“If we see healthy eating and exercise as something only our doctor expects of us, we will likely fail. If we see these choices as who we are and who we want to become, we have a greater chance of staying the course and succeeding.” – Dieter F. Utchdorf
During my divorce about 6 months back, I stopped eating. I was extremely overwhelmed with emotions, stressed, and lost all interest in food. I wasn’t sleeping more than 2-3 hours a night but never felt tired, I never ate but never felt hungry, and I was still exercising a lot for my job – but never felt a desire to eat and support my body’s systems that were under a lot of stress. People who didn’t know what was going on in my personal life, were commenting that I was starting to lose a lot of weight – and I’m sure they noticed my sunken in face, dark circles under my eyes and my foggy mental capacity. I was not a pretty sight. As I started on my journey to restore my emotional (and physical) health, I started forcing myself to eat food again – even though I still wasn’t physically hungry. I felt guilty because I had denied my body the nourishment it needed to support me during this difficult time – but because my life was falling to pieces underneath my feet, providing physical nourishment was the last thing on my mind.
Though life was dark during this growing period, I stayed very close to the Lord. I was attending the temple daily, pouring my heart and soul out in prayer continually, and studying the scriptures for strength. I could feel many angels surround me often and they sometimes seemed tangible. But no matter how much spiritual food I was giving myself – my body was still out of balance.
I remember one specific afternoon I was praying in the temple and asking the Lord what else I could do to heal myself and be worthy of more guidance and direction as I had started down the long road of picking myself back up and starting again. The answer came very clearly, “You need to eat healthier foods to increase your spirituality.” At the time I wasn’t focusing on the nutrition I was feeding my physical body, only what I was feeding it spiritually, and I had been making poor food choices that were fast, easy and convenient because I knew I needed to eat, but had no desire to cook food or enjoy a big, healthy meal. It wasn’t until I received this answer in the temple, that I started to make a connection that eating healthy foods doesn’t just make us feel good physically, but helps us stay closer to the Lord on a spiritual level.
Since then, this answer has come to me many times when I find myself feeling disconnected or a little distant from the Savior. While nutrition has always been a passion of mine, it has taken me much digging and reading to learn and fully come to understand the connection between appropriate physical nourishment and our spirituality.
Eating healthy foods that are not processed, brings in positive emotions and energies into our body. They help our body to thrive, to heal, and to be happy. They restore our body to wholeness. On the contrary, eating processed foods that are chemically altered brings into our bodies an imbalance, negative energy, and distances us from our purpose, the Father, and our connection within.
With the Word of Wisdom in mind consider this scripture:
“Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal;” – D&C 29:34
If the Word of Wisdom is a spiritual law, then what does that mean happens to us spiritually when we eat unhealthy foods?
“There is no question that the health of the body affects the spirit, or the Lord would never have revealed the Word of Wisdom. God has never given any temporal commandments—that which affects our stature affects our soul.” Ezra Taft Benson
President George Albert Smith shared the story of Daniel and his friends who turned down unhealthy food and drink that was offered to them from the King’s table (Daniel 1:3-16). He went on to explain that because of Daniel’s obedience to the Lord’s law of health, not only was his life preserved, but Daniel also received a great spiritual blessing: “the inspiration of the Almighty.” This suggests that Daniel’s choice to eat healthier foods, opened his communication and ability to receive inspiration from God.
Consuming healthy foods in their natural state, brings more light into our bodies. This is because living raw foods contain the biophoton light energy your body needs. Every living organism emits biophotons. It is thought that the higher the level of light energy a cell emits, the greater its vitality and the potential for the transfer of that energy to the individual who consumes it.
“The more light a food is able to store, the more nutritious it is. Naturally grown, fresh, raw vegetables, for example, and sun-ripened fresh fruits, are rich in light energy. The capacity to store biophotons is therefore a measure of the quality of your food. The greater your store of light energy from healthy raw foods, the greater the power of your overall electromagnetic field, and consequently the more energy is available for healing and maintenance of optimal health.” – Dr. Mercola
Jesus Christ is the light of this world. Healing occurs through light. Heaven is powered on light. If eating healthy foods bring more light into our bodies, wouldn’t it only make sense that these foods help us to obtain more light and knowledge into our mortal tabernacles?
