Developing Christlike Characteristics
I recently read a talk by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled “The Character of Christ”. In the talk he said: “I have also pondered the relationship between Christ’s character and the Atonement-and the implications of that relationship for each of us as disciples of Jesus Christ.” This question has been pressing on my mind for some time. I have a firm testimony that Jesus Christ is literally the only begotten son of our Heavenly Father and that he is our Savior. I also know that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can overcome our worldly nature and become cleansed from our sins and become his son.
With that knowledge I have to question am I willing to go through the life changing, born again process that Alma and the sons of Mosiah experienced in the Book of Mormon. Alma and the sons of Mosiah were enemies to the Church of Christ and they went about trying to destroy the church until an Angel of the Lord appeared to them and told them to stop seeking to destroy the church or they themselves would be destroyed. For the rest of their lives they spent their days in the service of the Lord’s church. They experienced the process of putting off the natural man and submitting to the spirit and were born again. (Mosiah 27:11-32) Later Alma speaking to the people of Zarahemla asked: “have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this might change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14)
I would hope that I have experienced this change in my life. I want to follow Jesus Christ and do my best to keep God’s commandments. But am I really striving to develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ? Elder Bednar quoted Brigham Young when he said:
“I will take the liberty of saying to every man and woman who wishes to obtain salvation through him (the Savior) that looking to him, only, is not enough: they must have faith in his name, character and atonement; and they must have faith in is father and in the plan of salvation devised and wrought our by the Father and the Son.” (“The Character of Christ”)
Elder Bednar continues:
Perhaps the greatest indicator of character is the capacity to recognize and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. Character is revealed, for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. Thus, character is demonstrated by looking and reaching outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and turn inward. If such a capacity is indeed the ultimate criterion of moral character, then the Savior of the world is the perfect example of such a consistent and charitable character.” (“The Character of Christ”)
Elder Bednar then sites several examples from the New Testament where Christ demonstrates his complete love for others in the midst of his own suffering. He suggested the experience that Christ had when he was tempted of the devil after fasting for 40 days, at the last supper when he spoke of the Holy Ghost that would come and comfort the Apostles after he was gone, healing the soldiers ear in the Garden when Peter cut it off, and while he hung on the cross he was more concerned about his mother as well as the soldiers and the thief on the cross than he was about his own suffering.
Elder Bednar challenges us to develop that Christlike character when he said:
“We can in mortality seek to be blessed with and develop essential elements of a Christlike character. Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts associated with the capacity to reach outward and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination. Rather, we are dependent upon and in need of "the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8). But "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30) and "in [the] process of time" (Moses 7:21), we are enabled to reach outward when the natural tendency is for us to turn inward.” (“The Character of Christ”)
As my wife and I serve as full-time missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Indiana Indianapolis mission, I want more than anything to develop the character of Christ that Elder Bednar spoke of and I would hope that I can one day say that I have experienced the total change of heart from the natural man to one that has been born of the spirit and has become his disciple.
I welcome your comments and question and hope that you will share this with your family and friends on your social media sites.