Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Latter-day Saint View of the Resurrection©

Danel W. Bachman

[On Easter Sunday, 27 March 2016, my wife and I were invited to give Easter sermons in our sacrament meeting.  We were given twenty-five minutes.  She decided she wanted 10.  Below is the fifteen minute sermon which I gave.]

Good morning brothers and sisters. On this Easter Sunday I come in the attitude of celebration and joy. However, the Sunday morning following the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ may have been a nice spring day in the Holy Land, but for the fledgling Church everything was dark. Though Jesus repeatedly told his little flock and their leaders that he would rise again after he was killed, that idea was so unique that they could not grasp it. Discouragement and gloom settled over the Christian community in Jerusalem. For the disciples it must have seemed that everything ended in tragedy. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus encountered the resurrected Jesus, but did not recognize him. He asked them “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another , as ye walk, and are sad.” They explained to the stranger about the crucifixion of Christ and one said, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel....”(1) The clear implication is that their trust was misplaced and their hopes dashed. Death was the only reality these people knew and it was grim. For the first four thousand years of earth’s history, every man, woman, child, animal and plant that died remained dead. Nobody could conceive of the physical body coming back to life again

Witnesses Ancient and Modern

Not surprisingly then, even with the early witnesses it was difficult to believe.  We all know about “doubting” Thomas. But we also have in the New Testament thirteen different verses, a few collected from each of the four Gospels, which speak about the doubt of the other disciples.(2) For example, even after Jesus visited them several times in Jerusalem, when the Twelve gathered in Galilee as instructed, Matthew 28:17 reports that when the eleven saw Jesus on the mountain in Galilee: “they worshipped him: but some doubted.” The doubt was serious enough that Mark and Luke record instances where Jesus upbraided them for their disbelief. Mark 16:14 says that after he appeared  unto  the eleven as they sat at meat he, “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”

Nevertheless, there were eventually many witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection.  One well regarded minister observed that Jesus’ “resurrection was not only the greatest and most important of his miracles, but the most abundantly and variously attested.”(3) If we read the four gospels carefully we discover that there is no detailed description of the Resurrection. Rather the records are given over to personal accounts of eye witnesses of his appearances following the resurrection.

Those appearances changed the primitive Church. They put fire in the bones of the early leaders. The primary record which we have of their early preaching is the book of Acts and it reveals something very interesting. The earliest sermons of the apostles recounted therein were almost entirely concerned with Christ’s resurrection. 

But these accounts have been challenged.With the Restoration of the Gospel, however, come new and contemporary witnesses. After the “First Vision” Joseph Smith saw Jesus a number of other times. One of the most powerful is the oft repeated statement in D&C 76 which my wife has already read to you. I would add that this account was written together with Sidney Rigdon, his companion witness.  Mormonism, as far as I know, stands unique with the New Testament and Book of Mormon, where there were often one or more witnesses to Joseph Smith’s visions. We can multiply such testimonies in this dispensation. Here are two which are representative of a 54-page collection I have compiled during my life time:

In 1835, young elder Wilford Woodruff then on a mission in Tennessee was visited by an angel and shown the resurrection in vision. He did not see the First Resurrection take place, but he saw those who were in that resurrection and they were all clothed in white robes. The second resurrection, however was different.  He said, 
Vast fields of graves were before me, and the Spirit of God rested upon the earth like a shower of gentle rain, and when that fell upon the graves they were opened, and an immense host of human beings came forth. They were just as diversified in their dress as we are here, or as they were laid down. This personage taught me with regard to these things.”(4)  
He concluded: “What does this mean? It was a testimony of the resurrection of the dead. I had a testimony. I believe in the resurrection of the dead, and I know it is a true principle.”(5)

In 1980, Elder Ezra Taft Benson said to the youth of the Church: “As one of those called as special witnesses, I add my testimony to those of fellow Apostles: He lives! He lives with resurrected body. There is no truth or fact of which I am more assured, or know better by personal experience, than the truth of the literal resurrection of our Lord.”(6)

Each of us must decide for ourselves to accept or reject the evidence these ancient and modern testimonies provide.(7) Faith is always a choice–because in mortality the evidence never has and never will overwhelm man’s reason and force him to believe.(8) Only at judgment will every knee bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ.

