What an exciting thing to talk about this week: the newness of life that comes and the celebration of Easter—the atoning sacrifice, death and resurrection of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.
Join our study group and let’s delve into the scriptures in a way that is inspiring, expanding and joyful.
I love the season of spring. I love the newness of life. I love the crocus, daffodils and tulips just popping through the winter-hardened earth. I love the buds that magically appear on all the trees. I especially love the redbuds and the dogwoods that were the first to show in my home-state of Missouri on our forested farm. Most of all, though, I love the fact that “all things are created and made to bear record of [Jesus Christ]…things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of [Him].” (See Moses 6:63) What an exciting thing to talk about this week: the newness of life that comes and the celebration of Easter—the atoning sacrifice, death and resurrection of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Hello dear friends, we are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is the Meridian Magazine Come Follow Me Podcast. This week is the special Easter lesson and is entitled “He Shall Rise with Healing in His Wings.” We are so delighted to be with you all. We truly have a need to be together, don’t we? It has been hard these past weeks to be quarantined or sequestered in our homes and not have the normal social interactions that we are used to. But haven’t you found some upsides in all this as well? Haven’t you learned a few things and come to appreciate, just a little more, your family and your dear friends? And most of all, haven’t you felt the blessings of the Lord and the comfort of the Spirit during these difficult times?
We certainly have here in our home. And we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about you, our dear and loving listeners. Are you doing okay? Are you hanging in there? We have especially been thinking about all of you who are alone, single and at home, temporarily cut off from the rest of the world. It has been a nearly unprecedented time with no Church, no gatherings of any kind, all the temples closed, a wide swath of all the missionaries being sent home and the fulfillment of our training as a home-centered, Church-supported organization. It has been marvelous to behold. Maurine, this season has led me to think about our incredible time in the Middle East, back in 1992 and that marvelous Easter Morning at the Jerusalem Center.
Oh, I was just thinking about that, Scot. I remember so well when we came to our first Shabbat at the Jerusalem Center—it was March 28, 1992. You are I were sitting there with our daughters, Laura, age 16 and Mariah, age 2. The sacrament meetings at the Jerusalem Center are held in an auditorium with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the old city. We were in awe of the view and we were basking in the lovely prelude music from the stunning organ. All of the sudden, we felt an arm go around each of our shoulders from behind us and a clarion, deep voice between our heads that said:
Welcome to heaven!
It was our dear friend, Truman Madsen, the director of the BYU Jerusalem Center, and we felt like we truly had arrived in heaven, and his beautiful, deep, resonant voice was like the voice of an angel. We’ve never forgotten that moment. But, Scot, that moment was eclipsed just three Shabbats later, on April 18, as we celebrated Easter. Truman gave what appeared to be an extemporaneous talk on the resurrection. It was one of the most powerful talks we have ever heard.
I remember it so well, because he talked about his dear brother who had been shot down over Korea and his plane and his body were incinerated. He was burned to unrecognizable ashes. I had lost my brother, Kirk, just 21 months earlier—who had drowned in a rafting accident on the Selway River in northern Idaho. My feelings were yet very tender and I listened to Truman’s word’s with breathless attention. I could feel the weight of my heart as he talked about that seemingly irretrievable loss of his brother in Korea. And then he quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith who taught: “All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.” (Smith, Joseph Fielding, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1976, p. 276.) My heart took flight, I knew it was true and I felt an unmistakable intake of comfort in my soul.
And Truman went on to testify of the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ in healing all our wounds and bringing about eternal life. He quoted, with great passion and power, the 21st chapter of Revelation, verse 4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). With the ancient city of Jerusalem as the backdrop, we could feel the power of Truman’s witness of the efficacy of the resurrection and the assurance that our losses would be compensated. It took our breath away. And as a wonderful footnote, we happened to witness a sacred moment between Truman and his wife Ann after the meeting. This moment has become part of our own couple culture. Ann came up and threw her arms around Truman’s neck and looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “Truman Madsen, you wiped me out.” And then she kicked one foot up behind her like a school girl in love with her high-school sweetheart. That scene of love made us both cry.
