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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Post 2019

Hello again, everyone! On this Easter Sunday, I wanted to post an Easter message to all who read this blog. First, I wanted to note that this weekend, the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed Easter-themed selections for a concert. More information about that concert (including details on how to watch it after the fact) are available here. The First Presidency also released a copy of their annual Easter message on the Newsroom's official website. 

Meanwhile, Boyd Matheson, the opinion editor for the Deseret News, shared insights on how knowing, remembering, and serving Jesus Christ can make us better in our efforts to become his true disciples. And on this Easter Sunday, in the aftermath of bombings in Sri Lanka, the Asia Area Presidency (Elders David F. Evans, Peter F. Meurs, and David P. Home) offered a nessage of solidarity and comfort to those affected thereby.

With those messages in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts I have had in conjunction with this holy day. As those of us who are adherents to various Christian faiths today mark the milestone of Christ taking away the sting of death and the victory of the grave, Latter-day Saints know, as detailed in the scriptures, that the Savior's mission neither began in Be4thlehem not concluded on Calvary's cross.

His was an infinite mission. In the premortal realm, when Lucifer sought to destroy the agency of man and frustrate the Father's plan by compelling all of us to adhere to God;s laws (in return for which he wanted the honor, glory, and power of our Heavenly Father), Jesus Christ stepped forward and promised to redeem all those who would believe on His name, and make the difference for what we would lack at times when, in the natural course of mortality, we would fall short.

From the beginning of time (which was initiated by and through the fall of Adam), the prophets of the Old Testament and Book of Mormon testified of the coming of the Messiah, who would not redeem people in their sins, but would save them from the effects of their transgressions of the law. Those prophets liooked forward to the time of His coming in the flesh, and prophesied of the impact His mortal mission and ministry would have on the whole human race.

As the only one to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father, His birth took place in a lowly stable, as he was cradled in a manger. From the very beginning of His life, some sought him to worship Him, while others, due to their misunderstanding of prophecies relating to His life and mission, sought to take away his life. All that we know about his childhood is summed up in a single sentence: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

When he was 12 years of age, as His mortal parents headed home from Jerusalem after the commemoration of the Passover, Joseph and Mary realized He was missing, and when they looked for Him, they found Him in the temple speaking with learned men who were hearing Him, asking Him questions, ad were amazed at his wisdom and understanding of holy writ. Jesus said to Joseph and Mary, "Wist [know] ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

At the age of  around 30 or so, Jesus began His formal ministry, calling disciples and working miracles, including turning water into wine, healing the sick, raising the dead, and teaching the doctrine of His Father to all who would hear Him. When He spoke to His disciples about His atonement, death, and resurrection, few uinderstood what He said.

The persecution against Him continued. The time came for Him to take the burden of our sins, transgressions, pains, sicknesses, and sorrows. The level of intensity associated with His atonement caused Him to bleed from every pore. As He thus suffered, His three chief disciples, Peter, James and John, fell asleep. He asked: "Could ye not watch with me one hour?" He said to His Father: "If thou be willing, let this cup pass from me. Not my will, but thine be done." Returning to Peter, James and John, He told themL "Sleep on now, and take your rest", knowing that there would be no rest for Him.

One of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, approached Him, and having made arrangements with governmental leaders to do so, kissed Him as a way of pointing out who He was. Jesus said to him: "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" As the Roman soldiers stepped forward to apprenehend Him, Peeter cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of Caiaphas, who was one of two High Priests of Jesus' day before whom He would be brought (the other being Annas). In an act of compassion, the Savior instructed Peter to let the process play out, and healed the ear of Malchus. He would also be brought before Pontius Pilate twice.

