Nevertheless, Glory be to the Father
Nevertheless, Glory be to the Father
This week, as we remember the most sacred time in history, I would like to share with you my testimony of and gratitude for God, the Eternal Father, and his role in the events we celebrate this week. When pondering the Atonement and the Resurrection, I wonder if sometimes we focus so much on what happened to Jesus Christ that we forget or discount the role of God the Father in those miraculous events. I hope that in reading this message, each of us will be filled with a reverent gratitude for both the Father and the Son.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the following (and I’ve taken some license to reformat his words into a numbered list for added emphasis):
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He:
b) was buried, and
c) rose again the third day, and
d) ascended into heaven;
and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 49, emphasis added)
Upon careful reading of those words of Joseph Smith, you will note that he does NOT simply say that the fundamental principles of our religion are the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Rather, he says that the fundamental principles of our religion “are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets” concerning these things. Think of the weight this places on the testimonies of men like Peter, James, John, and the other Apostles who were eyewitness to these sacred events! During my scripture study last Sunday, I found myself re-reading and reflecting on the testimonies of the New Testament apostles concerning these very things. The chief apostle—Peter—left us a most powerful witness on behalf of the others. Please carefully note the role of God the Father in his testimony:
38 …God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
(Acts 10:38–44, emphasis added)
In Peter’s testimony—which Joseph Smith declared to be the fundamental principle of our religion—he testifies that God the Father “anointed” Jesus; that he “was with him”; that he “raised up” or resurrected his Son; that he “ordained” him to be the Judge of the living and the dead; and that he (the Father) was even the one who “chose witnesses” to whom He (God) “shewed [Christ] openly”. The role of the Father in all of these events is most profound and sacred.
According to the apostle John, Jesus taught:
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Many have erroneously interpreted verse 18 to mean that Jesus had the power to “resurrect himself”, because he was the begotten Son of God in the flesh. It is true that the Savior was given power over death, as King Benjamin prophesied that “he shall suffer…even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death.” (see Mosiah 3:7). Such power—which also came from the Father—is what enabled Christ to endure all of the sufferings at Gethsemane and Golgotha. None other was worthy or capable of such suffering, for there could “be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.” (Alma 34:12). Only “God himself [could] come down among the children of men, and…redeem his people.” (Mosiah 15:1).
Notwithstanding, no person—including even God—has the power to resurrect himself. President Spencer W. Kimball, when quoting Brigham Young, taught:
“We have not, neither can we receive here, the ordinance and the keys of resurrection…[the keys] 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 receive the keys of authority to baptize others for the remission of their sins. This is one of the ordinances we cannot receive here [on the earth], and there are many more.” (see https://www.lds.org/ensign/1977/05/our-great-potential?lang=eng).
As Presidents Kimball and Young taught, resurrection (like baptism, and like the power to create “both spirit and body”) is an “ordinance” that is connected with “keys” of Priesthood. It is contrary to the order of heaven for any person to ever perform an ordinance for himself. As Joseph Smith taught, “God himself could not create himself.” (see https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/05/the-king-follett-sermon?lang=eng). Christ did not (and could not) “beget” or “give birth” to himself; he did not (and could not) “ordain” himself; and, he did not (and could not) “baptize” himself. In all of these things, he was entirely dependent on the Father. Similarly, he did not perform the ordinance of resurrection for himself. Only a resurrected being can resurrect someone—and, as Peter declared above, it was God the Father who “raised up [Christ] on the third day”.
The Master seems to have taught this principle himself:
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he [i.e., the Father] will shew him [i.e., the Son] greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
Two things are interesting to note about John’s passage above. First, the Lord said that he “can do nothing of himself.” He was only able to do what the Father commanded and what he “seeth the Father do.” Verses 20 and 21 are an indication that Jesus was referring to the resurrection when making this statement. The “greater works” than the miracles he performed in mortality had reference to the resurrection, which would cause one to “marvel”.
The second thing to note about verse 21 is that the word “them” is italicized in the scriptures. What does it mean when a word in the scriptures is shown in italics? The answer is given from “Abbreviations” section of Study Helps in the scriptures: “Following the traditional format, italics in Bible verses indicate words that are not found in the original text (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) but have been added for clarification in the translation.” Thus, when a word appears in italics in our scriptures, it means that such a word did not exist in the original text, but was added by the English translators (like William Tyndale, for instance).
So, in the case of verse 21, the word “them” may be, but is not necessarily, an accurate translation—it simply was not spoken by Jesus in the original language. A more literal translation of the verse would read:
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
The word “quicken” means to bring life to, or to resurrect. In the context of the surrounding verses (like verses 19 and 20), Jesus could be referring to himself as the one who is to be resurrected, as follows:
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead [i.e., the Son], and quickeneth [him]; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
The Lord’s reference to the Father “raising up the dead” may be a direct reference to his own upcoming resurrection, especially given that Christ is the “first-fruits” of the resurrection, from all the worlds belonging to the Father. This may come as a surprise to some who (like me) grew up thinking that Christ resurrected himself. However, the New Testament is filled with the “testimonies of the apostles and prophets” that it was God the Father who resurrected his Son, Jesus Christ. The following is a list of some of the scriptural references that contain such testimonies—that Christ was resurrected by his Father. It is a long list, but each reflects a profound and powerful witness:
- Acts 2:22–24—“Jesus of Nazareth…ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death.”
