We are thankful for this, another opportunity to bear testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His divine Sonship, for truly He is the well-beloved and Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father.
Again we testify that He is our Savior and our Redeemer. He is our Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth.
But He also is our Friend—our dearest Friend. He died for us. Is not that the ultimate measure of friendship?
And He provided for us a resurrection from death, which is given freely to every person who has lived on the earth or ever will.
What a gift! What a Friend! What a mighty Personage He is!
But marvelous as will be our resurrection, joyfully as we will welcome our victory over death, salvation in His kingdom is quite another matter. It comes only to those who faithfully obey His commandments and accept all of His ordinances.
Have you ever thought of the process by which the gospel saves people? Faith, repentance, and baptism come first, of course. But there is more, much more.
The meaning of complete salvation is that we become like the Savior in word and thought and deed. We can measure our progress toward salvation merely by determining how Christlike we are. If we are not becoming more like Him in our everyday living, we are not advancing toward salvation as we should.
Becoming Christlike is a matter of daily spiritual growth. As a flower develops from a seed, as a mature adult develops from a tiny child, so we can grow spiritually day by day, eventually into Christlike personalities.
As one of our poets described it:
Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit round by round.
(Josiah Gilbert Holland, “Gradatim,” in Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison, N.Y.: Harper and Brothers, 1948, p. 443.)
Jesus the Savior is the supreme example of how we should build our souls.
“What manner of men ought ye to be?” He asked, and then replied, “Even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)
Becoming like Him is not something we can achieve overnight. It is a lifelong and an eternal process, nothing less. In every hour and every day we must strive to become like Him.
Then what is the process by which this is done? It is by developing within our own selves the very traits of character which make Him what He is.
This does not come by studying the gospel alone, nor is it only by being baptized or receiving the priesthood, nor even by becoming temple workers. All of these are necessary, of course, but none alone is enough.
In it all, and above all, we need to develop Christlike hearts. We must have a change deep within us. As the prophet Alma taught:
“All mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
“And thus,” Alma said, “they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:25–26.)
Note this last sentence: “Unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” This is a direct warning to us all.
Unless we have this change of heart, unless we follow the Savior’s teachings, our sins may cancel out all the benefits we otherwise might receive through the ordinances of the Church.
The scriptures are very clear in telling us how to live a Christlike life. That is why we are to read them so constantly.
For example, we are taught to be poor in spirit, that is, humble. We are taught to be meek. (See Matt. 5:3, 5.) It is not Christlike to be egotistical or proud or arrogant.
We are told to love Him so much that we will hunger and thirst after righteousness. (See Matt. 5:6.) Can we understand what that means? He is completely righteous. We wish to become like Him. But is our desire so deep that we actually hunger and thirst for it?
As a matter of fact, how great is our desire to walk in His paths? That alone can measure the depth of our conversion. Desire! That word desire! How deep is it within our souls—for righteousness?
To be Christlike also is to be kind. Was He ever unkind? If we lack in kindness and mercy, can we say that we resemble Him?
Another great law we must understand if we are to become like Him is the Golden Rule. We must learn to do unto others as we would be done by.
How many of us truly live that commandment? And yet, is there any salvation without it? Read the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew for an answer.
Just what does it mean to do unto others as we would be done by?
Would we like other people to be cruel to us? Of course not. Would we like them to cheat us? Would we appreciate being lied to or robbed? Then will we deceive others or steal from anyone? Dishonesty in all its forms is despicable and degrading. Is it Christlike in any sense? We hardly dare mention it in the same breath, for it really is anti-Christ!
The Lord teaches us to be peacemakers, and to avoid offenses, unpleasantness, and disputations. (See Matt. 5:9.) Should we not make a conscientious effort to get along well with other people, and more especially with members of our own families?
No man should quarrel with his wife or give her any cause to quarrel in return. The scriptures command us also to avoid provoking our children to wrath. (See Eph. 6:4.) If irritations arise in the home, they should be removed in a genuine Christian spirit.
To be like the Savior we can hardly be without true charity, either. How did the Apostle Paul express it?
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels. …
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge. …
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [and have not the love of Christ toward my family and other people], it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1–3; italics added.)
