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Cover image: Christ and Mary at the Tomb by Joseph Brickey.
How do I write an adequate commentary about the resurrection or the days following? My understanding of the resurrection has certainly matured over the years. I used to only understand it in a temporal or physical sense.
For as long as I can remember, my dad has been bald (sorry, dad).
When I was a kid, a dear friend was in a car accident, and lost the use of his legs.
My husband was diagnosed with kyphosis when he was a teenager. His spine will never be straight.
On the surface of learning about the resurrection, I thought it was all about recovering from our body’s imperfections and flaws. I learned in The Book of Mormon that, “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.
“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame…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).
I thought it was pretty cool that my dad would get his hair, my friend would be able to walk, and even my sweet Michael will have a perfect back. Those things are certainly blessings, but they are only just the beginning of what the resurrection will bring.
I have since learned that the resurrection means reuniting with our bodies without limitations, but it is also so much more than this. Having a resurrected body means that we will be able to stand before God and all His glory to be judged. “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; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt” (Alma 11:43).
I have also learned that “an understanding and testimony of the resurrection can give us hope and perspective as we experience the challenges, trials, and triumphs of life. We can find comfort in the assurance that the Savior lives and that through His Atonement, ‘he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory’ (Alma 22:14)” (“Resurrection” Gospel Topics).
Michael and I are experiencing one of the hardest trials of our lives. Over the last ten years, we have been through the toughest experiences of our lives and this decade is culminating in what feels like resignation, and yet, renewal. It hurts. We are going to have to give up a lot of the dreams we have been working for. It feels like we are losing a piece of our hearts. Some days, we wake up with the feeling of dread and melancholy. It sometimes feels like we have been abandoned.
We have been through so much. Sometimes I don’t understand why we have had to experience such heartache, or why I can’t just have peace with the way things have gone for us. I have since learned that just as death is part of Heavenly Father’s plan so that we can experience the joy of resurrection, I believe that our pain and trials are designed for us to understand that sense of opposition. Going through these experiences is the fastest way to learn the lessons of mortality.
We have to learn by our experience. While many things can be learned from mentors and observation, we learn things most powerfully as we go through them ourselves.
Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Made to Stick, explain how we learn from experience and failure: “Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem encourage deep processing of the answer when it is later supplied, creating fertile ground for its encoding, in a way that simply reading the answer cannot.” When we feel our trials so acutely, then that is all the more we will feel the joy of their resolution. What would we learn if we didn’t? Without guilt, would we feel like repenting? Without sorrow, would we understand joy? Without grief, would we look forward to the resurrection? Feeling opposition in all things allows us to learn and grow.
Sometimes I feel like trials repeat when I haven’t allowed myself to experience them fully, and I haven’t learned the lesson I’m supposed to. I feel that way as a parent when I have to tell my kids the same things over and over when they haven’t learned. I’m trying to embrace this trial that Michael and I are going through right now because it is so hard but it is something we have to go through. We had to make a very tough decision, and make a major sacrifice. It wouldn’t be a sacrifice if it wasn’t difficult!
I think I’m finally getting to a place where I feel grateful for these trials. I can feel them and embrace them knowing that God trusts me to learn a lesson from all of this, and that He has something better planned for me. As difficult as the trials have been, I can know that Heavenly Father has an equal blessing in store.
This is why it is so important to know that Jesus was resurrected with a body of flesh and bone. When He visited His disciples, allowed them to touch the wounds on his body, and eat among them, He was demonstrating that His resurrection was total and complete. He was not resurrected to a body of spirit, but a perfect, glorified, tangible body. Anything less would not satisfy the demands of justice and mercy and give us complete hope in restoration.
“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” (Mosiah 16:7-8).
- List ways you are strengthened in knowing that you and your loved ones will be resurrected.
- Record in your journal how opposition in your life has strengthened you.
- Talk to a dear friend about a time when you felt like you’d failed and how it taught you to persevere.
Jesus Personally Appeared to Sinners and Doubters
I haven’t found anywhere in the ministry of Christ where He shunned the poor, sinners, and seeking doubters. He has said that it is harder for the rich to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25; Matthew 19:24). Jesus spent his time among publicans and sinners, children, women, and lepers (Mark 2:15-16; Luke 15; Matthew 9:10). He has said, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:!7).
After His resurrection, He did the same thing. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, a woman with a shady reputation. He appeared to Simon Peter who emphatically denied him just a few days earlier. He showed himself to Thomas, later called “doubting Thomas” because he claimed he would not believe until he saw the Savior himself (John 20). He appeared to the two disciples who did not recognize him.
Jesus appears to those who were not expecting Him. He didn’t come first to His Apostles, nor an entourage of people awaiting him in sackcloth and ashes. He will come to you and to me when we need Him most and maybe when we least expect it, or believe we deserve it the least.
