Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jesus the Christ: A Family Study - Lesson 6: World's Greatest Treasure

The World's Greatest Treasure

For this lesson I'm going to focus on two points made by Elder Talmage: the existing body of evidence of Christ's life outside Christianity and a comparison of the amount of data available in the Bible about Christ to what data we make available about our lives. 

"Brief account of some of His words and works has been preserved to us; and this record, fragmentary and incomplete though it be, is rightly esteemed as the world’s greatest treasure. The earliest and most extended history of His mortal existence is embodied within the compilation of scriptures known as the New Testament; indeed but little is said of Him by secular historians of His time. Few and short as are the allusions to Him made by non-scriptural writers in the period immediately following that of His ministry, enough is found to corroborate the sacred record as to the actuality and period of Christ’s earthly existence.

No adequate biography of Jesus as Boy and Man has been or can be written, for the sufficing reason that a fulness of data is lacking. Nevertheless, man never lived of whom more has been said and sung, none to whom is devoted a greater proportion of the world’s literature. He is extolled by Christian, Mohammedan and Jew, by skeptic and infidel, by the world’s greatest poets, philosophers, statesmen, scientists, and historians. Even the profane sinner in the foul sacrilege of his oath acclaims the divine supremacy of Him whose name he desecrates." Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage, Introduction

Non-Christian Evidence of Christ

Undoubtedly, the scriptures are the best source to learn of Christ's life and teachings. But as Elder Talmage said, there have been some allusions to Him from outside the Christian world that corroborate Christ's existence.

There are several instances where non-Christian writers cited Jesus' life and teachings. Two sources I found to be interesting are from Michael Gleghorn of and J. Warner Wallace of They cite much of the same sources but reading both of them adds to the explanation. Some of the authors come across as mere historians, others are quite harsh. Take all of it with a grain of salt, as you will. There are at least 10 sources cited between the two sources listed above.

Quick Synopsis

  • Thallus - a description of the weather on the day of Christ's crucifixion
  • Tacitus - the account of the blaming of Christians for a great fire in Rome
  • Mara Bar-Serapion - a comparison of wise men, including Jesus, who were persecuted
  • Phlegon - references Christ's crucifixion and resurrection
  • Pliny the Younger - a description of early Christian beliefs and practices
  • Suetonius - another reference to the persecution of Christians in Rome
  • Lucian of Samosata - a description of early Christians and who they follow
  • Celsus, Josephus, the Talmud

Lacking Data

I would love to know how Christ spent his boyhood. Unfortunately, there is very little said of Him outside of His birth. 

He spent much of His boyhood in Nazareth of Galilee, and when 12 years of age He was brought to the temple again. Mary and Joseph found Him conversing with learned men, “and they were hearing him, and asking him questions” (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 2:46.)
Jesus grew into young manhood and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52)." Gordon B. Hinckley

 Journal Keeping

In this day and age it is so easy to make a record of our lives that we rarely have a good excuse to leave the history writing to others. However, back then life was so much different. Mary and Joseph knew about Christ's divinity, but I'm sure they also worked very hard to provide for their family. Little time was left to make a record (if they even could read or write) after the daily chores of living. All we need to know is in the Bible: that He was born of a Heavenly Father and earthly mother (Luke 1:35), that He knew who He was from a very early age (Luke 2:49), that He learned what He needed to in order to gain favor with God and man (Luke 2:52), that He fulfilled His mission with honor and in completeness (Matthew 26:42Luke 23:46), that He rose from the dead so we could do the same (Luke 24), and that He continues to work in our behalf as an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).

what about us? Our lives, hopes, fears, wishes, dreams, accomplishments, failures, etc. are important enough to document for ourselves, our living family, and future generations. I once gave a grandparent journal to my maternal grandparents, knowing they were getting older and more fragile. They never completed it. And I'm sad about that. I know bits and pieces, but to truly understand them would be a great blessing to me. Now it's too late. My grandpa is gone, and my grandma has Alzheimers. My paternal grandparents are gone, too, along with their stories. I don't want my history to be erased as well. 

Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a big advocate of journal keeping. 

I urge all of the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity. This is a duty and a responsibility, and I urge every person to start the children out writing a personal history and journal.

Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a wonderful talk on remembering the blessings of God in our journals.

Tonight, and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? I will do that. And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him.

There are many ways to keep a journal. As President Kimball said, we should keep our memoirs or the important events in our lives. President Eyring encouraged us to record our spiritual experiences. I love what James Clear does every night. He makes a point to find something to be grateful for before eating his dinner. That is something that could be easily put down in a journal once a day. 

I'm a terrible journal keeper. But I strongly believe journals have their place right beside our scriptures, the world's greatest treasures. That way we can see God's hand in our lives helping us, as Christ did, increase in wisdom and stature and favor.

Family Activity

Use these resources to find a better way to journal or to get motivated if you don't already have a routine. If you do, I would love to hear about it in the comments so we can all be edified! Do you blog, scrapbook, vlog, write things out in longhand?

119 Journal Prompts for Your Journal Jar

Enjoy this video that sums up the importance of one man's journal in the life of his great-grandson.

Find more Jesus the Christ posts:
 Lesson 1: Introduction

Lesson 2: The Meaning Behind the Name

Lesson 3: The Divinity of Jesus Christ

Lesson 4: The Reckoning of History

Lesson 5: Despised Among Men

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