“‘My Friend, My Savior, My Lord, My God’: Latter-day Prophets Bear Testimony of Jesus Christ,” New Era, Dec. 1979, 7
It was a Sabbath afternoon. After helping to distribute the sacrament (having participated in it with the Quorum of the Twelve), Joseph Smith retired to the pulpit of the Kirtland Temple, behind veils. There he and Oliver Cowdery knelt in solemn, silent prayer. Upon arising, a glorious vision was opened to both of them:
“We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
“His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah 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.)
This is just one of several instances of recorded testimony from the Prophet Joseph attesting to the fact that he received personal visitations from the Savior. Such visitations surely blessed the entire world, for they led to the full restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation, the restitution of all things spoken of by the apostle Peter.
But personal knowledge of the Savior did not end with the death of Joseph. From the beginning of the final dispensation to the present day, each president of the Church has borne witness that Christ lives.
“I can bear testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and the word of the Lord, whether written or spoken, is true.
“Permit me to ask a question. Who are the individuals upon the face of the earth that can make this statement in truth? Who are the individuals that can say that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that he lives? Can the Christian world? They cannot. They may say they believe and have all confidence that Jesus lives; they may have all confidence in declaring that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true; they may firmly declare that the Bible (referring particularly to the New Testament) is true; that therein contained is the plan of salvation, and [that it] is true. This they may declare in all good conscience and with all soberness.
“But let me ask, Where are the individuals that can say that they know that Jesus lives? And who are the individuals that can say that his gospel is true and is the plan of salvation to man? I will let Christendom answer this question for themselves; but to me it is certain, that no man lives on the face of the earth, no woman lives, that can say this, except those to whom Christ has revealed himself. (1 Cor. 2:1–16; 1 Cor. 12:3.)
“Though others may say in all good conscience they believe he lives—who knows the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ to be true? There is one class of people, and one only, that live upon the face of the earth, who do know it; and that class of men and women are those that keep his commandments and do his will; none others can say it. None others can declare with boldness, and emphatically, that Jesus lives and that his gospel is true. (Joseph Fielding McConkie, comp., Journal of Discourses Digest [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1975], pp. 52–53).
“Paul, when speaking of Jesus Christ, gives us to understand that he is the Firstborn of every creature, for by him were all things made that were made, and to him pertains all things; he is the head of all things; he created all things, whether visible or invisible, whether they be principalities, powers, thrones, or dominions; all things were created by him and for him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (Col. 1:13–19; Heb. 1:1–3; John 1:1–3; D&C 76:24).
“If all things were created by him and for him, this world on which we stand must have been created by him and for him; if so, he is its legitimate, its rightful owner and proprietor, its lawful sovereign and ruler …
“He knows how to estimate and put a proper value upon human nature, for he having been placed in the same position as we are, knows how to bear with our weaknesses and infirmities; and he can fully comprehend the depth, power, and strength of the afflictions and trials that men have to cope with in this world, and thus understandingly and by experience, he can bear with them as a Father and an Elder Brother.
“It is necessary, also, inasmuch as we profess that we are aiming at the same glory, exaltation, power, and blessings in the eternal world, that we should pass through the same afflictions, endure the same privations, conquer as he conquered, and overcome as he did, and thus by integrity, truth, virtue, purity, and a high-minded and honorable course before God, angels, and men, secure for ourselves an eternal exaltation in the eternal world as he did.” (Digest, p. 182).
“When Jesus Christ came to the Jews he brought the everlasting gospel. He was one of the tribe of Judah himself. He came to his own father’s house; he offered them life and salvation; yet he was the most unpopular man in all Judah. The high priests, the Sadducees, the sectarians of the day, were the strongest enemies he had on earth. No matter what he did, it was imputed to an evil source. When he cast out devils it was imputed to the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils. When he opened the eyes of the blind they said: “Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.” This unpopularity followed the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross where he gave up the ghost. Now, the inhabitants of Judah had an idea that if they could only put to death the Messiah, that that would end his mission and work on the earth. Vain hope of that generation as well as this! When they led Jesus to the cross, the very moment that spirit departed from that sorrowful tabernacle, it held the keys of the kingdom of God in all of its strength and power and glory the same as he had done while in the body. And while the body lay in the tomb, Jesus of Nazareth went and preached to the spirits in prison, and when his mission was ended there, his spirit returned again to his tabernacle. Did the Jews kill the principles he taught? No. He burst the bonds of death, he conquered the tomb, and came forth with an immortal body filled with glory and eternal life, holding all the powers and keys he held while in the flesh. Having appeared to some of the holy women and the apostles, he then went and administered to the Nephites upon this continent, and from here he went to the ten tribes of Israel, and delivered to them the gospel, and when they return they will bring the history of the dealings of Jesus of Nazareth with them, while in his immortal body. The same unpopularity followed the twelve apostles. Some of them were sawn asunder, others were beheaded, crucified, etc. But did the Jews destroy the principles they taught? Did they destroy the keys of the kingdom of God? No, verily no. They had no power over these things any more than they had power over the throne of God, or God Himself.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 26–27.)
“Some two or three years after I was baptized, one day while engaged in my studies, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of that work—that I had not realized the fulfillment of that promise, ‘he that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine,’ and I began to feel very uneasy. I laid aside my books, left the house, and wandered around through the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of day, to retire for secret prayer, to a grove a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so. The spirit of prayer had departed and the heavens seemed like brass over my head. At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not forgo my evening service, and, as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed, retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel.
“I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the Holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water; dispelling forever, so long as reason and memory last, all possibility of doubt or fear in relation to the fact handed down to us historically that the ‘babe of Bethlehem’ is truly the Son of God; and also the fact that He is now being revealed to the children of men, and communicating knowledge, the same as in the apostolic times. I was perfectly satisfied, as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized; I think I may safely say, in an infinite degree.
