Care of human body is sublime endeavor

If, as the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, the human body is the temple of God, then physical fitness - the proper maintenance and strengthening of one's body - is not just a pastime, but a sublime endeavor.

To the Lord all things are spiritual, as He stated in D&C 29:34-35. Allusions in the scriptures to physical health and strength are often presented in a spiritual context, accompanying such concepts as consecration, service, charity and personal revelation.Hence, the blessings from observing the Word of Wisdom as contained in D&C 89 are physical, mental and spiritual in nature. They include not just physical health and strength, but divine protection (see verse 21) as well as "great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures." (Verse 19.)

In contrast to some earthly creeds, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ places value on the human body and teaches that it and the spirit constitute the soul (See D&C 88:15), that the body and spirit will be unified in the resurrection. Thus, in an eternal sense, Latter-day Saints are striving for physical as well as spiritual perfection.

An analysis of prophetic teachings leads to the conclusion that spiritual, mental and physical fitness are interdependent. To neglect one is to bring detrimental - sometimes debilitating - effects on the others; to strengthen one is to add support to the others in an overall effort to attain eternal perfection.

No wonder Paul said, "For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:8.)

Paul counseled the saints in Rome: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1.) Read in the context of the entire chapter, it is clear that presenting one's body as a living sacrifice means to devote one's talents and strengths - physical, mental and spiritual - to serving God and others.

Logically, that would include maintaining physical health and strength and doing what one can to lengthen life so one can bless the lives of family and fellow beings as effectively and as long as possible.

Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains guidelines for doing that. Though revealed in 1833, the Word of Wisdom is corroborated by the best scientific research today, according to Dr. Garth Fisher, director of the Human Performance Research Center and professor of physical education at BYU.

"I use the Word of Wisdom to evaluate the veracity of the things I see," he added. Notably, he said, a recent book by a biochemist that did not conform to Word of Wisdom guidelines was later discredited by a published commentary on the book.

That physical fitness affects other aspects of life has been borne out by studies, he said, notably the Harvard Alumni Studies by Ralph Paffenberg. Those studies showed that people who take care of themselves are more productive, live longer and are more active in their later years.

Thus, Dr. Fisher, a former stake president, supports the idea that physical fitness makes one a more effective servant of Heavenly Father. He cites D&C 88:123-126 that gives sound counsel about physical and mental fitness in the context of being righteous, diligent, charitable and prayerful.

The promise in D&C 89:20, that the obedient "shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint" implies the importance of exercise as well as nutrition as a fitness component, he said.

In view of the prevalence of today's sedentary lifestyles and the scientific findings, it might be viewed as an admonition as well as a promise.

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