And Maurine, I started pondering that statement of the Prophet Joseph’s about all of our losses being made up to us in the resurrection. In fact, I pondered about it for the next 10 or 15 years. I thought about Job in the Old Testament and all of his losses and how they were eventually made up to him. I thought about those who were healed in the New Testament. I thought about the losses of the early Latter-day Saints who lived in Missouri and Ohio and Illinois and our pioneer ancestors who lost so much. I thought about Joseph and Emma and how they had lost six of their eleven children. I thought about Lucy Mack Smith and how, by July 30, 1844, she had lost her husband, 7 of her 8 sons, two daughters-in-law and numbers of grandchildren. I thought about my Uncle Reed Facer who lost much of his hand in an accident about the time of his mission as a young man. I thought about my Uncle Bill Facer who lost a large part of his leg in a motorcycle accident. I pondered my own losses in my life—especially my brother—but then my Dad, our daughter and now my Mother. How could all of these losses be made up to us? And one day it came to me that all of our losses would be made up to us in the resurrection—in an instant. All at once. In their fulness. Without reservation. Generously—abundantly and in all their glory. This glorious filled me with joy—and conviction.
And this lesson today brings us to ponder about all the glorious truths of the atonement, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us be clear, the inestimable suffering of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, his pain, suffering and death on the cross and his glorious resurrection on the third day—all this, together with his perfect life and ministry, comprise what we refer to as the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches us great details and insights into this and so does Isaiah. Let’s turn briefly to Isaiah and talk about some insights in chapter 53. The teachings we receive from these 12 marvelous verses in chapter 53 are immense. Let’s just explore two or three truths, then let’s turn to the Book of Mormon.
I think that perhaps the most beautiful prophecy of the Messiah found in the Old Testament is this Isaiah 53, where we learn that “He is despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3).
Each word in this stunning chapter draws us closer to our Savior. Words like these melt us–“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
I began to memorize a scripture from this chapter some years ago, and found myself caught short. The words didn’t roll off my tongue as I expected because there was something I didn’t fully understand. This was the verse:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).
Was this “we did esteem him stricken” the same as we regarded Him as stricken? We saw Him stricken?
And what was this “smitten of God”? Jesus, in Gethsemane was surely smitten, but not of God. I could see I was missing something in the scripture. Was there something in the translation I was missing? Something more to be learned from the original Hebrew?
There are times when a new scriptural insight suddenly explodes your understanding, giving you a fresh breath of insight. This was one of those times.
In Understanding Isaiah, the authors said that “the particular verb translated as stricken is used six times in Lev. 13 and 14 and always with the same meaning—that of suffering the emotional pain of having leprosy.”[i]
So the scripture means, we esteemed Him as if He were a leper. For centuries, leprosy was considered a curse of God because of sin. Leprosy was the outward and visible sign pointing to the innermost spiritual corruption. It started perhaps only as a small speck on the body, and then gradually spread to the soft tissues throughout the entire body, degrading and rotting the whole body, as sin defiles man and makes him impure and incapable of entering the presence of God.
People who had leprosy, the living death, were thought to deserve it. And what a punishment this was. We see it, Maurine, today, as we work with the leprosy-affected in India—there is still an enormous stigma about this disease and people think they have been cursed by God.
The scriptures remind us that anyone suspected of having this disease had to go to the priest for examination. If found to be infected, “the leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out ‘Unclean, unclean.’”
The leper was an utter outcast. “A leper wasn’t allowed to come within six feet of any other human, including his own family. (That sounds like the original social distancing!) The disease was considered so revolting that the leper wasn’t permitted to come within 150 feet of anyone when the wind was blowing.”
The wretchedness of having this disease that disfigured and ate away at you could only be multiplied by having the entire world regard you as having deserved it for your sin. It would be heaping humiliation upon agony. Again, we see this very attitude and disregard for people in India among the Leper Colonies today.
