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Teachings of Howard W. Hunter Lesson 1: "Jesus Christ—Our Only Way to Hope and Joy"

This lesson directly challenges our mind set about how we think of Christ. We need to think about how we really feel about him, how central his role is in our lives, and what our worship of him really does for us. These are just a few of the things this thought-provoking lesson asks us to consider.

Note: All quotes are directly from the lesson.

Let’s start with our basic assumptions about Christ. Do you have a testimony of Him? Who do you say he is? What position does he hold in your life? What difference does it make that you worship Christ instead of someone or something else? Here is President Hunter’s testimony:

“It is by the power of the Holy Ghost that I bear my witness. I know of Christ’s reality as if I had seen with my eyes and heard with my ears. I know also that the Holy Spirit will confirm the truthfulness of my witness in the hearts of all those who listen with an ear of faith.”

The true nature of a testimony is to bear witness of what you know as if you had seen with your own eyes and heard with your own ears, for a testimony is the witnessing of your personal experience.

When President Hunter bears his testimony of Christ he knows that the Spirit’s power is there in the bearing of his testimony and that the Spirit will carry his witness into the heart of all those who listen with an ear of faith. When you bear your testimony, do you have that kind of confidence that the Spirit will bear that same witness to those who are willing to hear it? You can, you know. The scriptures tell us that is what the Spirit will do when we bear a sincere testimony.


Knowing Christ

Our professed goal is to become like Christ, right? But to become like someone we have to think they are at least important enough to think about. How can we become like someone who isn’t even important enough in our lives to cross our minds once in a while? That means that one of the first tests we will have to pass on our road to perfection is to prove that we care enough about Christ to think of him seriously and often.

“… How often do we think of the Savior? How deeply and how gratefully and how adoringly do we reflect on his life? How central to our lives do we know him to be?”

These are important questions. If Christ is not on our minds frequently, and if we are not regularly reflecting on his sacrifices for us and his teachings for us then how central can he be in our lives? To be “central” to our lives, Christ must be the basis for all our decision making and values.


Our source of hope and lasting joy

Where does hope come from? If we are disobedient to the commandments of God, can we still have hope of a glorious resurrection? Of course not. The rewards we are promised are only available in exchange for obedience to the requirements the law puts forth to obtain those promises. Hope comes from obedience to the laws of God. Christ, who makes repentance possible, is our source for hope.

It is the contrite (repentant) heart, and the obedient soul that can have a bright hope of receiving the promised blessings for that obedience. The meek are humble and submissive to the laws of God, and therefore have a right to expect to receive all the promised blessings of obedience to those laws.

Contrition is costly—it costs us our pride and our insensitivity, but it especially costs us our sins. For, as King Lamoni’s father knew twenty centuries ago, this is the price of true hope. “O God,” he cried, “wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee … that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.” (Alma 22:18.)

We don’t really understand what the cost of contrition is (to have a contrite heart) until we have spent time reflecting on Christ and his sacrifices for us and on his requirements of us to receive his forgiveness for our sins. There is indeed a price tag attached to forgiveness, and we have to decide the sacrifices required are worth the reward. If we don’t make that personal decision to forsake our sins, we will keep making excuses about the cost being too high, and we will continue on in our own path.

If our true goal is to live with Christ for eternity, he needs to become our greatest joy. It is only when the Lord’s approval is what pleases us most that Jesus will become what we glory in here, now, and forever.


A sincere faith in the Savior

President Hunter talks about an important principle many of us may not have considered before. There are those who declare the teachings of the Bible to be “old fashioned” or out of date. They feel the teachings need to be brought into the modern century to reflect the mores of our society. What do you think? President Hunter said, “His message concerned principles that are eternal.” If Christ’s teachings are embodied in principles that are eternal, can they be “updated?” Would they indeed be eternal in nature if they could be updated?

The prophet gives us a wonderful example of this in addressing the need to forgive and show love, even in the midst of persecution and being unfairly treated.

How are we supposed to act when we are offended, misunderstood, unfairly or unkindly treated, or sinned against? What are we supposed to do if we are hurt by those we love, or passed over for promotion, or are falsely accused, or have our motives unfairly assailed?
Do we fight back? Do we send in an ever-larger battalion? Do we revert to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, or … do we come to the realization that this finally leaves us blind and toothless? …

This demonstrates that the teachings of our Master are timeless. They apply equally in Adam’s day as they do in Christ’s or our day. Christ’s teachings show us how to become celestial in our very nature. If we ever truly desire to live in the celestial realm, we will have to learn to be comfortable living celestial lives. This is why we must focus on Christ in all things. He set the perfect example for us in all that he did, every day of his life.


Calming our troubled waters

One of the hallmarks of being mortal is to be shortsighted. Only the Spirit of God can open the eternities to our view and our comprehension. So when the apostles were in the boat and a storm arose and they thought they were going to die, they complained to Jesus and accused him of not caring if they all perished in the storm.

They were talking to the very man who created the earth and all things on it. It was Jesus who separated the waters on the earth from the waters in the sky, it was he who parted the Red Sea for the escape of the Israelites. “Certainly it should be no surprise that he could command a few elements acting up on the Sea of Galilee.” Just as Jesus had the power to calm the Sea of Galilee to help the Apostles, so the troubled waters in our lives are not beyond His ability to calm.

The question is, do we have the faith required to seek his help and receive it? Christ can bring us relief in many forms if we are willing to recognize his ability and willingness to do so. Sometimes we have to seek the Spirit to have the eternal vision to recognize that Jesus has sufficient capacity to help us in any circumstance. It takes a recognition of His power and ability that extends far beyond any mortal’s ability to help. It also requires an acceptance of his love for each of us, and his desire to bless our lives with that love.


We need not fear

While in mortality we will face many trials and difficulties, many of which will be intense and severe. That is to be expected. But there are promises we should keep in mind along the way.

“Search diligently, pray always, and be believing,” the scripture says, “and all things shall work together for your good” (D&C 90:24). I want to remind you of that promise. …

It is difficult to fathom how the Lord can take all the horrible things that happen in each person’s life and makes it all work together for the final good and glory of that person. This is something we need to take on faith. Only time and experience with the Lord’s miracles will teach each of us that this promise is absolutely true.


Final thoughts

My message to you today is to “fear not, little flock.” It is to encourage you to rejoice in the great blessings of life. It is to invite you to feel the great thrill of gospel living and our Father in Heaven’s love. Life is wonderful, even in the hard times, and there is happiness, joy, and peace at stops all along the way, and endless portions of them at the end of the road.

Jesus came to open doors for us. He opened the door to repentance and he opened the door to eternal life with a resurrected body. The price he paid to open those doors is incomprehensible to us. If we ever truly want to learn to appreciate His sacrifice on our behalf, we need to center our lives around his teachings.

As we focus on Christ’s teachings, become meek and able to be lead, the Spirit will show us our weaknesses and Christ will refine (sanctify) us and change our heart to one that truly delights in goodness and virtue. Our faith will increase and our hope in our eternal rewards will soar. No matter what is going on around us each day, we truly do have much to celebrate and many reasons to rejoice.

Read Howard W. Hunter's teachings at lds.org.


Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.