From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball
Early in his service as an Apostle, Elder Spencer W. Kimball suffered three heart attacks within a period of about two weeks. After almost seven weeks of recovering at home, he “began looking for an escape from his monotonous house confinement.” He arranged to recuperate among his beloved Navajo friends in the state of New Mexico.1
“One morning during this recuperative period, Elder Kimball’s bed was discovered empty. Thinking that he had taken a morning stroll and would be back in time for breakfast, his attendants went about their duties. But when he hadn’t returned by 10:00 a.m., they began to worry. A search began.
“He was finally discovered several miles away under a pine tree. His Bible lay next to him, opened to the last chapter of St. John. His eyes were closed, and when the search party came up to him he remained as still as when they first caught sight of him.
“Their frightened voices aroused him, however, and when he lifted his head they could see traces of tears on his cheeks. To their questions, he answered, ‘[Five] years ago today I was called to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I just wanted to spend the day with Him whose witness I am.’”2
President Kimball bore witness of the Savior’s divinity “again and again and again.”3 He declared: “No matter how much we say of him, it is still too little.”4 And the goodness of President Kimball’s life matched the power of his testimony. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed: “President Kimball was the Lord’s man and nobody else’s. His deepest desires were to serve the Lord, and he refused to be compromised by other considerations.”5
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
More than just a great teacher, Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and the Savior of mankind.
In the magazine, Time, in a recent issue, a noted professor emeritus in one of our largest universities, was quoted at length on his rationalizing. To Jesus of Nazareth he gives human warmth; a great capacity for love; unusual understanding. He calls him a great humanist, a great teacher, a great dramatist. As a typical rationalization, he explains that Lazarus was not dead, but was merely “… brought ‘back to health’ by Jesus, the power of mind and learning, and by the ‘therapy of his own abundant vitality!’”
I want to bear testimony today that Jesus is not only a great teacher, a great humanist, and a great dramatist, but is in very deed, the Son of the Living God, the Creator, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind.6
I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I know that.7
The Christ declared himself to be the Lord God Almighty, Christ the Lord, the beginning and the end, the Redeemer of the world, Jesus the Christ, the mighty one of Israel, the Creator, the Son of the Living God, Jehovah.
The Father Elohim declares Jesus to be Mine only Begotten Son, the word of my power. And twice, at least, at the Jordan baptism and then on the Mount of Transfiguration, he declared:
“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (see Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) and stated that “the worlds were made by him: Men were made by him: All things were made by him, and through him and of him.” [See D&C 93:10.]8
We testify with John the Baptist, who, as he saw the Lord approaching to him, saith: “… Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.) Not just a man of human warmth, but the Lamb of God.
We bear witness with Nathanael, an Israelite in whom was no guile: “… Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” (John 1:49.) Not merely a great teacher, but the very Son of God.
We testify again with John the Beloved, who seeing Jesus on the shore, said with conviction, “It is the Lord!” [See John 21:7.] Not only a great humanist, but the Lord God of heaven.
And with Simon Peter, who, when asked by the Lord, “But whom say ye that I am?” said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:15, 16), and received this statement from the Savior: “… Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.)
And finally, we bear witness with the Prophet Joseph Smith who was willing to give his life for his testimony.9
I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that He was crucified for the sins of the world. He is my friend, my Savior, my Lord, and my God.10
The Savior’s ministry extends through the eternities—past, present, and future.
I want to … testify that [Jesus Christ] not only lived in the meridian of time for approximately thirty-three years, but that he lived eternities before this, and will live eternities beyond it; and I bear testimony that he was not only the organizer of the kingdom of God upon the earth, but the Creator of this world, the Redeemer of mankind.11
Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament, and it was He who conversed with Abraham and Moses. It was He who inspired Isaiah and Jeremiah; it was He who foretold through those chosen men the happenings of the future, even to the latest day and hour.12
It was He, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who was introduced to surprised listeners at Jordan (see Matt. 3:13–17), at the holy Mount of Transfiguration (see Matt. 17:1–9), at the temple of the Nephites (see 3 Ne. 11–26), and in the grove at Palmyra, New York [see Joseph Smith—History 1:17–25]; and the introducing person was none other than his actual Father, the holy Elohim, in whose image he was and whose will he carried out.13
I know the Lord lives and I know that he’s revealing his mind and will to us daily, so that we can be inspired as to the direction to go.14
He is the chief cornerstone. He is the head of the kingdom—these are his followers—this his Church—these his doctrines and ordinances—these his commandments.15
We look forward now to his second coming as he promised. This promise will be literally fulfilled as were his many other promises, and in the meantime, we praise his holy name and serve him, and bear testimony of the divinity of his mission, with the prophets through the generations! …
I know that Jesus, through eternities past and future, is the Creator, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Son of God.16
Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ saves all people from the effects of the Fall and saves the repentant from personal sins.
