This week we received the following question: “Why do we need to keep ourselves physically strong?” In the days of summer when we are a little more concerned about our biceps and waist lines, we thought it might be good to answer this question that is connected to our physical fitness.
We know that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), so our being physically fit has little to do with the Lord wanting a bunch of saints who could be on the cover of a health magazine. Whew! In our day and age, when both boys and girls are under constant pressure to conform their bodies to an unrealistic standard of perfection, it is refreshing to know that the Lord’s command to “be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48) has more to do with spiritual muscles than physical ones.
However, the Lord does want his saints to be as physically healthy as possible. We know this because the Word of Wisdom is entirely connected to the well being of our physical body (see D&C 89). The Lord wants us to have “health in our navel and marrow to [our] bones” and to “run and not be weary, and…walk and not faint” (D&C 89:18,20). However, the Lord has never given a temporal, or a purely physical commandment. “My commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal” (D&C 29:35). So there must be greater, spiritual reasons for the Lord desiring His saints to be physically strong/fit/healthy. Here are a few thoughts as to what those spiritual reasons might be:
a) We know that our bodies are physical bodies are connected to our spirits: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Therefore, we cannot do intentional harm to our physical body without negatively affecting our spirit. One reason why we need to keep ourselves as physically healthy as possible is so that our healthy body can foster a healthy spirit, and the delicate lines of revelation that pass between body and spirit can be connected without interference. Notice that one of the blessings of the Word of Wisdom is that those who obey it will “find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge” (vs. 19). This is speaking about eternal knowledge, eternal truth, which comes through the Holy Ghost. In other words: keep your body physically healthy and you’ll be more in tune with the Holy Ghost.
b) We have all been sent here to earth to accomplish certain things, both large and small (Jeremiah 1:5; Abraham 3:22-23). This requires that we live out our allotted time on earth to its potential. It is true that to God our “days are known, and [our] years shall not be numbered less” (D&C 122:9), but we can cut them short through our disobedience and rebellion. If we destroy our bodies through sin (both sins of omission and of commission) and are not as physically healthy as we should be, then it is possible we will not live long enough to accomplish all God sent us forth to do here on earth (see Hymn #292, O My Father). We need to be physically fit so we can fit in all God wants us to do while we’re here on earth.
c) We need to be as fit as possible because sometimes the work of the Lord, and the moving forward of the kingdom of God, simply takes physical work and therefore physical health. For this reason, missionaries are held to certain levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their work. Talk to any mother of young children and ask them if their work of nurturing God’s children is physically demanding. You thought bicep curls were so you could be “toned” and look good? No, they are so you can pack a 25lb. lug of a kid on your arm for a few hours. Service work of many kinds often requires physical fitness. Someone once said that Joseph Smith was blessed with such an extraordinary physical strength simply so he could fulfill his prophetic mission–which required an obvious amount of spiritual strength but a huge amount of physical strength as well. The pioneers are a good example of that: without their physical strength they would not have been able to endure the hardships required of them, and it is possible that many more would not have made it to the great Salt Lake valley to build the kingdom of God.
These are just a few reasons why we should strive to be as physcially fit and strong as possible. Nothing to do with vanity, but everything to do with eternity. It is important to note that we all have different inherent levels of physical fitness and ability. Some are tested in this life because of physical impediments, or natural genetic problems that came in their bodies. There isn’t some ideal perfected level of physical fitness we all should be in. That will only take place in the resurrection (can you image the beauty and perfection of a celestial body that is so glorious, the only metaphor Paul can use to describe it is the glory of the sun? see 1 Corinthians 15:40-42). Like all things in life, we simply need to do the best with what we have been given, and make ourselves as spiritually, mentally, and physically strong as possible to do the work of the Lord in our corners of the vineyard.