The News-Sentinel asked: As America continues to suffer from an obesity epidemic, many houses of worship, including some in Lodi, have put together exercise programs or weight-loss groups. Is physical health an important part of spiritual well-being? What role, if any, should religious or community leaders play in helping people stay healthy?
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that our bodies are a sacred gift from our Heavenly Father and that a body is required for our spirit to progress and experience a fullness of joy. The body is also a reward for being faithful in the pre-mortal world. Proper care of our bodies shows respect and appreciation for this gift, extends the length and quality of our mortal lives, and enhances our ability to feel the Holy Spirit and receive personal revelation. We are encouraged to keep our bodies clean, modestly dressed, and wisely fed and exercised.
The Church has a basic dietary code which is to avoid all tobacco products, alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea. We are also instructed to avoid addictive substances. Church members are urged to plant gardens, and focus their diets on healthy fruits, vegetables and grains, while minimizing the use of meats.
Appropriate exercise and fresh air are also important for the body and soul. Ecclesiastical leaders organize exercise programs for members including organized sports, hikes and dance festivals. The general policy set forth by the prophet Joseph Smith was to “…teach the people correct principles and allow them to govern themselves.” Therefore individual members also organize small groups to bike, jog or walk; set up baseball or basketball teams; and offer aerobics, dancercise, yoga, or other exercise sessions. Proper care of and respect for our bodies is an important part of Latter-day Saint beliefs.
Judith Bellville is a member of the Galt First Ward, Lodi Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.