Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Resurrection

I gave a talk in sacrament meeting today. I've never been one of those people who can write five or six words on a piece of paper, call it an outline, and then spend the next hour orating. Andrew is, so he doesn't understand why I have to painstakingly type up every single idea I want to say at the pulpit beforehand. I need coherent sentences in front of me because otherwise no coherent sentences come out. I read my talk—though I will admit that I did treat some paragraphs as outlines and tried just speaking, I am much more comfortable reading it word for word—and while I read I fidgeted.

I played with my wedding ring. I crossed one leg behind the other. Then I switched my legs and curled the corner of the paper with my thumb. It was quite possibly the longest fifteen minutes of my life. But it's over!


Benjamin was having a bit of a fit in the back of the chapel, where Andrew was holding him (while the girls sat like angels in our pew (no, really—they did!)) so when I was finished I left the stand and collected Benjamin from Andrew (and sneaked off to nurse him in solitude). He did fine hanging out with Andrew when he didn't know where I was but the minute I started talking he started wondering why I was up there and by extension why he wasn't with me.

Anyway, here's my talk, in case you're interested...

*****

We were in the middle of family scripture study when Brother Hansen called to ask me to speak. I only answered his call because his phone number is nearly identical to my father-in-law's phone number so I was pretty surprised when it wasn’t my father-in-law on the other end but I’m happy to have the opportunity to speak today anyway.


Quite fittingly, we were reading from 2 Nephi 25 that night and we had just read verse 23 when the phone rang, so I was already thinking about my topic—which (spoiler alert:) is the resurrection—when I was told that’s what I was to speak about today. In case you haven’t read second Nephi recently, I’m going to read a section to you right now—a section written so “plainly...that ye cannot misunderstand,” according to the writer.


2 Nephi 25:23-28:


“We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

“And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away. And now behold...the words which I have spoken...are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.”

It was here that Miriam spoke up.

“Hey, wait!” she squealed. “He just said a ‘We Believe!’” (That’s what she calls The Articles of Faith.) She then went on to recite the third Article of Faith, which is the one our primary children have been working on this month: We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

The next Article of Faith teaches us that one of the saving ordinances of the gospel is baptism by immersion. “Those who are baptized enter into a covenant with God to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end” (
). “The Savior revealed the true method of baptism to the Prophet Joseph Smith” in D&C 20:73–74: “The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. Then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water.”


The symbolism of baptism by immersion is explained in Romans 6:4–5: “We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we had been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”

Baptism, then, is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Christ, and since baptism is crucial for our salvation, so, too is the resurrection, which President Spencer W. Kimball taught is an ordinance. It’s an ordinance we’ve yet to receive (since we’re still living) and we don’t have the keys or authority to perform this ordinance yet, but just as we receive the ordinance of baptism, then receive the keys of authority to baptize others,” so too will the keys “be given to those who have received their bodies again. [And] they will be ordained to go forth and resurrect the saints” (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1977, pg. 69).

Christ was the first person to be resurrected—and so he will also be (or already is) the first person to have the keys of the resurrection. He is the victor over death, both physical and spiritual, as explained in 1 Corinthians 15:53–57: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ saved us from both sin—through the atonement—and from death—through the resurrection. In my mind these go hand in hand and I can hardly seem to talk about one without talking about the other, yet for some reason I’ve always thought of the atonement as the more important part of the equation because I make mistakes all the time. I do things I shouldn’t do and I neglect do things that I should do. In short, I’m a fairly regular sinner. And then there are all the pains in my life, which, perhaps, have given me a stronger testimony of the atonement than merely my understanding that Christ suffered for my sins. He suffered for my heartaches and trials and all the hard things in my life as well. And those things are what really have helped me to solidify my testimony of the Savior because I really do feel his love, like the primary song says, in all the world around me.

So, the atonement, obviously, is very important. As King Benjamin tells us in Mosiah 3:17: “There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”

But the resurrection is also very important. The Bible Dictionary says that “the Resurrection of Jesus is the most glorious of all messages to mankind” and that “to obtain a resurrection with a celestial, exalted body is the center point of hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The resurrection hadn’t ever resonated with me quite as strongly until I was pondering the resurrection for this talk. I don’t know why since its importance is mentioned in the same scripture from Corinthians that I read a few minutes ago—but have always connected with the atonement. I’ll read it again—1 Corinthians 15:53: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Obviously, we can’t enter into the kingdom of God as sinners—for no unclean thing can; we must be saved (which we are, through the atonement)—but we also can’t enter into the kingdom of God as mortals. We must be saved from death and be made immortal, which we are, through the resurrection.

Elder Heber C. Kimball said, “As for going into the immediate presence of God when I die, I do not expect it, but I expect to go into the world of spirits and associate with my brethren, and preach the Gospel in the spiritual world, and prepare myself in every necessary way to receive my body again, and then enter through the wall [or veil] into the celestial world. I never shall come into the presence of my Father and God until I have received my resurrected body, neither will any other person” (Journal of Discourses, 3:112–113).

Having a resurrected body is imperative before returning to Heavenly Father’s presence—though of course there are exceptions, such as translation, and other things, but in general, we need a perfect spirit and a perfect body to return to Heavenly Father.

Our life is temporary, but so is our death.

President Ezra Taft Benson said in his book Come Unto Christ, “Indisputably there is life after death. Mortality is a place of temporary duration—and so is the spirit world. As inevitable as death is to mortals, so also is an eventual resurrection to those in the spirit world” (p. 177–26).

This is all possible through the Savior.

Last week, my daughter Rachel gave a talk in primary about the resurrection. She’s only five, so I helped her think her way through it and at the very end I said, “Okay, this is where you would now bear your testimony about the resurrection.”

She was quiet for a while and then said, “I don’t even know if I have a testimony of the resurrection.”

So we talked about it for a while and decided that was okay. After all, even Thomas, an apostle of the Lord, doubted, saying, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). About a week after that, the Savior appeared again to the apostles, this time when Thomas was present and he spoke lovingly to Thomas: “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).

I think it’s possible to believe and still doubt, as the father of the suffering child said in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

That’s not paradoxical at all. Rather, I think faith is akin to bravery. I often find myself explaining bravery to my children. They’ll do something they think is scary and when I praise them for being brave they’ll say, “I wasn’t brave; I cried. I was afraid!” And then I tell them that if they weren’t afraid, they couldn’t be brave because it’s not brave to do something you’re not afraid of.

So, too, is there room for doubt in a testimony. Without the uncertainty, there’s no room to exercise faith and so I feel like we need doubt and uncertainty in order for our testimonies to grow, so that we can become more believing and less faithless.

Rachel settled on bearing her testimony that Jesus Christ was her Savior. She did a wonderful job on her talk and it was so such a special opportunity to get to sit down with her one-on-one to discuss the gospel and tell her what it means to me and have her tell me what it means to her.

I tried to share my testimony of the resurrection with her, but I have to admit that my testimony is still growing. I don’t have any first-hand experience with resurrecting as I do with tithing or temple attendance or the word of wisdom, but that’s where faith comes in and, thanks to that I do have a fledgling, ever growing testimony of the resurrection. And if you’ll forgive me, I’ll speak now to Rachel, hearkening back to the scripture I read at the very beginning of my talk—from 2 Nephi 25: I labor diligently to speak, to persuade my child—and also all of you—to believe in Christ, and to look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled when we will be made alive in Christ because of our faith.

So, to help Rachel understand the resurrection, I wanted to share some tangible testimonies of the resurrection before I bear my own, intangible one. First, it’s Easter—a holiday devoted to celebrating the resurrection of Christ—and there are so many symbols of the resurrection around us right now, perhaps the most impressive testimony of the resurrection are the seasons that were thought up by our loving Heavenly Father when the world began. It’s spring and, as Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “Spring brings a renewal of light and life—reminding us, through the cycle of the seasons, of the life, sacrifice, and Resurrection of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, for ‘all things bear record of [Him]’ (Moses 6:63)” (Finding Joy through Loving Service, April 2011 General Conference).

Besides the earth that is continuously repeating its testimony of life and death and life again, our bodies express tangible evidence of renewal. Elder Russell M. Nelson, who beyond being an apostle is also a rather famous heart surgeon, related the ability of the body to heal itself to the resurrection in a 1987 BYU Devotional. He said, “Consider the fact that broken bones mend and become strong once again... Lacerations in the skin heal themselves. A leak in the circulation system will seal itself.... The concept of self-renewal is remarkable. Each cell in the body is created and then regenerated from elements of the earth according to the recipe or formula contained with genes unique to us.... To my thinking,” and I’m still quoting Elder Nelson here, “This process of self-renewal prefigures the process of resurrection” (The Magnificence of Man, BYU Devotional, 29 March 1987, p. 4).

There are so many things around us that “prefigure,” or symbolize or bear testimony of the resurrection: our bodies, baptism (as I mentioned earlier), the whole world and the very way the seasons come and go. Not to mention a whole slew of testimonies from ancient and modern prophets:

Job, who said, “Destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). Isaiah, who said, “Dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise” (Isaiah 26:19). Paul, who asks, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible..., that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8). Jesus, who assured Martha that he is “the resurrection and the life: [and that] he that believeth in [Him], though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Abinadi who testified, “There is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8). Joseph Smith, who “saw him, even on the right hand of God” (D&C 76:23).

Last year at General Conference, President Monson testified that “as the result of Christ’s victory over the grave, we shall all be resurrected. This is the redemption of the soul.... It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings are earned through a lifetime of striving, seeking, repenting, and finally succeeding.... I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return."

I, too, know that Christ lives and that He conquered death and saved us from sin to enable us to return home to our Heavenly Father again. “He is my salvation from sorrow and sin; this blessed assurance the spirit doth bring.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Very beautiful, Nancy! I greatly enjoyed this. Thanks for taking time to type it for us to read.

    One of my favorite passages is I Corinthians 15 especially this part.

    "12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."


    I guess I like it because it shows the importance of the resurrection. It's crucial to our faith.

    By the way, we baptize in the same (or similar way). Full immersion and I hear the same thing about baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. :)

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