I ran my first marathon a little over two weeks ago. I was surprised at how much more preparation was required for a full marathon than for a half. In particular, I had to learn a lot about keeping my body hydrated and nourished while exercising for several hours.
I thought of my marathon experience today as I reviewed Moroni’s description of the role of the church in maintaining our spiritual health. He said that, when people were baptized, church leaders would record their names, so that they could be “remembered and nourished by the good word of God” (Moroni 6:4).
Moroni was likely quoting the prophet Jacob. After recounting Zenos’s allegory of the olive trees, Jacob tells us that we “have been nourished by the good word of God, all the day long,” and asks us to bring forth good fruit in response (Jacob 6:7).
These passages also echo the apostle Paul’s counsel to Timothy:
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.1 Timothy 4:6
And President Gordon B. Hinckley referenced Moroni’s words when he told us that every new member of the church needs three things: “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God'” (“Converts and Young Men,” General Conference, April 1997).
What does it mean to be nourished by the word of God?
Here are some of the lessons I learned about physical nourishment from my marathon experience, and how I think those lessons apply to our spiritual nourishment:
- It’s important to be proactive, to know your body well enough to provide nourishment and liquid when you need it. It takes time to process food, so don’t wait until you feel undernourished or dehydrated. Likewise, we should study the scriptures and pray “every day, every day, every day.” (See Elder Peter M. Johnson, “Power to Overcome the Adversary,” General Conference, October 2019). Don’t wait until you feel spiritually famished before you provide your spirit with the nourishment it needs.
- Multiple people warned me not to eat anything during the race that I hadn’t eaten during my training runs. When your body is under stress, it’s helpful to keep things predictable. In the same way, if you maintain a consistent practice of nourishing your spirit even when things are going well, then you won’t have to develop new habits while undergoing a period of stress.
- Recognize that your body has a variety of needs. During my 18-mile training run, I developed cramps in my hamstrings. After the run, I realized that I had been drinking water the entire time, and that I had probably run out of sodium. In subsequent runs, I learned to start with a mix of gatorade and water to maintain my sodium level. Similarly, we need to make sure we are giving our spirits a complete diet. Study the scriptures and the words of modern prophets. Pray about all aspects of your life, and act on the answers you receive (Alma 34:17-28). Don’t settle for partial nourishment when full nourishment is available to you.
If we’re not intentional about nourishing ourselves spiritually, we can easily fail to do so. Stephen W. Owen shared an experience which many of us can relate to:
Not long ago I woke up and prepared to study the scriptures. I picked up my smartphone and sat in a chair next to my bed with the intention of opening the Gospel Library app. I unlocked my phone and was just about to begin studying when I saw a half dozen notifications for text messages and emails that had come during the night. I thought, “I’ll quickly check those messages, and then I’ll get right to the scriptures.” Well, two hours later I was still reading text messages, emails, news briefs, and social media posts. When I realized what time it was, I frantically rushed to get ready for the day. That morning I missed my scripture study, and consequently I didn’t get the spiritual nourishment I was hoping for.“Be Faithful, Not Faithless,” General Conference, October 2019
Brother Owens assured us that the Savior “is inspiring our leaders and guiding us to the spiritual nourishment we need to survive and thrive in the latter days.”
Today, I will recommit to providing spiritual nourishment to myself and to others. I will remember to seek nourishment proactively and consistently, in good times and bad, and to take advantage of all of the spiritual nourishment available to me.