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The Man of Christ

Vaughn J. Featherstone

of the Seventy October 12, 1976 • Devotional
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Honored guests and my wonderful young friends, I’m delighted to have this opportunity this morning. Having spoken at your twelve-stake fireside recently, then being invited to the devotional, I feel like Ed Gardner. Ed Gardner had retired. He and his wife were home alone one night. All of the children were raised and married. They sat together, he reading the newspaper and she working on some knitting. It just happened that she was a little hard of hearing. He read the newspaper awhile, and then he put it down and watched her. He got a little melancholy as he thought about all the years they had had together. Then he said to her, “You know, I’m just kind of proud of you.” She put her knitting down and said, “Well, I’m getting tired of you, too.” Having been here twice in the last two and a half months, I can understand if that happens.

This morning I would like to read part of a letter received from a missionary. After a few introductory statements he said, “Let me tell you something neat. The last few months I’ve been searching for an answer as to what I really wanted, not only out of my mission but more out of life. I was really caught up one morning in Helaman, the third chapter, verses 27 through 31. There it was. ‘Lay hold upon the word. . . and lead the man of Christ.’ That was it—to be a man of Christ. There are so many men of one thing or another, but a man of Christ was a rare thing. I started looking for ways, patterns, etc. I went to the Beatitudes and remembered long back reading an article written by you on purity of heart. I found that article and literally sat and wept because there was the answer. As I read the article I saw the word faith keep coming up. I went to Moroni’s discourse on faith in Ether.” The missionary went on and told the different things that he tracked down that morning, trying to determine what a man of Christ should be.

I would like, for a few moments with you this morning, to suggest what I think the man of Christ is.

Selfless Service

I might begin by telling of the experience one man had. He came home from work one day, went to his wife, and said, “You know, I think a woman ought to serve her husband according to the order of the priesthood and the Church. If it’s all right with you, when I come home at night, I’ll just stand in the entry hall, and you’ll come up and give me a hug and a kiss. Then you’ll usher me into the living room and seat me in the big easy chair. Then you’ll bring the stool over, take my shoes off, and put my slippers on. Then you’ll bring the newspaper for me, and, to climax this great achievement, you’ll bring in a nice, tall, cool lemonade.”

She agreed, and so the next night he came home from work and stood in the hallway. Nothing happened. He went and sat down in the big easychair and had to get up to bring the stool over. He took his shoes off, put his slippers on, and then went and got the newspaper. Then he went into the kitchen to get a drink. When he was there, he said to his wife, “I thought you agreed with me that it would be appropriate for a wife to serve her husband like that.”

She said, “Well, I think it’s a good idea.”

The next night again he stood in the hall, but nothing happened. Then he decided to change his strategy. He decided to love her into it. When Saturday came, she started getting cleaned up and ready to go to the store. So he started to change clothes. She said, “Where are you going?”

He said, “Well, I want to go to the store with you.” When she got over the shock, they went to the store together. In the store she thought, “Well, he’s going to check and see if I’m paying the right price for the groceries.” But he was a perfect gentleman—up and down the aisles, never a complaint. They got to the check stand, and she thought, “Well, he’ll blow his stack when he has to write out the check for the groceries.” But no problem—again a perfect gentleman. They went home. He helped her in with the groceries. He helped her put them away. During the next six weeks he was absolutely the perfect husband. He helped her do the dishes, he helped her scrub the floor, he washed the windows, and he kept the lawn the way it ought to be and the garage. In the bedroom, he actually threw his underwear and stockings in the hamper—not near it, but actually in the hamper. He even squeezed the toothpaste at the bottom of the tube.

Finally it happened. Six weeks later, home from work, met in the hallway, a big hug and a squeeze, ushered into the living room, seated in the big easy chair, the stool brought over, shoes taken off, slippers put on, a newspaper brought in, and then finally, to climax this great achievement, a nice, tall, cool lemonade brought in. But instead of him in the chair it was her. The great thing about that is that’s the way he wanted it.

You see, I believe the man of Christ is so involved in serving other people that he loses himself in that service. “As you sow, so shall you reap” (see Galatians 6:7). All these things will come back to you.

David Against Goliath

You recall the story of David, having been anointed king by Samuel; then he helped his father on the farm as a shepherd boy. His older brothers were, involved in the service of Saul. The armies of the Philistines gathered on one mountain, and the armies and the hosts of Israel gathered on the other mountain (see 1 Samuel 17). There was a champion, Goliath, who went out from the Philistines. He was six cubits tall. Now, as I understand it, a cubit is the distance from your elbow to the end of your forefinger. That would make him probably over eight feet tall. Anyway, Goliath had on heavy armor. He had a man to carry his shield. I should tell you about his spear. They didn’t say it was some kind of rod with a heavy end. They described his spear as “like unto a weaver’s beam.” I imagine that this was some formidable kind of a weapon.

