Several months ago, I had the honor of speaking at my oldest grandchild’s baptism. I reminded him of the importance of bearing the name of Jesus Christ, bearing the burdens of others, and bearing witness of Jesus Christ—standing for him at all times and in all places.
What is a witness? A witness is: “A statement or other evidence that something is true; a testimony. A witness can also be someone who gives such a statement or evidence based on personal knowledge; that is someone who bears testimony” (“Witness,” Guide to the Scriptures).
Elder John M. Madsen shared an experience he had years ago while working at Church headquarters. He attended a lunch devotional in which Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke. Near the end of his talk, he asked, “How do you prove that Jesus is the Christ?” No one responded. Then, he stated, “It all centers in the Resurrection.” He next asked, “How do you prove the Resurrection?” Again silence, until Elder McConkie declared, “It all centers in witnesses” (“Easter Is the Lord’s Day,” The Church News, Apr. 1, 2013).
The Early Witnesses to Christ’s Resurrection
The scriptures relate how Mary Magdalene, alone at the tomb where the Savior’s body had lain, saw two angels who asked her, “why weepest thou?” (John 20:13).
Then looking back, Mary saw Jesus. At first she did not recognize Him until He said her name. Before leaving her, Jesus told her “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples what she had seen and heard—becoming the first witness of Christ’s Resurrection.
Later that same day, Jesus appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34); to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); and in the evening, He appeared suddenly to the Apostles and others gathered with them, saying, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39)
The Apostle Paul shared that the resurrected Savior was “seen of above five hundred brethren at once,” and “he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also” (1 Corinthians 15:6-8).
Following His Ascension, Jesus appeared to His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson explains, “In the land Bountiful, He descended from heaven and invited the assembled throng, some 2,500, to come forward one by one until they had all gone forth, thrusting their hands into His side and feeling the prints of the nails in His hands and in His feet” (“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 2014; see also 3 Nephi 11:14-15).
Latter-day Prophets Witness of Christ’s Resurrection
In 1820, a 14-year-old boy knelt and prayed to know which church he should join. Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Of this experience, the Prophet wrote: “I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—‘This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!’” (Joseph Smith History 1:17).
The manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 3 describes another divine manifestation: “Nearly twelve years later, on February 16, 1832, the Prophet was translating the Bible, with Sidney Rigdon as his scribe, in the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio. After the Prophet translated John 5:29, which describes the resurrection...a vision was opened to Joseph and Sidney...they saw and conversed with the Savior” (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:12–14, 20–24). Joseph saw and heard the Savior again on April 3,1836 in the Kirtland Temple (Doctrine and Covenants 110:1–4).
In his April 2012 general conference address “The Doctrine of Christ,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson related, “The Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed the Savior’s central role in our doctrine in one definitive sentence: ‘The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it’” (see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 49).
For example, President Henry B. Eyring declared, “I am a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord as surely as if I had been there in the evening with the two disciples in the house on Emmaus road. I know that He lives as surely as did Joseph Smith when he saw the Father and the Son in the light of a brilliant morning in a grove of trees in Palmyra” (“Come Unto Me,” Ensign, May 2013).
During the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple in March 2019, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve shared with the world excerpts from “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” and also shared their personal testimonies (see “In the Footsteps of Ancient Apostles, Modern Apostles Bear Witness of Jesus Christ,” http://bit.ly/2UyTqlf).
At the April 2019 general conference, leaders of the Church instructed and testified of Christ’s divinity. By studying and applying these conference messages, our witness of the Savior can grow stronger.
Becoming a Latter-day Witness of Jesus Christ
Even though the original Apostles were eyewitness to the ministry and Resurrection of Christ, the Savior cautioned them that their witnessing would be after they had received the Holy Ghost (see Acts 1:8; see also Luke 24:49). President Dallin H. Oaks clarifies, “An eyewitness was not enough. Even the witness and testimony of the original Apostles had to be rooted in the testimony of the Holy Ghost” (“Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1990).
As Elder Christofferson explains, “Those who enter into the covenant of baptism receive a special endowment of faith in Jesus Christ, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost comes the witness that the testimonies we have received concerning Christ are true” (“Becoming a Witness of Christ” Ensign, Mar. 2008).
We can be witnesses of Christ when we help others come unto Him. We do this through example as we minister unto others (including friends and neighbors not of our faith). We are witnesses when we share our heartfelt testimonies of Jesus Christ, of His gospel plan, of His Resurrection, and of His inclusive, unconditional, and empowering love for us. His infinite atoning sacrifice is a great vicarious gift for all who have or whoever will live upon the earth.
As with my grandson, who made sacred covenants during his baptism to be a witness of God, this Easter season and throughout the year, let us all remember to share our witnesses of Jesus as the Living Christ.