Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Christ Thinks of Me

This is the talk I gave in Sacrament meeting today, Easter Sunday.


I'm a little surprised that I was asked to speak on Easter, of all days.  Today is one of only two holidays that have real emotional importance in Mormon culture, with the other being Christmas.  Why the bishopric would think that I, one of the most emotionally detached human beings you may ever meet, would be a good choice for speaking on Easter is beyond me.  And today, you all get to pay the price of that choice.

I want to start today by taking a question from the scriptures.  "What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42) It was a question that Christ asked the Pharisees and often opens discussion about Christ’s divinity.  But for today, I want to change the context a little.  We can change the context by using a turn of phrase that Elder Andersen introduced a couple of conferences ago when he asked “What does Christ think of me” (Neil L. Anderson, “What Christ Thinks of Me,” Ensign, April 2012)?

This is an interesting question, and one I was excited to explore.  To develop an answer, I had to turn the question around again.  I had to ask, “What do I think of Christ.” After all, what He thinks of me likely depends on how well I emulate Him.

I began reviewing stories.  Sermons were taught.  Devils were cast out.  The blind could see.  The deaf could hear.  The sick were healed.  The dead were raised.

 But when I turned the question around--What does Christ think of me--I began to be irritated with the scriptures.  What does Christ think of me?  How well do I emulate him?  How many devils have I cast out?  How many people have I lifted up and made to walk?  How many people have I raised from the dead?

I was irritated with the scriptures because they are so incomplete.  They are full of evidence that Christ is the Son of God and that He is our Savior.  But they lacked any evidence that he was the kind of person I want to be from day to day.  The Christ I saw in the scriptures wasn't the kind of person I imagined sharing a fence with in my neighborhood.

To be fair, the purpose of the scriptures is to give evidence to Christ’s divinity and not to illustrate his potential as a next door neighbor.  But I still felt like I couldn't fairly answer the question “What does Christ think of me” by comparing myself the the Christ I found in the scriptures.

The scriptures are packed with the mighty miracles.  They are filled with the remarkable things that are written in books and remembered for ages.  They rarely, if ever, contain the little things that make people decent human beings.  And so I began to wonder

How many times did Christ visit a young, terminally ill girl, and instead of healing her, sat down to play Candy Land?
How many times did Christ go to the boy that is bullied at school and invite him to the movies?

Soon, I began to understand that to see what Christ thinks of me, I have to change my perspective of the miracles he performed.

I couldn't think about how great it would be to walk into some stranger’s life and make their problems disappear?  Or how great it would be to give someone their own Happily Ever After?

As wonderful as it would be, I want to point out that these mighty miracles are not happy endings.  They only represent happy beginnings because mighty miracles do not solve all of life’s problems.  Peter once healed a man who had been lame from birth--38 years.  It was shortly after Christ's ascension and he and John were on their way to the temple when they passed this man begging on the street.  Peter reached down to him and said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."  Now that he could walk, the only source of support familiar to him was gone.  He was a man with a new-found ability to walk, but no employable skills. (Acts 3:2-6)

I don’t mean to be completely cynical here.  Certainly, he was better off in his new state, but he would still face trials and struggles throughout the rest of his life.  But with this understanding I realized how I could answer the question “What does Christ think of me?”  I only had to realize that, in doing these miracles, Christ did not solve all of their problems.  He only solved one of their problems.


A couple of years ago I briefly lost consciousness following an injury.  It was 1:00 AM on a Sunday morning and a trip to the emergency room seemed in order.  While Janelle sat with me at the hospital, Carrie stayed at our place so we wouldn’t have to wake Bug.  In the course of my evaluation, however, an abnormality in my brain was noted in my CT scan--I would need to stay in the hospital until I could have an MRI and be evaluated by a neurologist.  This was problematic:

Janelle, the young women president at the time, had to lead a young women class, was supposed to speak at the baptism of a young woman.  She then had to make sure they were all fed so that they could go to Kirtland for Stake Young Women in Excellence.  And she had to do all of this while her 29-year-old husband was in the hospital trying to decide if he would prefer a surgery through his leg to repair the aneurysm forming in his brain (and be subject to annual MRIs for the rest of his life), or if he should have them crack open his skull and be done with it.

Carrie again rescued us by staying with Bug while I was at the hospital and Janelle was with the young women.  But the thing that stands out the most to us from that weekend isn't the aneurysm, or the baptism.  What stands out the most is that after Carrie left, Janelle noticed something different about the kitchen.

The dishes had been washed.

It hadn't resolved all of our problems.  In the scope of things we were dealing with that weekend, the dishes were nowhere to be seen.  But the relief felt was disproportionate to the effort that went into that act.

The people around us are going to face trials that, more often than not, we are not going to resolve ourselves.

The child who develops a life threatening cancer
The mother who just found out she is pregnant, but doesn't want to be
The woman who wishes to be pregnant, but can’t be
The father who cannot seem to find work
The teenager that is the subject of mockery at her school
The lifelong member who begins to question if the Book of Mormon is actually true
The young adult who struggles to reconcile his sexuality and his faith

Think what you may of these situations, but to the people living them, they are real, and they are painful.

We may not get the chance to perform mighty miracles that solve the difficulties they face--the kind of miracles that get recorded in books and are preserved for generations.

Instead, we can perform the small miracles that get written on the fleshy tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3).  The kind of miracles that solve one problem, and make life just a little bit easier for the suffering soul.

I want to close by returning to the question that I still haven’t answered, “What does Christ think of me?”

I think when he tells me, he’s going to ask me why I didn't learn the names of the youth a little sooner? Why didn't I go see their concerts, baseball games, and performances. I think he’ll ask me why I didn't try harder to include a wheel chair bound young adult in the activities that I planned.  Why did I wait until after his premature death to begin wondering if I should have done more.  I think he might ask me why I didn't learn to smile at someone--anyone--ever? I think he’ll ask me why I spent more time dreaming about the big miracles than actually performing the small ones.

I believe, if I start changing now, maybe I can hear that gentle voice say, “Benjamin, you washed the dishes.  Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Enter now into the rest of the Lord.”

(Because I've already been asked, I'll point out now that the abnormality on my CT turned out to be a shadow.  There is nothing visibly wrong with my brain)


  1. So Benjamin, being emotionally detached as you are, will you be weirded out if I tell you I thought that was beautiful? I missed my own Sacrament meeting because I work graveyard and I got off late. You were my substitute. I think your Bishopric made an excellent choice. ...Sorry, I'll stop before I set off your gag reflex. ;)

    1. I'm glad I could help with _one_ of your problems :) I hope you have a great Easter.

  2. I really appreciated your talk. It really helped put The Savior's ministry in a more approachable/applicable light. His calling and actions were divine and miraculous, but His purpose in life was also a little different than ours. At the same time, our purposes are not too dissimilar, which is why we must ask, "What are we doing to perform small miracles and take action on small promptings?" That's one attribute I really admire about Pres. Monson - he acts on those promptings, even if it means skipping a Church meeting. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

  3. I wish I was in your ward to hear that, that's all I have to say.