David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1959, pp. 4-9
"I charge thee therefore before God," Paul wrote to Timothy, "and the Lord Jesus Christ, who
shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
"But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
Those are among the last words written by Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy, who was ordained bishop of the Ephesians. When Paul wrote those words, he was a prisoner under Nero. Two charges were pressed against him: one, that he had conspired, so it was alleged by Nero's partisans, to set fire to Rome; second, he was accused of introducing a novel and unlawful religion. That was Paul's second imprisonment. Many of his friends had left him. Demas, who had been in the Church, had forsaken him and gone home (2 Tim. 4:10). Alexander, the coppersmith, an apostate, had testified against him (2 Tim. 4:14); but Luke remained by his side (2 Tim. 4:11).
Evidently Peter, Paul, and other leaders of the Church were troubled in their day by apostate groups even as leaders today are troubled by apostates who usurp authority, misinterpret scripture, and preach false doctrine. In the spirit of charity perhaps we should say, troubled by apostates who are mentally ill.
It seems that every age in the world has been afflicted with just such apostates and such perverted truth, and with incorrigible youth, degenerate groups, who make every age seem worse than those which preceded it. For example, listen to this: "The world is passing through troublous times. Young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they alone know everything. As for girls, they are forward, immodest, and unwomanly in speech, behavior, and dress." No, that was not for today—that was written in 1274 A.D.—685 years ago!
Here is another: "President Frederick C. Perry of Hamilton College, expressing distrust of gloomsters who view the world with alarm, has cited these writings taken from an Assyrian tablet dated 2800 B.C. as proof that political prophecy for a dismal future has always been prevalent:
"'The earth is degenerating in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption abound. The children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is speedily approaching.'" That was written 2800 B.C.!
Well, the era through which we are passing is no exception. On the flyleaf of the book, The Naked Communist, by W. Cleon Skousen, we find this quotation, (and I admonish everybody to read that excellent book of Chief Skousen's):
"The conflict between communism and freedom is the problem of our time. It overshadows all other problems. This conflict mirrors our age, its toils, its tensions, its troubles, and its tasks. On the outcome of this conflict depends the future of mankind."
Elaborating that statement, I should say that the most urgent problem of our day is a spiritual problem. I agree with one leading educator who said, and I quote: "Unless the spiritual problem is solved, civilization will fail; indeed we already have a foretaste of that failure in many parts of the world:
"The Nazi creed presents a new conception of civilization. It is the supposition, advanced with fanatical zeal, that civilization consists primarily in material achievements, and can reach its goal without ethical considerations. It accents power, authority, and obedience, denies human equality and the worth of the individual."
The False Teachings of Communism
In their false teachings the Communists accept the doctrine of Marx, who denies the existence of God, and repudiates man's immortality. Second, they deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, and of course, his resurrection. They challenge the free agency of man.
In that first sentence that I read from Paul to Timothy, Paul declares the existence of God, and we shall see how authoritatively he supports that. He declares the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the reality of his resurrection. I read again what he said to Timothy, and this is almost his farewell message to that boy, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:1)
The United States recently entertained the leading man of the ideology that denies the God, Jesus Christ, and the right of free agency and dignity of man. Even while he was here we could hear echoing his own words: "We remain the atheist that we have always been; we are doing as much as we can to liberate those people who are still under the spell of this religious opiate." Those are his words. He said further: "Those who expect us to abandon communism will have to wait until a shrimp learns to whistle."
A number of years ago, Lord Balfour, Prime Minister of Great Britain, delivered a lecture in the McEwen Hall of the University of Edinburgh on the subject, "The Moral Values Which Unite the Nations." In an interesting and convincing manner, Lord Balfour presented the following fundamental ties that unite the different nations of the world:
1. Common Knowledge.
2. Common Commercial Interest.
3. The Intercourse of Diplomatic Relationship.
4. The Bonds of Human Friendship.
The audience greeted his masterful address with a great outburst of applause. As the presiding officer arose to express his appreciation and that of the audience, a Japanese student, who was doing graduate work at the University of Edinburgh stood up, and leaning over the balcony, said, "But, Mr. Balfour, what about Jesus Christ?"
