PROVO, Utah — Spiritual growth is the result of individual choice to come to Christ, to exercise faith in His redeeming power, to repent of one's sins, to be obedient to elevating principles and to know Him by living as He lives, said Elder Merrill J. Bateman Jan. 6.
"Salvation is essentially a 'one-on-one' process," said Elder Bateman of the Seventy and BYU president. "Individual agency gives each person the right to choose his or her destiny. Opposition in all things provides alternatives from which one chooses."
During the "Christ, Savior, Son of God" symposium sponsored by BYU Jan. 4-8, Elder Bateman spoke of the Savior's visit to the western hemisphere shortly after His resurrection. Nephi records in the Book of Mormon that in response to an invitation from Christ, a multitude went forth "one by one" to see with their eyes, feel with their hands and know of a surety that their Savior had come.
Elder Bateman said the Savior also took their little children and blessed them and prayed for them.
"What was the Savior's purpose in inviting each individual to stand in His immediate presence, to feel the wounds in His hands and feet and thrust a hand into His side? Why did He bless each child rather than offer a collective pronouncement?"
Elder Bateman continued: "Some writers have noted that the Savior's appearance to the Nephites produced a season of peace that lasted 200 years. The truth is that His appearance and the 'one by one' relationship He established had an infinite and eternal impact in the lives of those present as well as their children and grandchildren."
The Savior's "one by one" invitation and command that people follow a similar pattern in dealing with the world is consistent with the principle that salvation is an individual matter, said Elder Bateman.
He said it appears that the Lord organized the Church in a way that provides opportunities for every person to build a relationship with Him and the Father.
First, He invites all to come directly to the Father through Him in prayer. "There are no intermediaries between Deity and the individual," said Elder Bateman.
Second, all ordinances are administered one-by-one with the exception of the sealing ordinance. "Even those who have passed beyond the veil have ordinances preformed for them on an individual basis," he said. ". . . The point is that every person has the opportunity to come to Christ through the ordinance process."
Third, the Lord has organized the Church with lay leaders and a lay priesthood. "The royal priesthood is given to every worthy male, and all worthy men and women participate in the blessings of the priesthood. The result is that each person in the Church has easy access to a priesthood holder and can be ministered to by priesthood and Church leaders," said Elder Bateman.
A lay Church, he continued, also provides opportunities for each individual to serve. Spiritual growth comes through serving others.
Fourth, the distribution of spiritual gifts ensures that to every man and woman is given a gift by the spirit of God (D&C 46:11). "Since each person has at least one gift, everyone has something to share," Elder Bateman said. "Each person has a special talent [such as faith, love, testimony, healing powers, tongues, wisdom, working of miracles, or the power of discernment] with which he or she can serve and bless others."
Fifth, missionary work and the conversion process is one-by-one. "Although we send missionaries two-by-two, they teach one by one — an individual or a family," he said.
Sixth, all people are entitled to their own spiritual witness of Christ's divinity, of the Restored Gospel, of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and God's work on the earth. "Christ's invitation to seek Him, to know Him is extended to everyone," said Elder Bateman.
Seventh, the family is organized in a manner that allows each individual to grow and develop both spiritually and temporally. "The shepherding ratio of parents to children is rarely larger than five-to-one," he explained. "The rate at which children are born allows for individual attention and caring. The family is intended to be an eternal unit and is the fundamental organizational unit of the Church."
Elder Bateman noted that the seven points are not exhaustive. It is instructive to know, however, that the Lord's plan is consistent not only in terms of doctrine, but also in terms of organization, he explained.
"It is my hope that we may appreciate the intimate effects of Christ's atoning power in our lives, that we may be worthy of His redeeming love," he concluded.