Sleep as a Foundation

It’s widely believed that sleep is the foundation of our health. If we lack quality sleep our ability to reason and navigate difficult decisions greatly diminishes. There isn’t a single organ in our body or process in our brain that isn’t optimally enhanced by sleep or negatively affected by a loss of sleep. Lack of sleep today is sometimes viewed as honorable. In fact, the world health organization has declared a sleep loss epidemic across industrial nations. Here are a couple of serious effects poor sleep will have according to a researcher at Johns Hopkins:

Increased risk of high blood pressure. Due to hormone changes, cravings for sugar and starchy foods increases. A 48% increase in heart disease. 3x more likely to catch a cold. You develop a higher risk for depression, irritability, anxiety, and forgetfulness. The list goes on… but this paints the picture of how important sleep is to the human body. And how there are consequences for not getting enough sleep.

Sleep until recently was hardly understood and even today, we’re just beginning to crack the code. There are aspects to health that we’ve learned in society that are beginning to be widely accepted and understood. The more we learn about the human body, the more we’re able to make informed decisions that will help us fight off unnecessary illness. However, knowing everything we’re able to learn about health doesn’t mean we’ll be immune to disease, infections, or illness. It does however mean that we’ll be better equipped to protect ourselves from self imposed health problems. 

Faith as a Foundation

A similar concept is true in relation to faith. The more we learn through faith, the better equipped we’ll be to make informed decisions that will help us fight off unnecessary spiritual disease, infections, or illness. Through an understanding and practice of faith and its power we are better equipped to protect ourselves from self-imposed spiritual disease.

For most of the world’s history, sleep was barely understood and even today is still somewhat of a mystery. I don’t know for sure but my guess is that today there are more people questioning the validity and importance of faith, similar to the lack of understanding of sleep and the dismissal of its importance.

Similar to how sleep is the foundation to our physical health, faith is the foundation to our spiritual health. Strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, faith comes by righteousness (or practice). This divine principle is outlined and explained with precision throughout the Book of Mormon.

In Moroni Chapter 10:20 we read

“Wherefore, there must be afaith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope…” and moving on to verse 22 – “And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in adespair…”

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, there would be no hope. Paul teaches in 1st Corinthians 15:14

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 

There would be no significance of life, no exaltation, no reunion of families, and no lasting joy. 

But there was an atonement, the price has been paid in full through our mediator and Savior, Jesus Christ. And through faith, we have the power to take action, believe, and do.  

Lehi, while knowing his time in this probationary state was coming to an end, provides a powerful and prophetic witness to his son Jacob, he states in 2nd nephi 2:9 

“Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make aintercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.”

We have been granted the privilege of exercising faith in a Savior who has taken upon himself what we were unable to, and act as our mediator, allowing us to be perfected through him. 

For those of us who practice and understand faith in the degree we’re able to, it should be our focus to show gratitude for all we’ve been given and may be given. Knowing clearly that all we have (seen and unseen), is derived through a loving father’s gift of his Son. And that through that Atonement of Christ, we may more clearly find gratitude in every circumstance. 

The following is story recounted by President Thomas S. Monson. 

I share with you an account of one family which was able to find blessings in the midst of serious challenges. This is an account I read many years ago and have kept because of the message it conveys. It was written by Gordon Green and appeared in an American magazine over 50 years ago.

Gordon tells how he grew up on a farm in Canada, where he and his siblings had to hurry home from school while the other children played ball and went swimming. Their father, however, had the capacity to help them understand that their work amounted to something. This was especially true after harvesttime when the family celebrated Thanksgiving, for on that day their father gave them a great gift. He took an inventory of everything they had.

On Thanksgiving morning he would take them to the cellar with its barrels of apples, bins of beets, carrots packed in sand, and mountains of sacked potatoes as well as peas, corn, string beans, jellies, strawberries, and other preserves which filled their shelves. He had the children count everything carefully. Then they went out to the barn and figured how many tons of hay there were and how many bushels of grain in the granary. They counted the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and geese. Their father said he wanted to see how they stood, but they knew he really wanted them to realize on that feast day how richly God had blessed them and had smiled upon all their hours of work. Finally, when they sat down to the feast their mother had prepared, the blessings were something they felt.

Gordon indicated, however, that the Thanksgiving he remembered most thankfully was the year they seemed to have nothing for which to be grateful.

The year started off well: they had leftover hay, lots of seed, four litters of pigs, and their father had a little money set aside so that someday he could afford to buy a hay loader—a wonderful machine most farmers just dreamed of owning. It was also the year that electricity came to their town—although not to them because they couldn’t afford it.

One night when Gordon’s mother was doing her big wash, his father stepped in and took his turn over the washboard and asked his wife to rest and do her knitting. He said, “You spend more time doing the wash than sleeping. Do you think we should break down and get electricity?” Although elated at the prospect, she shed a tear or two as she thought of the hay loader that wouldn’t be bought.

So the electrical line went up their lane that year. Although it was nothing fancy, they acquired a washing machine that worked all day by itself and brilliant lightbulbs that dangled from each ceiling. There were no more lamps to fill with oil, no more wicks to cut, no more sooty chimneys to wash. The lamps went quietly off to the attic.

The coming of electricity to their farm was almost the last good thing that happened to them that year. Just as their crops were starting to come through the ground, the rains started. When the water finally receded, there wasn’t a plant left anywhere. They planted again, but more rains beat the crops into the earth. Their potatoes rotted in the mud. They sold a couple of cows and all the pigs and other livestock they had intended to keep, getting very low prices for them because everybody else had to do the same thing. All they harvested that year was a patch of turnips which had somehow weathered the storms.

Then it was Thanksgiving again. Their mother said, “Maybe we’d better forget it this year. We haven’t even got a goose left.”

On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing. When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried, and then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.

The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:

“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. …

“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. …

“… [Our] home …, for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”

Showing Gratitude

The ability to think, feel, and act in gratitude is a testimony of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When we lack gratitude due to particular circumstances we’re faced with, are we adequately exercising faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ? Are we lacking in obedience (through faith) to true principles when we feel cheated, animosity, or have a general ungratefulness for our current circumstance? The application of faith may not remove an obstacle right now but it will prove us worthy to feel the warm and embracing spirit that testifies of truth, purity, and goodwill. 

President Spencer W. Kimball testified:

“Is there not wisdom in [Heavenly Father] giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

“If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.”

When we recognize all of the gifts we’ve been given through the lense of faithfulness, that in and through our Savior, Jesus Christ we may be perfected… we might then find long lasting, eternal joy. We’ll be able to see each and every gift we’ve been given with clarity. 

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning boys. How’s the water?’ – The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “what is water?”

For us the water is all of the gifts we’ve been given through the Gospel. We are completely immersed with good things. Sometimes we don’t see it but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. We live by it, we survive through it whether we understand it or not. As we open our hearts through faith (a principle of power), we’ll more clearly see why Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, and why obedience to the principles of the gospel will bring greater joy (or a clearer understanding of the blessings wrought through the infinite and eternal Atonement of Jesus Christ). 

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