Each of us, who try to serve God and represent Him well, often struggle with many things that God asks us to do either Himself, or through His prophets. These things often include specific commandments or even simply suggested church guidelines. Such as: modesty, the word of wisdom, general good eating and exercise suggestions, limited piercings, not getting tattoos, and many other physical appearance, psychological, and health commandments/guidelines. We have so many good reasons why we should be able to dress, act, and eat how we want. And, the reason why we like our reasons and struggle to follow God’s guidelines is because we see a fence, or a line, in front of us and we don’t understand why it’s there. Yah, people spout reasons, but their reasons somehow never sink that deep.
Your Body is a Temple
So, often we hear the phrase, “Your body is a temple.” And, though we basically get the idea, if we don’t dig deeper, we will still miss the point. More importantly, we will struggle to apply it. Going through the motions of what we call temporal commandments (and guidelines) is okay. But, for most of us if we don’t dig deeper at some point, we will most certainly come to a point where we stop keeping those commandments, stop following those guidelines, and we will struggle to get why they are there at all.
Personal revelation and application come quickly, almost too easily, once we really grasp and understand the WHY, or the doctrine behind any commandment.
So, if you Google the word “temple,” you will basically get the following definition:
A building devoted to the worship, or regarded as the dwelling place, of a god or gods or other objects of religious reverence.
In 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 we learn the following about our body:
- It is part of the body of Christ, meaning the body of His church and kingdom. It’s not dispensable. No matter it’s function or size, it’s critical to God and His kingdom/church.
- It is a temple of the Holy Ghost.
- It does not belong to us, but belongs to Christ.
- It belongs to Christ because He bought it through His everlasting atonement (Christ bought our body back from justice/sin and death so that it might be resurrected again someday).
- The purpose of our body is to glorify God.
Applying the Doctrine
If our body is a temple devoted to the worship of God and is a dwelling place for the Holy Ghost, then that changes a lot of things we may choose to do to, or with, or put into, it. If we, individually, are critical to God’s church and kingdom on earth, then our need to be well-functioning members becomes far more important than we thought. If our body is not ours, and belongs to God because He created it and then bought it back through the atonement, then that also has significant implications. How do we treat other people’s property? And, if our body’s purpose is to glorify God, then that opens a whole other topic for study and thought. If it has a designed purpose, then using it otherwise will seem a lot more unsatisfactory and uncomfortable.
But, let’s compare our bodies to actual physical temples. They are everywhere these days.
- They are in service almost daily, excepting the Sabbath Day and when they are closed for cleaning.
- They are designed, built, and adorned to draw attention to God.
- They are not cheaply or shabbily furnished. Great care is taken in “clothing” them both on the inside and outside.
- They symbolize Christ, the atonement, and God’s plan of salvation in every particular.
- They are not merely cleaned when they are dirty, they are cleaned before they get dirty to prevent them from becoming dirty.
- They lead others to God’s highest blessings and covenants
- While they share godly-designed similarities, they are all different and unique in some way, whether in décor, design, color scheme, and location
- They help people to look up, or away from their normal day-to-day
- They are dedicated to God and are used only in His service
- People must be worthy to participate in temple ordinances (activities involving the temple)
As you read this list, if you had any thoughts, inspirations, twinges of guilt, memories, or other feelings about a certain bullet point, STOP NOW, and write it down. This is personal revelation to you. It is a tiny nudge from the Holy Spirit about something you need to ponder about, pray about, change, learn, and come to understand about your own body.
I could make a million (or probably more) applications from this list above. But my applications don’t matter. It’s yours. Whether your thought seemed apparently unrelated, only related in a minor fashion, or it was dead on with something you read in the list above, it is a nudge from the Holy Spirit.
You may have been prompted to eat better or simply to change the focus of your diet. You may have been nudged to exercise more, differently, or even less. You may have been given reassurance that a part of the word of wisdom you struggle with can be overcome. You may have been prompted about one piece of clothing you wear, or many. You may have been nudged about something you need to repent of. You may have been inspired to make a change in the way you serve God day-to-day in your work, school, career, or home environment. You may have been prompted to change friends, or to reach out to someone. You may have been inspired to teach someone what you have learned about this doctrine. You may have been inspired to repent of, fix, or clarify to another a false doctrine you have taught about the body in the past. You may have been taught something about the cleanliness of your body or home. I could go on and on.
I Was Prompted to Stop Running
Years back, from my freshman year of college on, I ran. I ran long distance from 2 miles to 4 miles. I trained for some trail races. 6 miles or more, most of those were. I ran several 5k races. I eventually (despite many foot issues) made my way up to a half marathon. It was a spiritual experience, make no mistake.
For years and years I ran because I was afraid of getting fat. I ran because I was worried about being attractive. I ran because I was afraid of others (male and female) thinking I didn’t take care of myself. I ran for so many reasons, but none of them was to glorify God or my body in His service.
I ate for many of the same reasons. I was constantly punishing myself, feeling self-conscious, devalued, unattractive. I was rigid with eating certain foods. Then, if I did slip up, I overate terribly. It was a horrible, vicious cycle.
For years I went up and down and up and down and up and down. Weight, self-esteem, self-consciousness. I would think I had arrived. But, I never had. Then, despite my efforts to be what I thought everyone (including myself) wanted me to be, I went through a sad divorce.
It was after this divorce, that I was at the gym one day. I was, as usual, working myself into a healthy sweat while looking around and wishing that I could just have the body that other women had. Then, I could be happy, I thought. But, while I was thinking this, and feeling so down about myself, the thought hit me that this thought process I had was ridiculous. I saw it then for what it was—ingratitude. It was selfishness. It was pride. Others had hurt me, yes. But my own view of myself was my own fault, primarily, and I could fix it.
