The question has been asked, "If a man die, will he live again" (Job 14:14)? The scriptures declared that "he shall rise again in the resurrection" (John 11:24).
Although there are many views on what constitutes the resurrection, it is generally accepted that it is a time when the mortal body of man will rise from the dusty confines of the grave and once again live. As Latter-day Saints we believe that the resurrection is the reuniting of the spirit body with its mortal body, never more to be separated. The impression we are left with is that in the resurrection our physical bodies will be just as they are now, only perfect and immortal. But there's a problem with that concept. A resurrected body lives by a different set of laws than we can live in our present condition.
When Christ was resurrected, He appeared to His disciples and said to them, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:28). We cannot touch or feel a spirit, and neither can a spirit touch or feel that which is in our physical world. Yet, the resurrected Jesus had a body of flesh and bones that could not only be touched and felt, but one that could also consume and digest physical food. Obviously He had a body which had all the appearances and properties of a mortal one.
But He could also do things that no mortal can do. He could appear and vanish in thin air. He could go through walls. When He appeared to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove, He stood several feet off the ground. These are not the kind of laws that our present bodies can obey. Furthermore, Joseph Smith described the Father and Son as being so bright that their radiance was greater than that of the sun. In fact, their brilliant appearance defied all description (Joseph Smith 1:16,17). Our present bodies can't do that either. So, just as obvious, a resurrected body is very different than our present physical bodies.
The question can be then asked: What kind of a physical body does a resurrected person have?
Before we can gain a better understanding of this issue, the first thing we need to do is define the word "physical" . To most people, this word means the mortal, temporal, earthly material from which everything in our world is composed of. This definition for the word "physical" means that which we can see and feel. It is something that is tangible and measurable, even though it may be as small as the parts of an atom. Since we can't see, feel or measure that which is from the spirit world, we often referred to such things as being "non-physical".
However, we are told that "For I the Lord God created all things spiritually before they were naturally upon the earth" (Moses 3:5). If that is true, then there must be "physical" matter in the spirit world. Through several sources, we know that those in the spirit realm, can see, feel, smell, taste and hear even better than we can here on earth. In their world, spirit matter is just as tangible and measurable as it is on earth. Yet to spirit beings, the physical elements of this earth are just as intangible to them as their elements are to us. In fact, one of the grand reasons we are born into mortality is for the purpose of experiencing this kind of earthly matter. Obviously, then, there must be two kinds of physical, tangable, matter: that which is spirit and that which is earthly.
Joseph Smith taught, "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it, but when our bodies are purified, we shall see that it is all matter" (Documentary History of the Church 5:392-3). If spirit matter is more fine and purer, then earthly matter must be more coarse and unrefined in comparison. In other words, it must be inferior to that which we refer to as "non-physical" matter. But in reality, they are both physical. The difference is in the kind of material.
We can illustrate this with cloth. If we wanted to make something to wear, we could use silk or we could use burlap. Burlap is cheap, but it is also unattractive and has a very rough texture. Silk, on the other hand, is expensive, but it is beautiful both to the touch and to the eye. Our earthly world is composed of material that is like burlap, while the spirit world is composed of material that is like silk. Yet both of them are composed of "physical" matter. Therefore, to more accurately distinguish between these two forms of physical elements, we must use different terms to identify them. For the purpose of our discussion here, we will call them "spirit" matter, and "mortal" matter.
Physics is the study of the laws of physical matter. Since both spirit matter and mortal matter are physical elements, they both have laws that govern their behavior. However, spirit matter is governed by a completely different set of rules than is mortal matter. Spirits are immortal. As such, they do not deteriorate, become damaged, nor can they be destroyed. For example, a spirit person can easily survive in the vacuum of outer space without an oxygen mask or a space suit to protect it from the frigid cold temperatures. A spirit person can stand on the surface of the sun without being burned up, or without it's eyes being blinded. You cannot injure a spirit being by stabbing them with a knife or shooting them with a gun. You cannot cut off the arms or legs or any other appendage of a spirit person. They do not become sick, infirmed or withered with age. As we have seen, they are not affected by gravity. According to earthly physics, light is the fastest known speed, yet spirits can travel at velocities many times that of light.
But if a resurrected person is supposedly a spirit inhabiting an earthly body, how can such a earthly body behave according to the laws of spirit matter? The scriptures tell us that "this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53). Obviously, there must be some changes that occur in the resurrection, but what are those changes?
To better understand this process, let's look at how things change here on earth. Rotting trees are composed of a mortal, earthly substance. Yet, when compressed and heated over a long period of time, it turns into coal. Yet coal doesn't look like or behave like rotting trees. Furthermore, the laws of physics which apply to rotting wood, don't apply to coal. However, if coal continues to be compressed and heated, it turns into a diamond, and the properties of a diamond are extremely different than that of rotting trees. Sand is another example. In its natural state, it is a course, grainy nontransparent material. Yet if, sufficiently compressed and heated, it turns into glass. Once this change has taken place, however, there is no similarity between these two earthly substances. Apparently, during the resurrection, both our spirit and mortal bodies will likewise go through a transformation process. When this process is completed, our new "physical" body will not resemble our old, corruptible body. This means there will be a third type of physical substance created. We will refer to this material as "transformed" matter.
