Resurrection of Jesus Christ

by Tad R. Callister

The Doubtful Thomas, by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). Thomas, one of the original apostles, kneels at the feet of the resurrected Jesus. The Lord said, "Behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27). Courtesy Frederiksborg Museum, Hillerod, Denmark.

Latter-day Saints view the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the most glorious event of all time. Having the power to lay down his body and to "take it again" (John 10:18), the Savior conquered death for himself and all mankind (1 Cor. 15:22). LDS faith in the literal and physical resurrection of Jesus is greatly strengthened by ancient and modern testimonies of many witnesses.

The Book of Mormon contains prophecies of the resurrection of Jesus years before the actual event. The prophet Nephi1 declared, "Behold, they will crucify him; and…he shall rise from the dead" (2 Ne. 25:13; also 1 Ne. 19:10). In the Bible Jesus himself prophesied that on "the third day he shall be raised again" (Matt. 17:23).

The third day did come, and Jesus became the "firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20), his spirit permanently reuniting with his body in a glorified, immortal state. His resurrected body was not subject to pain, disease, or death. It could pass through walls; it could defy the earthly laws of gravity; but it was a tangible "glorious body" (Phil. 3:21) composed of flesh and bones. Jesus said to his disciples, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). He then ate broiled fish and honeycomb in their presence as a further witness of his corporeal nature.

Latter-day Saints firmly distinguish themselves from those who deny the physical resurrection of Jesus or claim that his divine nature is solely spiritual, with his postmortal appearances being merely temporary physical or mystical manifestations (Nibley, pp. 156-59). They find such doctrine inconsistent with the words of Paul, who taught that the resurrected Christ "dieth no more" (Rom. 6:9), meaning that his resurrected body would never again be separated from his spirit (James 2:26; Alma 11:45).

In his resurrected state, Jesus retained the prints of nails in his hands and feet as a special manifestation to the world. Such marks, however, are only temporary. After all have confessed that he is the Christ, his resurrected body will, like those of all mankind, be restored to its "proper and perfect frame" (Alma 40:23).

Once resurrected, Jesus "gained the keys…to open the graves for all men" (DS 1:128), and with those keys he opened the gates of the resurrection: The "graves were opened" and "many saints did arise and appear unto many" (Matt. 27:52; 3 Ne. 23:11).

Christ's resurrection was not hidden. Witnesses of this event were both legion and varied: the women at the tomb (Luke 24:1-10); Mary in the garden (John 20:11-18); ten apostles together (Luke 24:36-43); eleven apostles, including doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29); two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-24); "above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Cor. 15:6); and Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). Of all these records, none is more profound than that of his appearance to the Nephites, where, one by one, 2,500 men, women, and children "did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety…that it was he" (3 Ne. 11:15). To these accounts, Latter-day Saints add modern appearances of the resurrected Lord to Joseph Smith and others (e.g., JS—H 1:17; D&C 76:22-23).

Jesus Christ will yet appear in the latter days and testify, "These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends" (D&C 45:52; cf. Zech. 13:6), visiting all kingdoms over which he is creator (D&C 88:51-61). Honest and credible witnesses of all ages have testified, and will yet testify, as did the angelic messengers of old, "He is risen" (Matt. 28:6).

Bibliography

Nibley, Hugh W. "Easter and the Prophets." The World and the Prophets, in CWHN 3:154-62.

Romney, Marion G. "The Resurrection of Jesus." Ensign 12 (May 1982):6-9.