Every Knee Shall Bow, And Tongue Confess: Foreshadowing The Resurrection Ordinance

This is a guest post by Nick Galieti, a podcaster for LDS Perspectives and Book of Mormon Central. Nick Galieti was recipient of the 2015 John Taylor: Defender of the Faith Award by FairMormon, is author of the books Tree of Sacrament, and The Exaltation Equation, and has directed and produced the documentaries Picturing Joseph, and Murder of the Mormon Prophet.


The Old Testament, New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants record some derivative of the phrase, “every knee shall bow, and tongue confess” with respect to the divinity of Jesus Christ and his Atonement. In Isaiah 45:21-25 it is written (italics added):

21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

 24 Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.

25 In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

In context, this passage is an assertion not only of the divinity of the Savior and the singular path that leads to the justification of humankind to the father, but implies a sense of allegiance to Him. The use of the word “swear” instead of “confess” is much less a resignation of the unrighteous in admission of Christ and his works on their behalf, rather it implies a conscious choice to accept a covenant commitment to eternal allegiance to the cause of the Master.

In Romans 14:9-12 it is recorded this way (italics added):

 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

In this setting the text implies that bowing down and confessing before the Lord as an act of contrition that is part of the resurrection prior to judgement. The confession is to God, not necessarily of God. This theme is continued in the next verse implying that each individual will give an account of his or her actions to God as part of this judgement process.

The account of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon supports the idea that no individual, just or unjust will escape this process of humility and divine acknowledgment. Mosiah 27:29-31 reads (italics added):

29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.

 30 I rejected my Redeemer, and denied that which had been spoken of by our fathers; but now that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all.

 31 Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye.

Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants is revelation given through Joseph Smith regarding, among other things, some of the details surrounding the last days prior to the coming of Christ to the Earth. As part of the fifth trump, those who remain on the Earth at the time of the Millennial reign of Christ, or the Second Coming of Christ, will give glory to their Lord and Savior and acknowledge that He sits on the throne of His Kingdom. Section 88:103-104 (italic added):

103 And another trump shall sound, which is the fifth trump, which is the fifth angel who committeth the everlasting gospel—flying through the midst of heaven, unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people;

 104 And this shall be the sound of his trump, saying to all people, both in heaven and in earth, and that are under the earth—for every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess, while they hear the sound of the trump, saying: Fear God, and give glory to him who sitteth upon the throne, forever and ever; for the hour of his judgment is come.

Doctrine and Covenants 76: 110 also records an analogous version of the phrase, “every knee shall bow, and tongue confess” with relation to those placed in certain kingdoms of glory after this life:

 110 And heard the voice of the Lord saying: These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever;

While given in different contexts and applied in different times and to different people, the message is universal upon all humankind: All will experience humility and make declarations to and of Jesus Christ as universal Judge and Redeemer. To some this act appears to be more a description of the grandeur of the second coming. For others, this statement speaks to a hope that spirits of those who depart this life without a knowledge of the gospel will universally accept the gospel to some degree. Based on the doctrine that all human kind will die and be resurrected and, at some point, all who have lived, now live, or will live on the earth will need to have all gospel ordinances performed on their behalf for a just judgement to take place, this act of bowing the knee and declaring the divinity of the Savior could be viewed as literal post-mortal act that is covenantal in nature.

Covenant Ordinances

The great work of genealogy and temple work centers around entering into eternal covenants of baptism, confirmation and the gift of the Holy Ghost, Priesthood ordination (for men), Initiatory, Endowment, and Sealing. Part of this effort is to connect and bind the human family in one great whole. Each covenant allows one to enter a Kingdom of Glory, or progress to a higher degree within that Kingdom. While some essential ordinances will be performed in mortality, on Earth, there are others will be necessary as part of our next sphere, after this mortal existence. Brigham Young has been quoted as stating,

“It is supposed by this people that we have all the ordinances in our possession for life and salvation, and exaltation, and that we are administering in these ordinances. This is not the case.

“We are in possession of all the ordinances that can be administered in the flesh; but there are other ordinances and administrations that must be administered beyond this world. I know you would ask what they are.

“I will mention one. We have not, neither can we receive here, the ordinance and the keys of the resurrection. They will be given to those who have passed off this stage of action and have received their bodies again, as many have already done and many more will. They will be ordained, by those who hold the keys of the resurrection, to go forth and resurrect the Saints, just as we receive the ordinance of baptism, then the keys of authority to baptize others for the remission of their sins. This is one of the ordinances we can not receive here, and there are many more.” [ref]Brigham Young, “Increase of Saints Since Joseph Smith’s Death, etc.”, Aug. 24, 1872, Journal of Discourses 15:137.[/ref]

Wilford Woodruff recorded in his Journal the following about the relationship of the priesthood and this ordinance in the order and keys of resurrection,

