by John P. Pratt
Reprinted from Meridian Magazine (Apr. 16, 1999)
©1999 by John P. Pratt. All rights Reserved.
|1. Laws of Physics|
|2. Length of the Year|
God . . . hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;
And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets. (D&C 88:41-43)
Thus, we are explicitly told that God gave the law to the planets that controls their orbital motions. In modern astronomy, those laws include Kepler's Laws, which can be derived from Newton's laws of motion and his law of gravity. So I take that scripture to mean, "Yes, God wrote the laws of physics." The Lord also explains how the law is executed:
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space--
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (D&C 88:11-13, emphasis added)
Thus, God's laws of physics are implemented using light. This is far beyond where we are in modern science, but we may be on the right track. For example, the cause of the electrical attraction between positive and negative charges is thought to be caused by the exchange of virtual light particles (photons) between them. This theory, called quantum electrodynamics, has been extremely successful and has been called "the jewel of physics--our proudest possession." A similar mechanism has been proposed using "gravitons" to explain the gravitational attraction which holds planets in their orbits. This latter theory is not nearly so well developed and it is almost impossible to verify experimentally, so it is not generally accepted yet.
And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time, according to the reckoning of Kolob. (Abr. 3:4)
Unlike the first question, this is a point which modern astronomers have not yet discovered. That is, astronomers assume that the length of the year is simply a random number, a remnant of whatever orbital momentum the earth happened to have at the formation of the solar system. Even if astronomers had discovered Kolob, and had found its revolutionary period to be 1,000 years, they would probably assume it was only a chance coincidence. Here is where it is so wonderful to have revelation, because the great Designer of the order of stars and planets to which we belong has shared with us his actual design principles.
There is an abundance of scriptures that talk about the resurrection, which promise us that even every hair of our heads will be restored (Alma 40:23), but to me there is nothing implied in most such scriptures that the same atoms must be used. After all, we have cut off a lot of hair from our heads during our lives and I don't think most of us would want all of it restored. If the Lord created our bodies once, could he not do it again with whatever matter he wished?
There is evidence, however, that to a large degree the very same atoms are indeed used in the resurrection. The sepulchre of the Savior was found empty, implying that the Savior was resurrected with his very same body. In fact, we are told that "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Mat. 27:52-53, compare 3 Nephi 23:9-10). So eyewitnesses have testified that not only have the dead risen, but that their bodies have literally come out of their graves.
Probably the best eye-witness account in the scriptures of the actual process of the resurrection was given by the prophet Ezekiel. He had a marvelous vision in which he saw a valley full of dry bones. He commanded the bones to live, and he witnessed them literally come together, and then watched sinews and flesh come upon them, and finally skin. He then commanded their spirits to come from the four winds and the bodies came to life and stood on their feet. The Lord then explained that this vision represented "the whole house of Israel" and he stated,
Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. (Ezek. 37:12-14)
The point of all of these scriptures is that it really sounds as if these eyewitness accounts are describing a process in which the very same bodies are being resurrected. But what about people who are cremated and their ashes are blown by the four winds? Or what about a body that decays and becomes fertilizer for grass which is in turn eaten by a cow which gives milk, which is drunk by someone else and becomes part of that person? In the resurrection, who gets those shared atoms--the first person, or the grass, or the cow, or the one who drank the milk?
While all such questions must have answers, it is important to realize that it is foolish to apply to logic to answer them. What I think or what you think to be reasonable is not important; what is important is what really is going to happen at the resurrection. And one way to know that is to read what the Lord has spoken on the subject. So finally I will tell you what I believe is the scripture to answer this question.
The Lord has told us that the earth is following a celestial law and that even though it will die someday, it will be resurrected to become a celestial sphere, and the righteous will inherit it. (D&C 88:25-26; see also 130:9, Mat. 5:5). He then goes on to explain:
They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened (D&C 88:28)
If I understand it correctly, that one little verse just told us the answer. Those who go to the celestial kingdom will be resurrected with the same body which was theirs when they lived on earth. The fact that the Lord tells us this when discussing the resurrection of the earth is especially interesting, because we should remember that we were all created from the dust of this earth (Mosiah 2:25). Thus, in a sense we are "borrowing" atoms from the earth, and when it resurrects, it might just want them back! This scripture explains that if we have lived worthily to keep up with the earth in its progression, so that we can continue dwelling on it, then we will be allowed to keep our same bodies. That is also consistent with the eyewitness accounts of those who were resurrected with Jesus Christ: they were the "saints" (Mat. 27:52, 3 Nephi 23:9), who presumably will inherit the celestial kingdom.
And what about those who go to the lower kingdoms? We are not told whether or not they also receive again the same bodies which they had on earth, but the possibility is left open that they may not. Indeed, there are many times in scripture where we are told that "the wicked shall be cut off from the earth" (Prov. 2:22, Exo. 9:15, Mormon 3:15), and indeed, were it not for the atonement, we would all be cut off from the earth (Alma 42:6). Thus, in the case of the wicked, their dust may permanently return to the earth (Ecc. 12:7); perhaps they will be resurrected with atoms from the planet to which they are assigned. Supporting this speculation is the fact that elsewhere when the Lord talks about the resurrection of the saints, he specifically mentions their graves being opened (D&C 88:97), but no such mention is made when he speaks of the resurrection of those going to the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, and of the sons of perdition, (D&C 88:99-102).
On the other hand, some scriptures could be interpreted that even the unjust come forth from their graves, as when Ezekiel was told that his vision (quoted above) was of all the house of Israel, and when Jesus said that those in their graves would hear his voice and that some would come forth to a resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29). Thus, I have no strong opinion about those going to lower kingdoms. As for the remains of an Egyptian mummy (or anyone else), I would have to conclude that the former inhabitant of that body had not yet resurrected because, as I understand it, only celestial kingdom candidates have been resurrected thus far and their bones have literally come out of their graves.
As for those who have been cremated, or those who have lost limbs, or been organ donors, how will they get their parts back? According to the vision of Ezekiel, the parts were simply commanded to reassemble and they obeyed. But what about the question of atoms which have presumably been shared by many organisms? Joseph Fielding Smith quoted the prophet Joseph Smith to answer this very question:
In discussing the resurrection, Elder Orson Pratt remarked that man's body changes every seven years. The Prophet Joseph Smith who was present, then made this statement:
"There is no fundamental principle belonging to a human system that ever goes into another in this world or the world to come; I care not what the theories of men are. We have the testimony that God will raise us up, and he has the power to do it. If anyone supposes that any part of our bodies, that is, the fundamental parts thereof, ever goes into another body, he is mistaken." (DHC 5:339). 
Thus, no part of you that is really "you" ever becomes a fundamental part of any other body. On resurrection day, there will be no problem of several people fighting over just who gets what atoms. To me this is important to know because our bodies are an extremely precious gifts from the Lord. Knowing that we can be resurrected with our very same tabernacle might inspire us to take the very best care of our body that we can.