The Significance of the Resurrection (David O. McKay Lesson 7)

It was early on in my missionary service, early in the spring, and (very) early in the morning. I was living in the flats of Nauvoo in a home with six other sister missionaries. Quiet time and quiet places were hard to come by in our house.
One particular morning, I awoke earlier than the others. Wanting to take advantage of the opportunity for uninterrupted study, I picked up the Book of Mormon. It fell open to the 40th Chapter in Alma. I read these words:
"Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead (v.4). Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life (v.11). But whether it be at [Christ's] resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works (v.21). The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame (v.23)."
Though I had a testimony of the restored gospel, including the Book of Mormon, I realized I had never prayed about the doctrine of the resurrection. It seemed liked a perfect time, if not a perfect setting for a seminary film strip... morning sunlight streaming through the windows as the sun rose over Nauvoo and a sincere question. Was it true?
I can count on one hand the times in my life when prayers have been unmistakably answered. This was one of them. It was true, all of it. The Savior rose from the grave, He appeared to His friends! He did! And so will I, and so will my family, and so will you and your family!
Later that afternoon, I met a couple from Czechoslovakia. Among other things, we talked about what happens when we die. They offered their beliefs and speculations, and then they asked if I knew. Reflecting on what had happened only hours before, I answered that yes, I knew, and I still know today.
The sweetness of Easter and all that it represents has meant something different to me ever since that quiet morning in Joseph's city. Indeed, Jesus Christ was not there at the tomb: he was risen. [See Matthew 28:6.]

Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie

The resurrection is the creation of an immortal soul; it consists in the uniting or reuniting of body and spirit in immortality. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, pp. 258-301.) A resurrected being is one for whom body and spirit are inseparably connected in a state of incorruption, a state in which there never again can be decay (corruption) or death (separation of body and spirit). (1 Cor. 15; Alma 11:37-46; 12:12-18.) Resurrected beings have bodies of flesh and bones, tangible, corporeal bodies, bodies that occupy space, digest food, and have power, outwardly, to appear as mortal bodies do. (Luke 24.)

Nothing is more absolutely universal than the resurrection. Every living being will be resurrected. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:22.) Those who live and die before the millennial era, all in their proper order, will have their bodies and spirits reunited in resurrected immortality. The righteous who live after the Second Coming shall be changed from mortality to immortality in the twinkling of an eye, their bodies and spirits being united inseparably.

"Yea, and blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, from henceforth, when the Lord shall come, and old things shall pass away, and all things become new, they shall rise from the dead and shall not die after, and shall receive an inheritance before the Lord, in the holy city. And he that liveth when the Lord shall come, and hath kept the faith, blessed is he; nevertheless, it is appointed to him to die at the age of man. Wherefore, children shall grow up until they become old; old men shall die; but they shall not sleep in the dust, but they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Wherefore, for this cause preached the apostles unto the world the resurrection of the dead." (D. & C. 63:49-52.)

Two events of transcendent importance make possible the resurrection: 1. The fall of Adam; and 2. The redemptive sacrifice of the Son of God. Adam's fall brought temporal or natural death into the world; that is, as a result of Adam's fall mortality was introduced, and mortality is the forerunner of death. Christ's redeeming sacrifice ransomed men from the effects of Adam's fall in that mortality is replaced by immortality, or in other words in that the dead come forth in the resurrection. "For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator," Jacob taught, "there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall." (2 Ne. 9:6; Morm. 9:12-13.)

"Behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God," Amulek said, "and be judged according to their works. Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death." (Alma 11:41-42; 40:2-4.)

This doctrine of a universal resurrection was known and taught from the beginning. (Moses 1:39.) The choice of Christ in the councils of eternity to come down to earth as the Son of God and work out the infinite and eternal atonement was based on the foreknowledge of God -- knowledge which he also imparted to his spirit children -- that immortality was to be guaranteed and eternal life offered to all men. (Moses 4:1-4.) Immediately after the fall, angels came to Adam teaching that through the promised redemption of the Only Begotten all "might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe." (D. & C. 29:42- 50; Moses 5:6-15.)

Enoch saw the restoration of the gospel in our day and received from the Lord this promise: "And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth [meaning the Book of Mormon], to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men." (Moses 7:62.) Job (Job 19:25-27), David (Ps. 16:9- 11; 17:15), Daniel (Dan. 12:1-3), Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:1-14), and many of the ancient prophets bore testimony of the resurrection. Jehovah (who is Christ), speaking through Isaiah, said of the house of Israel: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." (Isa. 26:19.)

