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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Special Witnesses of the Atonement of Christ

                Like the prophets of old, prophets and apostles today are living witnesses of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.  They are called “special witnesses” of Jesus Christ, and they invite all to partake of His Atonement.  The Holy Ghost bears witness when living prophets and apostles testify of Christ, and we can receive many blessings by heeding their counsel.

                We can learn much from the scriptures about how prophets are witnesses for Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  In ancient America, a prophet named Jacob taught an unbeliever named Sherem about the importance of studying and believing the scriptures.  “And I said unto him:  Believest thou the scriptures?  And he said, Yea.
                “And I said unto him:  Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ.  Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.
                “And this is not all – it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Jacob 7:10-12).

                Abinadi, another prophet in the Book of Mormon, testified that other prophets were witnesses of Christ:  “For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people?  Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began – have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
                “Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
                “Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted? (Mosiah 13:33-35).

                Abinadi continued his teachings about prophets:  “Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord – I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
                “For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions.  And now, are they not his seed?” (Mosiah 15:11-12).

                Scriptures written in our day also testify that prophets and apostles are special witnesses of Christ:  “And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:12).

                The Lord told Joseph Smith the duties of the apostles:  “The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:23).

                We also have the testimony of Jesus Christ given by Oliver Cowdery and the Prophet Joseph Smith:  “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24).

                The word “apostle” means “one sent forth.”  The Savior gave this name to the twelve men that He chose and ordained to help in His ministry.  He sent them forth to represent Him after He ascended into heaven.  “The calling of an apostle is to be a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world, particularly of his divinity and of his bodily resurrection from the dead.”

                Twelve “apostles” “constitute an administrative council in the work of the ministry.  When a vacancy occurred with the death of Judas Iscariot, Matthias was divinely appointed to that special office as a member of the council (Acts 1:15-26).  Today twelve men with this same divine calling and ordination constitute the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints….
                “Jesus is referred to as an apostle in Heb. 3:1-2, a designation meaning that he is the personal and select representative of the Father” (Bible Dictionary, p. 612).

                Fourteen years ago fifteen apostles published their joint testimony of Jesus Christ.  It is entitled “The Living Christ – The Testimony of the Apostles [of] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” 

                “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….

                “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….
                “We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth….

                “We testify that He will someday return to earth….  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.”

                This magnificent proclamation was signed by Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust of the First Presidency and by Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry, David B. Haight, Neal A. Maxwell, Russell M. Nelson Dallin H. Oaks, M. Russell Ballard, Joseph B. Wirthlin, Richard G. Scott, Robert D. Hales, Jeffrey R. Holland, and Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

                Apostles also testify individually of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  Elder Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, taught:  “Throughout your life there may be times when you have gone places you never should have gone and done things you never should have done.  If you will turn away from sin, you will be able one day to know the peace that comes from following the pathway of complete repentance.

                “No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out.  To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in all scripture is when the Lord said, `Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.’

                “That is the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Atonement:  to take anyone who comes, anyone who will join, and put them through an experience so that at the end of their life, they can go through the veil having repented of their sins and having been washed clean through the blood of Christ” (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov.2012, p. 77).  

                Another apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott, also testified of the Savior and His Atonement:  “It is Easter morning, that holy day designated throughout all Christendom to commemorate the victory of Jesus Christ over death.  His Resurrection broke what to that point had been the unyielding chains of death.  He opened the path whereby each of Heavenly Father’s children born to earth would have the opportunity to rise from death to live again.

                “How our Father in Heaven must have rejoiced that sacred day when His totally obedient, completely worthy Son shattered the chains of death….
                “Easter is that sacred season when the heart of each devout Christian turns in humble gratitude to our beloved Savior.  It is a season that should bring peace and joy to all who love Him and show it by obeying His commandments.  Easter brings thoughts of Jesus, His life, His Atonement, His Resurrection, His love.  He has risen from the dead `with healing in his wings’ (Malachi 4:2; 3 Nephi 25:2).  Oh, how we all need that healing the Redeemer can provide.  Mine is a message of hope based on principles embodied in the teachings of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ….

                “The Savior loves each of us and will make it possible for our every need to be satisfied as we qualify by obedience for all of the blessings He wants us to have on this earth.  I love and adore Him.  As His authorized servant I solemnly testify with every capacity of my being that He lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” (“He Lives!  All Glory to His Name!” Ensign, May 2010, pp. 75, 78).  

                Even though I am not a “special witness” for Jesus Christ, I too testify that He lives and will once again return to the earth “trailing clouds of glory.”  I also testify that prophets and apostles walk the earth today to testify of the Savior and to administer His gospel.

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