THE LIFE OF CHRIST WAS LONG PREDICTED BEFORE HIS BIRTH
Of course, the first scriptural account “predicting” about the Savior would have to be from premortal times. Moses 4:2
…my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning…
Also from Abraham 3:27
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
This section mentions Nephi and his knowledge of the Savior’s birth thru vision. Another great scripture for discussion is 2 Nephi 25:1.
For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
There is an important issue that could be dealt with concerning the prophecies about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned in this section. The prophecies from the Old Testament include the First Coming of Christ as well as the Second Coming. I do not have an extensive list of all prophecies, but there are many, perhaps hundreds. Some think that there are about as many which refer to the First as there are that pertain to the Second Coming. The Jews may have not known about the Second Coming and became disenchanted with Christ, since He did not fulfill all in mortality.
This may help explain the great change that occurred in the last week of Jesus’ mortal life. Matthew records that “…a very great multitude…” (Matthew 21:8) welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem on Sunday (now celebrated as Palm Sunday because of the palm leaves they laid down) for his Triumphal Entry on Sunday. The Jews thought He really was the anxiously awaited Messiah because of what He had done.
By Friday of that week, due mostly to the cries of the chief priests for Christ’s crucifixion, Matthew records that “…all the people…said, His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25) in agreement with the chief priests’ clamor for His crucifixion. It appears that the Jews had now abandoned hope that Christ was the promised Messiah
It is true that Jehovah, creator of “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33), told Enoch that, “…among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren” (Moses 7:36). And Nephi was shown in vision that:
[Christ]…should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God. (2 Nephi 10:3)
However, it may also be that the Jews were expecting the Second Coming prophesies to also be fulfilled while Jesus was on earth the first time. The Jews are still His Chosen people and will be gathered to Him in the last days.
The last sentence of this section asks the question:
“What are some ancient prophecies about Jesus Christ?”
This really is a great question to have class members discuss. A wonderful resource from which to glean some additional ideas to add to this discussion appears in an article by D. Kelly Ogden and R. Val Johnson, “All the Prophets Prophesied of Christ,” Ensign, Jan 1994, 31. These prophecies are all concerning the First Coming of Jesus Christ.
HE WAS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER
This section deals with tremendously crucial doctrine that:
Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. That is why He is called the Only Begotten Son. He inherited divine powers from His Father. From His mother He inherited mortality and was subject to hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and death. No one could take the Savior’s life from Him unless He willed it. He had power to lay it down and power to take up His body again after dying (See John 10:17-18). (p. 53)
For those who have not read Chapter 3 of this blog or for classes in which that material may have not been presented, or perhaps as a good review, I have copied as follows a section from Chapter 3 of this blog:
In our dispensation, D&C 20:21 pronounces:
Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him.
In New Testament times, John 3:16 proclaims:
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.
Because of our knowledge of the nature of God as restored to the prophet Joseph Smith, we know that this verse in John speaks of two gifts. One was given by God the Father, that of His Son. The second gift was given by Jesus Christ that we might “not perish, but have everlasting life.” The “Trinity” concept robs one of these two gifts. If one accepts the “Trinity,” this scripture could be vastly shortened to”
“For God so loved the world, that he came…”
As I once pondered that idea, a second question can came. “Why DID God the Father send His Son to do something as excruciatingly difficult as was the Atonement?” If it were at all possible, any good parent would rather do something deathly dangerous him/her self rather than ask his/her own child to do it.
It seems that there are at least three reasons why God the Father could not have performed the Atonement.
ONE: The Father could not die. He was a resurrected being over whom death had no power (Romans 6:9, Alma 11:45)
TWO: The Father could not be tempted (James 1:13)
THREE: The Father could not suffer physical pain.
President Wilford Woodruff taught, “When the resurrection comes, we shall come forth clothed with immortal bodies; and the persecutions, suffering, sorrow, pain and death, incident to mortality, will be done away forever.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 81)
ALL THREE of these were crucial to the completion of the Atonement. Jesus Christ (or Son of Man as He is called 33 times in Matthew alone) could do ALL THREE of these things only because He was born the son of mortal Mary.
But the only way Jesus Christ could possibly complete the Atonement was because of what He inherited from His immortal Father in Heaven in ALL THREE of these areas.
ONE: He did not have to die, but gave his life (John 10:11).
TWO: He overcame temptation (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Nephi 17:16 or Isaiah 7:16).
THREE: He suffered every kind of physical (and every other kind of) pain (Mosiah 3:7, Alma 7:11, D&C 19:18-19).
The concept of “Trinity” cannot explain these three areas. Simply put, there could have been no Atonement without Jesus being the Son of an immortal Father and a mortal Mary. We are eternally grateful that Jesus Christ answered the call “Whom shall I send?” (p. 13).
