Our Savior’s Love Manifest in Resurrection

By D. Kelly Ogden

D. Kelly Ogden, “Our Savior’s Love Manifest in Resurrection,” in Our Savior’s Love: Hope & Healing in Christ, ed. Alonzo L. Gaskill and Stanley A. Johnson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, 2015), 77–101.

Our Savior’s Love Manifest in Resurrection

D. Kelly Ogden

D. Kelly Ogden was a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was written.

Nothing has ever happened in this world, or any other world of which we know, that compares in grandeur and scope with the events between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden Tomb—events that affect the mortal and immortal life of every soul to come into this world.

President Howard W. Hunter proclaimed that “the doctrine of the Resurrection is the single most fundamental and crucial doctrine in the Christian religion. It cannot be overemphasized, nor can it be disregarded. Without the Resurrection, the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes a litany of wise sayings and seemingly unexplainable miracles—but sayings and miracles with no ultimate triumph. No, the ultimate triumph is in the ultimate miracle: for the first time in the history of mankind, one who was dead raised himself into living immortality.”[1]

Thanks to Jesus, who died and raised his body to immortality, we can die and be raised to live forever also. One of our colleagues at Brigham Young University had a daughter who died at age thirteen. When she was seven, already struggling with the disease that would eventually take her life, she stood one day in a meeting to bear witness to these beautiful truths: “I love Jesus Christ. Because of him, I only have to die once. I’ll never have to die again.”

The story of Jesus is not a “womb to tomb” story. As Elder Orson F. Whitney taught, “[His] Death on Calvary was no more the ending, than the Birth in Bethlehem was the beginning, of that Divine Career.”[2]

Many Bible scholars recognize the pivotal importance and the far-reaching consequences of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Were it not for the resurrection event,” wrote F. F. Bruce, “there would have been no resurrection faith.”[3] The followers of Jesus would not live and die for a lie. Something dramatic and true had changed their lives forever. The fact is, none of the early leaders and preachers in the first-century church could say enough about the Resurrection. It was on the lips of Peter, Stephen, Paul, and all others, everywhere they went and with everyone they taught.

Another prominent scholar declared:

Whether we are comfortable with it or not, Christianity does indeed stand or fall on certain historical facts—not merely historical claims, but historical facts. Among these facts that are most crucial to Christian faith is that of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The Christian faith is not mere faith in faith . . . but rather, a belief about the significance of certain historical events.[4]

We have to ask, Why is there no other first-century Jew who has millions of followers today? Why isn’t there a John the Baptist movement? Why, of all first-century figures, including the Roman emperors, is Jesus still worshiped today, while the others have crumbled into the dust of history?

It’s because this Jesus—the historical Jesus—is also the living Lord. That’s why. It’s because he’s still around, while the others are long gone.[5]

The Resurrection literally changed the lives of the early Christians and the lives of all true Christians since that day. The day following the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus was the holy Sabbath, the day the Saints met to worship. But that particular Saturday must have been a Saturday of deepest depression. Who would have wanted to hold a meeting? And who would have been willing to give a talk? What would they have even talked about? It must have been a most oppressive time for the spirits of those early members of the church. But that depressing day was followed, the very next morning, by a Sunday of most brilliant joy.

This single historical fact and doctrine forever changed the course of the ancient Church and the course of the world. There is no fact in history that is so widely attested and confirmed by credible witnesses.

Women and Angels: First ​​at Jesus’ Tomb

“In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1), women disciples were making their way toward the tomb when an aftershock of the earthquake of the previous Friday struck Jerusalem again, as angels came down from heaven to open the tomb of God’s Son. No heavy stone seal nor secure guard of the Sanhedrin would stand up to nature’s convulsive powers directed by the God of the universe, nor could they withstand angelic messengers sent by that very God to open the tomb, revealing Jesus’ absence. Jesus’ mortal life was terminated at the hands of men, but his postmortal life, again in the mortal sphere, commenced at the hands of the Father and his messengers. The two angels (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 28:2) removed the stone at the entrance of the sepulchre and sat on it (see Joseph Smith Translation, John 20:1).

