Maybe I have lived a pampered life, but I am just not used to being told that I am headed for hell. Actually, it only happened once, but that was enough to shake me up a bit and spur some thought that has not left my mind even now.
It happened when I left school at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, for a summer and went to Washington, D.C., to work in a government office. Another office employee was an exceptionally bright and articulate young man who not only worked full-time, but was also completing his studies in law school. He was not a member of the Church, but he had been surrounded by members for several years. He probably knew the technical points of the doctrine even better than I, and his knowledge of the Bible was superb. Had our conversations ever degenerated to the level of argument, his nimble lawyer’s mind and tongue would have left my inexperienced self stunned and breathless. To accomplish this, I think, was actually his desire, for he took great delight in asking questions designed to confuse and baffle me, and his attacks on the Church were well planned and skillfully executed. His intentions became clear when, after one long discussion, he commented, “I didn’t even succeed in making you cry, did I?”
To be honest, he did make me cry once, or at least I cried in his presence. But that was not at all because I was frustrated or beaten. That never seemed to be a problem, for the harder he attacked, the more I felt the Spirit behind me, reassuring me of the validity of my testimony and filling me with a calmness that erased any desire to fight back.
The tears came after one session in which he explained his primary objection to the Church. He felt that men are saved by grace. The Savior atoned for our sins, he believed, and all that is required of us is to believe in the Lord and accept him as our Savior. My friend said that he had a personal relationship with Christ; thus, nothing else was required of him to be saved. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, he claimed bitterly, have no appreciation for Christ and what he did. Their belief in requirements other than faith, such as baptism and keeping the commandments, demeans the Savior’s atonement by implying that it is insufficient to save men. Mormons’ beliefs, he maintained, are nearly blasphemous. He could think of many adjectives to describe them, but Christian was definitely not on the list. And that, he told me, was why I was going to hell.
As I listened to this condemnation, many possible responses ran through my mind. I could say that it was Christ who instituted the ordinance of baptism and was baptized himself. I could say that he himself was one who most consistently taught the keeping of the commandments. I could say that it was one of his own disciples who said that “faith without works is dead.” But I said none of these things. Instead, when my friend paused long enough to catch a breath, I simply looked at him and said, “The Savior is more important than anything else in my life.” And then I bore my testimony of Jesus Christ. I told him of my love for the Savior and of my knowledge of his love for me. I told him how the Savior’s atonement was the only thing that gave purpose to my life. I told him that Christ’s gospel was the one anchor I had to cling to when everything else seemed determined to beat me down. I told him that my whole life was centered around trying to live the Lord’s gospel and that I did have a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am sure that I did not speak eloquently or impressively, but that is when the tears came.
When I had finished speaking, a surprising thing happened—my skillfully verbal friend was actually silent for several moments. When he spoke, his voice decreased in volume from its typical forte nearly to mezzo piano. “You are the first Mormon,” he said, “who has actually borne witness to me of Jesus Christ.”
We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is his church. At our baptisms we covenanted “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places, … even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). Then why is it that I could have a friend who had lived and worked and socialized among Latter-day Saints for several years and yet had never heard borne a testimony of Jesus Christ? My friend’s case may be unique, and I certainly hope that it is. But my experience with him has made me more aware of our sacred obligation to stand boldly and unashamedly as witnesses for our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
We certainly do not lack for reason to joyfully testify of him. He is the Creator: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
He is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
“He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever” (D&C 88:13, 41).
It is he “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Col. 1:15, 17–19).
It is he who “taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and saves us from destruction. Without him, “the flesh should rise no more” and we “must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the eternal God, and became the devil. …
“And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Ne. 9:8–9).
But because of our Savior, this need not be our end. Because of him, we can repent and be forgiven, for he paid the price of our sins. He suffered such anguish that it caused himself, “even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18). He “suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16).
It is only through Christ that we can live. He is “preserving [us] from day to day, by lending [us] breath, that [we] may live and move and do according to [our] own will” (Mosiah 2:21). Without him, we can do nothing. Only in him is there strength. Only in him is there life. Only in him is there peace and hope and salvation. Truly, his name is “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
How can we hesitate to “lift up [our] voices as with the sound of a trump” (D&C 33:2) to testify and bear witness of Jesus Christ? We do not stand alone in bearing witness, for all the prophets have testified of the Savior and Redeemer. The scriptures are replete with testimony of him. Indeed, all things testify of him, for he himself has said, “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). Even God the Father has testified of his Son when he has said on several occasions, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt. 17:5; 3 Ne. 11:7; JS—H 1:17).
We often refer to the Apostles as special witnesses of Christ. But what does that mean? Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “an apostle is a special witness of the name of Christ who is sent to teach the principles of salvation to others. He is the one who knows of the divinity of the Savior by personal revelation and who is appointed to bear testimony to the world of what the Lord has revealed to him.” Elder McConkie then goes on to say, “Indeed, every member of the Church should have apostolic insight and revelation, and is under obligation to raise the warning voice” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, pp. 46–47). Elder David B. Haight has said, “It is our responsibility and glorious opportunity to bear constant testimony of Jesus the Christ” (General Conference, April 1974). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin emphatically stated:
“Our church does not and will not in any way compromise its position! It never at any time or place falters, hesitates, or shows any reluctance to bear unwavering testimony to the divinity of Jesus Christ. The state of the world being what it is, each priesthood bearer [and member] must take advantage of every opportunity to testify of the Savior and teach and exemplify gospel truth, letting his light so shine before friends and strangers alike to perpetuate the truth concerning our Savior, Jesus Christ (General Conference, October 1978).
We must be more than willing—we must be eager to bear witness of our divine Redeemer and Friend. We must be as the Nephites of old of whom Nephi said, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” (2 Ne. 25:26). It is our obligation, and it is our joyous opportunity. We should feel as Ammon when he said, “Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord?” As Ammon, “I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16), but I can say that I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is our Lord and Savior. This is his church and his work, and it is our responsibility to testify of it. Humbly I add my fervent testimony to the many that have been given of him.