Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I gave a talk last Sunday about the Power and Blessings of the Resurrection. I managed to over-prepare, and ended up blending three different talks last minute. Needless to say - my thoughts were somewhat garbled, and though I managed to explain one or two principles, I left a lot of ideas unmentioned.

 Before my talk, I asked a friend of mine if he'd come along. He told me he'd be in Sacramento all day, but asked if I'd type up my talk. So one of the three preparations was an attempt to type it up. It didn't work very well. My method of speaking doesn't jive well with scripted paragraphs as much as it does bullet points.

So to express a few things I missed from my talk, and to give my friend something typed, I figured I'd mention a few points about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ here. As blogs seem to never die - there are things that I purposely won't mention here, to protect their sacred nature. However, if you're well informed and manage to read this with the aide of the Holy Ghost, I'm sure you'll pick up a lot between the lines.

Easter is the time when we celebrate some magical rabbit by over-eating.  A truly American spin on a holiday.  But it's not about bunny rabbits or chocolate bars.  It's not even about those weird Peeps.  Easter is a celebration of life - new life.  Particularly the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection has all sorts of asterisks surrounding it... the timing of each resurrection, the several degrees of glory, the power and movement of the resurrected bodies, exactly what the ordinance involves... etc.  And while most of those thoughts can lead the scriptural scholar down some interesting roads - they're more footnotes than they are the main idea.  To me the essence of the resurrection is simply hope.

The prophet Mormon gave some specifics to what that hope entails (Moroni 7:41):
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
And that's precisely what the resurrection does.  But hope only means something when we know what it's leading us from.  So in order to understand the resurrection, and the hope we have through Jesus Christ's atonement, we must first learn of the Fall of Adam.

The Fall

Adam and Eve are often misunderstood.  They were innocent in the Garden of Eden.  They were married by God (Genesis 2:24):
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The irony of Adam and Eve in the garden is that they were unable to have children.  They were in limbo.  They walked and talked with God the Father, yet they knew He had a glorified body that was different than theirs.  They knew He was the father of their spirits, yet they didn't know how to have their own family.

The Garden of Eden was setup to jump-start mortality.  Two trees were placed before Adam and Eve - the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life.  One had sweet fruit, one had bitter.  If Adam and Eve never took of the forbidden fruit, they would have lived forever in the garden.  The prophet Lehi explained the state of them had they remained in the garden (2 Nephi 2:23):
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
And so the Father allowed them to be tempted so they could use their agency to progress.  It was a "one step backward, two steps forward" type of deal.  Adam and Eve needed to chose to enter the fallen world in order to progress - like an 18 year old who knows they need to leave their parent's house.  Going to college is like entering a fallen world - you live on Ramen noodles, have no money, are often depressed, and are scourged by mean professors... but surviving college is what qualifies you to be a respected professional.  So it was with Adam and Eve - they needed the lessons that they could only gain through mortality.  But God didn't kick them out of the house - He gave them a choice and He waited.

Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden - their bodies changed as they now had blood and would eventually die.  They entered a world with sorrow, guilt, pain, suffering, sin, murder, sickness, emotional heartache, and all the other stuff people complain about on their Facebook statuses.  They were now in a fallen world, and would die.  Before they left the garden, however, they were commanded to call upon God.  And Adam - not wanting to break any of God's laws - did exactly that.  Soon an angel showed up and retroactively taught Adam and Eve why they were kicked out of the garden, and how they could return to live with Heavenly Father (Moses 5:6-12).
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
Notice what happened... Adam was obedient.  He offered sacrifices.  He was then taught the gospel (good news - Christ's coming - v7-8), and then the Holy Ghost fell upon him.  This is similar to the Day of Pentecost where the remaining Apostles suddenly understood what the Savior had been teaching them, and what they were to do about it.  They went from toddlers in the gospel to powerful missionaries - almost in an instant due to the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Notice what Adam does... he prophesies of all the families of the earth - all of us.  So right then, early on in the days of mortality, we had a seer.  Adam was the first prophet.  He also knew the good in leaving the garden.  And notice the last part of verse 10 - "again in the flesh I shall see God".  That's a big deal - the "flesh" as we know it didn't happen until after Adam and Eve ate the fruit.  They had bodies in the Garden of Eden, but they weren't yet "mortal".  And so Adam learned that he would again be able to be with God, but this time he could have a body - and he could have knowledge.

