Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon Apostle, wrote the poem “I Believe in Christ” which he recited in 1972 as part of his General Conference address. The poem is the basis for the beautiful Mormon hymn which bears the same title. Elder McConkie requested that noted organist, John Longhurst compose an original hymn using his poem. In his final public testimony he testified of the Savior of whom the poem and subsequent hymn were written, and spoke of one day soon, seeing Him face to face. He had cancer and had been given just two months to live, but managed to live fourteen months more, although very ill during it, because he knew there were things God still wanted him to do. Despite an enormous amount of pain, he continued to do the work of the Lord. After surgery, he said, “I am quite overwhelmed by deep feelings of thanksgiving and rejoicing for the goodness of the Lord to me. He has permitted me to suffer pain, feel anxiety, and taste his healing power.” (Ensign, May 1984, p. 32.)
He told his wife he was going to give a talk about Jesus Christ at the next General Conference. General Conference is held twice a year and gives Mormons a chance to hear from their church leaders. His wife was concerned because he was so ill. His doctors were afraid that if he tried to give the talk, he would collapse right there on television. However, he was insistent and gave the talk without incidence. He died just fourteen days later, having delivered a powerful testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“As pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that He is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself, independent of any other person. I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now, that He is God’s Almighty Son, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way.”
The hymn outlines essential Mormon beliefs about Jesus Christ—that he was born to Mary and God, that while on the earth he performed miracles, The song testifies that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that we will someday see Him in person.
Elder McConkie had been determined to continue doing God’s work. He bought a new suit and shoes and each morning, he would allow his wife to make the bed, but he would lie on top of it, not under the blankets, fully dressed. This was his way of telling the Lord he was prepared to work, no matter how greatly he suffered. Finally, he received a priesthood laying on of hands in which he was told that he would be permitted to continue God’s work after his death and that he must not fight God’s will. He accepted the command and changed into pajamas. He climbed under the blankets, finally, signifying to God he was willing to do whatever God wanted him to do—wherever God wanted him to do it. He died five days later and the final testimony and the hymn stand as a reminder of his powerful faith. Listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing this beautiful hymn of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.