Tag: Christ-centered

Easter Sunday | Resurrection + Atonement

Easter Sunday: The Resurrection & Atonement
April 12, 2009  (updated on 4/16/2017)

What wonderful timing to find this inspiring video of Elder Holland’s talk, “And None Were With Him: An Apostle’s Easter Thoughts on Christ, from last week’s 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Today we are going to focus on the Resurrection and blessings of the Atonement.

Through the Resurrection, Jesus’ life story became his parting parable that we in these latter days may learn, teach others and be edified. Equally important is the gift of the Atonement.  Can anyone recite the 3rd Article of Faith? We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

In the April 2009 Ensign, Elder Cecil Samuelson’s May 2006 BYU Women’s Conference address offered the following counsel:
“These fundamental principles are grounded in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The word Atonement “describes the setting ‘at one’ of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God.”

The risks of our becoming distant from our Father in Heaven and His son, our Savior Jesus Christ, are significant and constantly surrounding us. Jacob, the younger brother of Nephi, described the Atonement with the singular word “infinite” (2 Nephi 9:7), meaning without limitations or externally imposed constraints. That is why the Atonement is so remarkable and so necessary. Little wonder, then, that we not only need to appreciate this incomparable gift but also to understand it clearly.

Let us re-acquaint ourselves with Jacob and Nephi’s counsel through some of the greatest chapters of the Book of Mormon: 2nd Nephi 6-10.

According to these writings, what are some of the things the Savior does for us?
• He delivers us (2 Ne. 6:17)
• He redeems us (2 Ne. 7:2)
• He comforts us (2 Ne. 8:3, 12)
• He’s a light for us; He judges us; He saves us (2 Ne. 8:4-6)

He is able to do all of this for us, and much more, because of the Atonement
Consider the following passages from 2 Nephi and the order they are presented:

  1. Doctrine (2 Ne. 9:4-20)
  2. Application (2 Ne. 9:21-38)
  3. Invitation (2 Ne. 9:39-52)

Doctrine: 2 Ne 9:4-20

1. What is our problem as mankind? (2 Ne. 9:6-9)
• Left to ourselves, all of us are hopelessly lost
• Our bodies would die and be lost to us forever (2 Ne. 9:7)
• Our spirits would be corrupted by the devil (2 Ne. 9:8-9)
• We are subject to two deaths (2 Ne. 9:10)
• Physical death: separation of our spirit from our body
• Spiritual death (aka “hell”): our separation from God

2. What are the results of the Savior’s atonement (2 Ne. 9:11-16)
• All will be resurrected, physically and spiritually (2 Ne. 9:11-12)
• All will be restored to their perfect state (2 Ne. 9:13-14)
• All will be brought into God’s presence for judgement (2 Ne. 15-16)

3. What the Savior personally did to save us (2 Ne. 9:5, 21)
• He came and dwelled with us as one of us
• He suffered every pain and affliction of all people of all time
• He sacrificed his own life on our behalf

4. List some things that demonstrate God’s character
• His wisdom, mercy, and grace (2 Ne. 9:8, 19)
• His goodness (2 Ne. 9:10)
• His planning (foresight) (2 Ne. 9:13)
• His greatness and justice (2 Ne. 9:17)
• His holiness and knowledge (2 Ne. 9:20)

Application  2 Ne. 9: 18-52  Please consider what we must do to achieve Eternal Life as well as what we must avoid.

1. What are our requirements to be judged righteous by God?
• Believe in Christ (2 Ne. 9:18)
• Endure the crosses of the world (2 Ne. 9:18)
• Hearken to His voice (2 Ne. 9:21)
• Repent, be baptized, have faith (2 Ne. 9:23)
• Be spiritually minded (2 Ne. 9:39)
• Feast upon that which perisheth not (2 Ne. 9:51)
• Remember the words of God (2 Ne. 9:52)
• Pray continually (2 Ne. 9:52)
• Keep trying

2. What are the warnings given to us? (2 Ne. 9:27-38)
• Don’t waste your time on Earth (2 Ne. 9:27)
• Don’t put learning or riches ahead of God (2 Ne. 9:28-30)
• Don’t be spiritually blind or deaf (2 Ne. 9:31-32)
• Don’t be uncircumcised of heart (2 Ne. 9:33)
• Don’t lie, murder, commit whoredoms, or worship idols (2 Ne. 9:34-37)
• Don’t die in your sins! (2 Ne. 9:38)

Invitation Using both 2 Ne. 9: 29-52 and 2 Ne. 10: 1-8, search for the answers.

