“Easter Thoughts,” Ensign, May 1975, 82
My beloved brethren and sisters everywhere, I invite you to implore the Lord in our behalf while I talk to you for a few moments, for the message I have is important to every living soul in the earth.
During the current Easter season much has been said about the resurrection. While it is impossible to grasp the full significance of resurrection, its reality should never be far from our thoughts.
Paul, by implication, identified it as a central theme of the gospel of Jesus Christ when to the Corinthians he wrote:
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
“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 Cor. 15:19–22.)
Let us begin our consideration of this great exposition with the phrase “since by man came death.”
“Since by man. …” What is man? The question has been repeated through the ages.
Job in his torment cried,
“What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
“And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?” (Job 7:17–18.)
And again, “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14.)
The psalmist echoed, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Ps. 8:4–5.)
The scriptural answer to this question comes through firm and clear. Man is a spirit child of God, clothed in a mortal tabernacle of flesh and bones. This is revealed in the record of his creation. The book of Genesis teaches that there was a spiritual creation of the earth and everything that was to be placed upon it, including man, whose spirit God created “in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:27.)
“And [not only man but] every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
“But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
“And the Lord … formed man [that is, his physical body out] of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [that was his spirit]; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:5–8.)
This accords with modern scripture, which affirms that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15.)
“… Since by man came death.” What is death? It is the separation of the body and the spirit.
Adam and Eve, when created as living souls, were endowed with the faculty to live forever. They were sinless, pure and holy, worthy to enjoy—and they did enjoy—the society of God their Father. As a matter of fact, he visited them in the Garden of Eden and conversed with and instructed them. This instruction they needed because in their transition from spirits to souls the memories of their past experiences were blotted out.
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,” said the Lord to Adam in the garden.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:16–17.)
Time will not permit a delineation of the details, but the crucial fact is that Adam and Eve, contrary to the instructions, did eat of the forbidden fruit. In doing so, they took into their bodies food which worked in them such a change that in due time their bodies and their spirits separated; that is to say, their souls died.
This penalty for breaking the commandment passed by inheritance to all of Adam’s posterity. Thus, “by man came death.”
When death comes, as it does to all men, the body returns to the earth and the spirit returns to the spirit world.
Separated from its body by death, the spirit is in a precarious predicament, which the prophet Jacob thus describes:
“If the flesh should rise no more, our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
“And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 9:8–9.)
Redemption from death—that is resurrection—is, therefore, imperative to man’s future happiness.
“Spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
“And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.” (D&C 93:33–34.)
Now God, being omniscient, foresaw this predicament. He knew that death would pass upon all men because of Adam’s partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He also knew that for men to suffer forever by reason of death, which they were not responsible for, would be unjust. He, therefore, provided for the redemption of the soul through Christ’s death and resurrection.
On this point, he said in a modern revelation: “Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection of the dead.
“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.
“And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
“And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things” (D&C 88:14–17), that is, through Christ.
Now who is Jesus Christ, and how could he bring about the resurrection when no other man nor all men put together could do so? The scriptures respond to these questions. They make it clear that the spirit person Jesus Christ—as are the spirits of all men—is the Son of God, our Eternal Father. In this respect he is like all other men. He differs from all other men, however, by reason of the fact that men’s bodies are begotten of mortal men and are, therefore, subject to death, being descendants and inheritors from Adam, while Christ’s physical body was begotten of God, our Heavenly Father—an immortal being not subject to death. Christ, therefore, inherited from his Father the faculty to live on indefinitely. He had power over life and death, as witness his own declaration to the Pharisees:
“The good shepherd,” he said, “giveth his life for the sheep. …
“I am the good shepherd, …
“… and I lay down my life for the sheep. …
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
“No man taketh it from me, … I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:11, 14–15, 17–18.)
Since man—being subject to death—could not raise his body from the grave, Jesus came to earth and voluntarily gave his life to atone for the fall of Adam, thereby implementing the power of resurrection.
