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General Conference, this year on Easter Sunday, is right around the corner! My tattered Ensign from the October conference falls open to messages on personal responsibility and making wise choices. I have no doubt what the Lord wanted me to study over the past six months. Especially meaningful has been Elder Jorg Klebingat’s talk on “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence.”

It’s odd to think of a General Authority promoting weight and health management in a very specific way, but that he did:

“Take responsibility for your own physical well-being. Your soul consists of your body and spirit (see D&C 88:15). Feeding the spirit while neglecting the body, which is a temple, usually leads to spiritual dissonance and lowered self-esteem. If you are out of shape, if you are uncomfortable in your own body and can do something about it, then do it! Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that we should “regard our body as a temple of our very own” and that we should “control our diet and exercise for physical fitness” (“We are Children of God,” Ensign Nov. 1998, page 87).

President Boyd K. Packer has taught “that our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character” (CES fireside, Feb. 2, 2003). Therefore please use good judgment in what and especially how much you eat, and regularly give your body the exercise it needs and deserves. If you are physically able, decided today to be the master of your own house and begin a regular long-term exercise program suited to your abilities, combined with a healthier diet.

Spiritual confidence increases when your spirit, with the help of the Savior, is truly in charge of your natural man or woman.” (Ensign, Nov. 2014, page 35.)

Could anything be more specific? Or direct?

If this is whispering to you, and you are overwhelmed with the work associated with strengthening and beautifying your own temple, perhaps two little questions, a story and three quick ways to feel better now (no, it’s not cookies!) will be of value:

Q:  When’s the best time to plant a tree?
A:  20 years ago.
Q:  When’s the next best time?
A.  Today.

Between the sessions of General Conference, our family has a springtime tradition of driving to a remarkable neighborhood 30 minutes from our home in Northern Virginia. With the words of our leaders in our hearts and ears, it’s the perfect place to reflect and talk about what we’ve heard and to feel our Father’s love as we slowly drive through the streets of this enchanted place. It almost feels like a sneak peek into the celestial neighborhoods we each yearn to reside in as we return to Him someday.

Why is it so special? When the Kenwood subdivision in Maryland (about 20 minutes from the Washington D.C. Temple) was being built in the early 1930’s, the homeowners decided that they would line the streets with the same Yoshino cherry trees that grow around the tidal basin in Washington, D.C. for the world famous cherry blossom festival that draws tourists from around the world. They bought and planted thousands of the baby trees while their homes, the neighborhood and their own families were very young.

Fast forward to the present 2015: In late March and early April, block after block of this neighborhood are lined with the now mature cherry trees in full bloom. It feels like walking through a winter, snowy fairyland of pale, pink blossoms, blossoms and more blossoms everywhere.

The tree branches create an archway where thousands of visitors slowly drive through or walk the streets and take photos. A charming stream gurgles throughout, neighborhood children sell lemonade on the corners, and it is easy to imagine the angels themselves having a healthy picnic on the porch of one of the elegant homes, where homeowners outdo themselves with flowering bulbs and lush landscaping.

Needless to say, something like this doesn’t happen without a detailed plan created many years ago – nor is it maintained without a long-term schedule that is reviewed and acted upon regularly. Residents who buy into the community know what they’re getting into and sign a contract. Old or sick trees are removed and new ones are planted regularly to prepare for the future.  Is the plan and continual effort worth it? Oh, yes. Oh, yes!

Back to us:  Creating a healthy lifestyle and fit body is not so different! Although we may wish that we had started long ago and were enjoying the shade and spectacular blooms, nature is kind. Things will start to grow today too, which makes right now the perfect time to get going and get planting the seeds and deeds that bring energy and health.

Not only is nature kind, so is our Heavenly Father, who devised a perfect for our mortal lives and bodies. These mortal bodies are a gift that we eagerly anticipated, and though now the veil has been drawn, I’m sure we were educated on the challenges ahead.

