WITNESSES OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
There were many witnesses of the resurrected Christ in the regions surrounding Jerusalem and in Galilee. The following is a brief summary of those who saw Him.
EARLY WITNESSES OF THE RESURRECTED CHRIST
There Were Thousands of Early Witnesses to the Resurrection
● Mary Magdalene was the first to see the resurrected Christ (John 20:11–18).
● Jesus appeared to the other women on their way to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:9–10).
● Peter went to the tomb and shortly thereafter saw the risen Lord. (Luke 24:10–12).
● Jesus appeared unto Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32).
● He appeared unto the Apostles, without Thomas, that evening (Luke 24:36–48).
● He appeared 8 days later to the Apostles, including Thomas (John 20:24–29).
● The eleven disciples met him on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16–18).
● He appeared again to the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–19).
● He was seen by more than 500 disciples at once on one occasion (1 Cor. 15:3–9).
● The Apostle Paul saw him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–6).
● The Apostle John saw him in vision on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:10–19).
● Many faithful Saints were resurrected shortly after Christ rose from the tomb . . . and were seen by the disciples (Matt. 27:52–53).
● Jesus appeared also to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11:14–15).
● President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “No force beneath the heavens could now hold back the power of the Son of God. It was as if His Almighty Father could stand no more. The earth trembled. The guards fled. The stone was moved. The Lord of heaven and earth arose from the bier, shook off the burial clothes, and stepped forth to become the first fruits of them that slept. The empty tomb bore testimony of this greatest of all miracles. With the appearance of the risen Lord first to Mary and then to many others, even to upwards of five hundred, came the undeniable testimony of His everlasting power over life and death.”1
DOUBTERS OF THE RESURRECTION
Doubters and Deniers In That Day
● When Jesus predicted his resurrection, they pretended not to understand (John 2:18–22).
● The Pharisees understood perfectly what Jesus said, because they demanded that a guard be posted in front of the tomb so Christians could not steal his body and then pretend that He had risen (Matthew 27:57–66).
● When angels appeared at His resurrection, the soldiers were terrified by their appearance (Matthew 28:2–4).
● Jewish religious leaders bribed the soldiers to keep silent about it (Matthew 28:11–15).
Modern Doubts about the Resurrection
● Studies consistently show that many ministers or leaders of Christian churches today do not believe in a literal resurrection. To many of them, the resurrection is a figurative concept, and it means something like the spirit rising to a heaven.
● They teach that we will be judged at the time of our death, with punishments or rewards at that time. The resurrection has no specific purpose in their doctrine.
THE NEED FOR A NEW WITNESS
● This level of disbelief requires additional unassailable witnesses. Thus, the need for “Another Witness of Jesus Christ”—the Book of Mormon.
● This is why Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and all the other Book of Mormon prophets labored so “diligently to engraven these words upon plates”—to declare to future generations that they too “knew of Christ, and . . . had a hope of his glory” (Jacob 4:3–4).
Modern Witnesses of the Risen Christ
● Christ appeared to the boy prophet in the glorious first vision in 1820 (JS-History 14–17).
● He appeared to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon at Hiram, Ohio, on 16 February 1832. (D&C 76:19–24).
● He appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836 (D&C 110:2–4).
● He has appeared to many other prophets and faithful Saints in the latter days. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest.”2
DOCTRINES OF THE RESURRECTION
The Resurrection Is Literal
● Job’s testimony of the resurrection and its connection to Christ (Job 19:25–27).
● Ezekiel’s vision of a valley full of bones that are resurrected to life (Ezekiel 37:1–10).
● Jesus demonstrated the tangible nature of a resurrected body (Luke 24:36–43).
The Resurrection Is Universal
● Just as all men die, all men shall be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).
The Resurrection Is Perfect
— The dead shall come forth from their graves, restored to a perfect condition without the loss of even a hair of their head (D&C 19:16–19; 45:3–5; Luke 22:39–44; 1 John 1:7; 2 Nephi 2:6–9; Mosiah 3:5–13, 17–18; Alma 7:11–14; 11:40:21–23; Moroni 10:32–33).
An Initial Judgment Will Accompany the Resurrection
— The righteous will be resurrected to everlasting life, and the wicked to a resurrection of damnation (3 Nephi 26:4–5).
THE RESURRECTION’S CONNECTION TO THE ATONEMENT
● The severity of Christ’s Atonement is unfathomable to the human mind. He suffered every temptation, every pain, every hunger and thirst, every emotion, every sickness, every disappointment, every weakness, and every unjust thing that has happened or ever will happen to every one of God’s children. So great was this suffering that it caused blood to come forth from every pore (Mosiah 3:7; 15:5–9; Alma 7:11–13).
