Sermoncitos, a family tradition


The Atonement and Resurrection

My heart has been tender all this Easter Week as I pondered the love my Savior has for me. I see reminders of His condescension all around me in nature and in the messages I hear from the prophets and apostles, the special witnesses. We have a Heavenly Father. Jesus is his literal son. Jesus Christ is the creator of heaven and earth, the Savior of all mankind, and the God of every nation on the earth. This is their testimony to us, and through the power of the Holy Ghost, this is my witness to you.

I am also humbled as I am reminded of my limitations and my need to be rescued constantly by the help of others, including this week when the tongue of my trailer broke in half while I was driving 70 miles per hour down I-40. Several people had to help me this week do things I could not do for myself. I needed the intervention of those willing to be of service.

I have been astonished lately at the power innate in the human body for regeneration. In 1971 I suffered a severe back injury causing daily pain for over 20 years. During those years I tried every treatment I could buy and every therapy I could apply. I degenerated into an old man, crippled, unable to sit or walk. This week I planted, dug, hauled, and heaved, and even loaded and delivered an 800 pound piano without pain or injury. This medical miracle began in 1993 with a simple surgery to remove a herniated disk. I could not do this myself; I needed an intervention. That intervention changed one tiny spot on my body that allowed me to begin healing. If Dr. Martínez in Albuquerque can do that much for me, I know my Savior, who rose from the dead, can restore my body after I die. We are happier when we accept our dependence upon God. “There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.” 2 Nephi 2:8.

This cycle of regeneration repeats itself daily. When I get home late at night, tired and hungry, my wife applies remedies like food and sleep that stimulate my body to regenerate, so that by morning I am strong enough to do it all again. I cannot keep going without accepting that intervention of nourishment and rest. I see this pattern repeated in eternal life; we are nourished by the good word of God, our bodies rest, then we are restored in the resurrection. We need not doubt the reality of this resurrection, as there have been many witnesses. Jesus said to the people in Zarahemla, “arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the the prints of the nails in the 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.” 3 Nephi 11:14.

In mainstream culture, Easter is springtime, the beginning of the growing season, the time of flowers on Temple Square, of cherry blossoms in the Capital, of early morning gatherings on the park to look for chicken eggs left by a rabbit. At my house it was 29 degrees this morning. Any eggs left out last night would be hard frozen, not hard boiled! Yet, spring has really come to the high mesa. My chickens and ducks and turkeys seem to know that the winter of darkness has ended. Every one is laying eggs almost every day. The extra hours of sunlight have brightened their spirits and given them hope. The pastures are green, the desert flowers are blooming. I am finding tree seedlings all over my lot, though last winter my corn and everything else died. The cycle of life seen in nature teaches me that life is renewed. That which withers is buried in the frozen ground, comes back more glorious than ever.

My mother’s sister, Varena Lambert, has gone on to join her family on the other side of the veil. Her funeral was last week. As I remember my childhood when she would spend weekends and holidays with us, I think of the Navajo word for our relationship: shimá yázhí (little mother). There is no word like “aunt”. My mother’s sister is my mother. She lived a life of self sufficiency, resourcefulness, and service to others. Yet she, like my mother and my father’s sister, became dependent upon those she had served. It is true for all of us. If we live long enough, we don’t just become older and wiser, we become older and more dependent. If we are humble, we give others the chance to be of service and we learn to accept the interventions of others; we learn to be dependent as part of our preparation to meet our God.

Throughout history the Lord has relied upon the power of humility to bring His people back to Him. When Father Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden into the lone and dreary world, it quickly became apparent to him that he needed to rely upon God for his survival. Likewise, Noah learned to be humble and rely upon the Lord to be saved at the time of the Flood. The people of Jared humbled themselves at the Tower of Babel and were sustained and guided by the Lord. King Benjamin worked for his own sustenance and reminded his people, “when you are in the service of your fellow being you are in the service of your God”. We sympathize with Mary, who had the terrible burden of burying her son; but we are encouraged that she accepted the support of others, as Jesus on the cross commended her care to his beloved disciples.

All through the Book of Mormon we read of the cycle of pride and humility: pride causing sin, and the inevitable suffering bringing about the humility that puts the people back in touch with the Spirit and in the service of others. Then the Spirit of God leads them on the straight and narrow path that leads to the Plan of Happiness. The greatest blessing of the Atonement of Christ we celebrate this Easter, is forgiveness. Christ has the power to cleanse us from our sins as we accept His intervention for us through faith, repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end.

The last time I spent quality time with Aunt Varena was in the temple where the two of us served as proxies for many sealings. She knew that Christ had the power to die due to having a mortal mother, and the power to overcome death for himself and for all of us due to having an Eternal Father. I know her testimony, and I know she would say like Moroni, “and now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” Moroni 10:34.

It is my testimony that God lives and that Jesus Christ, whose Atonement and Resurrection we celebrate each Easter and each time we partake of the Sacrament, is our living Savior. I have received this powerful witness of the Spirit as I studied the Gospel and tried to live my covenants. I have learned by the Spirit that this is His church, led by living prophets, and endowed with power in the priesthood.