“To Know Christ in This World,” New Era, Apr. 1974, 7
As we strive to become more Christlike, Easter can give us special pause to turn our thoughts to the sacrifice and mission of the Savior. It was to this world he came, and to the people of this world he left his great message. If we are to please him, we should make the effort to know him and the effect he has been on our lives in this world.
There’s a story told of a wise old Indian who lived in San Francisco at the time of the clipper ships. He watched the building of the first lighthouse with great curiosity. When it was finally finished, he spoke to the lighthouse keeper. “Don’t understand white man. Horn blows; lights flash; fog comes anyhow.”
Sometimes we feel that because difficulties come, the light in our lives becomes meaningless. We forget that the Lord didn’t promise to keep the fog away—but he did promise that there would always be a light.
The scriptures talk not only of the light of Christ but also about our own lights. The parable of the ten virgins is a good example:
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
“And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
“They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
“But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
“But the wise answered, saying Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
“Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
“But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matt. 25:1–12.)
Joseph Smith made an insightful change in this parable in the inspired revision of the New Testament. Instead of saying, “I know you not,” the Lord tells the five foolish virgins, “Ye know me not.”
We sometimes wonder what it will be like to get to know the Savior in the next world. But that is missing the point. In our own day the Lord has said, “For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.” (D&C 132:22. Italics added.) We must know Christ in this world.
What holds us back? A number of things—the routine of our lives, the daily round of work and sleep, falsely separating what we do into worldly and otherworldly things. But mostly the problem is, as C. S. Lewis put it, choosing ourselves instead of God as the center of our universe. We want a corner of his world that we can call our own, where we can say, “This is our business, not yours.”
There is a way of overcoming ourselves, but it involves facing up to some hard choices. When his brothers scoffed at Nephi for trying to build a ship in the wilderness, Nephi reminded them of all the witnesses they had received, and then he said that they were rebelling against the Lord because they “were past feeling, that [they] could not feel his words. …” (1 Ne. 17:45.) Most of us face the other problem: we are before feeling. We wonder why we hear the same things over and over again, until the day comes when we feel, not just hear, words. Robert Frost said it another way:
“Our very life depends on everything’s
Recurring till we answer from within.
The thousandth time may prove the charm.”
(“Snow,” Mountain Interval.)
The gospel is so simple, we sometimes ignore the most basic things the Lord has told us.
It is his simplest commandments that bring us to personal knowledge of Christ. Missionaries tell investigators to pray, study the scriptures, and keep the commandments if they wish to know the truth. But if we grow up in the Church, conforming outwardly may be easier than taking time to study or pray.
We know the importance of prayer and study. How can we find a way to do what we already know we should, especially when we feel like doing something else?
Perhaps a real-life situation will help. It’s Friday night; you’re 17, and life is beautiful. You’ve promised Karen’s father you’ll have her home by midnight, and now it’s 15 to 12. You don’t want to go home. But for some reason, maybe because you promised, you decide to go. You discover that not only does Karen’s father trust you more, but you trust yourself. The promise is more important than the extra half hour.
Sir Thomas More understood the power of promises. He wouldn’t take an oath to support Henry VIII’s divorce, and because of it he lost everything. In the movie A Man for All Seasons, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, his daughter comes to him, saying that the family has no candles to read by and frequently sits in silence wondering what will happen to him.
“Father,” she says, “‘God more regards the thoughts of the heart than the words of the mouth.’ Or so you’ve always told me.”
Margaret: “Then say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.”
More: “What is an oath then but words we say to God? Listen, Meg, when a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then—he needn’t hope to find himself again. Some men aren’t capable of this, but I’d be loathe to think your father one of them.”
The gospel of Christ is a gospel of promises. Baptism is a promise, renewed with every partaking of the sacrament. Why make promises? Because, as one Sunday School class of 16-year-olds decided, there is a difference between saying, “I’ll do it” and “I promise I’ll do it.”
We have been told that for the coming darkness, we must have our own light or none at all. There will be no borrowing when He comes. If we are to have it then, we must get it now—from the source of all light. Christ is “in all and through all things, the light of truth.”
To know Christ in this life, and receive his light, we must covenant to keep his commandments. We need to commit ourselves to the Lord. If we do that, we have his promise:
“But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.” (D&C 132:23.)