Power of the Resurrection
The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob and the Apostle Paul both speak of the “power of the resurrection.”(9) What is that power? A detailed study of this phrase would produce many different and important ideas, but the most significant relationship of the” power of the resurrection” is to the Atonement. The resurrection derives its power from the Atonement.(10) Moreover, the Resurrection is one of the crowning results of, primary witness to, and evidence for the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Resurrection confirms, ratifies, and seals the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

When you think about it, resurrection and procreation are companion processes.  They are similar in that they unite the spirit and the body to create a soul.(11) The first is temporary, the second is eternal. In procreation a physical body is created and prepared for habitation by the spirit.(12) Death is the separation of those two. The Atonement is the power of the resurrection which stands in opposition to the power of death.(13) The scriptures speak of the “redemption of the soul.”(14) The redemption of the soul is the resurrection. The spirit and body are reunited through the power of resurrection, “never to be divided,” again. They are “homogenized” if you will.(15) This redemption of the soul, the scriptures tell us, makes it possible to have a fulness of joy.(16)

Our Article of Faith number 2 tells us that we are not punished for Adam’s transgression. Yet, as descendants of Adam and Eve, we suffer it’s two major effects: physical and spiritual death. Thankfully, the resurrection reverses all the effects of the Fall. It overcomes physical death, but it also overcomes the first spiritual death which we experienced when we came out of the presence of God when were born into morality. Samuel the Lamanite taught that Christ died,
To bring to pass the resurrection of the dead ...  and redeemeth all mankind from the first death–that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.  But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.(17)
All mankind will be brought back into the presence of the Lord to be judged.  But why do we need our body in order to be judged? The answer is not well understood by us as a people, and it is almost never taught to our youth. The fact is that our body is not ours! It belongs to God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.(18)
Our bodies are on loan, which means nothing will be ours permanently until after the resurrection. It means our bodies are a “stewardship” and the owner [God] will hold the steward accountable for what he does with and to the body. This doctrine must be so to make the judgment just. If our bodies are ours, we could argue that we can do with them what we please and it is nobody’s business including God.  This is a popular belief in the world today, even among some Latter-day Saints.  However, if it is true that our bodies are his he can and does give us instructions for its care and the proper use of its powers. The divine laws of the Word of Wisdom and of chastity are clear examples of this doctrine. I testify that our bodies are a stewardship for which we will one day render an account to God.

An interesting corollary to this idea is that nobody can do anything permanent to your body but you. The foibles of genetics and nature,  or  accidents, or intentional harm and disfigurement may appear to permanently mar, impair, or disable the body, but those things are only temporary. They will be overcome in the resurrection. We all enjoy and find hope in this wonderful statement from Alma: [He uses the word “soul” here as a synonym for the spirit.]
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.(19)
However, the perfection of the physical body in the resurrection may not be absolute for some, nor does it imply the perfection of the soul for all. Joseph Smith also saw the resurrection in vision. He left this wonderful and thought-provoking summary: “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.”(20) Why did he add the provision, “provided you continue faithful”? For one, later revelations to him concerning the sequence of the resurrection explain, much as did Paul, that resurrected bodies will come forth with a certain degree of divine glory. One of the powers of the resurrection will be to add glory upon the physical body. But the glory given to the body will depend upon the law one chooses to live while in mortality. If we live a telestial law, our body will radiate a telestial glory, akin to the light of the stars. Those who live a terrestrial law will have glory like the light of the moon, and those who live the celestial law–the fulness of the law of the Gospel–will have bodies quickened by celestial glory which is akin to the light of the sun.(21) There will be another limitation to some resurrected bodies. Those who are not exalted in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom will remain “separate and single,” that is they will not be married for eternity and thus will not be privileged to exercise their procreative powers in eternity.(22) So, we see the necessity of the proper care and use of our body in order to enjoy the full blessings of the resurrection.