“When … we take live food into our body in the form of raw fruits and vegetables, herbs, etc. we are taking LIFE into our body, and we are taking food for both our spiritual and our mortal or temporal body … Through having an active, healthy body on the outside, or the mortal body, our inner man grows – the spirit body grows and flourishes.” – Dr. Christopher
Our bodies are the greatest gift that God has ever given us – in fact, there are many references He makes to them as our temples. Each of us has been given our very own temple for God to come come and dwell in. If God and the spirit cannot dwell in unholy and unclean places, why would we think our mortal body and tabernacle would be a different exception?
“How can we expect to learn and gain knowledge in an unclean temple, one that has been defiled by improper eating? Dr. Christopher
During my digging into the Word of Wisdom, I found that at the time it was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the definition hot drinks included “anything, hot or cold, which is a habit-forming drink.” I believe we use this term loosely in our diet’s to justify drinking anything that is not alcohol or liquor, but if you research what Joseph Smith meant, you can think differently about any drinks you put into your body that are doing it harm. This was used as a word of caution and warning. The Word of Wisdom is not just given as basic rules to follow for physical health – but it incorporates many cautions that help us to deny the natural man, not rely on the arm of flesh, bridle our passions and take control over our actions.
“Bad habits are persistent enemies. Those of the body clamor for attention; yet once overcome they remain silent. Conquest of self may always be accomplished if the will is born of strong enough desire. The training of the will is the beginning of personal power; and such training is always initiated by sincere, continuous desire … It may be that in some such sense the Word of Wisdom is adapted “to the capacity of the weak and the weakest”. John Widtsoe
There are many ways we can keep our bodies unclean. The Word of Wisdom focuses specifically on drinks and foods that are harmful to our bodies. By taking in these unclean, habit-forming substances, it causes a separation from our spiritual nature. One reason this occurs is because habit-forming substances cause us to make decisions based on our natural man, and in the process we lose control. One of my favorite quotes from Ezra Taft Benson encourages us to,“Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things … increases the authority of the body over the mind.” .
Anything that causes us to make poor decisions, give up our personal power, and make a choice that we will later regret, increases our authority of the body over the mind. In the scriptures we are counseled to bridle our passions (Alma 38:12) and putteth off the natural man (Mosiah 3:19), thus supporting some of the spiritual benefits of the Word of Wisdom. Any habit-forming substances, such as sugar, processed foods, and addictive drinks/snacks create a mind body separation that weakens our ability to ‘putteth off the natural man‘.
In the scriptures, the definition of the natural man is as follows:
A person who chooses to be influenced by the passions, desires, appetites, and senses of the flesh rather than by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Such a person can comprehend physical things but not spiritual things. All people are carnal, or mortal, because of the fall of Adam and Eve. Each person must be born again through the atonement of Jesus Christ to cease being a natural man.
I love this because to me, this manifest God’s love that He has for all of us. The Word of Wisdom is not a physical law that He gave us to help us be physically healthy alone, but is literally a higher law given to us to work towards Godhood. It is training and daily application to put off the natural man so that we draw closer to our spiritual potential. And, as promised in D&C 67:12, we cannot dwell in the presence of God unless we have learned to put off the natural man. Tying these principles back into the idea that God cannot dwell in unholy places, the more we learn to deny ourselves the natural man and let our spirits rule our physical bodies, the more God will live within us, guiding and inspiring us in every decision we make.
I love how John Widtsoe explains this concept,
“The successful life is ever training its will in obedience to principles of truth. These principles are of a temporal and a spiritual nature. In the last analysis spiritual laws are more difficult to obey than temporal ones, but the blessings enjoyed are increasingly greater. In that sense the Word of Wisdom is adapted to the capacity of the weakest of all saints, “who can be called saints”. A person who cannot obey a temporal law, such as the Word of Wisdom, seldom can obey spiritual laws, which reach more profoundly into the nature of man. That is, those who are living the high spiritual laws of the Gospel, true saints, must have achieved sufficient desire and power of will to obey the temporal commandment known as the Word of Wisdom. Unless they have done so, the spiritual integrity of such persons may be called into question.”
