Dr. D. Kelly Ogden is a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.
Some years ago my colleague and relative, Stephen Robinson, wrote a popular book entitled Believing Christ. He later wrote a sequel called Following Christ. Pursuing yet another approach to the study of our Savior, I am now interested in Proving Christ.
Nephi engraved in his record the words of his brother Jacob, who was a great theologian/scriptorian and general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ in ancient America. After inscribing some of Jacob’s powerful teachings, Nephi continued:
And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words . . . for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.
And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three [for example, Isaiah, Nephi, and Jacob], God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.
Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ . . . and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.
And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan . . .
And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish (2 Nephi 11:2-6, emphasis added).
As with Nephi (and Matthew, Isaiah, and all true prophets, and all true Saints), my soul also delights in proving the coming of Christ.
Nathanael asked, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” His friend Philip answered him, “Come and see . . .” (John 1:46). To all of us the Savior is saying “come and see” if any good thing came out of Nazareth, and out of Galilee. We may know him by his fruits, meaning his good works, his miracles, his teachings, his whole life.
Proof of Christ
Luke wrote about all the things Jesus began both to do and teach . . . and how he showed himself alive . . . by “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:1, 3); that is, by many unmistakable, flawless, perfect proofs.
Alma proved “that the word is in Christ unto salvation”; he called on the words of Zenos, Zenock, and Moses “to prove that these things are true.” Then his missionary companion, Amulek, declared, “And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true” (Alma 34:6-8). “Ye have had so many witnesses” (Alma 34:33).
Nephi and Lehi preached Christ with such power and authority that thousands were convinced by the “greatness of the evidences” (Helaman 5:50).
Another Nephi gave us a catalog of numerous witnesses of Christ’s coming and His mission:
Moses . . . had such great power given unto him, yea, the words which he hath spoken concerning the coming of the Messiah.
Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? . . .
And now behold, Moses did not only testify of these things, but also all the holy prophets, from his days even to the days of Abraham.
Yea, and behold, Abraham saw of his coming, and was filled with gladness and did rejoice.
Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.
And now I would that ye should know, that even since the days of Abraham there have been many prophets that have testified these things [Zenos, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lehi, Nephi] . . .
And also almost all of our fathers, even down to this time; yea, they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is to come.
And now, seeing ye know these things and cannot deny them except ye shall lie, therefore in this ye have sinned, for ye have rejected all these things, notwithstanding so many evidences which ye have received; yea, even ye have received all things, both things in heaven, and all things which are in the earth, as a witness that they are true (Helaman 8:13-14, 16-20, 22, 24, emphasis added).
Now in our day we prove Christ best through the Restoration, through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. In addition to the Book of Mormon, we have convincing evidence of Christ in the Doctrine and Covenants and in the Pearl of Great Price—most of which came to us through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Just talking about Christ brings a good spirit into any room.
Witnesses and Evidences in the Scriptures
The Topical Guide is an alphabetical index and concordance of topics for all the standard works. It is nearly 600 pages long with 750 major subheadings and has its own cross-referencing system.
One of the Topical Guide’s most important entries is the fifty-eight categories of information about Jesus Christ: eighteen pages of small print, single spaced, listing thousands of references on the subject, constituting, as Elder Boyd K. Packer declared, “the most comprehensive compilation of scriptural information on the mission and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ that has ever been assembled in the history of the world” (Ensign, Nov. 2005, 72).
We will examine a number of the topics that help prove Christ to us.
Christ’s Pre-mortal Existence
Jesus was with the Father before this world. He speaks directly to the Father of “the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). He was prepared, chosen, and foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). He was the Firstborn in the spirit (D&C 93:21), and later the Only Begotten in the flesh (John 1:14, 18; 3:16). He was the Creator of all things, and the light and life of all things (Moses 1:31-33; John 1:4; Ether 4:12). He was the great Jehovah (3 Nephi 15:4-5) and the promised Redeemer (1 Peter 1:18-20).
