As he looked forward to the temple which his son would build, King David wrote a psalm about the joy of welcoming God’s presence into that holy house. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates” he wrote; “and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7, 9). His words are addressed to the gates and to the doors, but they are representative of the joy and the respectful admiration which would accompany the people when Solomon’s temple was completed.
In the Book of Mormon, many people are invited to “lift up their heads” and feel a similar reverent joy:
- In both of his sermons, Jacob invites the righteous to lift up their heads and rejoice (2 Nephi 9:3, Jacob 3:2).
- King Limhi encouraged his people to make yet another attempt to free themselves from bondage by saying, “Lift up your heads, and be comforted…. Lift up your heads,… and put your trust in God” (Mosiah 7:18-19).
- At about the same time, the people of Alma in the land of Helam received similar encouragement from the Lord: “Lift up your heads, and be of good comfort, for…I will deliver [you] out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:13).
- After Alma was forcibly expelled from the city of Ammonihah, while he was “weighed down with sorrow,” an angel appeared to him. His first words were: “Lift up thy head, and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice” (Alma 8:15).
- When the prophet Nephi prayed mightily on behalf of his people, fearing for their lives, he heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer” (3 Nephi 1:13).
In these passages, the command to lift up your head sounds symbolic: a call to overcome discouragement and anxiety and to recognize the blessings you either have received or will yet receive. That is certainly the meaning.
But the message may also be more literal. Can we improve our mood and attitude by something as simple as looking up? Several recent studies have found that physical posture has a direct impact on our mood, our energy level, and our ability to manage stress.
When I think about the time I spend looking down during the day, it is often not because I am depressed or anxious, but because I am interacting with a device in my hand instead of with the people around me. President Dallin H. Oaks recently pointed out that the proliferation of smartphones has coincided with a dramatic increase in mental health issues. (“Anxiety in Stressful Times,” BYU Hawaii Devotional Address, 11 June 2019). Is it possible that we could improve our emotional health by simply “lifting up our heads” from our phones more often and paying increased attention to the world around us?
Elder Carl B. Cook experienced firsthand the effect of his posture on his mood:
At the end of a particularly tiring day toward the end of my first week as a General Authority, my briefcase was overloaded and my mind was preoccupied with the question “How can I possibly do this?” I left the office of the Seventy and entered the elevator of the Church Administration Building. As the elevator descended, my head was down and I stared blankly at the floor.
The door opened and someone entered, but I didn’t look up. As the door closed, I heard someone ask, “What are you looking at down there?” I recognized that voice—it was President Thomas S. Monson.
I quickly looked up and responded, “Oh, nothing.” (I’m sure that clever response inspired confidence in my abilities!)
But he had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase. He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, “It is better to look up!” As we traveled down one more level, he cheerfully explained that he was on his way to the temple. When he bid me farewell, his parting glance spoke again to my heart, “Now, remember, it is better to look up” (“It Is Better to Look Up,” General Conference, October 2011).
Today, I will lift up my head. I will remember that my posture affects my emotional state. I will avoid excessive use of technology and will strive to interact more with the people around me.