This testimony was borne by the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the year 2000.
As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.
He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.
He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.
We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.
He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).
Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).
Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).
We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).
We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.
We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.
"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20-21)
(Painting by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus, c. 1622)
Which means it's almost time to begin our annual scripture reading tradition. You remember it from last year, don't you? Beginning on December 1st, we read one chapter a day from the book of Luke, finishing the entire book on Christmas Eve. And don't forget that part of our tradition is to buy one of those inexpensive advent calendars with a chocolate for each day from December 1-24. One chapter, one piece of chocolate while you read it, per day. What could be a more fun way to get in the Spirit of Christmas than that?
I have my chocolate advent calendar all ready to go. If you don't have yours, you have a few more days to track one down. (I got mine at Cost Plus World Market this year, but I've also seen them on Amazon.) Or, of course, you could simply come up with your own little scripture reading treat if you prefer.
If you'd like to read my post introducing this tradition last year, you can click here.
Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like to share your participation in this tradition this year. If you'd like to leave a thought, reflection or question about your reading at any time during the month of December, we can turn this post into a little discussion group, as well. I'll get an alert if you leave a comment, and promise I'll answer if you want to check back. :-)
"In matters of discipleship the Church is not a fast-food outlet; we can't always have it 'our way.' Some day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation can only come His way."
~ Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
From the Doctrine & Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
"And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me." (Doctrine & Covenants 98:5)
"And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I [the Lord] raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood." (Doctrine & Covenants 101:80)
"Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever." (Doctrine & Covenants 109:54)
Oh, beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.
Oh, beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, And ev'ry gain divine.
Oh, beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea.
(Text: Katherine Lee Bates)
Click here to listen to America, the Beautiful (click on "Words and Music"
I didn't attend General Conference Priesthood Meeting, but when I read this talk, I felt like President Uchtdorf was staring straight at me! Was I the only one?
"Let us not pass through life immersed in the three Ws: wearied, worrying, and whining.... We live beneath our privileges when we fail to partake of the feast of happiness, peace, and joy that God grants so bountifully."
~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
"I once owned a pen that I loved to use during my career as an airline captain. By simply turning the shaft, I could choose one of four colors. The pen did not complain when I wanted to use red ink instead of blue. It did not say to me, 'I would rather not write after 10:00 p.m., in heavy fog, or at high altitudes.' The pen did not say, 'Use me only for important documents, not for the daily mundane tasks.' With greatest reliability it performed every task I needed, no matter how important or insignificant. It was always ready to serve.
"In a similar way we are tools in the hands of God. When our heart is in the right place, we do not complain that our assigned task is unworthy of our abilities. We gladly serve wherever we are asked. When we do this, the Lord can use us in ways beyond our understanding to accomplish His work."
~~Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)
From the Book of Mormon:
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
"And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to *succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11-12)
*succor - origin: Middle English, via Old French from medieval Latin succurus, from Latin succurrere 'run to the help of'. (New Oxford American Dictionary) Christ wants to "run to help us".
"Some ask, 'Do I have to be so different from others?' 'Can't I be a disciple of Christ without thinking so much about my behavior?' 'Can't I love Christ without keeping the law of chastity?' 'Can't I love Him and do what I want on Sunday?'
"Jesus gave a simple answer: 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.'" (John 14:15)
~~Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
"No one was ever quite like you. The Lord made only one, without carbons. You are not repeated and not repeatable. The chance of there ever being someone identical to you must be compared to a number so high it doesn't even have a name; it would have to be written as a 1 followed by 9,031 zeros.
"No one else can do what the Lord sent you to mortality to do. The value of what you have to contribute will come through the expression of your own personality, that particular spark of the divine that makes you unique, setting you off from every other living creature. The mark you leave on the world, on the hearts and minds of others is as distinct as your thumbprint."
From Learn, Then Serve, a 1980 Relief Society booklet