Christ’s Authority and Power
He was of the roots of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1); he was a righteous Branch and King (Jeremiah 23:5) of the loins of David, and was born as prophesied in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
He is over an everlasting Kingdom: the government shall be upon his shoulder (Isaiah 9:6). His Kingdom has been set up on earth in these last days and it will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15).
He has authority and power from the Father. He has unique power to forgive sins. He taught as one having authority, not as the scribes and others (Matthew 7:29).
Even evil spirits obeyed him (Mark 3:11). He is the Anointed One, the Messiah (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27).
He is the Almighty God. All power is given to him.
He is the Lord Omnipotent. His power is manifested in his teachings and ordinances. He is the power by which all things were made, and remarkably, he gives his power to us, for us to use to bless others.
He is our Source of power and nourishment (John 15:1-8, 11).
Christ’s Mission: The Atonement
He is the Good Shepherd who leads us in the paths of righteousness. He is the Way. He is our Exemplar. (John 13:15 — “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”) For example, he said “love your neighbor.”
And who were Jesus’ neighbors? A woman at a well in Samaria; a crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda; a blind man at the Pool of Siloam; Peter’s mother-in-law; a widow in Nain; a Greek woman in Tyre or Sidon; ten lepers in Samaria; a tax-collector in Jericho; a man with a withered hand in Capernaum, and a friend in Bethany who died but was raised again.
Jesus swallowed up death in victory (Isaiah 25:8). In Christ all are made alive, resurrected to immortality (1 Corinthians 15:22).
He was wounded for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5). He saved his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
The Father, Jesus testified, “anointed me [Heb. Mashiah and Gr. Christos mean “Anointed One”] to preach the gospel to the poor [he preached to the poor in spirit – Matthew 5:3; 3 Nephi 12:3]; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted [he healed not only the physically sick and maimed but also those who were emotionally broken and wounded, the broken-hearted], to preach deliverance to the captives [spiritually captive souls in this world and in the spirit world – 1 Peter 3:19; D&C 138:8, 31], and recovering of sight to the blind [both the physically and spiritually blind], to set at liberty them that are bruised [he would offer to liberate those who were physically, spiritually, and emotionally bruised], to preach the acceptable year of the Lord [the acceptable year or the acceptable day of the Lord is the time salvation is offered to the souls of men – D&C 93:51; 138:31]” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1).
He provided resurrection to immortality and the possibility of redemption or ransom from sin, remission or forgiveness of all our sin. He is the Savior, the Redeemer; that is, he can save us, rescue us, deliver us, and redeem us from our weaknesses and sins.
He provided for our justification and sanctification before God. When we stand before the judgment bar of God, the demands of justice must be satisfied, but Jesus will stand with us, to intercede in our behalf, to be our Advocate with the Father, to plead our cause (D&C 110:4; 45:3).
He is the one and only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). He takes us back into the Presence of the Father (Alma 42:23). God and Christ are the Judges of all (D&C 76:68; cf. Alma 11:44).
Christ Anticipated through various Types and Shadows
Many things were shadows, figures, similitudes or likenesses, types, or remembrances of him (2 Nephi 11:4; Moses 6:63).
He was the firstling of the flock, or the firstborn Lamb (John 1:29), a male, without blemish (Exodus 12:5; 1 Peter 1:19), not one of his bones was broken (Numbers 9:12; John 19:33). He was the sacrifice for sin.
He was the manna (Exodus 16:15; John 6:51), the living bread (John 6), the living water (John 4), the blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:8).
He was as the goat that bore the iniquities of all the people (Leviticus 16:22).
He was as the serpent that was lifted up, upon whom all could look to be saved (John 3:14; Alma 33:19; Helaman 8:14).
