This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Featured Author Jane Birch.
This week we celebrate Christmas. As we rejoice in the birth of our Savior, our hearts are full of gratitude for the many gifts He has given us. Today, I invite you to ponder on one the best gifts of all: the gift of life itself.
Every Primary child knows we came to earth to receive a physical body. For untold numbers of our brothers and sisters, it was perhaps the only gift they received before they were called Home early. Yet, we are told, even they “shouted for joy” at the opportunity to receive this one gift of infinite worth (Job 38:7).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.” Do you understand that? I confess that I do not. I imagine most of us don’t have more than a meager understanding of why our physical bodies are essential to our eternal happiness.
Our Body as a Gift
I invite you to pause for a minute and to think about your body as a gift from God.
- Why is having a physical body so precious that we prepared for eons of time to come to this earth to receive it?
- What role does our physical body play in our mortal journey as we prepare to return to our Father?
- Why is it so essential to our eternal life and happiness that we receive our physical bodies back at the resurrection, never to be separated again?
In a marvelous talk entitled, “Ye Are the Temple of God,” Elder David A. Bednar invites us to ponder on what he called “this eternally important question about why a body is so important.” For, he said, “Ultimately the answer affects everything we do,” including “what we eat [and] what we drink.” I started to make a list of all of the reasons why our bodies are so important, but it soon became clear that if I included much detail, the list would be endless. Below are a few of the things our bodies enable us to do. What would you add to the list?
Our bodies enable us to:
- enter this mortal sphere.
- interact with the physical world and with each other
- provide joy to our loved ones
- learn to deal with mortal passions
- serve others and receive service from them
- experience our weaknesses
- learn important lessons about the world, about ourselves, and about each other
- experience challenges that will make us stronger
- have the opportunity to create new physical bodies (children!)
EVERYTHING we do in life is mediated through our physical bodies. Every sensation, thought, feeling, and action we experience from birth to death is shaped by this mortal frame. As a consequence, there is nothing we do that is not affected by how our body is functioning. No wonder Elder Bednar said that our understanding of why the body is so important “affects everything we do.”
What Shall We Do with This Gift?
As we know, some of the gifts we give our children at Christmas are broken before the end of Christmas Day. How many gifts are we guaranteed to be able to keep FOREVER? We know we are not guaranteed we will always have our health, our wealth, or our prized possessions. It is equally true that there is no guarantee we will always have our testimony, or our faith, or even our families. These are dependent on our choices. But through the resurrection of Christ, we are promised that we will keep our physical bodies. This is a gift we will have FOREVER.
What shall we do with this gift?
Joseph Smith taught, “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom.” Our body is a gift from God. How we treat our body is our gift to Him. Just as keeping the Sabbath Day is a sign between us and God, how we treat our body is a sign of how we treasure His gift to us. How do we treat this gift from God? What are we doing so that we may present our body pure before Him?
What a delight it is that we can show our Father our gratitude by taking good care of the bodies we have been endowed with! We can be chaste. We can be modest. And we can follow the Lord’s counsel in the Word of Wisdom to feed our bodies wholesome foods. Just as keeping the Sabbath Day Holy should be a delight, this does not need to be a sacrifice; it can be a joy!
The Day of This Life
In a book I dearly love, Mary Rose O’Reilly makes this profound observation about the brevity of life:
In Minnesota, in the spring, I often think of the mayfly, who only lives one day. It had better be the right day. In the long sweep of things, I am a mayfly and so are you.
Our time here on earth with this mortal tabernacle is very short. And yet it is so very important. As Amulek tells us:
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. (Alma 34:32)
This life is the time when we learn how to meet the temptations and struggles of the flesh. Before our time here on earth, we did not have a body. After the resurrection, our body will be perfected. Now is the time to learn to honor our body and master our passions. None of us knows how long or short the “day of this life” will be for us. We just know it will be limited. Let’s make it a great day!
Getting Ready for the New Year
The gifts we give each other during the Christmas season sometimes come with instruction manuals. Similarly, the Lord has given us a manual for our bodies, with instructions particularly designed for the last days. It is found in D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom. As we think about the priceless gift of our bodies and prepare for the new year, let’s take out that instruction manual and study it carefully with a heart full of desire to learn from the Lord what He would have us know and do.
I encourage all of you who feel it would be helpful to consider how you might eat a more wholesome diet during the new year. Let the way we feed our bodies be a sign to our Father of our gratitude for all His blessings and especially for the blessing of having this all-important tabernacle of clay.
For help in thinking about goals you might set for the new year, here are the articles I’ve written to help readers prepare for the new year:
Next week I’ll be sharing “Strategies for Going Cold Turkey.”
Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, editor (Deseret Book, 1976), 181.
 David A. Bednar, “Ye Are the Temple of God,” Ensign (September 2001).
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181.
 Mary Rose O’Reilley, Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1998).