Significance of the Garden of Gethsemane

Carol and I took a short trip to Utah this weekend. It is a drive we have made three or four times a year for the last twenty six years. The occasion was the 90th birthday party for Carol’s dad. There were over 140 in attendance, mostly descendants, so we held it in the cultural hall of the Brigham City 9th ward. It was wonderful to get away for a while.

On the way up Carol read to me from Gerald Lund’s third book in the series of historical fictional novels about the New Testament called The Kingdom and the Crown. The third book is entitled, Behold the Man. Gerald Lund was recently released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy. His numerous publications have sold nearly three million copies.

The book details the last week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth — his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the spiritually fulfilling Last Supper, and the crowning achievement of the atonement that begins in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminates in the Garden Tomb. Brother Lund is a master storyteller and his knowledge of the New Testament is amazing.

The atonement

Although the books are historical fiction, Brother Lund is very careful to present details of the Savior’s life based on the scriptures and scholarly commentary. As Carol read the chapter that included the account of the Savior’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, I was expecting more analysis and more explanation of what was taking place that night.

The story was told from Peter’s point of view, and of course, Peter’s activity while the Savior was praying was mostly sleeping. Who related the details of what transpired while Jesus was meeting and overcoming all that the devil and his followers could throw at him? Some of it surely must have been later revealed to the other gospel writers.

Most in the Christian world do not understand the significance of what transpired in the Garden of Gethsemane that night. To them, it was simply a preparatory prayer, offered by the Savior to steel himself for what was to come the next day on the cross. We place greater significance on the events of that night, which I have shared in a previous essay.

The crucifixion

When I was a young man I used to rent LDS talk tapes from Eagle Marketing, a short-lived Utah sales company. They sold subscriptions to a large LDS media library via returned missionaries who came to California in the summer months peddling their wares. I used to listen to BYU devotional talks every day to and from work in LA.

Another talk I remember so well was A Personal Search for the Meaning of the Atonement by W. Cleon Skousen. He brought out the details of how the punishment was administered, focusing on the reason for the nails in the wrists as well as the hands. It was from Brother Skousen that I first came to understand the terrible agony of the cross.

We were passing from Mesquite and through the canyon before St George as Carol read to me the chapters describing the horrors of the crucifixion. I have driven that canyon at least a hundred times but will now forever remember the sacred feelings we experienced together as Carol read aloud the events of that day as found in Brother Lund’s narrative.

The resurrection

I thought I understood well what transpired the morning of the resurrection but with the imagination of Brother Lund, it became clearer to me how it could have happened. How significant it was that the first to the garden tomb on that morning was Mary Magdalene, who was also the first to witness the resurrected Lord. What a devoted disciple of Christ.

To us, it seems almost like no big deal as we teach and bear witness to one another that the Savior was literally resurrected, the first to do so in this world. To the disciples of Christ, who still didn’t quite get it, the resurrection was a amazing event. No matter how many times he tried to help them understand, they were amazed when it became a reality.

With great care and detail, Brother Lund describes how the disciples found the linen still wrapped in the same manner as it was on Friday night, but collapsed upon itself as the body came forth. It was not torn off or cut off, but miraculously still in place, with the linen head cloth neatly folded and placed in a manner that signified, “the job is finished.”

Summary and conclusion

Brother Lund is one of the most popular writers in the LDS church. We have a special place in our heart for Gerald Lund as he was in Carol’s ward when she was growing up as well as the local Institute director. He is one of Carol’s favorite authors because she is much more interested in works of fiction than I am. His historical novels are the best.

I think I was expecting more from the chapter on the atonement, but perhaps Brother Lund left the analysis of that fateful night to another who described it in great detail. Drawing from multiple sources, Bruce R. McConkie in The Mortal Messiah, helped me to understand what really transpired in that garden and why it is so important to me.

It was on the cross that he suffered death in the flesh in the most agonizing and cruel method devised by man. But it was in Gethsemane that he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. The ransom for our souls was paid in the Garden of the Oil Press. It was there that the gift of eternal life was won for the obedient.

6 thoughts on “Significance of the Garden of Gethsemane”

  1. Skousen’s article is incredibly silly. It reads like a bastardization between Descartes and Mel Gibson. This is one of the funny things about mormons. In their emphasis upon a fictional character, Jesus, (there is no solid historical evidence of a person Jesus existing and Josephus is obviously not a real record), they completely ignore the rest of the world. Do you have any idea how many people have died in Iraq? Did you even listen to any of the Winter Soldier reports from soldiers in Iraq? Do you know how many people have died in the Congo civil war? Do you know what “Americans” do to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay? Did you see Taxi to the Dark Side? Suffering is truly terrible. Even much more when it is a real person and not someone in a fictional story like Jesus. If you truly believe he is real, wouldn’t you be writing more about love, respect, kindness? Funny how you are so against the Folsom Street fair but you eroticize/glamorize such intimate details of this character Jesus.

  2. Tim,Thank you for your thoughtful blog. I love the atonement and the study of the atonement. I believe the depth of our gratitude and understanding for this eternal act of love will direct our life, in all we think, say and do.

  3. Great thoughts, Tim.I am envious of your drive from Mesquite through the canyon. I have driven it many times in my younger years. It is so beautiful. I miss it.Frankly, I wish I could devote my full time to the study of the atonement and the history of Jesus. There is so much learn and ponder.

