Happy Easter! Soul Food

Happy Easter!  For my Christian readers, I wanted to share the talk I prepared to give in church this Sunday for my Easter Soul Food.   For all of my non-Christian readers, I will be back with more good eats this week!

It is an honor to speak to you today.   I am also so grateful for this opportunity to stand before you and thank each and every one of you for fasting for me for my successful kidney transplant.  I felt a powerful witness that I was being blessed because of the faith and the prayers of so many others. So thank you so much!

I’d like to begin my talk today by a quote from Elder Holland:

“The hours that lay immediately ahead would change the meaning of all human history. It would be the crowning moment of eternity, the most miraculous of all the miracles. It would be the supreme contribution to a plan designed from before the foundation of the world for the happiness of every man, woman, and child who would ever live in it. The hour of atoning sacrifice had come. God’s own Son, his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, was about to become the Savior of the world.”

Jesus Christ did become the literal Savior of the world as He lovingly and freely satisfied the eternal laws of justice by atoning for Adam’s transgression and the consequent Fall of man as well as for each of our own personal sins.   His merciful sacrifice and glorious resurrection make hope, peace  and eternal life possible for all mankind.

In my life, I have repeatedly experienced the mercy of others making my very life possible.  I have been told I am a prettier version of Frankenstein – with my lungs being from two different donors and a kidney from a third donor, my older sister.

Just over 6 months ago, after my sister had donated her kidney to me, we were staying in hospital rooms a few doors apart.  The day after surgery, she slowly walked into my room, hunched over on the arm of her husband, and sat down on the guest chair.  She tried to smile, but did a terrible job.   She lasted all but 15 seconds before she was too overcome with pain and had to leave. It was so hard to see my sister like this – especially knowing I was the cause of her pain.  Yet, she repeatedly insisted she was fine and repeatedly insisted it was an honor to sacrifice for me.   I feel forever in her debt and am striving to do all I can to safeguard, honor and live worthy of her sacrifice.

On an even grander, incomprehensible scale, Christ, our Elder brother – has sacrificed and suffered a great deal of pain for each one of us – As the Apostle Paul wrote, we were “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). This price was more than we can understand or comprehend.  In Mark, it says Jesus became “sore amazed” as he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In the Greek text this is translated to mean astonished or awestruck.  Like my sister, He had understood his suffering would be extremely difficult but was astonished at the agony. Nonetheless, with the three greatest words in human history “It is finished,” (John 19:33)  he fulfilled his commitment to each one of us by offering himself a  vicarious sacrifice to save our souls  – only then could the next greatest words in human history come to pass, “He is risen”  (Luke 24:6).

As I contemplate Christ’s matchless gift, my heart echoes the sentiments of one of my favorite hymns:

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,

Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me;

I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,

That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died.

It is wonderful that He should care for me Enough to die for me!

It is wonderful, wonderful to me!

Because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection …

We can receive comfort and strength while on this earth if we come unto him.

Alma 7:12:  “And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Because of Christ, we can be cleansed from our sins and be worthy to live again with God our Father in Heaven.

Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Because of Christ, every tear of the faithful will be eventually returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.

Revelations 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Because of Christ, we will be resurrected and live again.

Mosiah 16:8:  “There is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.”

Because of Christ, we can have everlasting life.

John 3:16:   “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.”

When the heartache, burdens and trials of life threaten to weigh us down – we must remember all that Christ has made possible – that we have every reason to stand all amazed. We can be reminded of this daily as we strive to come unto Christ.

As Elder Holland said, “Whoever we are and whatever our problems, his response is always the same, forever: ‘Come unto me.’ Come see what I do and how I spend my time. Learn of me, follow me, and in the process I will give you answers to your prayers and rest to your souls.”

I know of no other way to be happy, safe or at peace than coming unto my savior. Sheer grit, will power, and determination aren’t enough for me to get through this life – I need my Savior. As I have come unto my Christ, time and time again, He has bound up the gaping holes of my heart, he has quieted my tortured mind.  Jesus Christ, my savior, my best friend, has truly become Jesus Christ, my Savior.  I could not have made it through my challenges without Him; and now I feel I can make it through anything because of Him.

