Did Not Our Heart Burn Within Us?

Nearly two thousand years ago, “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them” (Luke 24:10) descended on the sepulchre where the body of their crucified Lord lay. When they arrived, however, “they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold two men stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:2-4). Standing majestically in that empty tomb, the two angels asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” They then continued to declare the most magnificent truth ever told: “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:5-6). Believing the testimony of those two heavenly messengers, the women left to share the good news—the central truth of the gospel—with the rest of Christ’s disciples. Christ had risen as He said. He had conquered death, and, with His resurrection, prepared the way so that everyone would live anew, never to die again.

Later, when the disciples were gathered, then “came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20). In that first Easter season, the resurrected Lord showed Himself to a few so that they could bear abroad the message of His Resurrection. Though the disciples’ experience of seeing tangible proof of the Resurrection must have been remarkable, Jesus explained to one of His special witnesses that proof is not what produces faith: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 10:29). Thus, our great privilege at this time of year—and always—is to receive the testimonies of those who saw, to choose to believe in the Christ they preached, and to begin to live according to the transcendent truths He taught.

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Echoing the teachings of the Savior, the Apostle Paul taught, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (II Corinthians 13:1). In this verse, I think he lays out the way in which God communicates truth to His children: by speaking through a chosen few and charging them with the responsibility to go forth and teach, the Lord ensures that His message reaches our ears while at the same time giving us the opportunity to prove our devotion by choosing to give heed. Thus, after seeing and interacting with the Resurrected Lord, Peter and John began to spread the news of the Resurrection so that everyone else would have the chance to hear and to heed. As recorded in The Acts of the Apostles, they stood before a multitude and testified:

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it….This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:22-24, 32)

When the people heard the testimony of those two men who had seen physical evidence of the Resurrection, “they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The Apostles responded, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). On that day, three thousand people who had not seen chose to believe in the testimonies of two witnesses. They acted according to their belief, were baptized, and went on to live joyfully, “Praising God, and having favour with all the people” (Acts 2:47). No angels appeared, no signs or wonders shone in the heavens, no miraculous spectacles dazzled the multitude; rather, those who heard Peter and John’s testimony were pricked in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, and they then followed those quiet feelings to the waters of baptism.

On this Easter morning, neither you nor I will see a sepulchre with the stone rolled away or a pair of angels in radiant clothing, nor will we see the Resurrected Lord in His immortal glory. While Christendom celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will have little empirical proof that such a resurrection even happened—and even less proof that we have any hope of one day living again as well. There is no government bureau with resurrection statistics, no peer-reviewed medical journal with a detailed description of the biological processes involved in resurrection. Of course, if there were, there would be no faith, no belief. We do, though, have the documented testimonies of people like Peter and John who knew Jesus of Nazareth and who were witnesses of His resurrection. While those testimonies will never force or compel us, they will invite us, as they have for millennia, to believe—to believe in Christ and in the power of Redemption and Resurrection.

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“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” the Apostle Paul asked before testifying, “thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55, 57).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” the Apostle Peter declared, testifying of the great hope that he had witnessed firsthand (I Peter 1:3).

The Apostle John wrote, “[W]hatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? … And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life” (I John 5:4-5, 11-12).

