As I was reading chapter 3 the Joseph Fielding Smith manual for tomorrow, I came across the awesomest sentence fragment I have ever read in a Teachings of the Prophet manual. It also happens to be the awesomest example ever used to explain resurrection. As he describes the universality of the resurrection, Pres. Smith writes:
Every fundamental part of every body will be restored to its proper place again in the resurrection, no matter what may become of the body in death. If it be burned by fire, eaten by sharks, no matter what. Every fundamental part of it will be restored to its own proper place. [Emphasis added.]
Seriously: sharks. To illustrate that no damage is too bad for a body to be resurrected in its perfect form.
I mean, fire I get. Fire’s both seriously destructive and not uncommon, especially in the dry west. But Salt Lake is relatively landlocked and, as I read it, I wondered why Pres. Smith chose sharks as his illustration.[fn1]
My initial thought was that sharks were on peoples’ minds because of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks. Sure, New Jersey’s a long way from Salt Lake, but the Salt Lake Tribune seemed to cover the attacks pretty extensively.[fn2]
There’s a potential problem with claiming the shark reference was inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks, though: the paragraph comes from volume 5 of Joseph Fielding Smith’s Answers to Gospel Questions. And the five volumes of Answers to Gospel Questions were published between 1957 and 1966.
Those shark attacks could still have been on Pres. Smith’s mind, of course. He was about 40 years old when they happened so, while not formative in his life, he would have certainly been aware of the news. Still, somewhere between 40 and 50 years after the fact (and a decade or so before Jaws was released), 1916 seems a little attenuated to be the impetus.
Then a friend pointed out the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.[fn3] That 1945 tragedy led to possibly the most shark attacks on humans in history. That fits better into the timeframe that Pres. Smith would have been answering, and would be more likely to have been on people’s minds.
Of course, it could equally well have been something else. Still, whatever the reason that Pres. Smith invoked sharks to assert the universality of resurrection, I will always be grateful that he did.
[fn1] Besides the obvious fact that sharks are awesome, of course.
[fn3] Go about halfway down the article for the sharks to show up.