Christ knows all our sorrows, sicknesses, and sins perfectly – for as He bled from every pore for our sins and wet His face with our tears, we literally became part of Him.  He has declared, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”…, he has “borne our griefs and sorrows,” and as Isaiah declared, “with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4–5; see also Mosiah 14:4–5). In fact, in a resurrected, otherwise perfected body, Jesus Christ chose to retain the wounds in his hands and his feet and his side—signs, if you will, that he loves us, understands us, and is eager to strengthen, comfort and forgive us – if we but come unto Him, Him whose arm is “lengthened all the day long.” 2 Nephi 28:32

Why would we ever choose to shun his embrace  – to live far below our spiritual privileges – carrying the heavy burden of sin or heartache upon our backs when Christ has already given His life  so that we don’t have to?

When I was staying at my parents house as a teenager, I got up to leave early one morning to see my ten year old brother waiting outside my parents’ door.  His upper lip and eye were all swollen, he was scared, he needed help.  And there he was, waiting for my loving parents just on the other side of the door to wake up so they could help him.  I said, “Bryan, they can’t help you if you don’t knock.  They would want you to knock.”  All he had to do was knock.

All we have to do is knock.  The decision to knock and come unto the Savior is entirely our choice – there are never any disclaimers upon his invitation.  We are the only ones who distance ourselves from the Lord by choosing not to humble ourselves and lay our sins and burdens at his feet.

Sheri Dew stated, “Yielding ourselves to the Lord [and coming unto him] always requires sacrifice, and often a sacrifice of our sins.  How many favorite sins are we holding onto that alienate us from the Spirit and keep us from turning our lives over to the Lord? Things such as jealousy, or holding onto grudge, or being casual about the Sabbath day, or what we watch or read? Imagine the rippling impact on our lives and our families if every one of us determined at this moment to sacrifice something that is dulling our spiritual senses.”  BYU Women’s Conference

Sacrifice and repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead, greater peace of conscience and greater joy in our hearts.  As President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “The price of peace is righteousness,” and President Gordon B. Hinckley, “For quite simply we cannot do wrong and feel right.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley further reminds us of how important our choices in life are when he taught: “We are here [in this life] with a marvelous inheritance, a divine endowment. How different this world would be if every person realized that all of his actions have eternal consequences. How much more satisfying our years may be if … we recognize that we form each day the stuff of which eternity is made.”

Every day we can choose to let go of the world and repent in order to hold onto eternal life.

In closing, I’d like to share part of a letter my dad wrote to my litter brother who was serving a mission at the time.

“April 2011:   Happy Easter Bryan, I am sitting at the cemetery looking at all the beautiful flowers. There is a dove that is walking around not bothered by me at all. Seems fitting for this place. Someone broke our bench.[We have a bench that overlooks my brother’s gravesite] I don’t know how they did it since it is so thick and solid red granite. They must have tried to steal it and dropped it because it broke right in the middle.  It was found in the street. I really try not to get upset by much except for real injustices and this sure seemed like one of them. I could not understand how anyone could possibly do such a thing. I came over on Friday which was the anniversary of Justin’s death and as I was thinking how terrible it was that someone would break our bench when a calm feeling came over me which diffused all my anger as I felt as if it were Justin whispering “it is just a bench but I am whole.”

How grateful I am for the resurrection and the saving atonement which makes each one of us whole. When everything seems to be going wrong, when our world seems to be broken into pieces, we must never forget that because there is a tomb in Jerusalem that is empty, our hearts can be full of gratitude, hope and peace.

Christ lives.  He stands before us, beckoning us to come unto him – to grab hold of his wounded, outstretched hands so that we can be drawn into his loving embrace, so that we can take advantage of all the blessings that can be ours Because of Christ.  It’s never too late to come unto him.

As Jeffrey R. Holland  encourages: “Don’t you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon. Some come late. Some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ [and come unto Him], they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in Good Things to Come.”