Christ’s Appearances as a Post-mortal, Resurrected Being
There is considerable proof—many witnesses—that Jesus Christ is now alive. Following are some of those who have seen the resurrected Savior:
Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-17)
Peter (Luke 24:34)
Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32)
Eleven apostles (John 20:26-29)
Stephen (Acts 7:55)
Saul/Paul (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8)
500 brethren at once (1 Corinthians 15:6)
James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
2,500 Nephites/Lamanites (3 Nephi 11:15; 17:25)
Mormon (Mormon 1:15)
Moroni (Ether 12:39)
Joseph Smith (JS-H 1:14-20)
Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76:23)
Joseph F. Smith (D&C 138:18)
Christ’s Divine Sonship
Who believes God would have a Son who would come and live as a mortal being on earth?
There are few people who believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of the Father in heaven. The voice of the Father himself is actually heard only on rare and sacred occasions in this telestial world (for example, at the Transfiguration [Matthew 17:5], in announcing his Son to the Nephites [3 Nephi 11:7], and presenting his Son to Joseph Smith [Joseph Smith—History 1:17]). When the Father does come, he comes to say one specific thing: “This is my Son.” Why does he testify of this one, single fact? Because that is the most important thing he could say, the most needed testimony he could bear. The Jews do not believe God, Elohim, would have a Son (their Shema proclaims: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one” – Deuteronomy 6:4). The Muslims (many hundreds of millions of them on the earth now) do not believe God, Allah, would have a Son who would come to live with the rest of us groveling humans in this world (“far is it removed from his transcendent majesty that he should have a son” – the Qur’an, Sura IV:171, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran). Neither do many Christians these days believe that God the Father literally had a Son in this world. It is a unique and powerful witness of the divinity of that Son, his own Father bearing solemn testimony of that fact at each momentous occasion in the Old World and in the New World, in ancient times as well as in modern times.
Another critical question: “Did Jesus Himself ever claim to be the Messiah and God’s Son?”
There are many in the modern, scholarly world who question whether Jesus ever really claimed to be the Son of God. John leaves no doubt concerning the matter (though, of course, some scholars simply write off the entire Gospel of John as containing no authentic words of Jesus – as the “Jesus Seminar,” a group of 200 religious academics, did in the 1990s). Regardless of scholarly circumlocutions and polemics, the testimonies of all four Gospel writers, especially John, plainly and constantly reiterate that Jesus announced himself as the Son of God. In addition, the Joseph Smith Translation of these Testimonies (the four Gospels) contains at least forty declarations (beyond what the King James Version contains) that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus consistently testified that he was sent by his Father and that he spoke the words and did the works of the Father. Some of the Jews believed and accepted his witness; others did not, and those who rejected his claims to divinity labeled it blasphemy—claiming to be sent from God or claiming to actually be God and making himself “equal with God” (John 5:18).
Some might also have a problem with Jesus’ claim because they believed in one God only, so the claims to be God’s Son would be blasphemous.
For that capital offense, in the eyes of Jewish law, they sought to kill him.
There are numerous testimonies of him, not just those from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Following is a fairly substantial listing:
The Father’s testimony: “This is my Beloved Son”
at his Baptism (Matt.