The apostle Paul wrote, "But some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there are one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body" (1Corinthians 15: 35-44).
A seed is just a grain, and it looks nothing like the plant that eventually comes from it. Our natural, earthly bodies are like the seed, and our resurrected body is like the plant. Although one comes from the other, there is very little resemblance between the two. Paul then further illustrates his point by comparing four different kinds of animal flesh with the type of bodies we will have in the resurrection. Since not all flesh is the same here on earth, why should we think that all flesh will be the same in the resurrection? Thus we see that, although there is one kind of spirit matter and one kind of mortal matter, there are four kinds of transformed matter.
The "flesh" of a celestial person, a terrestrial person, a telestial person and one who has been cast into outer darkness will each be noticeably different than the other. Although each of these "physical" bodies will come from one kind of earthly, mortal body, yet each will undergo a different transformation, depending on the kingdom they are going to. The Lord explained that the, "spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened (brought back to life)" (D&C 88:28). If our mortal, earthly bodies are brought back to life by the power of the celestial glory, then it will be transformed into celestial matter. If it is quickened by the terrestrial glory, then it will undergo a terrestrial transformation. The same is true of the telestial kingdom and those who are cast into outer darkness. And, apparently, each of these kinds of transformed matter abide, or are governed by, different laws of physics.
Consider what would happen if we combined a lump of coal and a bucket of sand by compressing them together with tremendous heat? The end result would probably be a glass that has the hardness and look of diamond. If we compare spirit matter to coal and mortal matter to sand, then celestial transformed matter could be compared to the diamonized glass. In fact, the Lord revealed that this earth (which is composed of mortal matter), in its sanctified, immortal and eternal state, will resemble a sea of glass (D&C 77:1). Although it will still be a physical planet, composed of the same elements that it now has, yet it will look completely different than its present appearance.
But there is still another important difference between mortal matter and transformed matter. We have been told that God resides on a planet. Is it possible then for us to look out into the universe and see this planet? Not with our earthly eyes, because transformed matter is just as invisible to us as is spirit matter. Furthermore, spirit matter and transformed matter are both immortal; that is, they are incapable of decaying, degenerating, or dying. On the other hand, the entire universe that we can see is composed of mortal, decaying, degenerating matter. For example, our sun is literally burning itself up. It may take billions of years to happen, but at some point it will run out of energy and become a useless hunk of rock. We have photographed stars and galaxies being born and being destroyed. Since these are not the properties of transformed matter, we must therefore conclude that resurrected worlds exist somewhere that is not visible to our earthly eyes.
Consider this: If God created everything spiritually first before creating everything naturally upon the earth, that means there is another world that has trees, mountains, flowers, grass, water, animals and everything else that God has created here. As Latter-day Saints, we know this place as the spirit world. But where is it? From all accounts, it seems that such a realm exists right here on the third rock from the sun. In other words, the spirit world and the mortal world exist in the same space at the same time!
Science fiction writers have told tales of people traveling from one time period to another. They have written fictional stories concerning a parallel galaxy. In fact, this is the premise of the television series "Sliders". They have also conjured up the concept of people living in a fourth dimension. Yet, as far-fetched as these ideas may sound, reality is even stranger. Imagine two or more civilizations living in the same place at the same time while being totally invisible to each other. Then imagine that someone discovered a way to pass back and forth between these two worlds, but when they did they completely forgot about the world they just came from. Wouldn't that sound like something from a science fiction story? Yet, in reality, that is what happens between mortal life and the spirit world, with birth and death being the doorways leading between the two.
Although there are true stories of guardian angels and deceased relatives watching over us here on earth, for the most part, those in the spirit world cannot see us, and we cannot see them, even though we exist in the same space. Furthermore, each world is completely different than the other, and operates under totally different laws of physics. Yet, for all of our advanced technology, we have no instrument or devise that is capable of giving us even the slightest detection of the existence of the spirit world. To make this scenario even more amazing, throw in Satan and his spirit angels, who exist invisibly in our world but are unable to penetrate into the spirit world. It's almost like a box inside of a box inside of a box.
And what about resurrected beings? Where do they reside? They cannot be on one of the planets in our mortal universe. Do they then exist in the same space as our universe but in a different dimension, or do they exist in a totally different place? We know something about the spirit world through the scriptures, but there is almost nothing revealed about the resurrected world. Therefore, all we can do is speculate about where they are and what they are like
But regardless of the answer to such a question, we know that all the stars and galaxies of our universe that stretch into infinity are created from mortal matter. Therefore, they cannot be the dwelling place of immortal people. That means our entire universe has been created exclusively for mortal beings. Furthermore, we need not speculate on how a resurrected body can be physical and yet different from our present bodies. All matter is physical, but not all physical matter is the same. Thus, when we read of God's creations we now know that also includes things made from spirit matter as well as transformed matter. Knowing this gives new meaning to the scripture, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).