When the weather will permit, all who can possibly do so ought to walk in the open air every day, summer and winter. But the clothing should be suitable for the exercise, and the feet should be well protected. A walk, even in winter, would be more beneficial to the health than all the medicine the doctors may prescribe. For those who can walk, walking is preferable to riding. The muscles and veins are enabled better to perform their work. There will be increased vitality, which is so necessary to health. The lungs will have needful action, for it is impossible to go out in the bracing air of a winter’s morning without inflating the lungs.
Riches and idleness are thought by some to be blessings indeed. But when some persons have acquired wealth, or inherited it unexpectedly, their active habits have been broken up, their time is unemployed, they live at ease, and their usefulness seems at an end; they become restless, anxious, and unhappy, and their lives soon close. Those who are always busy, and go cheerfully about the performance of their daily tasks, are the most happy and healthy. The rest and composure of night brings to their wearied frames unbroken slumber. The Lord knew what was for man’s happiness when He gave him work to do. The sentence that man must toil for his bread, and the promise of future happiness and glory, came from the same throne. Both are blessings. Women of fashion are worthless for all the good ends of human life. They possess but little force of character, have but little moral will or physical energy. Their highest aim is to be admired. They die prematurely and are not missed, for they have blessed no one.
Exercise will aid the work of digestion. To walk out after a meal, hold the head erect, put back the shoulders, and exercise moderately, will be a great benefit. The mind will be diverted from self to the beauties of nature. The less the attention is called to the stomach after a meal, the better. If you are in constant fear that your food will hurt you, it most assuredly will. Forget self, and think of something cheerful.
Many labor under the mistaken idea that if they have taken cold, they must carefully exclude the outside air and increase the temperature of their room until it is excessively hot. The system may be deranged, the pores closed by waste matter, and the internal organs suffering more or less inflammation, because the blood has been chilled back from the surface and thrown upon them. At this time, of all others, the lungs should not be deprived of pure, fresh air. If pure air is ever necessary, it is when any part of the system, as the lungs or stomach, is diseased. Judicious exercise would induce the blood to the surface, and thus relieve the internal organs. Brisk, yet not violent exercise in the open air, with cheerfulness of spirits, will promote the circulation, giving a healthful glow to the skin, and sending the blood, vitalized by the pure air, to the extremities. The diseased stomach will find relief by exercise. Physicians frequently advise invalids to visit foreign countries, to go to the springs, or to ride upon the ocean, in order to regain health; when, in nine cases out of ten, if they would eat temperately and engage in healthful exercise with a cheerful spirit, they would regain health and save time and money. Exercise, and a free and abundant use of the air and sunlight,—blessings which Heaven has freely bestowed upon all,—would give life and strength to the emaciated invalid.
A large class of women are content to hover over the stove, breathing impure air for one half or three fourths of the time, until the brain is heated and half benumbed. They should go out and exercise every day, even though some things indoors have to be neglected. They need the cool air to quiet their distracted brains. They need not go to their neighbors to gossip, but should make it their object to do some good, working to the end of benefiting others. Then they will be an example to others and receive real benefit themselves.
Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation. Special attention should be given to the extremities, that they may be as thoroughly clothed as the chest and the region over the heart, where is the greatest amount of heat. Parents who dress their children with the extremities naked, or nearly so, are sacrificing the health and lives of their children to fashion. If these parts are not so warm as the body, the circulation is not equalized. When the extremities, which are remote from the vital organs, are not properly clad, the blood is driven to the head, causing headache or nosebleed; or there is a sense of fullness about the chest, producing cough or palpitation of the heart, on account of too much blood in that locality; or the stomach has too much blood, causing indigestion.
In order to follow the fashions, mothers dress their children with limbs nearly naked; and the blood is chilled back from its natural course and thrown upon the internal organs, breaking up the circulation and producing disease. The limbs were not formed by our Creator to endure exposure, as was the face. The Lord provided the face with an immense circulation, because it must be exposed. He provided, also, large veins and nerves for the limbs and feet, to contain a large amount of the current of human life, that the limbs might be uniformly as warm as the body. They should be so thoroughly clothed as to induce the blood to the extremities. Satan invented the fashions which leave the limbs exposed, chilling back the life current from its original course. And parents bow at the shrine of fashion and so clothe their children that the nerves and veins become contracted and do not answer the purpose that God designed they should. The result is, habitually cold feet and hands. Those parents who follow fashion instead of reason will have an account to render to God for thus robbing their children of health. Even life itself is frequently sacrificed to the god of fashion.
