“Chapter 8: We Look to Christ,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley (2016)
“Chapter 8,” Teachings: Gordon B. Hinckley
In the April 1975 general conference, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared the following experience:
“We recently held an open house in the [Mesa] Arizona Temple. Following a complete renovation of that building, nearly a quarter of a million people saw its beautiful interior. On the first day of the opening, clergymen of other religions were invited as special guests, and hundreds responded. It was my privilege to speak to them and to answer their questions at the conclusion of their tours. I told them that we would be pleased to answer any queries they might have. Many were asked. Among these was one which came from a Protestant minister.
“Said he: ‘I’ve been all through this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your buildings elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?’
“I responded: ‘I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.’
“He then asked: ‘If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?’
“I replied that the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. …
“… No sign, no work of art, no representation of form is adequate to express the glory and the wonder of the Living Christ. He told us what that symbol should be when he said, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’ (John 14:15.)
“As his followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing his image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of him whose name we have taken upon ourselves.
“And so our lives must become a meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the Living Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God.
“It is that simple, my brethren and sisters, and that profound and we’d better never forget it.”1
Absolutely basic to our faith is our testimony of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. … He is the chief cornerstone of the church which bears His name.2
We believe in Christ. We teach of Christ. We look to Christ. He is our Redeemer, our Lord, and our Savior.3
He who was the Son of God, the Only Begotten Son, left His Father’s celestial courts to take on mortality. At His birth, angels sang and Wise Men came to bestow gifts. He grew as did other boys in Nazareth of Galilee. There He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
With Mary and Joseph, He visited Jerusalem when He was 12. On their journey home, they missed Him. They came back to Jerusalem and found Him in the temple conversing with the learned doctors. When Mary upbraided Him for not being with them, He answered, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). His words were a premonition of His future ministry.
That ministry began with His baptism in the river Jordan at the hands of His cousin John. When He arose from the water, the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and His Father’s voice was heard, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). That declaration became the affirmation of His divinity.
He fasted for 40 days and was tempted of the devil, who sought to take Him from His divinely appointed mission. To the adversary’s invitation, He responded, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt. 4:7), again declaring His divine sonship.
He walked the dusty roads of Palestine. He had no home that He could call His own, no place to rest His head. His message was the gospel of peace. His teachings were those of generosity and love. “If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also” (Matt. 5:40).
He taught with parables. He performed miracles the like of which were never performed before or since. He healed those whose sickness was of long standing. He caused the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. He raised the dead, and they lived again to speak His praises. Surely no man had ever done such before.
A few followed Him, but most hated Him. He spoke of the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, as whited sepulchers. They plotted against Him. He drove the money changers from the house of the Lord. They doubtless joined those who planned to destroy Him. But He was not deterred. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
Was not all of this enough to make His memory immortal? Was it not enough to place His name among, and even above, those of the great men who have walked the earth and who have been remembered for what they said or did? Certainly He would have been ranked among the great prophets of all time.
But all of this was not enough for the Son of the Almighty. It was but prelude to greater things to come. They came in a strange and terrible way.4
He was betrayed, arrested, condemned to death, to die in awful agony by crucifixion. His living body was nailed to a cross of wood. In unspeakable pain, His life slowly ebbed away. While yet He breathed, He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The earth shook as His spirit passed. The centurion who had seen it all declared in solemnity, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54).
Those who loved Him took His body from the cross. They dressed it and placed it in a new tomb. …
His friends must have wept. The Apostles He loved and whom He had called as witnesses of His divinity wept. The women who loved Him wept. None had understood what He had said about rising the third day. How could they understand? This had never happened before. It was totally unprecedented. It was unbelievable, even for them.
There must have been a terrible sense of dejection and hopelessness and misery as they thought of their Lord taken from them in death.5
But that was not the end. On the morning of the third day, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary returned to the tomb. To their utter amazement, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was open. They peered inside. Two beings in white sat at either end of the burial site. An angel appeared to them and said, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?
“He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
“Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:5–7).
These simple words—“He is not here, but is risen”—have become the most profound in all literature. They are the declaration of the empty tomb. They are the fulfillment of all He had spoken concerning rising again. They are the triumphant response to the query facing every man, woman, and child who was ever born to earth.
