Chapter 23: The Resurrection, an Anchor to the Soul

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, (2000), 216–23


How does a testimony of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and of our own forthcoming resurrection strengthen us in our earthly trials?

Introduction

President Harold B. Lee had an abiding testimony of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which was further strengthened shortly after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April 1941. He recalled: “One of the Twelve came to me and said, ‘Now we would like you to be the speaker at the Sunday night service. It is for Easter Sunday. As an ordained apostle, you are to be a special witness of the mission and resurrection of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ That, I think, was the most startling, the most overwhelming contemplation of all that had happened.

“I locked myself in one of the rooms of the Church Office Building and took out the Bible. I read in the four Gospels, particularly the scriptures pertaining to the death, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord, and as I read, I suddenly became aware that something strange was happening. It wasn’t just a story I was reading, for it seemed as though the events I was reading about were very real as though I were actually living those experiences. On Sunday night I delivered my humble message and said, ‘And now, I, one of the least of the apostles here on the earth today, bear you witness that I too know with all my soul that Jesus is the Savior of the world and that he lived and died and was resurrected for us.’

“I knew because of a special kind of witness that had come to me the preceding week. Then someone asked, ‘How do you know? Have you seen?’ I can say that more powerful than one’s sight is the witness that comes by the power of the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to our spirits that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world.”1

Teachings of Harold B. Lee

How is the reality of the resurrection a “cheering promise”?

“Now upon the first day of the week, early in the morning, the women came unto the sepulchre. … They found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass that as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold two men stood by them in shining garments! And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, the angel said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? Fear not ye, be not affrighted; for I know that ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified.

“He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay—where they laid him.

“And go quickly and tell his disciples and Peter that He is risen from the dead—that He goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see Him. Remember how He spoke unto you while He was yet in Galilee saying: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and the third day rise again. Lo, I have told you.” [See Luke 24:1–7; Matthew 28:5–7; Mark 16:5–7.]

Thus do the writers of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record the greatest event in the history of the world, the literal resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. Dramatically had been demonstrated the greatest of all the divine powers of an incarnated Son of God. He had declared to the sorrowing Martha, at the time of the death of her brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25.)

To the Jews with murderous intent, His pronouncement of His divine power was even more explicit and meaningful. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

“And … to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of [God].” [John 5:25–27.]

Following swiftly His own resurrection, there came an evidence of a second transcendent power to raise from the grave, not only Himself, but others “who though dead, had believed in Him.” Matthew makes this simple, forthright record of the miraculous resurrection of the faithful, from mortal death, “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.” [Matthew 27:52–53.]

Nor was this to be the end of the redemptive powers of this illustrious Son of God. Down through the ages, in every dispensation, has come the cheering promise: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:22), “… they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:29.) Time is rapidly moving on to a complete consummation of His divine mission.

If the full significance of these thrilling events were understood in this day when, as the prophets foretold: The wicked are preparing to slay the wicked; and “fear shall come upon every man” (D&C 63:33), this understanding would put to flight many of the fears and anxieties which beset men and nations. Indeed if we “fear God and honor the king” [see 1 Peter 2:17] we can then lay claim to the glorious promise of the Master: “If you strip yourselves from jealousies and from fear, you shall see Me” [see D&C 67:10].2

The purpose of life was to bring to pass immortality and eternal life [see Moses 1:39]. Now, immortality means to eventually gain a body that will no longer be subject to the pains of mortality, no longer subject to another mortal death, and no longer disillusioned, all these former things having passed away.3

How does a knowledge of the resurrection sustain us in times of suffering or death?

Have you ever felt yourself spiritually devastated by an inconsolable grief?

May I take you to a sacred scene portraying one whose all seemed slipping from her grasp and let you feel her strength in a fateful hour! Huddled at the foot of the cross was the silent figure of a beautiful middle-aged mother with shawl drawn tightly about her head and shoulders. Cruelly tormented on the cross above her was her first-born son. One can but feebly understand the intensity of the suffering of Mary’s mother-heart. She now faced in reality the import of old Simeon’s doleful prediction as he had blessed this son as a tiny infant child, “He shall be as a sign for to be spoken against; Yea, a sword shall pierce thine own heart also.” [See Luke 2:34–35.]

