What is the Resurrection?

4 thoughts on “What is the Resurrection?”

  1. So you reject the LDS scriptures that describe individuality of spirits beyond this life? And those that describe resurrection as a restoration of the physical body, or God as having a physical body? I guess I’m okay with the idea of unity and loss of ego. But it sounds as though you’re rejecting any individuality or restoration of the physical body. Is that what you intended?

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    1. I don’t think the scriptures are talking about individuality in the “hereafter,” meaning after mortal physical bodily death. I think we’ve mistaken the scriptures. Our entire sense of individuality comes from our sense of ego, which is a perception in our mind and brain and consciousness, the consciousness of this particular organism. It emerges gradually in early childhood, and is not central or fundamental to who and what we are as living, breathing, moving, loving creatures, or living beings on this planet.

      In fact, we can see this sense of individuality entirely evaporate in certain circumstances, actually witness it go away completely, including through deep meditation and contemplation. This is what some religions call the experience of “no self.” That sense of “I” completely goes away. So what am I then? If I’m not that sense of “I”? If I can exist without that “I”, then what am I? I am more basic, more essential, more universal, more interconnected, more foundational, more fundamental than this egoic sense of “I.” And it is actually that sense of “I” that stands in the way of our perception of oneness with God, and that causes us to suffer in life.

      I think we have corrupted the scriptures when we think that this egoic sense of “I” exists beyond physical death. I don’t think that is what it is talking about. I don’t perceive that we have this same sense of individuality when we become one with God, when we consecrate ourselves entirely and our will is swallowed up in God.

      I know this is hard. It is very hard. But it is hard only to our ego, to this voice in our head, the thinker of these thoughts. Our ego can’t believe it, and will refuse to believe it is at the center of the problem itself. The ego is our sense of individuality, self, independence, separateness from God. It is only through the loss of this ego, this “will” of self, that we can at-one again with God, it seems to me.

      The restoration in the resurrection is a restoration of our mind and consciousness with directly knowing our basic, essential, fundamental, true Self in God, as God. God is in all things all around us, but especially in the Life that inhabits all living things, including ourselves. We can come to perceive this Life directly, and this is one of the most remarkable experiences a human can have in life.

      I think Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke along these lines when he said:

      So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things.

      (Neal A. Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” General Conference talk, October 1995. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/swallowed-up-in-the-will-of-the-father?lang=eng)

      God does have a physical body. It is found in the physicality of all the things around us and through us, even the Light and Life we perceive through our eyes and that IS our conscious perceptions, and it is our body too. As the scriptures have repeated, “Ye are Gods.” But we refuse to believe it; our egos refuse to believe it. And yet, our egos yearn to be God. This will not happen, I perceive. The ego doesn’t become God. We already are God; it is the essence of our basic Being, but the ego veils our perception of it.

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      1. So what of say D&C 130 where he specifically mentions bone, sinews, and flesh, and the spirit and body being united (and similar passages in the BoM)? Or the individuality implied by waiting and talking together? Or 137 where Joseph sees his Father, Mother, and Brother? Why the need for a physical baptism (or proxy) for those who have died, if the physical, individual body has no meaning or purpose beyond this life?

        To be clear, I’ve long suspected that we understand very little of eternal things. And that beyond this life everything will be very different than we can (generally) even begin to imagine or understand. And I don’t disagree with your interpretation. I find it fascinating. However, I find it hard to rectify with scriptures that seem pretty plain about some form of individuality playing a vital role beyond this life. The same with the physical body: the scriptures repeatedly mention very physical things, like bone, hair, and more. Why this emphasis from prophets and mystics who are encouraging and challenging people to lose their individuality and submit their will to God? It seems very counter-productive and maybe even untruthful.

        Do things like sealing and the promise of families being joined beyond this life play any role? What do mortal families, bloodlines, etc, matter if we all become part of an ethereal “one”? And why then do the scriptures teach of another restoration or resurrection that happens after death? Why Joseph’s statements that God the Father, Jesus, and Moroni all had bodies that appeared similar to our mortal ones? Wouldn’t the traditional Christian view (and that many other mystics describe) be much more fitting? Why wouldn’t Joseph have just had a more traditional mystical experience that fit those norms of an undefined, all-encompassing, God? According to those traditions, resurrection isn’t physical and is transcendent and completely unrooted in this mortal existence? It just seems to throw out much of what Joseph restored. I do think we’re far too literalist in the Church and love the gaining and loosing of ego comparisons to the Garden of Eden story. But then why would the Restoration include correcting all of these other traditions? What role does it fill? What need is there for it?