“I cannot tell how long I remained in the full flow of the blissful enjoyment and divine enlightenment, but it was several minutes before the celestial element which filled and surrounded me began gradually to withdraw. On arising from my kneeling posture, with my heart swelling with gratitude to God, beyond the power of expression, I felt—I knew that he had conferred on me what only an omnipotent being can confer—that which is of greater value than all the wealth and honors worlds can bestow. That night as I retired to rest, the same wonderful manifestations were repeated, and continued to be for several successive nights. The sweet remembrance of those glorious experiences, from that time to the present, brings them fresh before me, imparting an inspiring influence which pervades my whole being, and I trust will to the close of my earthly existence.” (Preston Nibley, The Presidents of the Church [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974], pp. 139–140.)
“I bear testimony to you, that I have received an assurance which has taken possession of my whole being. It has sunk deep into my heart; it fills every fibre of my soul; so that I say before this people, and would be pleased to have the privilege of saying it before the whole world, that God has revealed to me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world. … I know, as I live, that this is true, and I bear my testimony to its truth. If it were the last words I should ever say on earth, I would glory before God my Father that I possess this knowledge in my soul. … I know that this is the kingdom of God, and that God is at the helm. He presides over his people. He presides over the President of this Church and has done from the Prophet Joseph … and He will continue to preside over the leaders of the Church until the winding-up scene.” (Forace Green, comp., Testimonies of Our Leaders [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958], p. 47.)
“I know that God lives, I know that Jesus is the Christ, I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, I know that the Gospel tree is alive, that it is growing, that the fruits of the Gospel growing upon the tree are good. I have reached out my hand, and have plucked the fruits of the Gospel, I have eaten of them and they are sweet, yea, above all that is sweet. That is the inspiration that comes to every Latter-day Saint who realizes the force of this Gospel that we have espoused. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the plan of life and salvation. God lives; Jesus is the Christ, and He is the chief corner stone of this great work—He is directing it, and He will continue to direct it.” (Testimonies, p. 50.)
I have been bouyed up and, as it were, lifted out of myself and given power not my own to teach the glorious truths proclaimed by the Redeemer of the world. I have not seen Him face to face but have enjoyed the companionship of His Spirit and felt His presence in a way not to be mistaken. I know that my Redeemer lives and gladly yield my humble efforts to establish his teachings. The philosophies of men can never take the place of truth as revealed to us by the Eternal Father. Individual happiness and world-wide peace will not be permanent until those who dwell in the earth accept the Gospel and conform their lives to its precepts. It is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe and obey. It is the kind advice of a loving Father who, seeing the end from the beginning, says: “This is the path; walk ye in it, and eternal life and eternal progress and eternal happiness shall be your reward.” Every fibre of my being vibrates with the knowledge that He lives and some day all men will know it.
“The Savior died that we might live. He overcame death and the grave and holds out to all who obey His teachings the hope of the glorious resurrection.” (Testimonies, p. 53.)
“The highest of all ideals are the teachings and particularly the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and that man is most truly great who is most Christlike.
“What you sincerely in your heart think of Christ will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be. No person can study this divine personality, can accept his teachings without becoming conscious of an uplifting and refining influence within himself. In fact, every individual may experience the operation of the most potent force that can affect humanity.” (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976], p. 24.)
“Like Job, I can say, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.’ I know that He came into the world to redeem the world from sin, and through the atonement made by Him all men are redeemed from death. There shall be a resurrection of the dead and all shall come forth, they who have done good to receive an exaltation and they who have done evil to receive condemnation, according to their works. I know that all men who repent and accept the Gospel with pure hearts, are also redeemed through the blood of Christ, from their own sins; for He suffered ‘for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent, but if they would not repent, they must suffer,’ even as He, for His blood will not cleanse the unrepentant sinner. I know that little children who have not reached years of accountability, and hence are not guilty of sin, are also redeemed through the blood of Christ and it is solemn mockery to contend that they need baptism denying the justice and mercy of God. I know that Jesus of Nazareth was the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh, with life in Himself. Because of this wonderful truth, it was possible for Him to redeem us from death and the grave, and, on condition of our repentance, from our individual sins. I know that men must repent and receive the Gospel, being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins and receive the laying on of hands by one who holds authority, for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Testimonies, p. 165.)
“There has come to me in these last few days a deepening and reassuring faith. I can’t leave this conference without saying to you that I have a conviction that the Master hasn’t been absent from us on these occasions. This is his church. Where else would he rather be than right here at the headquarters of his church? He isn’t an absentee master; he is concerned about us. He wants us to follow where he leads. I know that he is a living reality, as is our Heavenly Father. I know it. I only hope that I can qualify for the high place to which he has called me and in which you have sustained me.
“I know with all my soul that these sayings are true, and as a special witness I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that there is no shadow of doubt as to the genuineness of the work of the Lord in which we are engaged, the only name under heaven by which mankind can be saved.” (“A Blessing for the Saints,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 134)
“To the testimonies of these mighty men and apostles of old—our brethren in the ministry of the same Master—I add my own testimony. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
“He is my friend, my Savior, my Lord, my God.
“With all my heart I pray that the Saints may keep his commandments, have his Spirit, and gain an eternal inheritance with him in celestial glory.” (“An Eternal Hope in Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 73.)
The voices of the latter-day prophets have been raised with authority, and they speak as men who know and love their Savior. Their statements carry the same conviction and power as this stirring declaration of Joseph Smith, which seems to summarize the message of the gospel restoration:
“And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness;
“And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For 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—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:20–24.)