January: We are responsible for our own Learning
Last October conference, the Prophet gave us some strong counsel on things we must do to move forward this coming year. He specifically said, “I plead with you now – to take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with false philosophies of unbelieving men and women. As you make the continued strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.”1
Wow, our Prophet is pleading for us to take this year seriously and to make the act of strengthening our testimony of the Savior and His gospel and overcome the world a priority in our life this year. But how can we do this daunting task?
How can we take charge of our own testimonies?
I went through Pres. Nelson’s talk and found over a dozen of specific suggestions that he gave us.
- Give away our “favorite” sins.
- Seek for and follow the promptings of the Spirit
- Do something good for another person.
- Repent daily.
- Keep sacred covenants.
- Live the doctrine of Christ.
- Feed yourself truth; don’t pollute yourself with false philosophies.
- Make strengthening your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority.
- Watch for those miracles to happen in your life.
- Let Him know through your prayers and your actions that you are serious about overcoming the world.
- Ask Him to enlighten your mind and send the help you need.
- *Each day, record the thoughts that come in you as you pray; then follow through diligently.
- Spend more time in the temple and seek to understand how the temple teaches you to rise above this fallen world.
This was a intimidating list for me, so I picked one that I could start doing now. I put a journal by my bed, and I record my thoughts that come to me as I pray and I try to follow through with those thoughts. I am not perfect, but it I find that as when I do it, I feel the Lord’s inspiration and guidance in my quest to overcome the world.
The Power to ACT
As I look forward to this New Testament year, I always like to have a theme for my reading of scripture. Acronyms are helpful for me to remember my goals while I read. For this New Testament year, I’ve picked the acronym ACT.
ACT stands for:
- The Atonement,
- Christ’s mission on earth, and
- My Testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the only Begotten Son of God.
As I read, I will also focus on ACT by looking for:
- Analogies applicable to my life now,
- insights into Covenants I have made with the Lord, and
- finally, Teachings of the doctrine of Christ.
So, by remembering ACT, I will focus my reading on the Atonement, Christ, my Testimony, Analogies, Covenants, and Teachings of the Doctrine of Christ. Hopefully, as I act upon these impressions, I will try to follow Him more completely this year.
Taken Upon Us the Names of Christ
Another idea actually came from Elder Jonathan S. Schmitt talk in the past General Conference. He reminded me that every Sunday when I take the sacrament, I indicate my willingness to “take upon me the name of Jesus Christ.” He said that this question came into his heart: “Which of Jesus’s names should I take upon myself this week?”2 Elder Schmitt has a personal list of over 300 names of Jesus’s many names. As I focus on Christ, I want to know Him by understanding his names and his attributes to become a covenant disciple of Him. As children of Israel or “one who prevails with God,” Jesus will call us by our name when we return to Him. The prophet Isaiah reminded us that Jesus said: “O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”3
Ask yourself: “Is there a name of Jesus that has particular significance for you?”
Learning about Christ
In the Come Follow Me Curriculum, the suggestion is made to focus on specific words that will deepen our understanding of Christ and His Teachings. The word that I chose to focus on was Christ because it is part of my acronym – ACT – and it is a name of Christ.
Christ or Christos is Greek for the word anointed. In Hebrew, the name is Messiah or Mashiach which also means anointed, referring to the ritual of consecration. He is the one anointed of the Father to be “His personal representative in all things pertaining to the salvation of mankind.”4
The New Testament references two time where the Old Testament focuses on the mission of the Anointed One. The first time is the Lord himself proclaiming to the people in his hometown of Nazareth about his mission on earth as the Son of God and His Anointed One.
It was the custom in the Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath day that a person would stand up and read the scriptural text. The book of Isaiah was given to Jesus to read and he read from Isaiah chapter 61 verses 1 and 2. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight tot the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book…And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”5
Of course, the people did not accept His proclamation that He was the Anointed One sent by His Father. Instead, they questioned his parentage saying, “Is not this Joseph’s son?6” These people grew up with Jesus and could not imagine what He was saying. They knew His father as a man, Joseph, not as God. They could not (or would not) change their view of Him. We may have a similar problem when we become born again as a son or daughter of God through our covenantal relationship with Him. People who have grown up with us may not be able to understand our new mission in life.
The second reference happens after His crucifixion. Peter and John are arrested and brought before Annas the current high priest as well as the other leaders of the Jewish Council in Jerusalem, such as Caiaphas. Peter and John were told to stop teaching about Jesus and threatened them but could find nothing to punish them for because the people agreed with Peter and John.
After being released, Peter and John raised their voices to God and quoted the Psalmist in Psalms 2: “Lord thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David has said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine fain things? The kings of the earth stood up and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed….”7
The Book of Mormon gives us additional insights into our Savior’s mission, His divine attributes and His doctrine. During my study of the New Testament, I will look to the Book of Mormon for additional insights and understand. The Book of Mormon will shed light on His doctrine, for He told the Nephites: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”8 That is the rock I am hoping to build on this year in my study of His life and His words.
He Loves Us More
Whenever I left my mother’s home, I would call out to her, “Love you” and she would call back, “Love you more. Those words always brought great peace to my heart. Since her passing, I have missed hearing those words “love you more” from her. But I know that there is someone else who always loves me more – that is my Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. The Lord reminded us how much love was shown us through Christ’s mission on earth: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoso believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”9
I hope to hear His words, “love you more,” as I read His words in the New Testament. He does love us more – more than we can ever know.