In conclusion, I love this quotation from Truman Madsen. He said the resurrection 
Clearly, ... is the principle presupposed in all other [gospel] principles. And it is the ordinance foreshadowed in all other [gospel] ordinances, each a stage of progressive birth and higher nourishment, each the symbol and conferral of vitalizing powers through the fundamental elements of His ...  infusing life, light, and spirit.... (23)
The resurrection is one of the greatest evidences of God’s love for we his children. The resurrection is the “sign of Jonas” given to the Jews as the ultimate seal of the legitimacy and truth of his mission and message. The resurrection was to give hope to a fallen and troubled and death-filled world. And ultimately it was intended to bring his children a “fulness of joy.” I rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the hope it gives of our personal resurrection. I celebrate these things on this sacred and holy day, and testify of their truthfulness in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.   Lk. 24: 17, 21.
2.   Mt. 28:17
    Mk. 16:11, 13, 14
    Lk. 24:11, 25,
    Jn. 20:8, 25, 27, 29, 30-31
3. Charles Petit McIlvaine, “The Resurrection of Christ,” in William M. Smith, ed., Great Sermons on the Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. 1-Volume Edition.  (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 3: 20. 
4. Wilford Woodruff, discourse at the Weber Stake Conference, Ogden, Utah, 19 October 1896, Deseret Weekly, 7 November 1896, pp. 642-43.
5.   Wilford Woodruff, JD 22:332-33, discourse of 8 October 1881.
6.   Ezra Taft Benson, "Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ," New Era 10 (December 1980), p. 48, emphasis added.
7. On the importance of testimony as evidence, see: Romans 10:13-17; Acts 10:34-43; Moroni 7:29-32.
8.   Ether 12:6.    
9.   2 Ne. 9:6, 12; Phil. 3:10.  Mormon also uses the same phrase in  Moroni 7:41.
10.  Regarding the power of the atonement being the power of resurrection Jacob taught: “Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God.” (Jac. 6:9) By speaking of both the power of redemption and resurrection, this context seems to make it clear that the power spoken of is the Atonement, which is “in” Christ.  The redemption was possible as a result of the atonement.  For Jacob the resurrection came by the same power.
11.   D&C 88:15.
12.   D&C 49:15-17.
13. 2 Ne. 9:6; Jn. 10:18; Ps. 49:15; Heb. 2:14.
14.   D&C 88:16, 26, Al. 41:2, 12-13.
15.   Al. 11:45; D&C 138:17.
16.   D&C 93:33. 
17.   Helaman 14:15-17.  See also Alma 42:23 among others in the Book of Mormon.
18.   1 Cor. 6:19-20.
19.   Alma 40:23.  See also D&C 138:17.
20. Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 296.
21.   D&C 88:18-31.
22. See D&C 131:1-4 and Joseph’s commentary thereon in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), pp. 300-301.  

Orson Pratt held the view that the single in the hereafter were limited in their ability to procreate as God’s way of interdicting production of additional disobedient children.  He said:
Could wicked and malicious beings, who have eradicated every feeling of love from their bosoms, be permitted to propagate their species, the offspring would partake of all the evil, wicked, and malicious nature of their parents.  It is for this reason that God will not permit the fallen angels to multiply; it is for this reason that God has ordained marriages for the righteous only; it is for this reason that God will put a final stop to the multiplication of the wicked after this life: it is for this reason that none but those who have kept the celestial law will be permitted to multiply after the resurrection...for they alone are prepared to beget and bring forth such offspring.”  Orson Pratt, The Seer, pp. 156-57. 
23. Truman G. Madsen, “Of the Garden Tomb,” New Era (April 1971): 6.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I, too, got the opportunity to speak on the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I focused as you did on the road the Emmaeus and the two disciples walking with the Living Lord but not recognizing him. I know that I feel I'm often on my own little road to Emmaeus. Sometimes I fail to recognize the Lord but often able to look back and see him.

    I also referenced this quote from President Bensoon:
    The greatest events of history are those that affect the greatest number for the longest periods. By this standard, no event could be more important to individuals or nations than the resurrection of the Master. The eventual resurrection of every soul who has lived and died on earth is a scriptural certainty, and surely there is no event for which one should make more careful preparation. A glorious resurrection should be the goal of every man and woman, for it is a reality. 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.)

    I know that it is through faith and covenant obedience that our resurrection can and will be glorious!