Others would think in ancient times: “The rot of your body mirrors the rot of your soul.”
Now we understand why we read in Isaiah 53, “we hid as it were our faces from him.” They shunned lepers, ran from them, pelted them with rocks.
Could there be a greater irony than that the Lord Himself would be viewed by the world in this light, as deserving of the anguish that He freely took upon Himself to save them and to save us all?
The Perfect One suffers torture, a pain so breathtaking only a God could stand this, and others scream that He deserves it. We should weep to think of this added humiliation to our Savior who was suffering for us.
This scriptural phrase bolsters the same idea. “we esteem him…smitten of God, afflicted.” It was the popular idea of the time that all suffering in this life had its origin in sin, that every peculiar and particular disaster were punishments for terrible misdeed and inner flaw.
We see this idea motivating a question. When Christ’s disciples passed a man blind from his birth and asked, “Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
The world will see Christ’s afflictions as having been smitten of God, a deserved suffering. A punishment from the Father.
If ever there was a tangle of lies, this is it. Who could have been a more perfect Son, who came into this world to show us the Father, teach us of the Father, and perfectly do His will? His last words were “Thy will is done” (JST Matthew 27:54). Could He have offered a more complete sacrifice of Himself?
Now, let’s look in verse 5 of Isaiah 53—this is one of my favorite verses in all of holy writ:
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. (Isaiah 53:5)
Oh, I do love this verse so much. You know how I love word studies, Maurine. Bruised comes from a Hebrew word: Dakha which really means CRUSHED. He was crushed for our transgressions and sins. It’s interesting that the word “Contrite,” often translated from the Latin, is also the same word–Dakha–crushed or ground to powder. Jesus requires us to come to him with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” That contrite spirit is one that is ground to powder, like fine dust. We see in Mosiah, just after King Benjamin’s seminal talk, that the people had quite a response through the Spirit that was upon them:
And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. (We will talk about that in a moment)—And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness for our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. (Mosiah 4:2) Why would we be less than the dust of the earth?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “[Mormon] says that man is “less than the dust of the earth” (See Helaman 12:7)—not at all in the sense that man is without value to God, but rather because “the dust of the earth, moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.” (See Helaman 12:8) Hills, mountains, seas, earth—all obey his voice. But man does not obey his voice; in willfulness and pride he tramples under foot the words of the Holy One.” (Holland, Jeffrey R., Ensign, April 1978, Mormon, The Man and the Book, Part 2). So, a great part of our coming to partake of the fulness of the atoning sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ is to humble ourselves to the place of obedience to all his commands, to all his teachings—that we can become like the dust of earth, perfectly and immediately obedient to the command of our everlasting God.
And how can we begin to comprehend the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ as we celebrate Easter in our families and homes? This is where the Book of Mormon really can open our understandings to what it is that Christ really did for us. Let’s read together from Alma 7, one of my favorite passages about this incredible God that we worship. Let’s read, slowly, verses 11-13:
11 And he [Jesus Christ] 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.
I have to interrupt here. We have such a small record of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ—only 181 English translation pages in the King James Version of his mortal ministry. We really have very little record of his suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. And yet, of course he went through all these things so that he might understand, according to the flesh, the pains and sicknesses of his people.
I can hardly wait until we have access to the full account of the Savior’s mortal ministry. But let’s read on in Alma 7, verse 12:
12 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.
That is so insightful into the Savior’s compassion, empathy and understanding of our circumstances, trials and challenges here in this mortal sojourn.
And verse 13 offers another great insight:
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
What a powerful witness from the Prophet Alma the Younger that gives us such understanding of the Savior’s atonement.
And I love Mosiah chapter 3, verse 7:
7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
Here we gain some understanding of his time in the Garden of Gethsemane as He took upon Himself the sins and transgressions of all those who would turn to Him and keep His commandments.