Christ was the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23), and because of his resurrection, "by the power of God," all men shall come forth from the grave. (Morm. 9:13.) The righteous dead who lived from the day of Adam to the time when Christ broke the bands of death "were with Christ in his resurrection." (D. & C. 133:54-55.) "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matt. 27:52-53; Hela. 14:25.) All who were with Christ in his resurrection, and all who have so far been resurrected, have come forth with celestial bodies and will have an inheritance in the celestial kingdom. (D. & C. 88:96-102.)

To those who lived before the resurrection of Christ, the day of his coming forth from the dead was known as the first resurrection. Abinadi and Alma, for instance, so considered it. (Mosiah 15:21-25; Alma 40.) To those who have lived since that day, the first resurrection is yet future and will take place at the time of the Second Coming. (D. & C. 88:96-102.) We have no knowledge that the resurrection is going on now or that any persons have been resurrected since the day in which Christ came forth excepting Peter, James, and Moroni, all of whom had special labors to perform in this day which necessitated tangible resurrected bodies.

Though all men are assured of a resurrection, all will not be resurrected at the same time, and there will be varying degrees of glory for immortal persons. All will come forth from the grave, "But every man in his own order" (1 Cor. 15:23), as Paul expresses it. Joseph Smith said: "In the resurrection, some are raised to be angels, others are raised to become gods." (Teachings, p. 312.)

Two great resurrections await the inhabitants of the earth: one is the first resurrection, the resurrection of life, the resurrection of the just; the other is the second resurrection, the resurrection of damnation, the resurrection of the unjust. (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20; D. & C. 76.) But even within these two separate resurrections, there is an order in which the dead will come forth. Those being resurrected with celestial bodies, whose destiny is to inherit a celestial kingdom, will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. Their graves shall be opened and they shall be caught up to meet the Lord at his Second Coming. They are Christ's, the firstfruits, and they shall descend with him to reign as kings and priests during the millennial era. (D. & C. 29:13; 43:18; 76:50-70; 88:97-98; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Rev. 20:3-7.)

"And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ's at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh." (D. & C. 88:99.) This is the afternoon of the first resurrection; it takes place after our Lord has ushered in the millennium. Those coming forth at that time do so with terrestrial bodies and are thus destined to inherit a terrestrial glory in eternity. (D. & C. 76:71-80.)

At the end of the millennium, the second resurrection begins. In the forepart of this resurrection of the unjust those destined to come forth will be "the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation; And these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth." (D. & C. 88:100-101.) These are the ones who have earned telestial bodies, who were wicked and carnal in mortality, and who have suffered the wrath of God in hell "until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work." (D. & C. 76:85.) Their final destiny is to inherit a telestial glory. (D. & C. 76:81-112.)

Finally, in the latter end of the resurrection of damnation, the sons of perdition, those who "remain filthy still" (D. & C. 88:102), shall come forth from their graves. (2 Ne. 9:14- 16.) "Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will. Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God's justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption." (Alma 12:17-18.)

Bodily perfection will come to all men as a free gift in the resurrection. But even though all persons are raised from mortality to immortality, from corruption to incorruption, so that disease and physical impairment are no longer found, this mere fact of resurrection does not give peace of mind, the knowledge of God, a hope of eternal life, or any of the great spiritual blessings which flow from gospel obedience. These blessings are not free gifts. Except for the free gift of immortality (which comes by grace alone and includes bodily or physical perfection), all rewards gained in the eternal worlds must be earned. That perfection sought by the saints is both temporal and spiritual and comes only as a result of full obedience.

Amulek taught: "The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil." (Alma 11:43-44.)

Alma spoke similarly: "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. ... And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God. But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup." (Alma 40:23-26.)

As seen from these scriptures, the resurrection is a restoration, both a restoration of body and spirit and a restoration to the individual of the same mental and spiritual acquirements and attitudes he had in this life. As Alma further expressed it, the resurrection or restoration will "bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish -- good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful. ... For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all." (Alma 41:13- 15.)

