Online Instructor Manager
By the time Rachel LeBaron Huber was 18, she had lived for equal amounts of time in the United States, Canada, and South Africa; had moved 17 times; and had attended 9 different schools. Since then, she has lived in St. Anthony with her husband, Steve, and their 9 children. They have 8 grandchildren.
It was during her freshman year at BYU, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in family science, that Rachel fell in love with learning. Years later, when her youngest child started kindergarten, Rachel realized an opportunity to go back to school. She earned a master’s degree in nutrition and a doctorate in education focusing on servant leadership applied to online teaching. She has worked at BYU-Idaho for the past five and a half years in Online Curriculum Development and Online Instruction.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
Share an example of a physical challenge you have had which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. How did you respond to it and how did it impact your life?
Please complete this simple, five question, anonymous survey: https://byui.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eydUX0AcnFfT4ot
Why is it that so often we don’t do what we know we should do in terms of caring for our bodies?
- We stay up late watching a show about the importance of getting enough sleep.
- We have a gym membership but don’t use it because it’s a 15-minute walk and we don’t have a car.
- Or we fully intend to go to the gym, but find we don’t have time because we just spent three hours watching Disney+ instead.
Truly, our actions often simply do not align with our knowledge.
If you were asked why you came to earth you would likely answer something like, “To get a body, learn to live by faith, and be tested.” But do we really understand these truths? President Russell M. Nelson said that “when we truly know our divine nature, we will want to control [our] appetites. And we will focus [on sights, sounds, and thoughts] that are a credit to our physical creation as a temple of God. In daily prayer, we will gratefully . . . thank Him for the magnificence of our own physical temple. We will care for it and cherish it as our own personal gift from God.” 
Truly knowing our divine nature, then, is key to caring for our bodies and feeling grateful for them. As part of the pre-devotional preparation, students filled out a survey identifying their top challenges. The results showed that some of the most common trials you are facing every day are body image, anxiety or depression, and issues with sleep. These are all closely related, and the other challenges you indicated on the survey are also strongly influenced by how we think about and care for our physical bodies. As we prepare to learn together, please consider a few questions.
Would truly understanding my divine nature change how I care for my body?
Are there principles about caring for my body that I need to understand or follow more fully?
How can I be more grateful for the gift of my body, and what difference would that make in my life?
First, let’s seek deeper understanding of our divine nature. In our premortal realm we lived as spirits. We knew that the goal was to become like our Heavenly Father. However, we reached a point where we were literally unable to progress further without the added dimension which a body provides. In the council in heaven our Father presented the plan of salvation in which we would have the opportunity to come to earth and receive a body.
Joseph Smith taught that our bodies are vital to our happiness. He said, “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.”  Elder David A. Bednar explained that “our physical bodies make possible a breadth, depth, and intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate.” 
In the production The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill conducted a scam in which he convinced an entire community that they could learn an instrument based on what he called “the think system.” This was a method where the children never held an instrument but learned to play by merely thinking about playing. Of course, before long, Professor Hill was discovered to be a fraud. Without real instruments to practice with, the education was superficial. A real instrument is necessary for real experiences, real learning, real growth, just as our body is essential in allowing our spirit to have deeper, broader, and more intense experiences.
In order to ensure our survival, Heavenly Father has blessed us with natural appetites for food, water, and love, but these appetites are also a major part of the test. Satan, who didn’t get a body, tries to get us to destroy ours. Most temptations involve abusing our bodies or the bodies of others. To combat this, we must learn to control our physical appetites.
Brigham Young outlined four truths that explain the nature of the body and spirit and why it is so important that the spirit controls the body.
Truth #1: “The spirit is pure, and under the . . . control and influence of the Lord.”
Truth #2: “The body is of the earth, and is subject to the power of the devil.”
Truth #3: “If the spirit yields to the body, the devil then has power to overcome . . . the body and spirit of that man.”