- Acts 2:29–33—“God had sworn with an oath…that he would raise up Christ…This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.”
- Acts 3:13–15—“Ye…killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.”
- Acts 3:25–26—“God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”
- Acts 4:10—“By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead…”
- Acts 5:29–32—“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree…and we are his witnesses of these things.”
- Acts 10:36–43—“We are witnesses of [Jesus of Nazareth]…whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly.”
- Acts 13:29–31—“They took [Jesus] down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead.”
- Acts 13:32–34—“We declare unto you glad tidings, how…God hath raised up Jesus again.”
- Acts 13:35–37—“He [the Holy One], whom God raised again, saw no corruption.”
- Romans 4:24–25—“Believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
- Romans 6:4—“As Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
- Romans 8:10–11—“If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies…”
- Romans 10:9—“If thou…shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised [the Lord Jesus] from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:14—“God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:12–23—“We have testified of God that he raised up Christ.”
- 2 Corinthians 4:13–14—“He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus.”
- Galatians 1:1—“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)”
- Colossians 2:12—“Ye are risen with [Christ] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
- 1 Peter 1:18–21—“Believe in God, that raised up [Christ] from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi gave a similar testimony that God (the Father) broke the bands of death:
“And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith also added his own witness to that of the New Testament apostles. He declared:
“God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world, and this He has given an assurance of in that He raised up His Son Jesus Christ from the dead—the point on which the hope of all who believe the inspired record is founded for their future happiness and enjoyment; because, “If Christ be not risen,” said Paul to the Corinthians, “your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (see 1 Cor. 15). If the resurrection from the dead be not an important point, or item in our faith, we must confess that we know nothing about it; for if there be no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not risen; and if Christ has not risen He was not the Son of God; and if He was not the Son of God, there is not nor cannot be a Son of God, if the present book called the Scriptures is true; because the time has gone by when, according to that book, He was to make His appearance. On this subject, however, we are reminded of the words of Peter to the Jewish Sanhedrim, when speaking of Christ, he says that God raised Him from the dead, and we (the apostles) are His witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Ghost, whom God had given to them that obey Him (see Acts 5). So that after the testimony of the Scriptures on this point, the assurance is given by the Holy Ghost, bearing witness to those who obey Him, that Christ Himself has assuredly risen from the dead; and if He has risen from the dead. He will, by His power, bring all men to stand before Him.” (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:18-19.)
Importantly, Joseph Smith taught that the doctrine that the Father “raised up His Son Jesus Christ from the dead” is the very “point on which the hope of all who believe the inspired record is founded.” In other words, this is perhaps the most glorious and fundamental doctrine of the scriptures. In later years, President Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency echoed the same testimony in simplicity and plainness. He declared:
“Hallelujah! Praise to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for it was the Father that raised up Christ from the dead!” (President Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, April 1915, Overflow Meeting. 35.)
This doctrine takes on added meaning when we consider the principle of BAPTISM. The apostle Paul taught that baptism is in similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ:
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
We know that Christ himself was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness”, but he did not (and could not) baptize himself. Did Christ “bury” himself into the water? No, it was John the Baptist who buried him. After he was buried in the water, did Jesus raise himself up out of the water? No. Again, it was John the Baptist who raised him up out of the watery grave of baptism. Thus, in a most profound manner, John became the very symbol and type of God the Eternal Father, who would later bury His Only Begotten Son into death, and subsequently “raise him up from the dead by the glory of the Father” on the third day. Our own baptism is also a symbol of death and resurrection. No person—of his own power—can lay down his life and then take it up again, any more than he can baptize himself into death and come forth in “newness of life”. Baptism is in similitude of death and resurrection. One cannot accomplish either ordinance alone; baptism (and resurrection) both must be performed by another who is already baptized (or resurrected). The Son of God himself was evidently no exception when he laid down his life and took it up again. It was the power of the Father that enabled him to do these things.
We should be deeply grateful to the Father for the resurrection, even as we are grateful to His Son. It is no wonder that Jesus Christ, in speaking of his own suffering when he drank the bitter cup, exclaimed, “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:19). He placed all of the glory of his suffering, death, and resurrection onto the Father. Consequently, as we know, Christ was then crowned with the same glory of the Father (of which his baptism was a type):
16 And I, John, bear record that he [Christ] received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father.
I am most grateful for this time of year when we remember both the Father and the Son—inseparably—as the “two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things.” (Lectures on Faith, 5:2). Truly, the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning the reality of the resurrection—that God resurrected his Divine Son who rose triumphant from the tomb—is the fundamental principle of the gospel. All other principles of our religion are only appendages to it. This week and always, may our hearts be full of the same gratitude expressed by the apostle Paul:
“Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:57)