Thoughts on the Resurrection

Hand-444159_640I was asked to give the concluding remarks in our ward’s Easter program, held today in advance of conference next week.

In 3 Nephi, it reads:

5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.


8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.

This is the miracle of the resurrection. That after the work of the Atonement in the Garden and his death on the cross, Jesus Christ rose again. And that because of Him, each of our deceased loved ones whose spirits have left their physical bodies behind will one day be reunited with that physical body. That as living humans, we will be joined again as friends and families.

I am so thankful for the doctrine of the resurrection. I am thankful that it helps us honor our physical bodies not as limitations or burdens, but as an integral part of our soul, a divine part of what makes us. I hope we all honor and appreciate that form.

One way of appreciating the human form is through science. Through science, we can marvel at the complex chemical interactions of how a body works. We can appreciate homo sapiens’ place in the whole family tree of God’s creation, appreciate the mind-boggling diversity of life, and appreciate the precision of how our physical bodies work.

Artists, too, have long recognized the strength, grace, and beauty of the human form. Michaelangelo’s David statue and the figures that grace the Sistene Chapel ceiling depict a perfect, idealized view of the human body. 

This art inspires me, but when I think of a perfect, unspoiled body, I think of the most magical moment of my life, when newborn infant fingers first curled around my finger and I was completely overcome by the miracle that such an impossibly complex machine could develop and work. That tiny hand and body works. I’m a software engineer, and a classic truth in software engineering is that even the simplest programs don’t work the first time. They never work the first time. A relatively small part of the process of software engineering is writing new code to create something, and the rest of the time is spent in the painstaking work of methodically finding and fixing the inevitable bugs. My children are billions of times more complex than any software, and I can only understand the fact that their tiny new bodies worked as a miracle.

When we think about resurrection, we often think of being resurrected in a body with ideal form.

Easy-History-Lesson-of-Michelangelos-David So I wonder about the resurrection. Who will we be when we are resurrected? Will each man be resurrected as Michelangelo’s David? Will we be perfect the way a newborn is perfect—unscarred, skin untouched by the sun? What does it mean to be ideal?

There are hands that fascinated me as much as newborn hands, and those are my grandfather’s hands. He was a builder. With his brother Sid Johnson, he built houses all over the nearby Barron Park and Menlo Park communities. He spent his career working with his hands, and his hands showed it. I used to love to sit by him in his favorite chair or on his garden swing, and hold his enormous hand in mine. I would trace the deep lines, the veins, and study all the peculiarities, imagining the stories of construction mishaps and wear behind each one. His skin didn’t feel like mine. Parts were so leathery, others hard but smooth like hard plastic. To me, his hands were beautiful. They are such a vivid part of him and so representative of who he is: a lifetime of hard work and serving others. There is beauty in the aesthetic of an aged body.

In many ways, I would like to have a younger version of me restored. I would tell myself to wear sunscreen more consistently! Mark Brown explains so well why he doesn’t necessarily want his 20 year old self restored. Like him, I know that years have worn my physical body, but they have refined and improved my spirit. I am more patient now. I am more empathetic now. I am wiser now.

And so I wonder about the resurrection. I wonder about how our physical bodies will be restored ideal in the same way that I wonder about how the atonement works to perfect my inner self.

I would never seek injuries or wear on my body, and I would never seek mistakes and sin. But both have caused me to grow and be stronger. It is against the Plan and the gospel for us to remain as infants, and we will not return to it. Through Jesus Christ, the experience of having sinned and lived in a fallen world contributes to our eventual perfected state. The pain and guilt of sins are scrubbed away, but not the wisdom and refinement we gained in the process.

Likewise there are limitations of our physical bodies that are removed in the resurrection. My grandfather has been released from the limitations of his body. I look forward to being reunited with a version of him that is free of the aches, pains, and forgetfulness of dementia that afflicted him before his death. But I hope his work, strength, and wisdom remain with him.

I love the way John Fowles describes Hugh Nibley’s concept of our progress not as a simple 2-dimensional cycle—a circle that returns back to where it started, but as a spiral upwards—from one point of view circling around to its beginning point but each time elevated upwards. Marjorie Hinckley captured it so vividly, in a way that shows why we all love her so dearly. She said she wanted to drive up to the pearly gates not in a perfectly shiny sports car but in a station wagon splashed with mud from driving boys up to scout camp.

I am thankful every day for the cleansing work that the atonement of Jesus Christ has already worked in my life. I’m thankful that it has lifted the burdens of guilt and sorrow. I am thankful to gather with fellow saints each week to partake of the sacrament and renew again a commitment to be better than the week before. I am thankful for my health and the gift of living an embodied human life. And, today, I am thankful for Easter to celebrate all these things. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Comments

  1. Fed my soul. Thank Cynthia.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Amen, Cynthia.

  3. wonderful. reminds me of this quote from Stephen Webb: “salvation is the gradual perfection of the relationship of spirit to matter, not the triumph of the former over the latter.” (From Givens, Wrestling the Angel)

  4. Oh, I love that, Matt. Would have been a great addition to the talk.

  5. Beautifully put, Sister Lee.

  6. Would have loved to hear this talk! Thank you!

  7. Awesome and inspiring post.

  8. Beautiful. That was very uplifting. Thank you!

  9. Matthew73 says:

    Thank you for posting.

    I’m elated to hear that some wards have Easter programs. Ours didn’t. We sang “He is Risen” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” for the opening and closing hymns, respectively, and the ward choir sang an arrangement of “How Great the Wisdom and the Love.” But nobody mentioned Easter, Palm Sunday, or Good Friday in any of the talks or announcements. There was no mention of it whatsoever in Priesthood Meeting. In my youth Sunday School class, we discussed Holy Week, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, and the atonement and the resurrection. But if a visitor had shown up for Sacrament Meeting or Priesthood Meeting they would have had no reason to think that we were looking forward to – or even aware of – Easter approaching.

  10. Jason K. says:

    Cynthia: this was a powerful talk and a great way to start off Holy Week. Thank you!

  11. I’ve read these 12 verses in 3 Nephi countless times and even at one time had them memorized. Your use of them as an intro to your poignent and very heart-felt reflections and feelings about the gift we have now and will have in the hereafter caused my heart to burn within me. Very inspiring. Thank you.

  12. Thanks, RLR. That means a lot.

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