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,

Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me;

I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,

That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died.

It is wonderful that He should care for me Enough to die for me!

It is wonderful, wonderful to me!

I hope you all have a very Happy Easter made possible  because of Jesus Christ.   May we always remember Him and the price He paid to win our souls.

Jesus Christ-In the Sacred name of my Lord and Savior, Even Jesus Christ, Amen


Reader Interactions

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  1. Tammy says

    Jennifer — thank you so much for publishing your talk. You truly are a gifted writer. I must admit it was hard to read through the water in my eyes :-). What a great way to start my Easter, thank you. I also want to thank you for writing your book. You are an amazing writer and have such an inspirational story to share. It was fun to see all the pictures of your family when you were younger also :-). That’s how I remember you guys.

    I had no idea you were a culinary genius also! I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less of you. 🙂 Everything on here looks so delicious! We will definitely have to try some of your recipes.

    You are an amazing woman, Jen, and I am truly honored to call you cousin. Thank you for sharing your stories and recipes on this blog. You and your wonderful family are marvelous examples of Christlike living. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Its so good to hear from you Tammy! Thank YOU for making my Easter with your kind words! I am so honored that my talk touched your heart. I think the world of you and am so inspired by your courage and faith. My prayers are continually with you and your family. Love you!!! Jen

  2. Peggy Orr says

    Your talk has fed my soul. Positive, uplifting, inspiring, hope filled message about our Savior’s mission, message and miracles. Yes, amazing and wonderful! Thank you for sharing your living testimony made so credible by the choices you have made and the way you continue to live life.
    Choice woman, choice family…… everyone.
    Happy Easter!

    • Jen says

      Your message couldn’t be any more kind or have made my day more bright, thank you so much Peggy! I love you and your family!!! xoxo, Jen

  3. Lin says

    I, too, am amazed at your gift for writing and for cooking. You are such an inspiration and share that well. While, I have some thoughts about that, what led me to comment now is in response to Jeffrey R. Holland’s remark, “Trust in God and believe in Good Things to Come”, that you included in your message.

    I have been a Hospice nurse for many years and have been so honored to walk that journey with so many people. Often patients will share their thoughts with me, both because I am there, and because it is too difficult for their families to hear. I will always remember one lady telling me of one of her final wishes. She wanted to be buried with a fork! I’m sure I had an inquisitive look on my face, but I refrained from commenting and allowed her to finish her thought. She said, “You know how dessert is always at the end of a meal. It’s the best part!” She wanted the fork, “because in dying, the best is yet to come!”

    I know she is enjoying every bit of what that fork has given her! And, what an appropriate place to share her story than on your culinary blog!

    • Jen says

      Hi Lin, I’m catching up on comments so I’m so sorry I am SO late responding but thank you so much for your words and especially for your service as a hospice nurse. I have no doubt you have been a gift to so many and they are singing your praises in heaven! Thank you especially for sharing your story about the woman wanting to be buried with a fork – I love her words so much and will keep them with me. The best truly is yet to come for all of us! May God’s choicest blessings attend you for all your selfless service!

  4. PMorris says

    It is 9 pm and my heart was feeling heavy. Today I had an incident happen that upset another person. It was my fault. For the last hour I’ve been trying to think how to rectify the situation. Skimming through my emails your Easter post popped up. I thought maybe dreaming about something delicious would lift my spirits. Instead I saw your picture of Christ and clicked on it. Shocked to find the perfect recipe for my heavy heart. Your talk lifted my spirits. I decided that my dilemma was manageable and found the peace in Christ I needed.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Every week I use your blog to make something wonderful. Little did I know that the pretty face behind the picture has over come such big things. I too am growing in the Savior Jesus Christ. He is becoming more real and my desire to please and be like him is becoming of great importance to me. I loved your stories and quotes from Alma and Holland. Thank you for your sharing your talk, I really needed it.

    • Jen says

      Hi Patti! I have been working my way through a backlog of comments and see yours somehow got lost in the mix. Thank you so much for sharing this experience, I am so glad that you were able to find peace. I hope you are doing well!