Easter reflections on a loving, kind and gracious God

April 9, 2014 

The Easter season invites us to reflect on the lovingkindness of our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Interestingly, as I write, my spell check tool does not recognize the word “lovingkindness,” but it appears in my cherished King James Bible, with the psalmist praising the living and merciful God.

The Apostle John recorded what is perhaps the greatest prayer ever uttered when Christ, the Son of God, prayed for all mankind — for you and me — in what is known as the great intercessory prayer prior to His suffering in Gethsemane and crucifixion on Golgotha.

“And this is life eternal,” Jesus prayed to His Father, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Clearly, Christ wanted people to know and understand the character of God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He had sent, so that we might have faith in them.

On the first Easter, and in days that followed, the resurrected Christ appeared to his Apostles and other disciples and showed them his glorified body of flesh and bones (See Luke 24). They saw the marks in his hands and feet and ate with him, so they could “know” that he who had died was living.

Within a few centuries, uninspired men would dispute the plain truths Jesus taught concerning the Godhead — the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. They would argue about it, vote about it, get it wrong, and create confusing creeds which ironically declared God to be “unknowable,” borrowing from the philosophies and strange deities of the Greeks.

A modern apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, who spoke at a BYU women’s conference, declared that, “Tragically, much of contemporary Christianity has inherited the view of a capricious, imperious and especially angry God whose primary duty is to frighten little children and add suffering to the lives of already staggering adults.”

“I wonder,” Elder Holland asked, “if the Savior may not have known, even in His mortal years, that this would happen, thus His plea for the world to know the true God, the fatherly God, the forgiving and redeeming and benevolent God. To bring that understanding was one of the reasons Christ came to the earth.”

In ministering to people, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking cruelty and pleading for faith, the Lord was showing us the way of the Eternal Father, He who is, in the words of Joseph Smith, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness.”

“In His life, and especially in His death,” Elder Holland said, “Christ was declaring, ‘This is God’s compassion I am showing you, as well as my own.’ ”

Christ’s infinite atonement — his suffering, death and resurrection — was the perfect Son showing us the perfect Father’s care, so we might comprehend what John meant with the statement, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

The Father and the Son appeared and instructed Joseph Smith in 1820, initiating the restoration of the true and living church as it existed in the day of the Savior’s own mortal ministry, and they brought forth the Book of Mormon, which stands with the Holy Bible as another testament of the living Christ and His role as Redeemer of the world.

The true character of God was again revealed, that faith might grow.

“I promise,” Elder Holland said, “that there are good days ahead, always, that the darkest clouds always part and the most fearful days always flee before the beneficent face of the Father, the redeeming grace of the Son, and the sweet influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives.”

In our Easter worship, may we rejoice at the wonder and majesty of heaven’s personal concern and compassion for us — God’s lovingkindness.

Our Heavenly Father knows our names, hears and answers our personal prayers, and loves all of His children eternally.

On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor, can be reached by email at alf.gunn@gmail.com. For more information, visit www.mormon.org.

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