For many years I thought of the resurrection as being something of an add-on to the Atoning sacrifice of Christ. It wasn’t until recently I realized how completely necessary it is to the completion of the whole plan of salvation. The resurrection turns the key and enables the most important parts of the plan of salvation.
When were we first promised a resurrection?
The answer to this may surprise some people. We were first guaranteed a resurrection in our first estate, the premortal world. The benefits of a resurrected body is the reward for having kept our first estate. Let’s look at the promise made to us as premortal spirits. It is found in the book of Abraham 3:22-26. Read the first four verses. These are the background verses to give you context. But I have bolded the fifth verse, because this is the one I want to talk about.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
Verse 26 is one sentence long, but with three separate subjects. The first part promises that those who “keep their first estate shall be added upon.” This means that those who successfully navigate the requirements of the premortal sphere will receive more than what they currently have. And what is that “more”? It is to have an immortal body, similar to what our heavenly parents have. In other words, we were promised a resurrected body. To get that body we first must have a physical body, which means those who kept their first estate earned the right to come to earth to get their physical body that would someday be resurrected so they could be “added upon.” The mere fact of receiving a resurrected body means there will be glory given to that person. How much glory is a topic for another discussion, but all resurrected bodies are glorified by definition.
This means that every soul to ever come to earth, past, present, or future has kept their first estate and earned this promise from our Father in Heaven that they will receive a glorified body in the future. This requires a resurrection of the mortal body. There is no other way to obtain a resurrected body. By definition, a resurrection is the reunification of a deceased mortal body with the spirit that inhabited that body in mortality. Resurrection is the process of eternally welding the spirit with the body, which infuses that body with glory, or increased physical and spiritual capacity. The nature of that welding, the degree to which the resurrected body can be endowed with additional glory, depends on the purity of the spirit being resurrected.
The second part of the sentence in verse 26 refers to those who didn’t keep their first estate, which is Satan and his followers. They will never be resurrected. Why? Because they never will have a mortal body to be reunited to. Part of their punishment for their rebellion is to witness all of us get what we all so earnestly wanted, a body. But they can only taste what it is like to have a body if they possess a body of someone who did come to earth. This just fuels their hatred of us. A body, imperfect though it is, is still a big step forward compared to a spirit body.
The third part of the sentence is the promise to those who keep not only their first estate, but their second estate (mortality) as well. Those who keep all the covenants available to those who come to their second estate will “have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” These are they who will be resurrected and exalted, to live with God and Christ in the eternities.
So, to recap the important point here – the resurrection was promised to those who kept their first estate. It is what enables the premortal spirits to get a body that will be resurrected and endowed with power and glory, after the manner of our heavenly parents. The amount of power and glory is the only thing in question. This means that I can go through life as the most vile of sinners, but my reward is guaranteed because I kept my first estate. This is what a large part of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice paid for. He paid for the ability of every man and woman who sins in mortality to be able to be forgiven so they can receive their eternal reward for keeping their first estate. They will have to pay for what they can of their sins, but since none of us can pay for all of our sins, especially the eternal aspect of our sins, Jesus paid that price for us. He made it possible for even the worst of the worst in humanity to be forgiven and glorified at the resurrection. This was the promise made to all of us at the great Council in heaven. This was part of what Jesus accepted when he took on the role of Redeemer.
Evidently, our Father promised the Savior that the greatest of the spirits to come to earth would be Christ’s companions and loved ones for eternity. Jesus often refers to them as those whom the Father has given him, with the promise that none of them will be lost. This is part of his (Christ’s) inheritance for being the Savior. In Doctrine and Covenants 50:41-42 we read the following. This is just one of several places in the scriptures where the Lord refers to those whom God has given him to be with in the eternities.
41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;
42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.
The resurrection and the preaching to the dead
It is the resurrection that makes possible the preaching of the gospel to the spirits in the spirit world. Without the resurrection preaching to them would be a pointless endeavor, since they would never again receive a body. Once we died we would remain forever cut off from God. The only thing that makes it possible for us to return to Him is the promise of receiving back the bodies we lay in the ground upon our death. And the Savior makes that possible.
1 Peter 4:6 was a very difficult scripture for me to understand as a missionary. Maybe I’m just slow (no comments please) but I finally see what it means.
6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Because of Christ’s resurrection there is a point and a reason to preach the gospel to those who are in the spirit world. Since everyone has to have the gospel preached to them, and everyone must accept the covenants offered by our Father in order to return to live with Him, there is only one path back home. That path is to hear, accept, and live by the Holy Spirit so we can be free from our sins. The dead can be preached to, but those in mortality have to perform those ordinances required for the dead’s salvation. By preaching the gospel to them, and giving them the opportunity to accept those ordinances performed by those living in mortality, those in the spirit world are able to be judged on an equal footing with those who are still in mortality (the living), while living by the Spirit in the spirit world. This system allows all of God’s children, whether on this side of the veil or the other side of the veil to be treated equally, with any blessing God has to offer. Again, this is possible only because the resurrection gives meaning to the process of repentance.
Judgment requires a body
In 2 Nephi 9:7,15,22 we learn that there can be no judgment unless we can stand before God in our bodies. This is because if we have no body then we remain cut off from His presence, eternally damned. In the first of these three verses we learn that leaving God’s presence and coming to earth cut us off from God’s presence. Without some form of redemption or reclamation our souls would be eternally separated from God. The atonement of Christ makes it possible for us to be reconciled, and the last part of that reconciliation was the resurrection.
7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
The second verse tells us that once we are resurrected we are able to be brought back into the presence of God for judgment, using the laws of repentance enacted by the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s atonement for us.
15 And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God.
The last verse reminds us that Christ suffered everything that he did for the very purpose of giving us the opportunity to receive our bodies again so we could be judged and given the glory promised us in our first estate. And for those who keep their second estate, that glory will be everlasting, eternal, and will come with eternal progression.
22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.
Resurrection as the capstone
The capstone of a building is the final brick, the last piece to the creation of a structure to be put in place. It is the finishing touch. This is what the resurrection is. Nothing Christ did for us before the resurrection could help us in the least, without the resurrection. The resurrection enabled everything else Christ did for us to be of use in the grand scheme of things. Is it any wonder that the Twelve Apostles were sent forth to bear witness of Christ as the Son of God, and him risen from the dead? They were eye witnesses of this miraculous and marvelous event. They were sent forth to bear witness of the most glorious and wonderful thing to happen in the history of the earth, the eternal reuniting of the spirit and the body for all humanity through the power of Christ’s own resurrection.