Goliath marched back and forth and called to the Israelites saying, “I am a Philistine. Send down one of your men, and I will fight him to the death. Should he win, then, we will be thy servants. Should I win, then you will be our servants, the servants of the Philistines.”

For forty days and forty nights he walked up and down. I should stop here just long enough to tell you I can’t imagine, if President Kimball had been up on the mountain on the side of the Israelites, even in his eighties, that he would have tolerated Goliath cursing the God of Israel and taunting the Israelites. I believe President Kimball would have gone down off the mountain to meet Goliath.

So would have Captain Moroni from the Book of Mormon. He would have boomed down off the mountain. You know what he would have said? “We will end the conflict.” I believe he would have gone down to take care of Goliath.

David’s father called him as he was taking care of the sheep and gave him an ephah of parched corn and ten loaves to take to his brethren. Then he gave him ten cheeses that might be delivered to the captain of the thousands of men. And so David went. When he arrived, David left the carriage with the cheeses and the loaves and the other goods. Then he went to see what was going on. As he stood there, the man Goliath came out. David heard Goliath’s taunts and cursing. He saw that the Israelites fled, from Goliath, and they were afraid. He stood and listened, and the Israelite men told him the story. Then they said to him, “Whosoever would slay Goliath, in that same hour the king will enrich him, will make his father a free man, and will give unto him his daughter.”

Then David said something very significant. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” I guess others heard him and saw in David the courage that hadn’t been found in others, and so they went and told King Saul. Saul called David to come forth, and David went to King Saul and offered to go down and fight Goliath. King Saul said, “Thou art but a youth. It would not be good to send thee against this man, for he is a man of war since his youth.

Then David told of slaying the lion and the bear and said, “The Lord will deliver this man into my hands.” He persuaded King Saul, and King Saul let him go forth. They put on David all of the armor of King Saul. (You can imagine it was probably the best armor that could be had, since the king would wear the best of everything.) But David decided not to go with this armor. Sometimes, when we see someone who is willing to do something, we impose upon him our ideas and standards. That handicaps him by imposing upon him the things which we think he ought to do—even when we finally find the one man who is courageous enough. David took off the armor and put his shepherd’s bag over his shoulder. He took a staff, and then he went to the brook and selected five smooth stones. Then he started toward Goliath. The scripture says, “And when he drew nigh unto Goliath, Goliath came to him.” Then when Goliath could see who this was (Goliath’s shield bearer was out in front of him), he saw a mere shepherd boy with a staff and a shepherd’s bag over his shoulder. Goliath, over eight feet tall, with all of his armor, said, “Am I a dog, that you would come before me with staves? Today, the birds will feed upon the flesh from thy bones, and the beasts will feed upon thy flesh.”

David said, “You come to me with a shield, and with a sword, and with a spear, but I come to you in the name of the living God of the hosts of the armies of Israel. This day shall the God of Israel deliver thee into my hands, and I will remove thy head from thy body.” I don’t know that that scared Goliath much, but at least it was a threat. David also said, “And the beasts of the fields and the fowls of the air shall feed upon the bodies of all of the army of the Philistines.” This, of course, must have provoked Goliath a little, and he increased his speed toward David. But the scripture says that “David ran to Goliath.” He ran to Goliath, selected from his shepherd’s bag one of the stones, and put it in his sling. The scripture says he slung it at Goliath. (Elder Sterling W. Sill has said that, when it struck Goliath, that was probably the first time such a thing had ever entered Goliath’s head.) Then Goliath, as you recall, toppled to the earth. David ran and stood on him. Not having a sword, he removed Goliath’s sword from the hilt and severed his head from his body. Then all of the hosts of the Philistines fled in fear and terror.

Now I want to make a point. The man of Christ, I believe, is anyone in our generation who does get involved. David was young; he wasn’t a member of the army or a part of the army. He could easily have stood and watched this thing go on, listened maybe in a frightened way, taken the carriage, and gone back to his father and his sheep. But the man of Christ does get involved.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

You should also remember from the scripture that Nebuchadnezzar the king built a giant golden image and demanded that all of his officers and sheriffs and governors—all of the key people in that entire land—come and worship it. The image was threescore cubits high (something like eighty or ninety feet high) and six cubits across (about eight feet). All of the sheriffs and the governors and the princes and the rulers came forth to the dedication. Then a herald stood up and said to all of the hosts of those who were there—the leaders of all of the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar: “At the time ye hear the cornet and the flute and the harp and the sackbut and the psaltery, dulcimer, and all the different musical instruments, then you will bow down and worship the golden image. And if not, in that same hour you shall be delivered unto the burning, fiery furnace” (see Daniel 3:5–6). That would be a pretty good incentive for most of us to kneel down and worship the golden image.

