Christ our Champion
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The Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once observed that all great tales are ultimately about death.
He could be right. Many of Western literature’s most iconic characters — from Jay Gatsby and Huck Finn to Tom Joad and Bilbo Baggins — were all asked, at some level, to confront their own mortality. Hemingway’s Santiago battled a great fish even as death's specter seemed to wait, patient but sure, at the bow of the old man’s tiny boat. Even Don Quixote’s knightly deeds perhaps doubled as futile attempts to sidestep his own ending.
Shakespeare poetically noted that death visits us with the same certainty “as the waves make towards the pebbled shore.”
We too must acknowledge the absolute truth that one day we will die. Smart lifestyle choices can probably help delay the inevitable. We can eat our vegetables, hit the gym, swear off fast food and manage our stress and cholesterol levels — yet our final medical prognosis remains “terminal.”
During our mortal lives, sin causes us to suffer a spiritual death — this spiritual death separates us from our Creator. Paul taught, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
As we observe the maiden days of a new year — a symbolic period of hope and beginning — we can remember the divine Author of our new beginnings: our Savior Jesus Christ.
Because of His love and atoning sacrifice, the moment of our death — be it physical or spiritual — merely marks the end of a chapter. Because of Christ, death is no longer synonymous with “The End.”
Like many of us, Alma’s son Corianton was troubled by the certainty that he too would die. His father was sensitive to his concerns and taught that “[Christ] bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead” (Alma 40:3).
The soul, added Alma, “shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to the proper and perfect frame. ...
“And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God” (Alma 40: 23, 25).
Alma’s modern-day prophetic counterpart, President Thomas S. Monson, has taught that to truly understand the meaning of death, we must first appreciate the purpose of life. Through the sublime gift of revelation, we know that our existence did not begin on the day of our mortal birth.
During the Sunday morning session of the April 2010 general conference, President Monson said: “In our premortal state, we were doubtless among the sons and daughters of God who shouted for joy because of the opportunity to come to this challenging yet necessary mortal existence.
“We knew that our purpose was to gain a physical body, to overcome trials, and to prove that we would keep the commandments of God. Our Father knew that because of the nature of mortality, we would be tempted, would sin, and would fall short. So that we might have every chance of success, He provided a Savior, who would suffer and die for us.
“Not only would He atone for our sins, but as a part of that Atonement, He would also overcome the physical death to which we would be subject because of the Fall of Adam.”
Our own resurrection — that victory over physical death — was assured following Christ’s Atonement in the garden and His subsequent crucifixion on Calvary.
“Our Savior lived again,” testified President Monson. “The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place — the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.
“The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth.”
The Resurrection ensures immortality for all. But what of that second “awful death” that comes upon the wicked? We have all been tainted and marked by sin. And we know that “no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God” and enjoy an eternal place at His side.
Once again, Christ is our Champion. Our Victor over sin and death.
“The Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane and His agony on the cross redeem us from sin by satisfying the demands that justice has upon us,” taught Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “[Christ] extends mercy and pardons those who repent. The Atonement also satisfies the debt justice owes to us by healing and compensating us for any suffering we innocently endure. ‘For behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam’ ” (2 Nephi 9:21; see also Alma 7:11–12).
Followers of Christ — we, the beneficiaries of the Savior’s dual-headed victory over death — can participate and further His redemptive work, added Elder Christofferson.
“The greatest service we can provide to others in this life, beginning with those of our own family, is to bring them to Christ through faith and repentance so they may experience His Redemption — peace and joy now and immortality and eternal life in the world to come” (April 2013 general conference).
Death and sin remain absolute truths in our lives. But joy can be just as certain when we remember that a loving Savior leads us. He alone opens and offers a path to immortality and deliverance from sin.