“Who will resurrect Joseph’s Body? It will be Peter, James, John, Moroni, or someone who has or will receive the keys of the resurrection. Joseph has got to receive the keys of the resurrection for you and I. After he is resurrected he will go and resurrect Brother Brigham, Brother Heber, and Brother Carlos, and when that is done then He will say, “now go Brother Brigham and resurrect your wives and children and gather them together.” [ref]

Susan Staker, ed., Waiting for the World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, pp.168-169. For a review, see Matt W., “Initial Thoughts on “Waiting for Worlds End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff,” New Cool Thang, Nov. 10, 2008.[/ref]

Gospel ordinances have an order and universality about them that seems to be echoed in the statement “Every knee shall bow, and tongue confess” suggesting that this act is a literal, physical act with a corresponding symbolism. Kneeling and giving an account could be a formality and is connected to the universal ordinance of resurrection.

As is implied in the above referenced scriptures, for some, this act of declaration will be a willful acknowledgement of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and his authority, as well as an oath to His cause. While others will see this as an act of contrition, disclosing and giving an account of his or her own life and sins. However, all will participate, just as all will have the ordinances of mortality performed.

In 3 Nephi 11, the following experience is recorded where the Savior first appears to the people of Nephi after his death and resurrection:

 9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

 10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

 11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

 12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

 13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:

 14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

 15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

 16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

 17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.

After Jesus Christ is introduced, each individual in attendance, all 2,500 according to the ancient record, come up to the Savior and receive a sure witness of his divinity. Some have postulated that if all 2,500 individuals were given ten seconds to feel each of the at least seven wounds (one in each hand palm, one in each wrist, one in each foot, and at least one in His side) it would have taken approximately seven hours (6.94 hours). This not only speaks to the charity and enduring kindness of Jesus Christ, but also speaks to the necessity of this act, that all were invited to take on this experience. One could assume that feeling those prints as a sign of the wounds suffered in His great atoning sacrifice, is an undeniable witness of Jesus Christ as his divine commission.

As the account continues, a unison declaration confirming or confessing “it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” [ref]3 Nephi 11:15[/ref] was given with the congregation saying aloud, “Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God!” [ref]3 Nephi 11:17[/ref] This confession is an example of every tongue confessing Jesus Christ’s divine position. Also, with those that were present, we can see a fulfillment of the phrase, “every knee shall bow” as each individual fell at the feet of the Savior, an act that would necessitate the knee to bend in humility and reverence.

Following this introductory experience to this congregation, the next chapters of 3 Nephi (comprising chapters 11-26) Jesus Christ taught and instituted new covenants and ordinances associated with the establishment of His Church among the Nephite people. Among the many things taught and instituted in these chapters was the principles of the United Order, the law of consecration and other celestial laws.

As the ordinances of sacrament is, in part, a foreshadowing of a time when we will be able to partake of the Fruit of the Tree of Life and enter the rest of the Lord, or Temple ordinances as reference to the eternal progression and eventual exaltation in the presence of God, what was allowed by the resurrected Savior in 3 Nephi 11, people were brought before him as they knelt down in prostration, or humble recognition of his divinity and role as Savior and Redeemer, both ancient and modern scripture seem to suppose that each person who enters mortality will have a similar experience.

What covenant is there that would attach to such an experience? As most covenants assume to some degree a responsibility of commitment to taking on the name of God, and keeping His commandments, it is not a stretch to assume that an accompanying covenant to this proposed ordinance would include a commitment or re-commitment to similar principles, only know in the presence of Jesus Christ. This commitment would be seen as a progression of knowledge and experience. Once mortality is completed, all will know that they died and are in a different sphere regardless of the exact circumstances one may find themselves in the realm of Spirits. In order for God to be a merciful and just God, all will be taught the gospel in the post-mortal spirit world as revealed in Section 138 of the D&C.

Additionally, all will receive the various covenant ordinances of the temple line upon line. It is my current thinking that Isaiah and other prophets speak of the bowing of the knee as the next in a line of covenantal ordinances, but one that will be performed post-mortality. This is largely based on the interpretation that Isaiah speaks to in terms of “swearing” to God, almost as if there is a promise or commitment as part of this act. Not having researched the ancient languages associated with that verse I can’t comment with surety. However, most things of universal nature that “will” happen to all, tend to be those that are salvific in nature, and become to some extent compulsory. In the event that is the case with “every knee bowing” seems to evoke the symbol of allegiance similar to that of a Knight in England who bows before the king before receiving their exalted status in the kingdom, one kneeling could be the act of acceptance, in conjunction with resurrection, where each individual is assigned their kingdom and bestowed their promised crown of glory.

One thought on “Every Knee Shall Bow, And Tongue Confess: Foreshadowing The Resurrection Ordinance

  1. This also applies to ordinances at the altar. In the Sacrament, for example, the priests represent us all by kneeling at the altar, where we take Christ’s name upon us or confess him as witnesses of his name.

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