Mr. Robert E. Spear, to whom Professor Lang related this incident, writes: "One could have heard a pin drop in the hall. Everyone felt at once the justice of the rebuke. The leading statesman of the greatest Christian empire in the world had been dealing with the different ties that are to unite mankind, and had omitted the one fundamental and essential bond. And everyone felt, too, the dramatic element in the situation—that the reminder of his forgetfulness had come from a faraway non-Christian land."
"Preach the word," Paul admonishes Timothy. What "word"? That ". . . Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). Those words were named in that letter. Let us consider that.
"Behold the man," said Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, as Jesus, mockingly bedecked with a purple robe, his hair plaited with a crown of thorns, stood before the mob who cried, "Crucify him; crucify him!" (John 19:5-6)
As on the occasion of that historic trial, so through the ages men have beheld Christ from different viewpoints. Some who reject him as venomously as did the rabble, see in him and in his disciples "investors of a Christian moral system that has undermined and sapped the vigor of the European world." Others with clearer insight, begotten by experience, behold him as the originator of a system that "promotes industry, honesty, truth, purity, and kindness, a system that upholds law, favors liberty; is essential to it, and would unite men in one great brotherhood."
Others behold him as the "one perfect character—the peerless personality of history," but deny his divinity. Millions accept him as the Great Teacher, whose teachings, however, are not applicable to modern social conditions. A few—O how few!—of the approximately two billion inhabitants of the globe, accept him for what he really is—"the Only Begotten of the Father; who came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world (D&C 76:41), and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness."
Today civilized nations are sitting on a mountain of explosives, accumulated in defiance of Christ's teachings. Let the heat of hatred, suspicion, and greed become a little more intense, and there will be such an international explosion as will greatly retard, if not forcibly drive from the midst of mankind, the hoped-for peace heralded by the heavenly hosts when Christ as a babe was born in Bethlehem.
Prove it as a fact, and it is, that Christ did appear after death as a glorified resurrected Being, and you have the answer to the question of the ages: "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14) Let us look at the deep significance of the testimony of the disciples of Jesus, which may be better understood when we realize that with Jesus' death the apostles were stricken with gloom. When he was crucified, their hopes all but died. That his death was a reality to the disciples is shown in their intense grief, in the statement of Thomas, in the moral perplexity of Peter, and in the evident preparations for a permanent burial of their Master. Notwithstanding the assurance of Christ, often repeated during the two and a half years he was with them, that he would return to them after death, the apostles seemed not to have accepted, or at least not comprehended the statement as a literal fact.
What was it, we ask the world, that suddenly changed these disciples to confident, fearless, heroic preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It was a revelation that Christ had risen from the grave his promises had been kept, his Messianic mission fulfilled. "The final and absolute seal of genuineness had been put on all his claims, and the indelible stamp of a divine authority upon all his teachings. The gloom of death had been banished by the glorious light of the presence of the risen, glorified Lord and Savior."
On the evidence of these unprejudiced, unexpected, incredulous witnesses the resurrection has its impregnable foundation. There was one young man among them. I do not know whether we know about his life, but I like to think of him as a sort of independent thinker, not paying much attention to his mother's religion—his mother had joined the Christian Church (Acts 12:12), but he did not pay much attention to it until he was disturbed one night by his mother's voice asking him to rise quickly, "don't stop to dress, throw a cloak around your body and rush to Gethsemane and tell Jesus that Judas and soldiers are coming to arrest him." I think that young man who fled naked from the men who snatched the sheet from his body (Mark 14:51-52), was John Mark, the author of one of the four Gospels. We know he did join the Church, later, and that he labored with Peter. We know that Paul, in that letter to Timothy, said: "Bring Mark with you. He is profitable to our ministry, and let us hear his testimony" (see 2 Tim. 4:11). We know he went on a mission to the northern part of Africa, and you travelers today can walk over ruins built to his memory.
Testimony of Mark
We have no evidence that Mark joined the Church while the Savior was on the earth. Undoubtedly the Savior was in Mark's home. At any rate we are justified in assuming that he was acquainted with the Master. Mark does not himself recount any appearance of the Risen Lord, but he testifies that the Lord would meet his disciples. From Mark we hear the glorious proclamation of the first empty tomb in all the world. For the first time in history the words "Here lies" were supplanted by the divine message, "He is risen" (Mark 16:6). No one can doubt that Mark was not convinced in his soul of the reality of the empty tomb, and if my inference is right, he knew about the trial, the humiliation to which Jesus was subjected, and the crucifixion, and he became a minister of the gospel. To the proclaiming of this truth he devoted his life, and if tradition can be relied upon, he sealed his testimony with his blood.
Testimony of Luke
The text we read said that Luke stood by Paul's side at the jail (2 Tim. 4:11). It was not long after that before Paul, according to tradition, was beheaded. Luke was a physician. He spent many years of his life studying about this man, Jesus, who was crucified. He experienced the darkness that spread over that country when Jesus was crucified. According to all trustworthy testimony we have the gospel of Luke as it came from his own hand. In chapter 24 Luke testifies to the divine message: "Why seek ye the living among the dead?
"He is not here, but is risen" (Luke 24:5-6).
With equal assurance as to their accuracy we can accept his statement and witness in regard to Peter's and Paul's and other apostles' testimony regarding the resurrection. "To whom also he [Christ] shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
Who can doubt Luke's absolute confidence in the reality of the risen Redeemer? Contrast his testimony, his life, with that of upstarts who deny the existence of God and laugh at the claims of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer.
It is true that neither Mark nor Luke testify as to having personally seen the Risen Lord, and therefore some urge that their recorded testimonies cannot be taken as firsthand evidence. That they do not so testify, and yet were convinced that others did see him, shows how incontrovertible was the evidence among the apostles and other disciples that the resurrection was a reality.
Testimony of Paul
Fortunately, however, there is a document which does give the personal testimony of an eyewitness, a witness to an appearance of Jesus after his death and burial. This personal testimony also corroborates the testimony not only of these two men, Mark and Luke, but of others also. I have in mind Saul, a Jew of Tarsus, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, a strict Pharisee, and before his conversion a bitter persecutor of all who believed in Jesus of Nazareth. And there is a quotation from the oldest authentic document in existence relating or testifying to the resurrection of Christ, in which we find Saul's (Paul's) words, sent back to people who had joined the Church, whom he loved and who loved him, saying:
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our
sins according to the scriptures;
"And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
"And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
"After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
"After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
"And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:3-9).
Testimony of Modern Revelation
In addition to the ancient apostles, we have the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith who gives in an unequivocal description the following stirring testimony in relation to his first vision:
". . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages . . . standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (JS—H 1:17). These words were spoken nearly two thousand years after the events to which I have already called your attention!
The Latter-day Saint Belief
Thus, my dear fellow workers and my friends in the world, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands with Peter with Paul, with James, and with all the other apostles in accepting the resurrection, not only as being literally true, but also as the consummation of Christ's divine mission on earth. Other great religious leaders among the nations of the world since history began have taught virtue, temperance, self-control, service, obedience to righteousness and duty; some have taught a belief in one supreme ruler and in a hereafter; but only Christ broke the seal of the grave and revealed death as the door to immortality and eternal life.
If Christ lived after death, so shall men, each one taking his place in the next world for which he is best fitted. Since love is as eternal as life, the message of the resurrection is the most comforting, the most glorifying ever given to man; for when death takes a loved one from us, we can look with assurance into the open grave and say, "He is not here; he will rise again" (Matt. 28:6).
My dear fellow workers, it is just as easy for me to accept as a divine truth the fact that Christ preached to the spirits in prison while his body lay in the tomb as it is for me to look at you from this pulpit. It is true! It is just as easy for me to realize and note this—that one may so live that he may receive impressions and direct messages through divine inspiration. The veil is thin between those who hold the priesthood and divine messengers on the other side of the veil.
Let us say today as Paul wrote to Timothy: "Preach the word . . . do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:2,5).
". . . The Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior.
"Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out.
"His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.
"From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail.
"For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
"Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory" (D&C 76:1-6).
God help us in this age so threatened with an ideology of benighted people of disbelief in God our Father and in his Son Jesus Christ and in the restored gospel through those divine Personages, to preach the Word and to be true to our callings no matter what or where they may be, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.