Our Acceptance of Christ

Neal A. Maxwell
This is an edited version of the special satellite-broadcast fireside address given by Elder Maxwell 5 January 1984.

Our Acceptance of Christ

The most important question in human history is one which echoes down through the corridors of time; it will not go away: “Jesus asked them … what think ye of Christ?” (Matt. 22:41–42.) Sooner or later, this will be the vital question for all mortals, including you, my friends! A failure to answer this question is an answer.

Granted, there have been and still are many mortals on this planet who do not yet know the name of Jesus Christ, let alone accept him as their Redeemer. Many others are too preoccupied with the cares of the world. Still others acknowledge Jesus as a great moral teacher, as if he were merely a one-time Socrates of Samaria or a Plato who lived in Palestine.

Ancient prophets not only foresaw the coming of Jesus in his mortal ministry but also the reaction to Jesus. Alas, most would merely “consider him a man.” (Mosiah 3:9.) “And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” (1 Ne. 19:9.)

The Apostle John highlighted the differing opinions in that time concerning Jesus: “Many of the people … said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.

“Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?

“Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

“So there was a division among the people because of him. …

“And every man went unto his own house.” (John 7:40–43, 53.)

Yet the Holy Scriptures tell us, again and again, that he who was known as Jesus of Nazareth is so much more than “a man,” even a man of genuine historical significance. In fact, he is our resurrected Redeemer, our Lord and Savior!

Therefore, what one thinks of Christ represents a determination of deep significance which will affect not only this life, but all eternity as well.

Human history, in fact, has no ultimate meaning without Christ. Christ is the verification of God’s purposes for mankind, of the meaning of this life; He is the assurance of life to come. To accept him is an act drenched in meaning and significance. To testify of him is to testify to the reality of all that matters.

One day, in a moment of unparalleled drama, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. (See Philip. 2:10–11; D&C 88:104.)

Even so, as foreseen, too many mortals today “judge [Jesus] to be a thing of naught.” (1 Ne. 19:9.) Yet the Holy scriptures testify abundantly and repeatedly of him! (John 5:39.) Hence, as true Christians, we unhesitatingly “talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ.” (2 Ne. 25:26.)

Some, however, seek in vain to substitute Caesars for Christ. Others, ironically, have become crusaders without the cross, having removed the divinity of Jesus Christ from the center of their beliefs. Thus, as the theology of many has been flattened, so have their hopes, and for them there is neither saving shelter nor landmark on the windswept horizon.

There is, however, a people and a church humbly, yet gladly, bearing the name of Jesus Christ and built upon the fulness of his gospel.

This people strive to follow the counsel of our resurrected Savior, who said, “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold, I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do.” (3 Ne. 18:24.)

There is, in fact, no human circumstance to which the example of Jesus and the principles of his gospel cannot bring either remedy or reassurance.

There is no human challenge to which Jesus’ gospel cannot respond specifically and effectively, if applied.

There is no life which the gospel cannot ennoble, enrich, and enlighten.

There is no mortal uncertainty which the Light of Christ cannot clarify, and no darkness it cannot dispel.

Indeed, the fulness of his gospel tells mankind plainly of the greatest fundamental realities of the universe. Christ’s doctrines are relevance itself! Furthermore, so far as human salvation and exaltation are concerned, there is no other way and no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved except that of Jesus Christ. (See Mosiah 3:17.)

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, … Be it known unto you all … the name of Jesus Christ. … Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8–12; see also 2 Ne. 25:20.)

Hence, those of us who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regard it a humble privilege to have his name in the formal title of his and our Church.

One of Jesus’ Apostles, Paul, actually grieved because some members of the Church of Jesus Christ in the meridian of time wrongly thought of themselves as being Paul’s or Peter’s or some other’s converts. (See 1 Cor. 1:12–13.) True Christians, then and now, are converts to Christ and should not be known by the name of even his most devoted follower.

