The Search for Jesus
Elder Thomas S. Monson
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(Conference Report, October 1965, pp. 140-144)
This has been a most inspirational conference. As this the final session draws to its close, it is not my desire to speak to a formal text, but rather to bear my personal testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth and to suggest that each person undertake a personal search for him.
Many of you have traveled far to attend this conference. From Europe, from Canada, from Mexico, from the isles of the sea, and from many other points you have come.
They Seek After Jesus
In the New Testament of our Lord, John describes a similar journey by those who would worship.
"And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
"The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:20-21, italics added). I feel this is your desire even today. The little children have another way of expressing the same wish. Most often they say: "Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear; things I would ask him to tell me if he were here." (W. H. Parker, The Children Sing, No. 65.)
They seek after Jesus, and so it has ever been. No search is so universal. No undertaking so richly rewarding. No effort so ennobling. No purpose so divine.
The search for Jesus is not new to this present period of time. In his touching and tender farewell to the gentiles, Moroni emphasized the importance of this search: "And now I, Moroni, bid farewell . . .
"And . . . I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, . . ." (Ether 12:38,41). For generations, enlightened mankind anxiously sought the fulfillment of prophecies uttered by righteous men inspired of Almighty God. For did not Isaiah declare: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14)? And again, "For unto us a child is born . . . and his name shall be called . . . The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).
". . . A Savior, Who Is Christ the Lord"
And on this continent God's prophets declared: ". . . the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent . . . shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay . . .
". . . he shall suffer temptations, and pain . . .
"And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mosiah 3:5,7-8).
Then came that night of nights when the angel of the Lord came upon shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock, with the pronouncement: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:8-11).
Thus personally invited to undertake a search for the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, did these shepherds concern themselves with the security of their possessions? Did they procrastinate their search for Jesus? The record affirms that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem . . .
"And they came with haste . . ." (Luke 2:15-16, italics added).
". . . born King of the Jews"
Wise men journeyed from the East to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
"And . . . they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Matt. 2:2,10-11, italics added).
With the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment—a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to be the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16), the Promised Messiah, even Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, he came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God.
He taught men the higher law
During his earthly ministry, he taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick; he caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life.
What was the reaction to his message of mercy, his words of wisdom, his lessons of life? There were a precious few who appreciated him. They bathed his feet. They learned his word. They followed his example.
Then there were the many who denied him. When asked by Pilate, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matt. 27:22) they cried, "Crucify him." They mocked him. They gave him vinegar to drink (Matt. 27:34). They reviled him (Matt. 27:39). They smote him with a reed. They did spit upon him (Matt. 27:30). They crucified him.
Can we, in part, appreciate the suffering of God the Eternal Father as his Only Begotten Son in the flesh was placed on a cross and crucified? Is there a father or a mother who could not be moved to complete compassion if he or she heard a son cry out in his own Garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42)?
Offering a Son
All of us love the beautiful account from the Holy Bible of Abraham and Isaac. How exceedingly difficult it must have been for Abraham, in obedience to God's command, to take his beloved Isaac into the land of Moriah, there to present him as a burnt offering. Can you imagine the heaviness of his heart as he gathered the wood for the fire and journeyed to the appointed place? Surely pain must have racked his body and tortured his mind as he bound Isaac and laid him on the altar upon the wood and stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. How glorious was the pronouncement, and with what wondered welcome did it come, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy son, thine only son from me" (Gen. 22:12).
As God witnessed the suffering of Jesus, his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, and beheld his agony, there was no voice from heaven to spare the life of Jesus. There was no ram in the thicket to be offered as a substitute sacrifice. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The Message Down Through the Ages
Down through the generations of time, the message from Jesus has been the same. To Peter by the shores of beautiful Galilee, he said, "Follow me . . ." (Matt. 4:19). To Philip of old came the call, "Follow me" (John 1:43). To the Levite who sat at receipt of customs came the instructions, "Follow me" (Matt. 9:9). And to you and to me, if we but listen, shall come that same beckoning invitation, "Follow me."
But how do we follow him if first we don't find him? And how shall we find him, if first we don't seek him? Where and how should we begin this search for Jesus?
