First Presidency Message

He Invites Us to Follow Him


Howard W. Hunter

He Invites Us to Follow Him

Several months ago an invitation was given to members of the Church as we strive to keep the commandments of God and receive the full measure of his blessings (see Ensign, July 1994, pp. 4–5). The invitation was for all members of the Church to live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, emulating the love and hope and compassion he displayed.

We were asked to treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness. We do have high expectations of one another, and all can improve. Our world cries out for more disciplined living of the commandments of God. But the way we are to encourage that, as the Lord told the Prophet Joseph in the wintry depths of Liberty Jail, is “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; … without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42). We may feast at the table laid before us in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and strive to follow the Good Shepherd who has provided it.

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).

The Lord’s invitation to follow him 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 an 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. Since Jesus is indeed the Christ, 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).

Righteousness must start in our own individual lives. It must be incorporated into family living. Parents have the responsibility to follow the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and teach them to their children. Religion must be part of our living. The gospel of Jesus Christ must become the motivating influence in all that we do. There must be more striving within in order to follow the great example set by the Savior if we are to become more like him. This becomes our great challenge.

Our daily prayer might well be stated in the words of the hymn:

More holiness give me, …
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More longing for home.
More fit for the kingdom,
More used would I be,
More blessed and holy—
More, Savior, like thee.

(Hymns, 1985, no. 131)

I witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. If only we could catch the vision and conform our lives to his teachings, we would find that joy which has been promised to us.

We voice again that most important question asked by the Son of God himself, the Savior of the world. To a group of disciples in the New World, a group anxious to be taught by him and even more anxious because he would soon be leaving them, he asked, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” Then in the same breath he gave this answer: “Even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).

The world is full of people who are willing to tell us, “Do as I say.” Surely we have no lack of advice givers on about every subject. But we have so few who are prepared to say, “Do as I do.” And, of course, only One in human history could rightfully and properly make that declaration. History provides many examples of good men and women, but even the best of mortals are flawed in some way or another. None could serve as a perfect model nor as an infallible pattern to follow, however well-intentioned they might be.

Only Christ can be our ideal, our “bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Only he can say without any reservation, “Follow me, learn of me, do the things you have seen me do. Drink of my water and eat of my bread. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the law and the light. Look unto me and ye shall live. Love one another as I have loved you” (see Matt. 11:29; Matt. 16:24; John 4:13–14; John 6:35, 51; John 7:37; John 13:34; John 14:6; 3 Ne. 15:9; 3 Ne. 27:21).

My, what a clear and resonant call! What certainty and example in a day of uncertainty and absence of example.

President Ezra Taft Benson said about Christ’s marvelous example: “Nearly two thousand years ago a perfect Man walked the earth—Jesus the Christ. … In His life, all the virtues were lived and kept in perfect balance; He taught men truth—that they might be free; His example and precepts provide the great standard—the only sure way—for all mankind” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988, p. 8).

The great standard! The only sure way! The light and the life of the world! How grateful we should be that God sent his Only Begotten Son to earth to do at least two things that no other person could have done. The first task Christ did as a perfect, sinless Son was to redeem all mankind from the Fall, providing an atonement for Adam’s sin and for our own sins if we will accept and follow him. The second great thing he did was to set a perfect example of right living, of kindness and mercy and compassion, in order that all of the rest of mankind might know how to live, know how to improve, and know how to become more godlike.

Let us follow the Son of God in all ways and in all walks of life. Let us make him our exemplar and our guide. We should at every opportunity ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” and then be more courageous to act upon the answer. We must follow Christ, in the best sense of that word. We must be about his work as he was about his Father’s. We should try to be like him, even as the Primary children sing, “Try, try, try” (Children’s Songbook, p. 55). To the extent that our mortal powers permit, we should make every effort to become like Christ—the one perfect and sinless example this world has ever seen.

His beloved disciple John often said of Christ, “We beheld his glory” (John 1:14). They observed the Savior’s perfect life as he worked and taught and prayed. So, too, ought we to “behold his glory” in every way we can.

We must know Christ better than we know him; we must remember him more often than we remember him; we must serve him more valiantly than we serve him. Then will we drink water springing up unto eternal life and will eat the bread of life.

What manner of men and women ought we to be? Even as he is.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis

You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:

  1. 1.

    We are to live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. 2.

    Jesus said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me” (John 12:26).

  3. 3.

    Christ’s supreme sacrifice can find fruition in our lives only as we accept his invitation to follow him.

  4. 4.

    At every opportunity we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”

  5. 5.

    We must know Jesus better than we know him, remember him more often, serve him more valiantly.

Discussion Helps

  1. 1.

    Relate your feelings about following the example of the Lord.

  2. 2.

    Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

  3. 3.

    Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum president?

[illustration] Christ Calling Peter and Andrew, by James Taylor Harwood

[illustration] The Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson

[photo] Photo by Craig Dimond

[illustration] John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus, by Greg K. Olsen