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GREATEST ACT OF LOVE

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The central message of Easter is that Jesus lives!

He broke the bands of death. He gained victory over the grave.That victory over death came when Jesus, who three days earlier had been unmercifully crucified on Calvary, was resurrected. Since the beginning of Christianity, that singular event has been commemorated as Easter, the most sacred of all Christian observances.

But Christ's resurrection was more than an individual victory. He died that we might live!

Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, explained it this way:

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:20-22.)

President Ezra Taft Benson once declared, "There is nothing in history to equal that dramatic announcement: `He is not here, but is risen. . . .' (Luke 24:6.)"

What this means to each of us is that because of the atoning sacrifice of the only sinless person who ever lived on the earth we, too, shall live beyond the grave and throughout eternity. Because of Christ's infinite, unselfish love for us, the separation of loved ones caused by death is only temporary, although it may seem long while we are still on this earth. But the day will come when there will be a joyful reunion on the other side of the veil - if we live righteously - of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of brothers and sisters, and of friends.

The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of such eternal reunions in 1843, a little more than a year before he, too, would join the righteous spirits in a realm beyond the veil.

Speaking of the death of Lorenzo D. Barnes, the first LDS missionary to die while serving in a foreign land, the Prophet declared, "If I have no expectation of seeing my father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends again, my heart would burst in a moment. . . ."

During the two-hour speech, the Prophet spoke of the joy of once again being with his family and friends in the resurrection:

"When the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me. . . .

"The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul and makes me bear up against the evils of life. It is like their taking a long journey, and on their return we meet them with increased joy." (History of the Church: 5:362.)

The Prophet's assurance of eternal joy in the resurrection of the righteous is the same message that the Savior taught. In the closing hours of His life, Jesus, referring to His death and resurrection, said to His apostles, "And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:22.)

In some magnificent way, which we do not understand, Jesus of Nazareth, thought by many only to be the carpenter's son, opened the door of immortality for all to walk through. He paid the price for us to rise from the grave. Through His own willful sacrifice - the infinite and eternal atonement - we all shall live again. ". . . Because I live, ye shall live also," the Savior taught. (John 14:19.)

But the crowning climax of the most transcendent of all events in history did more than provide a universal resurrection for all mankind. It also provided a way for those who serve Him and keep His commandments to return to His presence in the kingdom of His Father - to gain eternal life and not just life eternal or immortality.

President Benson has said the Atonement is the greatest single act of love in recorded history. What the Savior did for us in Gethsemane and on Calvary clearly demonstrates that He was willing to lay down His life for us. At this Eastertime, may we return our love to Him through the righteous lives we live. Can we do anything less and still be counted as worthy followers?