Easter has long been our family’s favorite holiday, largely because of the traditions it carries back for generations.
I (Eva) grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria. Religiously, I would have called our family Chreasters, since Christmas and Easter were pretty much the only times we went to church. The Communist regime was very repressive when it came to religion and regular gatherings weren’t permitted.
Easter Sunday though, was like a shaft of light through the shadows. Centuries of traditions that ran deeper than any yoke or regime would be remembered as we gathered to roast lamb and bake Kuzenak (sweet Easter bread). After we would dye hard-boiled eggs (with a red one always set aside for Jesus) and then have a lot of fun knocking each end to see whose egg would be the last to break. The whole atmosphere would change as we would greet family and even strangers in the streets with the words:
“Xristos Vezkrese” (Christ is Risen)
and they would reply
“Voistina Vezkrese” (Truly he is Risen)
This hope, associated with Christ’s resurrection, lived within the hearts my family and kept us looking up, even through very difficult periods.
Later, when the wall fell and missionaries arrived, they only had three small sections of the Book of Mormon translated for us to study, one of which was 3 Nephi 11. I remember reading this record of the resurrected Savior and feeling so deeply touched by those words of the “Light and the Life of the world” (3 Nephi 11:11). This was something I had been looking for my whole life.
A People Prepared for the Resurrection
This year, as we’ve studied the Book of Mormon as a family, we’ve been particularly impressed by just how much this record teaches about the resurrection and atonement.
Part of what makes the Book of Mormon so unique and wonderful is just how much emphasis and plain truth, concerning Christ and his coming, were conveyed to that people for centuries prior to his death and resurrection.
Where while much of the people in the Old World had difficulty fathoming the possibility of a bodily resurrection, those in the New World had been preparing for it with each generation, teaching and testifying of these truths to prepare their children for its fulfillment.
Beginning with Father Lehi:
“And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.” (1 Nephi 10:11)
Followed by Nephi’s own testimony of what he had seen:
“Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulcher for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.” 2 Ne 25:13
Then these beautiful words of Jacob concerning obtaining “a hope of glory” and a knowledge of the resurrection:
“Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him before he manifesteth himself in the flesh.
And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?” (Jacob 4:11-12)
And then you have the testimonies of:
- King Benjamin (Mosiah 3:5-12)
- Abinadi (Mosiah 15, 16:6-9)
- Alma (Mosiah 18:9)
- Amulek (Alma 11:42-45)
- The Sons of Mosiah (Alma 18:39, 22:14)
- Alma the younger to Zeezrom (Alma 12:24-25) and to his own son (Alma 40-42)
- The Ammonite fathers and mothers (Alma 27:28, Alma 56:47)
- Helaman (Helaman 5:7-12)
- Nephi son of Helaman (Helaman 8:22-23, 12:23-24)
- Samuel (Helaman 14:14-17)
Each of them teaching the people “to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.” (Jarom 1:11) And each of them leading to the actual coming of the Savior to the New World as those present “remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.” (3 Ne 11:12)
We love reading the resurrection story in the New Testament of the individuals and small groups discovering for themselves the reality of the resurrected Lord.
The experience in the Book of Mormon is on a different level though, both in terms of the sheer number of those who were witness to it, and the depth of ministration, miracles and transformation that occurred with all who witnessed it as he stayed with them and prayed for them.
All the afflicted were healed, each little child received a blessing at his hand, angels descended and His divine light shown and reflected in every one of them as they were purified in Him.
After which He tells them:
“So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.
“Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard.” (3 Ne 19:35-36)
Here, among a people who had long been prepared and taught of his coming, the resurrected Lord was able to reveal a part of Himself and His Father unlike any other time in history.
This realization of how deeply the spirit can reach and teach us if minds and hearts are prepared to hear Him has led us to ask ourselves:
“How are we doing in prepare our own hearts as these people had, to receive the Savior when he returns?”
Where Now is Death Thy Sting
We know that the appearance of the Savior came on the heels of probably the largest natural disaster the world had known to that point. A large part of that civilization was lost as entire cities were swept away overnight.
Those remaining knew the pain of loss and death. They had experienced total darkness of a kind we can only imagine. Yet, fresh from the raw wounds of this calamity, the Savior found a people ready to receive Him. And coming among them, He wasted no time in wiping away their tears and restoring their souls.
I (Adam) have often reflected on this emotional aspect of Christ’s power to restore and heal, in the wake of losing my own Father when I was still in high school.
Roughly a year after the day my father died, when the sun seemed to have set forever, I was privileged to stand at the threshold of an empty garden tomb in Jerusalem. The witness that washed over my soul at that junction in my life eased so much of the pain I had come to associate with death and that awful separation.
In that moment, I knew and felt of the reality of Christ’s rising, of living again, of the futility of death to separate us from the love that seals families, and of the hope and light of all that lies ahead, no matter how hard or dark the past has been, because of Christ. I felt the truth of Abinadi’s words:
“And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.” (Mosiah 16:7-9)
As we look to His light and life at this Easter season, may we know the comfort that comes of this promise, the hope and joy that no earthly adversity or circumstance can diminish, for truly He is Risen.