“What Would Jesus Do?” New Era, Sept. 1972, 4
The invitation I received to write this message suggested that I “reflect on some questions or problems … dealt with as a youth or young adult, indicating how [I] resolved them, using gospel principles.”
During my early teens a small book or pamphlet titled “What Would Jesus Do?” came into my hands. I do not now remember the name of the author, nor do I remember what he said. The title, however, has been in my mind ever since. The question posed epitomized the desire I had had from my childhood. Countless times as I have faced challenges and vexing decisions I have asked myself “What would Jesus do?” Fortunately, I was exposed early in life to the standard works of the Church. The elementary school I attended was a Church school. Theology was one of the subjects we were required to study daily. Books being scarce, the scriptures were used as texts. It was therefore natural for me, as I pondered the question, “What would Jesus do?”, to turn to the scriptures in search of the answer. There in the Gospel as recorded by St. John, I found the clear and certain answer: Jesus would always do the will of his Father. This he himself repeatedly declared.
As he taught in the temple, the Jews “marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters having never learned?
“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
“He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
“… he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.
“… I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
“… Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19.)
Having learned that Jesus would always do the will of his Father, my next objective was to find out what Jesus would do to ascertain the will of his Father. Searching the New Testament, I discovered that one thing he did was to thoroughly familiarize himself with what his Father had declared his will to be, as recorded in the Old Testament. That he did this is evidenced by the fact that in his statements as recorded in the New Testament, Jesus quoted or cited scriptures from the Old Testament more than one hundred times.
Finally, and most importantly, I learned that he communed constantly with his Father through prayer. This he did not only to learn the will of his Father but also to obtain the strength to do his Father’s will. He fasted and prayed forty days and forty nights at the beginning of his ministry. (Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2.) He prayed all night just before choosing his twelve apostles. (Luke 6:12–13.) He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matt. 26:39.) It would seem that during his earthly ministry he never made a major decision or met a crisis without praying.
From the record of his struggle in Gethsemane—
“… Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:42, 44)—we learn that although it was not always easy nor pleasant for him to do his Father’s will, he always did it.
Speaking to the Prophet Joseph 1800 years later concerning his Gethsemane ordeal, Jesus said:
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:18–19.)
Relying upon the foregoing and companion scriptures, I decided in my youth that for me the best approach to the solution of problems and the resolving of questions would be to proceed as Jesus proceeded: foster an earnest desire to do the Lord’s will; familiarize myself with what the Lord has revealed on the matters involved; pray with diligence and faith for an inspired understanding of his will and the courage to do it.
By following this pattern, Jesus lived a perfect life. We cannot, of course, equal his performance. We can, however, make greater progress toward it by emulating him than in any other way.
The accomplishments of such men as Nephi and the Prophet Joseph Smith have given me courage to try. Each of those great men embarked upon this course early in life.
Near the beginning of his record, Nephi wrote:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceeding young, nevertheless … having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father. …” (1 Ne. 2:16.)
His appreciation of the value of the scriptures in learning the will of the Lord is evidenced by his thoughts when the angel told him to slay Laban in order to get the brass plates.
“And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
“Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.
“And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.” (1 Ne. 4:14–16.)
After he obtained the record, he searched it. (1 Ne. 5:21.)
In his fifteenth year the Prophet Joseph, to learn the Lord’s will as to which church he should join, searched the scriptures. Upon reading James, first chapter, fifth verse, he prayed about it. Every Latter-day Saint knows the answer that came, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2 [JS—H 1:2].
The most satisfying solutions to problems and the best answers to questions that I have been able to make in my own life, I have arrived at as follows:
1. From my youth I have searched the scriptures.
2. I have tried to honestly face the challenge or question presented with a sincere desire to solve it as Jesus would solve it.
3. I have, through diligent study and prayer, sought to weigh alternatives in light of what I knew about gospel principles.
4. I have made a decision in my own mind.
5. I have then taken the matter to the Lord, told him the problem, told him that I wanted to do what was right in his view, and asked him to give me peace of mind if I have made the right decision.
This, I think, is in harmony with the pattern Jesus set by precept and example during his ministry on the earth, and with the 9th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery:
“… you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought. …” (D&C 9:7–9.)
When I feel the burning in my bosom, I conclude that I have done as Jesus would have me do under the circumstances.