The Prince of Glory
Brothers and sisters, you are certainly a marvelous sight. It is a great privilege for me to be here today. I enjoy coming to speak to you a lot more than sitting in my office at Church headquarters with piles of papers in front of me. I know that some of you attended the Salt Lake University Second Stake conference a few weeks ago that I spoke at; I have carefully reviewed my notes of that conference, and will try not to repeat anything I said then. I think my main message then was to get married, and I will talk about a different subject today, so you won't feel too pressured.
I would like to talk today about a very important dimension of the Savior's life and Atonement that often is not understood. And I pray very much, as the scriptures say, that you will apply your hearts to understanding, and strive to understand this scriptural message about Jesus Christ. Because if you understand it, I think it will make a great difference in your personal life.
I have entitled these remarks, "The Prince of Glory." In one of our hymns, the following phrase appears, "The King of kings left worlds of light, became the meek and lowly one." (Thy Will, O Lord, Be Done, Hymns # 188) Now why was it that the Lord Jesus Christ would leave that world of light, that exalted sphere, where he dwelt with the Father in everlasting glory? And why, when he came to earth, did he come down in such humble circumstances? After all, the Jewish people had anticipated that when the Messiah came, he would come in great power and glory. He would be a great king that would liberate them from Roman power. That is how they had read the scriptures. They, therefore, were completely unprepared, and did not recognize, most of them, a Messiah who came, born in a stable in Bethlehem, and then living as a carpenter's son in Nazareth.
They had misread the scriptures. There are scriptures in the Old Testament that prophesy of the Messiah coming in glory. But those refer to his Second Coming. There are other scriptures that refer to him coming as a Suffering Servant. And they misread those, and did not understand that he would come in such a simple way.
But why did he come, in his first coming, as such a humble person in such humble circumstances? To help us understand it, I am going to share a story with you written by the great American writer, Mark Twain. If you have not read it, and I suspect most of you have not, I recommend that you do so. It is a short little novel called "The Prince and The Pauper."
Now in this story, Mark Twain tells about two boys. One is named Tom Canty, a poor boy who lives in London, and owns nothing. His father is some kind of a worker. Whenever Tom is home his father beats him. His mother is always sick. He lives in just a hovel of an apartment, and is about as poor as you can be.
The other boy is the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, who is the heir to the throne of England, and will become the King of England someday. Now what happens is that Tom Canty, the poor boy, always dreams of what it would be like to be a prince or a king. And so one day, filled with these dreams, he decides to go down to Westminster palace, hoping to get a glimpse of the prince. He wanders down to the palace, and there are hundreds of people waiting outside, hoping that they might see the prince or the queen or the king come out. And he's excited suddenly when the prince, Prince Edward, comes out of the gates of the Palace and greets the people. He is so excited that he presses up against the gates of the palace, and he tries to wave to the prince, and he calls, and he is excited, and the soldiers, seeing this, roughly push him away.
Well, it so happens that just as they do that, Prince Edward is looking, and he is angry with them for doing that and he says, "Leave the boy alone." And he invites Tom Canty, this pauper boy, to come into the palace with him, as his guest. He takes him into the palace, he gives him a tour of the palace, orders a sumptuous meal, that they have together. And then, for fun, these are just teenage boys, maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, they decide to exchange clothing.
And so, the prince takes off his royal clothing, and he gives it to the pauper boy, and the pauper boy takes off his rags and old clothing and he gives it to the prince. And they change clothes. And then they look at each other in the mirror, and they realize that they're practically twins. You can hardly tell them apart. In fact, it now looks like the pauper is the prince, and the prince is the pauper.
While they are dressed like that, they decide to go outside. And when they go outside, the soldiers grab the pauper (who is really the prince), and take him and throw him outside the gates, and say, "You've been here long enough." And they tell the prince, "You go inside, it's time for dinner." Prince Edward, who's now dressed like a pauper, screams and says, "No, I'm the prince, I'm the prince." And all the people laugh at him. And they close the gates and suddenly the two boys are reversed. The poor boy is the prince in the palace, and the prince is the poor boy on the street. And nothing he does can get him back inside the palace. People push him away and he's left outside the doors of the palace.
The story goes on for months, with the poor pauper inside the palace, trying to play the role of the prince. He always tells them that he's not the prince, and they think he's gone crazy and try to minister to him, and help him learn to be the prince. And the poor prince, Prince Edward, is out, owning absolutely nothing, dressed in rags, trying to figure out a way to get back inside the palace.
