Again and again during our Lord’s mortal ministry he issued a call that was at once an invitation and a challenge. To Peter and his brother Andrew, Christ said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19.) To the rich young man who asked what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus answered, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor … and come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21.) And to each of us Jesus says, “If any man serve me, let him follow me.” (John 12:26.)
Many people have chosen to follow Christ, and we constantly pray that many more will so choose, but to a certain few of the Lord’s followers the call was more specific. Luke records that after Jesus had “continued all night in prayer to God,” he “called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.” (Luke 6:12, 13.)
To these chosen twelve, the call to follow Christ meant to forsake all and to physically accompany the Lord in his ministry. Their call was a privileged one. They walked and talked with the Son of God daily. They knew the Lord intimately and feasted upon his word with humble and receptive hearts. They loved him, and Jesus called them his friends. (See John 15:14, 15.)
These twelve Apostles served a vital function in the Lord’s plan. They were special witnesses of the Savior’s divinity and of his literal resurrection. Not only did they know him during his mortal ministry, but they communed with him after his resurrection. The resurrected Redeemer appeared in the midst of his disciples in the upper room. They handled the Lord’s hands and feet and learned that Jesus was not merely a spirit but a resurrected being with flesh and bones. (See Luke 24:38, 39.)
These Apostles knew of the Lord’s divinity and of his resurrection with a certainty beyond all disputation. With this knowledge, born of experience and confirmed by the Holy Ghost, they were commanded to “be witnesses unto [Christ] both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8.) Indeed, the word apostle means “one who is sent.”
The Apostles were chosen of God and “ordained” to be witnesses of the resurrection (see Acts 1:22), and they subsequently went forth testifying boldly and powerfully of the Atonement and Resurrection. They participated in the most significant events related to the Savior’s mission of redemption and were commanded to testify of these things to all people. The Holy Ghost then confirmed their words so that all people could believe in Christ and be prepared to receive a remission of their sins. Paul told the Ephesian Saints that knowledge concerning Christ had been “revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (Eph. 3:5.)
Because of the Apostles’ special calling as witnesses of Christ, we learn that the household of God is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Eph. 2:20.) Paul also taught that Christ gave Apostles and prophets “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11–13.) Thus, the Apostles not only proclaimed the gospel but also took leadership of the Church to establish unity and faith among the Saints.
In our day the Lord has again called Apostles. These Apostles have been ordained as special witnesses of Christ in all the world. They know of the reality of Christ and his redemption with a certainty born of the Spirit.
We are eternally grateful for the witness of Joseph Smith, “who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ.” (D&C 20:2.) In fulfilling his apostolic calling, Joseph Smith bore this powerful witness: “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 beating record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” (D&C 76:22–23.)
The Prophet’s witness, born of experience and of the Spirit, has been proclaimed throughout the world, and the Holy Ghost has confirmed the truthfulness of that witness in the hearts of millions who have received the word with gladness. The pattern for proving spiritual things has been reestablished in our day. And an unbroken chain of succession has ensured that the apostolic calling has been with us continually since it was restored to Joseph Smith.
As an ordained Apostle and special witness of Christ, I give to you my solemn witness that Jesus Christ is in fact the Son of God. He is the Messiah prophetically anticipated by Old Testament prophets. He is the Hope of Israel, for whose coming the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had prayed during the long centuries of prescribed worship.
Jesus is the Beloved Son who submitted to the will of his Father by being baptized by John in the river Jordan. He was tempted of the devil in the wilderness but did not yield to the temptations. He preached the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, and commanded all men everywhere to repent and be baptized. He forgave sins, speaking as one having authority, and he demonstrated his power to do so by healing the lame and the halt and by opening the eyes of the blind and unstopping the ears of the deaf. He changed water to wine, calmed the troubled waters of Galilee, and walked on that same water as if on solid ground. He confounded the wicked rulers who sought his life and brought peace to troubled hearts.
Finally, he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and died on the cross, giving his sinless life as a ransom for every soul who enters mortality. He did in very fact rise from the dead on the third day, becoming the firstfruits of the resurrection and overcoming death.
The resurrected Lord has continued his ministry of salvation by appearing, from time to time, to mortal men chosen by God to be his witnesses, and by revealing his will through the Holy Ghost.
It is by the power of the Holy Ghost that I bear my witness. I know of Christ’s reality as if I had seen with my eyes and heard with my ears. I know also that the Holy Spirit will confirm the truthfulness of my witness in the hearts of all those who listen with an ear of faith.
During the nearly two millennia since he lived, countless thousands have admired the Lord’s attributes—his kindness, generosity, mercy, and charity. His teachings have been described by one classic writer as “a great sea whose smiling surface breaks into refreshing ripples at the feet of our little ones, but into whose unfathomable depths the wisest may gaze with the shudder of amazement and the thrill of love.” (Augustine, Confessions, xii. 140.)
Although his teachings and attributes have been of inestimable value to the human family, they must be considered as by-products of those things that really command our veneration and our worship—his atonement for our sins and his resurrection from the dead. Unfortunately, too many men have worshipped at the shrine of Christ’s attributes and ethics but have denied the divinity of their Redeemer.
The Lord’s invitation to follow him is extended to more persons than those who are ordained as special witnesses. The call is individual and personal, and it is compelling. We cannot stand forever between two opinions. Each of us must at some time face the crucial question: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matt. 16:15.) Our personal salvation depends on our answer to that question and our commitment to that answer. Peter’s revealed answer was “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16.) Many, many witnesses can give the identical answer by the same power, and I join with them in humble gratitude. But we must each answer the question for ourselves—if not now, then later; for at the last day, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ. Our challenge is to answer correctly and live accordingly before it is everlastingly too late.
If, then, Jesus is indeed the Christ, as we so testify, what must we do?
Christ’s supreme sacrifice can find full fruition in our lives only as we accept the invitation to follow him. This call is not irrelevant, unrealistic, or impossible. To follow an individual means to watch him or listen to him closely; to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him; to support and advocate his ideas; and to take him as a model. Each of us can accept this challenge. Peter said, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” (1 Pet. 2:21.) Just as teachings that do not conform to Christ’s doctrine are false, so a life that does not conform to Christ’s example is misdirected, and may not achieve its high potential destiny.
For those who have not yet embraced the gospel, following Christ means that you must learn of him and obey his gospel. Jesus himself defined the gospel:
“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; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.” (3 Ne. 27:20, 21.)
Each of us must receive the word of Christ through the scriptures and the teachings of his chosen servants. We then exercise faith in the word by repenting and being baptized, thus preparing ourselves to receive the cleansing and sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost in our lives. We invite each of you, if you have not already done so, to listen prayerfully to the message of our missionaries.
Brothers and sisters, the love of God has entered the world for the benefit of all who will receive it. It is not just our sacred duty and obligation, but our opportunity and privilege to receive the gift so freely offered by Christ and to share this gift with others.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 Jn. 4:9–11.)
I testify, in the name of Christ, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.) That we might accept Christ’s loving invitation to “come, follow me” is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.