In fact, he says we would be as nothing, except of course that we would resemble sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. (See 1 Cor. 13:1.)
The Savior said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8.)
Will any others see Him—or come into His presence? Can anything that is impure?
What did He say about impurity?
“Touch not that which is unclean; … be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (3 Ne. 20:41.) That is what He said, and that is what He meant.
It is a divine commandment. If you believe in Christ, touch not the unclean thing!
Lust and covetousness are completely destructive. Sex sin is deadly. Intoxication is vicious. Greed is of the devil. So is selfishness, as it leads to all forms of dishonesty. They contaminate and demoralize our very souls. They are completely opposite to the Christlike life.
But what did He say about purity?
He prayed that those who follow Him will be so purified by righteous living that they will be pure as He is pure, so that, as He said, “I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them.” (3 Ne. 19:29.) Think of it! If we are pure, our righteousness will add glory to His name!
And He taught something else. If we have offended others, we are to seek a reconciliation with them and not allow ill feelings to persist.
Have you ever thought of these words as a commandment?
“If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
“Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matt. 5:23–24.)
With this in mind can we assume that our worship is acceptable to God if we have ill feelings toward others or if we have dealt unfairly with anyone?
Sometimes I have wondered if leaving our gift at the altar while seeking this reconciliation could refer to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Can we partake of those holy emblems with a clear conscience if we have done an injustice to another person?
The Lord also taught:
“If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)
Can we presume that we shall enter His sacred presence if we are still stained by unremitted sins?
And then He warned against hypocrisy. Christlike people are not two-faced or double-dealing. The divine word is: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24.)
Can we see how our day-by-day acts—little though they may seem to be—mold our souls?
Do His simple laws seem overly strict? Are they too difficult for us to live? But if we ignore them, do we realize what we do to ourselves?
It is inspiring to read the Lord’s own description of the traits which make up His own character. He lists them this way:
“Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God. …
“… virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.” (D&C 4:5–6.)
These are the traits of character of the Lord Jesus Christ. How earnestly do we try to build them into our own souls?
He commands us to become perfect, even as His Father in Heaven is perfect. (See Matt. 5:48.)
Can perfection arise out of careless living? Can we achieve perfection by imperfect means? It is plain to see why the Lord is strict and why we must serve Him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. (See D&C 4:2.)
It is no easy matter to live the gospel as we should. But unless we do, we cannot receive the blessings. It is no easy matter to become perfect in anything. Perfection requires devotion, long-suffering, persistence, willingness to sacrifice, and constant concentration. Imperfection can produce only further imperfection.
Could you sisters bake a good cake if you did not follow the recipe? Could you brethren build a house or a highway, or make a clock, or send a man to the moon if you ignored the formula provided for such achievements? Could you become a doctor if you did not follow the prescribed course in a medical school? Could you become an engineer if you ignored the principles of engineering?
Then can we expect to achieve perfection like that of Almighty God if we fail to follow the course He lays out for us?
The gospel will do us little good if we do not live it.
Membership in the Church will not save us unless we keep the commandments.
A half-hearted effort will not save us either. Instead, it will bring condemnation. The Lord has so declared in section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See D&C 58:29.)
One of the great prophets of ancient times was Samuel the Lamanite. I like the way he taught. He was plain and straightforward in his manner of speech. He did not mince words, nor did he leave the people wondering what he meant.
As he spoke from the walls of Zarahemla, calling the Nephites to repentance, he told them bluntly that if they refused to live the gospel condemnation would come upon them, and he made it clear that they would have no one to blame but themselves.
“Remember, remember,” he said, “that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself.” (Hel. 14:30.)
Then he said that, since we have free agency, we can choose the good or the evil, life or death; but he declared that in the end we shall most certainly receive exactly what we ourselves have chosen.
Should we not determine how well we are really living the gospel? And should we not remind ourselves that now—in our mortal lives—is the time of our probation, and that now is the time of planting for whatever kind of harvest we hope to receive?
Isn’t it time for each of us to learn the lesson of Gethsemane and say with Him: “Not my will, but thine, be done”? (Luke 22:42.)
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.