Truth #4: “When you are tempted . . . stop and let the spirit, which God has put into your tabernacles, take the lead. If you do that, I will promise that you will overcome all evil, and obtain eternal lives.” 
Therefore, if the body is stronger than the spirit, the devil controls both; if the spirit is stronger than the body, we will succeed in this life and continue to progress in the eternities. The battle thus is about which will be master: body or spirit. And that outcome will determine our happiness or unhappiness. Of course, we constantly fall short, but the Atonement of Jesus Christ means that the only failure is giving up.
With so much at stake, it becomes a priority to learn about and act on truths which lead to a strong spirit that is master over the body. So, let’s look at the second question. Are there principles about caring for my body that I need to understand or follow more fully? Specifically, we will look at commandments, knowledge, and revelation.
First, commandments. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “The Lord loves you; that is why He has given you commandments and the words of prophets to guide you on your journey through life.” 
Commandments pertaining to our body include the Word of Wisdom, which provides guidance about what to take into our bodies and also what to avoid. We are also given instructions about patterns for sleep and commandments about fasting and the law of chastity. When we embrace these commandments we receive promised blessings. As we now look at the blessings, note that they are primarily spiritual. This is because when we harness our physical appetites our spirits are strengthened, and happiness increases.
The Word of Wisdom carries the promise that the destroying angel will pass us by, that we will run and not be weary, and walk and not faint, and that we will receive hidden treasures of knowledge.  If we go to bed early and get up early, we are told our minds and bodies will be invigorated.  Numerous blessings are associated with living the law of the fast, including overcoming temptations and conquering addictions,  and healing and miracles.  Some blessings of the law of chastity are that we will be confident before the Lord,  the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion,  and we will be filled with love. 
These promises are sure. President Nelson has said that “blessings always come by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated. . . . You can be sure that as you keep the commandments of God, you will reap the blessings that He has in store for you.” 
In addition to the commandments, the universe operates on laws, and we are subject to those laws whether we know the law or not. This brings us to the topic of seeking knowledge.
Let me begin with a personal example from my freshman year of college. I started the year with food and body image issues, and my self-imposed diet consisted of carrots and diet soda. In addition, I kept odd hours, usually going to bed at about 10 p.m. and getting up at about 2 a.m. to study. Poor nutrition and lack of sleep thus became my norm.
Not surprisingly, by midway through the semester, I began to experience the consequences of my bad habits. My mind began doing strange things, jumping from one idea to another. I was unable to concentrate. In addition, my skin turned orange from all the beta-carotene in the carrots. I looked like I’d had a bad experience with a spray-on tan.
I am a very private person and didn’t want to talk to anyone about how I was feeling. But I was really scared because I thought I was losing my mind. One afternoon, as I sat outside with my boyfriend (now my husband), I blurted it all out. He probably wanted to say, “Duh! You don’t eat, and you rarely sleep. Of course you are falling apart.” But he was kinder than that. He simply said, “I have read studies on people in the military, and when they don't have a balanced diet and enough sleep, they quickly lose their ability to concentrate. Let’s go get something to eat. And then maybe you should take a nap.” I’m so grateful that I opened up to him and that he knew how to steer me in the right direction.
Our bodies are miraculous, and mine healed quickly once its needs were met. However, acquiring a healthy relationship with my body and with food has been a journey. For several years I had struggled, and the only people I’d ever sought counsel from were my friends who had similar struggles. Talking to someone who was on higher ground in that regard was my first step to healing. The next semester I took a nutrition class. Thus began my education in healthy eating, and over time I learned to associate eating well with feeling good both mentally and physically.
I also learned that mental health and a healthy lifestyle are strongly connected. In addition to a nutritious diet, behavioral factors such as adequate sleep, regular exercise, time spent outdoors, and a practice of meditation are closely tied to having an alert, clear-thinking mind and a healthy body. Even missionaries, who spend much of their day strengthening their spirits, need to make sure they practice healthy habits. While medication for mood disorders is sometimes necessary, studies have found that a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition, is often more effective at improving symptoms of anxiety or depression than medication, especially in teens and young adults.  On the flipside, substances and habits which harm our bodies also harm our minds and our spirits.
