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Liberty Branch Sacrament Meeting Talk

When my wife and I were asked to speak to you all today we were sent several topics to choose from. I’ll admit, that what I have prepared today is a reformatted talk I gave on Easter a year ago. It matches 3-4 themes we were sent to speak on. I have reformatted it to fit some more of those specific themes.

To begin, it may be of interest to some of you to know that in the academic community, it is almost universally accepted that Jesus Christ lived anciently. I bring this up to bring back up later, to make the case for the Living Christ. One historian has noted, "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed" (1). Another has said, "[Jesus] certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" (2). And another, "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of Christians' imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that anymore" (3).

A somewhat recent news article from The Guardian summarized all of this historical evidence. It concludes succinctly, but also opens the door to the bigger question:

"These abundant historical references leave us with little reasonable doubt that Jesus lived and died. The more interesting question... is whether Jesus died and lived." (4)

My hope today, through the help of the spirit, is to reveal Christ a little more to our view while also making a case that he did in fact rise again. These things have implications on how we can have confidence in approaching the Savior, how we find comfort, and how we turn any and all trials into victories.

According to the prophet Joseph Smith, before the foundations of this earth were laid there was an everlasting covenant made between three personages. These three personages were "called God the first, the [Father]; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator" (5). As Latter-Day Saints, we are privileged to have restored knowledge that Christ was the pre-mortal Messiah who volunteered Himself as Savior for us. By this everlasting covenant, He became Jehovah, the Only Begotten, the Great I AM.

After being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob throughout the Old Testament, He is eventually born of no reputation, in poverty, but as a descendant of David, the rightful King of Israel. Christ, the King of Kings, made the earth His temporary abode but forgot everything of his previous exalted station. Elder James E. Talmage has written that Christ "had the veil of forgetfulness" cast over his mind "by which the remembrance of [His] primeval existence was shut off... His advancement was from one grace to another" (6).

King Benjamin once spoke of Christ's condescension. He sums up the life, the power, and even the "weakness" of Christ in just three verses:

"5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people." (see Mosiah 3:5-7)

When King Benjamin speaks of the Savior suffering temptations, pains, hunger, thirst, and fatigue even more than man can suffer, the scriptures refer to these pangs of the flesh as 'weakness'. A few General Conferences ago, Elder Kevin S. Hamilton pointed out that the universal use of the word 'weakness' in scripture does not refer to the weaknesses that vary and plague us all, but it more fully refers to our fallen natures and the universal natural man and woman that exists within all of us. (7) 

It is in this context Paul referred to Christ as "being crucified through weakness" (see 2 Corinthians 13:4) and the Lord saying himself that He "knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them..." (see D&C 62:1). We are told a few different places in scripture that Christ grew from grace to grace, but this idea of weakness isn’t something we usually attach to the Master, Jesus Christ. This appears to be what King Benjamin explicitly refers to in Mosiah 3:7.  We can begin to see it clearly as we ponder the events that happened on that first Easter weekend. As painful as the details are, they have glorious and comforting implications for us.

Starting in Gethsemane, in Mark 14:33 we are told the Savior began to be sore amazed, and very heavy at the beginning of His suffering descent. The Greek here is even more poignant. To be "sore amazed" more plainly means in Greek, "to be awestruck with terror" and to be "very heavy" comes from the "strongest of the three Greek words in the New Testament for depression" (8). This depression/anxiety appears to have been crescendoing in Jesus since right after the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 16:23. In other words, this heaviness has been building up for months now. In Luke, we get the doctrinal detail that Christ bled great drops of blood, and it isn't until we get D&C 19 from Joseph Smith that we are told Christ actually bled from every pore. To bleed from one's pores is a "very rare [medical] condition called hematohidrosis... and is caused by extreme levels of stress and excessive exertion... It has been observed among soldiers preparing to enter battle and prisoners facing execution" (9). Is it any wonder, therefore, that amid this Jesus asks an uncharacteristic question followed by a completely characteristic submission, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (see Luke 22:42)?