There were those who sounded the cornet and the harp and the sackbut and the psaltery and the dulcimer and the other musical instruments. Then all those who heard bowed down before and worshiped the golden image as per the king’s instructions. There were certain men who went to Nebuchadnezzar afterwards, and they said, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, live forever.” Then they told King Nebuchadnezzar that there were three Jews over the province of Babylon who would not bow down before the golden image. So Nebuchadnezzar, in his wrath and in the fury of his heart, ordered that these three men should be brought before him. When they were brought before him, he said, “It has been told to me that you would not bow down and worship the golden image.” Apparently he was going to give them another chance, because he said, “Now when you hear the cornet and the flute and the sackbut and the psaltery and the harp and so forth, you will bow down and worship the golden image.”

Here was the king with the scepter in his hand, the all-powerful ruler, and then beside him and around him were all of the leading citizens of the communities. The sheriffs and the officers and the governors and the princes and the presidents were all gathered together. I don’t know that there has been an experience that would equate to the social pressure the three men must have felt at that minute. Nebuchadnezzar said, “If at that time ye bow down and worship the golden image, then well with you. But if not, then at that same hour shall ye be cast into the burning fiery furnace.” Now mark the words: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. For if it so be, the God of heaven can deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not bow down and worship the golden image.”

Again the wrathful king commanded that the furnace be heated “seven times more than it was wont to be heated.” He had Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego bound, and then he had the mightiest men in his kingdom put on heavy coats and hats and “hosen” so that they might not be burned also as they delivered the three men into the burning, fiery furnace. So great was the heat of the furnace as they were cast into it that the mighty men were also burned by the fire and died. Then King Nebuchadnezzar stood back. Apparently he could see into the furnace, and he said, “Were there not three? Did we not cast in three into the fiery furnace? And behold, I see four, and one of them has a countenance like unto the Son of God.” Then he commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out of the burning, fiery furnace. When they came out, not a hair of their heads had even been singed, nor had their clothing the slightest smell of smoke. So King Nebuchadnezzar declared that their God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, was the only true and living God. Watch the giant change in King Nebuchadnezzar: “And all those who will not bow down and worship the true and living god of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut in pieces and their houses shall be burned on a dunghill.”

Here were three men, minding their own business, carrying on the affairs they had jurisdiction to do under King Nebuchadnezzar in a way that was right. This incident was imposed upon them, and I suppose, if they could have avoided it, they would have done that, but they did not. They were not like David, who ran to meet Goliath. The situation was imposed upon them, and yet they had their integrity and maintained it. They would not compromise that integrity, even for their own lives.

I believe the man of Christ does not compromise his integrity no matter what the cost is. As you know, in life there are many things we can have if we will pay the price of compromise. We can have things of a lesser value than those which we really would have if we followed the Lord’s commandments. Someone once said you should never want anything so badly that the man who has power to give it to you could take from you the thing which you must not lose. What you must not lose is your own free agency, your own pride, and your integrity.

Daniel and Belshazzar’s Dream

Nebuchadnezzar had a son who was Belshazzar the king. Belshazzar the king had a feast one night and invited a thousand of his governors and sheriffs and rulers and princes and their concubines and wives (see Daniel 5). They had a giant feast, including wine that they celebrated with. Then King Belshazzar caused that the servants should bring the golden vessels that had been plundered from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar the king. They were filled with wine, and the concubines and wives and the sheriffs and rulers drank from these golden vessels. Then they worshiped the gods of gold and brass and silver and wood and ivory and so forth. While they were worshiping, the finger of a man’s hand appeared near the candlestick and wrote on the plaster of the wall. The scripture suggests that Belshazzar the king feared greatly: the visage of his countenance changed, and his knees smote one against the other. Then the hand disappeared. The writing remained, and so he called the soothsayers and the priests and the astrologers to decipher or interpret these writings. They all came, but none could decipher or translate. Finally the queen came in, and she recalled that there was one Daniel who could interpret dreams. So Daniel was brought forth. The king said, “To whomsoever or, if you, Daniel, can interpret these things, a gold chain shall be placed about your neck, and you shall be third in command of the kingdom, and you’ll be dressed in scarlet robes.”