1. What the atonement do for Israel as a people?
• They will reject Christ (sin) (2 Ne. 10:3)
• They will suffer and lose the land of their inheritance (death) (2 Ne. 10:6)
• They will come to believe in Christ (repentance) (2 Ne. 10:7)
• They will be restored to their land (resurrection) (2 Ne. 10:8)

2. What is the invitation extended to individuals by the atonement?

Packer quote

Let’s read a familiar verse from Isaiah 53: 4-5. As the verses are read, think about how they apply directly to you on this glorious Easter Sunday.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with His stripes we are healed.”

When I was investigating the Church, doctrinal discourse and gospel-based thinking were all new. I asked the missionaries what seems like a rather simple question: why was the Atonement necessary? Why would God require His son – his own child — to suffer and die yet the Lord pardoned Abraham from a similar sacrifice? Why? If He is omnipotent (and I testify He is), why was it necessary for our Savior to be crucified?

Now that my knowledge of the gospel has deepened and grown, I realize that it wasn’t about the Savior. It wasn’t about Heavenly Father. The Atonement was for us.

In short, Jesus Christ “came into the world … to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; that through him all might be saved” (D&C 76:41–42)

The Atonement is the most important event that has ever occurred in the history of mankind. Why? Remember that the Fall of Adam brought two kinds of death into the world: physical death and spiritual death. Physical death is separation of the body and spirit. Spiritual death is separation from God.

The atonement is the foundation our entire world – humanity even — was built upon. Without the Atonement, our bodies and our spirits would have been separated forever, and we could not have lived again with our Heavenly Father. He planned for a Savior – and chose Jesus Christ – to come to earth to redeem us from our sins and from death.

Consider what C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
“[God] has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man [or woman] in the world.”

It was Easter Sunday, the third day after His Crucifixion, that Christ took up His body again and became the first person to be resurrected. In Matthew 28:5 the angels who guarded His tomb said, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” His spirit had reentered His body, never to be separated again.

 

For me, when I was baptized, I truly felt the individual gift of the Atonement as my sins were washed away. I know there is only one who can grant me absolution- there is only one who can carry my burden- there is only one who could free my heart, mind, body and soul.

During my Temple worthiness interview with the Bishop, we discussed the concept of clean vs unclean because I felt I would never be worthy to enter the Temple. He gently taught using Alma the Younger as a parable – after the penance was done, I too, was able to rise from my knees, truly new. As I left the interview, the power implicit in the gift of the Atonement was engraved forever upon my heart as I was judged worthy to enter the Temple – the House of our Holiness, the Lord.

While I know and testify that I am forgiven and loved of the Lord, memories remain both of the acts and of my Redeemer, who took my load from me, when no other could, saying:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30

I testify that Jesus IS the Christ — the only begotten son of God, the Father and the only truly perfect man to walk the earth. How great the love of our Heavenly Father has for us that He would send His Only Begotten Son to suffer and die for the rest of His children. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

Throughout history, up until the time of Christ, offerings – or sacrifices were made. These offerings were made in similitude of Jesus Christ and were offerings of forgiveness and a renewal of covenants. We have been asked to offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And, just as those early sacrifices found in the Old Testament were imperfect – so too are ours today.

We simply do not have the power to sanctify ourselves. Without the Savior, no offering we give is enough. But, we must make our offering as best we can so that it can be sanctified. In short: we must repent.

In the Garden of Gethsemane the Savior saw each one of us and our ancestors as well as our offspring. He loved each of us enough to suffer for our sins, our weaknesses…

The Savior’s Atonement makes it possible for us as imperfect mortals to overcome spiritual death. Although all people will be resurrected, only those who accept the Atonement will be saved from spiritual death as it says in the 3rd Article of Faith. Which is where I started this talk that I now leave with you in the glorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Holland Atonement Quote

How can I make Easter more Christ-Centered for my family and me?

