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!

Conclusion

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.

BT

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.

Group of women working out at a gymThen 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.

Leviticus 19:28

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).People in gym warming up stretching

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.]

BT

Doctrine: The Word of Wisdom is a law of health only as that health leads us to being in greater tune with the Holy Spirit. The health is not end goal of the law. As well, following this law is clearly about its capacity to mark us spiritually as the people of God and followers of Christ, to set us apart from the world, so that the “destroying angel” will pass us by.

I was asked to write a blog on The Lord’s Law of Health. But, this blog is not going to be about eating right. It’s not going to be about abstaining from alcohol, drugs, or addictive substances. It’s not going to be about the negatives about tea and coffee. It’s also not going to be about supplements, eating organic, or any personal or fad eating interpretations of the Word of Wisdom.

So, what’s it going to be about? Well, put on your seat belt and hang tight. I’m going to get right down to the doctrine behind the Word of Wisdom, and it has much less to do with health that you might suppose.

Does God want us to be healthy? Yes. He wants us to take care of the gift of our bodies which He has given us; which bodies, though gifted to us, are not actually ours. This is because Christ actually bought our physical bodies and spirits with His everlasting atonement (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

With His suffering in Gethsemane, Christ performed a grand and infinite vicarious ordinance and paid Justice for our sins and took upon Himself all of our pains, sicknesses, suffering, and misery; that He might know how to succor us (Alma 7:12). That act purchased our spirits IF we choose to accept it, to repent, and to follow Him and become like Him. Then, on the cross He gave His physical life and then three days later took it up again in the second, beautiful, grand vicarious ordinance of the resurrection. By so doing He purchased the physical bodies we had already been given as a gift; and made it so that we too, all of us—regardless of whether we repent and follow Him or not—might also be resurrected, our bodies healed, perfected, and restored to immortality.

So, God wants us to take care of the gift of our body that He has given us. He wants us to keep it clean. He wants us to honor it. But, if that were the sole purpose of the Word of Wisdom, or even the most important purpose, then the Word of Wisdom should have included a bunch of other things like: avoid trans-fat, don’t overeat, exercise regularly, don’t take one part of this commandment and get excessive, oh, and by the way, there may be exceptions to this rule as mortality will subject people’s genes and bodies to mutations and weaknesses that may not always jive with this standard list (like celiac disease). We have vegetarians (of all types) in the church and yet in the scriptures God clearly condones the eating of meat. So, we simply can’t limit an infinite and eternal being, like God, to giving a command that is merely finite and mortal. If we treat this law as finite and mortal we will miss the entire point of it.

Though basic health is a likely benefit, it is hardly the most important purpose of the Word of Wisdom. In fact, the Israelites were given a Word of Wisdom in the Old Testament. It contained all sorts of things that ours doesn’t today. They were not forbidden to drink wine like we are. They were discouraged from strong drinks (drinks made to be purposefully intoxicating), yet it wasn’t totally forbidden. However, they couldn’t eat pork and lots of other things that God allows us to eat today.

Now, people like to generalize and justify and say, “Well, the water quality wasn’t as good back then, so God had to let them drink wine,” or, “They didn’t have the same capability to keep things clean and so a lot of the meats they couldn’t eat likely would have caused problems, etc…” While it’s nice sometimes when we can find scientific realities that support our beliefs, it simply can’t sustain a testimony of this godly law.

In Doctrine and Covenants 89, which contains the major portion of our current Word of Wisdom, the Lord clearly states His first purpose for the Word of Wisdom. He says, “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you and forewarn you, by giving you this word of wisdom…” Note that God doesn’t say, “Because I’m worried about your health.” No, He clearly mentions its purpose relates to the evil designs of mankind that will exist regarding food and drink in the last days. This could range from anything to commercialized alcoholic drinks to eccentric diets, health fads, and to the misuse and perpetuation of drugs for non-medical uses. The current eating and drinking environment in our world today is clearly plagued by commercialism, crime, and conspiring people who live off our enjoyment of, dependence on, and/or addiction to unhealthy substances.

Now, I could go on about the evil designs and how they relate to the Word of Wisdom, but I’ve already deleted (several times actually) the paragraphs I keep writing about these designs. I need to pass over those because the real doctrine, the real beauty of this law is in the blessings—which in and of themselves teach us the most important reasons for God’s giving us this law and its most amazing and powerful underlying doctrines.

According to the scriptures (Doctrine and Covenants 89), the blessings for keeping the Word of Wisdom are as follows:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments (notice that the Word of Wisdom must be kept in conjunction with other commandment keeping to bring about the desired blessings), shall receive

  1. health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint (Yes, this is all ONE unified blessing with related parts—note the punctuation).

  2. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass them by, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”

Now, the first blessing has “health” as the first word and so that’s what everyone runs with. But, if you look at the scripture reference directly, the health is directly tied to the wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, and the running and walking and not wearying and fainting. Thus, the health is not a stand-alone blessing. In fact, it isn’t. It is a blessing that facilitates another two blessings: wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, and running and not wearying and walking and not fainting.

So, how does health facilitate hidden treasures of knowledge? When our bodies feel good and they are not impaired by a lack of health; when our bodies are not distracting us with the effects of processing unhealthy chemicals and substances, we are better able to receive personal revelation and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. We can assimilate secular knowledge better, we can better discern between right and wrong, we are less confused, and we are more in tune with ourselves. By default, we then have a greater chance of receiving promptings and inspiration from the Holy Spirit; which, I continue to remind people isn’t some sub-standard messenger. He’s a member of the godhead! Meaning, He’s a god!

A standard level of health and well-being = more open and able to receive communication from God.

