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by Kent M. Van De Graaff
Latter-day Saints believe that the physical human body was created by God in his express image, and that one of the most important purposes of earth life is for the spirit children of God to obtain a physical body and grow through the experience of mortality.
The physical body, with all its structures and physiological systems, appetites and passions, strengths and frailties, serves as the mortal housing of the spirit. Before birth, the spirit leaves God's presence and comes to this world to take up a physical body. In mortality, the body is imperfect and will eventually die. In due time, the physical body of every human will be resurrected in its "proper and perfect frame" (Alma 40:23) and the spirit will be restored to it in a state of immortality.
Together, the physical body and the spirit constitute the soul (D&C 88:15). The salvation of the soul requires perfection of both body and spirit. God the Father and Jesus Christ, both perfected and glorified beings, possess tangible resurrected bodies of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22). The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, "No person can have this salvation except through a tabernacle" (TPJS, p. 297; see also D&C 93:35). To become like God, his children, too, must obtain physical bodies. "We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body" (TPJS, p. 181).
These beliefs are crucial to LDS understanding of the importance of the physical body. Many religions view the human corporeal nature as a state of constant conflict between the righteous enticings of the spirit and the vices of the flesh, ending only when death frees the spirit from the body. In contrast, Latter-day Saints strive for righteous harmony between the two, seeking perfection and discipline of the spirit along with training and health of the body. Health includes both physical and moral hygiene. The Word of Wisdom and other scriptural admonitions concerning health are intended to be followed to ensure a clean and clear mind and vigorous longevity "unto the renewing of their bodies" (D&C 84:33). Chastity, in both deed and thought, and physical and moral health are conditions essential for spiritual sensitivity, receiving a testimony, and personal revelation. (See Teachings About Sexuality home page)
Latter-day Saints view the possession of a body as an eternal privilege and a blessing. The righteous decision to accept the plan of God the Father and come into this world was rewarded with the gift of a human body. Humans are free to choose their actions while in the flesh, and they are privileged to experience the pleasures and pains of being alive. This is a blessing not enjoyed by those who followed Satan's lead and were cast out of God's presence, never to have a mortal body. During Christ's ministry, he found several occasions to cast out devils. In the most notable incident, the spirits requested that Christ not cast them out entirely, but that he allow them to enter the bodies of nearby swine (Mark 5:6-13). For Latter-day Saints this suggests how much the followers of Satan desire a physical body. Resurrection, the ultimate and perfect unification of body and spirit, gives spirits the power to overcome spiritual death: "For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more" (2 Ne. 9:8).
For Latter-day Saints the physical body, in all its developmental, anatomical, and physiological complexities and functions, is evidence of God's creative hand. It is, in itself, miraculous. Furthermore, the day-to-day vitality of the body can be attributed to divine regulation; as expressed by King Benjamin, it is God who "has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another" (Mosiah 2:21).
The upkeep and maintenance of the body are important in LDS belief. Disease is a natural condition that disturbs the normal function of the body's physical processes. When ill or injured, Latter-day Saints exercise faith toward recovery. Worthy priesthood holders, by administering a blessing of health, may call upon the power of God to aid in the healing process. At the same time, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to take full advantage of modern medicine and technology in the prevention and cure of sickness and do not find this inconsistent with accepting the blessings of the priesthood, for they see an ultimate unity between spirit and matter. (See Attitudes Toward Health and Medicine home page)
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page)
Lockhart, Barbara. "The Body: A Burden or a Blessing." Ensign 15 (Feb. 1985):56-60.
Madsen, Truman G. Eternal Man, pp. 43-51. Salt Lake City, 1966.
Nelson, Russell M. "Self Mastery." Ensign 15 (Nov. 1985):30-32.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Physical Body
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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