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