During His relatively brief sojourn in mortality, the Savior accomplished two overarching objectives: One was His “work and [His] glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The other He stated simply: “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done” (John 13:15).
His first objective we know as the Atonement. This was His magnificent mission in mortality. To the people of ancient America, the resurrected Lord gave His mission statement: “I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me” (3 Ne. 27:13–14).
In continuing His sermon, He revealed His second objective—to be our exemplar: “Ye know the things that ye must do … ; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Ne. 27:21).
His first objective I have defined as His mission. His second objective I would like to identify as His ministry.
His mission was the Atonement. That mission was uniquely His. Born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father, He was the only one who could voluntarily lay down His life and take it up again. The glorious consequences of His Atonement were infinite and eternal. He took the sting out of death and made temporary the grief of the grave.
His responsibility for the Atonement was known even before the Creation and the Fall. Not only was it to provide for the resurrection and immortality of all humankind; it was to enable us to be forgiven of our sins—upon conditions established by Him. And His Atonement opened the way by which we could be united with Him and with our families eternally. This prospect we esteem as eternal life—the greatest gift of God to man.
No one else could effect the Atonement. No other person, even of the greatest wealth and power, could ever save one soul—not even his own.
And no other individual will be required or permitted to shed blood for the eternal salvation of another human being. Jesus did it “once for all” (see Heb. 10:10).
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind, even as many as will, shall be redeemed. The Savior began shedding His blood for all mankind, not on the cross but in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He took upon Himself the weight of the sins of all who would ever live. Under that heavy load, He bled at every pore.
The agony of the Atonement was completed on the cross at Calvary. The importance of the Atonement was summarized by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (Teachings, 121).
The Lord’s second far-reaching objective in mortality was to serve as an example for us. His exemplary life constituted His mortal ministry. It included His teachings, parables, and sermons. It encompassed His miracles, His loving-kindness, and His long-suffering toward the children of men.
It embraced His compassionate use of priesthood authority. It included His righteous indignation when He condemned sin, and when He overthrew the tables of the money changers. It also included His heartaches. He was mocked, scourged, and disowned by His own people—even denied by one of His disciples.
Wonderful as His ministerial acts were, they were not and are still not unique to Him. There is no limit to the number of people who may follow the example of Jesus. Similar acts have been done by His prophets and apostles or others among His authorized servants. Many have endured persecution for His sake. In your own time, you know brothers and sisters who have earnestly striven—even at a terrible price—to emulate the Lord’s example. That is as it should be. That is His hope for us.
To facilitate our desire to follow Him, perhaps we could consider qualities of His life that we can emulate.
If I were to ask which characteristic of His life you would identify first, I think you might name His attribute of love. That would include His compassion, kindness, charity, devotion, forgiveness, mercy, justice, and more. Jesus loved His Father and loved His mother. He loved His family and the Saints. He loved the sinner, without excusing the sin. And He taught us how we can show our love for Him.
Another expression of our Savior’s love was His service. He served His Father, and He served the people with whom He lived and labored. In both ways, we are to follow His example. And we are to love our neighbors by serving them. We start with our families.
A second aspect of the Savior’s exemplary life was His emphasis upon sacred ordinances. During His mortal ministry He demonstrated the importance of the ordinances of salvation. He was baptized by John in the Jordan River.
Not only was the ordinance essential, but the example set by Jesus and John was also essential. Later the Lord instituted the ordinance of the sacrament and linked it to that of baptism. He so instructed His disciples “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized … shall ye be baptized” (Mark 10:39–40).
Jesus prayed to His Father in Heaven and also taught us how to pray. We are to pray to God the Eternal Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
I love the great intercessory prayer offered by the Lord recorded in John, chapter 17. In it He communicates freely with His Father on behalf of His disciples, whom He loved. It is a model of effective and compassionate prayer.
Many non-Christians acknowledge that Jesus was a great teacher. Indeed, He was. But what truly distinguished His teaching? Was He a skilled instructor of engineering, mathematics, or science? As creator of this and other worlds, He surely could have been. Or as author of scripture, He could have taught literary composition very well. The feature that distinguished His teaching above that of all other teachers was that He taught truths of eternal significance. Only He could have revealed our purpose in life. Only through Him could we learn of our premortal existence and of our postmortal potential.
On one occasion, the Master Teacher told His skeptical listeners that they had three witnesses of Him:
John the Baptist
The deeds that Jesus had accomplished
The word of God the Eternal Father (see John 5:33–37)
He then proffered a fourth witness: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).
The word think in that phrase may at first seem to be out of place. But it is vital to the meaning Jesus was trying to convey. He knew that many of His listeners did actually think that eternal life was in the scriptures. But they were wrong. The scriptures alone cannot bestow eternal life. Of course there is power in scripture, but that power comes from Jesus Himself.
Never did He withdraw from His assignment. Though He experienced suffering beyond our comprehension, He was not a quitter. Through deepening trials He endured to the end of His assignment: to atone for the sins of all humankind. His final words as He hung from the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
These five aspects of His ministry can be applied in our own lives. Surely the best evidence of our adoration of Jesus is our emulation of Him. When we begin to realize who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we can understand, to some degree, the logic of the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30).
In other words, all that we think and do and say should be steeped in our love for Him. Ask yourself, “Is there anyone I love more than the Lord?”
With all my heart I pray that the transforming influence of the Lord may make a profound difference in your lives.
Elder Nelson explains what we need to do to be on the Lord’s side. How do you measure up?
What do you think about when you partake of the sacrament?
What do you do with your precious eyesight? What do you read? What do you watch on TV or look for on the Internet?
What do you do with your ability to hear? To whom do you really hearken?
What topics are worthy of your most intensive study?
What do you allow into your body—your unique temple and gift from Him?
What kind of language is spoken from your lips?
How does Jesus affect the way you use your time and talents?
How does He influence the use of your means and resources?
How does He influence your love for your parents? Brothers and sisters? Friends?
How do His mission and His ministry affect who you really are and who you may become?