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This past week we were thrilled to attend the military retirement of a dear friend who has honorably served in the United States Army for over 28 years. Though there were stirring performances by music and drill units, the highlight was the Commanding General who celebrated these magnificent retiring soldiers in his remarks as “true American heroes.”
He elaborated that America has gotten distracted into worshipping celebrity Hollywood performers and athletes as heroes, affirming that these particular soldiers and their families are the real heroes that make America great. To confirm this, every individual family member received a special, signed and framed certificate. This impressive document gratefully acknowledged each spouse and child’s personal sacrifices, which ultimately led to their spouse’s or parent’s success, making the entire family true American heroes.
It was all very moving and left one with much to think about. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Am I contributing to my country? Am I contributing to the freedom of my family members’ ability to succeed? What am I personally supposed to be doing to improve the lives of those around me and my world? If not why and what can I change? I don’t need to be a hero, but am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?”
Within the day, I got a provoking reinforcement of the value of these personal ponderings in the form of an e-mail from an extremely successful and dynamic LDS business leader, Jim Ritchie, who recently served as a full-time senior missionary with his wife Carolyn here in the Washington D.C. South Mission.
In this letter he shared that they had been in a meeting with General Authorities where a past General Authority, Elder LeGrand Richards (1896-1983) was quoted:
When I was eight, my father, who had just recently been ordained a patriarch, gave me a blessing. Among other things, he said that I had not come here upon earth by chance, but in fulfillment of the decrees of the Almighty to accomplish a great work, and then he defined that. All my life, I have prayed that if I didn’t come by chance, that the Lord would help me accomplish what He sent me to do, so when my mission here on earth was completed, He wouldn’t say to me: This is what we sent you to do, but you failed and we had to raise up someone else to do your work for you.’ True success, to me, is to accomplish the purpose for which the Lord sent me upon the earth. — LeGrand Richards
Brother Ritchie went on to elaborate: “Is there any one listening to me who does not get chicken skin’ when you ponder our exit interview’ with either the Savior or our Heavenly Father? Read the quote again: “This is what we sent you to do, but you FAILED…” Scary interview.”
As I pondered Brother Ritchie’s message in context with those marvelous retiring soldiers, our day there at Fort Myer where healthy, fit men and women (both young and older) in uniform bustled about, with Arlington Cemetery less than a mile away, my heart was filled with the importance of how our physical bodies and how they serve not just us, but those around us and our posterity, both family and country!
Speaking, as I do in this column to emphasize the importance and value of physical fitness for health and well being, it came to my mind: What if our early American heroes had been as obese as many Americans now? Could George Washington have ridden a horse to lead his soldiers to victory at Valley Forge? Could Paul Revere have climbed the tower at the old North Church with his lantern? With the many demands of war, is an out of shape soldier much of an asset to a needy General?
In Book of Mormon History, could Nephi have trekked and hunted in the wilderness, then built a ship and fended off his evil brothers if he had not been agile and strong? Could Alma have fled into the wilderness to hide from wicked King Noah with an extra 50 pounds? What about Moroni? Surely his strength served him well in the 36 years he was require to fend for himself in the wilderness while escaping the evil Lamanites. In the Old Testament, could Moses have led the children of Israel, climbed Mount Sinai and lived and led in the wilderness as an obese man? (And when you think about it, perhaps another of the great messages of the story of manna for the Children of Israel is that the Lord, when it is entirely his way, provides plenty for health and strength, but not for overindulging that leads to weakness.)
In the New Testament, after the Savior’s crucifixion and departure, could the surviving apostles been valiant witnesses of the His life and message without their health to walk, travel and preach? In early LDS history, Joseph Smith’s physical prowess is common knowledge and enhanced his greatness. When one considers the endless walking of those early missionaries and saints where there was no easy method for all the miles to be traveled in order to build and establish Zion, one knows instinctively that a healthy body was a great blessing and aid for success.
As I ponder these heroes, whether great leaders or soldiers and citizens within their own circles, they are healthy and make it a priority for as many years as is personally possible. In times of crises, they are strong enough to care for themselves, blaze a trail (sometimes literally) and then reach out to assist and lead others. They are not immobilized by extra pounds and poor stamina, nor are they breathless or exhausted after minor expenditures of energy or physical labor. They are disciplined and not beholden to foods or habits that drain and deprive the body of needed nutrients.
I am grateful for each and every one of the heroes that that have made America and our Church great. We would not experience the strength of our country or the Church without their physical strength and their dedication to their personal fitness level. Surely each of them fulfilled their divine mission! They completed what they were sent to do and that exit interview was surely a joyful thing! Their physical bodies played a part in that success!
Will it be so for us? How can we use these heroes to prepare for our own exit interview?
For myself, I know that I choose to be inspired by them and follow their example! I can embrace the truth now that my personal health is as important for me in serving within my own small circles as it was/is for them in their foreordained service.
It matters on a daily basis! I can prayerfully make establishing a healthy weight and BMI a life-time priority, as our soldiers are required to for simply keeping their jobs and careers. It is not easy for anyone, but knowing that our country depends on that fitness is motivation for them can be inspiration for me to find the time and purpose in creating me own best health for as long as I possibly can.
It is with a prayer for this 4th of July that we can each ask ourselves now in preparation for our own retirement from this earth,
“Does my current physical health hinder what I was sent to the earth to accomplish? Will I be prepared at my current health for my exit interview?”
If the answer is no, we can prayerfully search the Word of Wisdom to gain the information we need to improve our health now and prepare for the future. The ongoing Meridian articles from Jane Birch that explore the Word of Wisdom through the perspective of current documented scientific studies and easy ways to implement it all is enlightening and rewarding. The weight loss plan within D&C 89 is astonishingly successful, enjoyable and meant for a lifetime of health and peace, starting right now!
For a healthy and fun 4th of July, be sure to check out the picnic recipes ! There are plenty that are sure to please for a very fun day.
Join me, LDS author Jane Birch and other Meridian readers for our summertime health challenge at www.Wowhealthchallenge.com and https://www.facebook.com/groups/wowhealthchallenge
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website.
She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups.
She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where she is the Primary chorister and they team-teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program.