Saturday, March 8, 2008

"O death where is thy STING?" - Comfort in the Resurrection

This is the talk I gave on Easter Sunday:

Pres. Hinckley said: “There would be no Christmas if there was no Easter!” I rejoice knowing that, 3 days after the atonement, on that first Easter morning, the tomb was emptied!
I enjoy serving as a counselor in primary. I especially love the voices of the primary children as they sing the simple messages of the gospel. Beautiful and simple are the passages in the primary songbook, such as “He sent His son to Die for us, & rise with living breath!”

We as a ward and I as an individual have had much cause for reflection on these things with the recent passing of our beloved Prophet, President Hinckley, shortly followed by the seemingly premature passing of our Bishop & my beloved husband, Robert Price. We have done as in Mosiah, 18:9, having mourned together, paid tribute, honored, comforted one another… and foremost, we rejoiced together in the hope on our Savior’s light-giving life. (life-giving light?)

The source of the comforts and strength we have given eachother, is the Holy Ghost. As we have fasted and prayed collectively, & as individuals, I have truly felt it poured out upon me. The lyrics of this joyful piece “Let Peace Then Still the Strife” sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, eloquently express this deep comfort from on high:
Then sing, beloved ones, Reach o’er the summer sea, Pour forth thy boundless love for us living! Sweep into ev’ry soul, Make music of our tears, Turn all our songs to joy and thanksgiving! And when we silent pass, From far across the sea, Let praises ring for life’s wond’rous blessing! Then sing ye living souls! Sing generations past, Swell high the tide of life, us refreshing! (I love the last part about generations past, as we turn our hearts to our Fathers in the Spirit of Elijah remembering we need our ancestral family as much as they need us as we help to redeem them in the temples.) Malachi 4:5-6
5 ¶ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful eday of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

I love Easter time as we celebrate the resurrected Savior who enabled us (if we so will and order our lives) to claim this sentiment: O Death, where is thy STING? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Cor 15:55)

In this fulness of time, we are privileged & blessed to know some plain and precious truths of the Resurrection. Generally speaking, the world understands neither the necessity nor the benefits of a literal resurrection. Certain great men such as Tolstoy even recognized these great teachings we are blessed to have.(I found this as I was looking through a file of Rob’s favorite quotes) While talking to an American dignitary named Dr. White, in Russia 1892, he asked him to tell about their American religion, to which Dr. White replied “we have no state church in America, we’re free to belong to whatever church we wish.” Tolstoy then replied:
I know all of this, but I want to know about the American religion.commonly known as the Mormon Church. What can you tell me of the teachings of the Mormons? Their principles teach the people not only of heaven and its attendant glories… If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known.”
The Savior’s Resurrection is central to what the prophets have called “the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Ne. 11:5).
The resurrection is so BASIC to the gospel of Jesus Christ that whenever the gospel was taught on this earth by true Prophet’s, the RESURRECTION of Jesus and of all mankind was always vigorously proclaimed. The gospel would not be the gospel and Christ would not be Christ if there were not a resurrection: The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the resurrection of Christ is the center point of hope and Paul as well as Mormon proclaimed that the sting of death and the hollow victory of the grave is swallowed up by the victory of Jesus Christ. Paraphrasing Paul back in 1 Cor 15, he said:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is(1) our preaching vain, and (2) your faith is also vain.
15 … and we are found (3) false witnesses of God;
17 And if Christ be not raised, …(4)ye are yet in your sins.
18 (and last, when we think of those whom we love and whom we have buried, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, children and grandparents, friends and family)…then they also which are (5)fallen asleep in Christ are aperished. It is fundamental that Jesus was raised from the dead.
19 If in this alife only we have bhope in Christ (in other words, a good man, Jesus, who loved the poor, who took care of the sick, who reached out to women and children… if it’s just a good man…) we are of all men most miserable. Because, we put our lives in jeopardy, sending our children and our parents and ourselves on missions, giving of our tithes and offerings, giving countless hours of service. If we’re simply recognizing the life of a good person, why sacrifice this way? Why put our lives in jeopardy?
Paul then says:
20 But now is a
Christ brisen from the dead, and become the cfirstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came adeath, by man came also the bresurrection of the dead.
22 For as in aAdam all bdie, even so in cChrist shall all be made dalive.

I love the testimony uttered by President Hunter:
The doctrine of the resurrection is the single most fundamental and crucial doctrine in the Christian religion. It cannot be over-emphasized nor can it be disregarded. Without the resurrection, the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes a litany of wise sayings and seemingly unexplainable miracles with no ultimate triumph. No, the ultimate triumph is in the ultimate miracle, Jesus’ triumph over spiritual and physical death is the good news every Christian tongue should speak.”

