My daughter came home from school recently and said that her seminary teacher told them if their patriarchal blessing said they would come forth on the morning of the first resurrection it meant they would be here for the millenium. Don’t you have to be dead to be called forth for the resurrection? This doesn’t sound right to me.
When it comes to the Millennium, there are a lot of misconceptions out there. The descriptions we read sound like pure fantasy! People live to the age of a tree (100 years), death as we know it ceases (we are instead transitioned in the twinkling of an eye), the earth produces plentifully and will be as a garden, wars are ended and its instruments have to retrofitted to something more useful in a peaceful society, angels commingle among mortals, and God Himself sits on the throne!
Compare this with what we know of our future resurrected state: The body is restored to a perfect frame, death is no more, we no longer experience sorrow (except the pity we take on those who are living below their potential), we live in unity and love, among the angels and gods, and dwell in the presence of God the Father!
It’s very easy to see how the two states can be confused. I hope I don’t add to the confusion, but to get to the bottom of this, I need to give you 3 timelines: First, the history of an individual; second, the temporal history of the earth; and third, the order of the resurrection.
History of an individual
Every soul born into this world first existed in a pre-mortal existence and was initially innocent (D&C 93:38). She is then born into a physical, mortal body. During her mortal sojourn, she hits such milestones as baptism, confirmation, and enjoying the fruits of gospel living (Galatians 5:22-23). In time, she succumbs to death and yields her body to the earth while her spirit continues in what we’ve termed the “spirit world”. Then the time comes when she is called up, and both her spirit and body must comply. They are reunited together and receive the glory which she has merited.
The notable exceptions to this road map are those who bypass the spirit world and jump straight to resurrection. First among these are translated beings, such as Enoch, Moses, Elijah, John the Beloved, and the Three Nephites. These tarry until they complete whatever mission has been assigned them. For instance, Moses and Elijah kept their bodies until they could lay hands on Peter, James, and John to confer upon them the necessary keys (Matthew 17:1-5). Three of the Nephite disciples, like John, wanted to continue preaching the gospel and were promised that “ye shall never taste of death; … and ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality” (3 Nephi 38:6-8). Similarly, the righteous who live during the Millennium have been promised that “children shall grow up until they become old; old men shall die; but they shall not sleep in the dust, but they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye” (D&C 63: 51). Everyone passes through death, but some will not have to rent a burial plot.
History of the earth
The earth, or more accurately, the garden eastward in Eden, is described in paradisaical terms: there was no death, no thorns, no noxious weeds. Then came the Fall, which ushered in “the seven thousand years of its [the earth’s] continuance, or its temporal existence” (D&C 77:6-7). Other notable events in the earth’s history are its symbolic baptism via flood, the “meridian of time” when Christ came to this earth and wrought out the Atonement, and the baptism of fire at the Lord’s Second Coming, when the earth will be cleansed of those who cannot abide a terrestrial law. This begins the Millennium, or thousand year reign of Christ in peace. It ends with a final purging and the earth being quickened into a celestial world described as a sea of glass (D&C 130:9). One other state to round things out is that this earth has been found fit to host disembodied spirits (the spirits of those who have already lived and since died). Brigham Young taught, “Where is the spirit world? It is right here” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 376).
So we have in the history and states of this earth a setting parallel to the lives of the inhabitants. It captures the themes of innocence, birth, rebirth in water and fire, peace and rest, and resurrection to glory. It also is conducive to mortals, glorified immortals, and those finding themselves between bodies.
History of resurrection
Our scriptures teach of two orders for the resurrection. Alma spoke to his son about the nature of resurrection and taught that there was order to it.
“[I]t hath been spoken, that there is … a resurrection of all those who have been … down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead … of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ. 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. … behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ” (Alma 40:16-20).
There’s some ambiguity here as to the details. On a big picture scale, there’s a mass resurrection when Christ was resurrected. This resurrection is “of the righteous”. Furthermore, we learn that there’s an order here, where those who died before Christ are resurrected before those who died after Christ. What’s not clear from this is if this is a universal order, with Adam having his resurrection before Seth, who has his before Enos, and so on to Joseph Smith being resurrected before Brigham Young and so on. It is also not clear if this is also the case with the wicked – that those wicked who died before Christ (from the days of Noah, for example) will have to be resurrected before those wicked who died after Christ (the ambiguity comes from a universal-sounding statement “their resurrection” (we just read about the wicked and righteous) coming before “those who die after … Christ”, but then following up with that initial resurrection having a narrow scope among the righteous only). Like Alma, we await additional revelation on this subject.