Michael and I have learned what it’s like to receive aid from the Bishop’s Storehouse. I have since been hearing stories and experiences that are generally stigmatized: mental illness, divorce, LGBTQ, debt, financial crisis, faith crisis, addiction, racial differences, or moral ambiguity. It reminds me of the time my sister was a pregnant teen. She and my parents were basically ostracized. Why does this kind of behavior still exist among Christians?? I have recently been bothered by an article bashing the Church for our beliefs written by a Christian. How is this even Christian behavior? How is there room to treat other people with hate when people are seriously suffering in this world? Why have people stopped asking “what would Jesus do?”
Jesus would love and embrace people in every stage of our mortal journey. We are all sinners, and we are all on our own path toward developing a relationship with our Savior. These tough times that Michael and I have endured have made us feel closer and more sensitive to the whisperings of the Spirit than we have felt in a long time. We have been getting more comfort and direction out of our studies than we have in a long time. As difficult as all of this has been, I have learned more about the Atonement, and Jesus’s condescension than I ever understood before.
Jesus had to descend below ALL things so that His atonement would be infinite and eternal. Elder Tad A. Callister laments in his recent Conference address, “I have met with good Saints who have had trouble forgiving themselves, who have innocently but incorrectly placed limits on the Savior’s redemptive powers. Unwittingly, they have converted an infinite Atonement to a finite one that somehow falls short of their particular sin or weakness. But it is an infinite Atonement because it encompasses and circumscribes every sin and weakness.” To which Truman G. Madsen testifies, “I bear testimony that you cannot sink farther than the light and sweeping intelligence of Jesus Christ can reach. I bear testimony that as long as there is one spark of the will to repent and to reach, he is there. He did not just descend to your condition; he descended below it, ‘that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.’ [Doctrine and Covenants 88:6.]” (The Atonement of Jesus Christ, General Conference, April 2019). If this is true for you and me, then it is true for anyone we meet.
Gerrit W. Gong said, “as the ‘Shepherd of Israel,’ Jesus Christ exemplifies how shepherds in Israel minister in love. When our Lord asks if we love Him, as He did with Simon Peter, our Savior implores: ‘Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep. … Feed my sheep.’ The Lord promises that when His shepherds feed His lambs and sheep, those in His fold ‘shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking.’
“Our Good Shepherd cautions that shepherds in Israel must not slumber, nor scatter or cause the sheep to go astray, nor look our own way for our own gain. God’s shepherds are to strengthen, heal, bind up that which is broken, bring again that which was driven away, seek that which was lost.
“The Lord also warns of hirelings, who ‘careth not for the sheep,’ and ‘false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves’” (Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, General Conference, April 2019).
I have been a member all my life. I love this Church and the Gospel. Both are perfect even if the people, myself included, are imperfect. This is Christ’s Church where His sheep may gather without fear.
- Reach out to someone in your ward that is different and learn about them.
- Look for a positive spin on a situation when you or someone you’re talking to wants to criticize someone else.
- Record in your journal a time when you felt the Lord touch your life when you didn’t expect it.
Apart, but Still One with Elder Joni L. Koch:
We are Called to the Work even when we Fall Back into Old Habits
This brings me to Peter being questioned by the Savior about his love and devotion. Jesus found people by the Sea of Galilea once again. After denying Jesus three times, and his ministry seemed to be at its end, Peter just went back to business as usual. So, it’s no wonder Jesus felt to question him.
“The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, ‘Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.’
“To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: ‘Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me’” (The First Great Commandment, Elder Jeffery R. Holland, General Conference October 2012).
Jesus will meet us where we are and invite us to follow Him. But, to truly follow Him, we must be willing to lay down our nets. To get different results, we must be willing to do different things. Doing something different or unexpected can be very hard. Peter and the other Apostles were persecuted to death. We may not be asked to suffer for His name, but we will all experience tests and trials that push agains our faith or our ability to endure.
We may feel tempted to fall back into our comfort zone, or deny the promptings and impressions to do something more. But, Jesus is calling out to His sheep to be different and to serve in His name.
The changes that Michael and I are going through started when we made a commitment to be more intentional with our lives. We started to cultivate a vision and make changes that have transformed our lives. It isn’t easy, but we have faith that we are more in alignment with Heavenly Father’s plan for us now, and that we can look back over the last decade of trial and feel that it has led us to this point where we are ready to accept His will and make the necessary sacrifices.
- What are changes you have been meaning to make but don’t know if you are capable? List them, and come up with a new plan.
- Record in your journal a time when you felt like Heavenly Father was guiding your life even when it was difficult.
- List old habits you want to work on. Replace them with better habits one and a time.
Real, Personal Sacrifice by Elder Neal A. Maxwell