In the midst of this course of events, many of His disciples fled. One who remained was Peter. Being confronted by 3 individuals at 3 separate times, Peter thrice denied knowing the Savior. Upon the third denial, the cock crowed, fulfilling a prophecy of the Savior that Peter would thrice deny knowing Him. As a result, Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Upon the second time Jesus was brought before Pilate, the prefect of Judea, Pilate said to an obsersving crowd: "I find no fault in this man." In accordance with tradition, Pilate presented the people with a choice: they could either release Jesus or Barabbas. The people chose Barabbas, and clamored in relation to Jesus: "Crucify him!" Pilate washed his hands before the people in an attempt to absolve himself of responsibility for what happened. But in allowing that to occur, Pontius Pilate had ignored a dream his wife said she had, as a result of which she had urged him not to take action on such matters.

Jesus was then sourged (a process that involved being whipped with strands to which shards of glass, rock, and other sharply-pointed objects were threaded). Roman soldiers cast lots for His clothes, and He was given a crimson robe, while his head was crowned with plaited thorns. Forced to carry his own cross, when He stumbled under the weight thereof, a man from the crowd was selected to carry it for Him. Upon reaching Calvary's hill, He was nailed to that corss. He was lifted up thereon, being placed between two thieves. A marker above His corss identified Him as "the king of the Jews".

As He hung in agony from that cross, in order to fulfill the full measure of His Son's divinely-appointed mission, our Father temporarily withdrew the comfort of His presence. Faced with that challenge, the Savior said: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" When He understood that He had accomplished all that needed to be done, He said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit. It is finished." Having said this, He died.

His mortal remains were then entombed, while His spirit ascended to His Father. As modern scripture informs us, He spent the 3 days of that mortal entombment spiritualy miinistering to the souls of the dead. He was then resurrected, and those who sought to know where He was were informed: "He is not here, for He is risen." Following His resurrection, after He ministered to His disciples in Jeusalem, He appeared to His Nephite followers in the new world, and subsequently to members of the lost ten tribes of Israel (the account of which ministry is yet to be revealed as part of this dispensation).

After again ascending to His Father, the two Heavenly Beings appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 to open the last dispensation, which has since become known as "the dispensation of the fulness of times." That appearance ended a multi-century period of aposatacy which took hold worldwide. In this dispensation, we have been reminded that Jesus Christ still stands at the head of His Church, and has entrusted the keys thereof to His special witnesses in whom is vested the power and authority of the apostleship.

Throughout this dispensation, those so called to the office and authority of the apostleship have born a united and unified testimony of His life, ministry, and mission. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon testified:  "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, 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; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

"That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."

And two additional testimonies of the Savior, given by two of His apostles in this dispensation, have always had a [owerful impact on me: Elder Bruce R. McConkie's final apostolic testimony, entitled "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane", and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's Easter 2009 testimony, "None Were with Him". Both of those addresses are well worthy of your review.

In the meantime, in addition to testifying of His life, ministry, and mission, apostles of this dispensation have been clear that He will come again, and will reign on the earth for 1,000 years. They have also counseled all of us repeatedly to prepare ourselves for that great day. My patriarchal blessing acknowledges that we are currently in the Saturday evening of time (which puts us at sometime between 5 PM and 9 PM), and it is my hope and prayer that we will be ready when Sunday arrives.

We are blessed each year to have the opportunity to pause and rflect on the life, mission, and ministry of our Savior. The hope given to each of us by and through the atonement, death, and resurrection of the Savior provides reassurance that we will all overcome death, and that all who believe in Him and follow His counsel will also be redeemed from the impact of spiritual death. Because of Him, we have hope for peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come. His is the invitation: "I stand at the door and knock. If any man shall hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him and will sup with him, and he with me."

While He wants very much to be part of our lives, He never forces His presence on anyone. All of us have the daily choice as to whether or not we will open the door to Him. It is my hope and prayer that, on this Easter Sunday and always, as we remember His great atoning sacrifice, and acknowledge that He died that we might live, we may take this opportunity to open that door, and let Him and the divine influence and serenity His presence provides into our lives. As we do so, may we also mold our behavior, actions, thoughts, words, and deeds to enable His influenece to shape us into what He needs us to be. If we can do so, we will be all the better for it. That this may be our blessing and privilege of this day and always is my humble prayer as I close this Easter message in the name of Him whom we celebrate each Easter Sunday, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

My Projections for the May 2019 Enisign Table of Contets

Hello again, everyone, and Happy Easter Sunday. While I have no desire to detract from what should rightfully be our focus on this sacred and significant day, at the same time, I anticipate that the Church will make the PDF version of the May 2019 Enisign available within the next several days. And with that in mind, I have once again put together my projections for the likely layout of that magazine.

