I am the Resurrection and the Life

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“Jesus said unto [Martha], I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

The Savior lives! He overcame death and sin that all might live again and come unto Him!

Below are some of my favorite Easter videos. Please take a few moments to (re-)view them and ponder on their messages.

Two Years

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Two years ago today, the spirit of my niece Allison sloughed off her mortal tabernacle in an accident that brought crashing grief and pain. I have few new words to convey my feelings and thoughts at this point. I posted about Allison last year and shortly after the accident two years ago (my sister also posted a brief memorial post on her website today). Comfort is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ – in His Atonement and resurrection – and in the blessings of the Priesthood and the temple (for more information see http://mormon.org/plan-of-happiness)

I hope that we can all be a little more kind and loving today; I hope that we can find someone to lift up – to help someone who is sad feel glad. May we recognize the supernal blessings we all are given from our Father and from the Savior; may we recognize then receive and not reject what has been given and then render up our thanks unto God for those blessings.

Because I have few words to add about Allison, below is a video recording of the BYU Men’s Chorus singing the beautiful song Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort, arranged by Mack Wilberg. I love the lines: “Death shall not destroy my comfort, Christ shall guide me thro’ the gloom…Jordan’s stream shall not o’erflow me while my Savior’s by my side… Oh, hallelujah! How I love my Savior! Mourners, you may love Him too.”

Full lyrics:

Death shall not destroy my comfort,
Christ shall guide me thro’ the gloom;
Down he’ll send some heav’nly convoy,
To escort my spirit home.

(Chorus)
Oh, hallelujah! How I Love my Savior,
Oh, hallelujah! That I Do.
Oh, Hallelujah! How I love my Savior!
Mourners, you may love him too.

Jordan’s stream shall not o’erflow me,
While my Savior’s by my side;
Canaan, Canaan lies before me!
Soon I’ll cross the swelling tide.
(Chorus)

See the happy spirits waiting,
On the banks beyond the stream!
Sweet responses still repeating,
“Jesus! Jesus!” is their theme.
(Chorus)

Elder Bowen’s General Conference Talk

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General Conference so far has been uplifting. I have enjoyed the talks and the music. One talk that touched me particularly was Elder Shayne M. Bowen’s from Saturday morning. He spoke about parents losing children to death. The grief is severe but the guilt and anger can become toxic and destructive. Christ offers reassurance in the resurrection and assuagement through the Atonement.

As a side note: I met Elder Bowen a couple times when he visited our previous ward. I was impressed when he took the time to meet with our youth and teach our young men – offering to answer whatever questions they had (and as Young Men’s President I was more than happy to turn my lesson time over to one of the Seventy). He is a great teacher and has a deep love and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Wounded Christ

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This brief and beautiful message for today comes from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“The wounds in [Christ’s] hands, feet, and side are signs that in mortality painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect, signs that tribulation is not evidence that God does not love us. It is a significant and hopeful fact that it is the wounded Christ who comes to our rescue. He who bears the scars of sacrifice, the lesions of love, the emblems of humility and forgiveness is the Captain of our Soul. That evidence of pain in mortality is undoubtedly intended to give courage to others who are also hurt and wounded by life, perhaps even in the house of their friends.” (Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, Deseret Book Company, 1997, p. 259)

Hope in the Resurrection

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I recently started a new phase of my graduate school training where I spend most of my days working with older adults who are neurologically compromised, or at least are suspected to be compromised. Working with this population of individuals is interesting and rewarding but also disheartening; it’s difficult seeing people whose brains have stopped working as they should (of course, I don’t think many of our brains quite work like they should – there’s certainly much more potential we all have that will not be reached in this life). What is comforting is knowing that as all of the people I interact with approach the end of their lives there is hope in the resurrection.

“The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.” (Alma 40:23).

It is important to keep in mind that our sufferings and trials only last a short time (this life is short – eternity is a long, long time): “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121:7-8). Our foes might be our own brains.

That’s a glorious promise to remember as we struggle through adversity or watch those around us struggle through adversity! Pres. Uchtdorf recently offered additional words of comfort to those who struggle: “The Psalmist says, ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made; we [should] rejoice and be glad in it’ (Psalm 118:24). Amulek reminds us that ‘this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors’ (Alma 34:32; emphasis added). And a poet muses, ‘Forever—is composed of Nows.’1 Being always in the middle means that the game is never over, hope is never lost, defeat is never final. For no matter where we are or what our circumstances, an eternity of beginnings and an eternity of endings stretch out before us. We are always in the middle.” (Uchtdorf, Always in the Middle, Ensign, July 2012).

Watching individuals and families struggle with dementia or other devastating disorders is difficult – there’s very little to offer in terms of comfort clinically – but that’s where knowledge of the Plan of Salvation is comforting for those of us who know of it. It is our responsibility to share this knowledge with others – it would do much to assuage much grief in the world by offering hope in the future.

He Lives!

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“He is not here: for he is risen” (Matt. 28:6) – never were more powerful or hopeful words spoken! With His resurrection, Christ shattered the bonds of death, freeing all from that dark prison. He set the captives free, blessing all who lived with immortality after their deaths: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22).

Prophets in our day testify of Christ’s resurrection. In 2000, the Lord’s living apostles and prophets testified:

“[Jesus Christ] rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).” (The Living Christ).

I add my witness of the Living Christ. He lived, atoned, died, and was resurrected in propitiation for our sins and to help us overcome death. He overcame death and hell so that we might be able to have physical and spiritual life. Jesus is my Savior and King. He has come and will come again to the earth!

Easter Births and Rebirths

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Having a child born on Christmas day and now another one born at Easter time (he’ll have an Easter birthday some years), my children’s births serve as a reminder to be of the Savior Jesus Christ. As I was involved in the birth process of my son I thought of Jesus’ birth but more importantly, His rebirth through the resurrection. On that first Easter morn, Jesus escaped the cold clutches of the grave. Jesus is not only the Conquering King of His death but also of all our deaths. What a miraculous and supernal gift! All who ever lived on the earth will be given the gift of immortality. All will live again.

There is another rebirth to which all are entitled should they follow the Lord’s commands. This is a spiritual rebirth, a shuffling off of the old man of sin into a new creature in Christ. When we are born we are born through water (amniotic fluid), blood, and the spirit. When we are spiritually reborn, we are buried in the waters of baptism, sanctified by the blood of Christ, and justified by the Holy Ghost. A spiritual rebirth really is just that – a rebirth; we become completely new spiritual beings. Just as birth is merely one stage in our development – and quite early at that – so is our spiritual rebirth merely one stage in our development. It is just a start to our new lives in Christ. Our spiritual rebirth is not the end, it is the beginning to a glorious new life!

In honor of this Easter season, I hope we all take more time to think about our Lord’s sacrifice – His blameless life, His agonizing Atonement, His painful death, and His glorious resurrection! Many of you might have seen this video before but it is worth watching again in order to ponder its message.

Arise From the Dust And Be Men, Part 3

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During a fireside in November 2000, Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley taught us how we can arise from the dust and be upstanding men and women of God. He taught that we should be grateful, smart, clean, true, humble, and prayerful (Ensign, Jan. 2001, Pres. Hinckley). He called them the “6 Bs”. By living each of those qualities we will be able to live free of the filthy influences of the world. We can remain spotless and pure.

Has anyone else risen “from the dust” quite like the Savior did? He was born in the lowliest of circumstances in a dusty manger. He spent much of His time as a youth learning to work in His father’s carpenter’s shop. The Savior, once He started His ministry, spent most of His time walking the dusty roads of Israel and teaching wherever there was room or an audience. He was baptized in the Jordan River, which was a somewhat murky river. When confronted over the adulterous woman, He wrote in the dust with His finger. The Savior used dirt and mud to help open the eyes of the blind. The Savior washed the dirt from the feet of His disciples. He knelt in the dirt in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood in Atonement for the sicknesses and sins of the world. He descended below all. He was then killed and laid in a tomb. On the third day, the Savior rose from the dust; coming back to life and bringing immortality to all who lived upon the earth.

The phoenix is symbolic of the Savior’s resurrection and healing powers. Just as the phoenix, a bird of light, arises from the ashes anew, the Savior arose from the grave. The phoenix also can heal with a drop of its tears. The Savior shed many tears for those who were sick or in pain. His hands brought health and life back to others. The tears He shed and the great drops of blood that fell like sweat in the wine press of Gethsemane were part of His great healing Atonement. Just as the phoenix is a legend, there is another legend that is symbolic of the Savior’s Atonement. The Holy Grail is a legendary chalice that caught some of the drops of the Savior’s blood when He was upon the cross, as the story goes. Thereafter, anyone who drank from the Holy Grail would gain power over death and would be healed of all illnesses or infirmities.

Link to part 2 of this essay.

Arise From the Dust And Be Men, Part 2

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The call to arise from the dust is a call to repentance. We should stand up when we fall. “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me” (Micah 7:8). This is one of my favorite scriptures. I love the determination and the faith. I can picture a person sitting, huddled and afraid – lost in the darkness but praying for the Lord to illuminate the way. Then a bright light shines in the darkness, dispelling the encroaching blackness. As the light shines, the person comprehends it and is comforted by its presence. She stands up, ready to continue on her journey, strengthened by the light of the Lord.

“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C; 115:5). Again the call to arise comes from the Lord. This time we are commanded to let our lights shine forth, like a lighthouse providing light to ships in stormy seas. Our lights can become standards for the nations. A standard has multiple meanings. One meaning is that of a guide, specifically a flag. In a military group the standard is the unit’s flag. The standard bearer is an important member of the unit (although, this was true more in the past than than currently). In a battle, troops rallied to the standard bearer who had the flag. He guided them to their destination. A standard can also be something against which other things are measured. For example, a particular set of expectations for performance or behavior can be a standard, or guide for other people. When we are commanded to arise and shine forth, we are called to be guides unto others; we receive a call to service and sacrifice and selflessness.

Elsewhere in the scriptures, arising from the dust is used to describe the resurrection: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19). We can arise from the dust of death – spiritual and physical – and awaken into a new life.

This theme of arising from the dust is important enough that the Book of Mormon opens and closes with it. To be precise, most of the references pleading with people to arise from the dust are found in the book of 2nd Nephi, which is not the first book in the Book of Mormon but it is very near the beginning. At the very end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni brings back the theme as he wraps up his writing. “Awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O Daughter of Zion” (Moroni 10:31). It’s interesting how often arising from the dust and putting on beautiful garments go together. We shouldn’t just clean off the dust – we need to put on beautiful and clean clothing. The beautiful clothes we should put on are temple clothes, which among other things represent purity and holiness.

Link to part one of this essay.