I have prayed for the blessings of heaven to be upon my efforts in speaking to you today.
Matthew’s New Testament account includes these words of the Savior: “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit” (Matt. 7:17), and “by their fruits ye shall know them”—whether they be good or evil (Matt. 7:20).
As Michael Watson was reading the Annual Report confirming the continued growth and expansion of the Church throughout the world, with an increasing number of new converts making possible more stakes and more wards with their increasing numbers of priesthood holders and women in their organizations, and with our growing numbers of missionaries making possible more new missions, I felt a burning in my soul—a feeling of divine affirmation and direction of this work as it comes “forth out of obscurity” (D&C 1:30).
This is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it does indeed bring forth fruit worthy of him. Its growth will continue unabated because of the faith of its members and because more men and women are discovering the golden threads of truth, hope, and salvation as they learn gospel principles and are “nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, … relying … upon the merits of Christ, who [is] the author … of their faith” (Moro. 6:4).
Outside of our church, many watch in amazement at this consistent expansion in spite of popular secularism. We hope they may one day know of the joy and happiness available to the Saints who hold fast to the iron rod of gospel truth (see 1 Ne. 11:25), which they treasure as dearly as life itself and which they maintain by their abiding faith.
We see the light of the gospel continuing to dawn like a gentle new day upon previous intolerable darkness. It continues to spread out into new frontiers, confirming the revelation to Joseph the Prophet that “the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape” (D&C 1:2) and all hearts shall be penetrated.
The gospel breathes a new life and a new hope and a new and unknown holiness into a troubled world. This we see, and we see the work grow and increase and become more and more irresistible as it spreads like the gentleness of a sea that refreshes the shore upon which it flows.
Witnessing this miracle continuing to unfold today, I liken it to the account in Acts where Peter and other Apostles were preaching of Jesus, and the high priests’ council and the Sadducees tried to restrain them from speaking and teaching of Christ by putting them in prison. But an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, and again they went to the temple to teach the people. Gamaliel, a Pharisee and doctor of the law, halted the council when they would again cast the Apostles in prison, saying:
“Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
“But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
“And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak … the name of Jesus, and let them go.
“And they departed, … rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer … for his name” (Acts 5:38–41).
And—true to their callings as special witnesses of Christ—the Apostles went “daily in the temple, and in every house, they [continued] to teach and preach Jesus Christ” and him crucified (Acts 5:42).
The early Apostles fearlessly continued to preach the principles of the gospel, as we do today, calling upon mankind to believe in the Son of God, our Savior, and to repent—to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins, and to receive the Holy Ghost in preparation to have administered unto them even higher ordinances of the gospel. Those early disciples declared to those seeking truth, in plainness, that as the Holy Ghost rested upon them, filling their hearts with joy, they would know of the doctrine for themselves, whether it be of God or man.
The Spirit of truth leads men to righteousness, but we must have a desire to seek truth and to take the time to form spiritual habits and respond to spiritual impressions if we are to keep our souls alive—and is not now the time to begin?
A person who has developed spirituality may suffer deeply and know frustration; but yet he is able to continue in showing forth kindness and love because of a power that rises up from his spiritual base that governs his actions and urges him to “speak with a new tongue” (2 Ne. 31:14), as Nephi said, and to be his best despite obstacles and setbacks.
My desire is to aid the cause of truth and righteousness and, like the Apostles of old, to add my witness of the divinity of Jesus the Christ.
Tomorrow is Easter! Christians everywhere will commemorate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the anniversary date may not be accurate, the Easter season should inspire us to study and reflect upon the infinite and eternal atonement of Christ—“the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). The resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is the most glorious of all messages to mankind.
I believe in Christ. As a Latter-day Saint, I believe in Christ with all my heart. We invite all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him,” as Moroni declared, “and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moro. 10:32). Without reservation, we declare he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of this dispensation, wrote:
“We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
“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 1:1, 3).
We believe that Christ came into the world to ransom mankind from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam, that through the shedding of His innocent blood all mankind are raised in immortality and that those who believe and obey His laws are raised unto eternal life.