For those who are not familiar with what I do in that respect, one tradition I have always followed after each General Conference is to put together some preliminary estimated page numbers for each talk given or news item shared during General Conference. I base those estimates on past precedent, and also on the lengths of various talks. It has been traditional for most talks given by the First Presidency to fill roughly 4 pages (with the exception of the Sustaining of CHurch Officers and the opening and closing addresses given by the Church President), while the talks given by the apostles take up 3-4 pages, and all other General Authorities or General Officers of the Church usually give remarks that fill 2-3 pages.

Also, given that the Church has, for the most part, stopped including a regular "News of the Church" section at the end of each month's issue, the May and November issues feature promiment mentions of any Church news leading up to, during, and directly after General Conference. Since President Nelson has done each of the 3 General Conferences over which he has presided thus far slightly differently than what has typically been the pattern for most of the General Conferences since the mid-2000s or so, that has made putting this together that much more challenging.

But I welcomed the opportunity to put this together, and hope that many of you will find it interesting. I anticipate that within the next week or less, the full version of the actual May 2019 General Conference Ensign will be made available. Whenever that occurs, I will be posting about how the actual table of contents compared to what I put together. In order to not disturb the flow of that information, I will end here and now as I always do:

That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly-added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post (which should, barring anything unexpected, be an Easter Sunday message that I anticipate publishing within the next 12-16 hours), I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Possible Table of Contents for the May 2019 Ensign

Conference Summary for the 188th Annual General Conference

Highlights from the 188th Annual General Conference

How Can I Understand?
Elder Ulisses Soares

Careful vs. Casual
Becky Craven

Answers to Prayer
Elder Brook P. Hales

Missionary Work: Sharing What Is in Your Heart
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Just as He Did
Bishop W. Christopher Waddell

A Home Where the Spirit of the Lord Dwells
President Henry B. Eyring
The Sustaining of Church Officers
President Dallin H. Oaks

Church Auditing Department Report, 2017
Kevin R. Jergensen

The True, Pure, and Simple Gospel of Jesus Christ
President M. Russell Ballard

Seeking Knowledge by the Spirit
Elder Mathias Held

The Eye of Faith
Elder Neil L. Andersen

Feasting upon the Words of Christ
Elder Takashi Wada

Hearing His Voice
Elder David P. Homer

Behold the Lamb of God
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Your Priesthood Playbook
Elder Gary E. Stevenson

The Quorum: A Place of Belonging
Elder Carl B. Cook

Look unto Jesus Christ
Elder Kim B. Clark

The Power of Sustaining Faith
President Henry B. Eyring

Where Will This Lead?
President Dallin H. Oaks

Ministering with the Power and Authority of God
President Russell M. Nelson
Abound with Blessings
Elder Dale G. Renlund

Christ, The Light That Shines in Darkness
Sharon Eubank

Great Love for Our Father’s Children
Elder Quentin L. Cook          

Preparing for the Lord’s Return
Elder D. Todd Christofferson

The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Tad R. Callister

Come, Follow Me
President Russell M. Nelson
Cleansed by Repentance
President Dallin H. Oaks

Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles
Elder Juan Pablo Villar

Good Shepherd, Lamb of God
Elder Gerrit W. Gong

Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing
Elder David A. Bednar

The Immediate Goodness of God
Elder Kyle S. McKay

Build a Fortress of Spirituality and Protection
Elder Ronald A. Rasband

Closing Remarks
President Russell M. Nelson

General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Statistical Report

Conference Story Index

News of the Church, including new leader biographies, temple updates, scripture translations, etc.)

Come Follow Me—For Elders’ Quorum and Relief Society

Last Page of Conference Ensign