Brigham Young University’s annual Easter Conference, with messages focused on the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, drew more than 1,300 people to the campus April 11.
The event, sponsored by BYU Religious Education and the Religious Studies Center, included three speakers: Elaine S. Dalton, Lloyd D. Newell and D. Kelly Ogden. Each shared an Easter message with insight into the Savior’s life, Atonement and Resurrection.
Brother Newel spoke of how the Easter season is a reminder to all that every person can change and “walk in a newness of life” because of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“How beautiful, how sweet, how tender it is to see hearts changed, the lost found, and the blind restored to sight,” said Brother Newell, a BYU professor and voice of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast. “Though we may not understand how it happens, we know why — because God loves His children. Rebirth really is as precious as birth.”
It seems fitting that the Lord would use birth as a metaphor to describe the change that is made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Brother Newell said.
“We’ve all fallen short and longed for another chance, a fresh start, a new beginning. We’ve all wished we could rewind time and try again. ... We hear the expression ‘there are no guarantees in life.’ But here’s a promise, a guarantee you can count on no matter where you are or what you have done: we can change; we can walk in newness of life. ...
“Rebirth, then, is not so much a moment as a mindset, an ongoing experience of the heart, the gradual accumulation of countless righteous choices built up over a lifetime,” he said. “It is a daily decision to sincerely accept the Lord’s invitation to discipleship. He knows our heart, and we know enough of His heart to know that He loves us perfectly and continually.”
The way people think of their friends, neighbors and family members is vital.
“Do we sometimes define people in terms of who they have been rather than who they are or who they can become?” he asked. “Our ability to accept change in our own lives is tied, I believe, to our ability to accept it in the lives of others. ...
“Nothing is more beautiful than seeing new life and renewed life,” he said. “That hope and promise is centered in the Savior’s encompassing love, and it is the sweetest, the most tender and I think the most beautiful principle of the gospel.”
In his address, Brother Ogden said the Savior’s love for all mankind is manifest in the Resurrection, and because of that love, all mankind will be resurrected.
“Nothing has ever happened in this world, or any other world of which we know, that compares in grandeur and scope with the events between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden of the Resurrection — events that affect the mortal and immortal life of every soul to come into this world,” Brother Ogden said.
Brother Ogden, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU, taught that the Resurrection literally changed the lives of every Christian.
“This single, historical fact and doctrine forever changed the course of the ancient Church and the course of the world,” he said. “There is no fact in history that is so widely attested and confirmed by credible witnesses.”
Brother Ogden shared different accounts of visitors to the Resurrected Savior — the women and angels first at Jesus’ tomb, Peter and John, Mary, the apostles and other disciples who had an encounter with the Resurrected Jesus, including some from modern times.
“From all these accounts — ancient and modern, on both hemispheres — we learn that Jesus Christ was the first of all who have ever lived on this planet to rise from the dead to immortality,” he said. “Every human will resurrect, as Paul wrote: ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22), though not everyone will resurrect to the same glory: there are different levels or degrees of resurrected bodies.”
Because of the gift of resurrection provided by the Savior, all humankind will rise again from the dead and live forever, Brother Ogden taught.
“In fact, there is no choice in the matter; as a gift from the God of Heaven we are all going to live forever,” he said. “The choice we do have is where and with whom we would like to live forever. We are now in the process of determining that by how we are behaving here on earth.”
Sister Dalton, a former Young Women general president, spoke of the enabling power that makes it possible for all to have strength, abilities and power beyond their capacity because of the love of the Savior.
“Everything He did was motivated by one thing — and one thing only. It was and is love,” she said. “He was not motivated by power, position or possessions. His motive was not political or to seek popularity. His motive was pure. He was motivated by pure love.”
Because of that pure love — a love without further agenda or motive — individuals have reason to hope. It is that atoning love that allows those who are broken to become healed.
“Have any of you ever felt broken, perhaps in spirit, or with a broken heart or having broken commandments?” she asked. “Have any of you experienced broken dreams, broken relationshps, a broken spirit? I testify, He is there to heal us, to bear our pain, and to enable us to bear all things. I testify that through His infinite Atonement, broken things can mend — broken hearts, broken lives, broken bodies and broken dreams.”
When feeling alone or “broken,” or when experiencing trials, the Savior is always there, Sister Dalton taught.
“Because of His love for us, He descended below all things that we suffer so that He would know how to succor us or in other words, ‘run to’ us in our time of greatest need. ... [W]henever there is something so difficult that I can not bear it, He will. He will be there to lift that load or burden or pain or infirmity.”
The Savior asks in return for disciples, followers to serve others and testify of Him, Sister Dalton taught.
“Whether we have a specific calling or whether we don’t, we can do that,” she said. “We can be His disciples. ... For the crowning characteristic of our love of Him is our loyalty to Him.”
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