Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 19: Take Time to Be Holy

“Chapter 19: Take Time to Be Holy,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2011), 175–84

“Chapter 19,” Teachings: Harold B. Lee, 175–84

Chapter 19

Take Time to Be Holy

How can we labor each day to feed ourselves spiritually?


President Harold B. Lee often taught the importance of nourishing ourselves spiritually. He said that our bodies can be compared to fortresses that must constantly be kept well supplied in order to remain strong during times of attack by an enemy.

“The enemies of your own human ‘fortress’ are both physical and spiritual,” he explained. They may include “an unexpected sorrow, a family disgrace, a shock in your finances, the [disloyalty] of a supposed friend, or a secret sin against the laws of God.” When such things happen in our lives, we require “an additional supply from spiritual sources. … If you have lost contact with the Church by carelessness and your faith in God has dwindled, if you have not understood by study and learning the way to a forgiveness of your transgression, or if you have not obtained through prayerful understanding the assurance of a future reward for sacrifices and pain, then you have cut your spiritual supply lines and the strength that your soul needs is sapped. … Your fortress is doomed to certain capture by Satan’s forces. You are then as the foolish man who built his house upon the sands, and when the storms come great will be the fall thereof. [See Matthew 7:24–27.]

“And so 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. Take time to be holy each day of your lives.”1

Teachings of Harold B. Lee

How can we nourish our spiritual selves?

Within every one of you there dwells a spirit which is the exact counterpart of your full-grown physical body. To keep your physical body in vigor and health, food and drink must be provided at frequent intervals. Every germ cell of your bodies must have a nerve connection in order to maintain the vital life processes. Failure to maintain these nerve connections or to supply the required sustenance brings decay, stagnation, sickness and finally death to the physical body.

Your spiritual body needs nourishment at frequent intervals in order to assure its health and vigor. Earthly food does not satisfy this need. Food to satisfy your spiritual needs must come from spiritual sources. Principles of eternal truth, as contained in the gospel, and the proper exercise by engaging in spiritual activities are essential to the satisfying of your spiritual selves. Vital processes of the spirit are likewise maintained only by intelligent connection with spiritual fountains of truth. Spiritual sickness and death, which mean separation from the fountain of spiritual light, are sure to follow the severance of your connection with the spiritual nerve center, the Church of Jesus Christ.2

We develop our spiritual selves by practice. … We must train our spiritual selves with the same care, if we are to be fully developed, as we train our physical bodies. We must have daily exercise by our spirits by prayer, by doing daily good deeds, by sharing with others. We must feed our spirits daily by studying the scriptures every day, by [family home evening], by attendance at meetings, by the partaking of the sacrament. We must avoid harmful poisons which we have when we break one of God’s commandments. It’s just like poison to our spiritual bodies. …

Our spiritual checkups are when we are brought face to face with God’s spiritual doctors—our bishops, our stake presidents, and occasionally with the General Authorities in interviews which are always done for the purpose of helping to prepare us for spiritual advancement. Sometimes there have to be, as a result of these interviews, some major operations on our spiritual selves.3

All that is contrary to the will of God is as poison to your spiritual life and must be shunned as you would avoid labeled poisons in your medicine cabinets at home.4

The righteous man strives for self-improvement knowing that he has daily need of repentance for his misdeeds or his neglect. He is not so much concerned about what he can get but more about how much he can give to others, knowing that along that course only can he find true happiness. He endeavors to make each day his masterpiece so that at night’s close he can witness in his soul and to his God that whatever has come to his hand that day, he has done to the best of his ability.5

How does keeping the Sabbath day holy nourish the spirit?

Sunday is more than a day of rest from the ordinary occupations of the week. It is not to be considered as merely a day of lazy indolence and idleness or for physical pleasures and indulgences. It is a feastday for your spirit bodies. The place of spiritual feasting is in the house of worship. Here you find fellowship with those who like yourselves are seeking spiritual nourishment. You are enjoined to sing and pray and pay your devotions to the Most High, and partake of the holy sacrament as a reminder of your obligations as a son or daughter of God here in mortality and in remembrance of the atonement of the Savior and to pledge again your loyalty to his name. …

Whether at home or in church, your thoughts and your conduct should be always in harmony with the spirit and purpose of the Sabbath. Places of amusement and recreation, while at proper times may serve a needed end, are not conducive of spiritual growth and such places will not keep you “unspotted from the world” but will rather deny you the “fulness of the earth” promised to those who comply with the law of the Sabbath. [See D&C 59:9, 16.] You who make the violation of the Sabbath a habit, by your failure to “keep it holy,” are losing a soul full of joy in return for a thimble full of pleasure. You are giving too much attention to your physical desires at the expense of your spiritual health. The Sabbath breaker shows early the signs of his weakening in the faith by neglecting his daily family prayers, by fault-finding, by failing to pay his tithes and his offerings; and such a one whose mind begins to be darkened because of spiritual starvation soon begins also to have doubts and fears that make him unfit for spiritual learning or advancement in righteousness. These are the signs of spiritual decay and spiritual sickness that may only be cured by proper spiritual feeding.

