Here’s a real life question that some might not relate to religion: What’s the point of maintaining good health? Plenty of people subscribe to the “eat, drink, and be merry” philosophy; after all, if our time on earth is short, why not indulge in anything that feels great at the moment?
I consider my health an integral part of my religion. But it’s bigger than what I eat and drink — it’s all about regarding my body as holy creation. Though some know the Mormon law of health (referred to as the Word of Wisdom) as a strict set of rules, it is so much more.
We learn in 1 Corinthians that God’s Spirit can dwell within us if we treat ourselves as temples. But how do we do that? Scientific studies that give recommendations for the way to care for our bodies seem to change daily.
Luckily, we have been blessed with modern revelation that gives us guidelines on how to best care for our bodies. Mormons are asked to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and even coffee and tea. We are guided to partake of fruits, vegetables, grains, and wholesome herbs. Meat is to be used sparingly. (All these suggestions can be found in the 89th chapter of a book of modern scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants.) In addition to the counsel regarding food, we are advised to be active and clean. We are told to retire to bed early, and to cease to sleep longer than is needful. (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:124.)
Maybe none of this seems novel. Exercising and eating right are known widely as basic principles for good health. But I take them seriously — I consider these to be religious principles. My regular exercise habits aren’t motivated by numbers on a scale. Exercise is all about how and what I’m able to feel because I’m keeping myself in good condition. I try to live on a diet of mainly fruits, vegetables, and grains. I eat a small amount of meat. I don’t completely abstain from sweets, but I don’t overdo it.
The payoff is enormous. By living this way, I gain much more than physical benefits. By keeping my body in this state, I have a clean and pure temple to house my spirit. I believe this allows me to draw closer to God and makes me better capable to serve Him. Additionally, we are given specific promises for observing this lifestyle: We will receive health, we “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures,” we “shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint,” and we are promised that the “destroying angel shall pass by,” which essentially means we will be saved from spiritual death and will be granted eternal life.