President Uchtdorf Delivers Easter Message to Missionaries
Contributed By By Gerry Avant, Church News editor
- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ—the most remarkable event in history—also transformed a band of frightened, worried disciples into a dynamic group of fearless missionaries.
“Each day, let us remind ourselves that we are disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ. And because He is with us, we do not fear.” —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ—the most remarkable event in the history of the world—created a way for all people to receive eternal life. Also, it transformed a band of frightened, worried disciples into a dynamic group of fearless missionaries who changed the world.
“The events of that day have the potential and power to do the same for every servant of the Lord,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf declared in an Easter message on April 20.
President Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke to an assembly of some 1,400 gathered in the Lorenzo Snow Building on the campus of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Thousands of other missionaries watched by satellite broadcasts in training centers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and Spain. Missionaries in training centers in New Zealand and the Philippines viewed the broadcast on a tape-delayed basis.
President Uchtdorf quoted scriptures telling of the events of those days in which Jesus went through the Atonement in the Garden of Gethsemane, His trial, and His death by crucifixion on Calvary.
“The disciples huddled together afraid, perhaps in disbelief that their Master was really dead,” he said. “I can imagine them looking into each other’s eyes and feeling confusion, anger, and, perhaps most of all, a profound and consuming grief.”
He spoke of an angel rolling away the stone from the tomb, the proclamation “He is risen,” and the resurrected Lord’s appearance, first to Mary Magdalene and His instruction to her: “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).
President Uchtdorf told the missionaries they all knew the story of what happened next: how the Savior appeared to His disciples, invited them to touch Him and see for themselves that He lived, tarried among His followers, taught from the scriptures the things concerning Himself, and appeared to more than 500 people.
“It is remarkable to me how things changed after that day,” President Uchtdorf said of the first Easter. “Before His death, Jesus’s disciples were mostly in the role of witnesses and followers. They observed and learned, and they witnessed the Savior’s acts and teachings.
“But everything changed for them after Christ rose from the tomb.”
President Uchtdorf spoke of Peter. “What do we see in this ‘rock’ of a man prior to the Resurrection? Among other things, we see fear.”
He quoted scriptures describing Peter’s courageous steps in the water toward the Savior but how he called out in fear as he began to sink when his faith failed him. Also, President Uchtdorf spoke of how fear overtook Peter, causing him to deny knowing Jesus on the night of His trial.
“Peter later wept and agonized over that betrayal,” President Uchtdorf said. “With broken heart he pleaded with God for forgiveness. How could he have been so weak? How could he have allowed fear to make him deny the man whom he knew as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God?’
“But from the moment Peter saw the risen Christ, he was transformed. He was a different man. Along with James and John, he was a true leader.
“No longer was he afraid. From that moment on he boldly testified, ‘This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses’ (Acts 2:32).”
President Uchtdorf said the men who had conspired to kill the Savior surrounded Peter, but as a “revitalized, fearless champion of God,” Peter continued to preach the gospel—particularly to those who murdered the Christ. “He boldly confronted them, claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead, the firstfruits of the Resurrection.”
Peter and John were taken into custody and brought to the rulers, elders, and scribes for interrogation; Annas the high priest and Caiaphas were there. “It must have been an intimidating group—a group that held Peter and John’s lives in their hands,” President Uchtdorf said.
“But any trace of the old, fearful Peter had by now disappeared in the magnificent refiner’s fire of that Easter Sunday morning. Peter confronted those who condemned him—the very men who had slain His Lord—with miracles performed in the name of the Lord. …
“From that moment to the end of his life, Peter faced threats, ridicule, hatred, and humiliation. But he did not back down. He feared no man. Nothing kept him from fulfilling his mission to raise his voice as a witness of his Savior, Jesus Christ.”
President Uchtdorf asked the MTC congregations, “What does this have to do with your sacred calling as missionaries?
“Elders and sisters, each day you put on your name tags it teaches an important message. You are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Peter, you have taken upon yourselves the name of the Lord and the great responsibility to spread the happy and glorious news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The ancient Apostles were charged by the Lord to teach and baptize all nations, ‘teaching them to observe all … I have commanded’ (Matthew 28:20). As missionaries you are the extended arm of the Twelve Apostles of today with the same promise that the Lord will be with you, even unto the end of the world.
“Every day of your missions and every day of your lives you are faced with choices similar to what Peter had to make. Like Peter, you have the same questions before you: What kind of witness will you be?
“Among our 85,000 missionaries there are many who, like Peter, are fearless in proclaiming the truth. They approach each day with renewed vigor. Even in the face of ridicule, apathy, and hatred they raise their pure and joyful voices and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
President Uchtdorf spoke of Elder Fabrizio Ricciardi, a convert from Italy who served some 30 years ago as a missionary in Great Britain. His parents were troubled about him serving a mission, but he went, with peace in his heart. He determined that since his decision to serve had been so costly, he would make his time as a missionary count.
One of his missionary companions, Elder Danny Q. Humphrey, later wrote that every morning before they left the house, Elder Ricciardi would look at himself in the bathroom mirror, point, and say, “I fear no man.”
President Uchtdorf related that Elder Humphrey, a junior companion, wrote that as he stumbled along, Elder Ricciardi taught him many things about being a missionary. At one point, Elder Ricciardi asked, “Elder, do you know who you are?” He then opened the Book of Mormon to 3 Nephi 5:13 and read: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.”
“Then [Elder Ricciardi] looked at his junior companion and said, ‘Elder, you are a disciple of Christ! You fear no man!’”
He said Elder Ricciardi was never an assistant to the president or a zone leader, but he trained many new missionaries. “Training new missionaries is one of the most important leadership positions in the mission field.
“On this Easter Sunday, I invite you to consider the example of the Apostle Peter, who overcame his fears and became a courageous missionary and leader in the Church. It is not only Peter we can learn from—we can learn from all missionaries who have the same kind of commitment and dedication—missionaries like Elder Ricciardi.
“Each day, let us remind ourselves that we are disciples of the Savior Jesus Christ. And because He is with us, we do not fear.”
President Uchtdorf assured the missionaries that as they incline their hearts and minds to the Savior, “He will surely lift you up and strengthen you. He will visit you with knowledge, peace, and courage. He will prepare the way for you and send His angels to surround and uphold you.
“He will help you overcome fear. He will help you rise up and become men and women of God.”
A choir of about 470 missionaries, directed by Ryan Eggett and accompanied by Ellen Amatangelo, sang “Jesus Once of Humble Birth.”
After the meeting, President Uchtdorf shook hands with dozens of missionaries. Elder Selwin Lovell, a missionary from the South American nation of Guyana assigned to the Mississippi Jackson Mission, was among many elders who received a warm embrace from President Uchtdorf.