Eve expands this thought by emphasizing that they "never should have had seed" if they had not eaten of the fruit.  So this is a family matter.  Adam and Eve had to leave the comfort of the garden in order to have us.  And you notice in the last verse, that they taught their children.

Though Adam and Eve didn't know all the ramifications of what would happen by partaking of the fruit, I'm glad they did.  And I'm glad for a wise Father in Heaven who setup the Garden of Eden for just that reason.

But we're still in this fallen world.  And unlike Adam and Eve - who were true and faithful in all things after they left the garden - some of us aren't.  Some of us are downright nasty.  What started out as a happy family that understood why they were being tested in a fallen world turned into a planet full of vanity, war, deceit, hate and apathy.  We've become cynical.  We live day by day and week by week wondering who will win American Idol and arguing politics.  We seldom ponder our state in this life or what the Father would have us learn.  We're down here just dinking off.

Consider what Enoch saw when he viewed the world from afar... (Moses 7:23-29, 31-32)
23 And after that Zion was taken up into heaven, Enoch beheld, and lo, all the nations of the earth were before him;
24 And there came generation upon generation; and Enoch was high and lifted up, even in the bosom of the Father, and of the Son of Man; and behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth.
25 And he saw angels descending out of heaven; and he heard aloud voice saying: Wo, wo be unto the inhabitants of the earth.
26 And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.
27 And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.
28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
Notice what's going on here... Enoch is in heaven looking at the earth - and he's with God.  He sees how much Satan has control of the people - the imagery of Satan looking up and laughing.  And while Satan's laughing, God is weeping.  Enoch goes on to ask how a being such as God could possible weep when he has so much power, notice the Father's reply in the last two verses.  It sums up the state of our fallen world.

The Resurrection of Christ

Remember what the Holy Ghost taught Adam?  It echoed the words of Jesus Christ "as thou hast fallen, thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will".  

And so Jesus Christ becomes the next piece of the puzzle.  He was prepared from before the foundation of the world to be the Redeemer.  The one who would be worthy to reverse all the effects of the fall.  Not just for Adam, but for "all mankind".  He suffered everything for everyone that the fall caused.  All the pain, discomfort, death, heartache... all of it.  Every time you stay up too late watching TV and see those old-people commercials with some cotton-topped man making a painful face about his back or feet, etc... Christ suffered all of those too.  That's what it means to be "the Christ" - it means He is the "anointed One".  He was anointed for just this task - to perform the Atonement, and to break the bonds of death through the Resurrection.  

Being resurrected means living again with our bodies and our spirits - never to be separated again.  To have a glorified body of "flesh and bones" - not "flesh and blood" - the blood is the corruptible element, an aspect of mortality only.  Through Christ's blood, we become incorruptible.  We're able to live with resurrected bodies forever.  The prophet Abinadi explained that's why we sometimes refer to Christ as the Father - because He is literally the one who gives life to our resurrected bodies.  "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." - 1 Corinthians 15:22.  So we have three fathers - Heavenly Father, the father of our spirits, our earthly fathers who we usually call "dad" or some derogative nickname, and Christ, the father of our resurrected bodies.  Notice the bodies we get from those who are Gods (Heavenly Father and Christ) are immortal.  The only one that runs out of time is our mortal body.

There's something about spirits and bodies that should be mentioned here.  Doctrine and Covenants 93:29-34 teaches us about joy and how our bodies and spirits play a role in a "fulness of joy":
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
So our bodies and our spirits have this need to be connected in order for us to max out on joy.  Noticed what happened to the people who had bodies, had died and were waiting for the resurrection to happen so they could get a body again.  D&C 138:49-52.
49 All these and many more, even the prophets who dwelt among the Nephites and testified of the coming of the Son of God, mingled in the vast assembly and waited for their deliverance,
50 For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.
51 These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life,
52 And continue thenceforth their labor as had been promised by the Lord, and be partakers of all blessings which were held in reserve for them that love him.
Notice verse 50.  Strange, is it?  They looked upon their long absence of bodies as "bondage".  It should be noted that these were the spirits of the faithful.  Those who knew they'd be receiving the blessings of the Atonement, and that Christ would replace their individual sins and shortcoming with His merit.  Though they were faithful, they still had to wait until Christ was resurrected to get their own resurrected bodies.

