As mortal beings, we frequently define “living” in terms of death or infirmity. We too often measure our progress, position or condition based on what we don’t have or what we’ve lost. I have little doubt at this point in my life that part of my journey here on earth is to come to grips with death, infirmity, and loss. I suppose I’m not the only one but, still, it’s taken me a while to realize this. Like you, I’ve lost people I love; great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and friends far too early in their lives. With little doubt, for me, the loss of my mother was the worst. Anger kept me from church for quite a while; frankly, just because “it wasn’t fair.”
In dealing with grief, I and most others go through a series of stages; shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, depression, acceptance and hope. We grieve, we mourn, we anger and then eventually hope to go on. Not everyone follows the same path of course, we’re all different in some ways, but generally we grieve a loss, possibly anger that it came to pass, and are ultimately challenged to understand some sort of purpose in it. In a much, much lesser way we go through the same sequence when we’ve worked real hard for something and it just doesn’t work out the way we wanted it to work out.
When discussing life itself, humans understand it in terms of blood, heartbeat, and breath. We also throw around phrases like “quality of life” as we move down the path as some sort of ambiguous measurement of how we’re doing. This narrow view of life overrides what should be a personal sense of divine heritage. We frequently forget that we were alive before we came to earth and will yet be alive after we leave. We are immortal beings. And yet, even with this revealed truth, many times, we struggle to find some sort of purpose in events that happen around us and we continue to struggle with death and loss.
Despite what some in society believe, our mortal lives and subsequent mortal death lead us to immortal life. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, taught us this and has shown us through His own example. How or when we die in this life is far less significant than who we become before we die. Will we seek out all truth available to us? Will we abide by truth we’ve already been given? Are we prepared or at least actively preparing to live in celestial glory?
Jesus taught that “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil…” He continued with, “why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:45-46) Two takeaways; 1) what are the fruits of our labors and 2) if we say we have faith and are numbered with the believers then do our actions reflect such?
During this life we learn about, and hopefully accept, covenants ultimately leading not just to immortal life but to eternal life with our Heavenly Father. These covenants lead to the binding together of eternal families, ensuring family ties established here on earth remain in effect throughout eternity. In accepting these covenants we learn of our eternal heritage, the nature of man, the plan of happiness, the miracle of forgiveness, and the true purpose of life. Based on the truths we learn, we should be continually preparing ourselves to live in celestial glory, preparation demonstrated regularly through good and faithful works. Far too frequently, however, we’re less committed to the truth than we should be and we settle for far less. We are very quick to excuse our own behavior rather than correct it. We “set aside” our Divine potential for things of the world worth far less.
For thousands of years Prophets foretold of Christ. We read many examples of this in the standard works and, though many did believe, many also did not and rejected the truth. In this “enlightened” age it’s fairly obvious that many still don’t believe. Where do you stand? Simply being present in church doesn’t testify of belief. How we live our lives day-to-day is what really testifies of our belief. Each day as we kneel to thank the Lord for another day, we must choose to believe the living Christ and abide His teachings. Note the distinction, I said believe Him, I didn’t say believe “in” Him. In consciously making the choice to believe what He tells us, will we next follow through and act on His counsel? Do we seek to understand His teachings with our hearts and believe them and act on them or do we maintain that merely an academic study will suffice? Hopefully, it’s understood that an academic study of scripture will not lead any of us to the living Christ. It may point us in His general direction but much more is required to make it safely along the “straight and narrow path” leading to the Tree of Life.
Consider again the term “living.” In human terms, a living document is something that changes and is not in a final state. I’ve already mentioned human understanding regarding “biological life” related to physical processes of the body. The celestial version of living is not fleeting nor is it tied to human understanding of the word. Life is everlasting. When we refer to the “living” Christ we must deliberately acknowledge a deeper meaning of the word.
Both inside and outside the Church, many go through mortal life barely acknowledging His presence. When the time comes, we will all ultimately discover that He frequently carried us through painful and difficult times all throughout our lives. While it’s true that the faithful are promised that they may indeed see Him face-to-face in this life, generally, that will not be the case, especially considering that we don’t frequently enough acknowledge His involvement in our everyday lives. However, if we look and remain watchful, we may see His countenance in the face of others through the day. Though we may not feel the touch of His hand on our shoulders as we struggle through the day, we will feel His comforting influence through family and friends who help us. Jesus Christ is the source of all goodness and all truth.