The risen Lord spoke to Mary, and she replied. He was not an apparition. This was not imagination. He was real, as real as He had been in mortal life. He did not permit her to touch Him. He had not yet ascended to His Father in Heaven. That would happen shortly. What a reunion it must have been, to be embraced by the Father, who loved Him and who also must have wept for Him during His hours of agony.
He would appear to two men on the road to Emmaus. He would converse with them and eat with them. He would meet with His Apostles behind closed doors and teach them. Thomas was not present on the first occasion. On the second occasion, the Lord invited him to feel of His hands and His side. In utter wonder he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). He spoke with 500 at [another] time. …
And there is another witness. This biblical companion, the Book of Mormon, testifies that He appeared not only to those of the Old World but also to those of the New. For had He not at one time declared, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd”? (John 10:16).
To those of this hemisphere He appeared following His Resurrection. At His descent through the clouds of heaven, the voice of God the Eternal Father was heard again in solemn declaration: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (3 Ne. 11:7). …
And if all of this is not enough, there is the testimony, sure and certain and unequivocal, of the great prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith. As a boy he went into the woods to pray seeking light and understanding. And there appeared before him two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above him in the air. One of them spoke to him, calling him “by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” [Joseph Smith—History 1:17].
This same Joseph declared on a subsequent occasion: “We beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; …
To all who may have doubts, I repeat the words given Thomas as he felt the wounded hands of the Lord: “Be not faithless, but believing” [John 20:27]. Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity. Believe that his matchless life reached back before the world was formed. Believe that he was the Creator of the earth on which we live. Believe that he was Jehovah of the Old Testament, that he was the Messiah of the New Testament, that he died and was resurrected, that he visited the western continents and taught the people here, that he ushered in this final gospel dispensation, and that he lives, the living Son of the living God, our Savior and our Redeemer.7
There is a … battle being waged for the faith of men, but the lines are not always … clearly drawn, for even among the forces of Christianity there are those who would destroy the divinity of the Christ in whose name they speak. They might be disregarded if their voices were not so seductive, if their influence were not so far-reaching, if their reason were not so subtle.
… Multitudes will gather on a thousand hills to welcome the dawn of the Easter day and to remind themselves of the story of the Christ, whose resurrection they will commemorate. In language both beautiful and hopeful, preachers of many faiths will recount the story of the empty tomb. To them—and to you—I raise this question: “Do you actually believe it?”
Do you actually believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the literal offspring of the Father?
Do you believe that the voice of God, the Eternal Father, was heard above the waters of Jordan declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”? (Matt. 3:17.)
Do you believe that this same Jesus was the worker of miracles, the healer of the sick, the restorer of the infirm, the giver of life to the dead?
Do you believe that following his death on Calvary’s hill and his burial in Joseph’s tomb, he came forth alive the third day?
Do you actually believe that he yet lives—real, vital, and personal—and that he will come again as promised by the angels at his ascension?
Do you actually believe these things? If you do, then you are part of a shrinking body of literalists who more and more are being smiled at by philosophers, who more and more are being ridiculed by certain educators, and who more and more are being considered “out of it” by a growing coterie of ministers of religion and influential theologians.
… In the eyes of these intellectuals, these are myths—the birth of Jesus as the Son of God of whom the angels sang on Judea’s plains, the worker of miracles who healed the sick and raised the dead, the Christ resurrected from the grave, the ascension and the promised return.
These modern theologians strip him of his divinity and then wonder why men do not worship him.
These clever scholars have taken from Jesus the mantle of godhood and have left only a man. They have tried to accommodate him to their own narrow thinking. They have robbed him of his divine sonship and taken from the world its rightful King. …
… I give our solemn witness that God is not dead, except as he is viewed with a lifeless interpretation. …
… There is needed something more than a reasonable belief. There is needed an understanding of his unique and incomparable position as the divine Redeemer and an enthusiasm for him and his message as the Son of God.