He is not found by Crusades
Some have attempted to answer these questions by turning to idols, others by burning incense or lighting candles. In times past, great throngs journeyed in the crusades of Christianity, feeling that, if only the Holy Land could be secured from the infidel, then Christ would be found in their lives. How mistaken they were. Thousands upon thousands perished. Many others committed heinous crimes in the very name of Christianity. Jesus will not be found by crusades of men.
. . . or by Councils or debates
Still others searched for Jesus in councils of debate. Such was the historic Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. There, with the help of the Roman Emperor, the delegates did away in Christendom with the concept of a personal God and a personal Son—the two separate and distinct Glorified Beings of the scriptures. The Creed of Nicea, the "incomprehensible mystery" of which its originators seemed so proud precisely because it could not be understood, substituted for the personal God of love and for Jesus of the New Testament an immaterial abstraction. The result was a maze of confusion and a compoundment of error. Jesus will not be found in councils of debate. Men of the world have modified his miracles, doubted his divinity, and rejected his resurrection.
He is found by humble prayer and pure heart
The formula for finding Jesus has always been and ever will be the same—the earnest and sincere prayer of a humble and pure heart. The Prophet Jeremiah counseled, ". . . ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).
Before we can successfully undertake a personal search for Jesus, we must first prepare time for him in our lives and room for him in our hearts. In these busy days there are many who have time for golf, time for shopping, time for work, time for play, but no time for Christ.
Lovely homes dot the land and provide rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, playrooms, sewing rooms, television rooms, but no room for Christ.
Do we get a pang of conscience as we recall his own words, ". . . foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matt. 8:20)? Or do we flush with embarrassment when we remember, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7)? No room. No room. No room. Ever has it been.
As we undertake our personal search for Jesus, aided and guided by the principle of prayer, it is fundamental that we have a clear concept of him whom we seek. The shepherds of old did seek Jesus the child. But we seek Jesus the Christ, our older Brother, our Mediator with the Father, our Redeemer, the Author of our salvation (Heb. 5:9), him who was in the beginning with the Father, him who took upon himself the sins of the world and so willingly died that we might forever live. This is the Jesus whom we seek.
Offerings to Him
And when we find him, will we be prepared as were the wise men of old to provide gifts from our many treasures? They presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11). These are not the gifts Jesus asks of us. From the treasure of our hearts Jesus asks that we give of ourselves.
"Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind" (D&C 64:34).
In this marvelous Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved. "Go, gladden the lonely, the dreary; go, comfort the weeping, the weary; go, scatter kind deeds on your way, oh, make the world brighter today." (Mrs. Frank A. Breck, Deseret Sunday School Songs, No. 197.)
As we remember that ". . . when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (Mosiah 2:17), we will not find ourselves in the unenviable position of Jacob Marley's ghost, who spoke to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens' immortal A Christmas Carol. Marley sadly spoke of opportunities lost. Said he, "Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!"
Marley added, "Why did I walk through the crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raised them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?"
Fortunately, the privilege to render service to others can come to each of us. If we but look we too will see a bright, particular star which will guide us to our opportunity.
One who saw such a star and followed it was the late Boyd Hatch of Salt Lake City. Deprived of the use of his legs, faced with a lifetime in a wheelchair, Boyd could well have looked inward and, through sorrow for self, existed rather than lived. However, Brother Hatch looked not inward, but rather outward into the lives of others and upward into God's own heaven; and the star of inspiration guided him not to one opportunity, but to literally hundreds. He organized Scout troops of handicapped boys. He taught them camping. He taught them swimming. He taught them basketball. He taught them faith. Some boys were downhearted and filled with self-pity and despair. To them he handed the torch of hope. Before them was his own personal example of struggle and accomplishment. With a courage which we shall never fully know or understand, these boys of many faiths overcame insurmountable odds and found themselves anew. Through it all, Boyd Hatch not only found joy, but by willingly and unselfishly giving of himself, he also found Jesus.
Every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the waters of baptism, has covenanted to stand as a witness of God ". . . at all times and in all things, and in all places . . ." and has expressed a willingness ". . . to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:9,8).
By fulfilling this covenant in our lives, we will become acquainted with him who declared, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world" (3 Ne. 11:10). This is the Jesus whom we seek. This is our Brother whom we love. This is Christ the Lord, whom we serve. I testify that he lives, for I speak as one who has found him, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.