It was in accordance with this principle that the Prophet wrote by way of revelation: "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D. & C. 130:18-19.) Those who "are raised to become gods" (Teachings, p. 312) will progress until they receive "a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth," until they are "glorified in truth" and know "all things." (D. & C. 93:26-28.) The fulness of the Father which includes "all power both in heaven and on earth" (D. & C. 93:16-17) is not gained by exalted beings until after the resurrection. Just as the creative and redemptive powers of Christ extend to the earth and all things thereon, as also to the infinite expanse of worlds in immensity, so the power of the resurrection is universal in scope. Man, the earth, and all life thereon will come forth in the resurrection. And the resurrection applies to and is going on in other worlds and other galaxies.

Thus saith the Lord: "And the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand." (D. & C. 29:23-25.)

John the Revelator saw "the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state" (D. & C. 77:1), that is, in its resurrected state. "The earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law -- Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it." (D. & C. 88:25-26.) John also saw resurrected beasts in heaven, and the revelation specifically says they were "individual beasts ... in their destined order or sphere of creation, in the enjoyment of their eternal felicity." (D. & C. 77:3.) Speaking on this subject the Prophet said: "John saw the actual beast in heaven. ... John saw beings there of a thousand forms, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this -- strange beasts of which we have no conception: all might be seen in heaven. The grand secret was to show John what there was in heaven. John learned that God glorified himself by saving all that his hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and he will glorify himself with them.

"Says one, 'I cannot believe in the salvation of beasts.' Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God, and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them. The four beasts were four of the most noble animals that had filled the measure of their creation, and had been saved from other worlds, because they were perfect: they were like angels in their sphere. We are not told where they came from, and I do not know; but they were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God." (Teachings, pp. 291-292.)

No man can conceive of the glory that may be attained through the resurrection. God himself, the Father of us all, is a glorified, exalted, immortal, resurrected Man! (Teachings, pp. 312, 345-346; D. & C. 130:22.)

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel H. Ludlow, ed.

Resurrection is the reunion of the spirit with an immortal physical body. The body laid in the grave is mortal; the resurrected physical body is immortal. The whole of man, the united spirit and body, is defined in modern scripture as the "soul" of man. Resurrection from the dead constitutes the redemption of the soul (D&C 88:15-16).

Although the idea of resurrection is not extensively delineated in the Old Testament, there are some definite allusions to it (e.g., 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 14:14; 19:26; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2). And in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the prototype of all resurrections, is an essential and central message: "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25).

The evidence of Christ's resurrection is measurably strengthened for Latter-day Saints by other records of post- Resurrection visitations of the Christ (see Jesus Christ: Forty-day Ministry and Other Post-Resurrection Appearances). For example, in the 3 Nephi account in the Book of Mormon, an entire multitude saw, heard, and touched him as he appeared in transcendent resurrected glory. This is accepted by Latter-day Saints as an ancient sacred text. The tendency of some recent scholarship outside the Church to radically separate the "Jesus of history" and the "Christ of faith" and to ascribe the resurrection faith to later interpreters is challenged by these later documents and by modern revelation.

Ancient witnesses, including Paul, came to their assurance of the reality of the Resurrection by beholding the risen Christ. From like witnesses, Latter-day Saints accept the record that at the resurrection of Christ "the graves were opened," in both the Old World and the new, and "many bodies of the saints which slept arose" (Matt. 27:52; 3 Ne. 23:9-10). In the current dispensation, resurrected beings, including John the Baptist, Peter, James, and Moroni 2 appeared and ministered to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

In the theology of Judaism and some Christian denominations resurrection has often been spiritualized-that is, redefined as a symbol for immortality of some aspect of man such as the active intellect, or of the soul considered to be an immaterial entity. In contrast, scientific naturalism tends to reject both the concept of the soul and of bodily resurrection. Latter-day Saints share few of the assumptions that underlie these dogmas. In LDS understanding, the spirit of each individual is not immaterial, but consists of pure, refined matter: "It existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection, be again united with it" (TPJS, p. 207). Identity and personality persist with the spirit, and after the resurrection the spirit will dwell forever in a physical body.

Platonism and gnosticism hold that embodiment is imprisonment, descent, or association with what is intrinsically evil. In contrast, the scriptures teach that the physical body is a step upward in the progression and perfection of all. The body is sacred, a temple (1 Cor. 3:16; D&C 93:35). Redemption is not escape from the flesh but its dedication and transformation. Joseph Smith taught, "We came into this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom" (TPJS, p. 181). On the other hand, if defiled, distorted, and abused, the body may be an instrument of degradation, an enemy of genuine spirituality.

