Wednesday, May 08, 2013

April 2013 General Conference: Followers of Christ

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles prefaced his conference address by reciting the words from the hymn,
“Come, follow me,” the Savior said.
Then let us in his footsteps tread,
For thus alone can we be one
With God’s own loved, begotten Son.
Oaks taught that members of the Church study the life of the Savior from the account of the Scriptures in an effort to follow His perfect example.  He iterated some of the specifics followers of Christ would be expected to do.

We follow the example of Jesus in baptism.  One of His acts during His mortal ministry was to be baptised, and his disciples also followed this example.  Members of the Church today do likewise.

The earliest message of the Savior's ministry was the call to repentanceThis is a consistent theme, still preached.

Jesus' ministry was characterized by commandments.  He taught, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." He taught that followers would be required to abjure "...that which is highly esteemed among men", and the "tradition of men".  He gave warning to the disciples:
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15:19).
The apostle Peter later made the characterization of Christ's disciples, "Ye....are a peculiar people."

Some of the more difficult to follow counsel from the Savior includes the injunction to be not "of the world".   Jesus was critical of some of his followers because “...they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."  Among the common shortcomings of Church members today, Oaks mentions "...worldly practices like political correctness and extremes in dress and grooming to deviations from basic values like the eternal nature and function of the family."

We also learn from the Scriptures that the teachings of Jesus are practical and pragmatic counsel, intended to give direction to the disciples lives. Jesus taught, "...Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man."

As Jesus taught, His followers that love Him would be obedient to the commandments.  Following Christ is a commitment that applies at all times and in all places.  We partake of the sacrament each week in reminder of the promise to always remember Him and keep His commandments.

Jesus taught that " ought always to pray."  Church members pray together when they meet, and are counselled to pray individually and as families.

Jesus called twelve apostles to minister for Him, and the restored Church continues in this example.

Jesus taught, "...No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  Many Church members follow this challenge today in voluntary missionary service.

Jesus taught that God created male and female and that a man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife (see Mark 10:6–8). Our commitment to this teaching is well known.

We follow the injunction of Jesus to go out of our way to seek after any of the flock who have strayed (see Matthew 18:11–14; Luke 15:3–7).

The Savior's teachings about love are characterized in this passage,

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34–35).

The instruction to be forgiving is another difficult commandment that we strive to follow.  Jesus counselled to love even our enemies (see Luke 6:27–28).

Church members follow the teaching of Jesus in giving to care for the poor and needy (see Matthew 25:31–46; Mark 14:7).  They succeed, in great measure, through support of the Church policy for offerings and donations, both monetary and service oriented.  In addition, the Church participates in global humanitarian causes with the support of Church members striving to follow Christ.

Jesus admonished followers to pursue spreading the gospel, and Church members support this work today with many missionary efforts.

Followers of Christ today teach as the apostle Paul, that we are children of God, and joint heirs with Christ.  Jesus taught, "...No man cometh unto the Father, but by me".

Elder Oaks closes with the final verses of the hymn, "Come, Follow Me",

Is it enough alone to know
That we must follow him below,
While trav’ling thru this vale of tears?
No, this extends to holier spheres. ...
For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, pow’rs,
And glory great and bliss are ours,
If we, throughout eternity,
Obey his words, “Come, follow me.

Elder Oaks testifies that the Savior invites us to follow His bidding, all of us who are heavy laden, to come unto Him, to learn of Him, to follow Him, and thus to find rest to our souls (see Matthew 4:19; 11:28).

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