● But even that was not enough to exalt us. As overpowering as was His suffering in Gethsemane, it did not take His life. And He needed to die in order to provide a perfect Atonement for all humankind.
● He was humiliated, beaten, scourged, spit upon, and then hung unmercifully upon a cross until, as He said to the Father, “it is done.” And then He gave up His spirit and His body died.
The Atonement Cleanses Me and Helps to Perfect Me
● This was all done in preparation for the glory of the Resurrection, which occurred three days later. As He rose from the dead, he opened the door for all of God’s children to likewise rise from the dead. Thus, death cannot hold us captive in eternity.
● Even more important, the resurrection makes our ability to be exalted possible. We cannot enter into God’s presence if we are unclean. And our current bodies are unclean. Only a resurrected and purified body can be exalted. Thus, His death and resurrection were just as necessary as was His suffering in Gethsemane to make us clean and worthy.
THE RESURRECTED CHRIST APPEARS TO THE NEPHITES
● If Jesus of Nazareth was just an inspired teacher His death would have been the end of Him. And those who deny His physical resurrection deny the saving power of His Atonement and Resurrection. Many do not believe He was divine.
● But in the midst of all this doubt, the Book of Mormon becomes a second witness that He was the Holy Son of the Father. Sometime shortly after His resurrection, He descended from heaven and ministered to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11).
● Lest they should doubt that He was the Savior of the World, He purposely stood still in their midst and invited all of them—men, women, and children—to come forth and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and thrust their hands into the wound on His side. This act likely took many hours for all of the Nephites in His presence to have their personal opportunity to become witnesses of His glory (3 Nephi 11:14–15).
● The Lord blessed their children (3 Nephi 17:21), healed their sick, blind, and lame, just as He had done in the land of Israel. He organized His Church among them, taught them correct doctrine, and wept with them. Then, when it was all done, He ascended into heaven with a promise that He would return (at the end of the world).
● If this record (the Book of Mormon) is true, then Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is another testament of His life, death, and resurrection. It was preserved for that very purpose, and we are most blessed to have it among us.
What are some doctrinal insights we receive from this week’s lesson material? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.
● Death Is Not Final. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“Death is not final. Though it seems so when its dark shroud overshadows mortal life, to those who accept the Christ and His eternal mission there is light and comfort, there is assurance, there is certainty . . .
“Of all the victories in human history, none is so great, none so universal in its effect, none so everlasting in its consequences as the victory of the crucified Lord who came forth in the Resurrection that first Easter morning.
“We laud the captains and the kings, we praise the nations that are victorious against oppressors. We appropriately build monuments to remember their sacrifices and their triumphs over the forces of oppression. But great and important as are these achievements, none can compare with the victory of the lonely, pain-racked figure on Calvary’s cross who triumphed over death and brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind.”3
● Joseph Smith’s Vision of the Resurrection. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“Would you think it strange that I relate what I have seen in vision in relation [to] this interesting theme? Those who have died in Jesus Christ may expect to enter into all that fruition of joy when they come forth, which they have pursued here.
“So plain was the vision I actually saw men before they had ascended from the tomb as though they were getting up slowly. They take each other by the hand. It was my father and my son, my mother and my daughter, my brother and my sister. When the voice calls suppose I am laid by the side of my father. What would be the first joy of my heart? Where is my father, my mother, my sister? They are by my side. I embrace them and they me . . .
“All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it . . . God has revealed his Son from the heavens and the doctrine of the resurrection also. We have a knowledge that those we bury here God [will] bring them up again, clothed upon and quickened by the spirit of the Great God.”4
The Prophet Joseph Smith also said:
“You mourners have occasion to rejoice. . . . for your (loved one) is gone to wait until the resurrection of the dead until the perf~ection of the remainder; for at the resurrection your friend will rise in perfect felicity and go to celestial glory, while many must wait myriads of years before they can receive the like blessings; and your expectations and hopes are far above what man can conceive. . . .
“I am authorized to say, by the authority of the Holy Ghost, that you have no occasion to fear; for he is gone to the home of the just. Don’t mourn, don’t weep. I know it by the testimony of the Holy Ghost that is within me; and you may wait for your friends to come forth to meet you in the morn of the celestial world . . .
“I have a father, brothers, children, and friends who have gone to a world of spirits. They are only absent for a moment. They are in the spirit, and we shall soon meet again. The time will soon arrive when the trumpet shall sound. When we depart, we shall hail our mothers, fathers, friends, and all whom we love, who have fallen asleep in Jesus.. . . . It will be an eternity of felicity.”5
1. In Conference Address, Ensign, April 1988, 67.
2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 149.
3. In Conference Address, Ensign, April 1988, 66.
4. S.H. Faulring (ed.), The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith: An American Prophet’s Record , 366–367.
5. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 359–360.