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Teachings of Howard W. Hunter Lesson 24: "Following the Example of Jesus Christ"

by | Oct. 14, 2016

Lesson Helps

The take-away from this lesson are the points and principles that will help us live as the Savior lived. Living as the Savior lived is a tall order, but one that is achievable on many levels. As you read through this lesson, look at the number of examples of Christlike behavior President Hunter felt were important.

Here are three Christlike behaviors that President Hunter was complimented on for incorporating into his own life. There are so many others from which we can choose. These are just three mentioned in the lesson.

  1. Howard W. Hunter “lived as he taught.” When we learn to live a transparent life—a life where our words of righteousness and our deeds always match—we are becoming more Christlike.
  2. “All mankind were his friends.” He was equally kind and loving to anyone of any race.
  3. “I would invite all members of the Church to live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the love and hope and compassion He displayed.” Demonstrating love and compassion is an art form. It takes years and years of practice and attention to the details to learn how to do it best. When it was said of President Hunter that “[He] knew instinctively the course he would follow,” it only indicates that he had been practicing those virtues for many years and was learning to master the art of showing love and compassion.

Jesus Christ Set the Perfect Example

President Hunter tells us that “to be a light is to be an exemplar—one who sets an example and is a model for others to follow.” We have made covenants to be models for others to follow. I include here a paragraph from my commentary on this lesson. (You can find the commentary on mormonbasics.com.)

It helps if we get a better picture of the power of light, even very dim light. Imagine yourself in a darkened room, barely able see outlines that enable you to make your way around safely. This is what the world is like to those without the gospel. Now imagine lighting a single small candle in that darkened room. To those who have been without light that little candle is blinding. They have to look away because it hurts their eyes. Yet if you were to take that same little candle out into the full sun who would even notice the candle was there? That is the comparison of us, the candle, to Christ, the sun. We get our directions and examples from Him then go back into the darkness of the world and provide our little lights of example to those in darkness. Even our little lights are brilliant and almost impossible to miss in the dark.

A large part of this section in the lesson lists ten things the Savior did to set an example for us to follow. Except for the tasks that only the Savior can accomplish, like the Atonement, we can do all those things as well. All of them will require help from the Spirit to teach us how to follow Christ’s example better as time goes on.

It is important to remember that Jesus always had the ability and the option to sin. At no time was he ever unable to sin if he had wanted to. This is what makes his accomplishments so remarkable. Sin is a choice. Jesus always chose to be obedient, even when it would have been more fun, convenient, or comfortable to have done something more self-serving.

This demonstrates to us that we can also make those choices to be obedient. We have to learn to take our gaze off our own wants and focus on others and the Lord. We are all capable of making better choices each day. Christ showed us that it is possible.

One of the lessons we all need to learn is about Christ’s focus on the individual. He was surrounded by multitudes of people almost all the time, yet the stories we hold most dear are those where his attention was focused on an individual’s needs. This is Christlike love—it is wide enough to include everyone, but focused enough to single out the needs of the one.

Watch the prophet and the apostles as they minister. They are also surrounded by many people, yet they earnestly seek to bless the lives of individuals. They pause in the press of the crowd to give comfort to a single person who stands out to them as needing extra help. They deliberately seek to bless the life of the one as they travel about the world on their business for the kingdom. This is a Christlike trait we can all follow and practice. Always seek for ways to bless the one.

Follow the Son of God

The Savior told the Nephites they were to be as He was. It is intimidating to try to be perfect as the Savior is perfect. But we can be. We just need to begin somewhere. Yes, we will fall down. Yes, we will fail. But that is what repentance is for. That is the reason He provided us with such an option. He knows that only when we repent and improve will we be able to achieve eventual perfection.

We can look to our prophets and apostles and other worthy people for examples. But only the Savior’s example is perfect. These other wonderful people are doing the same thing we are doing, trying to emulate the Savior’s life. We should take courage in knowing that even our heroes are struggling with what we also struggle with. They have just worked harder at it and have become better at being obedient. If they can do it, so can we.

One final thought in this section. Our focus in life needs to be on the service we render, not the recognition we receive from that service. As important as it is to feel appreciated, we need to let the Lord demonstrate his appreciation and not worry about whether we get it from those around us. If we are focused on recognition from those around us, we will always end up disappointed.

Glory and exaltation have to be given. They cannot be taken. As President Hunter uses the example of the Savior’s of the “chief seats” and the “uppermost rooms,” we need to be mindful not to try to take credit and glory for the good we have done. It needs to flow naturally from others—and if not from others, then from the Lord. The Lord will always show appreciation in the form of blessings that bring joy.

Salvation Depends on Our Commitment

The statement is made and the question posed: “Since Jesus is indeed the Christ, what must we do?” Given that the statement is true, what obligation, if any, is ours? If we know that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God, are we held to any accountability for that knowledge? Indeed we are.

In what ways is our salvation dependent on our commitment to follow the Savior? How does that knowledge and our commitment to follow the example of Christ change our daily behavior? How should it change our daily behavior?

Once we have truly committed ourselves to Christ’s position as our Savior, we are required by that commitment to live our lives according to His commandments. This also means learning to live as He lived. When we begin to practice living our lives in an effort to think like Jesus thinks, feel as Jesus feels, and act as Jesus acts, that is when we begin to experience the changes in our hearts that replace rebellion with submission, and stubbornness with humility.

One of the wonders of living a Christlike life is that it is the simplest form of living. All things are in harmony in a Christlike life. We do as we say we will do. There is no duplicity, no hypocrisy, no guile. All behavior becomes transparent, and there is one guiding principle or power in all that we do, and that is love. What a safe and secure way to live!

Make Room for Christ

President Hunter makes one last plea to each of us: Make room for the Savior in our lives. When we put other things or people as higher priorities in our daily living, we are saying that we have no room, no time for the things of Christ.

If we are indeed going to make Christ our exemplar, our master then we need to make enough room, enough space in our lives for him to move in and make himself comfortable being around us. He will need us to change and become better people. He needs our time and our energies to make these transformations. Are we willing to give him the time and space he needs to make us better, to make us happier?

Lead image from Getty Images.