Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 4 – The Spirit and The Body

The fourth of a seven part series.  See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

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.

4 Responses to “Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 4 – The Spirit and The Body”

  1. 1 Howard May 19, 2009 at 9:05 am

    “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.” Given the power of the Holy Spirit vs. mortal men, this statement cannot be true.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson May 19, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Wow. That is an interesting observation. I’ll have to ponder that some.

  3. 3 Eric Nielson May 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

    As I have thought about this more, there are some loaded words that would need to be difined before one could come to firm conclusions. This statement by Joseph Smith may well be somewhat hyperbolic, and not be taken as an absolute.

    Power is one of the loaded words. What does power mean in this context? What power does the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost have over us?

    I would say that the power of the Holy Spirit is one of subtle spirit communication. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit uses any power to coerce anyone to do anything. Also, I would say that the power of the Holy Spirit is easy to resist. People do it all the time.

    I also wonder if there may not need to be an apples-to-apples comparison when applying the statement of Joseph Smith. So in this case, one might ask if the Holy Spirit has more power over us than the resurrected Jesus Christ? This may be a more fair comparison. Also, does Christ have more power over mankind now with a resurrected body than he did prior to his physical birth? This may be another fair comparison.

    We can also have a lot of influence on each other. For instance, can a parent have as much or more power and influence over their children than the Holy Spirit can?

    Anyway, that’s all I go for now. When I have a chance I will have to break out ‘Techings’ and review the context of the statement.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson May 19, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Ok, I have now reference ‘Teachings’. The context of the quote in question is that we have power over Satan and his followers. We can reject or ignore their attempts to tempt us, and they can not influence us other than what we allow.

    While it may not work to take this statement beyond this, on the other hand it may. I feel we have the ability to choose good or evil in spite of what Satan or the Holy Spirit may do to attempt to influence us. We still maintain our free will/free agency. Thus they do not have power over us other than what we voluntarily allow.

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