As parents, we cannot sit back and hope that our children come to understand why their body is important and how they should treat it. They are growing up in a world that bombards us with lies about bodies. Why? It comes down to this:
"The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body and herein is his punishment....All being who have bodies have power over those who have not."
Joseph Smith (1938), Teachings
What power do we gain in having our bodies? With it, we can use our agency to act. We can choose to follow Christ and keep God's commandments. After this life, we will all be resurrected into a perfect body. With that glorified body, we can become like our Father in Heaven. This perspective causes us to think about our bodies differently:
"Nothing should be held in greater sacredness and honor than the covenant by which the spirits of men...are privileged to come into this world in mortal tabernacles....Spirits cannot be made perfect without a body of flesh and bones."
President Joseph Fielding Smith
Oct. 1965 General Conference
It is an honor and privilege to have a body. And it's a necessary part of our progression. The devil knows this, but he didn't accept this plan for himself. And now he is miserable. So he wants to stop us from realizing the happiness that can be ours. He wants those of us who have bodies to "be miserable like unto himself." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2: 27). How does he try to destroy our happiness? By spreading lies about our bodies, hoping we will be ungrateful for them, or even hate them. He wants us to use them as a source of vanity, pride, seduction or status. Essentially, he wants us to forget what they are really for. And if he can succeed, he'll even tempt us to misuse and destroy them.
Here are a few examples of this in our society:
- Body image is skewed. Young girls play with Barbie dolls and Disney princesses who have a "perfect" (but unreal) body and face. But that's not all. They color her, read books about her, and watch movies about her. The message they get is that one body and face type is considered beautiful. Anything different is ugly.
- More and more women wear fake nails, fake eyelashes, & hair extensions, not to mention the fakeness of make-up, and the materialism of jewelry and expensive clothing.
- Popular media displays predominantly skinny, beautiful women.
- We look around and see that tattoos and body piercings are commonplace.
- At the pools and water parks, girls and women wearing bikinis are everywhere.
- More and more men and women are getting plastic surgery, implants, and augmentations.
- People go to the gym to work on getting and maintaining healthy bodies, but put far less time and effort into working on their spirits.
- Many turn to tobacco, drugs, and alcohol as a source of pleasure.
- Immorality, promiscuity and infidelity are justified and even normalized
Our children are not blind to all of this. They see a lot of it and are undoubtedly influenced. We cannot sit back and let them think that these things are okay and normal. As parents, we can and must be a voice of truth for them.
So, how do we teach our children the truth about their bodies? For me, those teaching moments are usually informal. The opportunity presents itself by something that we encounter. On the way home from the water park, we have a discussion about the importance of modesty. And when they dress, we encourage modesty. When a child asks us why "that lady" had a tattoo, we explain why she may have made that decision, but then we teach her the Lord's standard about keeping our bodies clean and pure. When we get a chance to talk about their dolls, we remind them that most bodies don't really look like that.
Last year our 4-year-old daughter stared into the mirror and in frustration exclaimed that she hated her nose and ears. I was shocked and unsure what to say, and very mad at Barbie. My compliment of her beauty was not convincing. She ran out of the room because she could not stand to look in the mirror. Over the following weeks, she voiced her concerns a few more times. I was heartbroken, and completely unsure what to say.
So I prayed and prayed for days, asking God for help to address it correctly. As I pondered, I was filled with ideas of what I could say. A couple days later, I was given an opportunity to address the issue. I taught her about the creation of our spirits and bodies, and of a loving Heavenly Father who made her just the way He wanted her. I told her how excited she was before this life when she learned that she would get to come down to earth and have a body. I reminded her that the most important beauty comes from within as we love others. And I sincerely complimented her inner beauty. Then I reassured her of the outer beauty she has been blessed with. I gave her examples of people who have disabilities, but are still so grateful for their bodies. She listened intently to it all, and I could tell that her opinion had been altered. She hasn't mentioned her concerns again.
I am grateful for the power that comes when we teach our children eternal truths.
What insights or examples do you have about teaching your children the truth about their bodies?
*image found on FreeDigitalPhotos.net