When Christians gather together, they are, as Jesus instructed, to gather “in my name.” (Matt. 18:20.) We are to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. When we suffer, we should do it, Jesus said, “for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16.) Consistently, therefore, his Church bears his name and is built upon the fulness of his gospel. (See 3 Ne. 27:8–9.)

Humbly, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I say to you not only that Jesus lived, but that he lives—with all that those words imply! Furthermore, by revelation, he placed his name upon his restored Church in these, the latter days.

During his mortal ministry, Jesus organized a church with formal authority. This cannot be doubted. As Paul wrote, that church was built upon the foundation of Apostles and prophets. (See Eph. 2:20.) The valiant struggle of Jesus’ followers to implement his teachings fills the pages of the New Testament.

Now it is for us who live today to give our response to the key question: What do we think of Christ? However, we must first ascertain who Jesus is.

It was Jesus Christ, under the direction of God the Father, who created this earth. In Jesus’ pre-mortal state, where he was deity before his mortality, Christ was the Creator. The Apostle John referred to Jesus, saying: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3.)

Under the direction of his Father, Jesus was the Creator, not only of this world, but, as Paul wrote, of other worlds as well. (See Heb. 1:2–3.)

Elsewhere, we read: “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.” (Moses 1:33.)

Why all this creating? Because the decreed and redemptive purpose of God the Father is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) This was the very purpose for this planet about which Isaiah spoke: For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18.)

This inhabited earth has thus become mankind’s mortal “schoolhouse.”

We rightly marvel and even worry over the earth’s delicate ecological balances, the manner in which this planet is so tilted and orbited that it is inhabitable, with soil, seasons, and moisture. Moreover, Jesus, who formed this planet under the direction of the Father, likewise took as much care in planning the curriculum of this life’s learning experiences as in planning the schoolhouse itself.

Thus, this act of creation was an act of divine love, fulfilling God’s purpose to provide for all of us the needed experience of mortality, to be followed by a judgment according to our individual works, and by the glorious resurrection.

The scriptures tell us of God’s unfolding plan that “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.) And Paul’s confirming and reassuring utterance was, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.) Hence, Jesus, our glorious Creator, is also the glorious Guarantor and Insurer of our blessed resurrection!

No Father has been honored so perfectly and circumspectly as Jesus honored his Heavenly Father. Christ said to call no man good except the Father. (See Matt. 19:17.) Likewise, Jesus declared he could do “nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” (John 5:19.) Humbly and boldly, Jesus nevertheless declared who he was: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6.)

It was thus through the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Father’s Only Begotten Son in the flesh, that death was overcome, making possible the glorious resurrection. Jesus inherited immortality, power over death, from God, the Father, but from his mortal mother, Mary, the power to die. Christ’s unique status meant that he gave his life voluntarily, that we might live!

To ponder the miraculous resurrection is overwhelming, yet it is a reality! In a world in which many wonder if life has purpose and meaning, the gospel of Jesus Christ declares, simply and emphatically, that all God’s purposes will be fulfilled on this planet. God does nothing except it be for the benefit of mankind! (See 2 Ne. 26:24.)

A most blessed benefit is the glorious resurrection, brought to pass by Jesus’ voluntary atonement, that saving act which Christ was foreordained to accomplish. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the extension of that resurrection to all mankind are proof of his divinity and love. After Gethsemane and Calvary, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

“And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matt. 27:52–53.)

As the Book of Mormon likewise attests, the same verified miracle of the Resurrection occurred on this hemisphere after the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hence, this book, the Bible’s companion volume of scripture, is rightly called “another testament of Christ” (see Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 53), testifying likewise of the wonder of the Resurrection.

We need not doubt the reality of the Resurrection simply because we do not understand it. We witness the constant miracle of birth; it is real, although not fully understood. The coming of a newborn child occurs under the direction of a loving Father in Heaven. So will the resurrection of everyone who has lived, who now lives, or who will yet live upon this planet.

God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. We, as his children, barely understand the minutia of the multiplication tables of human existence, let alone the calculus of the cosmos. God could tell us neither how he brought to pass the Creation nor how he made possible the reality of the Resurrection, because, in our present condition, we would not be able to understand it fully.

