Renewing of Their Bodies
Continued from “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (Part 2)”
When our souls realign to magnify this grand Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, then the remainder of our original quotation on the oath and covenant of the priesthood makes exciting, glorious, life-altering sense.
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. (D&C 84:33)
Verse 33 is speaking of a beginning and an eventual, glorious outcome all in the same sentence. The Lord speaks of obtaining the priesthood and magnifying our callings. Then, in a masterful over-simplification, He sweeps forward in time to the grand fulfillment of that whole process and proclaims that we will be sanctified unto the renewing of our bodies.
Elder Orson Pratt described this promised renewing of bodies in verse 33. He states that all of the sons of Moses and Aaron, whom he describes as holders of the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood:
. . . who are pure in heart will behold the face of the Lord and that too before he comes in his glory in the clouds of heaven, for he will suddenly come to his Temple, and he will purify the sons of Moses and of Aaron, until they shall be prepared to offer in that Temple an offering that shall be acceptable in the sight of the Lord. [Mal. 3:1-4.] In doing this, he will purify not only the minds of the Priesthood in that Temple, but he will purify their bodies until they shall be quickened, renewed and strengthened, and they will be partially changed, not to immortality, but changed in part that they can be filled with the power of God, and they can stand in the presence of Jesus, and behold his face in the midst of that Temple.
This will prepare them for further ministrations among the nations of the earth, it will prepare them to go forth in the days of tribulation and vengeance upon the nations of the wicked, when God will smite them with pestilence, plague and earthquake, such as former generations never knew. [Sec. 29:14-21; 45:28-42; Rev. 9.] Then the servants of God will need to be armed with the power of God, they will need to have that sealing blessing pronounced upon their foreheads that they can stand forth in the midst of these desolations and plagues and not be overcome by them. (JD, 15: 366.)
Without using the term “translation” he clearly describes the translated state. Translated people are still mortals, and thus not “immortal” as he notes. He also notes that they can endure the presence of Christ and behold His face, which is also the means whereby one is allowed to request this supreme blessing.
To understand what the Lord meant by “sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of our bodies” we need to examine for a moment what sanctification means.
There are many degrees of sanctification. The first noticeable experience with the power of the Holy Ghost to make saintly (sanctify) is when a person first accepts that Jesus is the Christ, and decides to make life changes for that knowledge. Such a change often occurs prior to baptism. Many Christians refer to this change as being born again; and so it is, in a very real, but rudimentary way. In the LDS vernacular, we often refer to this as “being converted”, which means to be changed or upgraded. This is the point which John 3:3 suggests is being born again to “see” the kingdom of God.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5)
In other words, at this initial rebirth of the soul, the believer can begin to see himself obtaining the future glories of eternal life, and thus begins to seek after them. Their conversion gives them faith in Jesus Christ, a testimony of His atonement, and a strong desire to lay hold upon the promises of Christ.
It is this author’s opinion that it is not necessary to be baptized into the true church to experience this marvelous, but rudimentary change. Millions upon millions in the Christian community enjoy this gift from our merciful Savior, and have great faith in Him because of it. It uplifts and prepares for a journey that may actually be unfathomable until much later in one’s growth.
Moroni calls this stage of sanctification “hope.” (Ether 12:28,Moroni10:20-21) It is a revealed “hope” born of the Spirit (the Light of Christ), which gives a hope that there will be a place in eternity for the spiritual pilgrim. They can now see with an eye of faith.
The greater rebirth mentioned in John 3:5 follows being born of the water (baptism) and of the Spirit (the Gift of the Holy Ghost) and makes one able to enter the kingdom of God. Obviously, one must be baptized by authority to enjoy this incrementally greater sanctification.
This further sanctification to enter into the kingdom is when one receives the Holy Ghost and is upgraded by the grace of the Atonement to make them Christ-like, making them willing and anxious to sacrifice and consecrate all that they have to enter the kingdom of God. At this time the person is changed, upgraded, filled with righteous desire, and changed from fallen man to a saintly man or woman. Such a change is prefigured in Mosiah 3:19.
9 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)
This degree of sanctification is generally referred to in the LDS community as being born again. As the verse above indicates, this change is accompanied by sweeping upgrades to the soul. The qualities of becoming like a child, submissive, meek, humble and so on, are enhancements to the soul brought about by the Holy Ghost at this marvelous change.
There is further sanctification and a greater change when one is so blessed to receive an assurance in mortality that they have a guaranteed place in the eternal kingdom. This change is often referred to as “making one’s calling and election sure.” Joseph spoke of this change.
“The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure . . .” (TPJS, 150)
The following quote is when Joseph Smith experienced his own calling and election being made sure.
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the Church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—(D&C 88:3-5)
As we noted earlier, this is the “promise” of those blessings, not the actual receipt of them. It is a promise of eventual eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom, and a promise that we may enjoy the glory of the Church of the Firstborn, a subject we will touch upon later. This grand experience bestows upon the humble soul further degrees of sanctification which greatly expand the previously obtained perfections of the rebirth.
Even beyond these glorious steps on the upward reaches of sanctification is the far greater blessing of at last entering into the presence of Christ, and there being changed, and made able to endure His presence. We call this glorious gift the Second Comforter. This degree of sanctification, and the blessings it bestows upon the body and soul of righteous men and women, is supernal.
Once a person qualifies themselves to be in the presence of God in this life, there are blessings that may be requested as part of one’s “endowment”. One of these is the renewing of their bodies mentioned above.
It is this glorious, and nearly unthinkably powerful blessing of sanctification unto the renewing of their bodies, that D&C 88:33 is describing. It is not referring to resurrection because these people have not yet died, and because all mankind will be resurrected. This renewing is wholly conditioned upon magnifying priesthood callings, and being purified through priesthood ordinances. Renewal implies taking something worn out, and repairing it. Resurrection is not a renewal since the body has died and decayed into dust. Resurrection is a re-creation of the body, a return of life, not a renewal of the existing one.
There are other grand truths here that are less obvious. One is that if our bodies are being sanctified and renewed, then this whole process can and must take place while we yet have a body, while we are still mortal. This grand outcome of righteous priesthood is to occur in this life.
© June 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.
Paraphrased from The Triumph of Zion, pages 148-152