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The Resurrection: A global or an individual victory?

20 May

For the last few days I’ve been reading from 2 Nephi 9 in the Book of Mormon. I’ve taken my time to read through it, because it is so rich with doctrine. Here is a passage that has stood out to me this time:

Verses 21-22:

 21 And he cometh into the world that he may asave all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the bpains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of cAdam.

 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.

For a long time I have struggled to see the link between the suffering of Christ and his resurrection. I’ve also believed for a while that He only suffered for those who would believe on His name and repent of their sins. However, this scripture teaches that He suffered the pains of every living (human) creature, and that He did this that the resurrection may be universal. Why? What is the link between Christ’s first-hand, empathic experience of our suffering, and our own individual resurrection? In other words, why does Christ need to experience our individual pains before the resurrection can apply to us individually?

Latter-day Saints believe in the resurrected J...

The Maker of worlds willingly experienced every human suffering that he may know how to save us

I understand so little about the resurrection, it’s quite frustrating. I’ve heard some people describe it as a priesthood ordinance, some people even suggesting that Christ made it possible but we will perform it ourselves using the power of the Priesthood. I don’t see any evidence for that in the scriptures, but there isn’t much in the scriptures about the process or mechanism of the resurrection. All we get told is what will be the end result: our spirit and our body will be reunited and perfected, never again to be separated. All our physical infirmities and imperfections will be removed, whatever that means (the topic of physical perfection is for another post), and we will live forever, no longer subject to death. Some LDS scholars have taught that we will no longer have blood, but I haven’t found support for this in the scriptures, and frankly I don’t see why that is important.

So let’s think about this for a moment. We know that two main obstacles prevent us from returning to live with God, our Father: physical death and spiritual death. I sort of understand how Christ’s vicarious sacrifice (him taking upon himself our sin-related anguish and guilt) allows Him to extend forgiveness and sanctification to the repentant sinner. Could there be a similar process going on for physical death, whereby He could only overcome that obstacle on an individual, rather than a global basis? Alma 7:11-13 tells us that he didn’t just suffer for the anguish of our sins, but also for our physical infirmities, that He may “know according to the flesh how to succor us”, and that “his bowels may be filled with mercy”.

Jesus at Gethsemaneh by Liz Lemon Swindle

This wasn't just a walk in the park...

As I write that, I am considering for the first time the possibility that the gift of the resurrection, although universal, was not easy for Christ to offer. I’m thinking that, perhaps, he had to experience all our suffering, on an individual basis, in an empathic, vicarious manner, before He could resurrect us, one by one. How sobering! I always assumed that, because the resurrection was a free gift, it had also been freely given, without effort, by Jesus Christ. Now, instead of this idea of a global universalisation of the resurrection when Christ resurrected himself, I get this picture of an individual resurrection for every living soul, individually paid for by the Saviour, individually extended, individually precious. Now, the concept of the resurrection as being the greatest gift from God starts to make sense, as is shown in the following verses (2 Nephi 9:10,13):

10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.

13 O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.

So, did Christ just accomplish a personal victory against Death, which then somehow applied to the whole of human kind, or was He the victor in a tremendous battle, in which the individual conquest over death was given to each and every one of us? I am leaning towards the second idea, a new notion for me. I will see whether the scriptures and modern-day prophets and apostles concur with this.

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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in 750words, Musings, Religion

 

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