What Do Mormons Believe: Health

by
June 14, 2011

“Because we are created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27), our bodies are temples and should be treated with care and respect (see 1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

“The Word of Wisdom, found in Doctrine and Covenants 89, is the Lord’s code of health and was revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833. It teaches that we should eat nutritious foods and avoid harmful substances. Apostles and prophets have since taught that we should shun all substances or practices that abuse our bodies or minds and that could lead to addiction.” 1

“Our physical bodies indeed are temples of God. Consequently, you and I must carefully consider what we take into our temple, what we put on our temple, what we do to our temple, and what we do with our temple.” 2

“Regular exercise can prepare us physically, mentally, and spiritually to function better, whether it’s in our relationships with others or in our all-important relationship with our Heavenly Father.” 3

For more information, see the Physical Health section of providentliving.org.

More from this website:

Health and the Word of Wisdom

Smoking

Does Sin Cause Disease?

What Can’t Mormons Do? Part 1: The Word of Wisdom

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19 Responses to “What Do Mormons Believe: Health”

  1. cindy

    What a blessing to be considered temples of the Spirit of God!  Since it is the Spirit that is housed within in us, doesn’t it make sense that it is our spirits which could defile us as well?  Otherwise, why would Christ Himself say the following: ” Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man”?

  2. Thaddeus

    cindy, I’m curious, would you consider smoking crack or shooting up heroin to be defiling the temple of your body?

  3. cindy

    The use of the word temple here is not of the body of one believer, but all Christians formed together into one vast temple. The expression is not, “ye are temples,” but “ye are the temple” collectively, and “lively stones” ( 1 Peter 2:5 ) individually.

    Believers who believe in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit, so although “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” as Paul said, he also added “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God”.
    The good we do is by the Holy Spirit, so if we truly believe in Christ for our salvation, the Spirit will live in us, so that we are unable to willfully abide (stay in) in sin.  Yes, we might slip back into habits of drugs, or whatever, but the knowledge of Christ’s death on the cross for our sins will cause us to confess and return to the safety of Christ for our salvation.
     

  4. Bus Gillespie

    The body issue is where Mormons and most other Christian denominations have some different viewpoints which goes back to the basic understanding of the purpose of the body in the eternal realm of things.  Many Christian denominations see the body as a temporary housing of the eternal spirit and it is the root of many of our problems because its the bodily appetites and desires that lead to sin. Yet the body is only a temporary housing of our spirit and will cease to be a burden in the afterlife.
    The Mormon attitude is that the acquisition of a physical body is an important step in the eternal plan of progression, and while we still must learn to satisfy our appetites within the bounds God has set, the body and spirit are united and make up our soul which is the whole us.  Believing that the body will be reunited with the spirit in the resurrection gives the idea of taking care of our body a deeper meaning.

  5. cindy

    I understand…I am basing my thoughts on the following scriptures,
    “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

    and

    “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”

    Where are your beliefs about the body found?  Can you share?

  6. Alexander

    The account of Jesus’ own resurrection, for starters.

    “But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” – Luke 24:37-43

    The resurrected Lord makes it very plan that He is not simply a spirit, but rather a tangible, corporeal being that can be touched by human hands.

  7. cindy

    So is our resurrected body subject to or influenced by the limitations of the earthly experience?

    “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.  But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” (1 Cor. 15:53-54).

    Or is it changed to take on the spiritual aspects so that our perishable and mortal bodies put on the imperishable and immortal aspects of the spiritual body which is the physically resurrected and changed body of the believer?
    This seems to be more in line with what Jesus’s lack of concern about focusing on the physical body while on earth, don’t you think?

  8. Alexander

    I’m not sure what your point is.

    Of course the resurrected body is not subject to mortal infirmities.

  9. cindy

    Alexander, Bus said, “Believing that the body will be reunited with the spirit in the resurrection gives the idea of taking care of our body a deeper meaning”, so I was asking whether our resurrected body will be affected by what we do to it on earth given the fact that scriptures say that our perishable and mortal bodies will put on the imperishable and immortal aspects of the spiritual body.
    The Bible seems to say that what we do with our bodies here on earth are of little importance “For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean)”, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both”,and “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”) while LDS doctrine places a heavy emphasis on controlling and caring for it.

  10. Alexander

    My understanding of the principle is that we take care of our bodies to show appreciation to God — like everything else, our bodies are also gifts from Him.

    To me, what Bus seems to be saying is that since our bodies are not simply mere shells to be cast off and forgotten, we ought to treat them with a bit more respect.

    As for members of the Church following the Word of Wisdom, that is based on the premise that it is a modern revelation from God. So first of all, anyone who disagreed with that basic premise would not find that a sufficient motivation to obey it. Personally, I believe in modern revelation, that’s part of why I’m LDS.

    The beginning of the Word of Wisdom states that its purpose is to show “forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days.” My understanding of that injunction is that God is trying to help save us from certain temporal problems that we might not ordinarily know to avoid (hence the need for a new revelation).

    Later on in the revelation, the Lord specifies that the revelation is given “in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” In other words, these are new problems that require new attention. He is thus both “warning” and “forewarning” us against these and future problems.

    As for the scriptures you quoted, I don’t view them as  saying what we do with our bodies is of little consequence–quite the opposite actually. Food is used as an analogy to prove a point. Here’s my thoughts.

    Mark 7:19 – Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being more concerned with obeying dietary laws than following its key principles (love thy neighbor, etc.). Food just passes through your system, but a person’s wicked actions are what really defile him.