We have the great blessing of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane at least once a year and sometimes multiple times a year. We love that sacred place so much—it’s probably our favorite place in Israel—or at least among the top favorites. We have to really prepare our tour participants to visit there because there is so much noisy traffic just outside the wall of the garden, some people are truly bothered by the loud cacophony of humanity. Sometimes we want to just get up on the wall and look at all the taxis and tourists and busses and motorcycles and tractors and donkeys and people and just put our finger up to our lips and say, “Sssssssssshhhhhh. Please be quiet!” That would never work. But in the midst of all this noise, I remember one time, many years ago, when a wonderful insight was given to me while teaching in the Garden there. In a way incomprehensible to me, I realized that just as we go through the temple for one individual at a time, the Savior, in His agony and pain, went through that suffering for each of us individually and personally, as if He was taking us through the Atonement—by name. I cannot explain it in words, but the Spirit helped me to understand in that moment, the very personal nature of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
That moment for you, Maurine, changed my
understanding of the Atonement and caused me to rejoice at the thought of such
personal attention to our own mortal sojourn.
Let’s look at the personal nature and power of Jesus Christ in the life of a real sinner (aren’t we all?)—Alma the Younger. Let’s turn to Alma chapter 36 as he tells us of his own healing from the darkest abyss:
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
21 Yea, I say unto you…that there could
be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say
unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and
sweet as was my joy.
At this Easter season, THAT is something to celebrate—the exquisite and sweet joy that comes to us through the power and saving grace of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That same transcendent blessing that was extended to Alma the Younger is ready and available to be extended to each of us who turn to Him.
I have to hark back to the doctrine of recompense of our losses. All of us have felt so many losses during this time of the Coronavirus. Many have lost their employment—this is a devastating loss. Some have lost opportunities such as events, plays, games and special gatherings. These are disappointing. We have an eleven-year-old grandson who got his first big lead in a show and with the cast and crew and performances all in place for Seussical—it was all cancelled. We have a son who was performing with the Utah Opera in a show that he really loved and we were so excited to see. All cancelled. So disappointing. We had tickets to go see the 50th anniversary celebration with the Young Ambassadors at BYU and Marie Osmond. We were so looking forward to celebrating the achievement and dedication of our amazing friend Randy Booth—who has directed and been with the Young Ambassadors for 42 years. Cancelled.
But I think the thing we looked forward to the most in this season of spring and Easter—the thing that brings us so much joy and spiritual fulfillment every year is going to see Rob Gardner’s production of Lamb of God. “Lamb of God” is a sacred work for choir, orchestra and soloists focusing on the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, His Atonement and Resurrection. The live performance in venues includes a full orchestra, an enormous choir of at least 200 voices and 7 or 8 incredible soloists who sing the parts of Peter, John the Beloved, Thomas, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Jesus. There are also soloists of Pilate, Judas and a number of others who make the story come alive of the last week of the Savior’s life. What made it so exciting this year is that our youngest daughter, Michaela, was one of the choir. She had been practicing in our home daily for this performance and since we already love the music so much, we were especially thrilled to have this sacred music coursing through our beings.
Truly, we can’t tell you how much we love Rob Gardner’s music—he is an extremely talented and inspired composer and lyricist who has brought to life the passion of Christ in this production of Lamb of God. If there’s anything we do for Easter every year—it’s attend this show. With all that in mind, at the very last minute, with things changing every day—the Lamb of God performances were all cancelled. We were heart sick. Yes, we’ve seen it many times. Yes we know the music and the story extremely well. Yes, we’ve had another child, Andy, who has performed in this before. Yes, we have the albums and the music on our phones—but there is something about the live performances that just carries us into a different world—into a place where we feel the Spirit so strongly and our witness of Jesus Christ is tremendously strengthened each year. I mean, they start the first few lines of the show and I start crying.
Well, it doesn’t take much to make you cry, Scot.
I know—but you know what I mean, Maurine—I’ve seen you bawl through the whole show too.