That understanding and that enthusiasm are available to all who will pay the price. They are not incompatible with higher education, but they will not come only of reading philosophy. No, they come of a simpler process. The things of God are understood by the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11.) So declares the word of revelation.
The acquisition of understanding and enthusiasm for the Lord comes from following simple rules. … I should like to suggest three, elementary in their concept, almost trite in their repetition, but fundamental in their application and fruitful in their result. …
The first is to read—to read the word of the Lord. … Read, for instance, the Gospel of John from its beginning to its end. Let the Lord speak for himself to you, and his words will come with a quiet conviction that will make the words of his critics meaningless. Read also the testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon, brought forth as a witness “that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” (Book of Mormon title page.)
The next is to serve—to serve in the work of the Lord. … The cause of Christ does not need your doubts; it needs your strength and time and talents; and as you exercise these in service, your faith will grow and your doubts will wane. …
The third is to pray. Speak with your Eternal Father in the name of his Beloved Son. “Behold,” he says, “I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20.)
This is his invitation, and the promise is sure. It is unlikely that you will hear voices from heaven, but there will come a heaven-sent assurance, peaceful and certain. …
… Shining through all of the confusion of philosophy, so-called higher criticism, and negative theology will come the witness of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is in very deed the Son of God, born in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world resurrected from the grave, the Lord who shall come to reign as King of kings. It is your opportunity so to know. It is your obligation so to find out.8
I ask anew the question offered by Pilate two thousand years ago, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22.) Indeed, we need continually to ask ourselves, What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ? What shall we do with his teachings, and how can we make them an inseparable part of our lives? …
… “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.) How poor indeed would be our lives without the influence of his teachings and his matchless example. The lessons of the turning of the other cheek, going the second mile, the return of the prodigal, and scores of other incomparable teachings have filtered down the ages to become the catalyst to bring kindness and mercy out of much of man’s inhumanity to man.
Brutality reigns where Christ is banished. Kindness and forbearance govern where Christ is recognized and his teachings are followed.
What shall we do then with Jesus who is called Christ? “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.)
“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.” (D&C 64:9.) …
What shall we do then with Jesus which is called Christ? “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matt. 25:35–36) …
What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?
Learn of him. Search the scriptures for they are they which testify of him. Ponder the miracle of his life and mission. Try a little more diligently to follow his example and observe his teachings.9
We know not what lies ahead of us. We know not what the coming days will bring. We live in a world of uncertainty. For some, there will be great accomplishment. For others, disappointment. For some, much of rejoicing and gladness, good health, and gracious living. For others, perhaps sickness and a measure of sorrow. We do not know. But one thing we do know. Like the polar star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds, there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God, certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives. He is the rock of our salvation, our strength, our comfort, the very focus of our faith.
In sunshine and in shadow we look to Him, and He is there to assure and smile upon us.10
I know that my Redeemer lives,
Triumphant Savior, Son of God,
Victorious over pain and death,
My King, my Leader, and my Lord.
He lives, my one sure rock of faith,
The one bright hope of men on earth,
The beacon to a better way,
The light beyond the veil of death.
Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.11
Review President Hinckley’s words of testimony in section 1, and take time to ponder your own testimony of Jesus Christ. Why are you grateful for the Savior’s ministry and Atonement? What accounts and teachings from the Savior’s life have special meaning to you?
Ask yourself each of the questions in section 2. How do your answers influence your day-to-day living? In the same section, review President Hinckley’s three “simple rules” for gaining an understanding of “the things of God.” How have these principles helped you deepen your spiritual understanding?
President Hinckley repeatedly asked, “What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (section 3). What can we learn from his answers? Consider how you would answer this question. How would your life be different if you did not know of the Savior’s teachings and example?
President Hinckley emphasized that Jesus Christ is our anchor in a world of uncertainty (see section 4). When have you felt the Savior’s strength and comfort in a time of need? Ponder each line of President Hinckley’s hymn in section 4. In what ways is Christ our “one bright hope”? How is He our “beacon to a better way”?
“Plan study activities that will build your faith in the Savior” (Preach My Gospel , 22). For instance, as you study, you might ask yourself questions such as the following: How might these teachings help me increase my understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ? How can these teachings help me become more like the Savior?