“When I Read, I Am There,” Ensign, July 1973, 113
When I decided to choose a subject for this moment, I discovered I did not have enough words in the English language to properly express my true feelings, but it is the only language I know and so I shall have to use them and hope that the prayer of Brother Burton, which he offered at the beginning, will be applied to me as well as to you.
It is my purpose to speak of the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the depths of my soul I know that he has established the Church in these last days so that I may partake of the blessings of his kingdom on earth, to the end that I may inherit the eternal joy of dwelling in his presence when I have completed my work here, if I can prove faithful. He did not intend this to be my privilege alone. In his infinite love he reaches out to all of my family, all of my kin, to all of your families and kin, and to all of the people on the earth.
I know that I cannot know him as he is unless he reveals himself to me. That is the great hope—to penetrate the veil and see and know him as he is. Yet I do know some things because he has told holy men, who are prophets, about himself and has commanded that they bear record of what they saw and heard. I know that by reading about him in the scriptures I can hear his voice by the power of the Holy Ghost; that is, to read his word is to hear his voice.
Speaking through the Prophet Joseph Smith to his future modern apostles, he said: “These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; … For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another. … [Notice he said read them.] Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.” (D&C 18:34–36.)
I begin by learning that all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (See John 1:3.) It is plain that this great being, this Word, as John expressed it, was made flesh and dwelt among us (see John 1:14) and was identified as the Only Begotten in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I learn, too, that all of the children of God were organized as spirits to come to the earth to be tested, to see if they would obey the principles of salvation and exaltation as proposed by this Son. They were told: “We will go down, … and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:24–25.) Then, in due time, he himself came to earth, the light and life of men. (See John 1:4.)
Believing this with all my heart, I read of the earthly life of this great being, the Messiah. I learn that when he was born, a host of angels sang anthems of joy to an audience of shepherds. Out of the East, with no explanation as to why they started, wise men came and deposited with Joseph and Mary presents which were of value: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I do not doubt that they were inspired to find the Lord or that they were prompted to leave valuable gifts which could be used to sustain his family.
I am thrilled when I read of the scene at Jordan. There came the Son of God, unmarked and unknown; yet, recognizing him by the Spirit, John the Baptist could not help crying out: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.) What do you imagine could have been John’s feeling when, after the baptism, he heard a voice out of the heavens say in holy confirmation: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”? (Matt. 3:17.)
Then later, as I follow his life, I sense the extraordinary importance of this climb up the mountain with three fishermen who did not yet quite know what it was to be apostles, to be special witnesses. There, as his glory was manifest before them and their eyes were opened to the presence of Moses and Elijah, they heard the same solemn witness as had John, only this time it came from a bright cloud nearby, which overshadowed them. In my soul I hear the solemn words from out the cloud saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matt. 17:5.)
There are many events in the life of the Lord in which I experience exquisite joy as I read of them, and there are others which bow me down with the tragedy of his suffering and of his sacrifice.
Many of us know what it is to suffer physically for ourselves, and we suffer mentally and emotionally for our friends and loved ones in their sorrows and afflictions. I am not capable of fully understanding the suffering of this great firstborn Son of God for the sins of the world. We call it Gethsemane. He gave us agency and then, knowing all would sin to a greater or lesser degree, took the responsibility on himself of paying the price of the atonement for our sins, provided we would repent and follow him and his teachings. I find peace in doing what he said to do. When he said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you …” (John 14:27), he meant what he said. Someday I hope to be able to understand better. I know the peace I can have if I will keep his law and abide in his commandments.
I read that he was hung on a cross. I look at my own hands and feet and try to imagine the pain of such torture—to hang there in the heat of the day, the weight of his body on those tearing nails, every muscle and nerve drawn tight in agony. No stopping, no escape until he, having said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), gave up the ghost. I realize that this was endured for me and for you; I bow my head; it is hard to hold back the tears. Even now, 1900 years later, it is as poignant as though it occurred yesterday.
I read on and discover that each one of the gospels ends on a triumphant note. He has risen! He is the King of kings. He is the one named “Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6.) I think of each of these titles given to him in prophecy and marvel as the meaning of each one touches my own heart.
What did the 11 apostles think as the cloud received him out of their sight? I can see them, in my mind, walking across the Kedron, then the narrow streets to a common meeting place, each lost in his own fears, and in his own hopes according to his understanding. I read with gratitude of the great event of the day of Pentecost, when the promise of the Lord was realized and the Spirit of the Holy Ghost was on them in miraculous abundance.
I am puzzled over the long period of time in which there was no spiritual light, nearly 1700 years of spiritual darkness. And then I read in a book of scripture, newly discovered, with an unusual name—the Book of Mormon—of his coming to a people in this land, a people descended from the Jews and their kin in Israel. I read of his descent from the heavens above them, of the great multitude of Nephites gathered together round about their temple, and of the voice from heaven which pierced them to the center.
My heart sings in confirmation as I hear once more in my soul the words of introduction and acceptance twice heard during his ministry in Palestine and now repeated and enlarged: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.” (3 Ne. 11:7.) Once more the voice of the Father out of the cloud is placing his approval on his divine Son. I know that the account is true.
I have already read of how this great personage lived as the firstborn of his Father in the spirit, and so I am not surprised, although I am deeply moved, to learn that he, as a premortal spirit, visited the brother of Jared (see Ether 3:6–13), and I can sense his fear when the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord and realized that it was like unto the finger of a man. It surprised this prophet, but it does not surprise me, for I have learned that the Lord was the firstborn Son of God, whose name is Man of Holiness. So when the Lord showed his complete self to that great prophet, I am not surprised, but I am awed. The more I study and read the scriptures, the more I know this is true.
Finally, I read of a great vision in this dispensation, in this modern day. For the first time, so far as I know, the personage who spoke in testimony at the baptism of Christ, again on the mount, and to the Nephites (saying, “This is my beloved Son”) did not speak out of a cloud as on those occasions. This time he stood in majestic holy light together with his Son and declared to Joseph Smith: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear him!” (JS—H 1:17.) With Joseph Smith, as I read, I know that there is a God and he is indeed my Father. He is the great Elohim, the Father of us all. And there with him stood his Son Jesus Christ, identified once more by his Father.
It is no coincidence that the Father used the same introduction. If the young Joseph Smith was to bear witness of the truth, he must know the truth. It was revealed to him in that grove of trees 153 years ago. By the spirit of truth I know that the vision is true.
For 1700 years men had claimed to represent Christ, but none had declared him, none had heard a voice declaring him. In 1700 years no man had imagined or dared to imitate this great statement of truth to justify his own claims. This time is different. There in one moment on a spring morning the eternal truth was once more revealed in such a way and in such power that no one with the Holy Spirit in his heart can doubt that the heavens were opened and that God our Father and his Son appeared together—the Father declaring the Son in almost exactly the same words as he did three times nearly 2,000 years ago.
The boy was too young to perpetrate a fraud. The sacred words are from the lips of the Eternal Father. This is my testimony, and our testimony to the world. Here today we declared his Beloved Son, and here today we worship him and give praise and honor and glory. Today in honor of him we assemble at this conference of his people.
We look forward to his return to reign a thousand years. Let us worship him in spirit and in truth. Let us give loyal support to his presently anointed prophet and mouthpiece and those who assist him. President Harold B. Lee is that prophet. He holds the same keys that were given to Joseph Smith by the heavenly messengers in 1829. His word, inspired of the Holy Ghost, is the modern revelation of our day. This is my witness to you and to the world, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.