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      2. These are great questions, Tevya. I must say that I don’t have all the answers. Even if I did, I don’t think I could tell them through language. I think it could just lead to more misunderstanding. I think the best Source of understanding is God. We may be guided in that direction by others, but ultimately we need to come into direct communion with Divinity if we are to understand many things at a deep level. So, with that major caveat, and at the risk of misunderstanding, I will share some of my thoughts that might help point in the right direction.

        I perceive that the scriptures are heavy in metaphor, allegory, parable, symbol, and figurative language. What they say is usually not what we think they are saying. I believe we can’t take the surface level reading and think we know what they mean. I think this is the ego that thinks it knows. The scriptures are trying to speak to us at a level deeper than the logical, rational, intellectual mind.

        When Joseph Smith talked about God having a body of flesh and bone, I think he is referring to us. We have bodies of flesh and bone. God is in us. We are “Gods,” as Joseph taught, and Jesus taught, and as the scriptures repeat many times. God is in us and through us and is our life and being. I perceive that God is not separate from us, out there in the distant cosmos somewhere, but He is right here, in us, in our bones, sinews, and flesh. He’s right here! He could not be any closer.

        I believe that the spirit and body being united is a metaphor for recognizing who and what we really are, even as God. We realize in our deepest mind and spirit that the life of our body is one with God, that this Life is God. In this way we unite our spirit and body. The spirit knows the body, the real body, the Divine Body, as it really is. I perceive this is the true “resurrection,” even the resurrection that Jesus had early in his ministry that motivated him to teach this oneness, so that all might realize it for themselves, that they might know they are one in God (John 17).

        I think that Joseph saw many spirit beings, but I don’t think these were the actual same people who had died and were coming back to him. I believe they were visions of his mind, in his mind, images from his deep subconscious bubbling up to the surface, that were communicating deep truths to his conscious mind. I think this is why visions and dreams can be so meaningful to us, not because they are images of literal things out in the world, but because they communicate meaning to us that our subconscious mind has allowed us to become conscious of. It is information that our subconscious wants us to know, that has deeper meaning than is readily apparent. When we perceive loved ones in our visions and dreams, usually they come to console us, to tell us they are ok, that death is ok, that they should not worry about them, etc. I think this may be our deep mind trying to give us a message about life and death, that this is one eternal round, that we cannot have life without death, that we should not be fearful of it, that death paves the way for new life, that the natural order of things is that we live and die, and that new life emerges. This is the natural order and law of God. This is nature. This is how God works, and has always worked in the world. We should embrace the life we have now, for that is how God lives. He lives in us, and in all Life.

        I think that baptism for the dead is symbolic (as most things are in the temple, as well as all ordinances). I don’t think we are actually baptizing ourselves for dead people. The truth goes much deeper, I perceive. Primarily, I think that we baptize ourselves for the dead so that we may be baptized over and over and over again, and that we might begin to open our hearts to what this ordinance is symbolizing, even being immersed in the name of Christ, and realizing who Christ is. I think it is really us who are “dead,” spiritually dead as the scriptures talk about it. We don’t understand who and what we are in God, and we are not in His Presence. We don’t have that perception of our oneness and union and atonement in God. We are spiritually dead to God. We baptize ourselves to try to teach us what we are, which is Christ. We are immersed in Christ’s name, and are resurrected in Christ. Christ is who we are. This is what I perceive it is trying to teach us. Why do our ancestors come into it? I think as we do our ancestral and genealogy work, we come to appreciate at a very deep level where we’ve come from, the life that has gone before us, the life that has produced us, and we begin to recognize that we are this Life. And this Life is Christ. We begin to open our hearts in service, in offering, in sacrifice, in subduing our ego for the sake of others, to bless others, even our progenitors, so that we may be resurrected in Christ while we still live, and realize that it is Christ that lives in us, even as Jesus so realized.

