Alma Chapter 40
Alma 40 Alma counsels his son Corianton on the spirit world and resurrection.
Alma 40:11-14 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection. Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
1 Now my son, here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead.
verse 1 "I perceive that thy mind is worried" We will learn that Corianton has developed several questions about the doctrine. He has begun to doubt. Though we don't know the sequence of events in Corianton's particular situation, we would consider it perfectly typical and predictable that one who commits serious sin loses the Spirit and begins to doubt?
2 Behold, I say unto you, that there is no resurrection-or, I would say, in other words, that this mortal does not put on immortality, this corruption does not put on incorruption-until after the coming of Christ.
verse 2 Christ was the first to be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20). In this verse the mortal body is referred to as "this mortal" or "this corruption." The mortal body is "corruption" in that it is subject to disease and aging and decay and death. The eternal body is referred to as "immortality" or "incorruption."
3 Behold, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead. But behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet. Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know-that is concerning the resurrection.
verse 3 "Now, I unfold unto you a mystery" Alma's intent here seems to be to discuss-beginning in verse 6-what he has learned from God regarding the world of spirits-the state of the soul between death and resurrection. It is this information about "which [he has] inquired diligently of God that [he] might know."
4 Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows; but God knoweth the time which is appointed.
verse 4 "Now when this time cometh no one knows" Alma does not intend to give any details about the sequence or timing of the resurrection. Indeed we will learn that his understanding of this sequence was imperfect. His intention, rather is to discuss mainly the spirit world (see verse 9).
5 Now, whether there shall be one time, or a second time, or a third time, that men shall come forth from the dead, it mattereth not; for God knoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case-that there is a time appointed that all shall rise from the dead.
verse 5 Though it is not Alma's intention to discuss the sequence of the resurrection, that sequence is reviewed in the introductory commentary for verses 16-20 of this chapter.
verses 6-7 Alma understands that in the resurrection the body and spirit are reunited. He then asks, in these next two verses, a logical question: What becomes of the spirit of man between the time of his death and his resurrection?
6 Now there must needs be a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection.
verse 6 Between the time of a man's death in mortality and his resurrection he lives in the world of spirits, the so-called spirit world. For a discussion of this phase of our eternal life The Spirit World in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 13.
7 And now I would inquire what becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection?
verse 7 "Souls of men" here refers to the spirits of men. This same meaning for "soul" and "souls" also pertains in verses 11, 14, 18, 21, and 23 of this chapter. This usage is different from the more specific definition of the soul of man given to us by revelation in this final dispensation. This latter, more correct, definition of the soul is the combination of the man's spirit and his body (D&C 88:15-16).
8 Now whether there is more than one time appointed for men to rise it mattereth not; for all do not die at once, and this mattereth not; all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.
verse 8 Again, for a discussion of the sequence of the resurrection see the introductory comments for verses 16-20 of this chapter.
"time only is measured unto men" The scriptures teach us that in the worlds to come "there shall be time no longer" (D&C 84:100; 88:110). This is a tantalizing piece of information, but conceptually it is difficult to digest and understand at this stage of our development.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell enriched our understanding of time: "And when the gossamer veil called time is too much with us, let us recall that ere long time will be no more. Time is measured only to man anyway (see Revelation 10:6; Alma 40:8; D&C 84:100). Meanwhile, let us make allowance for the rapidity with which time seems to pass especially when we are happy. Jacob found it so; 'And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her' (Genesis 29:20). On such a scale, each of us has but 'a few days' left in mortality" (We Will Prove Them Herewith, 10).
9 Therefore, there is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection. And now, concerning this space of time, what becometh of the souls of men is the thing which I have inquired diligently of the Lord to know; and this is the thing of which I do know.
10 And when the time cometh when all shall rise, then shall they know that God knoweth all the times which are appointed unto man.
