Heeding the Words of Jesus Christ
Inspired by the April 2014 General Conference Talk by D. Todd Christofferson
It is good to be with you all this morning. Amy and I are grateful to be a part of this ward and are grateful to those of you who have already extended your hand to help us in any way. We have already grown to love it here; however, we are a little nervous about the winter given the past few days and weeks. We just moved from Mississippi where I would wear shorts 48-50 weeks of the year. So, it is nice to wear pants once again. I recently completed my Ph.D. in Information Systems at Mississippi State University, and we moved here because I am now a Professor at Creighton University. We loved our time in Mississippi but are grateful to move on to bigger and better things, especially when it comes with a paycheck.
Even though it is great to have my new job, it is always good to remember the biggest and best thing: to return to live with our Heavenly Father once again. I am so grateful for the role Jesus Christ has in bringing this into effect. However, this is only possible if we truly heed His words. After Christ’s resurrection, Mary Magdalene went to visit Jesus’ body in the tomb.
[When she looked] into the tomb…it seems that all that registered in her mind was that the body of the Lord was gone. She hurried to report to the Apostles and, finding Peter and John, said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.”
[While Mary continued in mourning], the angels had returned and tenderly asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” At that moment the resurrected Savior, now standing behind her, spoke, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”
Just like Mary didn’t believe or fully comprehend Christ’s words that…“The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again,” how often do we doubt the words of our Savior? When we open our hearts, only then may our minds, ears, and eyes truly understand and see what our Savior has in store for us. It wasn’t until Mary completely understood did her grief turn into joy. According to James E. Talmage:
“One word from His living lips changed her agonized grief into ecstatic joy. ‘Jesus saith unto her, Mary.’ The voice, the tone, the tender accent she had heard and loved in the earlier days lifted her from the despairing depths into which she had sunk. She turned, and saw the Lord. In a transport of joy she reached out her arms to embrace Him, uttering only the endearing and worshipful word, ‘Rabboni,’ meaning My beloved Master.”
Although we may not doubt that our Savior has been resurrected, there are other aspects in our lives where the pain of suffering and heartbreak would be lessened if we truly knew and understood our Savior.
In the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “Christ’s victory over death ended the human predicament. Now there are only personal predicaments, and from these too we may be rescued by following the teachings of him who rescued us from general extinction.”
What personal predicaments do we need to be rescued from? The answer is found in Alma 7:11-13:
“[Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses 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. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance…”
Given that Jesus is already resurrected, it is easy to believe and that someday I too will be resurrected and that my pains, sicknesses, and infirmities will be no more; however, I am less quick to understand that I can be forgiven of my sins. Personally, I feel that I am my worst critic. I believe that I am quick to forgive others, but I really have a hard time forgiving myself. However, D. Todd Christofferson provides some reassuring words:
Given the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, doubts about the omnipotence, omniscience, and benevolence of God the Father—who gave His Only Begotten Son for the redemption of the world—are groundless. Doubts about the meaning and purpose of life are unfounded. Jesus Christ is in fact the only name or way by which salvation can come to mankind. The grace of Christ is real, affording both forgiveness and cleansing to the repentant sinner. Faith truly is more than imagination or psychological invention. There is ultimate and universal truth, and there are objective and unchanging moral standards, as taught by Him.
Despite our shortcomings, we need to remember to (1) have faith and (2) that “…repentance of any violation of His law and commandments is both possible and urgent.” According to Steve Jobs:
When [he] was 17, [he] read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on [him], and since then, for the past 33 years, [he] looked in the mirror every morning and asked [himself]: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, [he knew he] needed to change something.
During the Ph.D. program at Mississippi State, it was really difficult to not become self-absorbed and focus on the last hurdle that was between me and graduation, the dreaded dissertation. In fact, I found that I would bring home a lot of the stress I experienced which caused me to not have the best relationship with my kids, particularly my oldest. While completing my dissertation, I realized that the answer to Steve Job’s question in my own life was “No.” I knew I needed to change and began trying to identify ways to change. During the past few months, I have consciously tried to relearn how to be a good father and have made some progress, but I feel that I still need to improve. What is really comforting to know is that if I fall short, I can repent.
In the Joseph Smith Papers, William P. McIntire recorded the words of one of Joseph Smith’s discourses from February 23, 1841. In his recording he states:
Joseph said he never wanted to hear a man snore louder than he could shout in battle — he did not want a man say O Joseph how I love you and when the time of danger come forsake him.
Likewise, let us hearken to the prophets by following our Savior Jesus Christ. If we truly love him, we will stand up for what is right through the good and the bad. We will quickly repent and improve our lives. Let us heed and understand our Savior’s words.