Bear with me as I go out into the theological weeds to explore an obscure doctrinal debate about the resurrection. As my wife and I studied the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum section on Easter, we discussed Amulek statements about the resurrection in Alma 11. Our question was: What exactly does it mean to “restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body” (Alma 11:44)? Does it mean that the body is perfectly brought back to the condition it was when it died (“as we now are at this time”) and may undergo further healing and development or that it is brought back in a perfected, ideal state (“its perfect frame”)?
Decades ago, the same question was asked by a priesthood quorum. According to a Church periodical:
It was the opinion of some members of the class that when the body comes forth it will be just as it was when it was laid down. That is to say, if an arm or a leg were missing or the person otherwise maimed, the body would come forth as it was laid down and the restoration of any missing part would be added later. Others thought that it would come forth in physical and mental perfection.
When they turned to the then-apostle Joseph Fielding Smith for clarification, he wrote that: “There would be no purpose whatsoever in having the body of any individual come forth from the dead just as it is laid down, showing the effects of disease which would have to be eliminated following the resurrection.” He noted the exception of Jesus having the wounds in his hands, feet, and side, but stated that this was merely “done to convince [his disciples] that they were not beholding a spirit” and was “for a divine purpose of bearing witness.” In Elder Smith’s opinion, the resurrection was one where bodies are brought back to a perfected, ideal state.
There are several indications in the scriptures that support Elder Smith’s statement. Alma told his son that “the soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul … but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23). In stating that bodies would be restored to a proper and perfect frame, Alma does seem to indicate a resurrection to ideal bodies. That is also seems to be the most straightforward interpretation of Amulek’s words, cited at the outset of this post. Paul gave similar indications when he answered the questions “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” He responded that: “You do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed. … What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. … For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Paul believed that the body we are resurrected with will be a dramatic improvement over the one we have at death. This evidence suggests that Joseph Fielding Smith is well-supported in his belief that the resurrection brings us immediately to physical perfection.
Yet, other at least one modern prophet has given statements that stand contrary to this. President Joseph F. Smith stated that: “The body will come forth as it is laid to rest, for there is no growth or development in the grave. As it is laid down, so will it arise, and changes to perfection will come by the law of restitution. But the spirit will continue to expand and develop, and the body, after the resurrection will develop to the full stature of man.” He believed that people will rise the same way we knew them in mortality, “even to the wounds in the flesh.” Afterwards, there would be a gradual perfection and healing of the body: “Not that a person will always be marred by scars, wounds, deformities, defects or infirmities, for these will be removed in their course, in their proper time, according to the merciful providence of God.” We will, according to President Smith, “be made perfect, physically as well as spiritually, through obedience to the law by which he has provided the means that perfection shall come to all his children.” To President Joseph F. Smith, the resurrection initiated a gradual process of healing and perfection rather than an immediate, one-time fix.
While Joseph F. Smith’s understanding of the resurrection may have been influenced by the image of Jesus rising with wounds still in his body (he mentions the two together on at least one occasion), a major part of how he arrived at that conclusion came from his understanding of the resurrection of children. His uncle, the Prophet Joseph Smith, taught that: “Will mothers have their children in eternity? Yes! Yes! Mothers, you will have your children … But as the child dies, so will it rise from the dead.”  Joseph F. Smith felt that he was interpreting this statement of his uncle when he taught that there will be no change in the grave, but growth and development of the body will come after the resurrection: “According to the word of the Prophet Joseph Smith the body will develop, either in time or in eternity, to the full stature of the spirit, and when the mother is deprived of the pleasure and joy of rearing her babe to manhood or to womanhood in this life, through the hand of death, that privilege will be renewed to her hereafter, and she will enjoy it to a fuller fruition that it would be possible for her to do here.” Joseph F. Smith’s teachings that there is growth and gradual healing or development after the resurrection seems to have largely developed from his understanding of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statements about children being resurrected as children.
More recently, President Russell M. Nelson has given some interesting and potentially relevant statements about the resurrection. He once stated that: “Our bodies undergo constant rebuilding according to genetic recipes that are uniquely ours. Each time we take a bath, we lose not only dirt, but cells dead and dying, as they are replaced by a newer crop. This process of regeneration and renewal is but prelude to the promised phenomenon and future fact of our resurrection.” This statement potentially suggests a process of regeneration and healing that could align well with Joseph F. Smith’s statements. On another occasion, however, President Nelson also stated that “The Lord who created us in the first place surely has power to do it again. The same necessary elements now in our bodies will still be available—at His command. The same unique genetic code now embedded in each of our living cells will still be available to format new ones then.” This provides a mechanism that makes sense to restore bodies that have decayed, been burned, eaten, or otherwise destroyed in ways that don’t lend themselves well to the idea of rising in the physical state in which one died.
