What Does It Mean to Be a Disciple of Jesus Christ?

A disciple is someone who follows another person for the purpose of learning. (See “disciple,” Online Etymological Dictionary.)

During the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ, the term was often applied to His twelve apostles, but many other people were also called His disciples:

He called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles (Luke 6:13).

About 600 years earlier, the prophet Nephi learned that twelve of his descendants would also be chosen to represent the Savior. He referred to them as “twelve disciples” or “twelve ministers” (1 Nephi 12:8-10). Subsequently in the Book of Mormon, the term “disciple” is generally used to refer to the twelve men Jesus chose during His ministry on the American continent. (See especially 3 Nephi 18, 3 Nephi 19, 4 Nephi.)

Jesus made it clear that to be His disciple is not only to learn from Him but to live according to His teachings: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). It is their actions, not only their words, which mark them as His disciples: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

True disciples of Jesus Christ strive to develop His attributes, to become like Him. In the words of Elder Robert D. Hales:

Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry (“Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” General Conference, April 2017).

As a result, a disciple sets a good example for other people: “Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people” (3 Nephi 15:12).

And a disciple of Christ is duty-bound to teach and testify: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13).

Today, I will strive to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I will strive to learn from Him, to follow His teachings, and to become more like Him. I will also teach other people by word and also by example.

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