  4. Hi Kalvin – thanks for stopping by and adding your comments. You really got me thinking.I know some don’t like the teachings of Cleon Skousen but I have always enjoyed his writings and talks. Some say that he puts too much theory and opinion in his writings. I find nothing wrong with that and enjoyed having another viewpoint as I read his series on the Old Testament (First 2,000 years, The Third Thousand Years and the Fourth Thousand Years), when I was preparing for my mission. His books were monumental tasks and well worth the reading even if you think there is too much conjecture in there. They are a great overview of the Old Testament.Although he is considered the father of modern philosophy, I confess that I have not read much of Descartes. I’m not into philosophy and prefer the study of theology, specifically restored Christianity, to guide my life. I assume you are referring to The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. I confess that I have never seen it. I prefer the dramatization produced by the church in the video – To this end was I born. I trust the accuracy and portrayal of the final hours of the Savior’s life found there. I assume you realize that Skousen’s talk was produced in 1980, long before Mel Gibson even thought about doing The Passion of the Christ.The neat thing about Mormons is that we have modern witnesses that Jesus Christ was and is a real person. Probably the best known witness was provided by Joseph Smith, “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the bright hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” I love that testimony. It gives great comfort when coupled with my own faith and testimony that Jesus lives and loves me.I find it astonishing that an intelligent person could claim that the 21 volume work, Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus is not a real record. I’m not sure what you consider real, but the fact that just about every biblical scholar I have ever read seems to quote from it sure holds a lot of credence that the record is real. I suppose next you’ll be telling me that the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t exist. But my testimony that Jesus was a real person is not dependent on the works of Flavius Josephus. I did not even hear of Josephus until I was preparing for my mission.I doubt very much if you can support that statement that Mormons ignore the rest of the world. Yes, I think you’ll find that many Mormons don’t care to pay attention to a lot of the garbage that is going on out there – things that the modern media seems to want to bring to our attention. I’m sure you realize that time is limited and there is only so much you can read and study while earning a living to pay for the education of your children. In my case, I choose to study the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in my spare time and how it is being perceived in the world.Yes, a simple Google search reveals that there are several conflicting reports of how many people have died in Iraq. It is placed anywhere between 80,000 and nearly a million. That’s quite a range. Of course, that number is just a fraction of those killed in other wars over the years. But what has that got to do with my essay on the significance of what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Oh, of course. You undoubtedly wanted to point out that because of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all those killed in war will rise with immortal bodies.I had not heard of the Winter Soldier reports. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Yes, war is hell. I doubt that anyone would dispute that. As I have written in several previous essays, war will continue to be with us until the Savior comes and puts a stop to all war. Many more great and terrible wars of destruction are prophesied to come upon us in the years to come. There does not seem to be much we can do about it. I doubt that the people of the United States would go for disarmament no matter who becomes president. It’s just not a smart thing to do.I like what Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” I’m not trying to lesson the impact of what the Winter Soldiers are trying to help us understand. Just realize that war is just one of the signs of the last days and it is going to get worse as time goes on. You and I and all the protesters in the world will not be able to stop what Satan has sworn to do and what God is allowing to happen in a effort to humble the people of the world in preparation for the return of the Savior. So far, it doesn’t seem to be doing much good, does it? It will get much worse.According to Wikipedia, about four million people died in the Congo civil wars. Somewhere between 40 and 70 million people died in WWII. Two million people may have died in the Afghan civil wars that are ongoing. As many as 2.5 million to 5 million died in Vietnam War with 2.5 to 3 million killed in the Korean conflict. Twenty to fifty million died in WWI. There are untold millions in ages past who have been killed in war, most of it over stupid things.Yes, I have read the accounts of the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. They are terrible. I have not seen Taxi to the Dark Side, and apparently a lot of other people have not either since it grossed only $280,000. I read the synopsis. Thanks for pointing it out to me. Suffering is indeed terrible and so much of it is unnecessary. You are correct that if more people would be true followers of Jesus Christ that there would be no wars. There would also be no poor and everyone would have an equal opportunity for education. It would truly be a Zion society.I truly do believe that Jesus Christ was and is a real person and is the Son of God as he claimed. It is my desire to write more about love, respect and kindness. The publicity poster for the Folsom Street fair was very offensive precisely because it eroticized the last supper of Jesus Christ. We are taught by prophets that understanding the details of what Jesus did for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross will deepen our appreciation for him and his mission.

  5. I also loved that series of books. I need to read them again. One thing I learned, or rather felt while I was reading, was a new understanding of Jesus’ comment to Peter declaring that Peter would deny him (Jesus) three times. I always thought of his words as more of a prophecy, something like “Unknown to you, you will do this tonight.” But I had the distinct feeling that it was more like Christ telling him he would be put in that position and that Peter must deny him so that the church could continue on. Peter didn’t want to deny him, couldn’t perceive himself doing so. But Christ looked at look him and told him that he was to do that deed. What might have happened if Peter had not denied Christ. Would he have been taken before the judges, also? What would have happened to the church? It really made me look at it all in a different light. I don’t know if I am way off base on this, but it works for me! I can imagine Peter going off and crying by himself after he had done what Christ had told him he needed to do. Perhaps Peter knew that he would be the one responsible to lead the church and he felt such a heavy burden to do so without Jesus there to guide him.

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