Mormon Beliefs: Resurrection
According to the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormons), the term resurrection means the literal reuniting of the spirit with the physical body after death. After resurrection, the spirit and body will be united eternally and perfectly. All people who have ever lived on the earth, do now live, or will live, will become immortal through the resurrection. Jesus Christ's resurrection overcame death for all:
- But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
- For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
- For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).
Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet, said the following:
- 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 11:44)
Former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said the following about the miracle of Christ's resurrection:
- Here was the greatest miracle of human history. Earlier He had told them, 'I am the resurrection, and the life' (John 11:25). But they had not understood. Now they knew. He had died in misery and pain and loneliness. Now, on the third day, He arose in power and beauty and life, the firstfruits of all who slept, the assurance for men of all ages that 'as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive' (1 Corinthians 15:22).
- On Calvary He was the dying Jesus. From the tomb He emerged the Living Christ. The cross had been the bitter fruit of Judas's betrayal, the summary of Peter's denial. The empty tomb now became the testimony of His divinity, the assurance of eternal life, the answer to Job's unanswered question: 'If a man die, shall he live again?' (Job 14:14) ("The Symbol of Our Faith," Ensign, Apr. 2005, 4–5)
Jesus Christ was the first person who was resurrected. The New Testament provides much evidence that this is true. When Christ was resurrected, many others who were righteous were also resurrected (See 1 Corinthians 15:22–23).
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ believe, therefore, in a literal, physical resurrection where the resurrected will have tangible bodies of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ's resurrection is the perfect example of this. The apostles record that he ate and had a body of flesh and bones (see Luke 24:36–43). When Jesus appeared to the ancient inhabitants in America, he likewise showed them that he had a perfect, physical form (See 3 Nephi 11). Latter-day Saints teach that resurrected bodies are not susceptible to disease or pain. The Book of Mormon declares that "All things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame"(Alma 40:23). People will have the same knowledge that they gained in this life, and will also have some of the same desires (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19). We will be able to continue learning after this life as well.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the body is a holy thing; Paul, in fact, compared it to a temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). The body is not denigrated in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ but is accorded honor as members of the Church of Jesus Christ teach that God himself has a perfect, resurrected body, as does Jesus. The body should therefore be treated with honor and never abused. Joseph Smith taught that one of the purposes of life is to obtain "a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 181). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the dead dwelling in the Spirit World, who have not yet been resurrected, view separation from the body as a type of bondage (Section 138:50). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ believe that only with a body can a person obtain a fulness of joy:
- For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
- And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 93:33–34)
- Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 138:17)
- And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one; (3 Nephi 28:10)
The First Resurrection
The "First Resurrection" occured when Christ was resurrected from the dead. The spirits of the righteous who died before Christ were joined with their risen bodies and resurrected:
- And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
- . . . it meaneth the reuniting of the soul with the body, of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ. (Alma 40:16,18)
There will be another resurrection, often called the "First Resurrection." It will occur at the Second Coming of Christ. It is called the First Resurrection, because there will be later resurrections of the unjust:
- And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
- They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
- That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
- And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. (Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–53)
Resurrection Compared to Being Raised from the Dead
Resurrection should not be confused with being raised from the dead. For example, John tells the story of a man named Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who had been dead four days. The Savior commanded his dead body to come forth from the tomb it was buried in, which Lazarus did (John 11).
Another example of being raised from the dead comes from Lehi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman. Lehi had been stoned and died, but the Book of Mormon then tells us that Nephi raised him from the dead (3 Nephi 7:19).
In both of these instances the individual was brought back to life before the Savior worked out the atonement and was resurrected. Yet we are plainly told that Christ would be the first one to be resurrected. This exemplifies the difference between being resurrected with an immortal body of flesh and bone, never to have the spirit and the body separated again, and being raised from the dead. Those who had only been raised from the dead retained their imperfect mortal body of flesh and blood.
- Additional examples of raising the dead before the resurrection of the Saviour include raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Matthew 9:18–33; Mark 5:22–24, 35–43) and the prophet Elijah raising the boy from the dead (2 Kings 4:32–37).