Doctrine: our bodies our not ours, they belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We can’t reject this purchase of our bodies. We accepted Christ’s purchase long before being born. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33; Abraham 3:26-28). Our bodies are vessels or temples for the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are free from sin, through covenant, but also bound to serve the lord (1 Corinthians 7:23). The goal of being healthy enough to serve the Lord and our fellow men will bring us more motivation to exercise and eat right, more joy in life, more peace in who we are—externally, and result in less despair, depression, and guilt for minor lapses.
Today as I was working out on an elliptical machine, my mind revisited the process of pondering I went through years ago as to WHY I should workout and eat balanced and healthy (far beyond the basics of the Word of Wisdom). It was a long process, drawn out over years. It began with my natural inclination to play sports in school. I hated getting in shape, but after doing so, I always enjoyed the sports seasons. Then, after graduating, it became a means of staying in shape and not putting on a lot of extra weight. I had been conditioned to fear the college freshman “twenty pounds.” Then, in my early twenties it became the means I used to try to get the body I wanted, or that I thought I needed, to be acceptable, attractive, and sexy…
None of these reasons, or motivations, however, were compelling enough, long-term, to help me maintain a healthy lifestyle. I would falter, you see. I’d gain ten to twenty pounds. Then, I’d feel bad about myself for gaining that “freshman twenty.” Then, I’d feel ashamed that I wasn’t as attractive or sexy as I thought I should be, or that others wanted me to be. This would lead to an increasing drop in self-esteem (even though I knew I was worth a lot as an individual—a daughter of God), somehow that knowledge didn’t touch my feelings about my outer self AT ALL. This drop in self-esteem usually led to an upward swing in eating right and a rigorous workout routine with rigid rules and requirements that always had me feeling guilty if I slacked off even one minute. Sure, I’d drop ten to twenty pounds. But, then the level of imbalance would soon wear on me, and over a course of months I’d revert.
It was during this time that I put on probably about forty extra pounds. I carried that weight for a year or two until a work health-screening revealed that I had “borderline” cholesterol levels. This freaked me out because I’d had grandparents who had died of heart disease and congenital heart failure. Most had also had moderate to severe diabetes. My own father struggled with moderate diabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and was on medication. This was it, I thought. This was the scare I needed to be better—forever.
It lasted…for four years. I dropped forty pounds and swore off several of my favorite foods. I wasn’t perfect. But, I maintained a healthy eating and exercise lifestyle that was sufficiently rigorous and successful enough. I was never truly happy with my appearance, but I wasn’t totally miserable, either. So, I figured I’d arrived, at last.
Then, significant events in my life led me in the wrong direction. I dropped even more weight. I didn’t feel like eating. I was partially—though not completely—obsessed with having the body I thought I needed to feel happy and to finally have peace in who I was—externally. Food was not as enjoyable as it had always been in years past, because food was the enemy. I was a master at counting calories. Exercise was the cure.
Then, together, these two false beliefs came to a head.
I was at the gym one day on an elliptical machine. I was doing my 45-minute aerobics prior to lifting weights. I was looking around the gym, from time-to-time, at other women. These women were—in my opinion—skinnier, cuter, sexier, prettier, and more attractive. They were smaller, built differently, taller, smaller boned, broader shoulders, etc. And, I finally felt a sense of horrific despair. I realized that no matter how much I turned away food and exercised, I couldn’t turn my body into their bodies. I couldn’t change what I fundamentally and genetically was. And, I couldn’t keep using that as my motivation to eat right and exercise. It wasn’t bringing me any peace, satisfaction, or long-term happiness and joy.
I could have sunk deeper at this point. But, instead, I asked myself, “And why should I? Why should any of us ever exercise restraint in eating or self-discipline in caring for our bodies and minds? Why should we say “no” to anything? Why should we ever say “yes” to hard work and exercise? What is the doctrine behind all of this? Is there a doctrine?”
As I pondered these questions, I looked around again. All these women had two legs and two arms and all the same body parts as me. We were all fundamentally the same. In fact, we were far more alike than we were different. And, the differences I was focusing on were minute, genetic, and virtually unchangeable. Why then was I trying to use my agency to make changes in things that could not be changed? And, what had led me to believe that it was necessary to make such impossible changes?
I knew that eating right and exercising were fundamentally good. But, the WHYs I was using to fuel my actions had at last become completely insufficient. I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t care and struggle and count calories and exercise for these shallow reasons.
Then I thought about the opposite spectrum of caring for our bodies: the do-nots. I thought about the WHYs of not getting tattoos or multiple piercings. Why not get them? Sure, some people get them for the wrong reasons, but certainly many people got them for okay reasons. Some people even got tattoos for sentimental and memory reasons. Why not use drugs, alcohol, etc.? WHY?
Then I thought, “So, what is the reason we all use to justify any action or inaction we take with, for, or against our bodies?” The answer was clear: IT’S MY BODY I can do what I want with it. That’s what everyone says to justify doing what they want (good or bad) with their bodies.
So, I had to ask, “Is it my body? Can, or should, I do want I want? (Which at that point was to sit on the couch and do nothing…) And, if our bodies are not ours, whose are they? And, what are we supposed to do with them, and WHY?”
It was then that a particular list of scriptures came to mind. These came in pieces and fragments to my mind, of course, but I will list the full scriptures here.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 7:23
For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.
