Viewpoint: Respect the Gift of a Physical Body

Contributed By the Church News

  • 21 August 2016

A mother holds her newborn’s feet.

Article Highlights

  • We should respect our bodies and treat them consistent with the truths we have been taught.
  • Our thoughts and feelings regarding our bodies—and our divine worth—will be transformed and we will be better able to rejoice in our Creator.

We are literally children of God. After all the wonders of the Creation—after dividing the light from the darkness and the waters from the firmament; after creating the grass, herbs, and plants of every kind and creatures in every variety—then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and God created male and then female (see Genesis 1:26–27).

And as God’s crowning creation, we should recognize our physical bodies as a sacred gift. In an article to the youth of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley marveled at the miracle of the human body and mind. “Have you ever contemplated the wonders of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak?” he asked. “No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. No computer or other creation of science can equal the human brain. What a remarkable thing you are. You can think by day and dream by night. You can speak and hear and smell. Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has resulted in only crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, watch it, look at it, and sense the wonder of it” (“The Body Is Sacred,” New Era, Nov. 2006).

The Family: A Proclamation to the World” teaches that gaining a body was an important part of God’s great plan of happiness. “Spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.”

In a talk given during the October 2005 general conference, Sister Susan W. Tanner, then Young Women General President, noted that in the premortal realm, God’s children “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) at the opportunity to hear and participate in this plan.

“Why were we so excited? We understood eternal truths about our bodies,” she said. “We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God. We knew that our bodies would house our spirits. We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing, even eager, to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and ‘receive a fulness of joy’ (D&C 93:33)” (“The Sanctity of the Body”).

Indeed, the scriptures teach that our bodies are temples—sacred receptacles that shelter our spirits. In an epistle to the Corinthians, Paul explained: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

Yet the world’s perspective is much different than God’s perspective. The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked as the world teaches individuals that appearance determines worth or desirability.

Sister Tanner explained that Satan learned the same eternal truths regarding the body and his punishment is that he does not have one.

“[Satan] tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse this precious gift,” Sister Tanner said. “He has filled the world with lies and deceptions about the body. He tempts many to defile this great gift of the body through unchastity, immodesty, self-indulgence, and addictions. He seduces some to despise their bodies; others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object.”

Do we, as described by Sister Tanner, allow our perspectives to shift to a worldly view where we perceive our bodies as objects to be manipulated rather than gifts to be protected and appreciated?

President Russell M. Nelson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and now President of that Quorum, taught that we should gratefully acknowledge God as our Creator. “Otherwise, we would be as guilty as goldfish swimming in a bowl, oblivious to the goodness of their provider. ‘Ye must give thanks unto God,’ said the Lord, ‘for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed’ (D&C 46:32–33). And we can practice virtue and holiness before Him continually.

“We will regard our body as a temple of our very own. We will not let it be desecrated or defaced in any way. We will control our diet and exercise for physical fitness” (“We Are Children of God,” Oct. 1998 general conference).

Similarly, Doctrine and Covenants 88:33 teaches: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” If we can rejoice in the gift we’ve been given—that of our physical body and the opportunity to progress in our Heavenly Father’s great plan—we will be able to also rejoice in the Giver of the gift.

Let us respect our bodies. Let us treat our bodies consistent with the truths we have been taught. As we do so, our thoughts and feelings regarding our bodies—and our divine worth—will be transformed and we will be better able to rejoice in our Creator, the Giver of this sacred and precious gift.