When two of his disciples first heard Christ speak they were so moved that they followed him as he left the crowd. Sensing that he was being pursued, Christ turned and asked, as recorded in John 1:38–39, “What seek ye?” They answered, “Where dwellest thou?” And Christ said, “Come and see.” A short time later he would formally call Peter and others of the new Apostles with the same spirit of invitation, “Come, follow me.”
It seems that the essence of our lives is distilled down to these two brief elements in these opening scenes of the Savior’s mortal ministry.
One element is the question, to every one of us, “What seek ye?” The second is his answer as to how to get that. Whoever we are, and whatever our problems, his response is always the same—forever. “Come unto me” (Matt. 11:28). Come see what I do and how I spend my time. Learn of me, follow me, and in the process I will give you answers to your prayers and rest to your souls.
I know of no other way for you to be able to carry your burdens or find what Jacob called “that happiness which is prepared for the saints” (2 Ne. 9:43). That is why we make solemn covenants based on Christ’s atoning sacrifice, why we take upon us his name.
In as many ways as possible, both figuratively and literally, we try to take upon us his identity. We seek out his teachings and retell his miracles. We send latter-day witnesses, including prophets, apostles, and missionaries, around the world to declare his message. We call ourselves his children and we testify that he is the only source of eternal life. We plead for him to swing open the gates of heaven in our behalf, and trust everlastingly that he will, based upon our faithfulness.
My desire for you is to have more straightforward experience with the Savior’s life and teachings. Perhaps sometimes we come to Christ too obliquely, focusing on structure or methods or elements of Church administration. Those are important, but not without attention to the weightier matters of the kingdom, first and foremost of which is a personal spiritual relationship with Deity, including the Savior whose kingdom this is.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught in the Lectures on Faith that it was necessary to have “an acquaintance” with the divine attributes of the Father and the Son in order to have faith in them. Specifically he said that unless we believe Christ to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness,” that unless we can rely on these unchanging attributes, we would never have the faith necessary to claim the blessings of heaven. If we could not count on “the excellency of … character” maintained by the Savior and his willingness and ability to “forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin,” we would be, he wrote, “in constant doubt of salvation.” But because the Father and the Son are unchangeably “full of goodness” then, in the words of the Prophet, such knowledge “does away [with] doubt, and makes faith exceedingly strong” (1985, 41–42).
I don’t know what things may be troubling you personally, but even knowing how terrific you are and how faithfully you are living, I would be surprised if someone somewhere isn’t troubled by a transgression or the temptation of transgression.
To you I say come unto him and lay down your burden. Let him lift the load. Let him give peace to your soul. Nothing in this world is more burdensome than sin. It is the heaviest cross men and women ever bear. And while I believe you to be the greatest generation ever to live in this Church, nevertheless, the world around you is an increasingly hostile and sinful place.
The Lord has probably spoken enough such comforting words to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter.
Consider, for example, the Savior’s benediction upon his disciples even as he moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. On the very night of the greatest suffering the world will ever know, he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
That may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart.
I can tell you this as a parent. As concerned as I would be if one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help, or should feel his or her interest were unimportant to me or unsafe in my care.
In that same spirit I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior when he finds his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.
On the example of the Savior himself and his call to his Apostles, and with the need for peace and comfort ringing in our ears, I ask you to be a healer, be a helper, join in the work of Christ in lifting burdens, in making the load lighter, in making things better. Isn’t that the phrase we used to use as children when we had a bump or a bruise? Didn’t we say to Mom or Dad, “Make it better”?
Well, lots of people on your right hand and on your left are carrying bumps and bruises which they hope will be healed. Someone you know is carrying a spiritual or physical or emotional burden of some sort, or some other affliction drawn from life’s catalog of a thousand kinds of sorrow. In the spirit of Christ’s invitation, jump into this work. Help people. Heal old wounds and try to make things better.
In 1979 we held in St. George, Utah, our 20-year class reunion for Dixie High School. An effort was made to find current addresses for the entire class and get everyone to the reunion. In the midst of all that fun, I remember the terribly painful letter written by one very bright—but in her childhood, somewhat overweight and less than popular—young woman who wrote, “Congratulations to all of us for having survived long enough to have a 20-year class reunion. I hope everyone has a wonderful time. But don’t reserve a place for me. I have, in fact, spent most of those 20 years trying to forget the painful moments of our school days together. Now that I am nearly over those feelings of loneliness and shattered self-esteem, I cannot bring myself to see all of the class and run the risk of remembering all of that again. Have a good time and forgive me. It is my problem not yours. Maybe I can come at the 30-year mark.”
But she was terribly wrong about one thing—it was our problem, and we knew it. I have wept for her and other friends like her in our youth. We simply were not the Savior’s agents or disciples that he intended a group of young people to be.
I cannot help but wonder what I might have done to watch out a little more for the ones not included, to make sure the gesture of a friendly word or a listening ear or a little casual talk and shared time might have reached far enough to include those hanging on the outer edge of the social circle, and in some cases barely hanging on at all.
Jesus said in the culmination of his most remarkable sermon ever, “If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matt. 5:46–47).
It is with some apostolic sorrow that I acknowledge I have never known what it is like not to have a date when everyone else had one, nor to be painfully shy, nor to be chosen last for basketball, nor to be truly poor, nor to face the memories and emotions of a broken home—nor any one of a hundred other things I know many have had to contend with in the past or are contending with right now.
In acknowledging that, I make an appeal for us to reach beyond our own contentment, move out of our own comfort zone, to reach those who may not always be so easy to reach.
Jesus Christ is the son of the living God. This is his true and living Church. He wishes us to come unto him, to follow him, to be comforted by him. Then he wishes us to give comfort to others. However halting our steps are toward him—though they shouldn’t be halting at all—his steps are never halting toward us.
May we have enough faith to accept the goodness of God and the mercy of his Only Begotten Son. May we come unto him and his gospel and be healed. And may we do more to heal others in the process. When the storms of life make this difficult, may we still follow his bidding to “come,” keeping our eyes fixed on him forever and single to his glory.