The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that "we came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom." Our spirits must be united with a body to attain that "great principle of happiness." [TPJS, p. 181] As Latter-day Saints we are taught that the soul, our real self, consists of both the body and the spirit. (See D&C 88:15.) Neither part can be exalted without the other; both are necessary. Joseph Smith also taught that Satan's punishment for his rebellion is that "he shall not have a tabernacle." [TPJS, p. 297] (p. 56)
Having a body is a blessing. It is a gift we received because we kept our first estate in our premortal life. Because we have gained a body, we are now more like god than we were before coming to earth. People who understand these truths understand that the "real" self, or soul, is both body and spirit. They may feel a oneness, an inner satisfaction, as both parts work together in righteousness. They see their body as a blessing, as a reward for past righteousness. These people are grateful to have the privilege of being able to progress to this second estate to become more like God, and they want to prepare, both in body and in spirit, to live with their Heavenly Father again. (p. 59)
In 1970, Stuart Spicker declared that "by rejecting Cartesian Dualism as a savage superstition one might in all likelihood be driven to some form of 'spiritual materialism' which seems a self-contradictory doctrine, at best, but which might, if carefully rendered, differ radically from the crude materialism or elegant spiritualism disclosed in the history of philosophy." Did you ever wonder why in D&C 131:7 we read, "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes," and then continuing in verse 8, "We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter." Because of years of mind vs. body controversy, an either-or argument, Spicker understandably thought his "innovative concept" of "spiritual materialism" seemed like a self-contradictory doctrine, at best! But here it is clearly expressed in the scriptures: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter." So much for the mind vs. body dilemma! Spirit as matter exists on a continuum with the physical. As the two are more alike in nature than opposite, the two aspects of being are compatible rather then incompatible. . . . Had the truth of the gospel been known throughout the ages, there need not have been a philosophical Mind vs. Body dilemma. . . . Further expansion of these ideas take us to a basic discussion of the Plan of Salvation. . . . (p. 108-109)
Would it not be terribly irresponsible to teach concepts derived from worldly knowledge without first subjecting them to critical examination from a gospel perspective? As each of us is grounded in testimony and hopefully conversion to gospel truths, it would seem that every idea read, every fact examined, would automatically be analyzed from the gospel perspective. (p. 109)
I am particularly interested in coming to understand the dynamics of dealing with gospel truth in every discipline at BYU. But admittedly I am in a quandary. What is the logic of any rationale for not basing our teaching and related activities on gospel truths? Of course there are risks. Is discipleship ever without a price? And these risks are great in a worldly setting, but what risks are present within the context of a church-sponsored university? Yes, it is difficult to get those ideas published, but not impossible. Some people not familiar with the gospel will certainly reject the concepts, but many more are intrigued by fresh ideas--maybe not admitting it openly, but quietly absorbing the truths they hear. Are we insecure about our knowledge of the gospel or unsure of our testimonies? Are we not doing critical thinking which allows us to accurately discern the "false teachings of individuals?" (p. 110)
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to determine whether implementation of the institutional mission of Brigham Young University relative to the inculcation of character building and spiritual values, in combination with the traditional moral and character building goals and claims of the physical education profession is being treated with adequate emphasis in the Department of Physical Education-Sports at B.Y.U. The following conclusions were reached:
When we think of recreation, we must accept four propositions as being facts. First of all, "Men are, that they might have joy." (II Nephi 2:25.) Second, recreation is one of the means by which we obtain joy. Third, our young people are going to participate in some form of recreation, good or bad, whether or not we cooperate with them. And fourth, you and I and every other worker in this Church have the opportunity and the privilege of helping our young people to choose the right kind of recreation. (p. 554)
Generally speaking, the BYU athletic program is not only successful on the fields and the courts--in full public view--but it appears to this loyal layman to be wholesome and harmonious with the transcendent principles of the university and the Church. Athletes are expected to be students and Christian ladies and gentlemen like everyone else . . . Coaches believe and communicate that getting a good education must be the primary objective for all they recruit and that the Honor Code applies to the athletes just as it applies to any other student. An earlier myth that returned missionaries could not compete in athletics has been shattered, and young men are encouraged to serve, if they have the desire.
