“Bodies Filled with Light” Exhibit Illustrates References to Body in Scriptures

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 20 March 2015

The role of Christ as the Creator, Healer, and Restorer of our bodies is an anchoring theme in Bodies Filled with Light.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

Article Highlights

  • The display is a reminder of the eternal connection between the spirit and the body.
  • There are 9,123 references to the body in the LDS standard works.
  • The Bodies Filled with Light exhibit will run until April 30, 2015.

“When we learn about our bodies we learn about our Heavenly Father.” —Jonathan Wisco, BYU professor

PROVO, UTAH

“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:67).

Newsstands are filled with fitness and fashion magazines that cast the body as an adversary to be bridled in order to become stronger and healthier.

The scriptures, of course, teach that the human body is a sacred vessel that requires caring and nurturing. But it’s also a gift to be appreciated and celebrated. Most important, it reflects the divine—a corporal witness that Christ is our Creator, Healer, and Restorer.

An exhibition at Brigham Young University’s Joseph F. Smith Building was designed to help students and visitors at the Church-owned school better appreciate the miracle of the human body and understand its sacred origins.

Bodies Filled with Light includes dozens of anatomical illustrations from the 30th American edition of Gray’s Anatomy that detail the body’s intricate systems and organs.

On their own, the illustrations could stand as a first-rate exhibition of human anatomy. But Bodies Filled with Light takes a significant additional step. Each illustration of, say, the hand, the neck, or the heart is paired with a scriptural reference about the body. Clinical anatomical drawings combined with inspired writ are reminders of the eternal connection between the spirit and the body.

BYU's exhibition Bodies Filled with Light celebrates the human body as an intricate creation of the divine. Photo by Jason Swensen.

“Gray's Anatomy” illustration paired with a passage of scripture. Photo by Jason Swensen.

The exhibit Bodies Filled with Light prominently features a special collection of the drawings, scriptures, and quotes that depict the body of Jesus Christ. Drawing by Jill Penkhus for the 30th edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body. Photo courtesy of BYU.

One of the pieces in this exhibit is this drawing of the heart by Jill Penkhus for the 30th edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body. Photo courtesy of BYU.

“It helps us remember that the primary purpose of mortality is to gain a body,” said Heather Seferovich, the exhibition’s co-curator.

To prepare for the exhibition, Sister Seferovich and others researched the number of times examples of human anatomy are found in the scriptures. The numbers are staggering: There are 9,123 references to the body in the LDS standard works. That’s one reference every 4.6 verses.

The Old Testament alone has more than 5,000 anatomy references, by far the most of any book of scripture. Body parts most frequently mentioned are the hand (2,272 times), the heart (1,466 times), and the eyes (736 times).

The body parts least mentioned in scripture include the hip, nails, the skull, and the wrist. They’re only found once or twice.

Bodies Filled with Light is divided into three primary themes: the body of Christ, body structures, and body systems. A reproduction of the Carl Bloch painting Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda anchors the exhibition and testifies of the Lord’s central role in our own bodies.

The scriptures, of course, often use anatomical references to testify of the glory of God. As Daniel wrote: “His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude” (Daniel 10:6).

Jonathan Wisco, a BYU professor of physical and developmental biology, was instrumental in developing the exhibition. He hopes visitors to the display leave with a deeper appreciation for the divinity found in every human body.

“When we learn about our bodies we learn about our Heavenly Father,” he said.

Located on the third floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building, Bodies Filled with Light will be on display until April 30, 2015. Visit bodiesfilledwithlight.byu.edu for more information.