What was it that sustained her during her tragic ordeal? She knew the reality of an existence beyond this mortal life. Had she not conversed with an angel, a messenger of God? She undoubtedly had heard of her son’s last recorded prayer before His betrayal as it has been written by John: “And now, O Father,” he had prayed, “glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5) This sainted mother with bowed head heard His last prayer murmured from the cross through tortured lips: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46) thus inspiring her with resignation and a testimony of reassurance of a reunion shortly with Him and with God her Heavenly Father. Heaven is not far removed from him who, in deep sorrow, looks confidently forward to a glorious day of resurrection.4

Is there any assurance of reunion and a fulfilment of our dreams in the hereafter? That is the cry of a mother’s grief as she lays away her infant child in death. Such is the whispered but often inaudible inquiry of the sick and the aged when life’s sands are running fast. What strength and comfort must come to him in any of these circumstances, who hears the glorious promise of the Lord:

“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19.)

The heavy hand of death becomes lighter, the pall of gloom is pierced and throbbing wounds are soothed as faith lifts us beyond the sordid trials and sorrows of mortal life and gives a vision of brighter days and more joyous prospect, as has been revealed, when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4) through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. With such faith and understanding you who may be called upon to mourn can sing as it has been written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55.)5

You, too, can know that your Redeemer lives, as did Job in the midst of his temptation to “curse God, and die,” [see Job 2:9; 19:25] and know also that you, too, can open the door and invite Him in “to sup with you.” [See Revelation 3:20.] See also yourselves one day as resurrected beings claiming kinship to Him who gave His life that the rewards to mortal men for earthly struggle and experience will be the fruits of eternal life even though as measured by human standards one’s life’s labors seemed to have been defeated.6

How is an understanding of the resurrection an anchor to our souls?

Let us look at the example of Peter, [who] … denied the Master thrice on the night of the betrayal. Compare this fear-torn Peter with the boldness in him manifested shortly thereafter before those same religious bigots who had so recently demanded the death of Jesus. He denounced them as murderers and called them to repentance, suffered imprisonment, and later went fearlessly to his own martyrdom.

What was it that had changed him? He had been a personal witness to the change which came to the broken, pain-racked body taken from the cross, to a glorified resurrected body. The plain and simple answer is that Peter was a changed man because he knew the power of the risen Lord. No more would he be alone on the shores of Galilee, or in prison, or in death. His Lord would be near him.7

I know … what it means to have the shattering devastation of loneliness with the snatching away of a loved one. Over my years, I have been called and tried to comfort those who mourn, but until I had to repeat those very things to myself that I have been saying to others, then only did I come to sense something that was far beyond words, that had to reach down to the touchstone of the soul before one can give real comfort. You have to see part of you buried in the grave. You have to see the loved one die and then you have to ask yourself—Do you believe what you have been teaching others? Are you sure and certain that God lives? Do you believe in the Atonement of the Lord and Master—that He opened the doors to the resurrection in the more glorious life? Sometimes when we stand in the stark nakedness all alone, it’s then that our testimony has to grow deep if we are not going to be shattered and fall by the wayside.

As the wife … of Job said, “Why don’t you curse God and die.” [See Job 2:9.] But in the majesty of Job’s suffering, he gave expression to something that I think no funeral service is quite complete without repeating. He said, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, … and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” [Job 19:25–27.] You folks today, if you know that you have anchored your souls in that divine testimony that He lives and that at the latter day He will stand upon this earth and you will meet Him face to face—if you know that, no matter what the risks and the responsibilities and the tragedies may be—if you build your house upon the rock, you won’t falter. Yes, you’ll go through the terrifying experience of sorrow over a lost loved one, but you won’t falter; eventually you’ll come through with even greater faith than you ever had before.8

The more complicated our lives and world conditions become, the more important it is for us to keep clear the purposes and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.9

Today in commemoration of the world’s greatest victory I invite the honest in heart everywhere in deep humility to rise above their human fears and frustrations and rejoice as did the apostle to the Gentiles “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57.)10

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • What did the Savior mean when He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life”? (John 11:25). How do you feel when you think about the Resurrection of the Savior?

  • How has an understanding of the reality of the resurrection affected your daily life?

  • In what ways does a testimony of the resurrection sustain us when someone we love dies? In what other situations does a testimony of the resurrection bring us comfort and help us overcome fear?

  • What can we do to gain a greater understanding and testimony of the resurrection?

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Ye Are the Light of the World (1974), 26–27.

  2.   2.

    CBS “Church of the Air” broadcast, in Conference Report, Apr. 1958, 133–34.

  3.   3.

    The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 30.

  4.   4.

    CBS “Church of the Air” broadcast, 134–35.

  5.   5.

    Decisions for Successful Living (1973), 179–80.

  6.   6.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1958, 136.

  7.   7.

    The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 63.

  8.   8.

    Address given at the funeral of David H. Cannon, 29 Jan. 1968, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5–6.

  9.   9.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 108; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1963, 1103.

  10.   10.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1958, 136.