May we not hope that in addition to our worshipful activities on the Lord’s Day we might also on that day reduce the drudgery of the home to a minimum, and that outside the home only essential chores will be performed. Make this a day of prayerful, thoughtful study of the scriptures and other good books. While filled with the joy of the Sabbath, write a letter to your sweetheart or an absent loved one or a friend who may need your spiritual strength. Make your homes the places for the singing and playing of beautiful music in harmony with the spirit of the day. At evening’s close as you gather at your fireside with the family alone or with friends, discuss the precious truths of the gospel and close with the benediction of family prayer. My experience has taught me that the prompting of the conscience to a faithful Church member is the safest indicator as to that which is contrary to the spirit of worship on the Sabbath Day.

… But do not suppose that a strict observance of the law of the Sabbath is alone sufficient to keep your spiritual bodies in good health. Every day of the week must give nourishment to your spiritual selves. Family and secret prayers, the reading of the scriptures, love in your homes and unselfish daily service to others are manna from heaven to feed your souls. Observance of the weekly Family Home Evening is another strong force for righteousness in the home. …

And so I beg of you not to rob your spiritual bodies of that essential strength by breaking the Sabbath Day, but sincerely urge you to live each day so that you might receive from the fountain of light, nourishment and strength sufficient to every day’s need.6

How do fasting and paying fast offerings benefit us spiritually?

I asked myself the question, “What is the law of fasting?” and I found President Joseph F. Smith defining it in these words in which I thought was given a rather excellent interpretation:

“It is, therefore, incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to give to his bishop, on fast day, the food that he or his family would consume for the day, that it may be given to the poor for their benefit and blessing; or, in lieu of the food, that its equivalent amount, or, if the person is wealthy, a liberal donation, in money, be so reserved and dedicated to the poor.” [Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 243.]

And then I asked myself, “What are the blessings the Lord promises us from fasting and paying fast offerings?” President [Heber J.] Grant in an expression which is on record, gave me these answers: first, the financial blessing and next, the spiritual. This is what he said, regarding the financial blessings:

“Let me promise you here today that if the Latter-day Saints will honestly and conscientiously from this day forth, as a people, keep the monthly fast and pay into the hands of their bishops the actual amount that they would have spent for food for the two meals from which they have refrained … we would have all the money necessary to take care of all the idle and all the poor.” [Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 123.]

Of the spiritual blessings he said this:

“Every living soul among the Latter-day Saints that fasts two meals once a month will be benefited spiritually and be built up in the faith of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—benefited spiritually in a wonderful way.” [Gospel Standards,123.]

As I read that statement, I recalled what the Prophet Isaiah had declared as to the blessings that would come to him who would fast and deal out his bread to the hungry. … Here were four magnificent, spiritual promises that the Lord made to those who would fast and deal out their bread to the hungry; as written in Isaiah, the first promise:

“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.”

Then the Lord promised:

“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.”

And again the Lord promised:

“And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.”

And, finally, this promise:

“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” [Isaiah 58:8–11.]

Those blessings translated into the incidents and the problems of life, are fairly well illustrated in an incident that was related by one of our mission presidents to the General Authorities a few years ago. While we were living through those days of suspense during wartime, this father related this incident:

It was fast day. He had risen early in the morning, the chores were done out on the farm, and he was now spending a few minutes, out in his fields before time to go to the early morning Priesthood meeting. …

This morning as he walked out in the fields, his mind was not particularly on his two sons who were over on the fighting front, but, suddenly, he was stopped as he walked through the fields, by a terrible impression which came upon him, that something was wrong with one of those sons. He turned to go back into the house. He said, “I didn’t just walk, but I ran, and I called my family down into the front room, and said to them, ‘Now, I don’t want any of my family to eat a bite of food today, I want you to fast, and I want you to pray, and I want you to kneel down here with me and have family prayer, because I had an impression out there that something is wrong with our boy over in the war.’”