Before this, I had also began having back trouble. I was having trouble sleeping because of lower back pain. It was an odd pain and I couldn’t explain it. I tried to treat it in different ways (squatting to pick up things, yoga, stretching, core exercises, etc.), but nothing was working. Training for the half-marathon came after my gym experience. It was hard training. I was running all the time. My back got worse. But, I did it. It was such a hard thing. But, it was a personal, psychological, and emotional achievement.
Then, a little while after running that 13.1 miles, I was running one day. I was almost home and looking ahead of me. I never ran with headphones or music. I valued the silence. It helped me think and process life so much faster. So, as I was looking ahead, I began to notice the telephone poles. One pole, in particular, stuck out to me. I didn’t think about how odd that was. I simply focused on the pole. It was coming up quickly in the distance.
As I was focusing on that pole, a very clear thought came to me, “You don’t have to run anymore.” It was such a simple thought, but it came powerfully. So powerfully, that when I got to that pole, I stopped running instantly. And, I’ve never run more than a few hundred feet since. I know without any doubt that God told to stop running. And, willing to finally cast aside my personal struggles and fears, I listened.
These two experiences came together at a point when I needed them. But they taught me so much about the motivation behind my efforts with my body/temple. No matter how justified, my reasons back then for doing all these things were wrong. My past reasoning did not contribute to peace, happiness, or a consistent positive self-esteem. It was only a stretch of miserable years.
Now, I exercise because my body is a temple created to serve God and my family. I exercise as much as I can, when I can, and how I am able to maintain that ability—to serve God and my family. If I have to end my exercise several minutes early to help my kids. I do—without guilt. When I eat poorly for a few days, I don’t drop into a deep depression and get worse or become inordinately rigid to punish myself. I simply make better choices moving forward. Sometimes I’m tempted to eat uber-smart and deprive myself of any fun food. This never makes me peaceful and happy either. There are times when I have come to realize that I need to make changes because my health and fitness and even image are preventing me from serving God and my family. That always provides sufficient motivation to improve—without giving myself a guilt trip. I simply refocus and do better. The result: peace, happiness, and a positive self-esteem.
Christ Bought Our Bodies
Maybe you’d like to say that it’s not fair. You didn’t ask Christ to purchase your body out from under you. But, you did ask Him to do so. The very fact that you are here on this earth means you accepted Christ as your physical and spiritual Savior before you ever came to this world. You jumped into this mortal existence knowingly, even though you can’t remember it. God honored free will in the premortal world. He would never have sent you here had you desired to not enter into it.
So, maybe you want to change your mind. You want to “own yourself,” so you can do what you want without guilt or the need to change. Well, that’s fine and dandy. But, when it comes time for the resurrection and you are the only one who doesn’t get your body back and must remain a spirit forever, like Satan, and are subject to him, then you’ll likely want to recant your statement. But, good news is, you can’t change your mind and you’ll never have to recant. Your body is paid for–past tense. You’ll get it back no matter what you do—all because Christ bought it for you.
The fact that our bodies our not our own is incredibly humbling and significant. Not only did God give our bodies His image, but He ensured that they would be ours for eternity. We can choose to do what we like with them, but the consequences will always follow. We can have joy in our choices for a season, but by and by the end cometh.
When we take the time to realize that we are running around in someone else’s property, it can and should change the way we take care of our bodies. They are on loan for this mortal existence. We cannot escape the “bill” or “payment” that comes due when we damage them during our rental. They will be cleaned up and renewed for our ongoing eternal existence. But how we treat them directly corresponds to our spiritual growth. Our countenance and appearance will affect our spiritual one. We can’t escape that. What we do on the outside, is always to some extent, indicative of our internal emotional, psychological, and spiritual state.
We may be pretty darn good. But, only God can teach us how to best care for the bodies He has given us and simultaneously bought back so that we might eventually keep them forever. He has already provided many obvious and logical guidelines. He has already given us several temporal/physical commandments. It is imperative that each of us turn to Him and seek His will regarding the treatment of our bodies when it comes to the personal details. He cares!
It’s so tempting to do what we do for others. It so tempting to do what we do for our own issues, needs, and pride. It’s so tempting to think that these will provide the sufficient motivation and testimony to provide personal happiness. But, they never do.
It’s tempting to listen to the world’s reasoning for why we should flaunt our bodies, commit them to rigorous diets, draw attention to them, pierce them, mark them, and other physical applications. But their reasoning will never be sufficient to bring us lasting self-worth, self-esteem, or peace. We will bounce from diet to diet, outfit to outfit, and other internal and external fads, in an attempt to find that perfect balance. But, it will always allude us.
It’s tempting to think that our bodies belong to us and that we can do what we want without spiritual consequence. But, they are not ours and as we test this theory, we will eventually come to see that the greatest peace and happiness available to us comes when we learn to see and treat our bodies as temples of God.
We must do what we do for the right reasons. When it comes to our body (inside and out), everything—everything—is about its use as a temple of God, a dwelling place for the Holy Ghost, a tool glorify God and to bring others to Christ (or to not get in their way or distract them with “us.”). There is no other higher, or more fulfilling, purpose. No other motivation will bring us constant, powerful motivation, peace, dignity, and self-esteem. We can’t find happiness, no matter how rigid we are with ourselves, with any other purpose.
If you struggle with standards of modesty, the word of wisdom, piercings, tattoos, certain styles of dress or brands, exercise and eating regimens, eating disorders, getting help for physical issues, accepting help for physical issues, and more, all of your struggles can be answered as you continue to ponder your body as a temple and seek God’s will for you. If you don’t think you struggle with any of these, I challenge you to go to God anyway and seek to know if there is anything He would have you change in the care and treatment of your temple.
This is a powerful doctrine. I challenge to you make it a part of your life.