3:17; D&C 93:15)
at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5)
at the appearance of the resurrected Christ to Nephites (3 Ne. 11:7)
at Joseph Smith’s First Vision (JS-H 1:17)
Other testimonies by the Father:
Vision of Moses (Moses 1:33; 2:1, 26)
Vision of Glories (D&C 76:20-23)
others (1 John 5:9-11; D&C 29:42; 49:5)
Jesus’ own testimony that He is the “Son of God”:
to Adam (Moses 5:9)
to Moses (Moses 4:2)
the Jews (Matt. 27:43; John 5:18-27; 10:36; 19:7)
apostles (John 20:21)
blind man (John 9:35-37)
Caiaphas (Matt. 26:63-64)
Nephites/Lamanites (3 Ne. 9:15; 20:31)
Latter-day Saints in general (D&C 6:21; 10:57; 45:52; 50:27)
Hyrum Smith (D&C 11:28)
David Whitmer (D&C 14:9)
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (D&C 35:2)
Edward Partridge (D&C 36:8)
elders of the Church (D&C 42:1, 44)
William W. Phelps (D&C 55:2)
four apostles: Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson,
Lyman Johnson, Wm. E. McLellin (D&C 68:6, 25)
Also: Jesus is the “Son of Man [of Holiness] – always with a capital “M” in
Others who claimed Jesus is the Son of God and Only Begotten of the Father:
Moses (Alma 33:18-19; Hel. 8:13-15)
Isaiah and Jeremiah (Hel. 8:20)
Zenos and Zenock (Alma 33:13-17; Hel. 8:19-20)
angel Gabriel (Luke 1:32, 35)
John the Baptist (John 1:34; D&C 93:14)
apostles (Matt. 14:33)
Nathanael (John 1:49)
Mark (Mark 1:1)
Peter (Matt. 16:16; John 6:69; Acts 3:13, 26)
Martha (John 11:27)
John (John 1:14; 3:16, 35; 20:31;
1 John 3:8, 23; 4:10, 14-15; 5:5, 10-13)
Roman soldier (Matt. 27:54)
Ethiopian officer (Acts 8:37)
Paul (Acts 9:20; Rom. 1:4; 8:3, 32; 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:19; Gal. 2:20; 4:4; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 1:2; 4:14)
Silas and Timothy (2 Cor. 1:19)
Nephi (1 Ne. 10:17; 11:7, 18, 21, 24; 13:40; 2 Ne. 25:12, 16, 19)
Jacob (Jacob 4:5, 11)
King Benjamin (Mosiah 3:8)
Benjamin’s people (Mosiah 4:2)
Abinadi (Mosiah 15:2)
Amulek (Alma 11:32-35; 34:2, 5)
Alma I and II (Alma 36:17-18)
Alma II (Alma 5:48; 6:8; 12:33-34; 13:5, 16; 33:14, 22)
Samuel, the Lamanite (Hel. 14:2, 8, 12)
Mormon (Hel. 3:28; 3 Ne. 5:13, 26; Morm. 5:14; 7:5-7
+ two words in v. 8)
Moroni (Ether 12:18)
Joseph Smith (D&C 20:21)
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76:20-25)
Even Satan and his followers testified of Jesus’ Divine Sonship:
(Matt. 4:3, 6; Mark 3:11; 5:7; Luke 4:41; 8:28)
To some it is given to know Jesus Christ is the Son of God; to others it is given to believe on their words (D&C 46:13-14), but whoever denies Jesus as the Son, is a liar and an anti-Christ (1 John 2:22).
So Many Witnesses
All the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began have foretold the ministry and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, for as John wrote in his Revelation, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10)—that is, testifying of Jesus is what prophesying is all about. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Lehi, Nephi, and all other true prophets bore record of their Redeemer. Even the Jewish rabbis recognized the importance of that special witness. The Talmud declares, “All the prophets prophesied only of the days of the Messiah” (Sanhedrin, 99ª).
There are, indeed, “so many witnesses” (Alma 34:30) and “so many evidences” (Helaman 8:24) to prove Christ to us.
Jesus said to his Apostles at his Ascension from the Mount of Olives: “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We, too, are witnesses of Christ (Isa. 43:10; Acts 5:32). As members of his Church, and citizens of his Kingdom, we are automatically responsible to take his Name upon us, to represent him and his Church, to stand as a light unto the world. “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6; also 42:6). “Ye are the light of the world,” he said in his great Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14).
Once we have the proof of Christ in ourselves, we are obligated, as he says, to “preach my gospel” (D&C 50:14). We have a commission—that is, it is our co-mission, us with him—to prove Christ to all the world. Each of us can then say, with Nephi, “my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4), and that in him, and him only, is our opportunity for eternal life.