Beyond these three testimonies, the Bible and Book of Mormon are full of countless other testimonies of those who saw—who knew by tangible proof—that Jesus lives—that He is “the light and the life of the world” (Mosiah 16:9), “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), even “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), by Whose “stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Though I have not seen, I yet choose to believe, to trust in the promise of eternal life that is in Christ. I cannot testify of Him by virtue of having seen Him, but I can testify of the reality of the hope that I feel as I choose to believe in Him and to act in accordance with my belief. I can testify that I have seen the light in the eyes of men and women who embraced faith in Christ and turned from lives of doubt, despair, and self-destructive habits. I can testify that I have seen lives and families blessed by the teachings and power of the Savior and Redeemer. On this Easter morning, I express my gratitude for testimonies great and small that have helped to kindle my faith, for the uplifting feelings I have had as I’ve listened to the sincere testimonies of those who believe and of those who know. Shortly after His resurrection, Jesus walked with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. They walked and talked, but the disciples did not recognize the One who walked with them. Reflecting later on the experience they had had, the disciples realized that they had walked with the Savior, and they asked themselves, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). They recognized then that the feelings of their hearts were confirming evidence of the truth, and they were satisfied. I hope that I might be ever more sensitive to those quiet feelings that speak pure truth to my soul. I hope that we all might be able to recognize the truth that comes to us through the still, small influence of the Holy Ghost.

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I know that Jesus Christ loves us and that He wants us to believe and to live according to His teachings. I also know that He will help us—first to believe and then to live. As a modern Apostle, Richard G. Scott taught:

Our security is in [our Heavenly Father] and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I know that the Savior loves you. He will confirm your efforts to strengthen your testimony so that it becomes a consummate power for good in your life, a power that will sustain you in every time of need and give you peace and assurance in these times of uncertainty.

As one of His Apostles authorized to bear witness of Him, I solemnly testify that I know that the Savior lives, that He is a resurrected, glorified personage of perfect love. He is our hope, our Mediator, our Redeemer.

Today, it is my hope and invitation that we all will do something to foster our faith, to open our hearts to the truths of the gospel and to the hope of Redemption, and to pay attention, like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the feelings that the Spirit of God will bring into our open hearts. Though we do not see, we can yet believe, and I trust without reservation that, as Christ taught Thomas, blessings will follow all those who decide to believe.

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The Watchman in Israel

Speaking to Ezekiel, the Lord appointed him to a sacred responsibility: “Son of man,” He said, “go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezekiel 3:4). Ezekiel’s duty, like that of all the prophets who preceded him and all those who followed after him, was to convey the word and will of God to the people of the earth. As the Lord Himself explained to the newly called prophet, “I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me” (Ezekiel 3:17). Ezekiel’s mission, then, was to warn the people of future perils and teach them the way to live in order to ensure that they could receive God’s protection from the dangers ahead.

The New Testament teaches, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). God was able to tell Noah of the coming flood, to warn Joseph of seven years of famine, and to advise Moses to lead the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Whenever He acted, He acted for the benefit of those who heard His voice and obeyed. That God of mercy and miracles yet lives—and He is unchangingly dedicated to our welfare. He has restored the Church of Jesus Christ as it existed anciently, and He directs the Church through a living prophet named Thomas S. Monson. Like every prophet before him, President Monson receives the word of God and conveys it to us. This weekend (and every six months) he addresses the Church and the world alongside twelve modern Apostles to teach us all what God wants us to know. It is my testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, and I’m eager to hear his messages during the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held today and tomorrow, April 5th and 6th.

President Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet on the earth today (lds.org).

President Thomas S. Monson is God’s prophet on the earth today (lds.org).

Just as the Lord called Ezekiel to be a watchman in Israel, He has called a prophet today to see the perils and opportunities that lie ahead and to warn and advise us as we make our way through life. I know there is safety and happiness in following the words of the prophet: as I strive to live according to the prophet’s teachings, I have recognized the blessings that follow obedience. Speaking of prophets, Jesus Christ taught, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). We cannot know if a man is a prophet of God without knowing his fruits—without receiving his counsel and testing it out in our lives.

Thus, I invite you to “Come, listen to a prophet’s voice, / and hear the word of God” during the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ, streamed live in four sessions on April 5th at 10:00 a.m. and at 2:00 p.m. MDT and on April 6th at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. MDT. I know that there is a watchman in Israel on the earth today, and I hope and testify that the messages that will be shared this weekend will teach us the way to walk safely through the coming months, for, surely, they will be the words of a loving and merciful Father in Heaven.