I am grateful to be with you this wonderful Easter morning. When I think of Easter, I love to rehearse in my mind the words spoken by angels to those who were at the Garden Tomb: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”1 I testify that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected and He lives.
Thirty-four years ago, my missionary companion and I met and taught a very intellectual man who was a contributing writer for a local newspaper in Davao City, Philippines. We enjoyed teaching him because he had a lot of questions and was very respectful of our beliefs. The most memorable question he asked us was “What think ye of Christ?”2 We of course excitedly shared our feelings and bore testimony of Jesus Christ. He later published an article on the same topic that contained wonderful words and phrases about the Savior. I remember being impressed but not necessarily lifted. It had good information but felt hollow and lacked spiritual power.
“What think ye of Christ?” I am realizing that how intimately I know the Savior significantly influences my ability to hear Him as well as how I respond. A few years ago, Elder David A. Bednar asked the following questions as part of his remarks: “Do we only know about the Savior, or are we increasingly coming to know Him? How do we come to know the Lord?”3
As I studied and pondered, I came to the stark realization that what I know about the Savior greatly outweighed how much I really know Him. I resolved then to put forth more effort to know Him. I am very grateful for the scriptures and testimonies of faithful men and women disciples of Jesus Christ. My own journey over the last few years has taken me down many roads of study and discovery. I pray that the Holy Ghost will convey to you today a message far greater than the inadequate words that I have written.
First, we need to recognize that knowing the Savior is the most important pursuit of our lives. It should take priority over anything else.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”4
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”5
“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”6
Second, as we are increasingly coming to know the Savior, scriptural passages and the words of the prophets become so intimately meaningful to us that they become our own words. It is not about copying the words, feelings, and experiences of others as much as it is coming to know for ourselves, in our own unique way, by experimenting upon the word7 and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost. As the prophet Alma declared:
“Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.”8
Third, an increasing understanding that the Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to us personally and individually will help us know Him. Oftentimes it is easier for us to think and speak of Christ’s Atonement in general terms than to recognize its personal significance in our lives. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and eternal and all-encompassing in its breadth and depth but wholly personal and individual in its effects. Because of His atoning sacrifice, the Savior has power to cleanse, heal, and strengthen us one by one.
The Savior’s only desire, His only purpose from the very beginning, was to do the will of the Father. The will of the Father was for Him to assist in “[bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”9 by becoming our “advocate with the Father.”10 Hence, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”11
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. …
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death … and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, … that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
“… 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.”12
I would like to share a simple experience that illustrates the struggle we sometimes have to embrace the personal nature of the Lord’s Atonement.
Years ago, at the invitation of my file leader, I read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover and marked the verses that referenced the Lord’s Atonement. My leader also invited me to prepare a one-page summary of what I learned. I said to myself, “One page? Sure, that is easy.” To my surprise, however, I found the task to be extremely difficult, and I failed.
I have since realized that I failed because I missed the mark and had incorrect assumptions. First, I expected the summary to be inspiring to everyone. The summary was meant for me and not for anyone else. It was meant to capture my feelings and emotions about the Savior and what He has done for me so that every time I read it, it will bring to the surface wonderful, poignant, and personal spiritual experiences.
Second, I expected the summary to be grand and elaborate and contain big words and phrases. It was never about big words. It was meant to be a clear and simple declaration of conviction. “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding.”13
Third, I expected it to be perfect, a summary to end all summaries—a final summary that one cannot and should not add to—instead of a work in progress to which I can add a word here or a phrase there as my understanding of Jesus Christ’s Atonement increases.
As a young man, I learned a lot from my conversations with my bishop. During those tender years, I learned to love these words from a favorite hymn:
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!14
The prophet Moroni invited us: “And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written.”15
President Russell M. Nelson promised that “if [we] proceed to learn all [we] can about Jesus Christ, … [our] ability to turn away from sin will increase. [Our] desire to keep the commandments will soar.”16
On this Easter Sunday, just as the Savior came forth from His stone grave, may we awake from our spiritual slumber and rise above the clouds of doubt, the clutches of fear, the intoxication of pride, and the lull of complacency. Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father live. I testify of Their perfect love for us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.