Easter Sunday, 2008

I was asked to talk on the subject: How can I make Easter more Christ-centered for my family and me? So, what is Easter? As it is defined in the Bible Dictionary:

Easter: This word occurs only once in the Bible (Acts 12: 4) and then would be better translated passover. The word Easter is from Eastre, a Norse goddess whose pagan festival was observed at the spring equinox. The association of this pagan goddess with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was only by adaptation and synthesis. There is no real connection. Jesus, being the Lamb of God, was crucified at passover time and is the true Passover (see 1 Cor. 5: 7). He was raised from the grave on the third day thereafter. It thus became a springtime anniversary, and has come to be called Easter in the Christian world.

Easter has no real connection with Jesus Christ other than denoting the time of year in a familiar vernacular as to when his resurrection occurred.

In the February 2008 issue of Ensign, the question was asked, “How Can I Make Easter more Christ-centered for My Family & Me?” This is an important question since, as I learned from conversations I had as well as research I did online that many saints have mixed feelings about this holiday. Sister Marilyn Wood’s response to the question posed by Ensign draws attention to the heart of the matter:

Several years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted our children to associate Easter with the Savior and His love for them and not necessarily with bunnies, chickens or Easter eggs.

Personally I would have to add Easter dresses, little girls’ hats, handbags and shoes to her list. Oh, and flavored jelly beans. But my worldly concerns are not driven as much by Jesus Christ or Easter as much as by my daughters’ ever growing feet and the warming temperature (at long last). I have learned that many families with young children within the Church celebrate the Spiritual Events of Easter Sunday separately from Easter Bunny visits and Easter Egg hunts. Because sometimes the Easter Bunny and egg hunts overshadow the spiritual significance of the Easter holiday. And sometimes we get caught up in the secular nature of the holiday with its bounty of chocolate and jelly beans to the exclusion of the religious nature.

Easter in many Christian religions has become shorthand to describe the time around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a recent press release by the Church, it proclaimed: this Easter weekend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will join the Christian world in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints practice Easter much like the rest of Christianity. They embrace the symbolism of renewal found in nature and expressed in tradition. But something more concrete than symbols and more meaningful than rituals underlies this time of rebirth. The foundation of this season of hope is the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the “life and the light of the world”

Death. Rebirth. Resurrection.

In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, there is a monologue about death that got me to thinking about resurrection and subsequently, the value and meaning of the atonement:

Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death?

There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering and stamped into one’s memory. And yet I can’t remember it.

…We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there is only one direction, and time is its only measure.

Do we really appreciate the value and meaning of the atonement? Can we have gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice if we didn’t at sometime experience that dread of death? Isn’t that one of the big reasons why the veil of forgetfulness was given? So that we must experience this life as it is given?

I’m the first to admit that I’ve just started my spiritual journey. I am still building my testimony, but I ask those of you with stronger testimonies, did you always know with perfect knowledge that when your eyes shut that final time on earth, they will open in the Celestial Kingdom? As I ponder the question of mortal death as the end of this earthly, terrestrial life, it fills my heart with joy and gratitude as I begin to appreciate just what a deep and meaningful doctrine the gospel gives us.

When my husband and I read the Book of Mormon for the first time, we both got stuck right around Alma. Apparently we weren’t the first converts to do so. Could it be that we spend so much time in Alma because it contains much about what inspires us and brings us closer to God? I studied Chapter 11 in Alma in preparing for this talk because it centers on the important lesson that Christ will not save people in their sins – only those who inherit the kingdom of heaven are saved. It tells us that all men shall rise in immortality. And there is no death after the resurrection. Let me read from Alma 11:42:

Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

It seems to me that one of the greatest restorations Joseph Smith gave us through the Book of Mormon is one of the lost truths that the atonement grants us this life. The one that finds us here together every Sunday Sacrament. Think about how this celebration of life should be part of Easter. Which brings me back to the original question – how CAN I make Easter more Christ-centered? Celebrate life. Be thankful for the many blessings each of us enjoyed this past year. The lessons we have learned and the experiences we shared. Pray for the missionaries who are dedicating two years of their precious life towards sharing the gospel with our friends and neighbors.

And if part of your existing family tradition is to hold an Easter egg hunt and/or give Easter baskets or other gifts, sit down with your children and explain that when we search for Easter eggs and candy, it is like how we should diligently search for Christ throughout our lives. And gifts, whether it is a beautiful dress, oversized chocolate bunny or a box of jelly beans, gifts represent the ultimate gift and sacrifice of the Savior—the Atonement and resurrection.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.