Joseph Fielding Smith said: 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” (Teachings of the Prophet JS, sel. JF Smith [1938], 121).

One of the plain and precious truths restored to this dispensation is that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man,” (D&C 88:15) and that when the spirit and body are separated, men and women “cannot receive a fullness of joy” (D&C93:34).
Jeffrey R. Holland taught this:
The body is fundamentally important to the plan of salvation. This is the body given us, and it will be resurrected (according to the glory we’ve obtained to) and will serve us through the eternities. How vital and central is the body; this is why sin is a serious matter (unless properly repented of) as it is the automatic consequence of spiritual death (death means separation: physical death is the separation of body and spirit, and in spiritual death, it means separation of our Soul {or both our spirit & body} from God). This is why the resurrection of the body is so central to the great abiding and eternal triumph of Christ’s atonement.
With the fulness of the gospel on the earth, we are again privileged to know these truths about the body. Joseph Smith taught:
We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 60).

We do not have to be included in a herd of demonically possessed swine charging down the Gadarene slopes toward the sea to understand that a body is the great prize of mortal life, and that even a pig’s will do for those frenzied spirits that rebelled, in their first, unembodied estate; and to this day, remain bodiless.
…It is peculiar to the theology of the LDS that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul…Nowhere [in Christianity], outside of the Church of Jesus Christ, is the solemn and eternal truth taught that the soul of man is the body and the spirit combined.
We are not our own. For as spoken in 1 Cor 6:13, 15, “ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Paul understood that doctrine of the soul every bit as well as James E. Talmage did, because it is gospel truth. The purchase price for our fullness of joy – body and spirit eternally united – is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot say “Well, it’s my life,” or “It’s my body.” It is not. “Ye are not your own,” Paul said. “Ye are bought with a price.” Personal purity is important, or else our very souls are at stake.

We are privileged, as taught by Brigham Young, to know this:
that God is a person of tabernacle, possessing in an infinitely higher degree all the perfections and qualifications of his mortal children. We believe that he made Adam after his own image and likeness, as Moses testifies; and in this belief we differ from the professedly Christian world, who declare that “His center is everywhere, but his circumference is nowhere.” Their God has no body nor parts; our God possesses a body and parts, and was heard by Adam and Eve Walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Brigham Young, JD 10:230-231).

Brigham Young also taught:
for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive... And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam (the name Adam is translated to mean ‘man’) was made a spirit" (1 Cor. 15, see also Romans 5:19, Luke 3:38). In essence the second Adam (man) undid what the first Adam did. One was the father of us through mortality, and the second, the Father of us all through his atonement and resurrection.

Due to this fullness of knowledge restored to us, President Woodruff said this:
the Lord looks to nobody else, he expects nothing from anybody else, as far as the fulfilling of the revelations in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants are concerned; he looks to no other nation, kindred, tongue, or people henceforth to go and perform this work, but the Saints of the living God. If the Lord has any friends on the earth they are the Saints of God, and if the Saints of God have any friends anywhere, they consist of the God of Israel and the heavenly hosts, and the spirits of just men made perfect.

