Chapter four of Eternal Man has to do with the spirit and the body. Madsen begins by presenting three statements from Joseph Smith:
– We came into this world that we might receive a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom.
– The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.
– All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.
He follows his usual pattern by repeating baffling questions like – Why is man embodied? Has the body a lasting purpose in nature or in the plan of God?
Madsen claims the answers to these questions have been badly blurred by the dogma of immaterialism which dominates both Judaism and Christianity. These assumptions lead to a dualism of nature, one material, the other immaterial. The mind/soul/spirit are immaterial and the body is material. For many this dualism is quite radical – the soul has none of the qualities of the body and vice versa. The soul is real, eternal and good. The body is less real, temporal and evil.
A host of questions arise from this: How can two entities that have nothing in common, not even space and time, be conjoined in any sense? How does one influence the other? Why would an unembodied God create an embodied man to achieve a disembodied immortality?
Physicalists deny the soul. Man is nothing but nucleic acids, cell structures, and nerve nets. Immaterialists assume that only through immaterialism can God and religion be saved.
Once again, Joseph Smith faces a confusing colossus, and with revelatory insight replaces it. The revolution is that mind, spirit and body are all material, in varying degrees of refinement. They all have an equal status in spacio-temporal existence and are of equal worth.
This is not just semantics, it leads to a complete revision of attitudes regarding mankind. Madsen then gives an interesting comparison between some prevailing thoughts and the teachings of Joseph Smith.
Immaterialists teach that man was created in a body to prepare for a nontemporal eternity.
Joseph Smith taught that we are living in a temporal eternity and that our intelligences, spirits and bodies will have permanence in the resurrection.
Physicalists teach that there is no spirit, and that personality can be reduced to genes.
Joseph Smith taught that the spirit personality developed long before our physical embodiment, and has a profound affect.
Extreme immaterialists despise ‘body, parts, and passions’ and define God as lacking them. They disparage and renounce the body.
Extreme physicalists teach that the body is all there is, and that it is the only source for happiness.
Joseph Smith taught that man’s body and spirit are marvelously perfectible. He taught that spirituality is enhanced by the body, and that only when the spirit and the body are inseparably connected can there be a fullness of joy.
Of the Fallen
One may well ask if mankind are not ‘fallen’ and ‘carnal, sensual, and devilish’? Yes, and yes. But the way to sanctification is IN the body, not OUT of it. Thus the inspired way of Christ is a regeneration, an inspired expression, and way of life rather than a renunciation, emasculation and way of death.
Price of Anguish
There are all kinds of self-help books and psychotherapy chronicles that document the miseries of mankind fighting against themselves. How can people find something meaningful, wholesome, or spiritual when they are being told that the body is a nasty, brutish sack or a supersensual castle?
It is the truth re-revealed through Joseph Smith that once again declares that the body of man is a living temple for the Spirit of God. This redeeming truth declares that Jesus Christ lived and died not only to heal, lift, and fulfill all men, but all of man – the intelligence, spirit and body.