Children who are clothed according to fashion cannot endure exposure in the open air unless the weather is mild. Therefore parents and children remain in ill-ventilated rooms, fearing the atmosphere out of doors; and well they may, with their fashionable style of clothing. If they would clothe themselves sensibly, and have moral courage to take their position on the side of right, they would not endanger health by going out summer and winter, and exercising freely in the open air. But if left undisturbed to their own course, many would soon complete the sacrifice of their own lives and those of their children. And those who are compelled to have the care of them become sufferers. The invalid who is controlled by imagination is to be dreaded. All who live in the house with her become enfeebled. The husband loses his nervous energy, and becomes diseased because, a considerable part of the time, he is robbed by his wife of the vital air of heaven. But the poor children, who think that mother knows best what is right, are the greatest sufferers. The mother’s wrong course has enfeebled herself, and, if chilly, she bundles up in more wrappings, and provides the same for the children, thinking that they also must be chilly. The doors and windows are closed, and the temperature of the room increased. The children are frequently puny and weakly, and do not possess a high degree of moral worth. Husband and children are thus shut up for the winter, slaves to the notions of a woman controlled by imagination, and sometimes having a set will. The members of such a family are daily martyrs. They are sacrificing health to the caprice of an imaginative, complaining, murmuring woman. They are deprived, in a great measure, of air, which will invigorate them and give them energy and vitality.
Those who do not use their limbs every day will realize a weakness when they do attempt to exercise. The veins and muscles are not in a condition to perform their work and keep all the living machinery in healthful action, each organ in the system doing its part. The limbs will strengthen with use. Moderate exercise every day will impart strength to the muscles, which without exercise become flabby and enfeebled. By active exercise in the open air every day, the liver, kidneys, and lungs also will be strengthened to perform their work. Bring to your aid the power of the will, which will resist cold and will give energy to the nervous system. In a short time you will so realize the benefit of exercise and pure air that you would not live without these blessings. Your lungs, deprived of air, will be like a hungry person deprived of food. Indeed, we can live longer without food than without air, which is the food that God has provided for the lungs. Therefore do not regard it as an enemy, but as a precious blessing from God.
If invalids allow themselves to encourage a diseased imagination, they will not only waste their own energies, but the vitality of those who have the care of them. I advise invalid sisters who have accustomed themselves to a great amount of clothing, to lay it off gradually. Some of you live merely to eat and breathe, and fail to answer the purpose for which you were created. You should have an exalted aim in life and seek to be useful and efficient in your own families and to become useful members of society. You should not require the attention of the family to be centered upon you, nor should you draw largely upon the sympathies of others. Do your part in giving love and sympathy to the unfortunate, remembering that they have woes and trials peculiar to themselves. See if you cannot, by words of sympathy and love, lighten their burdens. In blessing others, you will realize a blessing yourselves.
Those who, so far as it is possible, engage in the work of doing good to others by giving practical demonstration of their interest in them are not only relieving the ills of human life in helping them bear their burdens, but are at the same time contributing largely to their own health of soul and body. Doing good is a work that benefits both giver and receiver. If you forget self in your interest for others, you gain a victory over your infirmities. The satisfaction you will realize in doing good will aid you greatly in the recovery of the healthy tone of the imagination. The pleasure of doing good animates the mind and vibrates through the whole body. While the faces of benevolent men are lighted up with cheerfulness, and their countenances express the moral elevation of the mind, those of selfish, stingy men are dejected, cast down, and gloomy. Their moral defects are seen in their countenances. Selfishness and self-love stamp their own image upon the outward man. That person who is actuated by true disinterested benevolence is a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; while the selfish and avaricious have cherished their selfishness until it has withered their social sympathies, and their countenances reflect the image of the fallen foe, rather than that of purity and holiness.
Invalids, I advise you to venture something. Arouse your will power, and at least make a trial of this matter. Withdraw your thoughts and affections from yourselves. Walk out by faith. Are you inclined to center your thoughts upon yourselves, fearing to exercise, and fearing that if you expose yourself to the air you will lose your life; resist these thoughts and feelings. Do not yield to your diseased imagination. If you fail in the trial, you can but die. And what if you do die? One life might better be lost than many sacrificed. The whims and notions which you cherish are not only destroying your own life, but injuring those whose lives are more valuable than yours. But the course we recommend will not deprive you of life or injure you. You will derive benefit from it. You need not be rash or reckless; commence moderately at first to have more air and exercise, and continue your reform until you become useful, a blessing to your families and to all around you. Let your judgment be convinced that exercise, sunlight, and air are the blessings which Heaven has provided to make the sick well and to keep in health those who are not sick. God does not deprive you of these free, Heaven-bestowed blessings, but you have punished yourselves by closing your doors against them. Properly used, these simple yet powerful agents will assist nature to overcome real difficulties, if such exist, and will give healthy tone to the mind and vigor to the body.