So, the first purpose of the Word of Wisdom is to give us a better chance of communicating with God because of our health. Health itself isn’t the big blessing. Health merely facilitates the blessing.

It’s important to understand this clear doctrine because the moment we think health is our main goal we become eccentric and make health fads and the version of health that works for us more important than the true purpose, which is to facilitate personal revelation from the Holy Spirit. If we preach health we must first focus on its goal and never swap the order of importance.

Now the first blessing continues to include: walking and not fainting and running and not wearying. As we consider these things it’s critical to remember God never gives us anything that is strictly temporal, or physical, or only for this mortal life (Doctrine and Covenants 29:34-35). All His commands and blessings have both temporal and spiritual purpose and meaning. I mean, all the people that live by the Word of Wisdom are not perfectly healthy. They aren’t exempt from diseases like cancer and diabetes. My mother can’t walk that well, nor has she run since she was a child. So, if keeping this law doesn’t make us able to walk and run physically, what does God mean?

Well, if we think it through, then one logical path we can take is this: 1) general good health and the lack of addictions and fad foods and dieting can help us better receive 2) personal revelation from God for our lives; which revelation can give us the 3) spiritual strength to endure to the end in keeping God’s commands, in walking in His footsteps, in running around serving others, and in living valiantly through mortal trials and struggles. So, IF we are healthy we have the insight to be what God wants us to be and to do what He would have us do. That, my friends, is a beautiful, enduring, and joyful gift.

Now, to my favorite part. The second blessing is so full of symbolism and deep, religious meaning. We are promised that we will be passed by as the children of Israel, by the destroying angel. What did the Israelites do to be passed over by the destroying angel? They marked their doors with the blood of a lamb; a lamb which represented Christ. Christ was the Passover lamb. And to be “passed over” they had to mark their homes.

So, let’s do a comparison here. By keeping God’s Word of Wisdom we are spiritually marking ourselves as true followers of Christ. Certainly Mormons have been known to be healthier as a whole and to live longer generally, then the average public. And that’s great. But, the real treasure of the Word of Wisdom is that it makes us different from the rest of the world in ways no one will ever see with physical eyes. It is a spiritual mark. And, it marks us as a “peculiar treasure,” as Christians, as the people of God (Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4). It is one of the ways God has commanded us to mark ourselves in these modern times.

Keeping the Word of Wisdom = we are marked spiritually as God’s people and will be passed over by the destroying angel

If you take the time to see the Word of Wisdom this way, then preaching about eccentric health fads loses importance in a drastic way. Are any of those fads profitable to us? Well, yes, sometimes, and no, sometimes. Each of us is different, has different health issues, struggles, and genetics. But if there is a health fad or tool that is helpful, we should use them to turn our focus to receiving personal revelation and understanding the critical purpose of being spiritually marked.

Should we help others improve their health? Certainly! But we should encourage them to improve their health for the right reasons and in the ways that work best for them. We can testify of the methods that help us, but we should not make those methods a gospel unto themselves, or more important than their purpose. We should say, “Hey, taking enzymes helps me feel better. It helps me be more healthy and to feel less distracted when I’m serving God and seeking His will.” Then we should preach not that those enzymes are how everyone should keep the Word of Wisdom, but that each of us should seek those ways which best help us to feel good so that we can receive the magnificent blessings that are available to us as we honor the gift of our bodies.

I have an amazing sister who uses PLEXUS products. She loves them. I love that she talks about them and encourages others to try them. She shares her personal experiences about how they have blessed her life. But, she doesn’t suggest that they are the only way. She encourages people to try them to see if they will help them to achieve this feeling of well-being that she has discovered.

Now, I sometimes think that as her sister that I should try the products, but the truth is I feel great already. I exercise and eat pretty healthy. I almost never eat out unless it’s somewhere incredibly delicious and worth the money. I prefer to eat breads with only whole grain (on the grounds of taste and texture as well as healthy). I drink tons of water and chew ice…which probably isn’t good for my teeth, but I’m very hydrated. I avoid some processed foods, but certainly not all. I try to be well-rounded and balanced in all that I eat, enjoying treats often. I even overeat, especially on holidays and when someone cooks a darn good dinner. I simply don’t get caught up in any one fad or supplement because in understanding the end blessings that I want; I don’t ever need get overly converted to “the way” in which I achieve them. I stick to basics—God’s basics.

Some supplements and health fads have many aspects of truth to them. So, if you’re into those and they work well for you, I say, “Go for it!” But my plea is only to not forget the “why” of your goal of health. Don’t become so converted to the “the way” you are becoming healthy, that you let it distract you (or others) from the “why” you are becoming healthy.

Getting healthy is about being strong and being able to serve and bless those around us. It’s about having the ability to serve the Lord. The Word of Wisdom IS about feeling good about ourselves in a healthy, appropriate, way so that we aren’t distracted by low self-esteem or unnatural self-consciousness. Because low self-esteem and unnatural or unhealthy self-consciousness can directly affect our ability to serve God and receive personal revelation. They can distract and preoccupy us.

To get healthy and feel good has direct spiritual blessings and those blessings have deep and beautiful doctrine beneath them. That is the purpose of the Word of Wisdom. That is why the health aspect is important.instagramquotes4

So, get healthy to increase your capacity for personal revelation. Get healthy and follow the Lord’s Law of Health to put a spiritual mark on yourself that is as powerful as the Lamb’s blood that marked the doors of the children of Israel in Egypt. That spiritual mark has significant meaning and the Lord wants it there for a reason. I don’t know how the destroying angel will pass us by now and in the future, but I think I’m certainly not willing to risk not having the spiritual mark. I want the blood of the Lamb of God marking my life and preserving me spiritually as it preserved the Israelites physically so long ago.

BT