Posted by BrianJ on April 23, 2014
In the comments section of another post, I got into a discussion with Robert C and JKC about the purpose of having a resurrected body and the undesirable nature of being dead.
I see those comments (and others) making a few points:
- We needed a body to progress beyond our premortal existence.
- It is comforting to know that we will be resurrected because it assures us of an ongoing existence.
- The resurrection assures that our ongoing existence will not be disembodied.
- Knowing that a body is important eternally should elicit reverence for our bodies, not disdain as other Christians would teach.
I agree with each of these points. 100%.
Now let me express how these points don’t really answer the question* for me.
stagnated were limited in some way premortally. Experiencing mortality and/or a physical body gives us a chance to progress. I accept these explanations even though I don’t know why mortality and/or a body was essential for that change. More directly: I don’t think we have enough information about our premortal existence to know why it had stagnated was limited. (We have almost no information.) It’s hard to explain how something could solve a problem when I don’t know what caused the problem or what the problem really was.
It is clear, on the other hand, that Heavenly Father had a body and we didn’t. He wanted us to be like him so presumably that entails gaining a body. See below (3b) for one reason this doesn’t answer the question for me. Additionally, I don’t know why Heavenly Father could not just give us bodies like his—for some reason it couldn’t work that way (or maybe he just chose not to have it work that way). I accept that as a fact even though it is not an explanation.
Thus, this mortal body experience is an essential part of God’s plan, but it’s not clear to me why it would have to be part of God’s plan; i.e., that he was constrained to do it this way.
2) I wouldn’t need to know about resurrection to be assured of an ongoing existence. I have no proof of resurrection—I take it on faith—so I could just as readily take it on faith that there was some ongoing existence even if God had chosen to keep resurrection a secret. (A distraction here is the claim that there were eye-witnesses to the resurrection; that’s proof for them, but not for me: I have to take their witness on faith.)
If there were no resurrection, there would still be some kind of life after death. Case in point: those who currently await resurrection. Suppose their resurrection were delayed indefinitely: they still exist.
Thus, knowing about resurrection does not add to the assurance of an ongoing existence.
(Side note: I believe it was Brigham Young who taught a sort of “spirit disintegration and recycling” model. Resurrection certainly gives me an assurance that that won’t be my fate. But then again, all I really needed was for God to say, “Your spirit is eternal,” and I wouldn’t worry about Young’s doctrine.)
3) Our ongoing existence will not be disembodied. Okay, but why should I care whether or not I have a body? Here are the answers I’ve heard:
a) being dead is painful…in some way. Probably. At least, that’s one way to interpret “the pains of death.” Alternatively, it could just mean that actually dying is painful, but being dead is painless. This seems like one of those “describing the taste of salt” problems: I believe that being dead is undesirable because God says it is.
b) having a resurrected body makes us more like Heavenly Father. Okay, but what I am really interested in is being one with him—attaining godhood. The pre-mortal Jesus and the Holy Ghost enjoy(ed) this state without having a body; thus, God does not by definition have a body. If God says that I can’t do likewise without a body then okay, but I don’t understand why.
c) having a resurrected body allows us to do things that require a resurrected body. The only “thing” that I’ve heard fit this description is: have spiritual children. There are two ways this could work: First, it just does (no explanation). Second, the same way it works here on earth: i.e., sex, pregnancy, and birth. I reject this second one on the grounds that I believe that spirits are eternal (having no beginning or end).
Thus, I “believe” that having a resurrected body is important and desirable, but I cannot contextualize that “belief” (therefore it gets isolated in scare quotes to indicate its limited utility).
4) The eternal nature of the body causes us to revere, not hate, our bodies. I completely agree. This is the one area where I see a practical application for the doctrine.
Thus, while I don’t understand why we need a body, I do understand why we need to know that we need a body.
Wild speculation alert: I have recently been toying with the idea that while the spirit is, as Joseph Smith taught, “matter,” it is matter that does not exactly inhabit the physical universe—perhaps something like dark matter. If so, then gaining a body would open up a whole new world—a whole universe, actually—of possibilities for us. Retaining a physical body via resurrection would be the only way to maintain a connection to that new universe. (Did I just answer all of my questions?)
* “the question.” Yeah, I’m using that as a phrase without actually articulating what the question is. Sloppy, I know.
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