In this age of the world, when vice and fashion control men and women, Christians should possess virtuous characters and a large share of good common sense. If this were the case, countenances which are now clouded, bearing the marks of disease and depravity, would be hopeful and cheerful, lighted up by true goodness and a clear conscience.
The do-nothing system is the greatest curse that has befallen our race. Children so unfortunate as to be brought up and educated by mothers who do not possess true moral worth, but who have diseased imaginations and suffer imaginary ailments, need the sympathy, patient instruction, and tender care of all who can help them. The wants of these children are not met, and their education is such as to unfit them for useful members of society while they live, and to bring them to an untimely grave. If their lives are protracted, they will never forget the lessons taught them by the mother. The errors of her life have been impressed upon them by her words and her actions, and in many cases they will follow in her footsteps. Her mantle falls like a dark pall upon her poor children. Her inconsistent course has given the stamp of her character to their lives, and they cannot readily overcome the education of their childhood.
The tenderest earthly tie is that between the mother and her child. The child is more readily impressed by the life and example of the mother than by that of the father; for a stronger and more tender bond of union unites them. Mothers have a heavy responsibility. If I could impress upon them the work which they can do in molding the minds of their children I should be happy.
If parents themselves would obtain knowledge, and feel the importance of putting it to a practical use in the education of their dear children, we should see a different order of things among youth and children. The children need to be instructed in regard to their own bodies. There are but few youth who have any definite knowledge of the mysteries of human life. They know but little about the living machinery. Says David: “I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Teach your children to study from cause to effect; show them that if they violate the laws of their being they must pay the penalty by suffering disease. If in your effort you can see no special improvement, be not discouraged; patiently instruct, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. If by this means you have succeeded in forgetting yourself, you have taken one step in the right direction. Press on until the victory is gained. Continue to teach your children in regard to their own bodies and how to take care of them. Recklessness in regard to bodily health tends to recklessness in moral character.
Do not neglect to teach your children how to cook. In so doing, you impart to them principles which they must have in their religious education. In giving your children lessons in physiology, and teaching them how to cook with simplicity and yet with skill, you are laying the foundation for the most useful branches of education. Skill is required to make good light bread. There is religion in good cooking, and I question the religion of that class who are too ignorant and too careless to learn to cook.
We see sallow complexions and groaning dyspeptics wherever we go. When we sit at the tables, and eat the food cooked in the same manner as it has been for months, and perhaps years, I wonder that these persons are alive. Bread and biscuit are yellow with saleratus. This resort to saleratus was to save a little care; in consequence of forgetfulness, the bread is often allowed to become sour before baking, and to remedy the evil a large portion of saleratus is added, which only makes it totally unfit for the human stomach. Saleratus in any form should not be introduced into the stomach, for the effect is fearful. It eats the coatings of the stomach, causes inflammation, and frequently poisons the entire system. Some plead: “I cannot make good bread or gems unless I use soda, or saleratus.” You surely can if you become a scholar, and will learn. Is not the health of your family of sufficient value to inspire you with ambition to learn how to cook and how to eat?
That which we eat cannot be converted into good blood unless it is of a proper quality, simple and nutritious. The stomach can never convert sour bread into sweet. Food poorly prepared is not nutritious and cannot make good blood. These things which fret and derange the stomach will have a benumbing influence upon the finer feelings of the heart. Many who adopt the health reform complain that it does not agree with them; but, after sitting at their tables, I come to the decision that it is not the health reform that is at fault, but the poorly prepared food. Health reformers, above all others, should be careful to shun extremes. The body must have sufficient nourishment. We cannot subsist upon air merely; neither can we retain health unless we have nourishing food. Food should be prepared in good order so that it is palatable. Mothers should be practical physiologists, that they may teach their children to know themselves and to possess moral courage to carry out correct principles in defiance of the health-and-life-destroying fashions. To needlessly transgress the laws of our being is a violation of the law of God.
Poor cookery is slowly wearing away the life energies of thousands. It is dangerous to health and life to eat at some tables the heavy, sour bread and the other food prepared in keeping with it. Mothers, instead of seeking to give your daughters a musical education, instruct them in these useful branches which have the closest connection with life and health. Teach them all the mysteries of cooking. Show them that this is a part of their education and essential for them in order to become Christians. Unless the food is prepared in a wholesome, palatable manner, it cannot be converted into good blood to build up the wasting tissues. Your daughters may love music, and this may be all right; it may add to the happiness of the family; but the knowledge of music without the knowledge of cookery is not worth much. When your daughters have families of their own, an understanding of music and fancy work will not provide for the table a well-cooked dinner, prepared with nicety, so that they will not blush to place it before their most-esteemed friends. Mothers, yours is a sacred work. May God help you to take it up with His glory in view and work earnestly, patiently, and lovingly for the present and future good of your children, having an eye single to the glory of God.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 529-538