Coaches themselves (some more than others) have taken seriously their responsibilities, not only to be excellent in their chosen sport, but also as role models. Those same coaches have also kindly resisted irresponsible demands by some fans that were not harmonious with BYU standards. In fact, I have often wondered if faculty and students are as excellent in our classes as our athletes and coaches are on the field.
But what of the pressures that come with athletic prominence in a contemporary America where sports have become to many a religion or, at least, a serious diversion from a complex and confusing reality? Can we at BYU handle acceptance, and even adulation--influences Mormons are unduly susceptible to after a heritage of persecution and ostracism--which may pose more dangers than persecution? Can we resist the temptation for victories at any price . . . ?
My answer to these questions is an unequivocal yes, if we--administration, faculty, students and alumni--resist modern siren songs and keep athletics in their proper perspective. BYU's sports program is, and can be even more, an excellent tool when used by the university and Church to help achieve vastly more important and worthy objectives than winning games.
Even though the athletic program involves a considerable amount of money, it is not a "business" any more than the university and the Church, with their substantial budgets, are a "business." The primary missions of all are quite different and distinct from showing a traditional profit, and goals as well as methods of operation must be considerably different from those used by many businesses. The major "profits" in BYU sports must be shown in the intellectual and moral transformation and growth of the athlete-students, and in the benefits which the university reaps as an institution of higher learning, not in the normal profit or loss ledger.
As we move into a new era in athletics, BYU needs to polish up a "style of its own" in athletics to match the style in academics and Christian living. It need not be weird or confining, only detectable and different. Athletics thus becomes even more a wholesome part in the education of the whole man, and for that we can all "Rise and Shout."
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. . . .
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.
The Mormon Church . . . has a history of vigorous participation in dance. From its beginning with founder Joseph Smith in 1839 and in the contemporary Mormon Church today, the amount of dance evident in Mormon culture caused a Time magazine reporter to call the church the "dancingest denomination." (p. 31)
After the Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley, dance continued to be the paramount recreation: "This activity was probably the most common amusement of the founding of our State, being enjoyed in every city, town, and hamlet in Utah." Dance was an important feature of every celebration. (p. 32)
The words of Brigham Young explain simply and precisely the phenomenon of the Mormons and the "Dancingest Denomination":
Our work, our everyday labor, our whole lives are within the scope of our religion. This is what we believe, and what we try to practice. Recreation and diversion are as necessary to our well-being as the most serious pursuits of life. If you wish to dance, dance, and you are just as prepared for prayer meeting as you were before, if you are Saints. (p. 34)
Mormon dancing was an outward manifestation of an inner joy, an inner grace, expressing itself in group response and group participation. As a criterion for culture it met Powys' requirements in that it was "deeper rooted and more widely human than any trained aesthetic taste, or any industriously acquired scholarship."3 The Mormons in the time of the founding of the Church, and later at the beginning of community life in Utah employed dancing as one of their sociological-culture patterns. Dancing is a cultural aspect of Mormon life today. (p. 118)
The Mormon philosophy of play as manifested in dance was radically different from that of other Christian churches in the half century from 1830-1880. The Mormons not only were allowing play, but they were advocating it and sponsoring it during this period. The membership of the early Mormon church was drawn from Puritanical New England, and from other areas where churches were opposed to play, and particularly hostile to dancing, though sometimes admitting play-party games.
The factors which allowed for such a strong variation in social pattern are probably as follows:
1. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the first and second presidents of the Mormon Church, stressed that temporal and physical welfare were the bases for spiritual welfare.
2. The Mormons were isolated socially and sometimes geographically. This isolation allowed them independence in developing the social plan best suited to their needs.