Speaking from personal experience, some seem to go through life allowing themselves to “feel” less and less, as if feeling or really connecting to the world makes them less capable or too soft. They miss opportunities to recognize the Savior through the day because of whatever “important work” they’re involved in, seemingly failing to recognize that acknowledgment of the hand of the Lord in day-to-day life does nothing but add value to their efforts regardless of whether or not it’s related to church activities. Contrary to popular opinion, even in our regular day-to-day lives, faith and hope in the Savior of the world is not a sign of weakness.
Others still, seemingly allowing themselves to “feel” and “connect” more with those around them, remain so busy that they fly right by opportunities to witness the living Christ. Some essentially go into spiritual and emotional seclusion working on little projects, completely missing opportunities for face-to-face companionship and exposure to miracles happening around them each and every day.
Nephi, in speaking with his brothers said that (1 Nephi 17:45-46) “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; … why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts?”
Whether male or female, introvert or extrovert, we cannot allow ourselves to be or become past feeling. We cannot allow ourselves to become so distracted that we miss out on making connections with our fellow travelers along the path of life. We should always allow ourselves “to mourn with those that mourn; … comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death, that [we] may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [we] may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:9). Jesus Christ showed us how to care and how to connect. Our hearts and their openness and receptiveness to promptings from the living Christ are essential to our success in this life and the next.
Taking into account the various perspectives of life and death already mentioned, we should consider Easter a time of renewal. As we study the New Testament, we should take time to pause, open our hearts and really feel the impressions the writers intended to share. I know that their effort to preserve records of the life of Christ was not merely an academic exercise. Through their writings we can read of His acts of service. We can gain our own vision of this man from Galilee who changed the world forever. His actions serve as a guide for our actions, each and every day. As we reflect during this special season we should feel hope and not despair, excitement and not dread, for we are here in this time, in this age, exactly when and where we’re supposed to be.
We should certainly acknowledge that Christ suffered at Gethsemane for our sins. We should also recognize that, when Christ experienced mortal death, he was fully prepared for His role as the Savior of the world. He had done all things necessary for His preparation. There was no randomness in the event, it was foretold and He knew. We need to spend little, if any, time wondering how it was done and spend much more time rejoicing that it was done. We should do more, even all we can, to become like Him. Easter should be a joyous occasion during which we focus on Christ’s victory with full acknowledgment of the price.
We also need to acknowledge the opportunities His death and resurrection provide to us. Christ’s victory enables our victory, He put choice within our grasp. Easter is a time of hope and, though He suffered in ways we cannot imagine, through His experience He knows how to succor us. He can and will carry us through to the dawn of a brighter day if we allow Him to do so. That said, make a commitment to rise above any adversity in your life. Make the choice to be faithful. Make the choice to be believing. Make the choice to look beyond simple academic study of scripture and truly feel His presence. True belief should lead us to action.
Christ doesn’t change. Today, He is that same person that we read about in the scriptures. Sure, we may have a variety of doubts from time to time, after all, it’s the forgetfulness, the veil, that really tests our faith. That said, as we continue down the path of mortal life each day, we need to realize that mortal death is just the doorway to eternal life. Jesus Christ experienced this for Himself and walked the path ahead of us. We should not be fearful of days ahead. Fear of the future will do nothing but interfere with receiving divine inspiration. We must believe and trust Jesus Christ.
Our commitment to the truth will lead to understanding allowing us to live good lives here on earth and preparing us for celestial glory awaiting just around the corner. Have faith. If you must, today, begin with simply desiring it to be true. Allow your desire to lead you to genuine hope and faith. Allow that hope and faith to lead you to confidence in all things that are true. Christ showed us the way. He showed us that, through His sacrifice and by following His example, we too can be happy both here on earth and in the celestial kingdom with our Heavenly Father.
Christ Lives. I don’t doubt this. That said, I certainly don’t feel I exercise nearly enough faith on a consistent basis where I allow it to actually change my life. However, I still try to do a little bit better each day than I did the day before. Jesus Christ lives today just as much as yesterday or even 2000 years ago. He lives and will not leave us to stand alone as long as we keep trying to do our best and stay near to Him.