Now during the months that Prince Edward is outside the palace, as a pauper, he has many adventures. Tom Canty's father finds him, thinks it's his son, takes him home and beats him. He experiences hunger that he's never known in his life. He travels through England, trying to figure out a way to get restored to the throne. And as he does so, he sees the poverty of his people. And he also sees the grave injustice of British law. He sees two women burned at the stake because of their beliefs and he can't believe that this is happening in his country. He never knew about it. And he sees other examples of the cruelty of the law. And he suffers a great deal. He's nearly killed on one occasion, he's chased and beaten and just has terrible experiences. And the whole book is mostly about his experiences as a prince who has become a pauper.
In the end of the book, through a remarkable series of events which I won't describe, the mixup is finally resolved and Prince Edward is restored to the palace, with the help of Tom Canty. In the meantime, he has become the King of England and has inherited the throne. And he rewards Tom Canty for having helped him come back to power. But then this interesting thing happens. This young boy, King Edward now, becomes a just and a merciful, king--King Edward of England: good and compassionate, because he has lived among his people. And whenever one of his high lords is inclined to say, "Why are you so merciful, or why are you making the laws of the land more merciful?" He says, "What do you know of suffering? I and my people know of suffering, but not you."
Brothers and sisters, I tell you that story because we too have a prince who became a pauper. The Prince of Peace, the Prince of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ came down from being the Creator of the world, the prince of heaven, to live among the people of his day, to share in their poverty and suffering, in order that he might be a more compassionate, a more merciful and a more perfect king. As one writer said, "He uncrowned himself to crown us, and he put off his robes to put on our rags." Or as the apostle Paul said, "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." (2 Cor 8:9)
In another one of his letters, the apostle Paul said, "In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren [to be poor like us], that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest . . .for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor [or to help] them that are tempted." (Heb 2:17-18) In other words, among all of the reasons why Christ came to earth, one of the reasons, so important to understand, is that he might live a life like ours, that he might experience temptation and pain and sorrow and suffering, in order that he might be a more compassionate and perfect King.
Again, from the apostle Paul, "For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15)
Alma the younger, in his discourse on the atonement, said the following about the Savior to the people of Gideon: "He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people@ And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11-12) That word, succor, means to help them or to be with them in their infirmities, to strengthen them.
And then Alma says, "The Spirit knoweth all things," in other words, even when he was in the preexistence, Christ knew of our sufferings; "nevertheless, the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance." (Alma 7:13)
You see, through suffering, not just in Gethsemane, or not just on the cross, but throughout the whole thirty-three years of his life, the Lord Jesus Christ acquired perfect compassion. He came to know what our life is like. By being tempted, he knows how to strengthen us when we are tempted. There is no temptation we face that he has not faced. There is no humiliation, sorrow, pain or anguish that we will ever know that he has not experienced personally in this life.
You may experience being ostracized, being betrayed by a friend, prejudice, scorn or abuse. He faced them daily, during his ministry in Palestine. You may feel that your life is obscure, your days dull, your talents and accomplishments meager in the eyes of the world. The Lord Christ made himself of no reputation, and was a "root out of a dry ground," (Isa. 53:2) having no beauty that we should desire him. Perhaps our friends may abandon us; so did His. Sometimes when we pray it may seem as though the heavens are brass over our heads, that our prayers do not get anywhere. Jesus endured the withdrawal of the Spirit in Gethsemane. Whatever depth of anguish or misery or temptation we may experience, his compassion and understanding for our situation is perfect, because he has experienced it himself during his mortal life.
There's a beautiful poem, written by Leona Gates, that talks about the significance of this:
The road is rough, I said, Dear Lord, There are stones that hurt me so. And he said, Dear child, I understand. I walked it long ago. But there is a cool green path, said I,
Let me walk there for a time. No child, he gently answered me, The green road does not climb. But my burden is great, dear Lord, I cried. How can I bear it so? Yes, child, he said, I remember its weight. I carried my cross you know. Oh, but I wish there were friends with me, Who would make my way their own. Yes, child, he said, Gethsemane Was hard to bear alone. And so I climbed the stony path, Content at last to know That where my master had not gone, I would not need to go. And strangely then, I found new friends, The burden grew less sore, As I remembered long ago, He walked that way before.
Our Savior has walked with us, and that in fact is one of his names: Immanuel. God with us. He has walked with us in the trials of mortality. It says in fact, in Second Nephi, that he bore the pains of every living creature, both men, women and children, who belong to the family of Adam. (2 Ne. 9:21) And King Benjamin prophesied that he would suffer, "pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death." (Mosiah 3:7)
Having overcome the world, Christ possesses a redeeming power that is all-embracing and all-encompassing in its scope. His light, the light of Christ, his power, permeates every particle and every dimension of existence.
