Larry Tucker, a professor of exercise science, spoke to students and faculty on the blessings that are received as we take care of our bodies at a devotional Tuesday in the Joseph Smith Building.
Speaking of Heavenly Father’s plan, Tucker said, “We are privileged to have a body. Each is a special gift from God. Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is nothing more holy and magnificent than the human body.”
“The scriptures tell us that our bodies are temples.” Tucker said. “The apostle Paul announced ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwelleth in you?’ He then declared, ‘for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’
“Brothers and sisters, do we treat our bodies as temples? In the early Church, the Saints sacrificed tremendously to build and care for their temples,” Tucker said. “Special care is devoted to keeping our temples clean and in excellent condition…because they are sacred structures.
“Temples are sacred. The human body is sacred. It follows that our bodies should be given higher priority and more care than other things,” Tucker said.
“In today’s world, it’s common for some, even members of the Church, to rationalize that they don’t have time to care for their bodies. They give little thought to the food they consume and view exercise as an activity only for athletes,” Tucker said. “Can you imagine how the Lord would feel if one of His holy temples were neglected because it was viewed as insignificant or not worth the effort?”
Tucker said, “The Lord understands everything about the human body. He created it. He knows how to make it healthy and what causes it to weaken and die.”
With this he added, “If we want the blessings of good health, we have to obey certain laws.”
Quoting Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21, he said, “There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of the world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
To this Tucker said, “We now know that much of good health and disease is determined by living or not living certain laws.”
Tucker spoke of the Word of Wisdom, saying that it is “loaded with wonderful counsel and powerful warnings designed to bless our bodies and our spirits. Because we have been told that ‘tobacco is not for the body,’ members of the Church have avoided countless serious diseases and premature deaths.”
He spoke of his own father who fought in World War II where soldiers were given cigarettes liberally and encouraged to smoke. His father did not know the consequences of smoking and by smoking, “his precious temple was damaged.”
Tucker told those in the audience: “The Lord blesses those who learn His will and follow His commandments. I testify that He loves us, and we are greatly blessed because we have known for over a century that tobacco is not for the body.”
Tucker said that many people are not tempted to smoke, then said, “But what about exercise and physical fitness?
“Adults who smoke have a death rate that is about two times higher than non-smokers, but people who are unfit have a death rate that is about four times higher than those who are fit,” Tucker said. “Everyone knows that smoking is dangerous, but few are aware of the hazards of being unfit and the protection afforded those who are fit. My objective is not to minimize the risks of smoking, but to emphasize the value of becoming fit to protect our wonderful temples.”
He also spoke about alcohol and its negative consequences.
“As we know, the Word of Wisdom contains more than counsel to not drink or smoke. It also encourages us to eat healthy foods, “Tucker said. “Research shows that fruit and vegetables are especially good for us. But adults eat only a small fraction of the recommended servings. Remember, we have to live the law to receive the blessings.
“I testify that the Lord wants to bless us. That’s why he gave us the Word of Wisdom. If we follow His counsel, we will have better health, less suffering and longer lives,” Tucker said.
“Line upon line, day by day, our bodies change ever so slightly, based on what we eat, the extent we exercise, whether or not we smoke and other important choices. The daily consequences appear insignificant, but when summed together, the effects are amazing, often dictating the diseases we develop, how long we live and the quality of our lives.”
Tucker also used the example of the Savior in speaking of healthy living. “While walking the roads of Palestine, Jesus encouraged others to follow Him. We, too, will be blessed if we follow His footsteps. Because He was not denied agency, He could choose for Himself. Christ chose to live a life of sacrifice. He displayed remarkable self-control. He learned at an early age to do what is right and let the blessings follow. To care for our temples, we too must learn self-control. If there were no consequences most of us would rather eat a cookie than a carrot or to be entertained than exercise. However, we often have to sacrifice today to earn the richest blessings tomorrow. It may take more than a lifetime to learn to master the flesh as Christ did, but the Lord expects us to do our best and keep trying.”
Tucker also reminded listeners that our bodies have limitations and that they require good care, and that some health problems are not consequences of our behaviors or choices but are part of God’s plan.
“The human body is a magnificent gift and a significant responsibility.” Concluded Tucker, “Our bodies are sacred temples, worthy of special care and respect. Sacrifice is required to keep our temples in good condition. Don’t give up. A fit body is a righteous desire. I testify that if we will turn to the Lord and call upon Him, He will help us, but He will not circumvent our agency. With the right attitude and the Lord on our side, we can learn to live a healthy lifestyle, which will enable us to more fully participate in life and enjoy its blessings.”
To read the talk in its entirety, visit speeches.byu.edu. The devotional will also be rebroadcast on BYUtv. Check byutv.org for schedules, as well as on demand availability.
Writer: Stephanie Bahr