Doctrine and Covenants 88:33
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 to him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
Now aside from the Word of Wisdom, which is a law of health, setting apart from the world, and extremely helpful in personal revelation, there is a clear doctrine about WHY we should take care of our bodies. What is that doctrine?
OUR BODIES OUR NOT OURS (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Whether we believe in God or not, the fact remains that our body was created by someone other than ourselves. We didn’t give ourselves life or form. So, whether you credit your biological parents or God, YOUR BODY WAS A GIFT. You didn’t create it or bring it to life. It was simply given to you out of love.
So, if it was given to you, you can do what you want with it, right? The answer is yes. Sure, you can do what you want with it as far as mortal choices are concerned. But, what you can do with your body is also limited. Whatever you do with your body, whether you live healthy or tear it to pieces with riotous living, it will still eventually die. So, even though your body was a gift and you can choose to do with this gift as you please, YOUR BODY WILL DIE. You can’t keep it from dying. You can’t transcend death. You can’t resurrect yourself. You can’t perfect your body and make it immortal.
It was because of this certain death of our physical bodies that Christ not only suffered for sins in Gethsemane, but His atonement was also partly the resurrection. By taking up His body from the grave and perfecting it (because He did have the power to do so) through a grand vicarious ordinance, Christ ensured that our bodies will also be resurrected and perfected one day. It was this vicarious ordinance that “bought our bodies.” The price was Christ giving His own body up to death and taking it up again.
WE CAN’T REJECT THIS PURCHASE OF OUR BODIES. WE ACCEPTED IT LONG BEFORE BEING BORN. (Doctrine and Covenant 88:33; Abraham 3:26-28)
So, unfortunately, we can’t reject the resurrection. We can’t say, “We don’t want you to purchase our immortality. We’d rather just become dust for eternity” (note, the resurrection didn’t purchase “eternal life,” it only purchased immortality—or living forever with perfected bodies. Eternal life is God’s life and requires sanctification…). Why? Because the resurrection was a gift for us keeping our first estate (Abraham 3:26-28); where we chose to follow Christ and come to earth and take part in the plan of salvation. It’s a gift we accepted or “received” before ever being born, physically.
So, our bodies were gifts initially. Then, to ensure their return to life and perfection, God, who gave them to us initially, spent the blood and mortal life of His Only Begotten to buy them back. He bought them from us even though we didn’t even pay to get them. Talk about a good deal.
OUR BODIES ARE VESSELS OR TEMPLES FOR THE HOLY GHOST (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). WE ARE FREE FROM SIN BUT BOUND TO SERVE THE LORD (1 Corinthians 7:23).
Then, when we are baptized, we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Another gift! Through this ordinance, God’s gift of grace for our sins (another gift) makes us free from spiritual death but also is accompanied by a covenant that we will become servants of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:23). So, our bodies, which God owns, become vessels which can house the heavenly influence of the Holy Ghost so that He can sanctify us and turn our service to God into the power to make us godly. The conditions for receiving this Gift of the Holy Ghost are to keep God’s commandments, to serve God by serving our fellow men by bringing them to Christ, and to glorify God with our bodies. So, we are free in Christ, but we are also then made servants (1 Corinthians 7:23).
So, as I came to the end of this strain of reasoning (on an elliptical machine—what a place for revelation, eh?), I realized that the motivations I had been using to force myself to take care of myself were shallow and powerless. They worked, at times, but they never brought me true joy physically or spiritually. They also never produced long-term motivation or results. I wasn’t “becoming” anything by these motivations. I was only putting forth vain efforts and receiving minimal to no rewards.
So, my motivation had to change.
- Why do I try to exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet?
- Why do I avoid dangerous addictive substances, body piercings, and tattoos?
- Why do I try to treat my body and dress it in a way that glorifies God and not myself?
Because my body is God’s. He bought it with the Atonement. It is meant to be used to serve my family, God, and my fellow men. It is meant to be used to bring others to Christ. It is meant to be used in such a way that the Gift of the Holy Ghost can be housed there to guide and influence me in my journey to become like God.
As well, any other motivations for health, fitness, losing weight, etc. don’t bring lasting joy. As I have used the correct doctrines for motivation to live healthy, they have given me a higher self-esteem, a more eternal perspective, and most certainly greater peace and joy in my body.
This, for me, was doctrine and results I could sink my teeth into.
I wish to say that despite my more doctrinal motivation and understanding, I still have times where I exercise less and eat less balanced. And yet, I find that guilt, misery, and despair do not accompany these short lapses. And they are almost always short (a matter of days, or perhaps a week). This is because my goals are eternal goals and not temporary ones. I don’t have to despair over not losing a certain amount of weight by a certain time. I don’t have to panic about not having access to exercise facilities when I travel. I don’t have to beat myself up for doing only 20-30 minutes of an aerobic workout when my goal was 45. Or, skipping my sit-ups because family duties took precedence. I do what I can. And a softer goal (of doing anything at all, no matter how long or short) with a more eternal purpose (to be healthy enough to serve the Lord) means I don’t ever feel an inclination to give up. I accept what I can do on any given day, whatever it is. I don’t have to despair over not being a supermodel.
As long as I am able to serve the Lord in my family and in my church callings I am on the right track.
[Obviously some health conditions come to us despite our efforts to be healthy. Some are genetic. Some are merely a part of mortality. They just happen. But, I believe if we do the best we can with what has been given to us, then these doctrines and principles apply even within these limited circumstances.]