    Philippians 3:18 – Paul condemns those who pursue their lusts and carnal desires as the enemies of Christ. This is specifically condemning deeds of immorality, as the “belly” was considered anciently to be the seat of emotions.

    1 Corinthians 6:13 – The same as above. Food is made to be eaten, but your body belongs to God so you should not defile it with immorality.

    The Word of Wisdom is not trying to shift the focus away from the weightier matters of doctrine. It’s warning us that alcohol is a greater temptation now than it was anciently, do to the conspiring deeds of wicked men. Tobacco is now a danger, which wasn’t present anciently. Being addicted to such substances is the very definition of what it means to “consume it on our lusts” to paraphrase Paul again.

    It is much harder to live key gospel principles when one is in thrall to these things — for instance, an alcohol addiction can lead to greater sins such as sexual immorality,  spouse and child abuse, or even murder/manslaughter (through drunk driving, etc.). This is the heart of the Word of Wisdom.

    Hopefully that helps explain the LDS position here. I don’t necessarily expect you to agree with everything I’ve said here, but perhaps you’ll be able to see where we’re coming from. Please pardon my lengthy response.

  11. cindy

    I appreciate you taking the time to fully explain your thoughts.  You don’t need to apologize for fleshing out an answer…thanks!
    I agree that there are consequences for our actions as they relate to the use (or misuse) of our bodies, but based on your reply I do wonder about the true intent of the word of wisdom…is it to:
    “take care of our bodies to show appreciation to God?”
    or
    “to live key gospel principles?”
    or am I misreading completely and the key gospel principles are to show appreciation to God?
     
     

  12. Alexander

    I’m not sure what you’re asking–if it’s “what is our intent in following the Word of Wisdom,” I’ll gladly explain. If it’s “what was the intent with which the Word of Wisdom was given,” considering I believe it’s a revelation from God, I’m not really qualified to say what his intent is, other than what the text itself says. 

    But in answer to the first question, what is our intent in following it?

    1) We view it as a commandment from God, so we obey it because we love God. (If ye love me, keep my commandments.)

    2) We obey it because we believe the spiritual principles it teaches. We believe that addictions to harmful substances interfere with our ability to fully obey God. Since we believe that one of the purposes of this life is for our spirits to learn to triumph over our bodies’ carnal, fallen natures, situations in which the carnal triumphs over the spiritual are contrary to God’s commands.

    3) We obey it because we believe the temporal principles it teaches. We really believe we’ll be both healthier and happier if we refrain from smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. and try to eat healthy foods.

  13. cindy

    Hi Alexander,
    Thanks for your reply.  I was indeed asking about the intention behind following the word of wisdom, and I appreciate your honest answer about wanting to fully obey God by “learning to triumph over our carnal bodies.”
    But if we can fully obey God, in part by conquering the lusts of our flesh, why do we need Christ?
    Paul talks about the difference between the spiritual and physical natures in the following verses:
    “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”
    And he seems to be saying that we have a battle between our sinful, physical and our spiritual natures from which only Christ can save us, “Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
    Not that we conquer the physical with Christ’s help, but that even though we never conquer sin while in the physical realm that we are judged by the God’s law (and freed from the law of sin) because of our belief in Christ. 

  14. Alexander

    Again, I’m not exactly sure what your point is. I don’t disagree that we need Christ above all. It is not our efforts that conquer sin but Christ’s. We contribute our paltry efforts to try and live good lives because that is what Christ asked of us. 

    Our obedience to God’s commandments does not rob Christ of His saving grace. It demonstrates faith in the efficacy of said grace. People sometimes accuse of a belief in salvation by works; that’s not really true. We simply believe works are a symptom of faith (that’s what James is saying re: “Faith without works is dead”). Exercising our active faith in Christ is all we can do — fortunately it’s all He asks.

  15. Cindy

    Hi Alexander,
    You said, People sometimes accuse of a belief in salvation by works; that’s not really true. We simply believe works are a symptom of faith (that’s what James is saying re: “Faith without works is dead”).

    So if our obedience to the word of wisdom is simply a symptom of faith, then our salvation ( and exaltation) are not dependent upon it, right?

  16. Alexander

    Wow, that was fast. Unfortunately, again, I think that’s looking beyond the mark.

    Our salvation is not directly predicated upon our obedience. Our salvation is predicated on our reception of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Our reception of Christ’s atoning sacrifice is predicated on our faith in Him. Our faith in Jesus Christ consists of our obedience. Exercising faith = acting upon our belief in Christ. Christ himself asks: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” He also said “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    So really, our salvation is indirectly linked to our obedience. If Christ tells you to do something and then you willfully disobey and refuse to repent of it, what then do you expect of the Lord? To be saved in spite of your rebelliousness and lack of contrition? As both Peter and James taught, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

  17. cindy

    So will God give me the grace of Jesus Christ if I don’t follow the WoW?

  18. Steve

    Cindy,
    I’m not quite sure what your point is in all this. As somebody simply reading your comments, it seems to me you are ultimately, although very circuitously, driving at the point that our actual behavior is something that is fairly irrelevant in the whole scheme of things. Also, if taken at face value, your comments seem to indicate that of all the decisions we could make regarding our body specifically, not putting concern into our physical health is, in fact, the thing that brings us closer to Christ.

  19. cindy

    The point I am driving at…I hope not circuitously, is that if our salvation is dependent at all upon the treatment of our bodies, then our salvation is at least in part not dependent upon the suffering and death of our Savior Jesus Christ!  Sorry if I seem circuitous…I was just trying to ask  questions one at a time

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