For my studies this morning of the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I read and pondered Alma 40 where Alma teaches his son about the resurrection. I discovered that there are numerous principles contained within the twenty-six verses in this chapter, and I thought that I would share some of them with my readers.
The first principle is well known and understood to all Christians: “There is no resurrection … until after the coming of Christ” (Alma 40:2). All the people – righteous and wicked – from the creation of Adam remained in their graves until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the scriptures tell us that many of them were resurrected immediately following the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, this was the beginning of the First Resurrection.
Matthew tells us, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matthew 27:52). This information was confirmed by Jesus Christ when He visited the Nephites in the New World.
Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?
And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.
And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?
And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.
And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded (3Nephi 23:9-13).
The second principle taught by Alma is that there “is a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection” (Alma 40:6) and that “the spirits of all men … are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). Jesus Christ’s body lay in the borrowed tomb for three days between His death and His resurrection, but His spirit went to the spirit world – the same place that our spirits will go when we die.
Alma taught that the spirit world is divided. There is a portion called paradise where the “righteous are received into a state of happiness.” Paradise is described as a “state of rest, a state of peace, where [the righteous] shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow” (Alma 40:12). The wicked who “chose evil works rather than good” are “cast out into outer darkness” there “there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth” (Alma 40:13).
President Joseph F. Smith received a vision on October 3, 1918, about the spirit world. He saw a gathering “in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality” (Doctrine and Covenants 138: 12).
He saw that “they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:15).
They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death.
Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy.
While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful;
And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance (Doctrine and Covenants 138:15-19).
President Smith continued by saying that Jesus Christ did not go into spirit prison and did not raise his voice to the “wicked,” “ungodly,” unrepentant,” or the “rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets” (Doctrine and Covenants 138: 20-21). As President Smith pondered what he had seen, he saw that the Son of God went “among the righteous” spirits and “organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them” as missionaries.
Even though Jesus Christ did not go into spirit prison, He did not forget the spirits who were there. He organized the righteous spirits and gave them power and authority to go into the spirit prison to teach His gospel to those who did not accept it in mortality. They taught the same principles that are taught by missionaries in mortality: “faith in God, repentance from sin, … baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:33; see also Articles of Faith 1:4).
The wicked spirits were taught “other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:34). The only difference is that mortals can be immersed in water for themselves, while baptism for spirits must be done vicariously by mortals still living. President Smith continued:
Thus was it made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets who had testified o him in the flesh;
That they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead, unto whom he could not go personally, because of their rebellion and transgression, that they through the ministration of his servants might also hear his words (Doctrine and Covenants 138:36-37).
Less someone thinks that they can sin until death and still receive all the blessings reserved to the righteous, Alma teaches elsewhere that we should not procrastinate our repentance (Alma13:27-30; 34:32-34) because this life is the “time to prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24). Those who repent and accept the gospel in spirit prison will be in better circumstances than those continue to reject Jesus Christ because “no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God” (Alma 40:26). However, they will not receive the same blessings as those who repent, accept the teachings and ordinances of Christ, and follow Him in mortality.
Thus, the Savior’s mission to the spirit world made it possible for the spirits of the wicked to repent from their sins in mortality. His work continues to give them an opportunity to improve their circumstances before they are resurrected and stand before Him to be judged.
The third principle is that resurrection unites the body and the spirit in such a way that it will never be divided. Resurrection means “the reuniting of the soul with the body” (Alma 40:18). It means that “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul” (Alma 40:23). The body and spirit of Jesus Christ is still united as is that of Heavenly Father. They each have a glorified body of flesh and bone, but the Holy Ghost is a “personage of Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). When we are resurrected, each of us will have a body of flesh and bone, but we determine our glory by our obedience to the commandments of God. The doctrine of the resurrection refutes the false doctrine of reincarnation. We began our mortal lives as children of God, and we are resurrected as children of God.
The fourth principle is that during the resurrection when the spirit is reunited with the body, “every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23). This means that all those who struggle with physical or mental problems will be made whole.
In summary, the four principles are: (1) Jesus Christ was the first person to be resurrected, but many righteous people were resurrected soon afterwards. (2) There is a time between death and resurrection where we can improve our situation and prepare to be judged.
(3) When our bodies are resurrected, they will never again be separated. (4) During the resurrection our bodies will become as near perfect as possible.