Children of Christ
Before his death, King Benjamin’s wants to help his people make a covenant to become the children of Christ. He said, “And now because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7).
Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and Elohim is our Father, people are often confused by this terminology. In what way is Jesus Christ our father? Joseph Fielding Smith answered that question: “What is a father? One who begets life. What did our Savior do? He begot us, or gave us life from death, as clearly set forth by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. If it had not been for the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the spirit and body would never have been united again..
“If there had been no redemption from death, our spirits would have been taken captive by Satan and we would have become subject to Satan’s will forever.
“What did our Savior do? He begot us in that sense. He became a father to us because he gave us immortality or eternal life through his death and sacrifice upon the cross. I think we have a perfect right to speak of him as Father”( Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:177-79.)
Jesus Christ is also the life giver to our wounded and sin-ridden spirits. Without his atoning sacrifice we would be lost forever, unable to enter God’s presence. The natural man would reign, and we would be unable to escape the chains that bind us. It is Jesus Christ who heals us, binds our wounds, and takes upon himself our sins. Without the protective cloak of his atonement around us, we would stand naked in our sins at the bar of justice, and be cast off. Since Jesus saves us from physical and spiritual death-he gives us physical and spiritual life. No wonder his sentiment rings with such clarity, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Just as a child takes upon himself his father’s name, so do we take upon ourselves our Savior’s name. It not only indicates that we are seeking to be like him, but that we are under his protection and love. He will lend his strength in our struggle with sin.
Bruce R. McConkie said, “May I speak of the special family relationship enjoyed by those who so live that they become a peculiar people. Of them it is written: ‘Ye are the sons of the living God’ (Hosea 1:10). That is, those who gain the high status of a peculiar people are adopted into the family of the Lord Jehovah. They become his sons and his daughters and have him as their father.”
Who Is God?
How do we become a son or daughter of Jesus Christ? We begin by seeking to understand who God is. What is he like? If we were to think of the most righteous person we ever knew, is God something like that? Or is he like those other authority figures in our lives-our earthly parents? In this finite, mortal state, we struggle to understand God’s attributes for he is simply so much more than we can conceive. We taste his love, but we don’t comprehend it. Our mortal brains cannot leap far enough to take Him in. Yet, we can read something about the prophet’s experiences with him in scripture.
Moses, when he was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain saw God face to face and talked to him. “And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?”(Moses 1:3). Then Moses was shown “the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered”(Moses 1:8). After this magnificent and sweeping vision in which he began to comprehend the glory of God, Moses fell to the earth and said, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed (Moses 1:10).
This was a clarifying moment for Moses, because he had edged closer to knowing who God is, and thus knew more certainly who he was. After the Lord gave his powerful introduction to Moses, he claimed him as his own. “Thou art my son.” To be truly related, next-of-kin, to this great and glorious God filled Moses with awe and humility.
Just as Moses came to comprehend something about God’s attributes in his vision, so King Benjamin urges his people to know God. “Believe in God,” he pleads. “Believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9)
It is in coming to “a knowledge of God’s goodness, his matchless power and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children men” (Mosiah 4:6) that we see ourselves for the first time. We are, as Moses discovered-nothing. We are dependent on him for everything that we are, everything that we have, every breath that we take. We are unprofitable servants. We are beggars. We are in a fallen and carnal state. We are less than the dust of the earth. We are wounded. Yet that very knowledge can fill us with joy, because it is what draws us to him, the source of healing. We can be forgiven and lifted from the ashes of despair. We can be refreshed and renewed through our Savior. We can be cleansed and refined.
It is more joyful to be transformed through Christ, than believe we are self-made and sufficient. It is happier to see our weaknesses and overcome them, than hide them from ourselves. Nothing tastes sweeter than the atonement or is a more healing balm of Gilead. Only when we understand how much we need forgiveness, can we comprehend the extent of God’s goodness and love towards us.
The Joy of Forgiveness
King Benjamin’s people knew “exceedingly great joy” because they had tasted of God’s love and received a remission of their sins. How can we know when our sins have been forgiven? President Harold B. Lee told this story:
“Some years ago, President Marion G. Romney and I were sitting in my office. The door opened and a fine young man came in with a troubled look on his face, and he said, ‘Brethren, I am going to the temple for the first time tomorrow. I have made some mistakes in the past, and I have gone to my bishop and my stake president, and I have made a clean disclosure of it all; and after a period of repentance and assurance that I have not returned again to those mistakes, they have now adjudged me ready to go to the temple.
But, brethren, that is not enough. I want to know, and how can I know, that the Lord has forgiven me also.’
“What would you answer one who might come to you asking that question? As we pondered for a moment, we remembered King Benjamin’s address contained in the book of Mosiah. Here was a group of people asking for baptism, and they said they viewed themselves in their carnal state:
“‘And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth, And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. And it came to pass that after they had spoken
these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience because of the exceeding fiath which they had in Jesus Christ who should come..”(Mosiah 4:2,3).
“There was the answer.
“If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins, whoever you are, wherever you are, and have made amends and restitution to the best of your ability; if it be something that will affect your standing in the Church and you have gone to the proper authorities, then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you. In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance. Satan would have you think otherwise and sometimes persuade you that now having made one mistake, you might go on and on with no turning back. That is one of the great falsehoods. The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our days, “…go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.’ (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin.” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 184-185.)
Retaining a Remission of Sins
Once we have been filled with the sweetness of forgiveness and felt to rejoice in God’s love, we must live as new people-people who have been born again. Those in this state of refreshment do not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably. They nurture their children well, teaching them the laws of God. They walk soberly and uprightly. Then, King Benjamin mentions this acid test. If we would retain a remission of our sins, we will “succor those that stand in need of your succor, ye will administer to your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish (Mosiah 4:16).
What? If we would retain a remission of our sins, we must respond to the needs of the poor? It is so easy to think of that as a “going the extra mile” kind of task, after the real work of life is done. (See “Consecration Beckons” currently on Meridian.) Yet Amulek gives us this additional insight in his sermon on prayer in Alma 34. He lists all the places and reasons we should cry unto the Lord, and then adds, “Behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need-I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith” (Alma 34:28).
If we would have our prayers answered and retain forgiveness for our sins, we must respond to the outstretched hand of the beggar. How appropriate. King Benjamin has just demonstrated that we are beggars, dependent on the largesse of the Lord. Now, we see, that in turn, in order to receive the full bounty of his gifts, we must respond to the beggars in our lives.