While it is important to learn how to care for our bodies, it can be challenging to sift through the endless amount of information which is available. To complicate matters, different approaches to health will sometimes contradict each other. This brings us to the third category of learning, which is seeking and then acting on personal revelation.
The admonition in James 1:5 that if we lack wisdom we should ask of God applies to each of us. Let me illustrate with a personal example. As you are aware, vitamins can be a huge blessing for health, and prenatal vitamins are very important. But I had an experience that taught me that for me and my body, a particular brand of vitamins was causing me problems.
When I was pregnant with my sixth child I experienced severe depression. I felt like my entire world was sinking into darkness. One Sunday I had reached what felt like the bottom of a pit. I went to sacrament meeting with my family, but then fled home to cry on my bed. I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. I wailed, sobbed, and pleaded. “Please tell me what to do. I can’t go on like this.” Shortly before my family was to arrive home I had a distinct impression from the Holy Ghost to stop taking my prenatal vitamins. Certainly an answer I wasn’t expecting, because I had successfully taken prenatal vitamins for five pregnancies, but I obeyed and the darkness began to lift. When I put my trust in God and followed the personal revelation He gave me I was healed. I know that He will do the same for you—in His own time and in His own way. He will tell us exactly what we need to know exactly when we need to know it and in a way that we will understand. Sometimes it will be through a still, small voice. At other times what we hear or read will ring true and we will know that this is a truth that we need to apply in our lives.
Last week in devotional, Elder Vern P. Stanfill said, “We . . . will see miracles in our lives as we learn to follow the Lord’s direction. . . . You may have periods of time . . . when the answers don’t come easily, but if you have made the decision to love the Lord, have faith in Him, and do His will . . . eventually all will be right with you.”  Let’s commit to do the spiritual work required to prepare for, listen to, and act on the revelation we receive.
For the rest of our time together we will explore the third question. How can I be more grateful for the gift of my body, and what difference would that make in my life?
First, let’s discuss the strength that comes from gratefully embracing uniqueness. Not one of Heavenly Father’s children is the same as another. However, the world would suggest that our value lies in looking a certain way and having certain characteristics. To illustrate how ridiculous this is, let’s consider the temples of the world. Even though their sacred purpose is the same, each temple is different and beautiful in its own way. The climate, culture, history, and location are taken into account when planning the structure, heating or cooling needs, landscaping, and so forth. Can you imagine the frustration experienced by the grounds crews in Rexburg if the decision were made that all temples must have palm trees and a year-round waterfall like the Laie Hawaii Temple? On the other hand, it would make no sense to insist that Hawaii have a maintenance plan that includes snow removal. It is absurd even to consider trying to make all temples alike.
Equally absurd is to believe that certain physical traits are more desirable than others. To do so can lead to fixation on a perceived fault and eliminate any sense of gratitude. Let me share a humorous story to illustrate. In my family, pretty much all the females share the same DNA for large calves. We lovingly credit our great-grandma with passing them down to us. We never actually saw her legs, but when we tried to blame my mom she said it was her grandma’s fault. We refer to our calves as cows—they are the calves already grown up. A few years ago my sister was cursing her calves when the Spirit said to her very clearly, “That which you curse is what got your ancestors across the plains.” A humbling revelation indeed!
In His perfect wisdom, Heavenly Father has given each of us the unique temples we need to fill the missions He sent us here to accomplish.
In mortality there are no perfect bodies. In fact, physical challenges are part of the plan. They are not the plan gone wrong. President Nelson tells us that regardless of what your earthly mission is, a perfect body is not required to accomplish your purpose,  and physical challenges can help us develop spiritual strength.  We don’t have to look far for inspiring examples of those who have physical challenges but strong spirits.
