Elder Christofferson tells young adults how to develop strong spiritual muscles

The world needs disciples who ‘can endure and do hard things, who can meet and overcome challenges with their faith in Jesus Christ,’ Elder Christofferson says

On the morning of Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 — 12 days after the death of President Thomas S. Monson — the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gathered in a special meeting in the Salt Lake Temple to reorganize the First Presidency.

“I was quite surprised … by the power of the spiritual confirmations I experienced during that nearly four-hour meeting,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recalled during a young adult devotional on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Elder Christofferson said he cannot describe the experience of setting apart President Russell M. Nelson. “But I can assure you that I can and do testify that he is called of God by the will and at the direction of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.”

With that as background, Elder Christofferson urged his listeners to make President Nelson’s recent talk — “Overcome the World and Find Rest” — a matter of serious study. “This was an instance of a prophet speaking as a prophet,” Elder Christofferson declared.

Accompanied by his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, Elder Christofferson spoke to more than 2,000 young adults and youth — who braved snowy conditions to gather at the Cedar City Institute of Religion Sunday night — of the need for “muscular Christians.”

The term, Elder Christofferson explained, comes from a conversation he had with a professor and ordained minister of an evangelical Christian denomination. 

In speaking of “muscular Christians,” this professor did not mean people who “pump iron” three hours a day, Elder Christofferson said, but “disciples who can endure and do hard things, who can meet and overcome challenges with their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to young adults during a devotional at the Cedar City Institute of Religion on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. | Screenshot

The Book of Mormon gives an account of 2,000 muscular young Christians, or stripling warriors, who the scriptures describe as “exceedingly valiant for courage …; but behold, this was not all — they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him. … Yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them” (Alma 53:20–21; 57:21).

“Muscular Christians” could also be called “covenant keepers.” President Nelson taught: “The reward for keeping covenants with God is heavenly power — power that strengthens us to withstand our trials, temptations, and heartaches better. This power eases our way. Those who live the higher laws of Jesus Christ have access to His higher power. Thus, covenant keepers are entitled to a special kind of rest that comes to them through their covenantal relationship with God.” 

In his address, President Nelson also taught about the doctrine of Christ as it relates to overcoming the world. Individuals cultivate faith in Jesus Christ by repenting daily and keeping covenants. They are then blessed with spiritual strength, personal revelation, increasing faith and the ministering of angels. “Living the doctrine of Christ can produce the most powerful virtuous cycle, creating spiritual momentum in our lives,” President Nelson said.

All the covenants accessed through priesthood ordinances carry the promise of expanding faith in God and Christ, the kind of faith that makes for strong, muscular Christians, Elder Christofferson explained.

President Nelson further taught that because Christ overcame this fallen world, individuals can overcome this “sin-saturated, self-centered and often exhausting world.”

Elder Christofferson shared the opinion of authors Terryl and Nathaniel Givens, who argue in a recent article in Deseret Magazine that in the 21st century, discipleship is not hard, but too easy, and therefore more brittle or weak.

After the fourth century, the Givenses explain, the costs of being a Christian were turned inside out. Instead of “holding tickets to the lion’s den,” Christianity became a prerequisite for office or advancement. “The consequence, we are arguing, has been a more fragile Christianity, a more vulnerable discipleship: one that asks much but requires little” (“Secularism as Scapegoat,” by Terryl Givens and Nathaniel Givens, Deseret Magazine, October 2022).

While covenants with God are an unquestioned source of strength and comfort, they also demand a great deal from those who make them. “And they should,” Elder Christofferson said. “It is the loyalty and sacrifice inherent in covenants that are needed to produce committed, muscular Christians.”

What does it mean to overcome the world? President Nelson taught: “It means overcoming the temptation to care more about the things of this world than the things of God. It means trusting the doctrine of Christ more than the philosophies of men. It means delighting in truth, denouncing deception, and becoming ‘humble followers of Christ (2 Nephi 28:14).’ It means choosing to refrain from anything that drives the Spirit away. It means being willing to ‘give away’ even our favorite sins.”