Besides, it is not important that we know the how of the Atonement and Resurrection—it is enough that we know the redemptive reality of the Atonement and Resurrection. One prophet summed up the focus of such faith well: “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Ne. 11:17.)

We mortals are so provincial. Once people thought the world was flat. Now we know better. Once the miracle of flight was but a dream. Now it is an everyday occurrence. Only a few years ago, astronauts, in their daring, captured our imagination. Now they come and go with but minor attention.

As mankind’s physical horizons have broadened, unfortunately our spiritual horizons have remained shrunken. This is so because many are uncertain or indifferent concerning Christ.

Mercifully, in achieving the Atonement, Jesus Christ was not indifferent to us. He took upon himself our sins. He redeemed and purchased us with his blood. (See Acts 20:28.) He ransomed us from both physical and spiritual death. (see Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6.) He became, as Paul wrote, our Mediator with God the Father. (See 1 Tim. 2:5.)

The very sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is in remembrance of his supernal sacrifice and atonement—from Gethsemane to Calvary—during which he perspired, as it were, great drops of blood. (See Luke 22:19, 44.)

Why? Because, as our personal Savior, he not only bore our sins in the awful arithmetic of the Atonement, but in his mortal ministry he also suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11–12.)

My friends, Jesus is our Savior! This blessed fact will not go away, and it should stir within us undying gratitude and cause us to place Christ at the center of our lives by accepting him and the terms he has laid down as our Redeemer.

We begin to appreciate the Atonement with more than passive intellectual acknowledgement only when, as in the words of one prophet, we accept the terms of his atonement and “apply the atoning blood of Christ.” (Mosiah 4:2.) We do this by repenting of our sins and by having them washed away by the holy ordinance of baptism, an act of both cleansing and commitment, and by receiving the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Without this conversion and rebirth, and without its resulting childlike spiritual submissiveness, Christ has told us we can neither see nor enter his kingdom. (See Matt. 18:3; John 3:3–5.)

Signifying his full obedience to God, the Father, Christ, though sinless, was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. (See Matt. 3:13–15.)

“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” (2 Ne. 31:5.)

If we fail to accept Christ, we must, in his own words, eventually face that dreadful moment when we must suffer for our own sins. The resurrected Jesus said his suffering for us was “how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not …

“Which suffering caused myself … 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 19:15, 18–19.)

In fact, the atonement of Jesus Christ is the central act in all of human history. It is by the Light of Christ that we see everything else in true perspective. And bathed in that Light, everything else is subordinate!

I pray earnestly that we will not hesitate or equivocate concerning our acceptance of Christ as some did even during Jesus’ ministry. “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:

“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.)

For some, alas, it is easier to bend the knee in superficial devotion than to bend the mind constantly toward Christ.

My brothers and sisters, accept fully and personally the great and reassuring realities of the universe, at the center of which is a loving Father in Heaven who gave to us his Only Begotten Son to bring to pass his plan for mankind, which is one of redemption and happiness! (See Alma 42:8, 16.)

As one prophet rightly exclaimed, “O how great the plan of our God!” (2 Ne. 9:13.) Then he invited all to “come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there.” (2 Ne. 9:41.) We will then need to give account of each word, thought, and act to Jesus, our Judge. (See Alma 12:14.) Then, surely, no man will judge Jesus to be a thing of naught!

Now, may I give you my personal answer to the key question—what I think of Christ, indeed, know of Christ!

I testify, as the New Testament records, that Jesus was, in fact, actually profferred the kingdoms of the world by Satan. I thank him for declining this specious offer, since all eternity would have been shaken, for Jesus’ grip on himself was also mankind’s only hold on the future.

I testify that he is the Divine Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. He who did not need to die for himself was willing to die for us, to be bound by the chains of death, so he could exercise the power of God his Father which was inherent in him and thereby break them for all mankind. I testify that, through Jesus’ atonement, he is thereby our Mediator and Advocate with the flawless Father.

