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When President Russell M. Nelson was sustained as President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a news commentator marveled at how healthy the newly sustained leader was considering his age. The co-anchor agreed and said in essence, “Well, he’s a heart doctor, so he knows what to eat and how to take care of himself.”
The comment caused me to chuckle. Everyone who is aware of President Nelson is impressed by his physical health given his age, and most know that he practiced medicine prior to his call as a member of the Twelve. But do we really think that it is simply his knowledge about caring for his body that causes him to enjoy such good health in his nineties? Many have the knowledge, but only a few act on that knowledge. Knowing and doing are not the same.
Knowledge does not necessarily lead to appropriate action.
The Apostle Paul lamented that his actions did not always match up with his intentions: “For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Romans 7:20). Thus he was asking himself, “Why do I do what I don’t really want to do, and fail to do what I know I should do?” So, the news commentator who was amazed at President Nelson’s good health may have exclaimed, “How is it that he actually does what he knows he should do?”
While I was seated at a dinner table next to President and Sister Nelson, I began talking about physical health, and Sister Nelson reminded me that President Nelson went skiing every Monday in the winter. As I remember the conversation, she continued with a smile on her face, “He came home after his ski trip last week and said, ‘I think skiing every Monday makes me a better husband.’ Then I said, ‘In that case, you can go skiing every day!’” Sister Nelson was, of course, joking with us, but in some ways their conversation was profound.
Exercise does more than improve physical health; it also affects our emotional health. Those who exercise regularly commonly note that doing so gives them a feeling of well-being, and someone who has a feeling of well-being is more likely to have a positive outlook, an uplifting mood—all of which helps an individual be a better spouse or friend. The healthier we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the greater will be our capacity to form lasting, healthy attachments.
President Nelson has not only set an example for the members of the Church regarding our health, but he has also clearly taught that physical and spiritual health must be considered together. He said: “We will be careful about which counsel we heed. Many so-called experts give advice for the body—without thought for the spirit. Anyone who accepts direction contrary to the Word of Wisdom, for example, forsakes a law revealed to bring both physical and spiritual blessings.”