Not too long ago, I recently re-read Elaine Durham’s book, I Stand All Amazed: Love and Healing From Higher Realms. As a nonmember in her 30’s, she experienced a brain aneurysm and suddenly died. With hospital records, the Catholic priest who had come to administer last rites, and a little nurse who prepared her body for the morgue to prove that she was indeed dead, she went to the other side long enough to experience many things and to have a great deal of her pre-earth life memory restored.

When asked if she would like to see her life before she was born, she enthusiastically agreed. She could see herself attending the Great Counsel in Heaven where God’s plan was presented, and rejoicing in the principle of receiving an earthly body.

Then her view was shifted to see herself just before she was to leave for her mortal experience. She was sitting on a bench as an adult. Her guides asked her if she understood how hard her life would be to achieve the level of soul-growth required for a place in the highest kingdoms in the eternities after earth life.

She was kindly warned once more of the severe problems she would experience within her family and asked if she had any last questions. When she eagerly responded that she was ready and had no questions, the guides who were with her marveled and said to each other. “She is so willing! She does not understand.”

Her childhood was filled with heartache. Her mother was a young woman who had never received love, so could not give love. Her father, though appropriately affectionate with her as a young girl, molested her throughout her adolescent and early teenage years. When at age 15 she found the courage to speak up, there was an immediate divorce that both parents blamed her for. Problems continued with an abusive first marriage for Elaine, and a difficult second marriage.

Within her time on the other side, she found the love of our Heavenly Father for herself personally and His perspective to love and forgive those who had caused such pain, and to see her part as a piece of a puzzle where we are each dependent on each other for growth. She also learned much about the God’s perfect plan and returned with an unquenchable desire to find the organization that would embody what she had learned.

Ten years later, when a mentally and physically handicapped man in her neighborhood invited her to church and to meet the missionaries, the doors of eternity flung open and she was baptized.

With this remarkable story, it is much easier to view our bodies and earth life as gifts worthy of time and daily respect.

I well remember as a child a very special Christmas gift. It was a little blue suitcase filled with doll clothes my mother had made for my new Christmas baby doll. How well I remember my mother’s face when she found the little suitcase one morning in the yard after a rainstorm. It was ruined because I had not spent a bit of time to bring it in after playing.

How well I equally remember as an adult parent the Christmas bike we gave to a precious 7-year-old son. When it was stolen later that year from the community swimming pool, there was much sadness as we all recalled how easily he had learned how to use a combination lock and chain to secure it when it was parked. How little was the time it would have taken to use the lock compared to the time it would take to earn the money to replace the bike.

With the return of spring, the gift of General Conference, and the gift of our bodies, here are three easy springtime ways to treat our bodies as gifts and spring into fitness:

  1. The WATER: Enjoy the springtime blooms, see how fresh and lovely they are after a rainstorm, visualize how dependent they are upon moisture. As you drink enough water throughout the day, visualize your body refreshing itself even as flowers do. No need to drown however; 6-8 glasses is enough!
  2. The gift of COLOR: It surrounds us during the spring! When we focus on consuming mostly things with natural COLOR, we are automatically eating things of nature – fruits and vegetables, not carbs and processed snack foods. As a word of caution, for most of us two fruits is enough. The sugars and carbohydrates in consuming too much fruit may limit weight loss. The actual fruit with its fiber is much more effective for satisfying both hunger and the need to “be eating something” than high-calorie fruit juice.
  3. The gift of MOVEMENT: All around us things are growing, emerging, opening, and reaching upwards. Take a lesson from the flowers, leaves, butterflies, birds that are reaching their potential through demanding MOVEMENT. Get out side and WALK. Take some time and STRETCH. Apply to a video workout and PUSH yourself to a new limit.

As spring, Easter and General Conference approach, how marvelous it is to SPRING into action, be accountable and to know that our Heavenly Father lives and wants us to be happy … and comfortable in our own bodies.

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available HERE

She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where she is the Primary chorister and they team-teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program. 

Click HERE to learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian!