Monday, April 13, 2009

My Easter Talk

I am in a new ward since December and had the opportunity to speak for Easter. Here is my prepared remarks:

A week ago was Palm Sunday, the day the Savior entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. “But eagerness to continue walking with Him would quickly begin to wane.” That entry into Jerusalem was followed by teaching in the temple, “Passover Thursday with its Paschal Lamb, atoning Friday with its cross, [and] Resurrection Sunday with its empty tomb” (Holland). Those events, commemorated this week, give meaning to everything we do in life.

The Book of Mormon described a little of how the Atonement of Jesus Christ impacts our lives:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11-12)

Jesus Christ experienced all these things that he may know how to reach each one of us. Brigham Young said it this way: Jesus the Christ descended below all things literally – according to the flesh – so that no case in human history, no person, no life, however tragic or sin-stained, would fall outside of His compassion or His power.

In Gethsemane, Jesus “[Fell] on His face in prayer, “sorrowful . . . unto death,” the record says, His sweat came as great drops of blood as He pled with the Father to let this crushing, brutal cup pass from Him. But, of course, it could not pass.”

Elder Holland continues: “Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].” (None Were with Him – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)

Without the Atonement, joy and sorrow, health and sickness, work and play, loneliness and family, time and eternity, loyalty and betrayal, and comfort and pain have no meaning.

Without the Atonement, there is no need for Joseph Smith to restore the gospel; there is no Book of Mormon; there is no temple.

But there is an Atonement and we all have access to it. As President Uchtdorf said, “The first step on the path of discipleship begins… in the exact place where we stand!” (The Way of the Disciple).


Almost three years ago, the impact of the resurrection sank in like never before. I was sharing a few impromptu thoughts at a graveside service for my grandma. Grandpa Brown was in the Army during WWII and died when I was seven. Grannie was buried with him after twenty years of separation.

That military cemetery in San Antonio stretches forever. I was impressed with the image of all those graves – row after row marked with a white headstone – turning lose of their dead.

Because of Christ, you and I and all those soldiers in that cemetery will be resurrected.

Judgment: We get what we want

The Final Judgment is something that we probably fear too much. A verse in Alma gives us an interesting clue:
I know that [God] granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction. (Alma 29:4)
In other words, when it comes to the judgment, we get exactly what we want. What could be more just?

President Monson spoke at a fireside and said that the number one predictor of a person’s deciding to go on a mission or get married in the temple is if their friends go on missions and get married in the temple. Those we admire reveal – in a measure – our character and desires.

If we do not currently desire to do the things which lead us back to God, we need to educate our desires. Alma cites desire as the fertilizer to the seed of faith (see Alma 32:27). Those little things the prophets remind us of over and over – personal prayer, scripture study, service, and temple attendance – are crucial to get faith to take root within our hearts. If you want to change your desires, you start and end with those little things.

Judgment: Becoming

But judgment is not some balance between the good and evil we do over the course of our lives. Dallin H. Oaks spoke of something deeper:
The Master’s reward in the Final Judgment will not be based on how long we have labored in the vineyard. We do not obtain our heavenly reward by punching a time clock. What is essential is that our labors in the workplace of the Lord have caused us to become something. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34
The Children’s Hymn, “I Am a Child of God,” was originally written with the words “teach me all that I must know.” Spencer W. Kimball had it changed to “teach me all that I must do.” Elder Oaks makes me think it would be better as “teach me all that I must be.”

I said a moment ago that in judgment you get exactly what you want. I am serious about that. If you want the Celestial Kingdom, it is yours. But sometimes we aren’t sure what we want in life. In discerning what you really want, here are a few questions that can help you:
  • Do you love reading the word of God?
  • Do you love hearing the prophets testify of Jesus Christ?
  • Do you consistently pray? And mean it?
  • Do you avoid pornographic websites, movies, pictures, and songs?
  • Are you worthy of and do you hold a current temple recommend?
Judgment: You get what you give

In judgment, you also get what you give.

I learned this principle as a missionary. We had a man named Dan who we were teaching. Dan was brilliant and had worked as a translator for the Navy. He had also had a feud with his dad and hadn’t spoken to him for years. As we introduced Dan to the Book of Mormon, he found a passage that says if you can’t forgive your neighbor, you can’t be forgiven yourself (see Mosiah 26:31).

From that he decided to forgive his dad without dredging up what the offense was. He renewed his relationship with his dad after that.

Jesus taught the parable of the unmerciful servant (see Matthew 18:23-35). One servant was forgiven a great debt, but exacted a tiny debt on one of his fellow servants. This caused the original debt to be restored to the first servant until he could pay it back.

Joseph Smith said two things that apply directly:
If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another. (TPJS 241)
Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance, and asking forgiveness; and should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repent or ask forgiveness, our heavenly Father would be equally as merciful unto us. (TPJS 155)

Judgment: We Worry About the Wrong One

In judgment, we often worry about the wrong things.

Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Shame is fear of the judgment of men. Any time we are scared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of what others may think, that is shame. Instead, we should worry about how God’s judgment will affect us and those around us. Then love and concern will make it easy to share with those around us.

The Final Judgment is sometimes called a great and dreadful day. It is the same day for everyone. Whether it is great or dreadful depends on the state of our souls when that day comes.


Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of God, said last week, “The future is as bright as your faith.” That statement struck me as one of the most profound statements I have ever heard on faith in the future. Think of the implications. No matter the trials we face right now, if we have faith, we can count on joy in the future. We can count on joy in this life and in the life to come.

Paul said, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus endured the cross because of the joy on the other side. He knew his joy and our joy depended on Him enduring. That faith He had in the future was powerful enough to get him through the pain and irony of the crucifixion.

Jesus Christ set the example. His perfect faith carried him through the dark hours of Gethsemane and Golgotha. As our faith slowly becomes more like His, we, too, can have the strength to stay strong through tough times. He will strengthen us, if we will let Him, so that our faith can be as bright as the sun.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ guarantees that every person born – no matter how long they lived, where they lived, when they lived, or if they have even heard His Saving Name – will rise from the dead. Because His power reaches both sides of the grave, all who will accept Him will have immortality. Each of us, if we will come to Christ, will live with Him and our Heavenly Father again.

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