Jesus did not need angels to roll away the great stone from the door of the sepulchre so that he could leave. Resurrected beings have more refined bodies and have power to pass through the elements and objects of the earth. In the resurrection we shall become acquainted with a whole new dimension of the laws of physics. Why, then, did the angels roll the stone away and open the tomb? First, there was undoubtedly important symbolic meaning in this act. Just as the door of the tomb was now open, signaling its occupant was no longer there, so too the door of the spirit world was now open, signaling that its righteous inhabitants were free from the bondage of death and would no longer be confined there.

Second, with the opening of the tomb, the disciples could look inside as well as enter and know for themselves that the tomb was empty, that Jesus had returned to life, that he really was the Savior, with power to raise his own physical body back to life.

Others would likewise come to the tomb, and out of their initial experience with its emptiness would eventually blossom the witness that Jesus was who he said he was, that he had told the truth, that he was the Savior, Messiah, and Son of God, alive again.

Among the women who approached the tomb that glorious morning were Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James the Younger and Joses (Joseph); Salome, the mother of Apostles James and John; and Joanna, wife of Chuza, steward of Herod Antipas (see Luke 8:3; 24:10).We also cannot help but wonder whether the two beloved sisters from Bethany, Martha and Mary, along with some of the Apostles’ wives, were also present.

Among the women disciples who followed Jesus, Mary Magdalene seems to have served in a leadership capacity. She is mentioned first in several listings of female followers (see, for example, Matthew 27:56; Luke 24:10), and she was first to see the resurrected Lord (see John 20:1–18). Mary of Magdala appears to have had a preeminent relationship with Jesus of Nazareth.

Testimo​ny of Angels: “He Is Risen”

Angelic visitors came at the Savior’s birth, during his ministry (for example, at the Transfiguration), in Gethsemane, and now at his tomb. There was frequent contact between heaven and earth while the great Creator sojourned here for a brief time (see Matthew 1:20; 2:13, 19; 4:11; 28:2–8; Luke 1:11–20, 26–30; 2:9–15; 22:43).

When the angels appeared, the guards were scared to death (see Matthew 28:4), but the heavenly messengers calmed the fears of the women, assuring them that the man they were seeking was “not here: for he is risen, as he said” (28:6).

Seeing and hearing astonishing things, Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter and John (we are not told where James was). Representing all the women, Mary exclaimed to the two leading Apostles: “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). If, by mentioning “they” who took away the body, Mary meant the Romans, the Jewish leaders, or even the angels, we cannot be sure. We do however know that she had not quite comprehended the divine message she had heard from those angels: “He is risen; he is not here.” It would yet require some personal experience, seeing, hearing, and touching for Mary and for all others to comprehend the glorious fact of resurrection.

They were experiencing, understandably, a dramatic mix of feelings—fright, perplexity, amazement, respect, excitement, joy—over what was happening, and their minds were beginning from these very moments to piece together the doctrines that Jesus had taught that only now, as they actually occurred, could be fully comprehended by mortals.

Peter and Jo​hn at the Tomb

Years later, Luke, who likely learned what happened next from Peter and John, recorded that the two Apostles, hearing these extraordinary, unbelievable reports, ran together to the sepulchre, John outrunning Peter.

John arrived, stooped down, looked in, and then Peter arrived and immediately entered. Respectfully giving way to the chief Apostle, John waited and then followed Peter inside. They both saw the burial cloths lying where Jesus’ body had been. According to his own written report, John “saw, and believed” (John 20:8) that a dead mortal being was alive again. They sensed that there was something very different about this Being. He was not just brought back to life temporarily to eventually die again. Raising of the dead was a miracle they knew not only from scripture but from personal experience, watching Jesus do it at least three times.[6] This was different. The Apostles were coming to understand that their Savior had been raised by the power of the Father into immortality. As the next verse (John 20:9) explains, up to this point “they knew [or comprehended] not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.”