My beloved brothers and sisters, God lives, and I bear testimony of it. Jesus Christ lives, and he is the author of the true way of life and salvation.
This is the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the most important message in the world today. Jesus Christ is the son of God. He was chosen by the Father as the Savior of this world.17
When Adam intentionally and wisely partook of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he brought upon all of us, his descendants, two deaths—the physical or “mortal death,” and the spiritual death or the banishment from the presence of the Lord.18
In God’s divine plan, provision was made for a redeemer to break the bonds of death and, through the resurrection, make possible the reunion of the spirits and bodies of all persons who had dwelt on earth.
Jesus of Nazareth was the one who, before the world was created, was chosen to come to earth to perform this service, to conquer mortal death. This voluntary action would atone for the fall of Adam and Eve and permit the spirit of man to recover his body, thereby reuniting body and spirit.19
This resurrection referred to is the work of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who, because he was both mortal (the son of Mary) and divine (the Son of God), was able to overcome the powers governing the flesh. He actually gave his life and literally took it up again as the “first fruits,” to be followed by every soul that has ever lived [see 1 Corinthians 15:22–23]. Being a god, he gave his life. No one could take it from him. He had developed, through his perfection in overcoming all things, the power to take up his life again. Death was his last enemy, and he overcame even that and established the resurrection.20
It is because of Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son that all men—past, present, and future—can return to live with Him who is the Father of our spirits. But to insure that that can happen, it was first necessary for Jesus to come to earth in the flesh to teach men by His example the correct way to live and then to willingly give up His life and, in some miraculous way, accept the burden for the sins of mankind.21
The purging out of sin would be impossible but for the total repentance of the individual and the kind mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ in his atoning sacrifice. Only by these means can man recover, be healed and washed and purged, and still be eligible for the glories of eternity. On the Savior’s great role in this, Helaman reminded his sons of King Benjamin’s comments:
“… There is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come, yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.” (Hel. 5:9.)
And, in recalling the words which Amulek spoke to Zeezrom, Helaman emphasized man’s part in obtaining forgiveness—repenting from his sins:
“… He said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
[The Savior] died a propitiation for our sins to open the way for our resurrection, to point the way to our perfection of life, to show the way to exaltation. He died purposefully, voluntarily. His birth was humble, his life was perfect, his example was compelling; his death opened doors, and man was offered every good gift and blessing.23
To receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement, we must join our efforts with His.
Every soul has his free agency. He can have all the blessings Christ lived and died to give him. But Christ’s death and plan are all in vain and even worse than futile if we do not take advantage of them: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16).
The Savior came “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). His birth, death, and resurrection brought about the first. But we must join our efforts with his to bring about the second, to attain eternal life.24
When we think of the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sufferings he endured for us, we would be ingrates if we did not appreciate it so far as our power made it possible. He suffered and died for us, yet if we do not repent, all his anguish and pain on our account are futile.25
His suffering before and on the cross and his great sacrifice can mean little or nothing to us unless we live his commandments. For he says:
“… why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46.)
Men who know God and love him and live his commandments and obey his true ordinances may yet in this life, or the life to come, see his face and know that he lives and will commune with them.27
We believe, and it is our testimony, and we proclaim it to the world “that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17).
We know, and it is our testimony, and we also proclaim it to the world that to be saved men must “believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:18).
Thus, with Nephi, “we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. …
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Ne. 25:23, 26; italics added.)28
We please the Lord when we live His gospel.
I can imagine the Lord Jesus Christ [during his mortal ministry,] smiling as he looked upon his people in their devotion. …
… I think the Lord Jesus Christ is smiling when he looks into the homes of this people and sees them on their knees in family prayer night and morning, the children participating also. I think he smiles when he sees young husbands and wives, and older ones, with deep affection for each other, who continue their courtship … , who continue to love each other with all their souls until the day they die and then accentuate it through eternity.
I think he is pleased with the families which sacrifice and share. … I think the Lord Jesus Christ is smiling when he looks down and sees [thousands] who were inactive a year ago, but today are happy in the kingdom, many of whom have been to the holy temple of God and had their endowments and their sealings, and who with tears of gratitude thank the Lord for his program.
