I’ve spent the last several days with this on my mind. As Easter approached, I looked forward to the traditions and events that make it a calm and relaxing weekend. Looking on Facebook, I saw several people had begun to post thoughts and photos about the upcoming holiday, with Easter eggs, family pictures, and links to religious videos.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are witnessing a very significant part of our history being written. Now more than ever, more people are wondering and are in fact able to find out exactly who the Mormons are, what we believe, and just about anything they’d like to know. We are in the spotlight more than perhaps any other time since the Restoration of the Church in the 1800s.
As I thought deeply about these things, one thought kept recurring in my mind: I need to identify why it’s important to me that Jesus Christ came to earth, did what He did, died for all then was resurrected on the third day. What specifically about my life makes Christ’s mission, sacrifice, and victory so personally significant? This message is primarily directed to my many friends, colleagues, and associates who are not of my faith, but hopefully anyone who reads this will benefit in some way.
I don’t pretend to be any sort of philosopher, orator, or mighty with words. I don’t intend to benefit in a worldly way because of my words. Rather, I share this message because of the profound impact it has had in my life and by sharing it with those whom I care about most, perhaps (like me) they will find a piece of their soul they never knew was missing.
I intend no confrontation or self-promotion. In that spirit, please consider the following:
Jesus Christ came to earth at what we refer to as “the meridian of time.” He came to earth at a time where He could establish a law higher than the law of Moses that the people had been adhering to for a very long time. He performed many miracles, preached many valuable sermons, and suffered incomprehensibly. His acts were recorded by many faithful disciples. This record has been disputed today by many, and skeptics find it difficult to accept the words of the Bible as truth, and therefore doubt the reality of Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God, thus negating the Great Sacrifice He endured for every living soul.
This is where I put in my plug for a unique factor for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s called the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly what it is. It provides another witness that Jesus Christ is exactly what the Bible has taught us He is, and then clarifies and teaches us even more about the Savior. We don’t use the Book of Mormon as a “new” bible, or a replacement of some sort. The two go hand-in-hand. They complement one another. If you haven’t read it, there’s no reason not to. If your goal is to get closer to God, I invite you to read and think about the Book of Mormon. The Church has a really thorough website where you can find a lot of information as well. I am not an official representative of the Church or a spokesperson, but I will share my testimony with anyone who would like to know more from my perspective. I won’t debate, argue, or scuffle over points of history or doctrine that you have heard or read somewhere. That’s not my place. I just want to talk about what I know.
Anyway, my point is to share what I have found in my search to be closer to Jesus Christ, and why the fact that He lives is so important to me. Hopefully some of you will relate.
There have been several circumstances in my life where I have felt the desire and the need to talk to God. I have had several experiences where I have undeniably felt something I cannot explain other than the truth filling my whole body in a way I cannot and would not deny. But I won’t go into the details of those experiences today more than that. I’d prefer to take you to one or two moments of my life that I will never forget.
When I was a kid, in the fourth or fifth grade, we were living in a strange little Arizona town. There weren’t a whole lot of Mormons, so we stuck together. We made friends with a family and became very close to them. Their youngest child was probably 16 or 17, and she thought I was just the cutest little kid ever. I remember blushing every time she gushed over how cute I was. I’d never had a big sister, and this seemed to be about as close as I was going to get.
Shortly after our families spent an evening together, she and many members of her family were killed in a small plane crash. It was the first experience I can remember of a death of somebody close to me. I was too young to understand, but I remember feeling reassured. That’s all. I didn’t understand what had happened or why, but it did, and I suppose over time I figured out how to cope with it.
We weren’t in that town for very long. I remember coming home from school on the last day of fifth grade and hopping on the moving truck. We headed back to Utah.
We moved to Pleasant Grove in 1997 and since then I can recall several deaths and challenges of friends and family. I won’t share all of them, just a few.
In junior high school, my thoughts and life became engulfed by the health of my father. His kidneys had failed and was waiting for a transplant. I remember going to school each day and waiting through each class to hear my name called over the PA system, waiting to hear that my dad was gone and I had to do the “fun run” instead of being there for him. It terrified me and I still have no idea how I passed the 8th grade.
In high school, there was a string of deaths that hit our school, namely with a friend named Melissa and a sweet and amazing mom named Sandy. Melissa’s death was surprising. She became ill and passed away quickly. Sandy, one of those moms to all of us friends, was a remarkable person.
My sweet little niece passed away the day after I returned home from serving as a missionary in Mexico. It broke every one of our hearts.
As I went through the experience of each one of these loved ones passing away, my heart changed a little at a time. I never really understood why any of this was happening, but I just hoped and prayed that someday I would understand better and that I would find some sort of peace about it. I feared it more than anything else.
Then my brother died.
This event was different than all the rest. It put me in a place where I had to come face-to-face with death and tragedy. Regardless of what anyone could teach me or tell me, I had to figure this one out for myself. I consumed myself with it for awhile before it came to me.
My brother suffered from a lot of different things. He had vices. He had addictions. He had also made significant progress in the previous months, especially compared to the previous years. For the first time, I really wondered what exactly was happening to the soul after death. My Church teaches quite a bit about the state of a man’s soul after death, and I believed it, but I really needed to know it for myself, especially because of the unique individual that my brother was.
In short, I had to “confront” God. Not really though, because I know that He is anxious to give light and understanding to those who seek it with pure intentions. And that’s what happened here. I put aside everything else. I just wanted to know what was happening with my brother now that he was dead and on the other side.
Jesus Christ took upon him all of the pains, illnesses, weaknesses, and sins of the world. His suffering did not begin on the cross, but rather in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed to the Father. His suffering and death saves the repentant soul from what we call a “spiritual death,” or permanent separation from God and Christ. Because He died for us, we can receive forgiveness of our sins and feel something that cannot be fabricated nor come from anything else. And you won’t know it until you’ve experienced it for yourself, and with pure intentions.
When Christ was resurrected, He conquered death. He overcame the physical death that each of us will have to face someday. There’s no catch here, no specific rule to follow: because Christ conquered death, every single soul, no matter what, will be resurrected.
As I consider these well-known teachings and my extremely personal experiences, the assurance that I get—and that I got when asking God what happens to my brother—is that God’s love and mercy extend beyond our comprehension. His understanding of what each of us has been through and how that changes each of our lives is something we cannot even begin to fathom.
Jesus Christ lives. To me, that means that someday I’ll get to see and be with my brother again. And for some reason, that makes him and all the others who have passed on seem a lot closer. I know that they are there, they exist, and it’s only because of Jesus Christ.
Skeptics may call this old-fashioned, silly, or even romantic. They might challenge different points that I have made or that others have made or may make in the future. But what they cannot do is pretend to know my experiences. You cannot deny what I have felt.
Again, my intention is not to incite. If you want to ask me more about my faith or the Book of Mormon or anything like that, please do. I am more than happy to share my own experiences with you, but I hope you’ll have your own as you think about Jesus Christ, pray, and listen.