It is from this winepress experience that the Savior gets up to find Himself alone with the apostles asleep. He, weepingly, asks them why they couldn't have stayed awake with Him. He also, shortly thereafter, finds Himself betrayed by one of His closest friends. We move onto, in short succession, the arraignment before the Sanhedrin where he is beaten and mocked while blindfolded (see Luke 22:63-65). Christ is then brought before Pilate where Barabbas is released instead of Him. He is then scourged followed by being dressed in a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns to be mocked and spat upon by Roman soldiers. He is then given a cross to carry but is so drained of energy by this point He needed someone to help him (see Matthew 27:24-33). He proceeds to carry this 100lb cross uphill for 650 yards. This trek up to Calvary was called anciently, "The Via Dolorosa" or "the way of suffering".

If this wasn't enough, Jesus is then nailed to a cross. He hangs there for three hours before darkness covered the land and a mighty storm passed through (even for the Nephites in the Western Hemisphere). It is during this time of darkness and storm that He hangs for an additional three hours where "all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred" (10). Before it is finished there is one last trial to pass through for Jesus. This one would cause him to literally shriek, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (see Matthew 27:46 & Psalms 22:1). The one thing that would cause Him to do that was the complete and utter withdrawal of divine help. Jesus was experiencing what it felt like to be spiritually dead. Elder Holland has suggested this was something Jesus did not fully anticipate emotionally and spiritually (11). This, again, must be at the heart of what Paul meant when he said that Christ was crucified in weakness. Jesus then dies voluntarily after he declares, "It is finished" (see John 19:30).

We usually speak of these experiences and understand how Christ can succor us in our sins; because he suffered for them. We also speak of how Christ can succor us in affliction and temptation because he suffered those things, but gave them no heed. How many of us have thought in the private confines of our hearts and minds something like, "How can Christ succor me in my 'lack of understanding'? How can He understand having patience with oneself (i.e. being too self-critical)? How can He succor me when I feel abandoned by my closest family and friends? How can Christ succor me in waiting for promised blessings to come? How can Christ succor me amid my questions? How can Christ succor me when I am terrified? How can Christ succor me in my helpless depression? How can Christ succor me when I feel spiritually dead?"

It is my humble opinion that the Christ of Weakness made abundantly apparent during the events of that first Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, can succor us in all those things. He literally "descended below ALL things" (see D&C 88:6).

Christ's spirit, at this time, enters the world of spirits where He organizes the teaching of the dead (see D&C 138). On that first Easter Eve, He also spoke through ash-infested air to the Nephites who had just experienced the widespread destruction of most of their cities (see 3 Nephi 9:15). All this happens while His damaged and torn body laid embalmed in a garden tomb.

What occurred, therefore, on that first Easter Sunday was a final victory. Jesus arises from the tomb where a group of women become the first witnesses of His resurrection (see Mark 16:1-8). Elder Maxwell once said what Christ's resurrection means for us succinctly:

"Christ’s victory over death ended the human predicament. Now there are only personal predicaments, and from these too we may be rescued by following the teachings of him who rescued us from general extinction." (12)

It is at this point I wish to follow the counsel Elder Gary E. Stevenson gave a year ago and read from the glorious moment contained in 3 Nephi 11. This occurs at least 40 days after Jesus' resurrection. The Nephites are gathered around the temple in Bountiful and conversing. They hear an audible voice,

"... and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came... and it said unto them:

7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.

8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him...

9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth...

13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:

14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him." (see 3 Nephi 11:5-17)

I began this talk by noting the historical evidence that overwhelmingly tells us that Jesus actually lived and died on the earth. I conclude my talk with a few eyewitnesses that tell us that Jesus died and lives again. They tell us He is a living Christ.

