First Presidency Message

The Victory over Death

Gordon B. Hinckley

The Victory over Death

What a glorious time of the year is Easter! Easter is the day when we, with Christian people everywhere, celebrate the most significant event in human history—the Resurrection from the grave, the return to life from death, of the Son of God. Among all the facts of mortality, nothing is so certain as its deathly end. How tragic, how poignant is the sorrow of those left behind. The grieving widow, the motherless child, the father bereft and alone—all of these can speak of the wounds of parting.

But thanks be to God for the wonder and the majesty of His eternal plan. Thank and glorify His Beloved Son, who, with indescribable suffering, gave His life on Calvary’s cross to pay the debt of mortal sin. He it was who, through His atoning sacrifice, broke the bonds of death and with godly power rose triumphant from the tomb. He is our Redeemer, the Redeemer of all mankind. He is the Savior of the world. He is the Son of God, the Author of our salvation.

“If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). This is the great universal question framed by Job. He spoke what every other living man or woman has pondered. The Christ alone, of all the millions who up to that time had walked the earth, was the first to emerge from the grave triumphant, a living soul complete in spirit and body. He became “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). Were greater words ever spoken than those of the angel that first resurrection morn—“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:6).

His death sealed the testimony of His love for all mankind. His Resurrection opened the gates of salvation to the sons and daughters of God of all generations.

In all of history there has been no majesty like His majesty. He, the mighty Jehovah, condescended to be born to mortal life in a stable of Bethlehem. He grew as a boy in Nazareth and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

His Crucifixion

He was baptized by John in the waters of Jordan, “and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16–17).

During the three years of His earthly ministry, He did what none other had ever done before; He taught as none other had previously taught.

Then came His time to be offered. There was the supper in the Upper Room, His last with the Twelve in mortality. As He washed their feet, He taught a lesson in humility and service they would never forget. There followed the suffering of Gethsemane, “which suffering,” He said, “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18).

He was taken by rough and crude hands, and in the night, contrary to the law, was brought before Annas, and then Caiaphas, the wily and evil officer of the Sanhedrin. There followed early the next morning the second appearance before this scheming, vicious man. Then He was taken to Pilate, the Roman governor, to whom his wife said in warning, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man” (Matt. 27:19). The Roman, thinking to evade responsibility, sent Him to Herod, the corrupt, debauched, and evil tetrarch of Galilee. Christ was abused and beaten. His head was crowned with sharp and platted thorns; a mocking robe of purple was thrown upon His bleeding back. Again He was taken before Pilate, to whom the mob cried, “Crucify him, crucify him” (Luke 23:21).

With stumbling steps He walked the way to Golgotha, where His wounded body was nailed to the cross in the most inhumane and pain-ridden method of execution that sadistic minds could conjure.

Yet He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The hours passed as His life ebbed in pain. The earth shook; the veil of the temple was rent. From His parched lips came the words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46).

It was over. His mortal life was finished. He had offered it as a ransom for all.

Victory over Death

Gone were the hopes of those who loved Him. Forgotten were the promises He had made. His body was hurriedly but tenderly placed in a borrowed tomb on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath. That Sabbath came and went. Then, early in the morning of Sunday, Mary Magdalene and other women came to the tomb. They wondered as they hurried how the stone might be rolled from the door of the sepulchre. Arriving, they saw an angel who spoke to them: “I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:5–6).

It had never before happened. The empty tomb was the answer to the question of the ages. Well did Paul say: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

The miracle of that resurrection morning, that first Easter Sunday, is a miracle for all mankind. It is the miracle of the power of God, whose Beloved Son gave His life to atone for the sins of all, a sacrifice of love for every son and daughter of God. In so doing He broke the seals of death.

All of us will die. But that will not be the end. Just as He in the spirit world taught those who were capable of being taught, even so shall each of us continue as individual personalities capable of learning and teaching and other activities.

And just as He took up His body and came forth from the tomb, even so shall all of us enjoy a reunion of body and spirit to become living souls in the day of our own resurrection.

We rejoice, therefore, as do many, and as should all mankind, when we remember the most glorious, the most comforting, the most reassuring of all events of human history—the victory over death.

The Reality of the Resurrection

To all the world we bear solemn witness. We have read the testimony of those who participated in the experiences of those three days of pain, of sorrow, and of rejoicing. We have read of the sufferings endured by those who testified of these things and of their willingness to give their own lives rather than deny the truth of that which they had seen. We have read the testimony of those in Palestine and of those in the New World who were visited by the risen Lord. The Spirit has borne witness within our hearts concerning the truth of these testimonies.

We also have the testimony of one who, in the opening of this dispensation, spoke with the living Christ and with His Eternal Father, and who gave his own life to seal that testimony with his blood. Declared he in words of soberness:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

In solemnity, and with understanding of the gravity of that which we say, we add our witness to all the world of the reality of the Resurrection, that this same Jesus who rose from the grave ascended into heaven. We declare that in this dispensation of time He returned to restore to earth the pristine gospel which He had taught while walking among men, that with that restoration has come further certain witness of His reality, and has come also the holy priesthood, given to men, which is exercised in His name. This is our testimony, which we bear in the name of Jesus Christ, and we invite all mankind to learn it so that they may rejoice in the blessings that come from following the teachings of our resurrected Lord, the Savior of Mankind.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis

You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:

  1. 1.

    Job spoke what all mortals have pondered: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).

  2. 2.

    The miracle of the Lord’s Resurrection is a miracle for all mankind. It is the most comforting, the most reassuring of all events of human history—his victory over death.

  3. 3.

    In addition to the New Testament witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection, we have the testimony of latter-day witnesses who have seen the resurrected Savior and heard his voice.

  4. 4.

    We invite all to accept the testimony of these witnesses so that they may rejoice in the blessings that come from following the teachings of the resurrected Son of God, the Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ.

Discussion Helps

  1. 1.

    Relate your feelings about the Lord’s victory over death and how that victory can influence the way we live our lives.

  2. 2.

    Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

  3. 3.

    Would this discussion be better after a previsit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?

[illustration] The Resurrection, by Harry Anderson

[illustration] The Book of Mormon Testifies of Jesus Christ, by Greg K. Olsen