        We think the scriptures are plain, but I perceive they are only plain to those who have eyes to see and understand what they are trying to teach us. To most the truth is hidden in them. It is not plain to most. It is veiled. This is why our eyes must be opened to understand their deeper meaning, the veil must be pulled back, and the truth will then be revealed. We must open ourselves to this deeper truth, let the scriptures speak more deeply to us, to our spirit and heart.

        Often I think our interpretations are often corrupted in reading the scriptures, because it is the ego that is usually reading them, and the ego will do everything it can to preserve itself and exalt itself. I think we often read the scriptures that speak of Eternal Life and think that this means that our ego, our self-identity, will live forever. Of course, this is exactly what the ego wants, this voice in our heads that we know as “I.” It never wants to die. It fears death. It wants to continue on, and be even as God, the Most High. But I perceive that it is not our ego that becomes as God is in some future day. I perceive that we already are God, that the Life and Spirit that inhabit our organism and that give us breath today is already one in God, and it is the ego that veils this truth from our eyes, mind, and spirit. That Life and Spirit will indeed live on beyond our mortal life, and will emerge again and again in new Life all over the Earth, and inherit the Earth, even as it inherits it now and grows all around us into new life, animals, plants, humans, etc, but not with this particular ego that we know as ourselves, it seems to me.

        This terrifies our ego. It will refuse to believe it. It will deny it. It will hate it. It will rant and rave and gnash its teeth. In fact, I think the darker aspects of our ego is what the scriptures are referring to in the personification and anthropomorphization of Satan, Lucifer, and devils. These aren’t external supernatural beings as we’ve come to think of them, but symbols of elements within our own ego. It is our own shadow, the darkness that is within us, that veils our eyes, that deceives us, that causes us to error, that makes us suffer, that lies to us, that obscures our perception, that wants to take the honor and power of God for itself, that wants to become like the Most High. But as we cast out Satan from our own selves, then the real teaching can begin, because then we can perceive the Presence of God within our Self. And it is very Real.

        Do you see how these things are so subtle that it can be easy to miss? Do you see how it could so easily be corrupted to seem to be just the opposite of what it is? Do you see how the scriptures are not talking about supernaturalism, but the realities of our own life and being? To the ego, these things will seem false, untruthful, erroneous, counter-productive, and plain wrong. This again is the ego deceiving us. Even the very elect will be deceived by the ego.

        When we realize our oneness in God, which is our oneness with all life, all humans, all sentient creatures, all of creation, then we also realize that we are already one in the Great Family of God. This is the Marriage that the scriptures speak of, the Eternal Marriage to the Bridegroom. We realize that we are sealed forever to God, and always have been, and there is nothing we could do to actually become separate from God. Even as Paul said:

        “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

        The separation we perceive is an illusion of our ego, it is what causes us to Fall from God’s presence. But when the ego falls away now we know it, directly and intimately and deeply and spiritually, in the deepest part of our mind and consciousness. The sealing ordinances are pointing us towards this ultimate eternal truth, it seems to me.

        We only think we are separate from God. It is a delusion in our mind. This is the veil. When we pierce that veil, in our mind, then we recognize that we are not separate from God. He is right here, right now, in us, and this is the most marvelous revelation and insight one can ever have, which is why poets, and prophets, and mystics, and teachers, and gurus, and buddhas, and so many people have given it so many wonderful labels such as salvation, exaltation, enlightenment, liberation, awakening, transcendence, etc.

        The restoration that happens after “death” is not, I perceive, primarily referring to our mortal death of the physical body (although there is much restoring of our dead atoms back into new life, as I previously described). But it is referring to the death of the ego while we still live. I know it sounds strange, but we can witness the death of our “self” while we still live. We can witness the death of this egoic sense of “I” in consciousness. Other religions call this the experience of “no self.” I think Christianity simply calls it “death” sometimes, or ultimate sacrifice, or final consecration, submission, surrender. We see our “I” die, we realize that this “I” is not truly what we are, and then we see it resurrected into a new Life. Our sense of “I” is restored to a whole new sense of Life for the rest of our life, even Eternal Life. And so the resurrection very much involves the entirety of what we know as self, spirit, mind, heart, soul, being, and body. It is the realization, the recognition, the At-one-ment of them all.

        I think that, at times, Joseph did not know all things, just as I do not know all things. He was interpreting his experiences just as I am. And I don’t think he had all the answers, just as I don’t. But I think he was pointing us in the right direction. The restoration continues.

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