April is truly a historic month in which we commemorate two of the most important events in the history of mankind: the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the reestablishment of his church and kingdom here upon the earth in these, the latter days. Members of the Church also believe that Christ was born on April 6 in the year 1 B.C. (See D&C 20:1.)
As we contemplate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Savior, we realize that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.) Though Jesus suffered and bled and died on the cross as he cried out in agony to his Father, and though the Father endured great pain and sorrow at the suffering of his Son throughout this ordeal, yet it was a moment of triumph to them and to every living soul who has breathed the breath of life.
I am sure that we, with the poet Charles H. Gabriel, feel to say:
“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.
“I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.”
—Hymns, No. 80
I wonder if we pause often enough to ponder over these momentous happenings and to fully realize their significance for us. Can we begin to imagine such great encompassing love as our Savior must have had to offer to suffer for all of us so that we could be spared the agony of individual atonement? We must understand that in accordance with the Father’s plan of life and salvation, Adam fell that men might be, and because the fall introduced death and the grave, there must needs have been an atonement and a way to release mankind from the bands of death.
This was the purpose of our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. Thus all are redeemed from the grave, but he wants us to have even greater blessings. Salvation from eternal death is indeed wonderful, but he has offered us a plan whereby we can have exaltation and eternal life, or life with God, our Eternal Father.
For this purpose he has reestablished his church, and it is the same church he organized with his apostles in order that all who would be called Saints could be taught and instructed, and could repent, be baptized, and receive the saving ordinances by the laying on of hands by those in authority.
This is not commonly understood by the world. How fortunate we are to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ, wherein we are taught the gospel in its fullness as it has been revealed and restored in these latter days. What a great blessing it is for us to know that God is a real personage in whose image we are created; that we are his spirit children; that he loves us and is interested in us; and that through his Son he has given us a blueprint of life that if followed will lead us back into his presence, where we can enjoy eternal progression with our families and loved ones.
But just knowing these things and just being members of his church will not save us or bring us the promised blessings. It is by doing the will of the Father and by keeping his commandments and living according to the principles of his gospel that we will receive the blessings that have been promised to the faithful.
We must learn and live the commandments, always remembering that the first and great commandment is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 22:37, 39.) If we live these two, we cannot help but be prepared to accept and live the other commandments, remembering that as we “seek … first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness … all these things shall be added.” (Matt. 6:33.)
How fitting to commemorate the organization of the Church and the resurrection at the same season! The resurrection makes it possible for us to come forth from the grave, and the Church with its saving ordinances enables us, according to our faith and faithfulness, to enjoy exaltation and eternal life.