Victory over death

To lose a much-loved partner “with whom one has long walked through sunshine and shadow is absolutely devastating,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at the funeral of Elisa Young Rogers Wirthlin, wife of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Speaking from his own experience after the death of his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, President Hinckley said, “There is a consuming loneliness which increases in intensity and painfully gnaws at one’s very soul. But in the quiet of the night a silent whisper is heard that says, ‘All is well, all is well,’ and that voice from out of the unknown brings peace, certainty, and unwavering assurance that death is not the end and life goes on. There’s work to do and victories to be gained” (Church News, Aug. 26, 2006, p. 3).

In the October 2006 general conference, Elder Wirthlin said President Hinckley was right. “As Elisa was my greatest joy, now her passing is my greatest sorrow,” he said.

He then spoke of the Savior’s victory over death, His Atoning sacrifice and Resurrection.

“The Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians,” Elder Wirthlin declared. “Without it, our faith is meaningless. The Apostle Paul said, ‘If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and [our] faith is also vain …’ (1 Corinthians 15:14).

“I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross. … It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.

“I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.

“But the doom of that day did not endure. … The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. … In an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.”

During the April 2007 general conference, President Hinckley noted he was in his 97th year and said that, with his age in mind, he wished to “give you my testimony of the basic truths of this work.” President Hinckley passed away before the next April’s general conference.

One of the truths of which he testified was the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Without it life is meaningless,” he said. “It is the keystone in the arch of our existence. It affirms that we lived before we were born in mortality. Mortality is but a stepping-stone to a more glorious existence in the future. The sorrow of death is softened with the promise of the Resurrection. There would be no Christmas if there were no Easter.”

While we have no record of anyone who was an eyewitness to the process we know as the Resurrection, scriptures testify of many who saw the Resurrected Savior. The New Testament tells us that on the third day after He was crucified and placed in the garden tomb, He spoke to Mary of Magdala (John 20). He walked, talked and ate with two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24).

He appeared to His apostles, twice, behind closed doors, and again at the sea of Tiberias, or Galilee, where He instructed them (Luke 24, John 20). The scriptures bear record of appearances to the Apostles during the 40 days following His resurrection — as a group or separately, to teach them “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). John informs us that “there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written, … even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). He was seen by some 500 others (1 Corinthians 15:6).

He appeared to His “other sheep” whom He had declared “shall hear my voice; and there be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The Book of Mormon records the Resurrected Lord’s appearance on the American continent, to whom He said, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. … Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” One by one, about 2,500 people “thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet.”

“And … they did cry out with one accord, saying: Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (3 Nephi 11:10, 14–17).

“Without Christ there can be no fulness of joy,” President Ezra Taft Benson wrote for an article published in the April 1986 Ensign. “In our premortal state we shouted for joy as the plan of salvation was unfolded to our view (see Job 38:7). It was there our elder brother Jesus, the firstborn in the spirit of our Father’s children, volunteered to redeem us from our sins. He became our foreordained Savior, the Lamb ‘slain from the foundation of the world’ (Moses 7:47).

“Thanks be to God the Son for the offering of Himself. And thanks be to God the Father that He sent Him. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ ” (John 3:16).

Without our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, life for us all would end at death. We would remain forever in our graves. Because of Him and His Atonement, each of us will live again.