The apostle Paul made a meaningful declaration of his purpose in his ministry and defined in broad outline the burden of all his teachings. As a dedicated minister in the church and kingdom of God, this was his statement to the Corinthians:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
In this brief message I would seek to lead your thoughts into an understanding of just what the apostle Paul contemplated by his statement, that he determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
The ancient prophets, having the great endowment of revelation, a gift of revelation from the Lord, foretold events that were to transpire actually as though they were writing recorded history. Speaking of this heavenly endowment to prophets of God, Moroni in the Book of Mormon records his final address to the Nephites wherein he spoke of things that would come to pass, centuries after this message was delivered.
“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” (Morm. 8:35.)
From the beginning of time duly appointed prophets of God have received, as did Moroni, things that were as if in the present; and yet they were not, for Jesus Christ has shown them unto holy men so that they knew of a certainty that which was to come. As the Prophet Amos declared, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7.)
No event in the history of the world was revealed in greater plainness to the prophets on both the Eastern and Western hemispheres than was the advent of Jesus the Christ into the world. His identity and his relationship to God, the Eternal Father, and as “the God of this earth,” was clearly explained when he as the risen Lord, following his crucifixion and resurrection, appeared to his people in the land Bountiful on this continent.
This is the record:
“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” (3 Ne. 11:13–14.)
In this, his divine announcement, he has given to the world the sure knowledge that he was a God before he came into the world, differing from the Father in that he did not in the premortal world have a body of flesh and bones as did the Father, until after his mortal life, and that subsequently he received his resurrected body.
As Elder James E. Talmage, one of our esteemed scholars, explained in his commentary Jesus the Christ, “… God the Eternal Father has manifested Himself to earthly prophets or revelators on very few occasions, and then principally to attest the divine authority of His Son, Jesus Christ.” (Page 39.)
This the Father did on the occasion of the baptism of Jesus, when he introduced his Son at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist in these words: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17.)
One has but to read again the prophetic words of the Lord to Adam, Jacob, Abraham, and Moses, and to many others, to know that the Lord has sent into the world in every dispensation and in preparation for his advent the sure knowledge of who he was and of his mission for the redemption of mankind through the plan of salvation, by which all may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
By direct revelation to Isaiah, he told of his birth from the young virgin mother. This prophet was shown that the Holy One would be “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and that he would be wounded and bruised for the transgressions of mankind and would be a willing sacrifice as a lamb brought forth for the slaughter. Isaiah spoke of his burial in a tomb of the wealthy after dying with the sinners. (See Isa. 53.)
That from the time of his birth, from the age of 12 years, the boy Jesus lived in the shadow of the Almighty, there could be little doubt. This is evidenced by the incident on the occasion of the Feast of the Passover when Joseph and Mary found him in the temple in Jerusalem conversing with learned men. It will be recalled that when Mary, his mother, gently rebuked him, saying, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing,” he replied with the significant reminder, “… wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” This was no doubt a reminder that his was a greater kinship to a Heavenly Father and not intended as an unkind rebuke, and could not be from this Christ child. Those words were not lost on his mother, but as the record reads, “his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.” (Luke 2:48–51.)
As the years of his ministry wore on, it became clear to the Jews, who had been seeking for a political leader to lead them from the political oppression that they suffered, that such was not his mission. His entire mission was to emphasize the spiritual side of life and to establish an eternal plan of salvation by which, through his atoning sacrifice, all mankind might be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Beyond this, he came as a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8.) He came to redeem us from the fall, that he might become the first fruits of the resurrection, that all who slept in their graves might come forth from the grave, “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28–29.)
In fine, he came to demonstrate to the world that he was the Only Begotten of God in the flesh and to show by his supreme sacrifice that he was in very deed the Redeemer of the world.
In his farewell admonition to the saints on the Western hemisphere after his resurrection and his sojourn among them, the Master summarized to each individual who seeks for salvation the full meaning of his mission. These are the words of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites on this continent in his last recorded sermon:
“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
“Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel. …” (3 Ne. 27:19–21.)
The Articles of Faith, the declaration of the Latter-day Saints to the world, are made as a summary as to just how the mission of Christ and his atoning sacrifice relate to the salvation of all who have lived or now live or will yet live upon the earth. I quote from this declaration of faith:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (A of F 1:3.)
An inspired revelation in our dispensation, which sets forth clearly the channel through which the keys of authority must come in order for the laws and ordinances to be made effective in the lives of those who accept and obey the teachings of our Lord and Master, can be found in the restored church that bears his name:
“Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us, consists in obtaining the powers of the Holy Priesthood. For him to whom these keys are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men, both as well for the dead as for the living.” (D&C 128:11.)
The burden of all the teachings of the true disciples of Christ should be to teach all men to know God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent, to know which is to gain eternal life.
Throughout the scriptures, the Lord has admonished us to keep our eye single to that eternal goal, which is, to prepare ourselves to return to the presence of our Lord and our God.
During the last year, at the invitation of the Church Military Relations Committee, we had an important visit from a rear admiral, the Chief of Chaplains of the United States Navy. The purpose of his visit was obviously to inquire into the training our young men receive prior to a recommendation that they be qualified to become full-fledged chaplains on the same basis as those from other denominations whose basic qualification is an advanced degree in a theological seminary.
After having visited our seminaries and institutes, Brigham Young University and the ROTC courses offered there, the Provo Temple before its dedication, and other departments of the Church affecting the training of youth and young adults, including missionary service and the family home evening program, he met at a farewell dinner with representatives of the General Authorities and others. On this occasion he briefly recounted his experience and expressed his impressions and his conclusions; then he made this profound observation: “Every phase of your church is centered in Christ. I would that my church and others had what you are giving to your people.”
It would be our hope and prayer that the words of that important visitor could be said truthfully in all our activities and all our teachings, that we, like the apostle Paul, resolve to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified.