Last year, as chair of the Department of Teacher Education, I began including in our faculty meetings the study of the names of Jesus Christ and the implications these names can have on our work with students. Each and every one of His names has come to hold such great meaning for me–especially as I age and experience more of the joys and sorrows of this life.
Out of curiosity, I flipped through my notes to see what name I had planned to study in January 2024. The name was Son of God. One scripture that accompanies Son of God is found in Matthew 16:15–17, where we read, “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven.”
It is noteworthy that the Savior is not interested in that moment what anyone else thinks of Him. He is only interested in knowing exactly what Peter thinks of Him. That’s because what Peter thinks is so important. And what we think of Him is so important! When we truly understand the Savior and invite Him more deeply into our lives, into our work, and into our hearts, we become changed. It begins deep inside each of us. Our testimony of Him begins as the tiniest of lights that grows to become a light that can reach every nook and cranny that welcomes it. As we reflect His light, we start to see Him in everything and everyone. Consider this experience shared by Courtney Fernan:
“A few years back I received a life altering phone call. We had lost my only brother. My handsome, intelligent, amazing brother. He had died by suicide. I literally fell to the floor of the store as I was gasping for air. I made my way outside and sat on the curb sobbing. Out of nowhere, a beautiful older lady walked across the parking lot and sat down next to me. She was dressed head to toe in white—slacks and a white blazer. She said, ‘Honey, I don’t know what happened, but I recognize that pain.’ A complete stranger sat down next to me and cried. Can you imagine? She displayed such an incredible amount of compassion. I still have no idea who she was, but I pray that she knows how much that gesture meant to me.”
This stranger embodied so much of the Son of God, didn’t she? She understood His power and His love. Similarly, what dark space can we brighten this new year with our knowing of the Son of God? What comfort can we bring to the lonely? What seed of faith can we plant in the dark soil? In a recent meeting President Reese encouraged each one of us to do the best we can to put the words of our dear prophet in front of our students. He described how our students need to hear more of what President Nelson is saying. He reminded us that we can know with assurance that the prophet will always point our students to our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
To that end, let me close with the following words from President Nelson that he shared in the recent 2023 First Presidency Christmas Devotional:
“Begin anew to study the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. No one on this earth loves you as He does. No one here understands you better or really knows your sorrows and weaknesses. No one on earth has the power that Jesus Christ has. No one is more eager for you to become everything you can become. No one pleads with the Father on your behalf as He does.”
May we let our prophet’s words about the Son of God find place deep in our hearts as we begin this new year and the Winter 2024 semester.
Happy New Year and much love to our McKay School Family!