We do, however, have more light and knowledge on this subject than Alma once did. We know of the three degrees of glory, and that when Christ comes there will be yet another mass resurrection. The Olive Leaf walks us through the order for this resurrection that takes place throughout the Millennium.
“And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who haveslept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
“And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; 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.
“And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation; And these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.
“And another trump shall sound, which is the fourth trump, saying: There are found among those who are to remain until that great and last day, even the end, who shall remain filthy still” (D&C 88:96-102).
You can see this lines up pretty cleanly with the visions of glory. First those who inherit the celestial glory are resurrected. We sometimes refer to this as the Morning of the First Resurrection. Then those who inherit the terrestrial glory are resurrected. Then those who inherit the telestial glory are resurrected. And finally those sons of perdition who are found without glory.
Once again we are dealing with a big picture scale, so what does this mean for individuals?
In the particular case of your daughter, this timeline of the resurrection tells us that “the morning of the first resurrection” doesn’t describe a when so much as a what. This resurrection includes all the celestial candidates who have not yet risen. So you get those who died immediately before the Second Coming and you’ll get Celeste Jones who dies righteously in the great war following the Millennium (I made her up for an example, don’t search your scriptures for her). This resurrection doesn’t mean they lived during the Millennium. For the terms related to the resurrection, we should not think of them as describing a day or a time so much as describing a particular glory promised.
Let’s follow the lives of three fictional people to see if we can understand this better. I already mentioned Celeste Jones, who lived a celestial life and dies after the Millennium. We also have Terrence who lives sometime in the middle of the Millennium (when the earth and its inhabitants abide a terrestrial law). And we’ll have Lester, who died last night in his sleep and was an all-around rotten person. The overall order of the resurrection is 1st, celestial; 2nd, terrestrial; and 3rd, telestial. But for these three, the order will be 1st, Terrence (Celeste hasn’t even been born yet, let alone died, so at some point between Terrence’s death and the end of the Millennium he will be resurrected); 2nd, Lester (Celeste still hasn’t died when that third trump sounded calling forth the telestials); 3rd, Celeste. This seeming disparity comes because our expectations for the resurrection have been revealed for the large scale, but we are here dealing with a microcosm with constrained parameters. Comparing Celeste with a telestial of her own day would probably seem fairer, but I have to again state the disclaimer that we await further light and truth on this subject.
And now I’d like to deviate from the core question (perhaps a little late to be concerned about that) and address some other principles that are built on this understanding of these timelines (some of these scenarios are inspired by readers’ comments on this site, and others from questions sent in that I have had time to properly address). For this example, we’ll use Sunbeam, who is currently living celestial principles and will continue to do so until she dies (well before the Second Coming). She was born on this earth. When she dies she’ll be in the spirit world on this earth. When she’s resurrected at Christ’s return she’ll inherit this earth. This doesn’t mean that the Millennial earth is her home, for her home is the celestialized earth. She may be one of the rulers that comes with Christ, whose right it is to reign, but that doesn’t mean she will stay either. Joseph Smith taught:
“That Jesus will be a resident on the earth a thousand [years] with the Saints is not the case, but will reign over the Saints and come down and instruct as he did the five hundred brethren, and those of the first resurrection will also reign with him over the Saints” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, chapter 21, The Second Coming and the Millennium).
Since I foresee a follow-up question I will ask it and answer it here. Where then does she live? And Abraham, and Moroni, and the other celestial beings that have already been resurrected? I don’t know, and any answer will include all kinds of speculation. But I think it can be explained via some of my musings in the article The Static Universe (static meaning time-independent).
These timelines also have some ramifications for single sisters who live a celestial law, but I’ll spare the details of that for another answer I’m preparing. Suffice it to say that they will ultimately receive the same blessings their living sisters receive who are changed from mortality to immortality in the twinkling of an eye.