I testify that, in eloquent example, he partook voluntarily of the bitter cup in the awful Atonement. I thank him, likewise, for not interceding on our behalf, even when we sometimes pray in faith, for that which would not be “right” for us. (See 3 Ne. 18:20.) Our glimpse of Gethsemane, especially, should teach us that all prayers are petitions!

I testify that, though Christ never needed it himself, he gave to us what we desperately needed, that program of progress—repentance—which beckons us to betterness.

Whether he is descriptively designated as Creator, Only Begotten Son, Prince of Peace, Advocate, Mediator, Son of God, Savior, Messiah, Author and Finisher of Salvation, or King of Kings, I witness that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven whereby one can be saved! (See D&C 18:23.)

I testify that he is utterly incomparable in what he is, what he knows, what he has accomplished, and what he has experienced. Yet, movingly, he calls us his friends. (See John 15:15; D&C 84:77.)

We can trust, worship, and even adore him without any reservation! He is the only perfect person to sojourn on this planet; there is, as Isaiah declared, none like him! (See Isa. 46:9.)

In intelligence and performance, Christ far surpasses the individual and the composite capacities and achievements of all who have lived, live now, and will yet live! (See Abr. 3:19.)

He rejoices in our genuine goodness and achievement. Yet, any assessment of where we stand in relation to him tells us that we do not stand at all! We kneel—humbly and gladly!

We cannot, even in the depths of disease, tell him anything at all about suffering. In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by him even before they were borne by us. (See Alma 7:11–12; Matt. 8:17.) The very weight of our combined sins caused him to descend below all. (See D&C 122:8.) We have never been, nor will we be, in personal depths such as he has known. Thus, his atonement demonstrated and perfected his empathy and his capacity to succor us, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as he tutors us in our trials. There was no ram in the thicket at Calvary to spare Jesus, this Friend of Abraham and Isaac.

Those who yearn for hearth or home cannot instruct him as to what it is like to be homeless or on the move. Did he not say in a disclosing moment that “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head”? (Matt. 8:20.)

We cannot counsel him about being misrepresented, misunderstood, or betrayed—or what it is like when even friends falter. (See John 18.)

We cannot educate him regarding injustice or compare failures of judicial systems with the Giver of the Law, who, in divine dignity, endured its substantive and procedural perversion.

And when we feel so alone, we cannot presume to teach him who, at the apogee of his agony, trod “the winepress alone” anything about feeling forsaken. (See D&C 76:107; Matt. 27:46.)

The childless who crave children can count on his empathy, for he loved children and said “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14), and “one by one, [he] blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

“And when he had done this he wept again.” (3 Ne. 17:21–22.)

We dare not presume to teach him about enduring irony! His last remaining possession—a cloak—was gambled for even as he died on the cross. (See Matt. 27:35.) Yet the very earth was Jesus’ footstool!

Jesus, who represented God by right of birth, gave mankind living water so that we shall never thirst again. Yet on the cross he was given vinegar! (See John 4:7–14; Matt. 27:48.)

We cannot lecture him on liberty. He sets us free from our last enemies—sin and death.

Those who revere human freedom, yet complain about human suffering, can never achieve real reconciliation except through Jesus’ gospel, which, alone, balances liberty and love, human agency and purpose.

Those concerned with nourishing the poor cannot advise him concerning feeding the multitudes.

Those who are concerned with medicine cannot instruct him about healing the sick.

Nor can we inform the Atoner about the sting of ingratitude when one’s service goes unappreciated or unnoticed. Only one leper in ten thanked Jesus, who asked searchingly, “but where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17.)

Those concerned with lengthening their lifespan cannot enlighten the Resurrector of all mankind.

Scientists whose discipline brings the discovery of some of the interweavings in the tapestry of truth cannot instruct the Tapestry Maker.

We cannot seek to instruct him in courage, nor should we rush to show him our mortal medals. Jesus bears special wounds in his hands, feet, and side, the marks of his ultimate courage.

