Taking Upon Us the Identity of Christ

2006-07-09 20:08:00 +0000

identity-of-christ.mp3 (13:14)

Come Unto Christ

In our most recent General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us of a constant invitation given by the Savior Jesus Christ:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [Matthew 11:28]

The admonition to come unto the Savior is repeated again and again in ancient and modern scripture, by Christ Himself as well as by His authorized representatives. Prophets and apostles have repeatedly taught the importance of following the Son of God and coming unto Him.

Elder Holland poses the question,

So how does one “come unto Christ” in response to this constant invitation? [Jeffrey R. Holland, “Broken Things to Mend,” Ensign, May 2006, 69]

and he gave several answers. The third answer that Elder Holland gave was, to quote him,

… in as many ways as possible, we try to take upon us His identity, and we begin by taking upon us His name. [Holland]

Taking Upon Us His Name

In a revelation given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the Lord taught:

Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved;

Wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day;

Wherefore, if they know not the name by which they are called, they cannot have place in the kingdom of my Father. [D&C 18:23-25]

Then Elder Holland continues. He says,

That name is formally bestowed by covenant in the saving ordinances of the gospel. These start with baptism and conclude with temple covenants, with many others, such as partaking of the sacrament, laced throughout our lives as additional blessings and reminders. [Holland]

Being able to partake of the sacrament is a blessing and a reminder.

I Would Ask If All Is Done?

But taking upon ourselves the name of Christ through covenant alone is not sufficient to come unto Christ. It is only the first step, as we learn from the prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon:

And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. [2 Nephi 31:19]

Another apostle, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said this:

Through baptism we covenant to take upon us the Lordʼs name and honor it by keeping His commandments.

As we take His name upon us, we most certainly are Christians, for we bear the name of Christ. Each week as we partake of the emblems of bread and water, we do it in remembrance of Him. We renew our covenant that we “are willing to take upon [us] the name of [the] Son [of God], and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us] (D&C 20:77).” [Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Christians in Belief and Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 70]

Christʼs own words are these:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [Matthew 7:21]

In 1991 President Gordon B. Hinckley, who at the time was the First Counselor in the First Presidency, observed,

It is easy to be a Mormon and accept the theology. It is difficult to be a Christian and follow Christ in word and deed. [Rex D. Pinegar, “Follow Christ in Word and Deed,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 39]

When the Savior asks us to come unto Him, He asks us to talk as He talks, to walk as He walks, to serve as He serves, and to live as He lives. He asks us to follow Him in word and in deed.

Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?

the Savior asked.

Verily I say unto you, even as I am. [3 Nephi 27:27]

Learning About Jesus Christ

In our quest to come unto Christ by taking upon us His identity, we have a wealth of resources available to us so that we can know exactly what that identity is.

We have in the scriptures the revelations of ancient prophets that prophecy of the Christ and describe His character and His mission to us:

For behold I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all–for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sickness of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. [Alma 7:7,11-12]

We have in the scriptures the direct teachings of the Savior Himself:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; [3 Nephi 27:21]

We have prophets today that guide us through a dangerous world and point the way to the Savior. They have declared:

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles–that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son. [The Living Christ]

Heed and Obey

With all this instruction that is available to us, all that is left for us is to heed and obey. This is fundamentally how we come unto Christ and take upon us His name.

The great King Benjamin of the Book of Mormon said it like this:

I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? [Mosiah 5:12-13]

One night a man had a dream. He found himself in a large, brightly lit room. There was one door in the far corner, and a row of chairs along the far wall, starting near the door. Most of the chairs were occupied.

He waited, unsure of what to do. He watched as the door opened. The person sitting in the chair nearest to the door stood up and entered, and the door closed. Each person in line moved down one seat.

The man walked to the end of the line and sat down. He turned to his neighbor and asked where he was.

“Youʼre dead,” the neighbor replied. “We all are. Weʼre waiting for our exit interview.”

Time passed and the dreaming man drew closer to the door, wondering the entire time what awaited him inside. Finally, he was sitting at the chair nearest the door. He discovered that he could overhear the conversation on the other side of the door.

Through the door, he heard an interviewer say, “I just have three questions for you. First, could you please tell me, who is Jesus Christ?”

“Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” was the answer that came.

“Good,” the interviewer continued. “Next question: what did Jesus Christ do?”

“He taught His gospel, the plan of salvation. He miraculously healed many sick people. He organized a church so his teachings could continue after he left.”

“Good,” the interviewer continued. “Final question: what did Jesus Christ do for you?”

After a pause, the man heard through the door, “He paid the price for my sins. He suffered and died so that I could be forgiven and live forever with God.”

“Thank you very much,” the interviewer responded. “You may go.”

The door opened, and the dreaming man wondered how he would answer those same questions when he was asked them. He stood up and entered the room.

He looked the interviewer in the eyes for a split second, then fell to his knees and cried out, “My Lord and my God!”

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? [Mosiah 5:13]

By serving Christ, by keeping His commandments, we come unto Him, we honor His name that we have taken upon us, and we come to know him personally.

Help and Blessings Await

Remember the words of President Hinckley:

It is easy to be a Mormon and accept the theology. It is difficult to be a Christian and follow Christ in word and deed. [Pinegar]

Commenting on President Hinckleyʼs observation, Elder Rex D. Pinegar, who at the time was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, said,

Yes, “it is difficult to be a Christian and follow Christ in word and deed.” When we do follow Him, however, we will feel the peace and assurance that come from making right choices. He will provide the courage necessary for those times when we have to stand alone. [Pinegar]

This promise is an echo of Almaʼs testimony from the Book of Mormon. He tells his son,

… I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions … [Alma 36:3]

and he was speaking from experience.

With this promise of support in our trials comes an equally amazing assurance of blessings that await those who come unto Christ. Ezra Taft Benson, the thirteenth president of the Church, taught the following:

That man is greatest and most blessed and joyful whose life most closely approaches the pattern of the Christ. This has nothing to do with earthly wealth, power, or prestige. The only true test of greatness, blessedness, joyfulness is how close a life can come to being like the Master, Jesus Christ. He is the right way, the full truth, and the abundant life. [Ezra Taft Benson, “Jesus Christ–Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 2]

I know that the Savior lives. I know that He was sent by His Father, and by our Father, to provide the way for us to return to live with them both. I have felt His love, and this blessedness and joyfulness that President Benson speaks about as I strive to draw closer to Him, and you will, too.

We must the onward path pursue
As wider fields expand to view,
And follow him unceasingly,
Whateʼer our lot or sphere may be.

For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, powʼrs, And glory great and bliss are ours,
If we, throughout eternity,
Obey his words, “Come, follow me.” [Hymns, Come, Follow Me, no. 116]