An Apostle’s Witness of the Resurrection

Howard W. Hunter

Acting President of the Quorum of the Tweleve Apostles


 

Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, pupil of Aristotle, conqueror of most of the known world in his time, was one of the world’s great young leaders. After years of exercising military pomp and prowess and after extending his kingdom from Macedonia to Egypt and from Cyprus to India, he wept when there seemed to be no more world to conquer. Then, as evidence of just how ephemeral such power is, Alexander caught a fever and died at thirty-three years of age. The vast kingdom he had gained virtually died with him.

Quite a different young leader also died at what seems such an untimely age of thirty-three. He likewise was a king, a pupil, and a conqueror. Yet he received no honors from man, achieved no territorial conquests, rose to no political station. So far as we know, he never held a sword nor wore even a single piece of armor. But the Kingdom he established still flourishes some two thousand years later. His power was not of this world.

The differences between Alexander and this equally young Nazarene are many. But the greatest difference is in their ultimate victories. Alexander conquered lands, peoples, principalities, and earthly kingdoms. But he who is called the Perfect Leader, he who was and is the Light and Life of the world—Jesus Christ the Son of God—conquered what neither Alexander nor any other could defeat or overcome: Jesus of Nazareth conquered death. Against the medals and monuments of centuries of men’s fleeting victories stands the only monument necessary to mark the eternal triumph—an empty garden tomb.

Last week, we and all the rest of the Christian world celebrated Easter. In our great general conference of the Church, we lengthen the Easter season today to remember him and honor this pivotal event in the lives of all mankind. As Easter in the Northern Hemisphere ushers in an awakening of life following the barrenness of winter, so Christ’s resurrection ushers in the blessing of immortality and the possibility of eternal life. His empty tomb proclaims to all the world, “He is not here, but is risen.” (Luke 24:6.) These words contain all the hope, assurance, and belief necessary to sustain us in our challenging and sometimes grief-filled lives.

Easter is the celebration of the free gift of immortality given to all men, restoring life and healing all wounds. Though all will die as part of the eternal plan of growth and development, nevertheless we can all find comfort in the Psalmist’s statement, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5.)

It was Job who posed what might be called the question of the ages: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14.) Christ’s answer rings down through time to this very hour: “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19.)

Even with the logic of nature’s regeneration and even with the testimony of that empty garden tomb, there are still those who feel the grave is a final destination. But the doctrine of the Resurrection is the single most fundamental and crucial doctrine in the Christian religion. It cannot be overemphasized, nor can it be disregarded.

Without the Resurrection, the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes a litany of wise sayings and seemingly unexplainable miracles—but sayings and miracles with no ultimate triumph. No, the ultimate triumph is in the ultimate miracle: for the first time in the history of mankind, one who was dead raised himself into living immortality. He was the Son of God, the Son of our immortal Father in Heaven, and his triumph over physical and spiritual death is the good news every Christian tongue should speak.

The eternal truth is that Jesus Christ arose from the grave and was the firstfruits of the Resurrection. (See 1 Cor. 15:23.) The witnesses of this wonderful occurrence cannot be impeached.

Among the chosen witnesses are the Lord’s Apostles. Indeed, the call to the holy apostleship is one of bearing witness to the world of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (History of the Church, 3:30.)

Peter, one of the Apostles chosen by the Master during His ministry, made these statements concerning the role of the Apostles as witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36.)

“But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, … and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14–15.)

“And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” (Acts 5:32.)

The Apostle Paul commented on what Peter had stated about the Apostles being witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus. These are his words:

“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

“But God raised him from the dead:

“And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.” (Acts 13:29–31.)

On Mars Hill in Athens, Paul said: “[God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31), and before King Agrippa he asked this question: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8.)

Paul bore his apostolic witness of the Resurrection again in his letter to the Saints at Corinth:

“Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? … For the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 9:1–2.)

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept … in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:20, 22.)

I humbly testify of my privilege to bear the holy apostleship and to work daily with a modern Quorum of Twelve Apostles who are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to go forth as “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world.” (D&C 107:23.) And so have the Apostles always testified.

In our own day, Apostles and prophets are carrying on the work of bearing witness to the world of Jesus Christ. If I may have the privilege, I wish to repeat what President Marion G. Romney, the President of our present apostolic quorum, said concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Not long ago he made this statement to a general conference of the Church:

“At this Easter season, I am grateful for this opportunity to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus and to set forth, in part at least, the basis upon which that witness rests.

“‘He is risen; he is not here.’ (Mark 16:6.) These words, eloquent in their simplicity, announced the most significant event of recorded history, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—an event so extraordinary that even the Apostles, who had been most intimately associated with Jesus in his earthly ministry and who had been carefully taught of the coming event, had difficulty grasping the reality of its full significance. The first accounts which reached their ears ‘seemed to them as idle tales’ (Luke 24:11) as well they might, for millions of men had lived and died before that day. In every hill and dale men’s bodies mouldered in the dust, but until that first Easter morning not one had risen from the grave. …

“That the whole of his mortal life moved toward this consummation, he had repeatedly taught. It was foreshadowed in his statement about laying down his life and taking it up again. To the sorrowing Martha he had said, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life’ (John 11:25); and to the Jews, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ (John 2:19.) …

“The evidence that Jesus was resurrected is conclusive.” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, pp. 5–7; or Ensign, May 1982, p. 6.)

To the testimony of President Romney and the witnesses of my Brethren, I add my own apostolic witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that he was born into mortality and fulfilled his ministry as related in the scriptures, which record his birth, his life, his teachings, and his commandments.

In teaching his Apostles, Christ made known to them “that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31.) So it was. He was crucified and placed in the tomb. On the third day, he did arise to live again—the Savior of all mankind and the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Through this atoning sacrifice, all men shall be saved from the grave and shall live again. This always has been the testimony of the Apostles, to which I add my witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.