Viewpoint: The Savior Nourishes and Heals Our Spirits

Contributed By From the Church News

  • 13 September 2013

The Savior Himself said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

“May you constantly nourish your testimonies that they might be a protection to you.” —President Thomas S. Monson 

In 1939 a second-year surgical resident at Boston City Hospital decided to investigate the effect of vitamin C deficiency on wound healing.

Believing that the study should involve at least three subjects, Dr. John Crandon committed to removing vitamin C from his own diet and paid two teenagers to do the same. Soon, however, the experiment had only one volunteer, as the youths were spotted drinking orange juice.

Still Dr. Crandon persevered, eating a diet devoid of vitamin C in the hospital cafeteria and at a nearby delicatessen.

Dr. Crandon found that vitamin C was absent in his plasma at 41 days and in his white cells at 82 days. At day 90, he underwent surgery, removing a small sample of muscle in his back to test wound healing. A biopsy 10 days later, however, revealed normal wound healing.

Nevertheless, he remained on the diet. After three to four months, fatigue developed. At day 134 he noticed changes to his skin; at day 155 his systolic blood pressure dropped; at day 162 he began bleeding under the skin on his lower legs; and at day 180 he collapsed and momentarily lost consciousness.

At day 182 he underwent a repeat incision on his back; a biopsy of the site 10 days later showed no healing. At that point, while remaining on his diet, Dr. Crandon began receiving daily intravenous vitamin C. A repeat biopsy 10 days later showed normal healing.

His experience thus proved that vitamin C deficiency impairs wound healing and repletion of the vitamin corrects the problem. (See Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dec. 1999).

Vitamin C deficiency has long been called scurvy.

Scurvy has been the source of countless deaths throughout history, principally affecting those unable to obtain fresh food—including sailors out at sea or entire nations caught in famine or war.

Scurvy is one example of illnesses that can occur when our bodies are deprived of essential nourishment. But the lesson has other applications. The same effort and nourishment that we give our bodies also has to occur with our spirits.

“Now the spirit, as well as the body, is in need of constant nourishment. Yesterday’s meal is not enough to sustain today’s needs,” said President Ezra Taft Benson in his October 1984 general conference address (“A New Witness for Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 6).

The manual Teaching, No Greater Call teaches Latter-day Saints that “our souls are nourished by whatever speaks of Christ and leads us to Him, whether it is written in the scriptures, spoken by latter-day prophets, or taught by other humble servants of God. The Savior Himself said, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst’ (John 6:35)” ([1999], 5).

The Savior provides spiritual strength. The Savior provides spiritual peace. The Savior provides spiritual hope. His love, known as charity, surpasses all other.

The spiritual illnesses from which He offers relief are every bit as real and as life-threatening to us as scurvy. In their milder forms, they include loneliness, sorrow, pain, and sin. More advanced illnesses would better be described as isolation, despair, anguish, and repeated sin.

Just as Dr. Crandon discovered early signs, symptoms, and warnings of scurvy, spiritual illnesses also have warnings, including the frequency of our personal prayer and scripture study. Do we keep the Sabbath day holy? Do we magnify our Church callings? Do we allow spiritual poison into our lives by choosing inappropriate media?

The Savior is the answer to all of these maladies.

The New Testament records an account of Jesus Christ with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The Savior teaches the woman that He is the source of everlasting life. “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13–14).

President Harold B. Lee often taught the importance of nourishing ourselves spiritually. “I beg of you … to live each day so that you might receive from the fountain of light [the] nourishment and strength sufficient to every day’s need,” he said. “Take time to be holy each day of your lives” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 175).

Today, thanks to medical breakthroughs by doctors such as John Crandon, few people die of diseases like scurvy. We understand that our bodies need essential nourishment.

Our spirits are no different.

In Moroni 6:4 we read that after baptism, we are numbered among the people of the Church of Christ, that we “might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God.”

Just as a vitamin C deficiency impairs wound healing and repletion of the vitamin corrects the problem, our spirits need constant nourishment to heal all forms of spiritual illness.

In the closing moments of his April 2009 general conference address, President Thomas S. Monson asked each of us to remember this valuable principle: “May you constantly nourish your testimonies that they might be a protection to you” (“Until We Meet Again”).