The life of Jesus Christ did not begin or end on earth. Like you and I, He lived with Heavenly Father in the spirit world. While we were in the spirit world, or the premortal world, Jesus Christ promised that He would come to earth and be the Savior of all mankind. Every person who has come or will come to earth is dependent on Jesus Christ fulfilling His promise. His mission as the Savior was one of the crucial pillars of the plan of salvation, and, without Him, the plan would fail. His mission was so important that all of the prophets from Adam to Christ testified that He would come (see Acts 10:43). Every prophet since Christ has testified that He did come. In order to faithfully follow Christ throughout our lives, we need to study and learn about His life.
Many of the prophets prophesied of Christ. Adam knew that the Savior would be known as Jesus Christ (Moses 6:51-52). Enoch, Noah, Moses, Isaiah, Nephi and King Benjamin all foresaw the Savior's life, ministry, and sufferings (see Moses 1:11; 7:55-56; 8:23-24; Isaiah 53:3-7; 1 Nephi 11:21; Mosiah 3:5-8).
Information about the birth and life of the Savior can be found in the scriptures, particularly Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament. More information about Christ and His teachings can be found in the Book of Mormon. From the scriptures we learn that Jesus was born of Mary, a beautiful virgin who was engaged to marry Joseph when an angel appeared to her. The angel told Mary that she had been selected to be the mother of the Son of God. Mary asked how that would be possible (see Luke 1:34). The angel explained to her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Heavenly Father became the literal Father of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. That is the reason that He is known as the Only Begotten Son. From his Father, Jesus inherited divine powers. From his mother, He inherited mortality and was subject to pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst, and death. No one had the power to kill Jesus Christ unless He was willing to die. He had power over life and death. He had the power to give up His life, and He had the power to take up His body again after dying. (See John 10:17-18.)
Mary and Joseph guided Jesus, and He grew as other children do. He loved and obeyed the truth. From the time of his youth, Jesus made good choices and obeyed all that Heavenly Father required Him to do. (See Luke 2:40; Doctrine and Covenants 93:12-14.)
An incident in
demonstrates that Jesus, by age twelve, had some understanding that He was on earth to do the will of His Father. He went with His family to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover. When they started on their trip home, His parents discovered that He was not in the group and returned to Jerusalem to find Him. They searched for Him for three days before they found Him in the temple "sitting in the midst of the doctors, and they were hearing him, and asking him questions" (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 2:46). "And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:47). Jerusalem
Joseph and Mary were of course relieved to find Him. When Mary asked Him why He had treated "thy father and I" as He did, He answered, "Wist ye not that I must be about my [Heavenly] Father's business?" (Luke 2:48-49). Jesus understood that His mission was to do the will of His Heavenly Father. He declared, "… I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things… I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:28-29).
When Jesus was thirty years old, He went to the
Jordan River to find John the Baptist and asked John to baptize Him in order "to fulfil all righteousness." John recognized that Jesus was greater than he, but he baptized the Savior, immersing Him completely in the water. Then he heard the Father speaking from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Holy Ghost descended, as shown by the sign of the dove. (See Matthew 3:13-17.)
Soon after His baptism, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights to be with God. After this period of fasting was over, Satan tried to tempt Jesus, and Jesus resisted all of Satan's temptations and commanded Satan to leave. (See Matthew 4:1-11.) Jesus Christ was sinless, the only perfect person to ever live on earth. (See Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:21-22.)
Jesus' mission on earth consisted of several different responsibilities. Among those duties were the responsibilities to teach us how to love and serve each other, to organize the only true church on earth, to save us from death, and to redeem our souls from sin. Jesus taught us how to live by both His words and His example. He taught that there were two great commandments: The first is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength; and the second is to love others as we love ourselves. (See Matthew 22:36-39.) He showed us by His life how we should obey these two commandments. He demonstrated His love for God by trusting Him and by being obedient to Him. He showed His love for others by helping them to meet their physical and spiritual needs.
Jesus spent His life serving others: curing people of diseases, causing the deaf to hear, the blind to see and the lame to walk. When He miraculously fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes (see Matthew 14:14-21), He demonstrated that we are to help the hungry, needy, cold or lonely all that we can. He taught by His words and actions that we serve God by helping God's children. (See Matthew 25:35-46.)
Jesus loved people with all His heart. He wept with compassion for others. He loved little children, the elderly, the simple people who had faith in Him. He loved the sinners and taught them to repent. He loved those who sinned against Him and didn't repent. Even as He hung on the cross, He pleaded, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Jesus taught us to "love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12).
Another part of Christ's mission on earth was to organize His Church. He taught the people, and He chose and ordained His Twelve Apostles. He gave them the authority to act in His name and to do the works they had seen Him do. They were to testify of Christ and to teach, baptize and perform other ordinances in His name and with His authority. After the death of Christ, the Apostles carried on His work until the people grew so wicked that they killed the Apostles.
Jesus Christ redeemed us from our sins and saved us from death. Jesus was condemned to death because He had testified that He was the Son of God. In preparation for the final events of His life, Jesus met with His Apostles in an upper room and introduced the sacrament to them. They sang a hymn and then went to a garden called
Gethsemane. He was weighed down with much sorrow and wept as He prayed. He prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). Jesus described His suffering in a revelation to Joseph Smith, saying that it caused Him "to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).
The next day Christ was beaten, humiliated, and spit upon. He was forced to carry His own cross and then was lifted up and nailed to it. While Jesus was suffering on the cross, the Father withdrew from Him, allowing Christ to finish suffering the penalty for the sins of all mankind and to have complete victory over the forces of sin and death. (See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd Ed , 660-61.)
When He knew that the Father had accepted His sacrifice, the Savior exclaimed in a loud voice, "It is finished" (John 19:30). Luke 23:46 records that He said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." He then bowed His noble head, voluntarily gave up His spirit and died.
A terrible earthquake shook the earth. Some of the Savior's friends took His body to a borrowed mb where it lay until the third day. During the time His body was in the tomb, His spirit went to the spirit world where He organized the missionary work needed to teach His gospel to other spirits. (See 1 Peter 3:18-20; Doctrine and Covenants 138.) On the third day, Sunday, he returned to the tomb and took up His body again, becoming the first to overcome death and be resurrected. Soon after His resurrection Jesus appeared to the Nephites on the American continent and established His Church there. He taught the people and blessed them (3 Nephi 11 through 28).
Jesus' willingness and humility to suffer in
Gethsemane and on the cross showed His great love for the Father and for us. He fulfilled His part of the great plan of salvation that we might all receive the promised blessings. Now the responsibility is ours. In order to receive these blessings, we must put the Atonement of Jesus Christ into effect in our lives. We must repent of our sins, love Christ with all our hearts and follow Him.