“Of all the victories in human history, none is so great, none so universal in its effect, none so everlasting in its consequences as the victory of the crucified Lord who came forth in the resurrection that first Easter morning. . . . How wonderful it is that this is a day of celebration throughout the Christian world. Of all the events of human history, none is so significant as the resurrection of the Son of God.” (1) 

President Hinckley spoke these impassioned words in 1988 when Easter Sunday fell on general conference weekend, which will also happen this year on Sunday, April 5. In this same conference address he mentioned having penned these significant lines while seated in the funeral service of a friend, which I later set to music, and which were sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at his own funeral service many years later: (2)

What Is This Thing That Men Call Death
Words by Gordon B. Hinckley
Music by Janice Kapp Perry
Vocals by Studio Choir

What is this thing that men call death,
This quiet passing in the night?
‘Tis not the end, but genesis
Of better worlds and greater light.

O God, touch thou my aching heart,
And calm my troubled, haunting fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure
Give strength and peace beyond my tears.

There is no death, but only change
With recompense for victory won;
The gift of Him who loved all men,
The Son of God, the Holy One.

In the words of another prophet, Howard W. Hunter: “Jesus of Nazareth conquered death. Against the medals and monuments of centuries of men’s fleeting victories stands the only monument necessary to mark the eternal triumph—an empty garden tomb. . . . His empty tomb proclaims to all the world, ‘He is not here, but is risen’.” (Luke 24:6)

He is Not Here, For He is Risen (3)
Words & Music Steven Kapp Perry
Vocals by Steven Kapp Perry and Kent Braddy

Fear not ye, for I know ye seek Jesus which was crucified.
He is not here, for He has risen.
Come see the place where the Lord lay,
Now risen on the third day.
Fear not ye, He is not here
For He is risen as He said.
He is risen from the dead.

Fear not ye, for I know ye seek Jesus which was crucified.
He is not here, for He is risen.

Our son Steven regularly leads tours to the Holy Land and the pictures he posts remind me of so many personal experiences from our 1989 tour to the Holy Land, in which our Bishop Rodney Turner, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, was the lecturer at each site. I was there with my husband Doug, and our son John, to enjoy the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken. We enjoyed every one of his lectures, but especially the words he spoke at The Garden Tomb on the last day of our tour—how I wish I could have recorded it for our posterity to enjoy.

In his closing remarks he said that the world focuses on the birth of the baby Jesus, but we should focus more on the resurrection and truly worship the risen Lord. Our focus should be on Zion, the New Jerusalem, the Second Coming! Bishop Turner ended with a powerful testimony of all he had taught us on this trip to Israel. I will never forget how I felt as he spoke.

After his lecture, each of us was able to spend a few minutes alone in the Garden Tomb to ponder the marvelous event that had taken place there. In the few moments I was able to be alone there I was quite overcome and humbled at the thought that Jesus’ resurrection had happened there and felt such gratitude that my Savior, Jesus Christ, loved me enough to die for me and make possible eternal life for me and for my loved ones and for everyone.

Often at Easter time I have wondered if Mary Magdalene, or Mary Mother of Jesus might have returned to the tomb after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and what their feelings might have been as they pondered there.

In Jesus’ Tomb (4)

Words & Music by Janice Kapp Perry
Solo by Tammy Simister Robinson

I come into the empty tomb and though He’s gone,
I feel His presence
As thru the doorway warming rays of morning light
Reveal His essence.
His humble life was spent among both rich and poor—
Surrounded by the simple things of life and little more.
As I recall His warning words it’s clear He knew
That He was leaving.
And still I could not comprehend the words he spoke
To ease our grieving.
I stand in rev’rence now to see He is not here,
And sense for just a moment that His Spirit lingers near.
I seek for comfort, for peace beyond the gloom.
I feel it here in Jesus’ tomb.

Rememb’ring now his childhood days—
So pure and strong from the beginning,
And now a man, He conquers death—
His spirit strong, the vic’try winning.
So many earthly trials He suffered patiently,
Is there a place prepared where He may rest eternally?
His sacred teachings, sweet and clear,
Fell from His lips to bring us healing.
His simple words held all the wisdom of the ages,
God revealing.
His goodness changed us as we felt His gentle touch.
His courage and His sacrifice reflect His perfect love.
I seek for comfort, for peace beyond the gloom.
I feel it here in Jesus’ tomb.

He was divine, as well as mortal,
With pow’r to give His willing soul.
Now, Father, take Him to Thy Kingdom
Where He may be consoled.
I seek for comfort and feel my grief consumed
Here in the peace of Jesus’ tomb.

Again, in the words of President Hinckley, “There is nothing more universal than death, and nothing brighter with hope and faith than the assurance of immortality. The abject sorrow that comes with death, the bereavement that follows the passing of a loved one are mitigated only by the certainty of the resurrection of the Son of God that first Easter morning. . . . Can anyone doubt the veracity of that account? No event in history has been more certainly confirmed. There is the testimony of all who saw and felt and spoke with the risen Lord. He appeared on two continents in two hemispheres and taught the people before His final ascension.“ (5)

Listen now to the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the apostles, and the multitude who had gathered upon a holy mount in Galilee, as they bear record that they saw with their eyes, felt with their hands, heard with their ears and felt the spirit burn within them, and know of a surety that He who was dead lives again! Indeed the empty tomb tells the whole glorious story.

I Know He Lives
Words & Music by Janice Kapp Perry
Vocals by Johanne Frechette Perry, Scott Pickard & Mark G. Child

Mary Magdalene:
I stood alone beside the sepulchre
And when He spoke to me I thought He was the gardener.
But there was something in the gentle way He spoke my name,
A tenderness I’d known and loved in earlier days.
And when I heard His loving words I turned to see the blessed Lord!
My very name fell from His lips—I know He lives.

Two disciples:
We walked the road, communing quietly.
As we were sorrowing, a stranger sought our company
And as we spoke to Him of Jesus who was crucified,
He blessed the bread and broke it, and we realized
Our eyes beheld the Living Christ,
And then He vanished from our sight.
Did not the spirit burn within—we know He lives.

The Apostles:
We gathered rev’rently behind closed doors,
For we, His chosen brethren, wished to speak of Christ once more.
And as we spoke, the Risen Lord, appeared before our eyes.
We saw His hands and feet, beheld His wounded side.
And as He sat with us to eat, He humbly blessed us with His peace.
Oh there could be no sweeter gift, to know He lives.

The Multitude:
Upon a holy mount in Galilee, there with the multitude
We heard and worshipped willingly.
He spoke as one who held all power over heav’n and earth,
Yet all who listened marveled at His simple words.
Had He not said that He would rise? He was the Resurrected Christ!
This is the witness that we give—we know He lives.

My very name fell from His lips.
There could be no sweeter gift.
This is the witness that we give—we know He lives!

Janice Kapp Perry: Composer, author, lecturer

(1) Gordon B. Hinckley, April 1988 General Conference address.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Steven Kapp Perry, This Is Jesus, Easter Cantata (CD/songbook), p. 43, 1992.
(4) Janice Kapp Perry, By Small and Simple Means (CD/songbook), p.38.
(5) Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2007 General Conference address.
(6) Steven Kapp Perry, This is Jesus, Easter Cantata (CD/songbook), p. 48, 1992.