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.
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.
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.
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.
In this passage, Alma illustrates how a teacher can correct his or her students without belittling them.
- First, he identifies a misconception: some people use the term “first resurrection” to refer to the assignment of a spirit to paradise or spirit prison immediately after death.
- Second, he acknowledges that this use of the term may actually have some merit: “I admit it may be termed a resurrection.” Since the word resurrect means to raise from the dead, then the rising of the spirit from the body would certainly qualify as a type of “resurrection.”
- Third, he corrects the misunderstanding. Other prophets, including Abinadi and Alma’s father had spoken of a first resurrection, but they had clearly meant something different from the continued existence of our spirit after death. (See Mosiah 15:21-24, Mosiah 18:9.) They were referring to a subsequent event: the reuniting of our spirit with our body.
I appreciate the respect Alma shows toward the people who lack a full understanding. I think this respect comes from an awareness of how we gain spiritual knowledge. Throughout the chapter, he acknowledges his own limited understanding. Using phrases such as “I do not say,” “let it suffice,” and “I give it as my opinion,” he clearly identifies the boundary between what he knows and what he doesn’t. On the other hand, he leaves no doubt about his convictions:
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 (Alma 40:11).
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 (Alma 40:23).
As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has reminded us:
We simply don’t know all things—we can’t see everything. What may seem contradictory now may be perfectly understandable as we search for and receive more trustworthy information. Because we see through a glass darkly, we have to trust the Lord, who sees all things clearly.
Yes, our world is full of confusion. But eventually all of our questions will be answered. All of our doubts will be replaced by certainty. And that is because there is one source of truth that is complete, correct, and incorruptible. That source is our infinitely wise and all-knowing Heavenly Father. He knows truth as it was, as it is, and as it yet will be. “He comprehendeth all things, … and he is above all things, … and all things are by him, and of him.”
Our loving Heavenly Father offers His truth to us, His mortal children.
(“What Is Truth,” BYU Devotional Address, January 13, 2013)
Today, as I have opportunities to teach others, I will remember that we all have limited understanding. I will acknowledge the understanding my students already have, and I will strive to teach them by building on their current understanding instead of criticizing their misconceptions. Even when I testify of things I know to be true, I will recognize that my own understanding is not yet complete, and that like my students, I still have much to learn.