The Resurrection and The Justice of God

Discourse Delivered by Prophet Joseph F. Smith, at the Funeral of A. Milton Musser,
in the Second Ward Chapel, September 28, 1909

(Reported by F.W. Otterstrom)

In attempting to occupy a portion of the time, I sincerely hope that the good spirit of peace and consolation may rest upon the congregation, especially upon the family, and that what I may say and what may follow may be strictly in accordance with the spirit of truth and the purposes of the Lord.

Death is a common thing. All men are destined to pass through this ordeal which we call the temporal death. It is the common lot of every being who has descended from the first parents. They were placed in the Garden of Eden with the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, but with another commandment: that of all the fruits of the garden they might freely eat, but of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were not to partake, for in the day they did it they should surely die. In order to complete or carry out this great commandment to multiply and replenish the earth, it was necessary that they should break the other law, or commandment, which was given, that they should not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was simply a part of the economy of heaven, and of the great design of the Creator, which must e fulfilled. Therefore, death came into the world because of the transgression of the law, not only upon the first parents but successively upon all that have been born of them into the world; and therefore, we meet, day by day, and recently it seems to me that it is more frequent than usual, this thing that we call “death,” which is not, in reality, death; for it is said that blessed are they that die in the Lord, for they shall not taste of death, but it shall be sweet unto them. The savior said, “Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die, and though he were dead yet shall he live.” These are remarkable sayings, and they do not convey to the ordinary mind their simple truth and the power, right and authority by which they were uttered.

The Spirit of Man Immortal

The spirit of man is an immortal being. The spirit has its entity, as clearly and as surely as the spirit and the body combined have an entity; and the spiritual part does not die, except it becomes subject to the curse of sin or willful transgression against the law of God. In that event, death comes, in very deed, to man and to the spirit of man—not annihilation, not a disintegration of the organism called the spirit, but a banishment of the spirit from light and life, from truth and from joy and happiness, into outer darkness—Behold, this is death! The Savior said, “Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die, and though he were dead, yet shall he live;” and those who believe on Jesus Christ will realize the fruition or fulfillment of that promise in the fact that they will never be banished from the presence of God, nor will they ever taste of spiritual death. Though they are separated from their tabernacles, for a time, yet they live and will continue to live, for in Christ they are freed from the power of death and are entitled to the blessings of life ever more.

A Living Faith Essential

“Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” Much is meant by this little sentence. Does it mean that he that simply believes shall never die? I think not. Even the Devil believes, but he is not entitled to the fulfillment of the promises that is thus made. There are many who simply believe; but the works that he did, they do not do; the works that he commanded they do not perform, and consequently they would not be entitled to the blessing and fulfillment of the promise that is made. It does not mean that simply because a man believes, he shall be brought to life, and he shall not taste of death; but it means more, it means all that is implied in the great plan of life and salvation, inaugurated before the foundation of the world was laid, by which men should come to the earth, by which they should fall, by which they should multiply and replenish the earth, by which they should die and rise again from the dead, and become immortal souls as the body of Christ rose from the dead, and the spirit of Christ and his body again united, and joined together, became an immortal soul, no more subject to death. Men should not be carried away with the thought that all we have to do is to believe, in order that we may be saved, and that we may enjoy the blessings that are promised unto us. He that believeth—if his belief is sincere—if honest in his belief, he will do the will of the Father; and by doing the will of the Father he shall know of the doctrine, that it is of God, and that he will be entitled through obedience, to the fulfillment of the promises that are made to those that obey, as well as believe.

Tribute to the Dead

Brother Musser was a noble, faithful, true man; a man of honor, a man of integrity to every trust imposed in him; a man who has been true to his family, true to his neighbor, true to his God, and true to he cause of Zion, from his first acquaintance with the Gospel until he drew his last breath. His whole life has been an exemplification o that requirement and the meaning conveyed in the promise of the Lord, that whosoever believeth in him, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and if he be living, he shall never die. I will ask the children and family and those immediately associated with Brother Musser, whoa re here today, if they feel, in the presence of this lifeless body, the principle or gloom of death? Or, are you imbued with the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you the hope, in you, of everlasting life? Has God spoken to you by the power of his spirit? Has he enlightened your mind, or awakened your soul to look beyond the present to an eternal, happy, glorified existence? If so, can you feel that you are in the presence of death, when you realize that here lies the remains of one who has been not only true to his belief, but true to his convictions, and has done the work that was necessary to be done in order to secure to him the rewards that are promised? I cannot feel that we are standing in the presence of death.

