“A Cloud of Witnesses,” Ensign, Dec. 2002, 10
Christmas is a time for remembering and for being thankful. We often take so much for granted. For example, when was the last time you looked into a beautiful blue sky and wondered at the miracle of stunning white clouds? They come in various sizes and types, such as cirrus, stratus, and cumulus.
In scriptural texts, clouds are often used to carry or convey spiritual presence. The Lord appeared in a cloud to guide the children of Israel through the wilderness to the promised land. The resurrected Jesus was “overshadowed” by a cloud as He ascended into heaven. At the end of the world, the Savior will descend in a cloud with power and great glory.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, … looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1–2).
The Apostle Paul’s metaphor of “a cloud of witnesses” in the meridian of time has grown into many clouds of witnesses. We are overshadowed with witnesses of the divinity of Jesus Christ from the fulness of the scriptures and by hundreds of special witnesses since the Restoration commenced.
At Christmastime our thoughts particularly turn to our Savior’s birth. We often read and ponder the testimonies of those who were witnesses of His coming in the flesh, as recorded in the scriptures: Mary (see Luke 1:26–56; Luke 2:7, 19) and Joseph (see Matt. 1:18–25; Matt. 2:13–23), Elisabeth (see Luke 1:41–45) and Zacharias (see Luke 1:67–79), the shepherds (see Luke 2:8–20), Simeon (see Luke 2:21–35), Anna (see Luke 2:36–38), the Wise Men (see Matt. 2:1–12), and people of ancient America (see 3 Ne. 1:15–21).
We may also review and reflect on the scriptural record from some of those who knew of His coming long before He came:
“And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: … The name of [the] Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time. Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children” (Moses 6:55, 57–58; emphasis added).
“And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord … [and] saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced” (Moses 7:20, 47; emphasis added).
Abraham recorded in Cainan: “Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face. … And the Lord said unto me: … I am the Lord thy God” (Abr. 3:11, 19). “Abraham saw of his coming, and was filled with gladness and did rejoice” (Hel. 8:17).
The Savior to the brother of Jared: “Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; … therefore I show myself unto you. … And even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh” (Ether 3:13, 16).
In vision Father Lehi “saw One [Jesus Christ] descending out of the midst of heaven” (1 Ne. 1:9).
Nephi: “I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Ne. 11:20–21). Nephi further testified: “My brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him” (2 Ne. 11:3).
Jacob: “In the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem … ; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh. … And he cometh into the world that he may save all men (2 Ne. 9:5, 21).
Abinadi: “God himself [shall] come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man” (Mosiah 13:34).
Alma prophesied, “He shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel” (Alma 7:10).
Consider the following cloud of witnesses in the scriptural record and annals of Church history who testify that the Lord lives today:
In a Jerusalem garden, “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni” (John 20:16; emphasis added).
When eleven of the Apostles were gathered, “then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst. … And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:26, 28).
From John the Revelator exiled on an isle: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet. … And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not. … I am he that liveth, and was dead; … I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:17–18).
And from the Apostle Paul: “Last of all he was seen of me also” (1 Cor. 15:8).
The chief Apostle Peter witnessed with certainty: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, … but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).
The 2,500 at Bountiful went forth, “one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record” (3 Ne. 11:15).
Mormon tells us, “I being fifteen years of age, … was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Morm. 1:15).
Moroni witnesses, “I have seen Jesus, and … he hath talked with me face to face” (Ether 12:39).
From Joseph Smith Jr., in his 15th year: “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages. … One of them spake … , pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:17).
In Hiram, Ohio, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (1793–1876) were enwrapped in heavenly vision and testified, “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” (D&C 76:23).
At Kirtland, Ohio, after the temple dedication, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (1806–50) declared, “We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit … , saying: I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:2–4).
President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) to his granddaughter: “He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold” (quoted in LeRoi C. Snow, “An Experience of My Father’s,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1933, 677).
“I saw the hosts of the dead,” explained President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918). “And while this vast multitude waited and conversed, … the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful” (D&C 138:11, 18).
In general conference, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) bore witness by quoting President John Taylor (1808–87): “‘I know that Jesus Christ lives,’ said John Taylor, my predecessor, ‘for I have seen him.’ I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ” (“Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of Society,” Ensign, May 1978, 48).
“Of all the things for which I feel grateful … , one stands out preeminently,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley. “That is a living testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One. …
“… I have become His Apostle, appointed to do His will and teach His word. I have become His witness to the world. I repeat that witness of faith. …
“Jesus is my friend. …
“He is my exemplar. …
“He is my teacher. …
“He is my healer. …
“He is my leader. …
“He is my Savior and my Redeemer. Through giving His life in pain and unspeakable suffering, He has reached down to lift me and each of us and all the sons and daughters of God from the abyss of eternal darkness following death. He has provided something better—a sphere of light and understanding, growth and beauty where we may go forward on the road that leads to eternal life. My gratitude knows no bounds. …
“… I add my own witness that He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ and that ‘no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Him]’ (John 14:6). Gratefully, and with love undiminished, I bear witness of these things” (“My Testimony,” Ensign, May 2000, 71).
The Lord has explained that all of us may obtain a testimony of Him and that such testimony is a gift of the Spirit:
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
“To others it is given to believe on their words” (D&C 46:13–14).
If we believe on the words of the cloud of witnesses who “know,” we place ourselves in a position to be instructed by the Holy Ghost. The Spirit testifies of Christ’s divinity as we read and ponder the words of the modern prophets and the holy scriptures. The latter-day apostles and prophets have made it clear that as Church members we should be witnesses of the Savior. And as we testify of Christ and His servants, you and I become part of the glorious cloud of witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.
More on this topic: See Gordon B. Hinckley, “My Testimony,”Ensign, May 2000, 69–71; Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ, Our Master and More,”Ensign, Apr. 2000, 4–17; Jonathan H. Stephenson, “‘I Am He,’”Ensign, Apr. 1999, 6–12.