We raise the question: how could they comprehend such a thing? For four thousand years, mortals had been dying and were buried away, their physical bodies remaining dead, having no spirit, no life. Resurrection had never happened in this world. But now the Apostles were fitting together the current facts and the teachings and the prophecies. They had weighty matters to reflect on.

It seems significant that there are no scriptural records that discuss the details of the actual Resurrection process or what went on inside the tomb immediately after the Resurrection. We do not know how long Jesus was there. We do know that Jesus passed through his burial clothes, leaving them lying in place, in the outline and form of the body around which they had been wrapped. Resurrected bodies have the power to move through solid objects. John recorded in his own Gospel that when he came to the tomb and looked inside, and when Peter entered it shortly thereafter, they both saw the strips of burial linen lying in place in the burial chamber as well as the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head (see John 20:4–7). The strips of cloth “were left in such a way as to show that his resurrected body had passed through their folds and strands without the need of unwinding the strips or untying the napkin.”[7]

This was explicit evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. No mortal man had disturbed his body. The cloth (“napkin” in the King James Version) that had been wrapped about Jesus’ head was still by itself, separate from the linen.

Jesus, then, left his burial cloths in place as another witness of one of the greatest of the miraculous acts that compose the Atonement and Resurrection.

Mary Alone with the Resurrected Jesus

One woman, alone, remained at the sepulchre, crying (see John 20:11–17). Of all the Marys who had been attending to the body, the one from Magdala stooped down and looked into the burial chamber, and saw two angels arrayed in brilliant white “sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.”

The angels asked: “Woman, why weepest thou?”

Mary responded: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

Mary turned around and saw Jesus, but through her tears she did not recognize him, and when asked who she was looking for, she replied to that man she supposed was the gardener:

“Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus spoke her name: “Mary.”

Then she recognized him, saying, “Rabboni!” (Master!)

Mary instantly desired to embrace him, but his first embrace was reserved for his Father, then for mortals.

“Hold me not,” he gently explained to her, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 20:17).

There would now be a respectful separation between immortals and mortals. Jesus taught that God was first his Father and God, then our Father and God. And Jesus himself was now more than mortal friend and associate in the divine work—he was Savior, Lord, and God to those men and women and to all humankind.

If, as the Savior indicated, he had not yet ascended to his Father, where had he been? The answer is more gloriously and plainly presented in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants than anywhere else in sacred writ. The Lord Jesus Christ had not yet ascended far into space, to the home of his Father, but had gone to the spirit world—which is the dimension of all spirit beings and living things occupying the very same space as this physical earth. He organized in the world of spirits, among the billions of the Father’s children who had lived from the days of Adam and Eve until his own day, that same missionary effort that he had organized on earth during his mortal ministry. “And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on condition of repentance” (D&C 138:19).

The great monster death has no more effect on us. As Abinadi said, “There is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8). In the end, only death will die. All living things (things with spirits) will live forever.

Why is the resurrection of the body so important to each of us? The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.”[8] Robert J. Matthews adds: “The resurrection of our individual bodies is important because our Heavenly Father has a resurrected body of flesh and bone (see D&C 130:22). . . . It would be possible to continue in eternity as spirit bodies without the physical body, but as such we could not reach the fulness of salvation. A spirit body without a resurrected physical body cannot obtain a fulness of joy (see D&C 93:33–34).”[9]

Other Women Encounter the Resurrected Jesus

The elect women, chosen to be the first to see the miracle of the Savior’s Resurrection, rushed to tell the Apostles that they had personally met and talked with him, had touched his feet (the same feet showing the wounds of crucifixion), and had worshipped him (see Matthew 28:9–10).