His spirit has returned to God from whence it came. There it will receive the partial judgment that shall be meted out to those who pass from this life to the life to come, and there he be assigned to that glorious place of rest which is termed, in the Scriptures of divine truth, and in the revelations of God to the children of men, the “Paradise of God;” where he shall rest from his labors and from his toil; where he shall be free from pain and suffering, from anxiety, and from all sorrow, awaiting the time when the voice of God shall speak forth and command the dust to arise and the body to be re-formed in its perfect frame—every limb and joint to its perfect frame. Those of us who have been familiar with Brother Musser for years, have not seen him in his perfect form, for he was injured somewhere along the journey of life; his form was not perfect, although his spirit was perfect in form and noble, pure and good. When you behold him again, in his resurrected form, you will see him in his perfect frame—for God has so spoken; the word of the Lord is thus given to us—and you will see him in the his rejuvenated, reanimated and reformed body, in its perfect frame, just as the Lord designed it to be. It will be in the likeness of God and of his Son Jesus Christ, perfect in feature, in form, in limb and joint, perfect in every way, a fit habitation for the spirit that is also perfect and which was formed after the fashion and order of God the eternal Father, the Father of his spirit.

With these thoughts in view I look upon Brother Musser as merely resting for a little season, his body laid down, and his spirit gone to the Father to rejoice in the privilege of meeting those with whom he has been closely associated here in the flesh, throughout his life and his life’s labor in the cause of Zion—to meet with them and to enjoy their society for a season, to shake hands with them, to congratulate them on their success and to receive congratulations from them for the good work that he has done here, for he has fought the good fight and kept the faith.

I have had the privilege and pleasure of traveling with Brother Musser in the early days. I began sojourning with him, under the direction of President Young, as early as 1867—and during the years of ’67, ’68 and a portion of 1869. Brother Musser, being the bishop’s agent, was appointed to travel throughout the then territory, visiting the wards and the bishops, looking at their records and books, and instructing them in the manner of keeping their tithing records and books, the records of their wards, etc. I traveled with him, day in and day out, and I became very familiar with him, so intimately acquainted that I understood him and I knew what character of man he was. I learned that he was a man of integrity, a man of honor, one who could be depended upon so far as his ability would enable him to perform any duty, faithfully, that was entrusted to his care. His boys ought to be proud of that. Indeed, his children should be proud of such a parentage, and they should be pleased with the testimony of those who speak as they know with reference to him. I learned to love him because he was a good man. I know that all is well with him. I am as satisfied of it as I can be of anything, and the reason why I feel this assurance is because I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, with all my heart. I know it is true; and furthermore, I bid defiance to any human being to show that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not good, is not true, is not righteous, is not powerful in the accomplishment of that which it aims to accomplish; the well being, the happiness, the exaltation and salvation of mankind.

