Dallin H. Oaks
Adapted from an October 1987 general conference address.

The Light and the Life

Some who profess to be followers of Christ insist that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians. Indeed, there are those who make their living attacking our church and its doctrines. I wish all of them could have the experience I shared.

A friend who was making his first visit to Salt Lake City called on me in my office. He is a well-educated man and a devout and sincere Christian. Although we have not discussed this with each other, we both know that some leaders of his denomination have taught that members of our church are not Christians.

After a short discussion on a matter of common interest, I told my friend I had something I would like him to see. We walked over to Temple Square and into the north visitors’ center. We viewed the pictures of Bible and Book of Mormon Apostles and prophets. Then we turned our steps up the inclined walkway to the second level. Here Thorvaldsen’s great statue of the risen Christ dominates a setting suggestive of the immensity of space and the grandeur of the creations of God.

As we emerged and beheld this majestic likeness of the Christus, arms outstretched and hands showing the wounds of his crucifixion, my friend drew a sharp breath. We stood quietly for a few minutes, enjoying a reverent communion of worshipful thoughts about our Savior. Then without further conversation, we made our way down to the street level. On the way we walked past the small diorama showing the Prophet Joseph Smith kneeling in the Sacred Grove.

As we left Temple Square and took our leave of one another, my friend took me by the hand. “Thank you for showing me that,” he said. “Now I understand something about your faith that I have never understood before.” I hope that every person who has ever had doubts about whether we are Christians can achieve that same understanding.

We love the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah, our Savior and our Redeemer. His is the only name by which we can be saved (see Mosiah 3:17, Mosiah 5:8; D&C 18:23). We seek to serve him. We belong to his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our missionaries and members testify of Jesus Christ in many nations of the world. As the prophet Nephi wrote in the Book of Mormon, “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. 25:26).

As we state in our first article of faith, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” God the Father is the Father of our spirits, the framer of heaven and earth, and the author of the plan of our salvation (see Moses 1:31–33; Moses 2:1–2; D&C 20:17–21). Jesus Christ is his Only Begotten Son, Jehovah, the Holy One and God of Israel, the Messiah, “the God of the whole earth” (3 Ne. 11:14).

The Book of Mormon tells of the resurrected Lord visiting some of the people of the Americas. Clothed in a white robe, he descended out of heaven. Standing in the midst of a multitude, he stretched forth his hand and said:

“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

“And behold, I am the light and life of the world” (3 Ne. 11:10–11).

In harmony with his words, we solemnly affirm that Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world. All things were made by him. Under the direction and according to the plan of God the Father, Jesus Christ is the Creator, the source of the light and life of all things. Through modern revelation we have record that Jesus Christ is “the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.

“The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him” (D&C 93:9–10).

Jesus Christ is the light of the world because he is the source of the light which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12). His light is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2). His example and his teachings illuminate the path we should walk to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.

During his ministry Jesus taught, “Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you” (3 Ne. 18:16). The Savior emphasized the close relationship between his light and his commandments when he taught the Nephites, “Behold I am the law, and the light” (3 Ne. 15:9). We should live so that we can be enlightened by his Spirit, and so that we may hear and heed the ratifying seal of the Holy Ghost, which testifies of the Father and the Son (see D&C 20:26).

Jesus Christ is also the light of the world because his power persuades us to do good. “He that believeth these things which I have spoken, … Shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.

“And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me” (Ether 4:11–12).

And so we see that Jesus Christ is the light of the world because he is the source of the light that quickens our understanding, because his teachings and his example illuminate our path, and because his power persuades us to do good.

Jesus Christ is the life of the world because of his unique position in what the scriptures call “the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Ne. 11:5). His resurrection and his atonement save us from both physical and spiritual death.

Jacob rejoiced in this gift of life: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Ne. 9:10).

Our immortal life has now been assured because the Resurrected Lord has redeemed us from physical death. But he has also atoned for the sins of the world. Since “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), we are all spiritually dead. Our only hope for life is our Savior, who, “offereth himself a sacrifice for sin” (2 Ne. 2:7).

In order to lay claim upon our Savior’s life-giving triumph over the spiritual death we suffer because of our own sins, we must follow the conditions he has prescribed, by repenting, by being baptized, and “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3).

We should give thanks for his absolute gift of immortality. We should receive the ordinances and keep the covenants necessary to receive his conditional gift of life eternal, the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).

In short, Latter-day Saints invite each other and all men and women everywhere, as a prophet has told us in the Book of Mormon, to “come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

May God bless all of us to come unto Christ. I testify that he is our Savior and our Redeemer, the light and the life of the world.

[photos] Photography by John Luke

[illustration] Painting by Harry Anderson