I think I see tears of joy in his eyes and a smile on his lips as he sees the … new souls who have come unto him this year, who have professed his name, who have gone into the waters of baptism, and I think he loves those who helped to convert them also.
I see him smile as he sees his numerous people on their knees in repentance, changing their lives, making them brighter and cleaner, and more like their Heavenly Father and their Brother, Jesus Christ.
I think he is pleased and smiles as he sees youth as they organize their lives and protect and fortify themselves against the errors of the day. I think he is first grieved, and then perhaps pleased, when he sees, as he must have done a few days ago in my office, a young couple who had made serious error and were now on their knees together with their hands tightly clasped together. There must have been joy in his smile when he saw into their souls and saw that they were making the adjustment, as their tears bathed my hand which I had tenderly placed on theirs.
Oh, I love the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope that I can show to him and manifest my sincerity and devotion. I want to live close to him. I want to be like him, and I pray that the Lord will help all of us that we may so be as he said to his Nephite disciples, “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?” and he answered his own question by saying, “Even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27.)29
The Atonement gives us hope in this life and for the eternity that lies ahead.
We have a hope in Christ here and now. He died for our sins. Because of him and his gospel, our sins are washed away in the waters of baptism; sin and iniquity are burned out of our souls as though by fire; and we become clean, have clear consciences, and gain that peace which passeth understanding. (See Phil. 4:7.)
By living the laws of his gospel, we gain temporal prosperity and maintain health of body and strength of mind. The gospel blesses us today.
But today is just a grain of sand in the Sahara of eternity. We have also a hope in Christ for the eternity that lies ahead; otherwise, as Paul said, we would be “of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
How great would be our sorrow—and justly so—if there were no resurrection! How miserable we would be if there were no hope of life eternal! If our hope of salvation and eternal reward should fade away, we would certainly be more miserable than those who never had such an expectancy.
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Now the effects of his resurrection shall pass upon all men, “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
Now “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).
Now provision has been made whereby “this corruptible shall … put on incorruption, and this mortal shall … put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). …
We have an eternal hope in Christ. We know this life is given us to prepare for eternity, “and that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (D&C 130:2).30
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Read the story on page 23. In what ways can we draw closer to the Lord and “spend the day” with Him, as President Kimball did?
Review pages 24–25, looking for names and titles President Kimball used for Jesus Christ. What names and titles for Jesus Christ have special meaning for you and why? How would you respond to someone who claims that Jesus was just a great teacher?
Ponder President Kimball’s testimony of the Savior’s premortal, mortal, and postmortal ministry (pages 25–26). Think about what you might do to deepen your testimony of the Savior’s mission.
Study pages 26–28, looking for reasons why we need a Savior. What difference has the Atonement of Jesus Christ made in your life?
On pages 24–28, President Kimball testifies of the things the Savior has done for us. On pages 29–32, we learn of the things we must do to receive all the blessings of the Atonement. What are your feelings as you compare what the Savior has done for us with what He asks us to do?
Review President Kimball’s reflections about how we can please the Lord (pages 30–31). Think about how you feel when you know the Lord is pleased with you.
President Kimball taught that we can have a hope in Christ both now and for the eternity that lies ahead (pages 31–32). How do people’s lives change when they have a hope in Christ?
See Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (1977), 249–52.
In “The Gospel of Love: Stories about President Spencer W. Kimball,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 22–23.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 9; or Ensign, May 1978, 7.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 7.
“Spencer, the Beloved: Leader-Servant,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 15.
InConference Report, Oct. 1946, 55–56.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 163; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 113.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 94; or Improvement Era, June 1964, 496–97.
InConference Report, Oct. 1946, 64.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 6.
Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 70.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 113; or Ensign, May 1977, 76.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 111; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 73.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 117; or Ensign, May 1977, 78.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 6.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1946, 63, 64.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 7; or Ensign, May 1978, 6.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 68.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 7; or Ensign, May 1978, 6.
“Absolute Truth,” Ensign, Sept. 1978, 6.
“Christmas Message from the First Presidency to the Children of the World: Gifts That Endure,” Friend, Dec. 1982, 3.
The Miracle of Forgiveness (1969), 339–40.
“Jesus of Nazareth,” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 4.
Ensign, Dec. 1980, 4.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 145.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 26; or Ensign, July 1972, 37.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 99; or Improvement Era, June 1964, 499.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 109–10; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 72.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1956, 120.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 108–9; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 72.