The Justice of God

You cannot make truth a lie. You may, it is true, tincture a lie with the semblance of truth, but it will remain a lie all the same; and it may be a lie all the greater, because it may be tinctured with truth. But the truth cannot be made a lie, nor can it be false. That which is true is always true, and will remain true, worlds without end; for the truth cannot be destroyed. It is a truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches men to be good, to be pure, honest, virtuous, charitable, kind and godlike in every way; and there is not a principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ that does not tend to make men better than they can be without it. I bear my testimony to this; and this is the truth that Brother Musser embraced—the truths of the gospel, that God lives, that he revealed himself to man in the dispensation in which we live; that Jesus came to the earth begotten of God, his Father, born of his mother, the same as you and I are begotten of our fathers and born of our mothers. Begotten of God, he possessed the power of endless life, the power of God; indeed, he inherited God in himself, because he was the Son of God, begotten in the flesh; he was the Son of God begotten also in the spirit. He came to the earth to redeem man—from what? From sin, through their obedience to his law, and from earth—that came upon them because of the transgression of the first parents—whether they repented or not, whether they believed or not, whether they were righteous or wicked. It makes no difference. Every soul upon whom death has come because of the transgression of the first parents, and for which you and I who have succeeded Adam, are not responsible, will be redeemed by his atonement. That sin which brought death upon us, and for which we are not accountable, Jesus the Son of God came into the world to remove from us, and to give to us the right and power to come up in the first or some subsequent resurrection from death, and take our tabernacles again, and he did. Hew as the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead, and as he rose so shall every soul rise from the dead; and as he repossessed the tabernacle that his spirit inhabited here, with which he was born into the world, with which he grew up; or, in other words, developed to the stature of his spirit, that same body I say he took up, after it was crucified and put to death. So it will be with every soul that has an identity in the world. They will come up again; their spirits will return to their tabernacles and they will become united, no more to taste of death, no more than Christ can taste of death again. They shall be resurrected, and they shall continue to be living souls; but then comes the reckoning, and it will be required of us to render an account of the deeds done in the flesh. Every man shall be judged according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil. There will come the final parting or separation of the sheep from the goats, of the believer from the unbeliever, of the good from the bad, of the honorable and the righteous from the dishonorable and the unrighteous. The Lord will say to the good, to those that have lived according the light which they possessed, “Come up here upon my right hand;” but to those that have not obeyed, who have not believed and would not yield obedience to the requirements of heaven, “Get you behind me,” or “Take your position of my left hand; I will mete out judgment to your hereafter, in accordance with your works, as those upon my right hand shall receive their reward according to their works.”

Is there not justice in this? This is the idea conveyed in the gospel of Jesus, the doctrine taught by the Son of God, which has been renewed by its restoration in this dispensation; and it is justice meet for the perfection and wisdom of Almighty God. Anything less than this could not be of God, or in accordance with his justice and righteousness. I want to say to all, that is no myth; no mere opinion of man; nor the dictum of man; it is God’s word, uttered by the Son of God, confirmed by God himself and repeated again, in the age in which we live, by the Father and the Son, through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Those who do not receive it, and do not believe it, will have to abide the consequences when they stand before the just Judge of the quick and the dead. We have no business to judge them here; but we may tell the truth; we may speak the word of the gospel, and that without fear of consequences, for it is the duty of the watchmen upon the towers of Zion to proclaim the gospel and bear testimony of his word, to his righteousness, his purpose and his will, which will be verified and brought to pass in the due time of the Lord.

I rejoice, with all my heart, when I contemplate that this good man has obeyed the principles of the gospel, and received the testimony of the spirit of the Lord in his heart. He believed in God the Father, in Jesus Christ the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, as they were revealed to him through the instrumentality of Joseph the prophet, and as they were revealed to the world in the meridian of time by the Savior himself. Not only did he believe, but he obeyed. He received the testimony in his heart, and he followed the dictates of the spirit of God. He did the work that is required of him and secured to himself the gifts and blessings that God has promised to the faithful by the holy spirit of promise, which covenant cannot be broken nor changed in this life, nor in the world to come, except through the transgression of the laws of God.

I admonish the family and the kindred of Brother Musser to be true to their father and to the principles that he espoused. They were true, and he knew they were true, and he was conscientious in his observance of them. Be faithful to his name. Maintain the honor and integrity of his character in your own lives and show to the world, if you are capable, that you will not only be as good, as true, and as faithful as he, but if you possess greater ability, or can receive greater wisdom or light which will enable you to be better than he, avail yourselves of the privileges that are yours, and show the world that you are what you should be, because of the instructions in your youth and because of the truth that your father has planted in your hearts and minds.

May the Lord bless you, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus, Amen.

[Deseret News, Dec. 25, 1909]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Jan. 2006]


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