And so they gathered around and had their morning prayer. They fasted, and they did not stop their fast, but they continued to fast after that day. Ten days of anxiety went by, then there came, through the Red Cross, the word that on that morning (and when they corrected the difference in time, it was the exact moment when that father had that impression), his boy with his buddy had fallen on a “booby-trap” and his buddy had been literally blown to pieces, and this boy had been horribly mangled and had lain at the point of death.

Fasting and prayer—“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here am I.”7

How does meditation bring us closer to the Lord?

President [David O.] McKay said, “We don’t take sufficient time to meditate.” I get up early in the morning … , five o’clock, when my mind and spirit are clear and rested. Then I meditate. You can come closer to the Lord than you imagine when you learn to meditate. Let your spirits be taught by the Spirit.8

The Twelve will not soon forget President David O. McKay’s admonition in our council meeting one morning when he impressed the vital importance of taking time to meditate in order to keep spiritually attuned. … “It’s a great thing to be responsive to the whisperings of the Spirit and we know that when these whisperings come it is a gift and our privilege to have them. They come when we are relaxed and not under pressure of appointments.”

The President then took occasion to relate an experience in the life of Bishop John Wells, formerly a member of the Presiding Bishopric. A son of Bishop Wells was killed in Emigration Canyon on a railroad track. … His boy was run over by a freight train. Sister Wells was inconsolable. She mourned during the three days prior to the funeral, received no comfort at the funeral, and was in a rather serious state of mind. One day soon after the funeral services, while she was lying on her bed relaxed, still mourning, she claims that her son appeared to her and said, “Mother, do not mourn. Do not cry. I am all right.” He told her that she did not understand how the accident happened. He explained that he had given a signal to the engineer to move on and then made the usual effort to catch the railings on the freight train, but as he attempted to do so his foot caught in a root and he failed to catch the hand rail and his body fell under the train. It was clearly an accident. He said that as soon as he realized that he was in another environment he tried to see his father but he could not reach him. His father was so busy with the duties in the office that he could not respond to his call; therefore, he had come to his mother and he said to her, “You tell Father that all is well with me. I want you to not mourn anymore.”

Then President McKay said that the point he had in mind was that when we are relaxed in a private room we are more susceptible to those things, that so far as he was concerned his best thoughts come after he gets up in the morning and is relaxed and thinking about the duties of the day, that impressions come as clearly as if he were to hear a voice and those impressions are right. If we are worried about something and upset in our feelings the inspiration does not come. If we so live that our minds are free from worry and our conscience clear and our feelings are right toward one another, the operation of the spirit of the Lord upon our spirit is as real as when we pick up the telephone; but when they come, note this, we must be brave enough to take the suggested action. …

Let that be something to remember—you do likewise. Take time to meditate. Many times you will be wrestling with problems, the solution of which can be spiritually discerned.9

Don’t get so busy that you don’t have time to meditate. Take the time. The most important testimony does not come by sight, but by the inner witness. Christ may be nearer than we have knowledge. “I am in your midst, but you do not see me. The Holy Ghost bears the sure witness. Mine eyes are upon you. The day cometh when ye shall know that I am.” [See D&C 38:7–8.]10

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • Why must we take time to nurture ourselves spiritually? What can we do each day to develop our spirituality?

  • What can interfere with our efforts to nurture ourselves spiritually?

  • How can we make our home a place that nurtures the spirituality of each family member?

  • In what ways has honoring the Sabbath day helped you to grow spiritually? What activities on the Sabbath help you and your family to maintain a spirit of worship throughout the day? When we violate the Sabbath, why are we “losing a soul full of joy in return for a thimble full of pleasure”?

  • What blessings come to those who fast? (See Isaiah 58:8–11.) How have you seen these blessings fulfilled?

  • What do we learn from the story of Bishop John Wells about the importance of taking time to meditate on spiritual things? In what ways have you been able to incorporate meditation on spiritual things into your life?


  1. Decisions for Successful Living (1973), 149–50.

  2. Decisions for Successful Living, 145.

  3. “Learning the Gospel by Living It,” address to 52nd annual Primary conference, 3 Apr. 1958, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5–7.

  4. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1996), 264.

  5. Stand Ye in Holy Places (1974), 333.

  6. Decisions for Successful Living, 146–50.

  7. “Fast Offerings and the Welfare Plan,” Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1952, 799–801.

  8. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 130.

  9. “With Love Unfeigned,” address to regional representatives’ seminar, 3 Apr. 1969, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5–6.

  10. Address to meeting of Provo Temple workers, 9 July 1972, Historical Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 10.

President Harold B. Lee taught, “Live each day so that you might receive from the fountain of light [the] nourishment and strength sufficient to every day’s need. Take time to be holy each day of your lives.”