11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection-Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
verses 11-12 These verses and also 2 Nephi 9:38 suggest that "all men," both good and evil, at the moment of their death, are taken home to God-doubtless our Lord Jesus Christ-perhaps to have a private audience with him to be assigned to either the state of peace or "paradise" or to the state of misery, the "spirit prison." Alma's wording here is similar to that found in the book of Ecclesiastes: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Is this really the correct order of events after death? Do we really enter into the presence of God as soon as we die? This verse has led some to believe that the post-mortal spirit world is identical to the premortal spirit world where we lived in the presence of God. For a discussion of this question and for a summary of what is known about the spirit world, see The Spirit World, a chapter in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine referenced above.
verse 12 "a state of rest, a state of peace" It is obvious that the righteous departed spirits in paradise are free of worldly troubles, the vicissitudes of life, and the shackles of a corrupt and infirm body. It is likely that these spirits will enjoy the vigor and enthusiasm which was characteristic of them in their prime of life. Their mortal trial is over. They are sealed up to inherit eternal life in the celestial kingdom. Rather than simply resting, however, they will be involved in the work of the Lord, particularly missionary work. All who do not qualify for the state of paradise will be assigned spirit prison where they will begin their labors to work out their own eternal future.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil-for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house-and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
verse 13 "the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house" "Their house" might be interpreted as "their spirit." While it is true that some of the spirits in the spirit prison are so wicked that the devil virtually has taken possession of them and has his way with them, this phrase likely has reference to all of those spirits that enter into the spirit prison. Does Satan really take possession of all those spirits who enter the spirit prison? To some extent all who enter the spirit prison have succumbed to the "natural man" tendencies within all of us and to the temptations of Satan and to the pulls of the mortal world. Keep in mind the relationship between Satan and the natural self of each man. Satan did not create it, but he encourages its abuse.
"cast into outer darkness" Again, assuming that this verse applies to all who enter the spirit prison and not just the most wicked among them, this "outer darkness" is not the same place as the "outer darkness" where Satan and the sons of Perdition will live eternally. Rather, in this verse, this phrase refers simply to the spirit prison. Here, there will be "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth" as the unrepentant sinners, who failed to take full advantage of the Savior's atonement here in mortality, undergo the buffetings of Satan and become cleansed of their sins in preparation for their receiving a degree of glory. They will, eventually, automatically receive the privilege of resurrection. Thus, a part of Christ's atonement does automatically apply to them-the overcoming of physical death. However, the part of the Savior's atonement that overcomes spiritual death only applies to those who repent of their sins and live the commandments. Thus, the unrepentant sinners must be turned over to the buffetings of Satan and begin to pay the price for their own sins. In this manner they become partially cleansed of their sins and begin to become prepared to receive a degree of glory. It is during this painful process that misery is experienced which results in "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." Of the exquisite pain and remorseful realization that is experienced here, Joseph Smith taught: "The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits (where they go after death) is [the knowledge] that they [have] come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers" (TPJS, 310-11). Thus, hell or "outer darkness" is both a place and a state of mind.
In addition to remorse, experienced in the spirit prison, there are other reasons the spirit prison is referred to as "hell." For those individuals in spirit prison, there is only one way to avoid being cast into eternal outer darkness with Satan and his angels forever. It is to repent and accept Christ. It would not be surprising to learn that these individuals are advised of a temporal deadline for that repentance and coming to Christ. Many of them have a long way to progress as they repair their lives. They therefore must suffer much pain of self denial. Please keep in mind that there is no arbitrary or purely punitive suffering in God's universe. The "hell" or pain they experience is completely productive and necessary.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
verse 14 This verse describes the frame of mind of some of those in the spirit prison. There seems to be little hope and much of despair among (some of) them. These are likely those spoken of in the previous verse whose "house" (spirit) has been lost to the devil. They are "in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them." This is a particularly poignant and pitiable state and is probably analogous to that of the one third of the hosts of heaven in the pre-existence who were cast out with Satan. They know well their final destiny, and they desperately fear its coming. There is scriptural evidence that those in the clutches of the devil know and fear their destiny. In the country of the Gergesenes, the Savior encountered two who were possessed by devils. Upon recognizing the Lord, the evil pair cried out: "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Matthew 8:29). It seems clear that these two also were in "a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them."
One meaning of this verse is self-explanatory but worth emphasizing. All spirits will remain in the spirit realm until their resurrection.
15 Now, there are some that have understood that this state of happiness and this state of misery of the soul, before the resurrection, was a first resurrection. Yea, I admit it may be termed a resurrection, the raising of the spirit or the soul and their consignation to happiness or misery, according to the words which have been spoken.
verse 15 It is apparent that Alma understands the true meaning of the term resurrection-the reuniting of the spirit with its eternal body (see verse 18). Here he allows that the process of death and the passage of the spirit to either paradise or prison might be termed a "first resurrection" of sorts.
verses 16-20 Before attempting a discussion of these verses, let us review what is known through modern-day revelation about the sequence of the first and second resurrections: Not everyone is resurrected at the same moment. There is a pre-defined order in which man is resurrected. The apostle Paul said, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order" (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, italics added).
