Mormon’s description of the end of Alma’s life is mysterious:
He departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death or burial we know not of (Alma 45:18).
Those are the facts. But Mormon goes on to tell us how some people explained those facts:
Behold, this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself; and we suppose that he has also received Alma in the spirit, unto himself; therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial (Alma 45:19).
The description of the end of Moses’s life in the Old Testament is also cryptic:
So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.
And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).
According to this passage, Moses died in Moab and was buried by God, but no one knows where.
In the New Testament, Jude refers to a dispute between Michael and the devil over the body of Moses. He brings up the event as an example of Michael’s self-restraint and civility, but he doesn’t elaborate on the nature of the dispute (Jude 1:5).
But Mormon provides an explanation: Moses didn’t actually die. Mormon equates the concept of being “buried by the hand of the Lord” with being “taken up by the Spirit.” This connects Moses with a small number of other prophets who were taken to God without suffering death:
- “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him” (Hebrews 11:5, bold added).
- “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11, bold added).
Since Moses appeared with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, it’s reasonable to assume that the two prophets were in a similar state, still embodied but not yet resurrected, since Jesus had not yet initiated the resurrection. (See Matthew 17:1-9.)
The Guide to the Scriptures defines “translated beings” as “persons who are changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality.” This is similar to the description Mormon gave of the three Nephite disciples, who were promised by the Savior that they would live until His Second Coming:
Therefore, that they might not taste of death there was a change wrought upon their bodies, that they might not suffer pain nor sorrow save it were for the sins of the world (3 Nephi 28:38).
And Mormon makes it clear that being translated is not the same as being resurrected:
Now this change was not equal to that which shall take place at the last day; but there was a change wrought upon them, insomuch that Satan could have no power over them, that he could not tempt them; and they were sanctified in the flesh, that they were holy, and that the powers of the earth could not hold them.
And in this state they were to remain until the judgment day of Christ; and at that day they were to receive a greater change, and to be received into the kingdom of the Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens (3 Nephi 38:39-40).
So we know of at least eight people who were (probably) translated: Enoch, Moses, Elijah, Alma, John the Beloved, and the three Nephite disciples.
Today, I will be grateful for the reminder that God has all power, including power over death. I will place my trust in Him, knowing that He can empower me to do whatever is needed for me to accomplish my purposes.