"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of [Christ], 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;" - Joseph Smith (see D&C 76:22-23)

President Boyd K. Packer quoted these words from the Prophet Joseph in 2014 and said, "Their words are my words. I believe and I am sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He lives." (13)

Elder Holland has said, "These things I declare to you with the conviction Peter called the “more sure word of prophecy.” What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine." (14)

Elder Neil L. Andersen has written, "I testify to you that through sacred experiences, special moments, precious and powerful feelings, I have a sureness to my knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, that he lives, that he is resurrected. He is exactly who we proclaim Him to be." (15)

President Nelson once said, “I now speak in a very personal tone. In my lifetime I have visited all fifty states in the USA. I have also set foot upon the soil of more than eighty-six other countries of the earth. Wherever I walk, it is my divine calling and sacred privilege to bear fervent testimony of Jesus the Christ. He lives! I love him.” (16)

This day, and all days, we have special reason to rejoice. Christ was made perfect in weakness so that we might be made perfect in weakness. "... death is a mere comma, not an exclamation point!" (17)

Therefore, what? What does the universal Resurrection mean for us, here and now? How should it impact our day-to-day lives?

New Testament Scholar, N.T. Wright, answers this question:

"The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom." (18)

To understand this truth, Paul taught the ancient Christians and Jews drawing parallels to the ancient Tabernacle:

"14 … Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, even Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our confessed allegiance to him. 

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but although he was tried and tempted in every way just like us, he was without sin. 

16 So let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16, BYU New Testament Rendition)

Our resurrected Lord is symbolized by the Great High Priest who would enter the ancient Holy of Holies to pour blood upon the mercy seat or throne. The Savior is The Great High Priest AND The Great and Last Sacrifice (see Alma 34:13). On that first Easter weekend, the veil that separated that most holy place from the rest of the world was torn asunder. What does that mean? IT MEANS WE ARE EXPECTED AND INVITED IN. We come boldly to the throne of grace, located in the presence of God because we have made covenants with Jesus Christ. This means that because He is sitting on His throne we - by proxy through him as we increasingly take upon us His name - it means we are also covenantly there. This is how and why we can come to have “boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17). It is what the scriptures mean when they speak of our “confidence waxing strong in the presence of God” (see D&C 121:45). As covenant sons and daughters of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can offer prayers of Faith and have Faith in our prayers. We can find ultimate comfort and be swallowed up in the Joy of Christ. We can learn that our trials are really a witness of a victory that has already taken place. It means our cause for Zion is the cause of Christ.

Latter-Day Scholar, Dr. Spencer Fluhman, has poignantly described the journey and, also, the final victory we are all a part of:

“I know some of you are tired. You are not sure you can keep at it. You go ahead and find some stillness today. Gather your strength today. Rest up today, because tomorrow we ride for Zion. And it is not quite Zion if you are not there. Remember, you don’t ride alone. Step back and consider the thousands around you. Consider the thousands who preceded you. Consider the unnumbered hosts yet to come. You don’t ride alone. 
This path takes courage and vision, yes. It takes faith, and faith will always be counterintuitive in this world. So is love. Why believe or hope or care when the data seem so often stubbornly trailing in other directions? Faith, hope, and charity are audacious in such a world as this. But make no mistake, we will find the place that God for us has prepared, even if it seems far away today. Just when your strength is flagging, you will catch the glint of some gleaming tower off in the distance, and you will sense that God is there. He is. Keep going. God is playing the long game, and we should too, if we understand the scale of the struggle. The ride will not end and the Restoration will not conclude until every daughter and son of God who will come has been safely gathered into the Lord’s extended, covenantal embrace.” (19)


1. The Gospels and Jesus by Graham Stanton, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University Press, p. 145

2. Ehrman, Bart (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperCollins.

3. Eddy, Paul Rhodes; Boyd, Gregory A. (2007). The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801031144. p. 34

4. See Here

5. See Here

6. See Here

7. See Here

8. See Here

9. See Here

10. See Here

11. See Here

12. The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, ed. Cory H. Maxwell (1997), 287.

13. See Here

14. See Here

15. December 23rd, 2020 Twitter Post

16. Jesus the Christ—Our Master and More, February 2, 1992, BYU Speeches

17. See Here

18. N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

19. See Here


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