His “word of power” actually brings entire new worlds into being and causes other worlds to pass away. (See Moses 1:35–38.) Yet, in the midst of such galactic governance, he interviewed his [Nephite] Twelve “one by one” (See 3 Ne. 28:1) and later called a farm boy in rural New York to be his prophet.

He has invited us to observe his cosmic craftsmanship in the heavens that we might see “God moving in his majesty and power.” (D&C 88:47.) However, do we not also see him “moving in his majesty and power” as each prodigal finally completes his homeward orbit?

Though his creations are so vast as to be numberless even to computerized man (Moses 1:35, 37), Jesus has told us that the very hairs of our head are numbered and that not even a sparrow falls unnoticed by him. (See Matt. 10:29–31.)

Did not the resurrected Jesus stand by an imprisoned Paul telling him to be of good cheer and calling him on his mission to Rome? (See Acts 23:11.) Likewise, Jesus stands by the righteous in all their individual ordeals.

We who are so forgetful and even rebellious are never forgotten by him! We mortals are his “work” and his “glory” (Moses 1:39), and he is never distracted!

Indeed, we cannot teach him anything. But we can listen to him. We can love him, honor him, and worship him. We can take up the cross. We can join and serve in his Church.

In addition to my boundless admiration of Jesus Christ for his achievements and to my adoration of him for what he is, as one of his special witnesses in the fulness of times, I attest to the fulness of his ministry!

How dare some treat his ministry as if it were all beatitudes and no declaratives! How myopic it is to view his ministry as all crucifixion and no resurrection!

Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Red Sea and of Sinai, the resurrected Lord!

One day, however, all flesh shall see him together. All knees shall bow in his presence, and all tongues confess his name. (See D&C 76:110–111; Philip. 2:10–11.) Knees which never before have assumed that posture for that purpose will do so then—promptly. Tongues which have never before spoken his name, except in gross profanity, will do so then—worshipfully.

One day, he who was once mockingly dressed in purple will come again, attired in red apparel, reminding us dramatically whose blood redeemed us. (See D&C 133:48–49.)

All will then acknowledge the completeness of his justice and his mercy. (See Alma 12:15.) Then mortals will see how human indifference to God—not God’s indifference to humanity—accounts for so much misery and suffering.

Then we will see the story of mankind—but not through glass darkly. The great military battles will appear as mere bonfires which blazed briefly, and the provincial mortal accounts of the human experience will be but graffiti on the walls of time.

So, we return to the central question, “What think ye of Christ?” (Matt. 22:41–42.)

Though some of you may have participated in public prayer, but seldom, if ever, in private prayer, I urge you—now—to find precious moments alone, to kneel down, and to ask God the Father concerning these truths about his Son, our Divine Redeemer!

Even if you perhaps feel your faith is frail, do as did one courageous person who was not even sure there was a God. He both asked and promised in these halting words: “O God, … if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee.” (Alma 22:18.)

Desire to know for yourself, and let this desire work in you. Read, study, and apply Jesus’ words. He has promised, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” (John 7:17.)

It is not by accident that representatives of the Savior have sought you out from among the world, for his sheep know his voice and the voice of his servants. As he himself has said, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)

It is his voice which now calls you into his formal fold—into his Church. He has work for you to do, in the greatest adventure you will ever know. Accept him, my beloved friends! Believe on his words!

The hymn “O Divine Redeemer” contains pleadings which are my pleadings, and the pleadings of any who sincerely and reverently approach the Redeemer of the World:

Ah! turn me not away,
Receive me tho’ unworthy;
Hear thou my cry, …
Behold, Lord, my distress. …
Shield me in danger!
O regard me, …
O Divine Redeemer …
Grant me pardon, and remember not,
remember not, O Lord, my sins. …
Help me, …
O Divine Redeemer. …

My friends, I gladly and humbly testify that our Divine Redeemer lives, with all that those precious and true words imply.

In the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.