There are many dimensions to that power, and I want to emphasize this. First and most important is the redeeming power of the Great Atonement, the Great Atonement that paid the price for our sins, both our individual sins and the sins of all mankind. Now the truth is that even the smallest sin that we commit opens an infinite gulf between us and God. And it takes an infinite atonement to overcome that. No mortal could pay that price, but only One, as Amulek said, who is infinite and eternal.
And in a most personal way, the Savior pleads for us before the Father's throne. In fact in the Doctrine and Covenants, it says that he is our advocate with the Father, standing before the Father and saying, "Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son . . . Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name." (D & C 45:4-5)
In other words, when Christ pleads for us before the throne of the Father, he does not say, "Now, John here, or Sally here, they're pretty good people, so let them into heaven." No, he does not plead on the basis of our merit; he pleads on the basis of His merit and His suffering. And therefore, we must rely, as Nephi said, "wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (2 Ne. 31:19)
What I would emphasize is that the power of Christ is not limited to the payment for sin. As those scriptures I read earlier pointed out, he took upon himself the pains and the sicknesses of his people. He took upon himself every negative consequence of a fallen world. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, "Not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin. Therefore the full intensiveness of the atonement involved Christ's bearing our pains, our infirmities, and our sicknesses, as well as our sins."
Whenever a tragedy takes place in our lives--if you have not experienced it yet, you will--an illness strikes, a serious illness, a tragedy in our family, an emotional struggle that we're dealing with; those don't happen necessarily because we have sinned. We may be perfectly innocent. We may be living a righteous life. But nevertheless, bad things happen to good people. That's the fruit of a fallen world. But having experienced tragedy, sickness, and disappointment in his own life, the Savior knows how to strengthen us in those kinds of trials as well. He's there not only when we cry out from the burden of sin, but he's there when we cry out for any other reason as well. And the power of the Atonement also covers the consequences of sin in the lives of innocent people.
Take for example, a child who is abused. Some of you here may have experienced that when you were children. Not everybody has wonderful parents. An abused child may grow up with all kinds of problems, because of that abuse. They may have emotional problems, they may have low self-esteem, they may be dysfunctional, they may have problems concentrating, whatever it may be. But insofar as that child's life was affected by that abuse, independent of their own agency, by a force over which they had no control, the power of the Atonement will make up for every negative consequence that ever happens in their life. It will be covered. Because no one will pay any eternal price for things over which they have no control. The only thing that we pay a price for is our own agency, and even there the Savior has given us the Atonement.
Finally, the Lord Jesus Christ is our strength and our comfort in every weakness in every trial of life. He is there in every problem we may have, every dilemma or trial. As Peter said, he is the "Bishop of your souls." (I Peter 2:25) You go to your bishop, your earthly bishop, when you have trials and problems. But you have also a heavenly Bishop, the Lord Jesus Christ, who knows how to strengthen and support you in every kind of trial. The scriptures say that he can make us out of weakness strong, that he can make our weak points strong, that he gives power to the faint, that he makes us perfect in every good work, that he can work a mighty change in our hearts and in our desires.
Sometimes we think of the power of the Atonement as something that happens after this life. In other words, I live my life, and I commit sins, and I maybe work and progress and improve and at the end of my life I'm 80% perfect, and I go to Judgment and Christ says, you are 80% perfect and the Atonement will make up the other 20%. And that is all it is, just something that happens at the Judgment Day. Brothers and sisters, that is not true doctrine. The Atonement, the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, works in our daily life, day by day, moment by moment, as he gives us strength to overcome, as he forgives us of sin, as he through the Holy Ghost brings us comfort and peace and joy. As the apostle Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ, [who] strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13)
My prayer and hope is that you will find and discover the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life. That you will understand that the Atonement is not something abstract. That Christ literally overcame the world and stands as our friend, as a prince who has lived in this life, among us, and knows how to make us strong.
Now I'd like to share with you an experience I had, by way of a testimony, back in 1987. I was working in the federal government, and at the very last minute, literally, I got a call at 11:00 in the morning. A call came in and said, we need you to go to Israel. I said, when do I need to leave, and they said, today. I barely had time to rush home and get packed and get my passport and rush to the airport, and I left for Israel about ten days before Christmas in 1987. I was there to help with negotiations for a short-wave radio station that the United States was hoping to build.