In contrast to the view that the subtle powers of intellect or soul must finally transcend the body or anything corporeal, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that all beings "who have tabernacles (bodies), have power over those who have not" (TPJS, p. 190; 2 Ne. 9:8). At minimum, this is taken to mean that intellectual and spiritual powers are enhanced by association with the flesh. It follows that a long absence of the spirit from the body in the realm of disembodied spirits awaiting resurrection will be viewed not as a beatific or blessed condition, but instead as a bondage (D&C 45:17; 138:50). Moreover, "spirit and element [the spirit body and the physical body], inseparably connected, [can] receive a fulness of joy. And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy" (D&C 93:33, 34).

In contrast to the view that the body when buried or cremated has no identifiable residue, Joseph Smith taught that "there is no fundamental principle belonging to a human system that ever goes into another in this world or the world to come" (HC 5:339). Chemical disintegration is not final destruction. The resurrected body is tangible, but when the flesh is quickened by the Spirit there will be "spirit in their [veins] and not blood" (WJS, p. 270; see also TPJS, p. 367).

Resurrection is as universal as death. All must die and all must be resurrected. It is a free gift to all men. It is not the result of the exercise of faith or accumulated good works. The Book of Mormon prophet Amulek declares, "Now this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous" (Alma 11:44; cf. TPJS, pp. 199-200, 294-297, 310-311, 319-321, 324-326).

Not all will be resurrected at the same moment, "but every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1 Cor. 15:23). "Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead," Alma writes, to stand embodied before God to be judged of their thoughts, words, and deeds (Alma 40:4).

"All men will come from the grave as they lie down, whether old or young" (TPJS, p. 199). And he who quickeneth all things shall "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Philip. 3:21). "The body will come forth as it is laid to rest, for there is no growth nor development in the grave. As it is laid down, so will it arise, and changes to perfection will come by the law of restitution. But the spirit will continue to expand and develop, and the body, after the resurrection will develop to the full stature of man" (Joseph F. Smith, IE 7 [June 1904]:623-24).

The resurrected body will be suited to the conditions and glory to which the person is assigned in the day of judgment. "Some dwell in higher glory than others" (TPJS, p. 367). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that "your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened" (D&C 88:28), and three glories are designated (D&C 76). Paul (1 Cor. 15:40) also mentioned three glories of resurrected bodies: one like the sun (celestial), another as the moon (terrestrial), and the third as the stars. In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the glory of the stars was identified as telestial (D&C 76). The lights of these glories differ, as do the sun, the moon, and the stars as perceived from earth. "So also is the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:40-42).

In a general sense, the Resurrection may be divided into the resurrection of the just, also called the first resurrection, and the resurrection of the unjust, or the last resurrection. The first resurrection commenced with the resurrection of Christ and with those who immediately thereafter came forth from their graves. In much larger numbers, it will precede the thousand-year millennial reign, inaugurated by the "second coming" of the Savior (D&C 45:44- 45; cf. 1 Thes. 4:16-17). At that time, some will be brought forth to meet him, as he descends in glory. This first resurrection will continue in proper order through the Millennium. The righteous who live on earth and die during the Millennium will experience immediate resurrection. Their transformation will take place in the "twinkling of an eye" (D&C 63:51). The first resurrection includes the celestial and terrestrial glories.

The final resurrection, or resurrection of the unjust, will occur at the end of the Millennium. In the words of the apocalypse, "the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Rev. 20:5). This last resurrection will include those destined for the telestial glory and perdition.

Of his visionary glimpses of the Resurrection, the Prophet Joseph Smith remarked, "The same glorious spirit gives them the likeness of glory and bloom; the old man with his silvery hairs will glory in bloom and beauty. No man can describe it to you- no man can write it" (TPJS, p. 368). Referring to the doctrine of the Resurrection as "principles of consolation," he pled, "Let these truths sink down in our hearts that, we may even here, begin to enjoy that which shall be in full hereafter." He added, "All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it" (TPJS, p. 296).

The hope of a glorious resurrection undergirds the radiance that characterized the faith of New Testament Saints as well as those who have since kept that faith alive in the world, including the Saints of the latter days

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