Painting: Three Marys at the Tomb of the Resurrected Christ by Bouguereau
Three Marys at the Tomb by William Bouguereau: Courtesy of Christ Images

 

Jesus Christ: Easter, One Solitary Life

By Stephen M. Bird, talk given during Sunday Sacrament Service on April 8, 2012 at the Grove Creek 7th Ward in Pleasant Grove, Utah   Print this Article


Just last week, a dear friend passed away in St. George. He was only 60 years old. He was three years younger than me. While working in North Dakota he began experiencing congestion in his lungs and pain in his stomach. He thought he had bronchitis and an ulcer. The symptoms became severe and his wife drove him home to St. George. Doctors at the hospital there diagnosed him with stage-four esophageal cancer and he died a few days later. News of his death came to Peggy and I as a complete surprise and Peggy wept in my arms for a long time.

At the funeral in St. George, I was reminded more forcibly than ever that our lives here are temporary. I was reminded that when we leave, we will not take a single copper penny with us. I was reminded that our purpose here is not to accumulate earthly security or possessions. And I was reminded that we might be recalled at any time to the next life. I was reminded that Christ lived for us, and not for Himself. I was reminded that everything He did; everything He taught; everything He suffered; was for our benefit.

Nephi, writing in The Book of Mormon, testified that Christ “doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him.” (2 Nephi 26:24)

I testify that Nephi wrote the truth here. I testify that everything Christ thought, everything He taught, every commandment He gave, everything He did was for our benefit. Our Savior lived for us.

One Solitary Life

Dr. James Allan Francis wrote a short essay published in a small hand-set book of only seven pages. Only 150 copies were printed in the original edition. He titled the book: One Solitary Life. It was published in the Congressional Record on December 27, 1969 and has been published in various other places. [1] I’d like to read a portion of his essay here.

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant teacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the power of his divine manhood. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he was dying—his coat. When he was dead he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone; today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the Leader of the column of progress.

“I am far within the mark when I say that ... all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life. [2]

The Old Testament and New Testment Testify of Christ

God has done many things to help us understand the pricelessness of Christ. The Old Testament scriptures testified of Christ through God’s symbolic and foretelling command that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, his miracle son; his only-begotten son through Sarah. The Old Testament scriptures testified of Christ when He saved the firstborn of the Hebrews in Egypt from death by the blood of the lamb. The Old Testament scriptures testified of Christ and of His sacrifice, with each and every animal sacrifice made in obedience to the Law of Moses.

The New Testament is filled with testimonies of Christ. Many saw the miracles of Christ; and Paul, in First Corinthians testified that the resurrected Lord was seen of Cephas, of James, of all the apostles, of himself and of more than “five hundred brethren at once.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Paul’s life conformed to the truth of his testimony. Paul gave his life for it.

The Book of Mormon Testifies of Christ

God gave us The Book of Mormon “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the Christ, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.” I once told a young evangelical Christian Marine that The Book of Mormon “begins with Christ. It continues with Christ. It ends with Christ. It refers to Christ ‘more frequently per verse’ [3] than even the New Testament.” [4]

Stephen H. Webb, a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College, wrote an article entitled: “Mormonism Obsessed with Christ.” He is NOT a Mormon, but he wrote his article after he read The Book of Mormon. Although he was not converted, he thought perhaps Mormonism's expulsion from “Christianity” should be reconsidered by other Christians. Here are some excerpts:

I too used to think of Mormonism as little more than an exotic and abnormal addition to Christianity…

“I came to realize just how deeply Christ-centered Mormonism is...”

I have come to repent of this view … I changed my mind because I came to realize just how deeply Christ-centered Mormonism is…

Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him…

I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time… [5]

Dr. Webb thought that The Book of Mormon was “lackluster” or “dull”. But his reasoning surprised me, for he said: “Yet it is dull precisely because it is all about Jesus. There are many characters in this book, but they change as little as the plot. Nobody stands out but him… Every page of the book prepares the way for its stunning climax, which is a literal appearance of Jesus to the ancient peoples of America.” [6]

Modern Apostles and Prophets Testify of Christ

Today, modern Apostles and Prophets continue to testify of our Savior. God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. Our Lord and Savior also appeared to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in vision. In the 76th section of the Doctrine & Covenants verses 22-24, they recorded their testimony:

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. (Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24)

In our most recent General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith who 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.” [7]

Remembering Christ

Given the vital importance of Christ and His Atonement to each of us, I pray that we will not be like the Zoramites. We all know about the Rameumpton, and I know we would not pray like that, but there was another aspect to their worship wherein we may be tempted to be like them. Alma said that after the Zoramites had offered their Sabbath prayer, “they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand.” (Alma 31:23)

Three chapters later, Alma went on to teach the greatest discourse on the importance of daily and hourly prayer unto Christ in written scripture. (Alma 34:17-27) He said that when we are not formally praying, we must “let [our] hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually.” (verse 27)

I humbly pray that we will remember our Savior's love; that we will feel His love. I pray that we will remember Him not only today, but tomorrow as well, and each day and hour thereafter, and that our hearts will be filled with hourly gratitude that He lived for us and not for Himself.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Notes:

[1] “One Solitary Life,” Bartleby.com Great Books Online, accessed April 5, 2012, http://www.bartleby.com/73/916.html.

[2] In Obert C. Tanner, Christ's Ideals for Living (Salt Lake City: The Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Foundation, 1981), 6.

[3] Ezra Taft Benson, “Come unto Christ,” Ensign, November 1987, 83, accessed April 5, 2012, http://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/11/come-unto-christ?lang=eng.

[4] Stephen M. Bird, Prayers That Bring Miracles (Salt Lake City, Utah: Aspen Books, 1997), 82.

[5] Stephen H. Webb, “Mormonism Obsessed With Christ,” First Things, accessed April 5, 2012, http://firstthings.com/article/2012/01/mormonism-obsessed-with-christ.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensign, May 2012, accesssed November 14, 2012 http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/05/the-doctrine-of-christ?lang=eng.

 

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