostles and prophets today who teach us about Christ that we know so much about Him.
We know that when he was a 12-year-old boy, He was found in the temple teaching His Father’s doctrine and confounding the worldly wise. When Joseph and Mary found Him, He said, “Wist ye not that I be about my Father’s business?”
We know that He grew in grace and mercy and power and stature. When He was about 30 years old, He went to His second cousin, John the Baptist, and was baptized in the Jordan River. What a glorious occasion that was.
He demonstrated His humility and His obedience to the Father in all things and after He came forth out of the water, the Holy Ghost descended in a personage like a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard and said, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
After He was baptized we read that He was tempted of Satan, but He was the sinless one. He never gave in to temptation and He overcame the devil. We read about the miracles that He did to demonstrate who He really was and to minister among man. We read about the healings, about how He healed the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. He even healed the lepers of their awful disease. He cast out devils by those who were so possessed. Truly our Lord made men whole physically and spiritually. He controlled the elements of nature. He walked on water. He calmed the storm. He turned water into wine. He fed thousands with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish. He organized His church. He instituted the ordinance of the sacrament.
For 4,000 years the saints had been looking forward to a great sacrifice that was going to occur. And then the Lord, right at this time before He gave His own life, instituted the ordinance of the sacrament. No longer would the saints look forward to this great sacrifice because He was going to perform the sacrifice. And from that point on, we, the saints of God, were going to remember the sacrifice. Of course, the great reason for His first coming in the meridian of time was to perform the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice.
The Prophet Joseph Smith received a wonderful vision, the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. We love that section. The early saints just called it “the vision.” It is so full of pure true doctrine. We read these verses: “And this is the gospel, the glad tidings which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us. That He came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness, that through Him all might be saved whom the Father had put into His power and made by Him.”
Isn’t that beautiful? I love the Prophet Joseph and I love him for his testimony of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There’s another passage that I think we should read together in 3 Nephi, for the Savior bears witness of Himself. In the 27th chapter beginning with verse 13: “Behold, I have given unto you my gospel; and this is the gospel which I have given unto you. That I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross, and after I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me; as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before Him, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.”
There are many scriptures that we could read about the atonement. The Prophet Joseph, in section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants, received a great revelation. The agony and the grief were so severe during that atoning sacrifice that Christ bled from every pore. We could go on. The great discourse that King Benjamin gave where the angel taught him about the Savior and the atoning sacrifice.
Jesus is our Savior and He is our Redeemer. He has saved us from the fall of Adam; He has saved us from death, both physical and spiritual deaths. He is our Redeemer. I love the words of the Apostle Paul––he says it so eloquently: “For as Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Christ is the first fruits of them that slept. He is the resurrected and risen Lord, and salvation is in Him and Him only. There is no other way nor name nor means by which we can be saved other than through Jesus Christ. He is the Great Exemplar. He Himself asked this question: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?” Then He answered: “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”
God the Father manifests Himself to us through His beloved son, Jesus Christ. In John we read, “I am the way, the truth and the light. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Then He goes on to say that the works that He did were the works of the Father and that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father. The Father and the Son are one. They are one in many ways. They are one in perfection. They are one in purpose. They are one in unity. They are one in appearance. They think, and say, and do the same things. They are one and we are to be one like them.
After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the scriptures record other appearances that He made to men and women. But the one I would like to refer to is the appearance He made in the spring of 1820, to a boy-prophet, in New York. When God the Son and God the Father appeared to that boy and ushered in the great restoration of the gospel in these the latter days. They ushered in the great dispensation of the fullness of times.
I bear you my witness, brothers and sisters that the first vision really happened. It is not a myth; it is not a fairy tale. It is not a fictional story. God, the Eternal Father, and His beloved son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the Prophet Joseph.
We call it the First Vision because it was the first of many visitations and visions that the then-prophet was to receive. But I also think it was first in importance because the Father and the Son came together. Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We read in the scriptures that when He comes again His appearance will be so great and that there will be fire on earth and that the very mountains will melt and flow in the presence of His return.
In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph, the scriptures say: “The very sun will hide his face in shame. That the moon will withhold its light; and that the stars will be hurled from the heavens in the presence of the return of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul says: “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is God’s only Son.” Well, what does this mean for us? What does this mean for you students here at BYU-Idaho in the year 2012?
Perhaps I can illustrate from a story that happened to me. Forty-one years ago when I was in the LTM––that’s how old I am, before the MTC––I was learning Spanish to go to Spain on my mission. I was reading the intercessory prayer when Christ was praying to the Father, and I was reading it in Spanish. I should say I was trying to read it in Spanish, and I read this verse that––well, let me read it. It’s such a beautiful verse; I just don’t want to make a mistake. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” When I read that, the Spirit came upon me. I had just learned the day before in Spanish class that in Spanish there are two different ways of using the verb “to know” for our English verb “to know.” There’s saber, which means “to know about something or to know something” and there’s the verb conocer, which means “to be acquainted with or to know someone personally.” When I read that scripture that this is life eternal, that we might know thee, the verb concocer was used. I realized it was not enough to know about God. Yes, it’s important and that’s what we try to do, but we need “to know” Him personally. We need to be acquainted with Him. It was a great revelatory experience for me.
For the past 41 years I have tried to come to know my God and His beloved Son personally, to be acquainted with them. Because the scriptures say this is what we have to do to gain eternal life, and I think the reason is that when we get to know Them, the Father and the Son, we want to be like Them. We want to rise up from carnality and evil, and we want to be holy like They are holy. Once we come to know Them, then we become like the Apostle Paul when he said: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God unto salvation.” And when we come to know Them, our faith is increased and we are like my late uncle, the apostle Bruce R. McConkie, who said, “I believe in Christ, come what may.”
When we get to know God and His Son by the power of the Holy Ghost on a personal level, then we are like Enoch and Elijah and Joseph Smith who knew Them in such a way that they will inherit eternal life.
I bear you my witness brothers and sisters that Jesus is the Christ. He is all these things of which we have spoken. There’s a scripture that says in Isaiah: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord. That I am the Lord and beside me there is no savior. Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
That is our obligation, brothers and sisters: to be witnesses to Christ in word and deed. May we be courageous and open our mouths and be missionaries and bear our testimony of what we know about Jesus Christ our Lord. May we live lives of purity and cleanliness. May we repent of our sins and keep the commandments and be true and faithful to our sacred covenants, so that we are living witnesses of Christ by our very existence; that our lives, our sermons are of Christ. That’s what we need to do with the knowledge that we have––this precious knowledge, the testimony we have of Christ. Let’s be like Him. Let’s be living witnesses of Him, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.