Baptism – similitude of resurrection as we perform Baptism by Immersion! We then go forward as Savior’s on Mt. Zion and help to redeem our own dead. Dallin H. Oaks puts it beautifully when he says:
We are living in a glorious season of temple building. This is also a consequence of our faith in the resurrection. Just a few months ago I was privileged to accompany President Hinckley to the dedication of a new temple. In that sacred setting I heard him say:
“Temples stand as a witness of our conviction of immortality. Our temples are concerned with life beyond the grave. For example, there is no need for marriage in the temple if we were only concerned with being married for the period of our mortal lives.”
Elder Oaks continued:
This prophetic teaching enlarged my understanding. Our temples are living, working testimonies to our faith in the reality of the resurrection. They provide the sacred settings where living proxies can perform all of the necessary ordinances of mortal life in behalf of those who live in the world of the spirits. None of this would be meaningful if we did not have the assurance of universal immortality and the opportunity for eternal life because of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Because we believe the Bible and Book of Mormon descriptions of the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also readily accept the numerous scriptural teachings that a similar resurrection will come to all mortals who have ever lived upon this earth (see 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Ne. 9:22; Hel. 14:17; Morm. 9:13; D&C 29:26; D&C 76:39, 42-44). As Jesus taught, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
The literal and universal nature of the resurrection is vividly expanded upon and described in the Book of Mormon. The prophet Amulek taught:
“The death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; ...
“Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame” (Alma 11:42-44).
Alma also taught that in the resurrection “all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23).
The assurance of resurrection also gives us a powerful incentive to keep the commandments of God during our mortal lives. Resurrection is much more than merely reuniting a spirit to a body held captive by the grave. We know from the Book of Mormon that the resurrection is a restoration that brings back “carnal for carnal” and “good for that which is good” (Alma 41:13; see also Alma 41:2-4 and Hel. 14:31). The prophet Amulek taught, “That same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34 {I am just hopping around Alma}). As a result, when persons leave this life and go on to the next, “they who are righteous shall be righteous still” (2 Ne. 9:16), and “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life … will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18).
In the Book of Mormon, it also makes clear that:
The principle of restoration also means that persons who are not righteous in mortal life will not rise up righteous in the resurrection (see 2 Ne. 9:16; 1 Cor. 15:35-44; D&C 88:27-32). Moreover, unless our mortal sins have been cleansed and blotted out by repentance and forgiveness (see Alma 5:21; 2 Ne. 9:45-46; D&C 58:42), we will be resurrected with a “bright recollection” (Alma 11:43) and a “perfect knowledge of all of our guilt, and our uncleanness” (2 Ne. 9:14; see also Alma 5:18). The seriousness of that reality is emphasized by the many scriptures suggesting that the resurrection is followed immediately by the Final Judgment (see 2 Ne. 9:15, 22; Mosiah 26:25; Alma 11:43-44; Alma 42:23; Morm. 7:6; Morm. 9:13-14). Truly, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32).
In addition to the Biblical witnesses of our Resurrected Savior, Latter-day Saints have additional witnesses. One is found in the Book of Mormon, a record containing the ministry of the resurrected Christ upon the American continent after his death and resurrection in Jerusalem, as accounted in 3 Nephi, 11.-26.
He stretched forth his hand and said, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.” (3 Ne. 11:10.) And he invited the multitude: “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” (3 Ne. 11:14.)
The testimony of modern witnesses is also recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon testified:
“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 resurrection of Jesus is one of the greatest messages of all Christianity. It is a divine gift of the Atonement for all mankind. The “lively hope” we are given by the resurrection is our conviction that death is not the conclusion of our identity but merely a necessary step in the destined transition from mortality to immortality. This hope changes the whole perspective of mortal life:
-peace our bodies will reunite with our spirits.
-motivate us to obey the commandments to return to God’s presence
-comfort when someone we love dies, he or she will one day live again.
Also, it is a comfort to know that all who have been disadvantaged in life from birth defects, from mortal injuries, from disease, or from the natural deterioration of old age will be resurrected in “proper and perfect frame.” I often get exhausted just thinking of the things Rob & I are making plans for when his physical body is restored to it's perfect frame, esp. his fused knee! I am exhausted just thinking of it! The assurance of resurrection and immortality affects how we look on the physical challenges of mortality, how we live our mortal lives, and how we relate to those around us.
The assurance that the resurrection will include an opportunity to be with our family members—husband, wife, parents, brothers and sisters, children, and grandchildren—is a powerful encouragement for us to fulfill our family responsibilities in mortality. It helps us live together in love in this life in anticipation of joyful reunions and associations in the next.
Our sure knowledge of a resurrection to immortality also gives us the courage to face our own death—even a death that we might call premature. Thus, the people of Ammon (Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s of King Lamoni from land of Ishmael) in the Book of Mormon had this perspective:
“And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it. ” (Alma 27:28).
Mormon funerals are typically marked by an atmosphere of hopefulness and peace. They generally are not burdened by the inconsolable grief and despair so often seen in other funerals... Regarding the undaunted way in which LDS confront death, Harold Bloom (a well known literary scholar) stated:
Of all religions that I know, the one that most vehemently and persuasively defies and denies the reality of death is the original Mormonism of the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Joseph Smith.
Most important, this affirmation of life in the face of death arises from faith in God’s abundant mercy. Joseph Smith taught that God is
more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.It is on such a foundation that the fears of death can be reconciled with the hopes of life.
The assurance of immortality also helps us bear the mortal separations involved in the death of our loved ones. Every one of us has wept at a death, grieved through a funeral, or stood in pain at a graveside.
I am surely one who has. We should all praise our Heavenly Father and Savior for the assured resurrection that makes our mortal separations temporary and gives us the hope and strength to carry on!!
How grateful I am for the hope I have in the resurrection, especially in light of the recent past events of my life. Where before I felt deep gratitude, I now have great cause to truly shout for joy! I so testify of the reality of the resurrection in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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