The people who were resurrected with Christ, what happened to them? The scriptures say they went among the people.
The scriptural record is sparse when it comes to actuality of the saints rising from their graves – let alone their ministry. The earliest mention we have that such would happen comes from Enoch:
“And the Lord said unto Enoch: Look, and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men; And he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory;” (Moses 7:55-56).
For Enoch, the resurrection of the saints with Christ is a witness to Christ’s suffering and triumph. At the death of the Creator, when man has turned against Him, creation itself will bear witness against moral depravity bruising the heel of Innocence. The saints then implicitly provide a contrasting witness of Christ coming off conqueror, placing even death under His feet and crushing its head.
Isaiah also makes an oblique reference to the saints rising with Christ. He contrasts the works of idols with that of the Lord. These idols “are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased”. Even the works of man are ineffective, getting compared to a woman in labor who fails to deliver a child. Finally, the Lord is shown to have life in Himself (unlike the idols) and brings life to those long dried up.
“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19, see also 13-18).
This verse testifies of the general resurrection, until it is applied messianically (where one of the characters is recognized as a type and shadow of the Savior) and then it serves a pre-Christian reference to the saints rising with Christ.
In the New World, Samuel the Lamanite shared a similar testimony as Enoch.
“[A]t the time that [Christ] shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth … shall be broken up; … And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, … and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains…. And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate. And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many” (Hel. 15:21-25).
As with the Enoch prophecy, we have the saints offering a witness of triumph after the earth wails over the wickedness of man.
Matthew records the fulfillment of this prophecy, echoing Enoch almost in complete parallel.
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:50-53).
As I noted at the start, what these resurrected saints actually did in Jerusalem is not noted – simply that they appeared unto many. Turning to the Americas, we hope we can find another witness of this event. We find the account of the grieving earth in 3 Nephi 8. Sure enough, there are thunderings, lightnings, earthquakes, cities are destroyed, highways are broken, rocks are rent, darkness prevails. We even have the addition of whirlwinds, but what is missing is the story of resurrected saints. We fast-forward three days later when we expect to hear word of the graves opening and again find silence in this matter. Instead many of the calamities are reversed and “the mourning, and the weeping, and the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer. And thus far were the scriptures fulfilled which had been spoken by the prophets” (3 Ne. 10:10-11).
Thus far they had been fulfilled, and yet we’re missing Samuel’s grave-bursting saints. Fortunately, Jesus Himself examined the record and found it lacking. He quotes Samuel’s prophecy and augments it. “[M]any saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them” (3 Nephi 23:9). This ministry, combined with relief from the disasters that fell upon them, explains how the remnant turned from mourning and lamentations to joy, praise, and thanksgiving. The Lord was adamant that these events be duly recorded and testified of, and they were (3 Ne. 23:7-13), and yet they don’t appear in the account that made it to us.
Were it not for Enoch and Samuel, we would only have a tenuous expectation from Isaiah that others should join Christ in that first resurrection. Were it not for Matthew’s passing acknowledgement and the Lord’s insistence we should not know at all that it occurred. But the very existence of such references leads to questions. And questions often lead to answers – even if there’s little to no support of them.
About 400 years after Christ died, a spurious account called The Gospel of Nicodemus found its way into an older (but also apocryphal) Acts of Pilate. It contains many dramatic elements that strain the credulity of the reader, but I mention it because it purports to contain an account of the ministry of two resurrected saints (and a number of the traditions contained therein predate the narrative).
The sons of Simeon from Luke 2 who were publicly entombed have left their open graves and tarry in the city. They wait silently until they are invited to testify to the Jewish leadership. And testify they do! Dead they were, in the dark depths of hell (or hades- the general realm of the dead; notice how even the righteous viewed their time in death as a sort of prison, or bondage (see D&C 138:49-50)) when John the Baptist comes along as a forerunner of Christ yet again to witness of His imminent coming (ch. 18). From here, we’re introduced to a gallery of prophets who each in turn testify of Christ and His Atonment. We have Adam, Seth, David, Isaiah, Micah, and Habakkuk each have a turn and quote their mortal writings (ch. 19, 21, 24. Once again, compare this with Isaiah and Ezekiel in Joseph F. Smith’s vision who are called out for their witness of Christ and His great work (verses 42-43)). Christ appears on the scene and subdues death and it’s workers. He ministers to His saints, announcing that He has reversed the effects of the Fall. He takes Adam by the right hand and leads him out of death into paradise (ch. 24). Here they meet Enoch and Elijah who never experienced death (ch. 25).
Simeon’s sons refer to this sacred knowledge (the events that occurred during the 3 days Jesus was in the tomb, as well as the sign He gave Adam to pass from death to immortality) as “divine and holy mysteries” which are only a portion of “the mysteries of God” they experienced. They are only two of many who came and ministered to family. This company was instructed:
“[T]hat we should go over Jordan unto a place rich and fertile, where are many which rose again together with us for a testimony of the resurrection of Christ the Lord. For three days only were allowed unto us who rose from the dead, to keep the passover of the Lord in Jerusalem with our kindred (parents) that are living for a testimony of the resurrection of Christ the Lord: and we were baptized in the holy river of Jordan and received white robes, every one of us. And after the three days, when we had kept the passover of the Lord, all they were caught up in the clouds which had risen again with us, and were taken over Jordan and were no more seen of any man” (ch. 27).
The official word is that we don’t know what the resurrected saints ministered to mortals. The Gospel of Nicodemusis correct that such are indeed mysteries – those truths that can only be found through revelation. In this light feel free to apply as many grains of salt as necessary to these writings.