Center Your Life on the Savior

Looking Toward Christ


During the late 1980s, we lived in Boise, Idaho, next to a wonderful family who were devout members of another Christian religion. One afternoon, I arrived home from work and happened to meet their four-year-old son, Wes, by the mailboxes. He was scuffing the dirt in the gutter with his feet and mumbling as though he was irritated about something. I asked him what was bothering him.

He told me he didn’t want to go to church that evening. Knowing his family was religious, I was curious to know why. I asked, “Wes, why don’t you want to go to church tonight?” He replied, “Because I have a new teacher and she teaches just like the Mormons!” You can imagine my surprise. My curiosity was piqued. I felt compelled to ask him how she taught just like the Mormons. Without hesitation, he boldly stated, “She doesn’t say much about Jesus Christ!”

This is an excerpt from Doubt Not, But Be Believing by David Marsh.

I don’t remember what I may have said after that, if I said anything at all. His comment was astonishing. It hit me with such force that I couldn’t get it off my mind for days. Now, looking back, I can see that it was a spiritual moment—the catalyst for an incredible personal journey. However, in the short term, after the shock of Wes’s statement wore off, I began to evaluate my own teaching. I wondered how true his statement was, not about his teacher, but about me and other teachers in my church. I began to pay more particular attention to testimonies, talks, and lessons to see if my four-year-old friend indeed spoke some truth. Not long after that incident, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said the following:

Latter-day Saints can become so preoccupied with our own agendas that we can forget to witness and testify of Christ. I quote from a recent letter I received from a member in the United States. He described what he heard in his fast and testimony meeting:

“I sat and listened to seventeen testimonies and never heard Jesus mentioned or referred to in any way. I thought I might be in [some other denomination], but I supposed not because there were no references to God, neither. . . .

The following Sunday, I again attended church. I sat through a priesthood lesson, a Gospel Doctrine lesson, and seven sacrament meeting speakers and never once heard the name of Jesus or any reference to him.”1

Elder Oaks was quick to conclude, “Perhaps that description is exaggerated. Surely, it is exceptional. I quote it because it provides a vivid reminder for all of us.”2 Little did Elder Oaks know that I had had my own “vivid” personal reminder from a precious preschooler.

Think and Talk More about Jesus Christ

Our efforts to help dissolve doubt in others must include a candid talk with them about Jesus Christ. We cannot be afraid of or shy away from this important element of strengthening their faith. Talking about the Savior and seeking to increase faith in Him is essential to overcoming doubt about the Church. The Apostle Paul knew long ago that we could be easily “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). As mortals, we are natural men and women, and as King Benjamin so candidly pointed out, “The natural man [or woman] is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). Every day we wake up, our natural inclination is to move away from God, not toward Him. It takes daily concerted effort to overcome our fallen nature and to move toward God. Thinking, talking, and learning more about Jesus Christ will help us overcome our natural tendencies.

Doubt can more easily be dispelled when Jesus Christ is uppermost in our minds. There is only one path, only one way, and only one door to salvation, and it is through Jesus Christ. “There shall be no other name given,” taught King Benjamin, “nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17). Dispelling doubt is part of gaining salvation, and the more we can help someone with doubt think and talk more often about Jesus Christ, the better their chances of dissolving their doubts and moving toward salvation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie succinctly said, “We cannot be saved in ignorance of the One who made salvation possible.”3

There are spiritual blessings that attend those who strive to know more about Jesus Christ. “We must know Christ better than we know him,” declared President Howard W. Hunter, “we must remember him more often than we remember him; we must serve him more valiantly than we serve him. Then we will drink water springing up unto eternal life and will eat the bread of life.”4 No one can drink that water and eat that bread regularly and be overcome by doubt.

This is an excerpt from Doubt Not, But Be Believing by David Marsh.

The more I read the scriptures and ponder their ultimate purpose, the more I am persuaded that everything is all about knowing Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer, Savior, and Mediator. This one truth supersedes all other truths. We must, and I repeat it emphatically, we must help our loved ones and friends who are experiencing doubt connect whatever gospel knowledge they have with that one central truth. If their gospel knowledge is not tightly connected to that all-embracing

truth, it won’t really matter how much they know about the gospel, or anything else for that matter. And their doubt will likely persist. Elder Boyd K. Packer explained the connection between the many branches of gospel doctrine and the central root—Jesus Christ as our merciful Redeemer.

“You may know much about the gospel as it branches out from there, but if you only know the branches and those branches do not touch that root, if they have been cut free from that truth, there will be no life nor substance nor redemption in them.”5 That is a fascinating concept—to have knowledge of doctrinal truth, but to have no redemptive power from that knowledge because it is disconnected from Jesus Christ. Happily, Nephi prophesied of a day (hopefully our day) when people would come to know “the very points of [Christ’s] doctrine” in such a way that they would “know how to come unto him and be saved” (1 Nephi 15:14).

Specific points of doctrine bring us closer to Christ and our own salvation when we connect them to Him. We must make great effort to help our doubting loved ones and friends believe that those who truly “on Jesus hath leaned for repose” “will not” and “cannot, desert to his foes.” We can strengthen them spiritually so that even “though all hell should endeavor to shake” them, they will “never forsake” Him.6

“What you sincerely in your heart think of Christ,” taught President David O. McKay, “will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be.”7 So, let’s prove my four-year-old friend, Wes, wrong, by thinking and saying more about Jesus Christ. Let’s talk about the Savior with our loved ones and friends who are doubting. And let’s keep in mind that “no matter how much we say of him, it is still too little.”8

Become Converted to Christ, Not Just to His Church

We must become converted to Jesus Christ, not just His Church. There is a lesson in this for all Christian teachers and speakers, including us Latter-day Saints. But there is also something here for those who experience doubt about the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the most important lessons I have learned in my life is that the reasons people give for leaving the Church or having doubts about it are not usually the underlying cause. The reasons they state are critical to consider when we are trying to help them in their time of doubt. But, if they have already left the Church we must help them look deeper than their being offended, or learning about a historical event that puts past Church leaders in a bad light, or not agreeing with the statements or positions of the current Church leaders. We must help them look at their conversion to Christ.

There is a difference between being converted to Christ and being converted to the Church. There shouldn’t be, but somehow, and perhaps more often than we want to think, people are converted to the Church without being truly converted to Christ. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained it like this: Make sure your testimony is built upon a solid foundation of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Even though we enjoy the fellowship of the Saints and have strong feelings about the inspired programs of the Church, we must remember that we have only one sure anchor for our souls. . . .

Perhaps you are one of the members of the Church whose first contact with the gospel came through the beautiful music of the Tabernacle Choir. Maybe your life was blessed by the Church welfare program when you followed prophetic counsel to store food and other necessities. These are marvelous, inspired aspects of the Church that God has provided to help bring his children to Christ. However, they are implements and not ends in themselves.

The ultimate focus of our devotion must properly be our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. . . . Building a testimony on the foundation of a sincere, personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and on our faith in them, should be our highest priority.9

Some time ago, I was reading in the Book of Mormon about the three Nephites who were translated. They were endowed with special knowledge and powers and went among the people preaching the gospel. At one point in reviewing their investigators’ conversions, Mormon simply, yet intriguingly, says, “they were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ” (3 Nephi 28:23).

This is an excerpt from Doubt Not, But Be Believing by David Marsh.

I wonder if Mormon was deliberate in making that distinction and ordering the sequence of their conversion—to Christ first, then to His Church. I believe there are invaluable blessings that attend being converted to Christ and not just to His Church. Earlier in the Book of Mormon’s saga, after recounting the extraordinary commitment of some Lamanite converts, Mormon makes this astonishing observation: “I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away” (Alma 23:6). They never fell away! Since that discovery, every time I hear of a member falling away from the Church, I wonder about the depth of their conversion to Christ. Elder Wirthlin underscores our need to be converted to Christ and not just His Church:

We often hear of members who have separated themselves from the Church because some leader, teacher, or member has said or done something to offend them. Others have had their faith shaken when the Brethren have taken a stand with which they disagree. In such cases, I wonder about the faith of those people and whether it was grounded securely in a testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ, or merely based on their own ideas and social perceptions of what the Church and its members should be.10

So, as we think about our loved ones and friends who are having doubts about the Church, or who may have already left the Church, we ought to consider how to help them regain the conversion to Christ they once had, or help them become  converted to Christ if they were only converted to His Church. This reminds me of Alma’s profound insight about our feelings for the Savior’s redemption. In one of his most thought-provoking talks he asked, “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?” (Alma 5:26).

Being converted to Christ is an ongoing, living, breathing, element in our lives that needs daily attention. It is possible for us to feel it at one point but not at another. Those with doubts are most likely at a point in their lives where they don’t feel as deeply as they once did that the Church is the one place, among all the organizations of the earth, that houses the fulness of Jesus Christ’s gospel. They may not be as committed to the truth that the Church is the only organization in which God has bestowed His priesthood authority with those eternally essential saving ordinances. Some may even question the power of and the need for the Lord’s redemption. In essence, they have become unconverted to Christ and we should do all we can to lovingly and patiently help them become reconverted to Him. 

This is an excerpt from Doubt Not, But Be Believing by David Marsh.



  1. 1. Dallin H. Oaks, “Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, November 1990.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, Promised Messiah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978).
  4. Howard W. Hunter, “ ‘What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?’ ” Ensign, May 1994.
  5. Boyd K. Packer, “The Mediator,” Ensign, May 1977.
  6. “How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 85.
  7. David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals (1953), 34–35.
  8. Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006), 23; also in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 7. 
  9. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, November 1992.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Henry B. Eyring, “ ‘And Thus We See’: Helping a Student in a Moment of Doubt” (Address to CES religious educators, February 5, 1993); /bc/seminary/content/library/talks/evening-with/and-thus-we-see_helping-a -student-in-a-moment-of-doubt_eng.pdf.