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.
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.