The above should help us understand the last sentence in this section:
He [the Savior] had power to lay it down [because of His mortal mother] and power to take up His body again after dying [because of His immortal Father]. (p. 53)
Concerning the parents of Jesus Christ, Elder Erastus Snow, an apostle, taught:
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, the Scriptures tell us; and she bare record of it, and there were many witnesses of this fact, and the record teaches us that he was begotten by the power of God, and not of man, and that she had no intercourse with mortal man in the flesh until after she gave birth to the Savior, who is called the Son of God. (Journal of Discourses 19:271b)
HE LED A PERFECT LIFE
Along with Luke 2:40, which is quoted in this section, I also really like verse 52 of that same chapter.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
It may be beneficial to discuss the idea that this single verse pretty well covers all aspects of a balanced life as well as how we can emulate the Savior as we plan our days to grow in each of these areas as well.
Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 2:46 is quoted in this section (p. 53). It may be interesting to point out how different this scripture is in the King James Version:
And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)
As Joseph Smith corrected this situation, the teaching was totally from Jesus to the doctors, not the other way around. The learned doctors had nothing to offer the Son of God. President Monson explains:
We marvel at the mature wisdom of the boy who, leaving Joseph and Mary, was found in the temple, “sitting in the midst of the doctors,” (Luke 2:46) teaching them the gospel. When Mary and Joseph expressed their concern about His absence, He asked of them the penetrating question: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). (Ensign, Nov 1997, 17)
It may be important to discuss the following scriptures which help us understand that God teaches us in the same manner:
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more… (2 Nephi 28:30)
For he [God] will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept… (D&C 98:12)
I like Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s counsel for us concerning this process:
Brothers and sisters, the scriptures are like a developmental display window through which we can see gradual growth—along with this vital lesson: it is direction first, then velocity!
Jesus “received not of the fulness at first, but received grace for grace” (D&C 93:12). (Ensign, Nov 1976, 12)
This section also discusses that Jesus did only the will of the Father. We can indeed become “even as” Christ (3 Nephi 27:27 (quoted on p. 57). And we have a wonderful gift given us to help us do that, the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Chapter 21). It may be helpful to discuss the concept that since we are connected to the Holy Ghost by a Priesthood ordination, if we pay attention to the Holy Ghost, we will become like Him, just as Jesus became like the Father by paying attention to Him.
This section quotes Matthew 3:17 (p. 54), one of four times the Father introduced His Son in the scriptures. President Kimball explains:
It was He, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who was introduced to surprised listeners at Jordan (see Matt. 3:13-17), at the holy Mount of Transfiguration ( see Matt. 17:1-9), at the temple of the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 11-26), and in the grove at Palmyra, New York (see JS—H 1:17-25); and the introducing person was none other than his actual Father, the holy Elohim, in whose image he was and whose will he carried out. (Ensign, Nov 1977, 73)
HE TAUGHT US HOW TO LOVE AND SERVE ONE ANOTHER
This section discusses the “two great commandments” found in Matthew 22:36-39 (p. 54). Perhaps there is a parable here. Two commandments are clearly that we love God and our neighbor. But we are commanded to love our neighbor, as the manual states, “as we love ourselves” (p. 54). Thus we are thirdly commanded to love ourselves. Now there are great counterfeits to this principle in the world, such as “I’m number one” and “me first” in which Satan influences to actions which cause us and others much pain. In a conference talk, with the following quote coming under the heading “Self-esteem, Well Deserved” Elder Russell M. Nelson explains:
The next prerequisite to joy is to feel good about yourself. The second of our Lord’s two great commandments carries a double charge: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). Therefore, love of companion is governed, in part, by esteem of self, and so is joy in the morning.
Each individual should understand the nature of his or her own soul. Profound insight is provided by this revelation:
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
“And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33-34).
Therefore, spiritual and physical elements each must be nurtured if we are to earn proper self-esteem.
