I’m certain I am not the only one who has contemplated the depth of hatred and wickedness that consumed the souls of the Jewish leaders who demanded that the Romans crucify Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible and secular accounts, such as Josephus, teach us that several chief members of the Sadducees and Pharisees witnessed many miraculous events at the hand of Jesus on numerous occasions. Blind men received their sight, people were raised from the dead, the lame walked, the leprous were cleansed, and the maimed healed - all in the presence of these leaders. It always baffled me how the Jewish leaders could witness such marvelous works, and yet harbor such hatred against the Savior.
From the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that the Lord has created “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33). “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations” (Moses 7:30). And yet, of this Earth the Lord exclaimed to Enoch: “[A]mong all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren” (Moses 7:36) (emphasis added). In other words, our Earth has known greater wickedness than can be found among any of the billions of God’s creations; sadly, our Earth stands preeminent in wickedness, especially the people of Enoch’s day.
So, do the Jewish leaders in Christ’s day outrank those individuals in Enoch’s day on the ole’ wickedness meter? Yes, in fact they do.
Jacob, Nephi’s brother, teaches that “it must needs be expedient that Christ…should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God” (2 Nephi 10:3) (emphasis added). Think of the enormity of this statement! It is a sad distinction to be identified as the most wicked of nations on an Earth that had been identified as the most wicked of all God’s creations.
Could that wickedness ever be replicated today?
Of the persecutors of the Latter-day Church, Joseph Smith commented that “[t]his generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328). Thus, there seems to be a common link between the detractors in Christ’s day to those of the Prophet’s day.
Have you ever wondered how you would have reacted to Christ’s message if you were living at the time? What of the words and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith? Both these men taught seemingly strange doctrines that could only make sense with the eye of faith. I often wonder if I would have been one to discount their message as outlandish and peculiar.
I take heart in this statement by Bruce R. McConkie:
“If you believe the words of Joseph Smith, you would have believed what Jesus and the ancients said. If you reject Joseph Smith and his message, you would have rejected Peter and Paul and their message. If you accept the prophets whom the Lord sends in your day, you also accept that Lord who sent them. If you reject the restored gospel and find fault with the plan of salvation taught by those whom God hath sent in these last days, you would have rejected those same teachings as they fell from the lips of the prophets and Apostles of old” (Conference Report, October 1981, p.69) (emphasis added).