Well, that’s true. So, how would we ever recoup this loss—this year—right now at the time of Easter? We decided that for Family Home Evening we would have Michaela lead us in singing together, as a little sequestered—home-bound family, two or three numbers from Rob’s Lamb of God. Before we tell you what happened, I think we need to play a piece from Lamb of God to let you feel the spirit of this marvelous production. Let’s just play the opening that has the most beautiful lyrics and energy. I’ll give you some of the words and then you can listen:
The promise of ages whom prophets foretold,
For whom we have waited ere long.
Hath come to redeem us from slaverys’ yoke,
And deliver His people back home.
Come Israel, come and see He who shall reign,
in whom we will ever rejoice.
We hear the sound of the glorious refrain,
And it echoeth back in our voice.
Hosanna, hosanna, thy Saviour hath come.
O Israel and blessed He’ll ever be called.
Hosanna, hosanna, sing praises to God.
For our hope, our deliv’rer, our all.
[Let music play under Scot]
Okay, I’m already teary. And it’s not so much because Rob Gardner is so talented, it’s because the Lord Jesus Christ is so great and I love Him so much. I am grateful beyond words for His life and atoning sacrifice. I’m filled with immense gratitude that He would give His whole life and soul and being to save us. The word Hosanna that you just heard sung literally means, Savior, save us or Lord, rescue us! And He has! It makes me want to sing praises to His name forever. I think the reason that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ is because we will not be able to help but do otherwise. We will be so filled with awe, wonder and gratitude, we will have nowhere else to go but to our knees in humble adoration and praise.
I so agree Scot. And, with permission from Spire Music and Rob Gardner, we would like to play my favorite piece from Lamb of God. [Start music under here or as soon as we have lead time that works] This is the witness of Peter who has just denied that he knows the Savior three times and then in realizing this he gives his soul-deep witness of his friend and Savior—Jesus Christ. I love his words sung with such passion:
have I done!
What have I done.
And then at the end he says with such solemn calm:
when my eyes are closed in death,
These words will hang on my last breath,
I know Him.
Listen closely and enjoy this selection called “I Cannot Watch Them.”
Don’t you just love Peter? I think he reminds us of ourselves. That’s why we love him so much. So, we have to take you back to our home. So, we gathered in our living room around the piano and around our digital copy of Lamb of God and our copies of the music and lyrics—and I thought we would sing two or three of our favorite numbers together as our Family Home Evening lesson and trying to make up for the loss of not going to see the performance. The seven of us (including one 11-month old grandson) sat around and sung the entire show—every song, every solo, every word—all narration. We were filled with the Spirit—the Spirit that came was a gift to each of us. We knew it. We knew that the Lord was compensating for our loss.
And yes, this was a little thing—we would have been okay to just have not had our traditional Lamb of God this year at Easter, but we were compensated with a very rich outpouring of the Spirit in our home with the seven of us singing all the songs together and as a family. And as an added blessing, while we were talking with Rob Gardner’s assistant, Kameron Bybee—he announced that Rob Gardner and Spire Music will be having a Lamb of God sing-a-long on Easter Sunday! This will be coming from their Facebook page but in the meantime go to robgardnermusic.com for details. You will have the chance to have a similar experience that we had in our living room. They will make available the vocal lines for free for everyone. Amazing. Blessings for everyone—we highly recommend this to bless your Easter Sabbath.
Happy Easter. That’s all for today. Thanks for joining us again. Please spread the word about the Podcast to your families and friends. One last thing: During the time of Coronavirus I’ve finished a new, short book called Eleven Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Book of Mormon. This will be available for your eReaders, iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Nooks and other electronic devices probably by our next podcast. This book will greatly enhance your understanding and love of the Book of Mormon and get you very excited in your studies. We’re so excited to release this. Thanks to Rob Gardner for letting us use his soundtracks today and thanks again to Paul Cardall for the music that opens and closes this podcast. Thank you to Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing this show.
Next week our lesson will cover Mosiah Chapters 1 through 3 and is entitled “Filled with Love Towards God and All Men.” Until then—we love you—have a wonderful week.