Daniel said, “Keep thy gifts unto thyself. I will interpret the dream.” Then he rehearsed with Belshazzar some of the things that had been wrong during his kingship. Finally he said, “The words Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin—this is the interpretation: Mene—the Lord hath numbered the days of thy kingdom and it is finished; Tekel—thou hast been weighed in the balance and hast been found wanting; Peres—the Persians and Medes shall this day overthrow the kingdom” (see Daniel 5:26–28). That night Belshazzar the king was slain, Darius the Mede came and took over the kingdom, and the kingdom, was lost.

Daniel had an excellent spirit, as the scripture describes him. He was one of three presidents who were over 120 princes. The 120 princes resented Daniel having this high place, and so they decided to have him removed. They sought to find, fault or occasion against Daniel, but they could not find anything against him. And so they decided to find fault and occasion against the God of Daniel. You cannot find fault or occasion against the man of Christ, who has an excellent spirit, as did Daniel. Those things are simply not part of the lives of such men.

A Modern Man of Christ

As I have thought about the man of Christ, I have also thought about many other things. You may recall a Dr. Kenneth McFarland. I guess he is one of the internationally renowned speakers of all time, a great super-patriot, and a wonderful individual. He told two incidents that I would like to share with you this morning.

One occurred on a farm somewhere in the central part of Kansas. The people there had what they called Pole Pond. Pole Pond was a large pond, and it was fairly deep. They put a pole out to mark the drop-off so that the children in the community who couldn’t swim very well wouldn’t go out over their heads. As the children were swimming one day, one of the boys got a little too far out, went around the pole, and all of a sudden had stepped off of the drop-off point. He was in water over his head. A farmer walking nearby heard the rest of the boys yelling for help. He ran as quickly as he could and saw the boy drowning. Although unable to swim, he went out into the water and with his mighty arm threw the boy back into shallow water. He himself, in water over his head, drowned. During the next week, the boys and the youth in the community talked about nothing else except this brave man who had gladly given his life in an instant. I believe the man of Christ would do just exactly that.

This same Dr. McFarland was once invited to speak at the graduation exercises in Coffeeville, Kansas. As he was preparing to give the talk, he was meeting with Dean Blakesmire. They talked about the arrangements for the next day, and Nancy Hollingsworth came in. She went over to the desk, ordered her regalia, and then said, “One seat in the parents’ section, please.” Dr. McFarland said he remembered well that she asked for only one seat. Soon she left, and Dean Blakesmire and Dr. McFarland talked for a few minutes more and went out in the hall where Nancy was waiting. She said, “Dr. McFarland, I’ve got a special favor to ask of you. Would you mind doing something for me?”

“Well, if I possibly can. That’s what it’s all about is to help people. I’ll do it if I can.”

She said, “Can I share a story with you?”

“Yes.”

She said, “Many years ago, just after I was born, my father, who worked on the railroad, somehow slipped under a train and was killed. And so my mother started raising the three children—Richard, my brother Tommy, and me. She did that all through the years. She’d go to work in an apparel shop and then she’d come home in the evening and stay with us. We just loved her. We didn’t have one other living relative except my mother’s brother, Uncle Ben, and he was a drunken ne’er-do-well. It seemed Mother didn’t care to have Uncle Ben come to our home, but we kids just loved him because whenever he’d come he’d always have time to play with us. He’d work just long enough to get a little money, and then he’d spend it on booze. But we loved him and we thought he was all right. During all those years mother tried to compensate for not having a father in our home. She would take us upstairs and tuck each one. of us in our beds, and then she’d sit and tell us stories. One night when I was about six, she tucked Richard in bed and kissed him, and then she tucked Tommy in bed and kissed him, and then she came over and sat on my bed and tucked me in. She told us some stories, and we laughed so hard that night I got a pain in my stomach. My mother had to rub it out with her hand. Then she kissed me and left. Well, during that night, Dr. McFarland, our mother passed away. The angels came and got her for some reason, and the next morning we three children got up and went into mother’s room. We found her dead. We didn’t know what to do, and so we ran down to Uncle Ben’s house and told Uncle Ben, ‘Our mother has passed away. We don’t know what to do. What are we going to do now?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, kids, but it’ll never be as good as you had. You’ll never have anyone who’ll love you like your mother loved you. But after the funeral arrangements, I’ll go to see the judge and see if he will let me take care of you.’ When the funeral ended, he went down to see the judge and got custody of us. During those years, Dr. McFarland, I can’t tell you what a job he has done. It’s been over twenty years now. He has never missed a day’s work, and he has never even been sick—not once in all of those twenty years. He has not had a drink in all of those twenty years. And we’ve never heard one complaint. You know, Dr. McFarland, they always ask all the parents of the graduating students to please stand. My Uncle Ben won’t even sit in the parents’ section. He doesn’t feel he’s worthy to do that. He thinks that’s a place where only our mother ought to sit, and he doesn’t feel he could take her place. Would you mind asking my Uncle Ben to stand with the parents tomorrow night at the graduation exercise?”

