(Remarks delivered on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024 in the Marshall Branch Sacrament meeting)

So as the account is told in scripture, the end was soon and the Hero of this story actually already knew how it was to happen. But even a complete and perfect understanding of what was about to happen, wasn’t enough. He had to experience it for Himself.

Rewind back to the beginning of our known eternal history: The grand council before the earth was, where we were present to meet with our family members to discuss one question: how could we become like our Mother and Father, the eternal Gods? Father outlined how they proposed for it to happen. They would build an earth, and there on this earth, we, their children, could receive bodies, of flesh and bones, like our Mother and Father’s, and then have experiences inside of these bodies. To make the plan complete, a person had to be chosen, to save us from the mistakes that we would make learning how to control our bodies.

In this grand family council, Jesus Christ was chosen to be the one who would complete our experience in a body, if we wanted him to do so. There was one other who wanted to do this job, but he proposed forcing us to accept his way, which would have destroyed the purpose behind the experience.

What Father and Mother understood was that we could only become like them by having choices. Satan wanted to take away all choices. Jesus wanted to give us choices, and he was willing to do the necessary work to give us choice. And that brings us back to the moment that he was about to make good on his promise. Jesus Christ, our hero of the story, said that he would do it, and that time was now.

There is no other time period in the scriptures that is recorded in greater detail than are the events surrounding the act of the Atonement. Prophets and apostles know that this is what we have all been waiting for, and they have spared no significant detail in helping us to understand it.

The popular children’s song, titled Gethsemene states: “Love… and a prayer… took him there, to the place only he could go.” Love was primary motivator, and was coupled with intentional prayer.

What was our Hero thinking when he entered the Garden of Gethsemene? What was his motivation to perform the Atonement, to save the world from our pains and weaknesses? We have the answers to these questions in one of his prayer written in the book of John, chapter 17, in the New Testament.

1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

John 17:1-5

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves…

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

John 17:13, 17

[I pray] for them also which shall believe on me…

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

John 17:20-23, 26

So where were Christ’s thoughts while he suffered such difficult pain that his sweat was like great big drops of blood? He was set in a hope that we would become one with each other, and one with Him, that through love and the prayer of faith, we too could be glorified in Jesus Christ.

After Christ’s suffering in the garden, what follows is perhaps the greatest act of government cruelty that can be imagined. For it was through official channels, courts and rulers and legal proceedings, that Nephi saw the following:

And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.

1 Nephi 19:9

In less than 24 hours, Jesus exits the garden and is executed on a cross. There was no time to prepare, no time to plan, no time to prevent. The shepherd had been killed and his flocked scattered. And the Jews in their efficiency were even quick to take his body down and buried it before the approaching Sabbath at sunset.

I try to put myself in the shoes of those early disciples: Peter, John, Mary Magdalene. What must they have been thinking in those moments? Wasn’t this the King? Wasn’t this the Hero of their hope? Wasn’t Christ the chosen one, who was to liberate them from Israel’s bondage? How could any of this be, if he was gone?

In his trial before the Roman ruler, Pilate asks him: “Art thou a king?”

Jesus’s response expands our perspective: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight… [yet] To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:36-37)

When Jesus Christ died, a feeling of profound darkness covered the earth. In the Americas, literal darkness engulfed the land with fog so thick that fire could not be lit. Wise men upon the islands felt the earth heaving and tremble and were forced to declare, “The God of Nature Suffereth!”

A night and a day and another night passed. It was the morning of the third day, Sunday morning. Women went to the garden tomb to attended to the body of our fallen Lord. (I like to think of them as the dutiful Relief Society sisters of Christ’s day.) But confusion added to sorrow, the body was not there. How much worse could it be? The women then went and found Peter and John who returned with them to the tomb. They too saw with their own eyes the empty tomb. Christ’s body was nowhere to be found.

While most left in greater confusion, one remained in her grief at the garden tomb: Mary Magdalene. (Not Jesus’s mother, but Jesus’s friend, also named Mary.) An unknown man comes to Mary, and she thinks He is the gardener out early tending to the garden. She asks if He knows where the body has been taken, and asks if she can be entrusted with its care, then, surprisingly, Jesus calls her name, “Mary” and she looks up and sees it is Him, alive! She must have tried to embrace her Lord, for he responds immediately “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

News of the empty tomb traveled quickly. Two men later that afternoon were walking down a dusty road and were joined by a third. The third traveler asked them about the news of the day, which to their surprise they responded:
“Art thou… a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things?” (Luke 24: 17-19)

The two men then brought the third man up to speed on recent events and the conviction that they had that Christ was to become their king, only to end up dead. Upon hearing their story, the third man chided them and pointing to the prophets and their words, he demonstrated that nothing had been frustrated. Sensing that their guest was someone special the first two invited the third to stay with them for dinner. The third obliged and when they had sat down, he blessed and break bread with them, and suddenly they saw that this was Jesus Christ with them alive again, eating bread. And then he disappeared.

The third appearance of our Lord on that first Easter Sunday happened shortly there after, when these same two men ran to the eleven remaining disciples and told them that they had seen their Lord. And as these two men were explaining what had just happened to them, Suddenly, Jesus appeared standing there among them and said, “Peace be unto you!” But they were terrified and afraid, thinking that he was a spirit.

38 … he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

Luke 24:37-39

Our Hero, now in resurrected form, demonstrated to his followers that his body was real. They touched his hands and feet. He went further in demonstrating that he could also eat fish and honeycomb. His resurrected body was real!

44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47 …that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations…

48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:40-48

Christ earlier had taught:

No man taketh [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.

John 10:17-18


I believe in this Easter story. I believe in Jesus Christ, and his gospel message of faith, hope, and repentance. I believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and His power to make me complete. I believe in and have experienced for myself the cleansing power of His atonement through my own struggles to repent. This is my faith, and this is my hope for even better things to come. Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal, because Jesus Christ atoned for sin and suffering, Jesus Christ died, Jesus Christ rose triumphant over death!

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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