Actually there are two separate resurrections, the first and the second. The first resurrection is also called the "resurrection of life" or the "resurrection of the just." The second resurrection is also referred to as the "resurrection of damnation" (3 Nephi 26:5) or the "resurrection of the unjust" (D&C 76:17).
The first resurrection is divided into two parts: the "morning of the first resurrection" and the "afternoon of the first resurrection." Those who merit a celestial body come forth in the "morning" of the first resurrection. These are they who once resided in paradise, those who bore the title "just men made perfect," those referred to as "the just" (D&C 76:17), meaning that they are justified, ratified, sealed, and approved of God. These are they who have had their calling and election made sure-they who have received the promise by revelation that they shall be equal with him in power, might, and dominion (see D&C 76:95). For a discussion of the concept of having one's calling and election made sure, see the commentary for Helaman 10:4-7 and also Calling and Election Made Sure in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 16. Those who come forth in this resurrection will live with God and enjoy "eternal life" which is God's life.
The morning of the first resurrection began at the time of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is likely continuing at the present time. The final phase of the "morning" of the first resurrection is the major resurrection that will occur at the time of Christ's second coming just prior to the Millennium. Of course, those who live during the Millennium and merit celestial glory will receive their celestial bodies during the millennial period (see D&C 132:19).
Those who will inherit a terrestrial body arise in the "afternoon" of the first resurrection. The afternoon of the first resurrection begins some time after the onset of the Millennium and ends before the end of the one thousand years. As mentioned, it is during this phase that those bound for the terrestrial glory will receive their bodies. These are referred to as "Christ's at his coming" (D&C 88:99). These are they "who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh" (D&C 88:99). These have accepted Christ but not to the degree that would exalt them.
The second resurrection begins at the end of the Millennium. The first to come forth in the second resurrection are those who have accepted Christ and have been cleansed of their sins and have thus earned the telestial glory. Then, finally, those who have earned no glory and who are destined to spend the rest of eternity with Satan in outer darkness come forth with their bodies. Even "hell" or the spirit prison cannot purge these of their filth. They were given a sure witness and knowledge of heaven's secrets, but they denied it all and came out in open rebellion striving to destroy the Lord and his church. Thus they "crucify Christ afresh."
16 And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
verse 16 Alma here seems to suggest that the "first resurrection" includes "all" men, both the righteous and the wicked, who died between the time of Adam and the time of Christ. Through modern revelation we have learned a more correct understanding of the first resurrection as discussed above.
17 Now, we do not suppose that this first resurrection, which is spoken of in this manner, can be the resurrection of the souls and their consignation to happiness or misery. Ye cannot suppose that this is what it meaneth.
verse 17 Here Alma simply makes the point that the "partial judgment" or the assignment to paradise or prison which occurs immediately after death is not to be referred to as a resurrection.
Brigham Young gave us an interesting additional insight into the resurrection. He taught that no man on the earth holds the keys of the resurrection. "We have not, neither can we, receive here the ordinance and the keys of the resurrection. They will be given to those who have passed off this stage of action and have received their bodies again. . . . They will be ordained by those who hold the keys of the resurrection, to go forth and resurrect the saints, just as we receive the ordinance of baptism, then the keys to baptize others for the remission of sins. This is one of the ordinances we cannot receive here, and there are many more" (JD, 15:137). It is fascinating to learn that those who have been resurrected will assist with the "ordinance" of the resurrection.
18 Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but it meaneth the reuniting of the soul with the body, of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ.
verse 18 The term "resurrection" is very specific and refers to reuniting of the "soul" (actually the spirit) with the eternal body.
19 Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice; that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ.
verse 19 Alma here acknowledges that he is not sure when the various groups will be resurrected. He then speculates, incorrectly as it turns out, as to the sequence of resurrection. He teaches that all who lived up to the time of Christ, both righteous and wicked, will be resurrected "before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of "Christ." We must keep in mind that each prophet can only teach according to his own light and understanding, and one prophet's understanding of any given doctrine may be greater or less than that of another prophet living at another time. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: "It is evident that Alma's understanding of the extent of the resurrection at the time the Savior came forth from the dead was limited, therefore he stated only his opinion" (The Improvement Era [July 1954] 57:495).
