“What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?” asked Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
A disciple, he taught, is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the Savior’s name and then follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality.
Many incorrectly believe a “disciple” is simply a “follower.”
“But genuine discipleship is a state of being,” he said. “This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.”
The attributes of the Savior are not a script to be followed or a list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in the individual in an interactive way.
“We cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others,” he said. “As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more.”
The scriptures teach that faith in Christ serves as a foundation. Faith leads to obedience and virtuous living.
“This virtue is more than sexual purity,” he said. “It is cleanliness and holiness in mind and body. Virtue is also power. As we faithfully live the gospel, we will have power to be virtuous in every thought, feeling and action. Our minds become more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ. We embody Christ not only in what we say and do, but in who we are.”
Knowledge, temperance, patience and trust are also key attributes of a disciple. Patience then leads to godliness.
“As the Father is patient with us, His children, we become patient with one another and ourselves. We delight in the agency of others and the opportunity it gives them to grow line upon line, brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
When patience brings about godliness, one’s nature changes, taught Elder Hales.
“We gain brotherly kindness that is a hallmark of all true disciples,” he added. “Like the Good Samaritan, we cross the road to minister to whomever is in need, even if they are not within our circle of friends. We bless them that curse us. We do good to those who despitefully use us. Is any attribute more godly or Christlike?”
As one strives to become a disciple, one’s characteristics “are truly added upon” until one is possessed of His love. This love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ. It is faith, hope and charity that qualify one for God’s work.
“Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be ‘part-time disciples,’ ” he said. “We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another. The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ — including the ones we have talked about today — are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.”
The characteristics of the disciple will be interwoven, added upon and strengthened. “There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet.”
Everyone, testified Elder Hales, can be a disciple of the Savior. Discipleship is not constrained by age, gender, ethnic origin or calling.
“Through our individual discipleship, we as Latter-day Saints build up a collective strength to bless our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence.”
All are called to be disciples of the Savior.
“Let this conference be your opportunity to ‘begin as in times of old, and come unto [Him] with all your heart,’ ” he concluded. “This is His Church. I bear my special testimony that He lives. May He bless us in our eternal quest to become devoted and valiant disciples.”
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