Overcoming the world does not mean problems will magically evaporate, President Nelson continued. “But overcoming the world does mean that your resistance to sin will increase. Your heart will soften as your faith in Jesus Christ increases (see Mosiah 5:7). Overcoming the world means growing to love God and His Beloved Son more than you love anyone or anything else.”

One of the best examples of muscular Christians overcoming the world through faith in Christ is the mission of the sons of Mosiah, Elder Christofferson said. They had undertaken to preach the gospel to a hardened, ferocious people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, yet they proceeded with faith in the Lord.

“And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.

“And it came to pass that the hearts of the sons of Mosiah, and also those who were with them, took courage to go forth unto the Lamanites to declare unto them the word of God” (Alma 7:11-12).

Again quoting President Nelson, Elder Christofferson shared that entering into a covenant relationship with God binds individuals to Him in a way that makes everything about life easier, not easy. “But yoking yourself with the Savior means you have access to His strength and redeeming power,” President Nelson said.

Elder Christofferson reiterated the Prophet’s plea for individuals to take charge of their testimonies. “Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with false philosophies of unbelieving men and women. As you make the continual strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.”

In conclusion, Elder Christofferson repeated his earlier request. “I urge you with all my heart to study this prophetic message. It is your guide for not only how to survive but how to thrive and find happiness in this world.”

Sister Kathy Christofferson, wife of Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks to young adults during a devotional at the Cedar City Institute of Religion on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. | Screenshot

Heeding quiet promptings

In her remarks, Sister Christofferson shared two examples of where she or someone else was protected from danger by heeding a prompting from the Holy Ghost. In both cases, it was a “quiet prompting” or a nudge.

During this last general conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a footnote to his talk on revelation, described the voice of the Holy Ghost as “mild and still like a whisper, not loud or noisy. It is simple and quiet and plain. It can be piercing and burning. It affects both the mind and the heart. It brings peace, joy, and hope, not fear, anxiety, and worry. It invites us to do good, not evil. It is enlightening and delicious, not mystifying.”

Quoting President Nelson, Sister Christofferson taught that hearing the Lord and being attuned to the Spirit requires consistent daily effort. One of the best ways to have the Spirit testify of truth, she added, is by studying the Book of Mormon. “I have personally felt the Spirit testify to me of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.”

Those who go to the Lord with determination to find an answer and say, “Is this not true?” Sister Christofferson testified: “He will reveal that truth to you by the power of the Holy Ghost. You will know that it is without a doubt the truth. It is not your own wishful thinking. This is the power of the Lord to reveal something to you because you have done the work necessary to that answer.”

A blessing to young adults

Dustin Callister, director of the Cedar City Institute of Religion, said he has taken a few minutes in his classes throughout the week to talk about young adults’ insights or feelings during the devotional.

A simple but tender gesture noted by several students, Callister said, occurred during Sister Christofferson’s remarks. When her voice began to sound a little scratchy, Elder Christofferson quietly uncapped a bottle of water and set it on the podium next to her. “Many of the young adults commented on how they hoped to find a spouse that would be as conscientious as that.”

A clear favorite, however, was when Elder Christofferson paused from his prepared text to issue a special invitation. “You need to find a time, a moment, a quiet moment in your life when you can with all sincerity say to your Heavenly Father, ‘I am Yours, my life is Yours, I give it to You and to Your will.’ Work so that that moment may come when in total honesty and sincerity you can say that to Him. And it will be the beginning of a wonderful, eternal, exalted experience,” Elder Christofferson said.

That moment was a highlight for Ryan Craig. “In that moment I felt like that message was meant just for me,” Craig shared with the Church News.

Craig added that he couldn’t stop smiling afterward because he felt a renewed desire to commit himself to God.

Natalie Franson appreciated Elder Christofferson’s testimony that President Nelson is called of God. “As [Elder Christofferson] said those things, I felt the Spirit confirm that to be true. [President Nelson] really is called of God for our day.”

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