Salvation is administered on the same terms and conditions in all ages. Men must have faith in him, repent of their sins, be baptized in his name, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and remain steadfast to gain life eternal.
The Lord God has sent his holy prophets among all men in all ages to declare these things, even as he does today (see Mosiah 3:13).
King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet, was instructed by an angel sent by the Lord to declare unto his people the coming of the Messiah more than one hundred years before Christ’s birth, “that they may also be filled with joy” (Mosiah 3:4). This holy prophet declared:
“For behold, the time cometh, … that … the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity, … shall come down from heaven among the children of men, …
“And … he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, … even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; … blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
“And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, … the Creator of all things from the beginning; …
“And lo, he cometh … that salvation might come … through faith on his name; … [but] they shall consider him a man, … and shall scourge him, and … crucify him.
“And he shall rise the third day from the dead” (Mosiah 3:5, 7–10).
King Benjamin had learned in a vision that Christ would atone for the sins of mankind and judge the world. New Testament narrators, who were actual witnesses, confirmed King Benjamin’s prophetic declarations with this brief account:
Before daylight the second morning following Christ’s crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, having prepared fresh spices and ointments, went to the tomb of Jesus and found that the stone had been rolled away. Looking in and not finding the body, they hurried to find Peter and the Apostles and told them what they had found. Peter and John hastened at once to the tomb. John outran his older companion. Stooping down, he gazed in silent wonder into the empty tomb. Entering, Peter saw the burial clothes lying where the body of Jesus once lay. John followed him. And in spite of fear, there dawned upon them the hope, which later would become an absolute knowledge, that Christ had indeed risen; but as yet no one had seen him. The two wondering Apostles returned to their brethren.
Mary had stayed at the tomb and was grieving at the entrance when someone approached. Thinking it was the keeper of the garden, she asked where he had laid her Lord. Jesus said to her, “Mary” (John 20:16).
Jesus himself was standing before her, but he did not appear as she had known him, for he was now risen and glorified. She then recognized our Lord and must have attempted to embrace him, for he said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).
Filled with amazement, she hastened to obey, and repeated that glorious message which would give hope through all future ages and to which she added her personal declaration that she had seen the risen Lord (see John 20:1–18).
“The debt is paid, the redemption made, the covenant fulfilled, justice satisfied, the will of God done,” wrote President John Taylor, “and all power is now given into the hands of the Son of God—the power of the resurrection, the power of the redemption, [and] the power of salvation” (Mediation and Atonement, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Co., 1882, p. 171).
Hundreds of years before Christ’s earthly ministry, the prophet Isaiah, foretelling of the establishment of Zion and speaking of Jehovah, the true God, wrote:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: …
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: … and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4–5).
These thoughtful words from a favorite Mormon sacrament hymn express our heartfelt gratitude for our Savior:
I repeat our Lord’s ageless admonition, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Innumerable blessings have been promised to those who are faithful and obedient to God’s laws. Once a person is true and obedient to the light and knowledge received, he not only develops the ability to use that which has been given but the capacity to receive more knowledge increases, for he now understands and appreciates the gift.
People learn obedience by being obedient. We see its fruits. Halfhearted obedience is without reward. The gospel invites vigorous participation in living its principles. God commands that we serve him with all our heart, with all our might, with all our strength, and with the very best of our intelligence.
Our Savior instructs us, “Thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times” (D&C 59:11).
If we could feel or were sensitive even in the slightest to the matchless love of our Savior and his willingness to suffer for our individual sins, we would cease procrastination and “clean the slate,” and repent of all our transgressions.
This would mean keeping God’s commandments and setting our lives in order, searching our souls, and repenting of our sins, large or small. It means loving our neighbor, living an exemplary life, and—high on the list—being good husbands and good wives. It means teaching our children, by example and precept, to walk in the ways of truth and soberness. It means being honest in our affairs, and serving others, which includes sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world, and—with love—to succor those in need.
It is my hope that we will all come to know and love our Lord through obedience to his Word sufficiently to qualify for inclusion in the blessed circle of those who have heard of and believed his precious words uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane, his last night in mortality: “And this is life eternal,” he said, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3), to which I add my witness in his holy name, amen.