On this bright Easter morning I thought we might reflect on the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and particularly how this miraculous gift and triumph over death by the Savior has a very central theme and part of our temple. I don’t think we recognize just how inseparably tied are the realities of the resurrection and the temple. We don’t often mention the two in the same sentence, yet this might be excusable given that they represent very much one and the same eternal ideals and principles.
More often than not our thoughts are drawn to and focus on the Lord’s atonement, without spending much time on the other. This is also understandable—the resurrection is an unconditional gift to all who have received bodies in mortality, whereas there are certain laws and ordinances which we must abide by in order to receive a fullness of what the atonement has to offer us. But the atonement and the resurrection are connected principles, both enabling us to return to the presence of God, for no untransfigured or unquickened mortal flesh can withstand God’s presence and live (D&C 67:11, D&C 84:19-22, D&C 76:118, Moses 1:5).
Baptism for the Dead Because of Resurrection
The ordinance that we are comfortable relating to the resurrection is baptism for the dead, since the only scripture in the Bible that cites this revealed ordinance is when Paul makes the case to the unbelieving Corinthians that some Christians there were practicing baptism for the dead because of their unwavering faith in the literal resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:29).
The Resurrection and The Temple
But on grander scale, the resurrection of the dead is also intrinsically tied with every law and ordinance of the temple, for the entire space is set apart for that singular symbolic purpose of taking mankind from his earthly fallen and telestial state, from which he must pass through mortal death, being raised through the echelons of heaven (échelons being borrowed from French for “rungs of a ladder”), receiving back his resurrected body now perfected and glorified like Christ, and then being enabled to enter into God’s presence where he may partake of eternal life, which is the manner of life that God enjoys.
Egyptian Rites of Resurrection
Dr. Hugh Nibley did extensive studies on the rituals and rites of the ancient Egyptians, and found them to be very familiar to the Latter-day Saints, the reason being that the ordinances have been revealed since the beginning of time, and have become corrupted and passed around among different groups. In Egypt, the purpose of the complex rites and rituals all pointed to the soul’s resurrection:
The idea is definitely that of the resurrection of the flesh, which held a central position in the rites of Egypt. The whole significance of Osiris—as of the mysteries in general, in which the initiate follows his example—is, according to Gertrud Thausing, Stirb und Werde, or dying in order to rise again. ((Hugh Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed., 105))
In Egyptian theology, Osiris represented that “first person ever resurrected” ((ibid., 104)).
The basic Egyptian ordinances . . . were “only an imitation of the rites of the ‘first time'” as they were performed for Osiris. . . . The rites were supposed to have been revealed to men by Osiris, the first mortal to be resurrected: “death made him a being who knew the great secret: of how mortals may become immortal.” ((ibid., 104)).
The idea of resurrection among the Egyptians was very much like that of the Christians:
The literal and physical nature of the Egyptian resurrection is attested by the constant accompaniment of the word snh, “to make alive,” and by the related expressions srnp, “to make young,” and rwd, “to flourish, prosper, be firm and enduring,” which necessarily apply to both living and tangible things. . . . By resurrection, the Egyptian, like the Christian, meant the revival of the body since that is “an indispensable part of the person,” and a reuniting of body and spirit was essential to salvation; even when the ba and shm (power) left the body temporarily to sojourn in heaven, the body was not entirely inert in the underworld but had definite ties with the upper realm as well—an idea implemented dramatically by the hypocephalus [Facsimile 2]. ((ibid., 106))
Receiving a Fulness Through Resurrection
Resurrection is required for the soul to receive a fullness:
Hence, “this concept of the complete identity of the dead with his ba is the core of the entire resurrection ritual.” Only when ba and body are permanently reunited can either enjoy a fulness of glory. In that state, however, the ba may unite with other bas. The plural form of ba indicates “divine entities in a general sense,” or divinity “in its active and visible aspect,” so that “to have a ba is to participate in the divine cosmic consciousness”—to share, as it were, in the councils on high. The idea that the ba of one exalted being may unite with that of another is the ultimate expression of the mystery of identity, but it is no more baffling than the total fusion of persons and pronouns in the Gospel of John, chapters 14 through 17, or in 3 Nephi 19. ((ibid., 114)).
The Egyptian rites of resurrection were nothing less than a deification process:
The rites revealed to men by Osiris, the first mortal to be resurrected, were nothing less than the great secret of how mortals may become gods, taught in the temple, “the place of the [great] secret.” ((ibid., 128))
There can be no doubt, Morenz insists, that the Osirianized dead receives the full status of godhood—indeed, that “to be divine [Göttlich-Sein] is the characteristic quality of the ba of the deceased,” Hence washing, anointing, censing, clothing, and nourishing are all rituals of deification, whether in the temple or the funerary services. The resurrection process is, in short, a deification process. ((ibid., 228))
The Gift of Resurrection
In the end, some will be resurrected unto eternal life with a fulness of glory added upon their heads forever and ever (including a continuation of the seeds), and others will be resurrected unto damnation without so much as a twinkle of glory (John 5:29, Mosiah 16:11, D&C 132:19). The difference in resurrection will depend on who has whole-heartedly received and fulfilled all the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including those revealed in the house of the Lord, and has remained faithful to the covenants entered into in that sacred space. For those who have been righteous, they will be resurrected unto righteousness, and element and spirit inseparably connected will receive a fulness of joy (Rev. 22:11, 2 Nephi 9:16, Mormon 9:14, D&C 93:33). All of this is possible through the infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and his eternal and undeniable gift of the resurrection of body and spirit which he has given to all mankind. Those that believe in Christ and obey his commandments will not only receive immortality, a free gift to all, but eternal life and exaltation in the presence of God and his Christ (John 3:16, D&C 76:62).