“What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?”

Howard W. Hunter

President of the Quorum of the Tweleve Apostles


I am delighted to be with you today and to greet this wonderful general conference audience. In so doing, may I thank you for the prayers you offer in behalf of the General Authorities, for our health and our travel and our personal circumstances. We are blessed by these faithful prayers offered, and we wish you to know of our gratitude.

One of the most important questions ever asked to mortal men was 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.

We all miss President Ezra Taft Benson today and wish that he could address us. I wonder if I might pay a small tribute to him by quoting something he said from this pulpit on the subject of Christ’s marvelous example. He said (and I add my own witness to its truth):

“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 we will 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. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.