PROVO — Deeper understanding of the Resurrection comes through experience, hearing the words of the prophets and looking to the life of the Savior, taught Elder John M. Madsen, an emeritus member of the Quorum of the Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the annual Easter Conference held at Brigham Young University on Friday.
Held for the first time on Good Friday, this year's annual conference drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people to the college campus to celebrate the life and Resurrection of the Savior.
The conference is sponsored on by the Religious Studies Center at BYU. Elder Madsen was joined by two others, Brent L. Top and Brad Wilcox, in presenting this year's theme, "With healing in his wings."
"I, like each one of you, have had, and will have, many … experiences that will forever change and enhance and deepen our understanding of the meaning and supernal significance of Easter," Elder Madsen said.
Drawing from a few of those experiences in his own life, Elder Madsen spoke of the importance of Easter morning, "the Lord's day," when all celebrate the greatest victory of all time — the Savior's victory over death.
It is important to remember that Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the great crowning event of his life and mission and the capstone of the Atonement, Elder Madsen said.
Deeper understanding comes through hearing others — especially modern prophets and apostles — testify of the life and Resurrection of the Savior. Through reading the messages of disciples of Christ, as found in the scriptures, individuals can find additional "witnesses" testifying of the Savior's Resurrection.
"Just eight days after the crucified Lord came forth from the tomb, many of his faithful disciples and all of his living apostles had seen the risen Lord and heard him speak and had handled or felt his resurrected body," he said.
"And in so doing, they had become witnesses."
Wilcox reminded listeners that when they feel like they are struggling to "do enough," they must look to the Savior because he did "more than enough" for them.
"Many Saints feel defeated, as if they can never do enough and are forever falling short," he said. "The message of Easter that I want to celebrate tonight is that Christ came to lift us up, not to put us down."
Wilcox shared "snapshots" of times when people may be discouraged. Although their circumstances vary, their problems — most including trying to do too much — are similar. The solution, Wilcox said, is turning to the Savior for help.
"In many of our busy latter-day lives, what is needed is not one more sacrifice from us but rather a deeper understanding of the sacrifice of the Savior for us and the grace he offers," said Wilcox. Turning to the Lord isn't just "one more thing to do," rather, it is the only thing to do, he said.
"Jesus paid our debt to justice, and he paid that debt in full," Wilcox said. "He didn't pay it all except for a few coins. Because he paid that debt, he can now turn to us with a new arrangement. He can ask for eventual perfection and he can offer to strengthen, mentor and tutor us through the developmental process, however long it takes."
Top, a professor at BYU, said that the Savior's mercy is the very essence of the message of Easter.
"It is easy, especially at Easter time, to celebrate God's infinite goodness and His tender mercy," Top said. "Not often, however, do we hear declarations or observe celebrations of His perfect justice. Yet each is an integral by-product of the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
Top asked the audience, "How can this be? How can the Lord be both merciful and just?" Scriptures show that God's word is clear in his expectations and requirements of his children.
"Does the Lord say one thing and then do something different — changing the rules in the middle of the game, or changing the score after the game?" he asked.
"The answer seems to be a clear-cut no. A perfectly just God will change neither the rules of the game nor the final score, so to speak. To do so would not be just."
But even with a perfectly just God, mercy is also available to all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Top said. "The Lord's arms of saving mercy are outstretched — to all peoples of the earth in all dispensations of time."