As Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began to close his remarks at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy, a few weeks ago, he realized something. He’d been speaking to religious leaders about their shared faith tradition of commitment to God and charity. Yet not one of the speakers before him had closed in the name of Deity.
He wondered in his mind, “Do I just say thank you to this group and sit down, or do I close in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
However, “As a special witness of Jesus Christ, called to bear witness of Him to all the world, I knew the Lord would have me say His name to conclude my message,” he said. “And so, I did.”
All baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like Elder Rasband, are blessed to bear the sacred name of Jesus Christ and stand as a witness of God “at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in” (Mosiah 18:9). Everything they say and do reflects their desire to be counted as His disciples.
Speaking to Ensign College students in a devotional held in the Assembly Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 26, Elder Rasband invited all in attendance to “stand as a witness of God, nothing wavering.”
His remarks were inspired by, and can be summed up by, Psalm 16:8: “I have set the Lord always before me: … I shall not be moved.”
Peter, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles, denied Him three times in the last hours of the Lord’s life. “I feel for Peter,” Elder Rasband said. “He had affirmed his loyalty many times; he had boldly asserted he would never deny the Christ. But then under the pressure of the guards, the crowds and the mayhem, his resolve weakened. Realizing what he had done, he went out and wept.”
But Peter’s example shows that even if one falters, “we can rise and become steadfast and immovable in standing for the Lord,” Elder Rasband said. “Following the Savior’s death and Resurrection, Peter and his fellow apostles were beaten, threatened with death and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus anymore.”
In response, Peter and the other apostles went out “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:40-42).
Each person’s discipleship began in the Council in Heaven when Heavenly Father’s plan was presented and Jesus Christ stepped forward to be the Savior.
“My young friends, we were there,” Elder Rasband said. “We chose in that council to stand with our Lord, to come to Earth and to be valiant in the cause of Christ, to be true to His Church, His gospel, His prophets and our own covenants. We pledged to strive to become like the Savior that at the final judgement we would be found worthy to receive exaltation in the presence of our Father.”
In the last days and hours of the Savior’s mortal ministry, He shouldered each person’s sins, pains and infirmities; His Atonement began with His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended in His Resurrection. The entire time, “He was thinking of those who would be blessed by His Atonement,” Elder Rasband said.
Each person carries a weight of sins, mistakes and broken covenants. The strength to overcome all of that pain comes from the Savior and His Atonement.
“Drawing upon the power of the Savior’s Atonement is not an end-of-life experience when some make amends fearful of what is ahead,” Elder Rasband said. “It is for today and tomorrow and every tomorrow after that.”
The Lord has promised, “I will … ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, … and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:14).
Elder Rasband spoke about Joseph Smith as someone who went about doing the Lord’s work, and bore his witness “that Joseph Smith was called by God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to be His first Prophet of the Restoration.”
Joseph Smith received revelation for the Church and for individuals. One such revelation was given to Oliver Cowdery, and is found in section 6 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord commanded him to “be diligent; stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the word’s sake” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:18).
“‘Stand by Joseph,’” Elder Rasband repeated. “That is not just a good thought; it is a commandment. Do you do that?”
Having a testimony that Joseph Smith was called by God is fundamental to one’s faith and witness of Jesus Christ and His Church, Elder Rasband said. If one’s testimony of this truth is wavering, study the scriptures and teachings of those doing the Lord’s work. “Pray and seek a witness from the Holy Ghost that Joseph was divinely called and divinely directed, and then stand by him.”
Elder Rasband shared the example of a friend of his who experienced great emotional pain and heartache after someone dear to her had stepped away from the Church. She turned to the scriptures, the temple and prayer in order to keep going in her righteous efforts and not allow bitterness or contention to pull her down.
One Sunday, as she sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” and “I Stand All Amazed” with her ward’s congregation, the words touched her and the Spirit filled her heart.
“She thought of those redeeming words, ‘That for me … He suffered, He bled and died,’ and realized they were meant for her, right then, not for any sin on her part, but for an aching … heart,” Elder Rasband said. “She described that literally the pain lifted and did not come back.”
This relief comes through “faith in Jesus Christ and obedience and repentance,” he said. “When we exercise faith, we find ourselves being lifted because of the Savior’s infinite Atonement.”
Lehi, Nephi, Abinadi, Alma the Elder, the 2,000 stripling warriors, Samuel the Lamanite and Moroni are some of the many examples in the Book of Mormon of men who exercised faith in Christ, stood as witnesses of Him and were lifted by the Savior’s Atonement.
Today, President Russell M. Nelson leads Christ’s Church. In the most recent general conference, he gave this counsel: “If you and I are to withstand the forthcoming perils and pressures, it is imperative that we each have a firm spiritual foundation built upon the Rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. … It is now time that we each implement extraordinary measures — perhaps measures we have never taken before — to strengthen our personal spiritual foundations.”
In closing, Elder Rasband gave an apostolic blessing that “you will keep Jesus Christ always in your sights, that you will seek the power of His Atonement to bless your life when you falter, struggle, or need His strong hand, that you will follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles and study their teachings.
“I pray that you shall not be moved from standing as a witness of God.”