The Power and Significance of the Resurrection

Christ appearing to his apostles after his resurrection

The resurrection is central to the faith of all Christians. As Paul said to the Corinthians, 'if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain' (1 Cor. 15:13-14). Significantly, such Christian faith was not limited to the Old World. In the New World, Moroni wrote: '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' (Moroni 7:41).

To appreciate the scope and power of the resurrection, one must understand the scope and consequences of the fall of Adam. Adam's fall resulted in the physical and spiritual death of all mankind (Moses 4:25, 29). Physical death is the separation of man's eternal spirit from his physical body. Spiritual death is the separation of man from God. These two deaths are the universal consequences of Adam's transgression. They befall every one of the children of Adam -- every man, woman and child who enter into this world.

For all mankind to bear the burden of physical and spiritual death due to the transgression of Adam, however, would not be just. Justice requires that each receives the consequences of his own actions, not those of another (Alma 41:2-5). To address the injustice of all of us bearing the burden of our first father's transgression, it was necessary that the price of that transgression be paid in behalf of all us. It was necessary that the effects of spiritual and physical death that befall all mankind be overcome. The resurrection does just that. '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).

Resurrection reverses the effects of the fall by reuniting of the body and the spirit of man, never to be divided again, and the restoring of man to the presence of God. As Amulek taught concerning the resurrection: '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 . . .' (Alma 11:43). Only one had the power in himself to resurrect himself -- and that one was Jesus Christ. He effectuated the resurrection for Himself and all others of our Father's children following His own death and in so doing became the 'firstfruits' of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23).

That Jesus Christ did resurrect Himself is beyond doubt for those who accept the scriptural records of His life. Following his death and burial, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the sepulcher (John 20:11-18). He appeared to 'the other Mary,' Salome, Joanna, and others, as they returned from the sepulcher (Matt. 28:1-10). He appeared to Simon Peter alone on the day of the resurrection (see Luke 24:34; 1 Cor.15:5). He appeared to the two disciples (Cleopas and his companion) on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). He appeared to the ten disciples (Thomas being absent) and others 'with them' at Jerusalem (John 20:19-24). He later appeared to the disciples again (Thomas being present) at Jerusalem (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:33-40; John 20:26-28). He appeared to the disciples when fishing at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23). He appeared to the eleven, and above 500 brethren at once, at an appointed place in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6). He appeared to James the Lord’s brother (1 Cor. 15:7), to the apostles before the ascension 'till a cloud received him out of their sight' (Acts 1:4-10). Significantly, His appearances were not limited to Jerusalem. He appeared to the people of Bountiful in the Americas, allowing each one there to 'see with their eyes' and 'feel with their hands' and 'know of a surety' that He was the resurrected Christ (3 Ne. 11:15). And, in our day, He has appeared, with the Father, to the Prophet Joseph Smith near Palmyra, New York in the spring of 1820 (JS-H 1:17-18).

Significantly, Christ's resurrection was not limited to just Him. It unlocked the power to resurrect all the children of God. Because of Christ's resurrection, 'by the power of God,' all men shall come forth from the grave (Morm. 9:13). Indeed, Christ's resurrection unlocked the power to restore the entire creation of God. 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). Nothing is more absolutely universal than the resurrection. Truly did Paul write: 'As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive' (1 Cor. 15:22).

As universal in scope as the resurrection is, its application in the lives of individuals should not be misunderstood. While the resurrection of Christ overcomes the effects of Adam's transgression, it does not overcome the effects of our own transgressions. It restores everything, but only to its 'proper order' (Al. 41:4). When we come forth from the grave, it must be remembered that we come forth with the same spirit that we had prior to the resurrection. We are therefore 'raised to good, according to [our] desires of good' or 'to evil according to [our] desires of evil' (Al. 41:5). And in this spiritual state the resurrection returns us all to the presence of God, wherein no unclean thing can dwell (3 Ne. 27:19).

This universal fact -- that all men from the beginning to the end of time are returned to the presence of God in the same spiritual condition they possessed before the resurrection -- leads Jesus Christ and all of his servants to declare to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people the conditions upon which men may remain in the presence of God and dwell with Him forever. As Jesus taught the people of Bountiful prior to his departure: '[N]o unclean thing can enter into [God's] kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day' (3 Ne. 27:19-22).

May we cherish the gift of the resurrection that raises us all back to the presence of our Heavenly Father, as well as the gift of time to prepare to meet Him in a manner that will allow us to remain with Him forever.