The first evidence of his victory over the grave was, of course, his own resurrection, concerning the reality of which there is much evidence. He was both seen and heard by Mary. (See John 20:11–17.) He met the women on their way to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. To them he spoke. “And they came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him.” (See Matt. 28:9–10.) He walked and conversed with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. (See Luke 24:13–16, 28–32.) He appeared to his apostles at least twice, once when Thomas was absent and again a week later when he was present. He talked to them, showed them his hands and feet. At his request, “they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
He hosted the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21:1–22.) On one occasion, he was seen by more than 500 people at once. (1 Cor. 15:6.) “He was seen of Cephas” (1 Cor. 15:5), of James (1 Cor. 15:7), and of Paul (1 Cor. 15:8). On the Galilean mountain, he commissioned the “eleven” to “teach all nations.” (See Matt. 28:16–20.)
Finally, “he led them out as far as … Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and … while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50–51.)
Following his postresurrection ministry in the land of Jerusalem, he visited and administered among the Nephites in America.
Marvelous and inspiring as is the record of the resurrection of Jesus, of equal significance is the assurance that the power of resurrection, which he implemented, was to be and is universal. Such is the promise.
And Matthew reports that “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.)
Jesus himself, during his mortal ministry, had said:
“The hour is coming, in the which all who are in their graves shall hear [my] voice,
“And shall come forth; they who have done good, in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust.” (JST, John 5:28–29.)
During his postresurrection ministry in America, he emphasized this vital truth of the universal resurrection by directing his Nephite disciples to insert in their records, which they had failed to do, Samuel’s prophecy concerning the resurrection of others and its fulfillment. The omitted statement to which he referred was that one of the signs to be given to the Nephites of his crucifixion was that “many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many.” (Hel. 14:25.)
Now his Nephite disciples said: “Yea, Lord, Samuel did [so] prophesy … to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.” (3 Ne. 23:10.)
John the Revelator concludes the account of his vision of the resurrection, to occur at the beginning of the Millennium—which is not far ahead now—by saying:
“And they lived [those who came forth in the resurrection preceding the Millennium—they lived] and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” (Rev. 20:4–5.)
At which time he added:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; …
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.” (Rev. 20:12–13.)
Amulek, speaking to Zeezrom, said:
“The death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, …
“This [resurrection] shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous.” (Alma 11:42–44.)
In this manner will be fulfilled Paul’s declaration:
“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.
“But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1 Cor. 15:21–23.)
Man’s soul is thus assured of immortality. Christ has completed the first part of his “work and … glory [which he declared to Moses was]—to bring to pass the immortality and [the] eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.)
Great is the debt we owe to our Redeemer for our resurrection. But this is not the final goal. Attaining to immortality is a prerequisite to, but it is not necessarily the same as attaining eternal life. Immortality denotes length of life—deathless. Eternal life denotes quality of life—the quality of life God enjoys.
There are three kingdoms of differing degrees of glory in the world to come. The telestial—which is the lowest; the terrestrial—the middle; and the celestial—the glory enjoyed by Deity. Each kingdom of glory is governed by law.
Men will be judged in the spirit world and rewarded according to their works. In the resurrection, their bodies will be quickened by the glory of the kingdom, the laws which they have obeyed during this temporal, mortal life. (See D&C 88:17–32.)
The gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed to and taught by the prophets from Adam to the meridian of time, as taught and demonstrated by Jesus during his mortal ministry, and as restored in this the dispensation of the fulness of times, which gospel is today being authoritatively taught and administered throughout the world by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the celestial law as it applies to men, human souls in mortality.
Obedience to this law is a prerequisite to resurrection with a celestial body. Great will be the glory of those who attain it, and sad indeed will be those who do not attain it. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in remarks at a funeral, said that “the disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection would be indescribably dreadful.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6:51.)
Many of these laws have been presented and discussed at this conference and more will be. May we hearken to and obey them.
In conclusion now, I bear my personal witness to the truth of these things which I have uttered. I know by the spirit of the Holy Ghost that they are true. Jesus lives; he is the Son of God. He came to earth as the Only Begotten of the Father. He conquered death, raised his own body from the grave, and implemented the power of resurrection for all men.
I know that through his suffering in Gethsemane and during his crucifixion he brought about the means by which, through repentance and obedience to the laws of his gospel, we may be raised not only to immortality but also to eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God. To this I bear solemn witness in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.