“One may wonder,” Elder James E. Talmage wrote, “why Jesus had forbidden Mary Magdalene to touch Him, and then, so soon after, had permitted other women to hold Him by the feet as they bowed in reverence. We may assume that Mary’s emotional approach had been prompted more by a feeling of personal yet holy affection than by an impulse of devotional worship such as the other women evinced. Though the Resurrected Christ manifested the same friendly and intimate regard as He had shown in the mortal state toward those with whom He had been closely associated, He was no longer one of them in the literal sense. There was about Him a divine dignity that forbade close personal familiarity.”[10]

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus

Only Luke narrates a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to two disciples walking along the road from Jerusalem down to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13–32). Why would the two disciples not have recognized Jesus right from the beginning of their walk together? They would have been quite familiar with his appearance, his mannerisms, and his way of teaching. Mark notes that “he appeared in another form” (Mark 16:12). As a resurrected being Jesus was certainly in “another form,” a condition with which no one on earth (except the women that morning) was yet acquainted. Besides that, Luke points out that “their eyes were holden that they should not know him” (Luke 24:16), the recognition being withheld for a time so that the resurrected Lord could teach them and help them come to an understanding.

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Was it so difficult to comprehend that Jesus’ crown of thorns had to come before his crown of glory? The prophets—the Messiah’s forerunners—plainly testified over the course of four millennia that the Messiah (who would eventually rule and reign at his Second Coming to earth) would come at first to suffer, bleed, and die.

As they approached Emmaus, it looked as though Jesus would continue on the road, but the disciples pled with him, since it was getting late in the afternoon, to come in and eat with them. As they were eating, Jesus took some unleavened bread and broke it, blessed it, and handed them some. Their spiritual eyes were opened; they realized who he was, and he disappeared in that instant, leaving them reflecting on the singularity of their feelings: “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Cleopas and his companion rushed back up to Jerusalem to report to ten Apostles.

Jesus Appears to His Apostles

Jesus suddenly appeared in the room where they were gathered (not coming in through the door, showing that physical walls are no obstacle for a resurrected being). The Savior greeted them with shalom aleichem, Hebrew/Aramaic for “peace be unto you.”

The disciples were startled and afraid, supposing that some spirit had joined them, but Jesus calmed their anxiety and satisfied their curiosity by inviting them to come forth and get acquainted with a resurrected body: “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 extended his hands and his feet for them to touch, just as he would do for his disciples in the western world: “come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet” (3 Nephi 11:14).

The Lord wanted his still-mortal friends to know that a resurrected, immortal body is very corporeal; the flesh is real and physical—though now in a more refined and perfected condition. It was important for them to see and feel, to be eyewitnesses with an unequivocal testimony of the corporeal nature of the resurrected Lord’s body, because for many generations thereafter—from ancient through modern times—some would corrupt and distort the reality of physical resurrection and question the corporeality of Jesus’ postmortal body.

The physicality of Jesus’ resurrected body pointedly refutes the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus is a mere spiritual essence or influence without a body. If Jesus now has no body, what did he do with his resurrected body? The notion that he is merely a spiritual essence was not taught by him but added later by men.

The disciples were so happy they could hardly believe what was happening, and they continued marveling, trying to figure out how a resurrected body works.

Thomas later desired the same privilege that the other Apostles and the women had received; he became an eyewitness too.

The resurrected Jesus appeared to his Apostles at the Sea of Galilee and further instructed them about resurrection.

Another post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus may have occurred on Mount Arbel, a high point overlooking the whole Sea of Galilee region. There, on the secluded edge of the twelve-hundred-foot precipice, Jesus could have inspired his leading disciples with their commission to take the gospel to all the world (see Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:15–18).

When Jesus’ Apostles saw him, they worshipped him, Matthew reported (28:17), “but some doubted,” otherwise meaning that some hesitated; they were still piecing together this wonderful mystery of the resurrected Lord.

Back in the southern part of the land, Jesus led his closest followers out as far as to Bethany (see Luke 24:50), on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives (see Acts 1:9–12), and there he blessed them.

Other Appearances of the Resurrected Jesus

The scriptures go on to relate the visits of the risen Lord with members of the Twelve in Galilee (see John 21), with more than five hundred brethren (noted in 1 Corinthians 15:6), and with James (see 1 Corinthians 15:7). For five to six weeks (forty days) after the Resurrection, Jesus met with and taught the Apostles and others, then said farewell from the Mount of Olives, near Bethany (see Luke 24:50–51; Acts 1:3–11). He appeared to Paul (see 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8), and again to John (see Revelation 1: 9–18).