He said, “Well, Nancy, I’d love to do that.”

The next night at graduation, it was a beautiful, cool evening. They had the exercises out in the stadium. Dr. McFarland said, “Everyone was there well ahead of time. The graduating students came in and took their places. Behind the students was the parents’ section, and then behind that was the relatives and friends’ section.” He looked down and saw Nancy Hollingsworth on the front row. They went through the commencement exercise, had the opening hymn, the invocation, and then several talks. Finally they got around to Dr. McFarland. He stood up, and, as was customary, he had all the parents stand up.

Then they sat down, and he honored them. Then he looked down on the front row and saw Nancy Hollingsworth. Her chin was just about on the floor. She thought that he’d forgotten Uncle Ben. But Dr. McFarland said, “Now, I’d like to have all those Uncle Bens who have graduates in this class, please stand.” It was very quiet. Everyone looked around, and there was just a murmur that went throughout the entire congregation of people. Nothing happened, so he said, “I’m not going to go on with my talk until the Uncle Ben who has a graduate in this class stands.” Way back behind the students, the graduates, the parents, way back in the friends and relatives’ section, a very tall, lean man slowly made his way to his feet. As he stood up, it looked as if everything in him were pulling him down, but he was being forced to stand. An ovation started across one part of the stadium and roared through to the other end. It lasted for several minutes as he stood there with his head bowed, somewhat embarrassed at this great thing that was taking place in his life. Finally it finished, and he sat down. Then Dr. McFarland went on with the talk.

After the main talk at the commencement exercise, each graduate received his or her diploma. “Pomp and Circumstance” was played as the graduates filed out. Then Dr. McFarland said, “Quite a number of people came up on the stand to shake hands with me. All of a sudden, Nancy Hollingsworth was there. I took hold of her hand, and she said, ‘Would you please come with me? I want you to meet my Uncle Ben.’” He excused himself from the others and went down off of the stand. Halfway down the aisle, here was Uncle Ben coming up. Nancy introduced him to Uncle Ben, and he shook hands with him and said, “Now, Uncle Ben, I want to have you tell me what it was like. Just answer a couple of questions. First, what was it like when all these people were applauding you for what you had done through all those years?”

He said, “Oh, I thought I was dreaming. I thought I was asleep. I thought, ‘If I’m asleep and dreaming and it’s Nancy’s commencement exercise night, then I’ve missed it.’”

Then Dr. McFarland said, “Well, now the second question: How were you ever able to talk the judge into letting you take the children? As I understand it, you didn’t have much of a reputation.”

He said, “Well, after the funeral, we went down to see the judge, and I said to him, ‘Judge, if you’ll let me take these children, I promise you I’ll never have another drink as long as I live. Then I’ll get down on my knees every single day of my life and I’ll ask God to give me the gumption to keep that promise. Will you please let me take them?’ The judge took his glasses off, looked out the window for a long moment, and then he put them back on. He said, ‘Ben, I’ll go with that. We’ll put you on probation for about six weeks. If you can keep that promise, then we’ll make the children yours permanently.’ We went home after that. We got inside of the house and talked for a minute. Then the three children and I knelt down together. We prayed to the God of heaven to give me the gumption to live the way that I had promised the judge I would. And the five of us—God and the three children and me—have been going along ever since.”

I believe the man of Christ would be that kind of individual. When it was required that his life would change and conform to correct principles, he would do it. There are many other things we could talk about. I believe the man of Christ would have an unparalleled commitment to serve his fellowmen. I think he would have total faith. I believe he would have a pure heart and soul. I believe he would have a reverence for the Savior if he were truly a man of Christ.

I’d like to share with you my testimony about one particular man of Christ, President Spencer W. Kimball. I know of no one on the face of the earth who comes nearer to measuring to the total stature of the man of Christ than Spencer W. Kimball. I have an absolute witness and assurance that President Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet of God, and I know that he is only a whisper away from the Savior, Jesus Christ, whose church this is.

May we each, whether young man or young woman, become a “man of Christ,” in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

© Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Vaughn J. Featherstone

Vaughn J. Feathersone was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 12 October 1976.