A talk by Pete Codella for high council speaking Sunday on December 14, 2014 (learn more here). Many ideas and segments of this talk come from the resources noted below.
It’s December and we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. What a perfect time to talk about developing Christlike attributes in our lives.
Why Christlike attributes? Because who you are, and who you’re becoming are equally important as what you think and do. We’re talking about different sides of the same coin.
Changing to become Christlike requires exercising faith, repenting, keeping covenants, receiving an increased measure of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, teaches that:
“Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They come as you use your agency righteously. Ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with these attributes; you cannot develop them without His help. With a desire to please God, recognize your weaknesses and be willing and anxious to improve.”
Christlike attributes include:
- Faith and hope
- Charity and love
- Virtue and integrity
- Knowledge with humility
- Patience and diligent obedience
- Devotion and loyalty
What attribute do you most need to develop? Choose one. Focus on it. Study it in the scriptures and words of latter day prophets. Ponder how you can best develop the attribute.
It’s so easy to lack patience and be proud. It’s a piece of cake to feel like you’re always right and everyone else is clueless. Although some may be attached to these behaviors, these are not Christlike attributes.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
In your families, have you ever heard, or found yourself saying: “Please don’t yell. No hitting! Why are you being so mean?”
That behavior is easy, but we strive to be better:
“And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works” (Alma 7:23-24).
Missionaries are taught that if they desire to serve God, they’re called to the work, then instructed:
“And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 4:5-7.
The Lord, in a revelation through Joseph Smith with instruction for priesthood holders, said:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved…
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:41-43, 45).
Although we can become discouraged, and even though we live in the latter-days — with wars and rumors of wars, and terrorism — we can witness Christlike attributes in the actions of many of our brothers and sisters.
Have you received His image in your countenance?
Does the light of Christ shine in your eyes?
Will He know you when He comes again because you will be like Him?
When He sees you will the father know his child?
By His everlasting image in your eyes (song: His Image in Your Countenance)
Alma, in The Book of Mormon, teaches about receiving the image of Christ in your countenance:
“…have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
“Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
“I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
“Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?
“Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
“… can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
“… can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?
“I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.
“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
“Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not, ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand…” (Alma 5:14-21, 26).
I love what Elder Christofferson taught, five years ago now, about living Christlike lives:
“This tender demonstration of faith and spiritual strength is repeated in the lives of Saints across the world in many different settings. It is a simple illustration of a profound power that is much needed in our day and that will become increasingly crucial in days ahead. We need strong Christians who can persevere against hardship, who can sustain hope through tragedy, who can lift others by their example and their compassion, and who can consistently overcome temptations. We need strong Christians who can make important things happen by their faith and who can defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism.
“What is the source of such moral and spiritual power, and how do we obtain it? The source is God. Our access to that power is through our covenants with Him. A covenant is an agreement between God and man, an accord whose terms are set by God. In these divine agreements, God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments.”
What are those God-given spiritual gifts?
“For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
“To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
“To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
“And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, [and] to some to know the diversities of operations…
“And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
“To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
“And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed; And to others it is given to have faith to heal. And again, to some is given the working of miracles; And to others it is given to prophesy; And to others the discerning of spirits. And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues; And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
“And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God” (D&C 46:11-26).
Elder Robbins of the Seventy talked about developing Christlike attributes in these terms:
“To be, or not to be” is actually a very good question. The Savior posed the question in a far more profound way, making it a vital doctrinal question for each of us:
“What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).
“The first-person present tense of the verb be is I Am. He invites us to take upon us His name and His nature.
“To become as He is, we must also do the things He did: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21).
“To be and to do are inseparable. As interdependent doctrines they reinforce and promote each other. Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one’s faith.
“The Savior often denounced those who did without being—calling them hypocrites: “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6). To do without to be is hypocrisy, or feigning to be what one is not—a pretender.
“Conversely, to be without to do is void, as in “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Be without do really isn’t being—it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good merely because one’s intentions are good.
“Do without be—hypocrisy—portrays a false image to others, while be without do portrays a false image to oneself” (What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?).
Doing is the external act. Being is internalizing and has an effect on the heart that changes our nature. A change of heart is needed to return and dwell with our Father in Heaven. No unclean thing can dwell with God, and the natural man is an enemy to God.
We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. Change can find fertile ground with humble self-reflection, and with a vision of what we can become.
As we consider what we can become, may our thoughts be focused on our beautiful Savior.
Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer the moonlight
And all the stars in heav’n above;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
And brings to all the world his love.
Fair are the meadows,
Fairer the woodlands,
Robed in the flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer.
He makes the sorrowing spirit sing.
Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Thee will I honor, praise, and give glory,
Give praise and glory evermore!
Although it’s simple enough to include requests in our prayers for us to become more Christlike, it can be difficult to preserver when we see little obvious progress. As encouragement for such a challenge, Elder Bednar has shared this example:
“In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes—none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.”
In our lives, our own experiences are brush strokes. What masterpiece are we creating? And will we, in the end, resemble the Master?
Christlike attributes from the Articles of Faith:
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 13).
Jesus told His disciples that to know Him is to know the Father. Can we say that as other people know us, they come to know the Savior?
May our efforts to develop Christlike attributes be successful so that His image may be engraven in our countenances and His attributes manifest in our behavior.