First Presidency Message

Live by the Savior’s Teachings


This message was prepared by President Tanner a month prior to his death 27 November 1982.

Live by the Savior’s Teachings

Never in our time has there been greater need for all mankind to turn their lives around and live by the teachings of Jesus Christ. One has only to read the newspaper, listen to news broadcasts, or engage in conversation with someone to become despondent with the state of the world, his nation, or the individual plights of his neighbor and himself

“Where will it all lead?” we ask in dismay. What is happening to the leaders of men and of nations that has brought us to such a condition? Where, along the way, have we failed?

The answers are found in an examination of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the nonconformity in our lives to the truths found therein. It is the individual responsibility of each of us to so live that we may extend our influence for righteousness to others who, seeing our good works, will be led to glorify our Father in Heaven. As we have often heard, the way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

With five million members of our worldwide Church, we should and could be a leavening factor if each individual lived as Jesus Christ taught. When will we ever learn that the only way to escape the punishment and eternal exile from his presence is to accept him as our Savior and keep his commandments? As we realize that he gave his very life for us because of his overwhelming love for all men, we should strive with all our might and strength to show our appreciation and love for him by acceptance, not rejection, of him and his word.

Let us carefully examine some of his words during his ministry. In the Sermon on the Mount he stated:

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19–20.)

In this same sermon he later stated:

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:12–14.)

We find this account as he concluded the sermon:

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

“For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt. 7:24–29.)

It is most interesting to follow Matthew’s account of the events and teachings of Jesus Christ, and to note the single-mindedness of the purpose of his ministry. How can anyone who reads the scriptures fail to recognize that Christ’s mission was, as he said so many times in so many different ways, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man?” (Moses 1:39.) This was to be accomplished through the application of the principles of love for him and his Father, and for one another. Every teaching he espoused was designed to make men happier and their lives fuller and richer, with the ultimate promise of eternal life in the presence of God. Why do so many risk cheating themselves out of this inheritance by ignoring or failing to qualify themselves for the blessings promised to the faithful?

As we follow Matthew’s account, we find Christ instructing his chosen Twelve, warning the wicked to repent, teaching the multitudes through sermons and parables, healing the sick, raising the dead, and, to summarize, going about doing good. He organized his Church, warned of an apostasy, finished the work his Father had given him to do, was crucified, buried, and resurrected—all of which had been foretold by himself and the prophets of an earlier day.

All these things transpired; and as foretold also by the prophets, there came the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the same organization as existed in the primitive Church. Both the Old and New Testament proclaimed the Restoration and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Shortly after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith prepared what he called the Articles of Faith, summarizing the beliefs of the Church, which were in complete harmony with the teachings of the Savior while he lived among men.

In a beautiful declaration of our faith and belief we find these words in the last, the thirteenth, article of faith [A of F 1:13]:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

Embodied in this statement are all the attributes of goodness which the Savior incorporated into his own life and labored so valiantly to teach to others. We have our children memorize this article of faith; our missionaries have it printed on their calling cards; we recite it regularly to friends and investigators because we are proud to belong to an organization with such lofty ideals.

But how committed are we to sincerely and honestly living as we preach? Each of us needs to re-examine his life and resolve to keep the commandments and be an example of righteousness and an influence for good in a troubled world. We cannot be nearly honest, partially chaste or virtuous, or half-heartedly benevolent. We must be totally dedicated.

We need a change of attitude. We need to be supportive of one another, instead of backbiting and maligning and resorting to malicious gossip. Particularly in the areas of local and national politics do we need to select good, honest representatives who will espouse the cause of righteousness, and then we should forget partisanship and work together for the common good of all. As we say, we should seek after “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.”

Let us heed the words of Christ when he addressed the scribes and Pharisees, saying:

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

“And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Matt. 15:8–11.)

Matthew also records the question asked by the Pharisee who, tempting Jesus, asked:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:36–40.)

Moving on to the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters of Matthew, we read of the tribulations and calamities that would precede the second coming of Christ. If we can catch the spirit of his pleas and feel his overwhelming love for us, we should yearn with all our hearts to show him by our faith and works that we appreciate the agony and suffering he endured that we might be saved from our sins and resurrected from the grave.

Can you feel his great compassion as he said:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

“For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37–39.)

As members of his Church we are all striving for peace, for a better life for us and our children, for security, for the strength to overcome and live as he would have us live, and to keep his commandments. What must we do?

“Your task, to build a better world,” God said.
I answered, “How?
The world is such a large, vast place, so complicated now.
And I so small and useless am. There’s nothing I can do.”
But God in all his wisdom said, “Just build a better you.”

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

1. Every teaching the Savior espoused was designed to make men happier and their lives fuller and richer, with the ultimate promise of eternal life in the presence of God.

2. We must not risk cheating ourselves out of eternal inheritance by ignoring or failing to qualify ourselves for the blessings promised to the faithful.

3. We need to reexamine our lives and resolve to keep the commandments. We cannot be nearly honest, partially chaste or virtuous, or half-heartedly benevolent. We must be totally dedicated.

4. We should yearn with all our hearts to show the Savior by our faith and works that we appreciate the agony and suffering he endured that we might be saved from our sins and resurrected from the grave.

Discussion Helps:

1. Relate your personal feelings or experiences about the importance of living by the Savior’s teachings. Ask family members to share their feelings.

2. Are there scriptural verses or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

3. Would this discussion be better after talking with the head of the house before the visit? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the head of the household concerning the Savior’s teachings?

[illustration] Illustrated by Harry Anderson