2017 BYU Easter Conference Celebrates the “Majesty and Mission” of Christ
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- “The Living Christ” is the core of the gospel and focuses on the reality of the Savior’s matchless life.
- Following Christ’s commandment to love one another means changing the way we see others.
- Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are enabled to “mourn with hope.”
“The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, our brother and friend, turns darkness into light and mourning into joy. His entire existence witnesses the reality that death is not the end.” —Hank R. Smith, BYU assistant professor of ancient scripture
On the evening of the Christian holy day Good Friday, students, faculty, and members of the Brigham Young University community gathered in the Joseph Smith Building on the Provo, Utah, campus to learn more about and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Scholars from BYU discussed the Savior—His life, His mission, the Atonement, and His influence on individuals today—during the annual BYU Easter Conference. Talks were based on this year’s conference theme, “His Majesty and Mission.”
University President Kevin J Worthen spoke about “The Living Christ: Apostolic Testimonies and Infinite Love.” Camille Fronk Olson, BYU professor and chairwoman of the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU, shared insight about “A New Commandment: the Transformative Power of Redeeming Love,” and Hank R. Smith, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU, talked about “Mourning with Hope.”
Two special musical arrangements performed by BYU students added to the meeting’s sacred nature.
The Living Christ: Apostolic Testimonies and Infinite Love
“Christ not only currently leads His Church, He is also active in our lives today—to the extent we allow Him to be,” said President Worthen. “He knocks at the door and waits for us to invite Him into our lives, and when we do, we will find the truth of the apostolic witness that ‘His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.’”
Drawing from the inspired document “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” President Worthen said the collective testimony of the core of the gospel contained in that document is a resource for “our time and circumstance.”
“‘The Living Christ’ was prepared in advance of when we will (future tense) need it the most,” he said. “The prophetic pronouncement … coupled with the enhanced emphasis on the Savior in recent conference addresses by the other prophets invites us to become more familiar with the truths in the remarkable document.”
Other details in the document focus on the reality of the Savior’s matchless life.
“In order to be fully efficacious, Christ’s atoning sacrifice had to be perfect and complete, which required that Christ be free from any sin. … Thus, in one sense, every perfect choice, every perfect response, every perfect act in His completely perfect mortal life was part of His great atoning sacrifice,” President Worthen said. “He not only gave His life in a manner that permitted Him to rescue all humankind from death and misery, He also lived His life in a way that made that infinite sacrifice possible.”
Christ also provided a mortal example of the things a person needs to do to make the power of His atoning sacrifice fully operative in his or her life.
“He came to earth not just to provide an example of what we should do to inherit eternal life but also to make it possible for us to do so, despite our weaknesses and imperfections,” he said.
A full understanding of the Atonement of Christ is not a prerequisite for someone to benefit from it, he taught.
“Still, it is important and profitable for us to contemplate the monumental events of that sacrifice in an attempt to increase our limited comprehension, for such understanding can both better fit us to take full advantage of that infinite offering and provide us with the perspective and strength we need to endure the vicissitudes of life that inevitably occur,” he said.
President Worthen spoke of Christ and His willingness to carry out the atoning sacrifice—not just because He knew His Father wanted Him to do so, but because He wanted to suffer incomprehensible pain to spare everyone else the same.
“Maybe Christ had to decide for Himself that He loved us enough to do so, that He finished the Atonement not just because we were Heavenly Father’s children whom God loved, but because we were Christ’s brothers and sisters whom He loved,” President Worthen said.
A New Commandment: The Transformative Power of Redeeming Love
BYU professor Camille Fronk Olson spoke of the transformative power of redeeming love.
“When we love others as He loves us, we will recognize the divine in every son and daughter of God and lose ourselves in service to them,” Sister Olson taught.
When Christ was on the earth He issued a “new commandment” to love one another. For some, that commandment required a change in the way they see others.
“Obedience to this new commandment is at the heart of our being changed forever through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Sister Olson said. “By serious consideration of how Jesus illustrated and described how we learn to love others as He loves them, we may choose to progress along this transformative spiritual journey.”
The Savior’s sacrifice accomplished more than cleansing from sin and evil. It provided a way for a person to “abide” with the Savior, standing steadfast in His teachings even when persecution, questions, temptations, or tragedy try to pull them down.
“Abiding with Him means that disciples desire to serve Him everlastingly more than they desire the praise of the world. … Without His strength, we will wither and die,” she said. “With His life-giving power, we can do and become all that He created us to do and be. …
“Jesus taught that if we would come closer to Him, we need to change our relationship with the world without departing out of the world,” she said. “By separating our desires from what the world glorifies, even when surrounded by greed, deceit, and vengeance, we welcome the tutoring that uniquely comes through the Holy Spirit. Grace by grace our hearts and minds are gradually transformed to be like that of our Savior’s because we have allowed Him to be in us as the Father is in Him.”
Mourning with Hope
In his address, Brother Smith explained to listeners that because of the knowledge of the Savior’s Resurrection, “we mourn different. We mourn with hope.”
“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very core of who we are as a Church and what we are as disciples of Christ,” he said.
Although Latter-day Saints are not immune or exempt to the tragedy of death and grief, it is the eternal knowledge of the Savior that brings comfort.
“The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, our brother and friend, turns darkness into light and mourning into joy,” said Brother Smith. “His entire existence witnesses the reality that death is not the end. Like the first glimmer of dawn turns into a glorious morning sun after the darkest and coldest of nights, he has gloriously risen as the supreme embodiment of light and life. Weeping does endure for a night, but joy does come with the rising Son.”
The scriptures teach the reassurance that not only did Christ rise from the dead but all mankind will follow Him through their own individual resurrection.
“The promise is sure,” he said. “Without any doubt, without any uncertainty, Christ’s followers declare each individual will see, hear, talk with, laugh with, and embrace their cherished loved ones again. … Is there any more important message in all the world?”
Recognizing that the Savior endured extreme difficulty to ensure resurrection for all mankind, Brother Smith said, “Our knowledge of the plan of salvation, the Fall of man, the role of death and the Atonement of Jesus Christ enable us to … mourn with hope. …
“Mourning with hope means celebrating the time spent in mortality with those we love. It means we look forward with anticipation to joyful reunions. Mourning with hope means placing all your hope in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to return you and those you love to your heavenly home.”