Consider this beautiful quote by Boyd K. Packer,
“Our physical body is the instrument of our spirit. In the word of wisdom we are told how to keep our bodies free from impurities which might dull, even destroy, those delicate physical senses which have to do with spiritual communication. The promise is that those who obey will receive ‘great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. If we abuse our body, with habit-forming substances … we draw curtains which close off the light of spiritual communication.”
What a powerful warning that is! To think about any habit-forming substances drawing the curtains of our personal communication is frightening. This is not just tobacco and alcohol. ANY habit forming substance! There is a lot of research out there that proves that processed sugars are more addictive to the body than heroine, cocaine and morphine. Have you ever considered your addiction to sugar being a reason why your spiritual connection and personal revelation to God seem short circuited?
Along with the spiritual blessings that come to us when we follow the Word of Wisdom, there are also many physical health benefits (some of which I mentioned earlier regarding the physical light we take into our bodies when we consume raw, natural foods). Consider processed foods, genetically modified foods, and other foods that have been tampered from their natural state. When I choose to eat processed foods, I immediately feel not only physically sick, but spiritually sick. I find myself craving these foods, and soon my body is ruling my mind. Not only that, but I start to feel physically gross because of the lack of nutrients and LIVE energy I am giving my body. In the Word of Wisdom God cautions us to beware of “evil and designs which do and will exist in the heart of conspiring men in the last days.” Why do you think he included this? Here are some inserts from Dr. Christopher’s book that rang true to me:
“Any man who will adulterate food for profit, to enhance the flavor, the ease of eating without effort, the looks, is consciously or unconsciously conspiring mankind…Why overwork our bodies and wear them out on foods that are processed, just because they please the eye and the taste, and are easy to believe-in after listening to the radio [and I would add TV commercials, billboards, etc.]. We listen to what man has to say is good for us, we trust in the arm of flesh to such an extent that we don’t even know that we have the greatest of all, who has given us truth that will outweigh the knowledge of man and baffle him.” Dr. Christopher
“It builds up or tears down the physical and the spiritual bodies according to the degree you partake of the right or wrong kind of food.” Dr. Christopher
“Any time a man or group of men adulterate any of the wholesome food which our Father in Heaven has given us, so that it has lost its original value, which was intended for us, he has become a very designing man. This is done for profit, with no interest whatsoever for the temporal or spiritual welfare of the people who buy their products.” Dr. Christopher
“In so doing, the item has been tampered with to such an extent, that it has lost much, and in some cases, nearly all, of the original value which was in it, and which God intended for us to secure from the original in its pure state, for the building up of our mortal and our spiritual bodies.” Dr. Christopher
In my personal nutrition journey, I have found that the only foods that don’t affect me physically and spiritually are foods that are natural, unprocessed and non-GMO. That is a personal health choice I have made, but I have definitely seen the effects both positive and negative when I choose to follow or not follow these guidelines. Because I believe that every physical illness is connected to a spiritual imbalance, I constantly find myself turning to the Lord and asking for strength to overcome bad habits, bad food cravings, and find Him giving me strength when times are hard so I don’t stress eat with foods that are not spiritually edifying. One of my favorite quotes about healthy eating comes from Ezra Taft Benson,
“To a great extent we are physically what we eat. Most of us are acquainted with some of the prohibitions, such as no tea, coffee, tobacco, or alcohol. What need additional emphasis are the positive aspects—the need for vegetables, fruits, and grains, particularly wheat. In most cases, the closer these can be, when eaten, to their natural state— without over-refinement and processing—the healthier we will be. To a significant degree, we are an overfed and undernourished nation digging an early grave with our teeth, and lacking the energy that could be ours because we overindulge in junk foods … We need a generation of young people who, as Daniel, eat in a more healthy manner than to fare on the “king’s meat”—and whose countenances show it.” – Ezra Taft Benson
I take God’s invitation to all of us very literally when He says that if we lack wisdom that we should ask Him, and He will liberally tell us. Each time I turn to the Lord and ask, ‘What lack I yet?’, He reminds me to eat healthier. Even as I felt prompted to research this topic and write this blog, I have uncovered so much more than I ever thought I would find and will never look at healthy and unhealthy eating the same. I know that as you turn to God, using the Atonement daily for strength, He will help you to overcome your addictions, putteth off the natural man, and grow closer to Him. I have seen miracles take place in my spiritual growth as I have worked hard and relied on the Lord’s strength to overcome the natural man by eating healthier.