First Presidency Message

To Ease the Aching Heart

By President Harold B. Lee

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    Message to be presented by President Lee on a special Tabernacle Choir broadcast Easter Sunday, April 22

    We have witnessed the long-hoped-for cessation of the bitter conflict in Southeast Asia, the longest war in American history. Our military men and those of other nations have returned home. Prisoners of war, after untold agonies in prison camps, are back with their families. The innocent victims of this cruel war of destruction are now in the ofttimes painful process of reestablishing themselves in some measure of stability and rehabilitation.

    But in thousands of homes in this and other lands, there is and has been an inward battle in the souls of those who have lost members of their families—a husband, a brother, a sweetheart, a friend. What can we say to those who are yearning for an inward peace to quiet their fears, to ease the aching heart, to bring understanding, to look beyond the sordid trials of today and see a fruition of hopes and dreams in a world beyond mortality?

    In a few words may I call attention to the promises in the scriptures and explain them briefly that in this message I might bring understanding, peace, and hope.

    The Master indicated the source from which ultimate peace would come when he said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.)

    There were significant events following the resurrection of the Lord which give us a glimpse of the eternities that lie ahead. These events leading up to the resurrection are well documented in the scriptures. Here we read of the terrible night of the betrayal and the hasty and illegal proceedings which made mockery of justice. We, in our mind’s eye, witness the agonizing death of our Lord and Master on the cross. We are brought to a remembrance of the empty tomb in a garden near Calvary where a new sepulchre was available for his burial. Here we learn of the angelic guardians of the tomb and their glorious and triumphant announcement: “He is not here: for he is risen. …” (Matt. 28:6.)

    Here was witnessed the Master’s first appearance with his resurrected body, a complete and perfected personage in every detail, as tangible and as real as they had known him in his mortal body.

    But that was not all that happened on that morning of the first resurrection. In fulfillment of the promise of the Lord through the prophet who gave hope to the struggling band under the guidance of Moses, their prophet leader, the promise was made that after their trials and struggles in the wilderness, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. …” (Isa. 26:19.)

    The record of Matthew in the Bible gives us the further thrilling account of the fulfillment of that promise 800 years later. Here we read, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matt. 27:52–53.)

    Think of that day, you who mourn the death of loved ones. The graves of your loved ones will be opened, and their bodies will likewise come forth and walk into the land of the living and will appear unto many. Also through the prophets of this American continent, we have recorded an explanation of the completeness of a resurrected body, when one of them declared, “… and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; … thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.” (Alma 11:44–45.)

    But now there is another glorious expectation even beyond the grave to those who have passed on. On the occasion of the incident at Jacob’s well when the Master and his disciples asked the woman at the well of Samaria for a drink of water from the deep well, the Master made a declaration to this woman and her friends, which opens a whole vision of that which lies beyond: “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” the Master foretold, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God,” and then, as though to avoid a possible misunderstanding of that statement, he repeated, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:25, 28–29.)

    What a glorious expectation for those that have passed on to hear again the voice of the Son of God!

    Time will permit but a brief reference to another significant event connected with the Savior’s resurrection. It will be remembered that his body lay in the tomb for three days before his resurrected body came forth. It will also be remembered that following his resurrection, the Savior tarried among his disciples for about forty days, eating with them, teaching them, and endowing them with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    He must have related to them what had transpired during those three days while his body lay in the tomb, for we find Peter, the chief apostle, in his epistles explaining that during the three days while his body lay in the tomb, “… but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient … in the days of Noah. …” (1 Pet. 3:18–19.) And then Peter recorded this most important explanation: “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 4:6.)

    Yes, we should mourn for the loss of them that die, but more especially for those that have no hope of that glorious resurrection. Then we hear these sobering and consoling assurances of the apostle Paul explaining that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22.)

    The ancient prophets of this western continent have clearly set forth in understandable language the obligation of each individual to obtain the highest of these eternal privileges in mortality and in the world to come, for here we find written: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, … for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23.)

    In other words, each must do all he can to save himself from sin; then he may lay claim to the blessings of redemption by the Holy One of Israel, that all mankind may be saved by obedience to the law and ordinances of the gospel.

    Jesus also atoned not only for Adam’s transgressions but for the sins of all mankind. But redemption from individual sins depends upon individual effort, with each being judged according to his or her works.

    The scriptures make it clear that while a resurrection will come to all, only those who obey the Christ will receive the expanded blessing of eternal salvation. Speaking of Jesus, Paul explained to the Hebrews that “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:9.)

    Now because of that great day when the Holy One of Israel triumphed over death, we have unfolded to us the plan of redemption, available to everyone; we can shout in exaltation this Easter morn with the apostle Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? … But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55, 57.)

    My humble prayer is that all men everywhere may understand more fully the significance of the atonement of the Savior of all mankind, who has given us the plan of salvation which will lead us into eternal life, where God and Christ dwell. For this I earnestly pray and bear my personal witness to these divine truths, in the sacred name of him who gave his life for such as you and me. Even so, Amen.