It was an interesting time to be in Israel, because the rebellion of the Palestinian people began that month, the same rebellion that continues today, only much worse, the so-called Intifada. And so I arrived in Israel at a time when there was violence taking place between Israelis and Arabs, when all the tourists stayed away, even though it was Christmas. I spent a whole week in the Holy Land, and the last day I was there I was able to go to Jerusalem. I walked around the streets of Jerusalem. I had been there before, but this was the first time I had been there just a few days before Christmas. Normally in the past, Jerusalem had been a very happy place at Christmas time, with lots of tourists coming to celebrate the birth of Christ. But now the tourists had all stayed away because of the violence, and on top of that, it was raining and it was cold. I walked through the streets, and all the Arab shopkeepers in the old city had their shops closed, and everyone seemed unhappy.
But as I walked through the streets of that holy city, I thought of the Savior of the world, who too had walked on those cobblestone streets, and I realized that I was walking where he had walked. And great joy filled my heart. Despite the rain and the cold, and the miserable political atmosphere, I was so happy to know that I was in the city where had lived and walked the Savior of the world.
And then I went home. We lived in Washington D.C. and I arrived home just a few days before Christmas. I think I arrived home on a Friday, and I arrived at Dulles airport, hailed a taxi, and as we pulled out on the Washington beltway, we hit the biggest, worst traffic jam I have ever seen. Every one was trying to get home for Christmas, and it was a Friday, the end of the week, and the holiday was beginning, and everybody was trying to leave town.
I'm not a terribly patient person, especially when I'm in traffic. So, as we drove along, I started to fidget and fume, and I kept saying to the taxi driver, "Try that lane, move over there, no, go over there, try that,@ and of course it didn't matter which lane you switched into, they always slowed down most in that lane. You know what that's like. So we just dragged along, and it took us nearly an hour to get to my exit in Virginia. And by the time we got there and off the exit, there was another traffic jam, and I started fuming and fidgeting and making suggestions to the taxi driver. All of a sudden, he turned around and looked right at me, and he said, "Sir, there's no reason to be upset about a traffic jam." And then he turned around.
I thought, "Well! Am I paying you or are you paying me?"
And he sensed, maybe, that I was a little bit miffed, and he turned around, and he said, "Sir, forgive me. But you see, I come from another planet."
I thought, "Oh, great." And I said to him, "All right, just what planet do you come from?"
And then he turned, and I will never forget this. He said, "Sir, I am from Afghanistan." At that time the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, and there was a war going on, just like today. He said, "I am from Afghanistan, and if you had seen the things that I have seen, if you had seen villages bombed, people starving, and men and women and children fleeing for their lives, if you had seen war and destruction on every side; if you had seen all that, you would not worry about a traffic jam."
And then he turned around, and didn't say another word. And his words pierced me. I realized that I was going home to a wonderful family, in affluent conditions, and we were going to celebrate Christmas together. I realized that I had everything in the world a person could possibly have, including the gospel of Jesus Christ. And there I was, worrying about a traffic jam, which didn't mean anything.
Two days later, I had to get up to go to a bishopric meeting. And as my alarm clock came on, that early Sunday morning, the radio came on. A song was being sung, and the person singing the song reminded me somehow of that taxi driver. And the song he was singing was from a Christmas carol, "O Holy Night." And these were the words:The King of kings, lay thus in lowly manger,In all our trials, born to be our friend.
I suddenly thought of my visit to Jerusalem. And I thought of the lesson that humble taxi driver had taught me. And I thought of Jesus Christ who was born to be the friend of the lowly and the hope of the meek. And I began to cry, and the tears flowed freely as I thought that He might regard me as a friend.
Brothers and sisters, that is my testimony and my witness to you today--that you have a friend. You have a friend, the Prince of Glory, who lived on earth as a poor and simple and humble man, but who was in fact the God of all the world. And I pray that no matter what your trial, no matter what your challenge, no matter what your temptation or difficulty or sin may be, that you will come unto Him and in His name, pray to the Father, and seek His comfort, His peace and His friendship, for I know that He lives. And I bear witness to you that Jesus Christ is our Savior in very deed, that He knows us, that He knows our trials and our pains, our temptations and our suffering of every kind. And He will be with us in every kind of trouble.
I pray that His spirit will be in your heart, and that you will not let the traffic jams of life, or any other kind of trial, trouble you, but will look to Him in gratitude for ever and ever, which I pray, and which testimony I leave you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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