Years ago, a young convert gave a talk in Church on the topic of the Atonement. In a slip of the tongue, she spoke of "temporary death." After the meeting, someone told the young woman that the correct terminology was "temporal death."
After she had grown in gospel knowledge as well as in years, the convert realized that even with the slip of the tongue she had not been totally incorrect: After mortal life ceases, the physical body will be dead for only a period of time. Eventually, it will be raised from the grave and reunited with its spirit. The body's physical demise is, after all, a "temporary death."
In an April 1986 general conference address, President Howard W. Hunter, then Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke of Alexander the Great, a pupil of Aristotle and king of Macedonia who, through a series of military conquests, extended his kingdom from Macedonia to Egypt and from Cyprus to India. He died at age 33.
President Hunter said, "Quite a different young leader also died at what seems such an untimely age of 33. He likewise was a king, a pupil and a conqueror. Yet He received no honors from man, achieved no territorial conquests, rose to no political station. So far as we know, He never held a sword nor wore even a single piece of armor. But the kingdom He established still flourishes some two thousand years later. His power was not of this world.
"The differences between Alexander and this equally young Nazarene are many. But the greatest difference is in their ultimate victories. Alexander conquered lands, peoples, principalities, and earthly kingdoms. But He Who is called the Perfect Leader, He Who was and is the Light and Life of the world — Jesus Christ the Son of God — conquered what neither Alexander nor any other could defeat or overcome: 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" ("An Apostle's Witness of the Resurrection," Ensign, May 1986).
The empty tomb symbolizes the central event in our Heavenly Father's plan to provide salvation from temporal death for everyone who has lived, still lives and will yet live on Earth. Immortality is a gift of great price, freely given by the Savior of the world. We don't need to do anything to merit this gift. Everyone, the wicked as well as the righteous, will leave his or her grave. Everyone will, in a manner of speaking, leave behind an empty tomb.
Jesus Christ not only conquered temporal death, but He also provided a way for us to escape spiritual death. Through His great Atoning sacrifice, He made it possible for us to repent of our sins. By being baptized by proper authority, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and obeying the laws of God we may gain eternal life, or life in Heavenly Father's presence.
In an April 2010 general conference address, President Thomas S. Monson said, "No words in Christendom mean more to me than those spoken by the angel to the weeping Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when, on the first day of the week, they approached the tomb to care for the body of their Lord. Spoke the angel: 'Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen' (Luke 24:6).
"Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place — the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.
"The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job's question, 'If a man die, shall he live again?' To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth."
President Monson quoted from Hymn No. 199:
He is risen! He is risen!
Tell it out with joyful voice.
He has burst his three days' prison;
Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory!
President Monson said, "Jesus Christ conquered what no other could conquer — death; He has won the victory."
This year, most Christians will observe Easter on April 8. Others will commemorate on April 15 the momentous event of the Savior's resurrection. May we remember — every day — what the empty tomb represents. May we be grateful — every moment — for the great gift Jesus Christ bought for us through His Atoning sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary.