Toes, Fingers, and All that Stuff: Resurrection
To be a Christian is to imitate Jesus' life and his death. It is to be the willing victim of unjust suffering in order to bring an end to suffering. It is to refuse to accuse in order to bring an end to accusation. It is to respond to violence with peace. To live a life like that of Christ is to "bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Mt. 5:44).
The response to suffering that is required of Christians is bound up with the Christian understanding of the body. Embodiment brings great joy. But it also brings suffering, and the Christian response to suffering is two-fold. It is to work to ameliorate physical suffering in the world, physical suffering of all kinds, including that we call "mental." And, perhaps even more important, it is to refuse accusation, vengeance, hatred, and war.
One message of Easter is that neither God's life as an embodied being nor our own lives as embodied beings like him comes to an end. In other words, we never cease to be affected, whether by the world around us or the people with whom we come into relationship. Our lives in relationship with one another and with the world do not end.
Often the fact that we can be affected is the source of pleasure, joy, and happiness. Purely mental or spiritual existence would be impoverished. But when what happens to some is not a matter of pleasure, joy, and happiness, Christians are expected "to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that [are] bound" (D&C 138:42). For Mormons the value of the body and the expectation that Christians will work to alleviate suffering are equally inseparable from the belief in a literal resurrection, with toes, fingers, and all that stuff.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.