3. Release from mass suffering was required. A mass release provided the most wholesome adjustment.
4. Varying cultures, areas, and nationalities came together. Play, primarily manifesting itself in dance, was the best socializing force, and the one into which there could be an easy social entry. (p. 121)
John Taylor, editor, explained the whole Mormon thought of that day in his answer:
There certainly can be no harm in dancing, in and of itself, as an abstract principle, but like all other athletic exercises, it has a tendency to invigorate the system and to promote health . . . Therefore, looking at dancing merely as an athletic exercise, or as something having a tendency to add to the grace and dignity of man, by enabling him to have a more easy and graceful attitude, certainly no one could object to it . . . As an abstract principle . . . we have no objections to it; but when it leads people into bad complacency and causes them to keep untimely hours, it has a tendency to enervate and weaken the system, and lead to profligate and intemperate habits. And so far as it does this, so far is it injurious to society, and corrupting the morals of youth. (p. 123)
Professor Dominico Ballo, trained in Milan, and ex-bandmaster of West Point, was the leader of the Social Hall orchestra. His services as director were voluntary. He was a clarinet player of exceptional ability. Brigham Young made frequent statements to explain his attitude toward dance:
Those that have kept their covenants and served their God, if they wish to exercise themselves in any way, to rest their minds and tire their bodies, go and enjoy yourselves in the dance . . .
At the dedication of the Salt Lake Theater, March 6, 1862, he said:
There are many of our aged brethren and sisters, who through the traditions of their fathers and the requirements of a false religion, were never inside a ball-room or a theater until they became Latter-day Saints, and now they seem more anxious for this kind of amusement than are our children. This arises from the fact they have been starved for many years for that amusement which is designed to buoy up their spirits and make their bodies vigorous and strong, and tens of thousands have sunk into untimely graves for want of such exercises to the body and mind. They require mutual nourishment to make them sound and healthy. Every faculty and power of both body and mind is a gift from God. Never say that means used to create and continue healthy action of body and mind are from hell.(p. 133)
In 1830 when the Church was organized, many Christian denominations were hostile toward recreation and play, particularly dance. However, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors advocated dance and participated in recreational dancing. Joseph Smith was a skillful dancer and enjoyed hosting dances in his home (Holbrook, p. 122). Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve "danced before the Lord" to the music of a small orchestra in the Nauvoo Temple after long days of joyous participation in temple ordinances. (HC 7:557, 566; Holbrook, p. 123)
The revealed doctrine that the body and spirit together comprise the soul tends to encourage physical activity (D&C 88:15). Early Latter-day Saints commended dancing as healthful to body and mind, but only when conducted in accordance with Church principles. Emphasis was on propriety, good company, and the spirit of praising the Lord. During their difficult trek west, the pioneers danced as "camps of Israel." President Brigham Young said "I want you to sing and dance and forget your troubles. . . . Let's have some music and all of you dance." (Holbrook, p. 125)
In light of modern revelation, Latter-day Saints believe that the physical body and its health and well-being are an essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One purpose of mortality is to acquire and care for a physical body that is united with a spirit in a temporary union. The body is the house or tabernacle of each person's unique eternal spirit. At death, the body and the spirit are temporarily separated. One cannot fulfill his or her eternal potential, however, when the spirit and body are apart. In the resurrection the spirit and the then-immortal body will become eternally reunited and inseparable.
The physical body is a gift from God. No mortal body is perfect; some persons are born with handicaps or serious disabilities. Nevertheless, in premortal life spirits looked forward with great anticipation to receiving a physical body. Latter-day Saints look upon the body as an essential component in the progress to become perfect, even as the Heavenly Father is perfect.
The health laws or commandments given in the scriptures are to teach mankind how to care for their bodies. Such laws have spiritual consequence. Obedience to health laws can enhance physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Latter-day Saints are counseled not to take harmful and habit-forming things into their bodies. Tobacco, alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, and drugs are to be avoided. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, and fish are good for the body; meats, however, should be used sparingly. (see Word of Wisdom)
In addition, the Lord counseled, "Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; . . . retire to thy bed early, . . . arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124) Modern prophets have stressed that people should keep their bodies healthy.
Other principles, such as love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and charity, foster a healthy and positive mental perspective. A God-given moral code promotes good health and enduring family life by requiring chastity before marriage and total fidelity within marriage.
The state of our health affects every facet of our life--our feeling of personal well-being, our approach to work, our social interactions--even our service to the Lord. (p. 77)
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