Jesus also visited personally with many righteous Nephite and Lamanite souls, as recorded in the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 11:1–18:39), including another Quorum of Twelve Apostles in the western hemisphere (see 3 Nephi 27:1–28:12). Centuries later the resurrected Christ appeared to western hemisphere prophets Mormon and Moroni (see Mormon 1:15; Ether 12:39). In modern times he has appeared to Joseph Smith (see Joseph Smith—History 1:14–20) and to others.

Appearances of Additional Resurrected Beings

We do not know of the reality of the resurrection of the dead from the numerous appearances of Jesus Christ alone. Others have resurrected and shown themselves with their glorified, resurrected bodies also.

When the resurrected Moroni first manifested himself, Joseph Smith related in his history the most detailed descriptions of a resurrected person ever recorded (see Joseph Smith—History 1:30–32).

John the Baptist also appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in a resurrected body, complete with the head that he had lost at the hands of Herod Antipas’ executioner, showing that the miracle of resurrection restores body parts lost in mortality.

Then came Peter, James, and John—Peter and James returning to earth with resurrected bodies, but John with his translated or transfigured body.[11]

Other renowned ancient prophets came back to earth: Moses, Elias, and Elijah. Moses and Elijah had come back to earth eighteen hundred years earlier to the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30), but on that occasion they had returned to earth as translated beings,[12] since there was no resurrection from the dead at the time. Jesus Christ, as the scriptures attest, would be “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20), the first to resurrect from the dead to immortality (see Acts 26:23; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5; 2 Nephi 2:8–9). On this latter-day occasion the two preeminent prophets came as resurrected beings, and on that same day the Lord Jesus Christ once again appeared to accept his house.

What We Have Learned about Resurrected Beings

From all these accounts—ancient and modern, on both hemispheres—we learn that Jesus Christ was the first of all who have ever lived on this planet to rise from the dead to immortality. Every human will resurrect, as Paul wrote: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22), though not everyone will resurrect to the same glory: there are different levels or degrees of resurrected bodies, as the sun, moon, and stars differ from one another in glory (see 1 Corinthians 15:40–42). Resurrected bodies consist of more refined and pure physical/spiritual matter that can pass through what we regard as solid objects. They are composed of flesh and bone, but not blood (see Luke 24:39). They have power to eat and digest food (see Luke 24:43). They are tangible and corporeal (see Luke 24:39–40; John 20:25–29).

The Resurrection of the Lord, and our subsequent resurrection, is one of the most glorious messages of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of the gift of resurrection provided by our Savior, all humankind will rise again from the dead and live forever. In fact, there is no choice in the matter; as a gift from the God of heaven we are all going to live forever. The choice we do have is where and with whom we would like to live forever. We are now in the process of determining that by how we are behaving here on earth.

All consequences of the original Fall have been paid and resolved through our Savior’s love. He loved us so much that he rescued us from our enemies, evil, death, and hell. This is the Father’s great plan of happiness that his Firstborn Son championed. Elder Dallin H. Oaks declared:

Many living witnesses can testify to the literal fulfillment of [the] scriptural assurances of the resurrection. Many, including some in my own extended family, have seen a departed loved one in vision or personal appearance and have witnessed their restoration in “proper and perfect frame” in the prime of life. Whether these were manifestations of persons already resurrected or of righteous spirits awaiting an assured resurrection, the reality and nature of the resurrection of mortals is evident. What a comfort to know that all who have been disadvantaged in life from birth defects, from mortal injuries, from disease, or from the natural deterioration of old age will be resurrected in “proper and perfect frame.”