I would like to introduce you to two people who are examples to me: Amber and Gid. Amber is a beautiful 23-year-old young woman with Down syndrome. She works in the temple and greets everyone she meets there with a smile. Gid is a handsome 16-year-old boy, also with Down’s. He is very perceptive to the way others are feeling and will try to cheer people up if he senses they are feeling blue. Both of these young people are sharing their uniqueness and their happiness.
Imagine how it would change your experience if you embraced what is unique about your body, recognizing it as a gift from God. Then, apply the laws of health to become the best version of yourself.
Finally, let’s look at maintaining gratitude in physical trials. Elder Uchtdorf said, “True gratitude . . . comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.”  Danny Seplak is my husband’s cousin. He is an example in our family of a strong spirit. While serving as a missionary he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer. Treatment gained him two more years, but the cancer eventually overtook him. Before he passed in June 2000, he drafted the following:
I’m not angry [and don’t] feel cheated in getting this disease. . . . I’ve realized that the important things in life [are] to enjoy my family, my friends, my time, and to find meaning and purpose in my life. . . . Some of the most pleasant and happy moments occur when we just take the time to reflect on life and be grateful. . . . I do have faith in a loving God. I have faith that He cares about our welfare and that He has a plan for us.
None of us know how long we will be here, but we can prepare throughout our lives to return home. President Nelson has promised that “if we honor [the body] as God has ordained, we will remain on that ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.’” 
On this week’s discussion board, students shared ways that a physical challenge has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes the blessings are physical. For example, Jody Lane shared that she has an illness which flares up if she does not get enough exercise and rest. “So in a way,” she says, “having [this illness] is a blessing because it helps me exercise and get enough rest, and this helps me to stay healthy.”
Many discussion board posts validated President Nelson’s statement that physical challenges help us develop spiritual strength. For example, after undergoing a very difficult trial, Tania Evans said, “I grew in amazing ways that I had never expected, especially spiritually. If I ever had a doubt that Heavenly Father was mindful of us, I didn’t after going through this experience.”
Students reported that during a trial the way to find strength is by strengthening our spirits. Dallin Scott shared, “I am still learning how to respond to the physical challenges I face, but the greatest strengths to me have been clinging to the scriptures, holding fast to the iron rod, and diligently enduring to the end in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. The closer we seek to draw ourselves to Christ, the greater heaven can help us.”
In the 17th chapter of 3 Nephi the Savior heals those who have met Him at the temple. First He heals all those who are afflicted in any manner. This is followed by the entire multitude coming forth, one by one, bowing down in humility and worshiping Him. The multitude come unto Christ and let Him heal them.
We can each experience the same healing power as we come unto Christ every day. Remember, the blessings we experience because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ are ongoing. We are invited, even commanded, to repent throughout our lives.
As we do so, our spirits will increase in strength and eventually become master over our bodies.
I pray that we can live in gratitude and treat our bodies as the precious and miraculous gifts that they are, provided by a loving Heavenly Father as a key to happiness and eternal progress. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Your Body: A Magnificent Gift to Cherish,” New Era, Aug. 2019 .
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Joseph Fielding Smith, 101.
 David A. Bednar, “Ye Are the Temple of God,” Ensign, Sept. 2001.
 Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, 256.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “See the End from the Beginning,” Ensign, May 2006.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 89.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 88:124.
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Self-Mastery”, Ensign, Nov. 1985.
 See Matthew 17:14–21.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 121:45.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 121:46.
 See Alma 38:12.
 “Keeping the Commandments Brings Lasting Joy: President Nelson tells Floridian Saints,” Church News, June 10, 2019.
 See Stephen S. Ilardi, The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, 2016.
 Vern P. Stanfill, “Choose Discipleship Now!,” BYU-Idaho devotional, Nov. 18, 2019.
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Your Body: A Magnificent Gift to Cherish,” New Era, Aug. 2019.
 See Russell M. Nelson. “Decisions for Eternity,” Ensign, Nov. 2013.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Grateful in Any Circumstances,” Ensign, May 2014.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Your Body: A Magnificent Gift to Cherish,” New Era, Aug. 2019.