We now know from modern revelation that the only individuals who were resurrected with Christ were the saints-those destined to inherit the celestial kingdom (see Mosiah 15:22; D&C 138:12).
20 Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven.
verse 20 Alma's "opinion" or spiritual intuition on this specific point is accurate. The first resurrection, the resurrection of the righteous who died between the days of Alma and the time of Christ does indeed begin shortly after the resurrection of the Savior (Matthew 27:52-53).
21 But whether it be at his resurrection or after, I do not say; but this much I say, that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
22 Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets.
verse 22 Here, the law of restoration is introduced. We will learn more of this concept in chapter 41.
23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.
verse 23 This verse conjures up the image of the resurrection as a retrieval and piecing together of the various parts of our mortal bodies when we were in our physical prime. However, we know that man will be resurrected with an eternal body that is celestial, terrestrial, telestial, or one which is suited only to live in outer darkness. Hence, each man will receive his "proper and perfect" body depending on his worthiness. These eternal bodies may be presumed to be fundamentally different than those in which we abide during mortality. For a more complete discussion of the specifics of resurrection, see the subtitle "What is the role of the resurrection in the final judgment of us all-two views of resurrection?" the section titled "The Great Final Judgment" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 9, The Judgments.
"all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame" Elder Neal A. Maxwell expanded our understanding of the "all things" which shall be restored:
At the judgment we will not only have the Book of Mormon's prophesied "bright recollection" and "perfect remembrance" of our misdeeds (see Alma 5:18; Alma 11:43); the joyous things will be preserved too. . . . Among the "all things [that] shall be restored" (Alma 40:23) will be memory, including eventually the memory of premortal events and conditions. What a flood of feeling and fact will come to us when, at a time a loving God deems wise, this faculty is restored! Surely it will increase our gratefulness for God's long-suffering and for Jesus' atonement! Hence one of the great blessings of immortality and eternal life will be the joy of our being connected again with the memories of both the first and the second estates (Men and Women of Christ, 132).
24 And now, my son, this is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets-
verse 24 We will learn that the "law of restoration" includes both a temporal and a spiritual restoration. The resurrection is the temporal restoration, while the spiritual restoration consists of those blessings, powers, and gifts which a man may eventually receive depending upon his performance during this probationary period. More about the law of restoration in chapter 41.
25 And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.
verse 25 In what sense will the righteous "shine forth in the kingdom of God"? Joseph Smith wrote of the eventual fate of the righteous. "Here, then, is eternal life-to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power (TPJS, 346-47).
We know that the resurrection will endow all men (except the sons of perdition) with a measure of glory proportionate to their individual spiritual capacities. Even the glory of the telestial-the least of the Father's kingdoms-"surpasses all understanding" (D&C 76:89). All immortals must be enveloped in glory if they are to enjoy any degree of his presence in eternity. To receive a fulness of the Father's "consuming fire" is to be bathed in celestial powers. It is, said the Prophet Joseph, to "come to dwell in unity, and in all the glory and everlasting burnings of the Gods" (TPJS, 172-73). To do this, we must be able to comprehend the Lord's fulness (D&C 88:67). Hence, the degree to which we can endure the presence of God determines the degree to which we can become one with him. It also determines our capacity for happiness or joy (D&C 93:33; D&C 76:96-98; Helaman 5:44; cf. 1 Peter 1:8).
26 But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out, and consigned to partake of the fruits of their labors or their works, which have been evil; and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.
verse 26 This verse seems to describe those who will go with Satan to outer darkness.
"and they drink the dregs of a bitter cup" A wicked man "drink[s] the dregs of a bitter cup" when he receives the justice and judgment of God.
There are a number of instances in the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon where Dr. Royal Skousen feels that Oliver made a mistake in transcribing Joseph Smith's dictation. If a word or a phrase was unknown to him, he substituted a more common word or phrase (but with varying degrees of success). In each of these cases, the substitution is found in the original manuscript and was later copied into the printer's manuscript. It was then either corrected by the typesetter or appeared in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. This phrase offers such an example. In the original and printer's manuscripts, this phrase read "and they drink the drugs of a bitter cup." The word drugs was corrected by the typesetter, and it therefore was changed to dregs in the 1830 edition. Dr. Skousen feels that the reading in the present edition is the correct one.