But the resurrection means more than getting a better body.  If Christ was truly resurrected, then He was actually "the Christ" - in other words, if the Resurrection is real, then the Atonement is too.  Christ's divinity and role are proved by the resurrection.  A lot of things changed to help us remember the resurrection with more than just bunnies and chocolate.  The Lord's day (the day He rose) became the Sabbath, animal sacrifices were replaced with the Sacrament, and work for the dead took a shot of adrenaline - meaning the spirit of Elijah was come and temple work could now be done for our ancestors.  The resurrection was the exclamation point at the end of a successful mission of the Savior, and that mission and resurrection changed everything. 

So here's the followup question - how do you prove the resurrection?  The answer is through the witnesses.  Alive today, there are 15 people who are referred to as "Special Witnesses of Christ".  They are called to testify to the world that Christ lives - that He continues to govern His church and to call prophets.  The Bible has two testaments - the Old and New Testament - which explain the divinity and resurrection of Christ.  The Book of Mormon adds a third, called "Another Testament of Jesus Christ".  Modern prophets have declared that Christ lives, D&C 76:22-24...
22 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!
23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
But they're not the only ones who have seen the living Christ.  Here's a brief collection of witnesses from the New Testament...
  1. Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9, John 20:11-17)
  2. The Women (Matthew 28:9)
  3. Peter (Luke 24:34)
  4. Cleopas and Luke on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-18)
  5. Ten Apostles on resurrection day (Luke 24:36-40, John 20:19-20)
  6. The Eleven with Thomas (John 20: 26-29)
  7. Seven Apostles at Galilee (John 21:1-14)
  8. The Eleven in Galilee (Matthew 28:16)
  9. Five Hundred Brethren in Galilee (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  10. James, the brother of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  11. The Eleven at the Ascension (Luke 24:50-51)
The Book of Mormon tells of Christ's visit to the Nephites where ~2,500 saw the resurrected Christ bless children (3 Nephi 17:25)...
25 And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children.
And some from more modern times (Verse by Verse, the Four Gospels, p. 703)...
  1. Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith History 1:14-20
  2. Martin Harris (1827), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith
  3. Oliver Cowdery (1829), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith
  4. Newel Knight (1830), History of the Church 1:85
  5. Lyman Wight (1831), Church History in the Fulness of Times, 100
  6. Orson F. Whitney (1876), Best Loved Stories of the LDS People, 216-17
  7. Heber J. Grant (1883), Best Loved Stories of the LDS People, 261
  8. John Taylor (before 1888), Ensign, May 1978, 48
  9. Lorenzo Snow (1898), Best Loved Stories of the LDS People, 239-40
  10. George Q. Cannon (before 1902), Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, 184
  11. George F. Richards (1906), Tate, LeGrand Richards: Beloved Apostle, 47
  12. Joseph F. Smith (1918), D&C 138:18
  13. David O. McKay (1921), McKay, Cherished Experiences, 102
  14. LeGrand Richards (1926), Tate, LeGrand Richards: Beloved Apostle, 137
  15. David B. Haight (1989), Ensign, November 1989, 60
I know that Christ lives.  I know that He embraced us all through the Atonement - that He offers to put Himself in my place for all my sins, and to replace my record with His merit.  I know that He's not sitting in a hammock somewhere in the heavens, but that he's busy guiding His restored church that He may have a kingdom in place when He returns to rule and reign during the millennium.

It's such a refreshing thought to know that our families don't have to end with a boorish funeral service, but that we can be together forever if we are sealed in the Lord's temples.  Working for the Hurricane Cemetery, I have seen the difference of those who know what will happen after this life compared to those who are filled with fear and doubt as they see a loved one lowered into the ground.

The resurrection gives us hope to be raised unto life eternal and to rule with our Father in Heaven - for if we're faithful in Christ, we become joint-heirs with Him and enjoy all that the Father has.  Knowing this makes the next life exciting, gives this live meaning and gives us peace as we struggle along.

1 comment:

Leah Wilson said...

I love this idea of swapping records with Christ. You're so smart, E. And well cited. Thanks for sharing it all.