Spiritual self-esteem begins with the realization that each new morning is a gift from God. Even the air we breathe is a loving loan from him. He preserves us from day to day and supports us from one moment to another (see Mosiah 2:21). (Ensign, Nov 1986, 67)
Here is wonderful counsel from two prophets on how to avoid the false counterfeits from Satan concerning this true principle. First from David O. McKay:
[after quoting Mt. 22:39] Analyze that and you will find that it means that instead of centering your thoughts on self, that God becomes the center of your existence; your thought is what you are going to do for him. You will pray to him at night. You will pray to him when you have some heavy task to perform. In your school work, pray. I know, you may not hear his voice always, and you may feel that he did not answer your question in your prayer, but in youth, keep praying, holding to the assurance that God is near you to help you. (Conference Report, October 1953, pp. 87-90)
Next from Howard W. Hunter:
[after quoting Mt. 22:36-40] As man's thoughts turn to God and the things that pertain to God, man undergoes a spiritual transformation. It lifts him from the commonplace and gives to him a noble and Godlike character. If we have faith in God, we are using one of the great laws of life. The most powerful force in human nature is the spiritual power of faith. (Conference Report, April 1960, pp. 124-126)
HE ORGAINIZED THE ONLY TRUE CHURCH
A great scripture for discussion of the concept of Christ’s Church found in this section is Ephesians 2:19 - 20:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
In a conference talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland commented on Christ’s role in the Church:
[after quoting Ephesians 2:19-20] These Brethren and the other officers of the Church would serve under the direction of the resurrected Christ. (Ensign, Nov 2004, 6)
HE REDEEMED US FROM OUR SINS AND SAVED US FROM DEATH
For this section, it would be wise to follow the counsel given in the first sentence of this section:
As you study this section, take time to ponder the events of the Atonement. (p. 55)
Be sure to focus on the “events of the Atonement” rather than the Atonement itself, leaving that for Chapter 12.
There were five times the Savior’s blood was shed during His great Atonement:
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).
From The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Institute Student Manual, Elder James E. Talmage described:
Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. The thought that He suffered through fear of death is untenable. Death to Him was preliminary to resurrection and triumphal return to the Father from whom He had come, and to a state of glory even beyond what He had before possessed; and, moreover, it is within His power to lay down His life voluntarily. He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil.
In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. (25-8)
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained:
[after quoting Luke 22:44] The Savior’s spiritual suffering and the shedding of his innocent blood, so lovingly and freely given, paid the debt for what the scriptures call the “original guilt” of Adam’s transgression (Moses 6:54). Furthermore, Christ suffered for the sins and sorrows and pains of all the rest of the human family, providing remission for all of our sins as well, upon conditions of obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel he taught (see 2 Ne. 9:21-23). As the Apostle Paul wrote, we were “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). What an expensive price and what a merciful purchase! (Ensign, Nov 1995, 67)
THEN Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him (John 19:1).
From The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Institute Student Manual:
This brutal practice, a preliminary to crucifixion, consisted of stripping the victim of clothes, strapping him to a pillar or frame, and beating him with a scourge made of leather straps weighted with sharp pieces of lead and bone. It left the tortured sufferer bleeding, weak, and sometimes dead. (26-9)
3. Crown of thorns
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head… (John 19:2)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie portrayed:
Blood ran down his face as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow. (Ensign, May 1985, 9)
Again, from The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Institute Student Manual:
The cross consisted of two parts, a strong stake or pole 8 or 9 ft. high, which was fixed in the ground, and a movable cross-piece (patibulum), which was carried by the criminal to the place of execution. Sometimes the patibulum was a single beam of wood, but more often it consisted of two parallel beams fastened together, between which the neck of the criminal was inserted. Before him went a herald bearing a tablet on which the offense was inscribed, or the criminal himself bore it suspended by a cord round his neck. At the place of execution the criminal was stripped and laid on his back, and his hands were nailed to the patibulum; The patibulum, with the criminal hanging from it, was then hoisted into position and fastened by nails or ropes to the upright pole. The victim’s body was supported not only by the nails through the hands, but by a small piece of wood projecting at right angles (sedile), on which he sat as on a saddle. Sometimes there was also a support for the feet, to which the feet were nailed. The protracted agony of crucifixion sometimes lasted for days, death being caused by pain, hunger, and thirst. (26-10)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie depicts:
With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. (Ensign, May 1985, 9)
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water (John 19:34).
The Savior’s ministry to the spirit world is discussed in this section. The two references of 1 Peter 3:18-20 and D&C 138 differ and the reason is revelation to a latter-day prophet.
1 Peter 3:19 states:
,,,he [Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
Whereas in D&C 138:29-30, President Joseph F. Smith was shown in vision that:
…the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
HIS SACRIFICE SHOWED HIS LOVE FOR HIS FATHER AND FOR US
Something that may be productive if you are teaching this lesson is obtain a copy of “The Living Christ” for every member of the class (free from Distribution Center - - pick up or mail - - postage is even free). A great discussion on many of the points of this lesson could be done using this powerful document, having each student with one in hand.
When this lesson is taught/learned well, we should be able to join our testimonies to those of the Prophets and Apostles who gave us that “The Living Christ” document, wherein is included:
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— (D&C 76:22 - 23).
By the way, many of the above quotes in this blog from conference talks were found by using the “scriptures.byu.edu” website.