“The spirit and body is the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” (The Doctrine & Covenants 88: 15-16)
Easter is the celebration of life over death, commemorated through remembering the story of Christ’s resurrection, three days after his crucifixion.
Joseph Smith and the early Mormons took the resurrection very seriously. Some Mormon scholars are of the opinion that a belief in the literal resurrection of the body is the foundation of all differences between the distinct theology of 19th century Mormonism and that of orthodox Christianity.
Life on the frontier in 19th century America was fraught with dangers. Pregnancy was dangerous, as was giving birth. Infant mortality was high. (Joseph and Emma Smith lost their first few children in infancy.) Diseases that a century later would require little more than some bed rest (thanks to advances in medicine), were life-threatening. With no understanding of germs and no knowledge of antibiotics, people died from what today would be considered simply infections. Death and intense physical suffering were much more a part of the fabric of everyday life. Most people early in life experienced the death of a loved one.
Joseph Smith was no different from most other people of his day. But by focusing on the ancient Biblical concept of a literal resurrection of the dead, he found the hope and the strength to fight the despair that came as a result of losing his brother Alvin, several of his newborn children and his father--as well as the deaths of close friends and followers.
Regardless if one believes in a literal resurrection or not, what the doctrine symbolizes is the triumph of life on earth over death. It was on this that Joseph and Mormons--both in his day and in our own--focused. Whereas many orthodox Christians interpret the idea of the Resurrection as eternal life in a purely spiritual realm, Mormonism has focused on the resurrection as a restoration of the things which humans value in this life: the bonds of family, the intimate relations of husbands and wives, friendships, knowledge gained in this life, the potential for continual growth and progress.
For your Easter meditations, various Biblical verses (from both the Hebrew and Christian Testaments) related to the concept of the Resurrection are printed below, followed extracts from an 1843 sermon on the subject given by Joseph Smith.
“And have hope toward God,
…that there shall be a resurrection
of the dead, both the just and the unjust.”
“….For this corruptible must put on
incorruption, and this mortal
must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put
on incorruption, and this mortal shall
have put on immortality, then shall be
brought to pass the saying that is written,
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Grave, where is thy victory?”
“Why should it be thought
a thing incredible with you,
that God should raise the dead?”
“Marvel not at this:
for the hour is coming, in the
which all that are in the graves
shall hear his voice,
and shall come forth…”
“Thy dead man shall live, together
with my dead body shall they arise.
Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust:
for thy dew is as the dew of herbs,
and the earth shall cast out the dead.”
“And they that be wise shall shine
As the brightness of the firmament;
and they that turn many to righteousness
as the stars for ever and ever.”
(Acts 26:8; Acts 24:15; I Corinthians 15: 53-55;
John 5: 28; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:3)
“I will tell you what I want. If tomorrow I shall be called to lie in yonder tomb, in the morning of the resurrection let me strike hands with my father, and cry, “My father,” and he will say, “My son, my son,” as soon as the rock rends and before we come out of the graves.
“May we contemplate these things so? Yes, if we learn how to live and how to die. When we lie down we contemplate how we may rise in the morning, and it is pleasing for friends to lie down together, locked in the arms of love, to sleep and wake in each other’s embrace and renew their conversation.
“Would you think it strange if I relate what I have seen in vision in relation to this interesting them?…So plain was the vision, that I actually saw men, before they ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly. They took each other by the hand and said to each other, “My father, my son, my mother, my daughter, my brother, my sister.” And when the voice calls the dead to rise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me.
“It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind.
“All your loses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the visions of the Almighty I have seen it.
“More painful to me are the thoughts of annihilation than death. If I have no expectation of seeing my father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends again, my heart would burst in a moment and I would go down to the grave.
“The expectation of seeing my friends in the morning of the resurrection cheers my soul and makes me bear up against the evils of life. It is like their taking a long journey, and on their return we meet them with increased joy.” (Joseph Smith-- April 16, 1843)
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