Before I became president of the Church, I was assigned as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit some of the countries of South America for various gatherings with the Saints. We were received well by the countries, by their officials, and by the press.
I was interested in a comment made by a representative of one of the largest newspapers in Brazil. She had heard my sermon the day before, on Sunday, in which I had spoken rather strongly about the restoration of the gospel. She asked me why Christ was crucified.
I answered: “Because he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
And her next remark shocked me: “He should not have said it, should he? He really was not, was he?”
I thought she was joking. I looked into her eyes for a moment and thought she was going to smile. But she did not. And I said firmly: “He said he was the Son of God because he was the Son of God.”
Later I read an article in the Easter edition of a newspaper of one of the largest cities in South America. The author was a minister with many academic degrees after his name. I read the entire article and he never mentioned the Lord of heaven and earth, the Redeemer, the Savior. He always spoke of “Jesus.” He quoted two or three scriptures which mentioned Jesus of Nazareth as being more than the carpenter’s son, but never in his writing did he ever give any other title to the Christ who shed his precious blood for him.
During the same trip, I asked 400 missionaries gathered in a meeting, “What think ye of Christ and the claims that are made?” And I heard 400 inspiring testimonies from youth—sure testimonies, ringing with conviction.
I am reminded of what Paul said: “And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1–2).
I could not see how we could really celebrate an Easter without discussing the Lord Jesus Christ. Why even the devils know that Jesus is the Christ. On one occasion the devils came crying out and saying, “Thou are Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ” (Luke 4:41). On another occasion “the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15). And another time, “they cried out saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29).
I believe that there was a considerable conviction in the heart of Pontius Pilate, who was constrained by his conscience to let the Savior go free, but because of political ambitions and other reasons, in spite of his wife’s pleading, he delivered the Savior to be crucified. But even after that, he wrote on the cross in three languages—Hebrew, Greek, and Latin—this famous statement: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.” The Jews, offended, came and said:
“Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
“Pilate answered, What I have written I have written” (see John 19:19–22).
You have read of Nathanael, the man without guile, who said, as he saw the Christ:
“Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
Paul had hardly made his transformation, had just barely received back his sight from his unusual experience when he want straightway into the synagogues and preached Christ, “that he is the Son of God.”
Why will ministers purposely avoid the names of the Deity whom they would choose to call only Jesus? There are tens of thousands of Jesuses in the world. In all the Spanish-speaking countries you find them everywhere. They pronounce it Ha-sus, but it is Jesus. But there was only one Jesus who became the Prince of Light, the Author of our salvation.
Joseph Smith said: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under (JS—H 1:25).
You remember what Peter said when the disciples were asked, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” They spoke up and said men thought him to be Elias or one of the other prophets, and then the Lord said again, and I can imagine his piercing eyes, wondering and expectant eyes, “But whom say ye that I am?” And the answer was one of the most exciting and glorious of all statements made, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And the next statement must never be overlooked: “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (see Matt. 16:13–17). In other words, man has not told you this, but my Father has revealed it unto thee; a great revelation has come unto thee, and thou knowest it.
I asked 400 missionaries the Lord’s question which faces every man, woman, and child on this earth: “Whom do ye say that I the Son of man am?” And I was gratified at the hundreds of replies saying “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And that is my testimony to you, that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the living Son of the living God.