I wonder if we fully appreciate the enormous significance of our belief in a literal, universal resurrection.[13]

Testimony of the Resurrection

Because the Ogden family lived in other, distant lands for many years as our children grew up, the children returned to America in the early 1990s never having attended a funeral service and never having seen a dead body. And I myself was nearly fifty years old before I ever touched a dead body. When David Galbraith and I were serving together in a BYU stake presidency, one of our high councilors died, and we went to his viewing. Standing over the casket, David gave me a little encouragement, and I touched the brother’s hand. It still felt like flesh, but there was no warmth in the body at all—it was totally cold. I thought about that for a while. For many things to function these days, they have to be plugged in or connected to some power source, electricity or something else. Our bodies are self-contained, self-generating power sources; our brains and hearts and other systems keep our bodies on and operating. Our spirits are actually power sources; take them away and there is no life inside. Nothing works without the spirit. We say that we see with two eyeballs in the front of our heads, but if our spirits leave our bodies, those eyeballs won’t see a thing. They don’t work.

I testify that resurrection is real, for many have had personal experience with resurrected beings in our day, as documented in records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I believe that righteous men will, in a future day, use the priesthood and call spirits back into the bodies of their families—raising bodies into a permanently perfected condition.

And I testify that our Lord and Savior has manifested infinite love, kindness, and mercy by providing immortality and eternal life to every soul who really cares about him and his Father, and proves it by the way he or she lives. The greatest blessings in the universe, and the riches of eternity, are enumerated in the holy endowment that our Lord has revealed to us—in the initiatory or preparatory ordinances, in the instruction session with its veil ceremony, and in the sealing ordinances. In his holy house our Resurrected Savior most exquisitely continues to manifest his divine love for each of us.


Notes

[1] Howard W. Hunter, “An Apostle’s Witness of the Resurrection,” Ensign, May 1986, 16.

[2] Orson F. Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts: A Series of Dissertations on Spiritual, Historical and Philosophic Themes (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1921), 152.

[3] F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York: Galilee Book, 1969), 206.

[4] Ben Witherington III, New Testament History—A Narrative Account (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001), 166.

[5] Ben Witherington III, as cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 141.

[6] The three persons Jesus raised from the dead were the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11–17), the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:18–26; Mark 5:22–43; Luke 8:41–56), and Lazarus (John 11:1–46).

[7] Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979–81), 4:268.

[8] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 211.

[9] Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994), 280.

[10] James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 633–34.

[11] “The Latin trans figura (like the Greek meta morpho) means to change into another form. [At the Transfiguration, during Jesus’ mortal ministry,] Peter, James, and John were transfigured, or changed, to another condition. . . . They passed into a higher state, but what is that state? The scriptures use a number of terms to describe these changed beings: transfigured and translated are two of the descriptions, both meaning the same condition, though transfigured is short-term and translated is long-term. Other words used are ‘renewed’ and ‘paradisiacal’ (Article of Faith 10), ‘caught up’ (Moses 7:27; 3 Nephi 28:36; D&C 88:96), ‘glorified’ (Moses 1:11; 7:3), ‘quickened’ (D&C 67:11; 88:96), and ‘changed in the twinkling of an eye’ (3 Nephi 28:8; D&C 43:32, 63:51, 101:31). Most of these descriptions refer to the shifting upward from our current telestial condition to a terrestrial condition. To be transfigured or translated, then, means to be changed to a terrestrial level, where bodies (while in that condition) are sanctified, made holy, and do not experience mortal pains or death (3 Nephi 28:7–9, 13–17, 36–40). Transfiguration, or translation, Joseph Smith taught, ‘is that of the terrestrial.’” D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse: The Four Gospels (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 339–40.

[12] Moses and Elijah had both been translated upon concluding their mortal ministries so they could participate on earth in this very occasion of transfiguration. They were taken up, interestingly, in the same area east of the Jordan River opposite Jericho (see Deuteronomy 34:5; Alma 45:19; 2 Kings 2:11–12) where John the Baptist and Jesus both began their mortal ministries. Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory, and spake of his death, and also his resurrection, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 9:31). Moses and Elijah were only six months away from their own potential resurrection and would understandably have been anxiously anticipating that glorious experience.

[13] Dallin H. Oaks, “Resurrection,” Ensign, May 2000, 15.