President Monson’s Witness of the Resurrection of Christ

Throughout his Apostleship, President Monson has returned to the theme of the resurrection time and again. Since today is Easter, reading and reflecting on some of those talks seemed appropriate. I will focus on two in particular one from April 1976 and one from April 2010 because they both begin with the same story. But there are many others as well.

President Monson opened both talks by talking about a painting he saw at the Tate Gallery called Hopeless Dawn.

A Hopeless Dawn 1888 by Frank Bramley 1857-1915

In the April 1976 talk, President Monson recounted the woman’s despair and the despair of all those who lose loved one’s without faith in the resurrection:

“For her and many others who have loved and lost dear ones, each dawn is hopeless. Such is the experience of those who regard the grave as the end and immortality as but a dream.”

In the April 2010 talk, President Monson instead strongly emphasized the universality of that experience to all:

Among all the facts of mortality, none is so certain as its end. Death comes to all; it is our “universal heritage; it may claim its victim[s] in infancy or youth, [it may visit] in the period of life’s prime, or its summons may be deferred until the snows of age have gathered upon the … head; it may befall as the result of accident or disease, … or … through natural causes; but come it must.” It inevitably represents a painful loss of association and, particularly in the young, a crushing blow to dreams unrealized, ambitions unfulfilled, and hopes vanquished.

What mortal being, faced with the loss of a loved one or, indeed, standing himself or herself on the threshold of infinity, has not pondered what lies beyond the veil which separates the seen from the unseen?

30+ years of service as an apostle give President Monson’s more recent talk a greater resonance with all listeners. He is speaking to the universal human experience. Even those who have been raised to believe in Christ must come face to face with the brutal reality of death.

In the 1976 talk, President Monson spoke of two widows who became bitter at the death of their spouse. He emphasized how President Harold B. Lee went and ministered to them and invited them back to activity. He helped them know of the truth of the resurrection and promise of eternal life:

God had once again remembered the widow and, through a prophet, brought divine comfort.

The darkness of death can ever be dispelled by the light of revealed truth. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” spoke the Master. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26.)

This reassurance, yes, even holy confirmation of life beyond the grave, could well be the peace promised by the Savior when he assured his disciples:

President Monson invited all to gain a witness of that eternal truth

This is the knowledge that sustains. This is the truth that comforts. This is the assurance that guides those bowed down with grief out of the shadows and into the light.

Such help is not restricted to the elderly, the well-educated, or a select few. It is available to all.

Thus the 1976 talk focused on gaining a personal witness of the resurrection.

The April 2010 talk instead focused on the role the resurrection plays in the plan of salvation, because “[t]o understand the meaning of death, we must appreciate the purpose of life.” He then continued to recount the story of the atonement, death, and resurrection in great detail. His focus on the life of the Savior created great emotional depth.

At the last moment, the Master could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. His lifeless body was hurriedly but gently placed in a borrowed tomb.

No words in Christendom mean more to me than those spoken by the angel to the weeping Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when, on the first day of the week, they approached the tomb to care for the body of their Lord.

Throughout both of those talks, President Monson bore a powerful and consistent witness of the hope of the resurrection.


Honorable Employment

During the 1970s and early 80s, the Church held a welfare session occasionally during general conference. Many of the talks were about specific programs or organizations that are no longer relevant. But during the October 1975 conference, President Howard W. Hunter spoke about principles relating to toil and employment that are universal in their application.

I particularly liked his definition of “honorable employment”:

“Now, may we refer specifically to vocational work or employment. The employment we choose should be honorable and challenging. Ideally, we need to seek that work to which we are suited by interest, by aptitude, and by training. A man’s work should do more than provide adequate income; it should provide him with a sense of self-worth and be a pleasure—something he looks forward to each day.

May I suggest a definition of “honorable employment.” Honorable employment is honest employment. Fair value is given and there is no defrauding, cheating, or deceit. Its product or service is of high quality, and the employer, customer, client, or patient receives more than he or she expected. Honorable employment is moral. It involves nothing that would undermine public good or morality. For example, it does not involve traffic in liquor, illicit narcotics, or gambling. Honorable employment is useful. It provides goods or services which make the world a better place in which to live. Honorable employment is also remunerative. It provides enough income so that we may be self-sufficient and able to support our families, while leaving us enough time free to be good fathers and church workers.

I love that President Hunter emphasized that labor should ideally fill us “with a sense of self-worth and be a pleasure” rather than a toil. So many people find work that they can hardly tolerate. I feel especially lucky to be a lawyer and to involved in a profession that keeps me intellectually stimulated and allows me to feel like I can make a real difference in the world. President Hunter’s talk inspires me to try to find the most satisfying work that I can, rather than to be involved in a grind for billable hours.

Work should also leave us with enough time to spend with our families and on church callings. That balance gets harder and harder in the modern world. Technology has made greater and greater demands on our time. We may not always be so lucky. But we certainly should try to strike the proper balance in our lives.

Gnawing Hunger and Being Filled

In October 1975, Elder Wirthlin who was presiding over the European area spoke about his experience serving there:

“We have observed a restless spirit of searching today among the people of Europe. Why? Because there is a gnawing hunger in the human heart that, if not fed by the truths of the gospel, leaves life empty and devoid of peace. The hodgepodge of economic “isms” advocated by so-called wise men of the world has solved few, if any, problems, and has brought no real joy. Such empty nostrums have led mankind to seek worldly goods and symbols of material power, blinding humanity to the truth that only the righteous life firmly established in the daily living of God’s commandments brings true happiness. Anything less leaves the heart unfed, with a yearning inner hunger—a hunger which it is our mission to identify and define and of which we should make the people aware. I have seen in Europe the fulfillment of the words of Amos, that there would be “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread … but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11.)

That feeling of “gnawing” hunger is what led me to the Church. I thought I could find inner peace and happiness through a secular humanistic philosophy, but found myself coming up short. I knew I had a hole that needed to be filled.

Yet, more and more I wonder whether Satan hasn’t succeeded in dulling that gnawing. He has amped up his efforts to dull our senses and to stop us from truly stopping and reflecting. In a 24 hour media cycle, with never ending content to consume, who has time to stop and hunger? Who cares if the calories we are consuming are vapid and lacking in nutritional value? If we constantly feel a temporary fullness, then we will not know the difference. Satan has succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of so many through his constant efforts at diversion.

We need to see through his deceptions and realize that we need to do better at finding the time for reflecting on the word of God and receiving personal revelation. Then, when we do so we can set a pattern and example for others to follow and see through the mists of darkness.


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