The problem of the destruction of the body brings up one of the difficulties with Joseph F. Smith’s understanding of the resurrection. With President Nelson’s statement that God can re-assemble our bodies from the template of our DNA at command, it would make sense for the body to be put together in a perfected state rather than with the same wounds, degenerations, or scars it accumulated during mortality (though this doesn’t account for imperfections caused by the DNA). Perhaps there is an acceptable compromise between the views of Joseph F. Smith and his son, Joseph Fielding Smith. The latter’s statement that there would be no purpose to rise in the resurrection showing the effects of disease that could be eliminated during the resurrection makes sense. It also seems like the most straightforward interpretation of the statements in the scriptures cited above. Yet, it does make some sense that children will rise as children so they can learn how to master their bodies gradually. It is, according to one line of thought, one of our purposes in life to learn to harness and master our bodies so we can access their full potential. As written by Parley P. Pratt: “You came to the earth to be born of flesh, / To fashion and perfect your earthly house.” Hence, it seems possible that adults will rise in a perfected form during the resurrection, but children will rise as children in order to “fashion and perfect [their] earthly house.”
Ultimately, the priesthood quorum that had a disagreement on the subject could find support for both sides of the debate. Those who held that a body “would come forth in physical and mental perfection” have the support of several statements in the scriptures and gained the support of a senior apostle during the 1950s. Those who held that “when the body comes forth it will be just as it was when it was laid down” had the support of the 6th president of the Church. For those of us today, the statements of Joseph F. Smith on the subject are printed in an important and current manual of the Church, giving them the Church’s official sanction and imprimatur. Yet, other Church publications align with Joseph Fielding Smith’s interpretation as well. For example, True to the Faith states that: “Resurrection is the reuniting of the spirit with the body in a perfect, immortal state, no longer subject to disease or death” The Gospel Topics essay on resurrection, however, modifies the statement by removing the word “perfect,” potentially seeking to leave interpretation open to both viewpoints. In any case, it seems like a bit of a stalemate on trying to find an answer to the questions at hand.
This seems to be one of those grey areas that hasn’t been fully clarified. Whether Amulek’s statement that the spirit will “restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body” during the resurrection means that the body is perfectly brought back to the condition it was when it died (and may undergo further healing and development) or that it is brought back in a perfected, ideal state remains unclear. Both possibilities seem to be left open by the current publications of the Church.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions: The Classic Collection in One Volume (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966), 5:43.
 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44, 53, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
 Joseph F. Smith, “Editor’s Table: On the Resurrection,” Improvement Era, June 1904, 623–24. Cited in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998, 2011), 91. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-f-smith/chapter-10?lang=eng
 Joseph F. Smith, “Speech at the funeral services of Rachel Grant,” Improvement Era, Vol 12, p. 591, June, 1909. Cited in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 91-92.
 Stan Larson, “The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text,” BYU Studies 18, no. 2 (1978), 15. As we have received the King Follett discourse, the Prophet makes the odd statement that a resurrected child “will never grow, it will be the child in its precise form as it was before it died out of your arms. Children dwell and exercise power, throne upon throne, dominion upon dominion, in the same form just as you laid them down.” Admittedly, there is a bit of a disconnect between uncle and nephew in the written record—while both state that children will rise from the grave as children, the former stated that children remained children (albeit with the intellects of gods), the latter that they develop and grow to adulthood. Perhaps Joseph Smith’s words were recorded incorrectly or perhaps he meant what he said but the Latter-day Saints who heard it understood it differently, but there does seem to be a difference between what he is recorded saying and how Joseph F. Smith understood it. Elder B. H. Roberts suggested that the first possibility was the correct one, stating that the reports “were reported in long hand and from memory, so that they are very likely to contain inaccuracies and convey wrong impressions,” and noted several individuals who indicated that Joseph F. Smith accurately represented what Joseph Smith had communicated. Isabella Horne, for example, recalled that when she heard the Prophet teach the same thing on another occasion, she understood that he meant “that children would grow and develop in the Millennium, and that the mothers would have the pleasure of training and caring for them, which they had been deprived of in this life.” (Recorded in the Documentary History of the Church, 4:556, footnote 7. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-4-chapter-32). Joseph Smith did teach the same thing on at least one other occasion (a sermon on 20 March 1842), so I suspect that the latter possibility is probably the correct one. In any case, Joseph F. Smith’s interpretation of the issue is accepted as the correct one by the Church today.
 Joseph F. Smith, “Remarks at the funeral of Daniel Wells Grant, child of Heber J. Grant, and Emily Wells Grant, in family residence, Salt Lake City, March 12, 1895, Young Woman’s Journal, Vol. 6 pp. 369-374. Cited in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 131-132. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-f-smith/chapter-10?lang=eng
 “Life after Life,” CR April 1987, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1987/04/life-after-life?lang=eng
 “Doors of Death, CR April 1992, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/doors-of-death?lang=eng
 Essential Parley P. Pratt (SLC, Signature Books: 1990), 149.
 “Resurrection,” in True to the Faith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 139. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/true-to-the-faith/resurrection?lang=eng.
 “Resurrection,” Gospel Topics, churchofjesuschrist.org, accessed 1 April 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/resurrection?lang=eng.