Daily showers and toothbrushing.
Weekly nail clipping and hair plucking.
A spritz of perfume…
…or body spray applied fire hose-style.
We all have our own personal hygiene regimen.
Wash, scrub, moisturize, floss. We do it over and over on repeat.
But what’s the purpose?
To not be gross, sure. But the real motivation behind hygiene is to:
- Stay healthy
- Prevent sickness
Those are the real driving forces that motivate us to wash our hands, do laundry, and sneeze into a tissue (even when we’re tempted not to for whatever reason).
Can we look at our spiritual life through the lens of a hygiene routine? You know me, I’m gonna try.
What Is Spiritual Hygiene?
For my purposes here, it’s the regular tasks that I do to keep myself in good spiritual shape. Things like reading scripture, praying, fasting, confessing, attending church, fellowshipping, listening to hymns, and visiting the sick. (In the past, I’ve called these “spiritual disciplines.”)
My dentist encourages me to daily floss my teeth. Ps. 61:8 encourages me to “daily perform my vows.”
The promises I made at the water’s edge:
- Repent of my sins
- Serve God to the best of my ability
Those are my vows in a nutshell. Everything in my spiritual hygiene routine should help me carry out those vows on a daily basis.
I do some acts of spiritual hygiene every day, such as reading scripture and praying. Other things I do weekly, such as attending church and fellowshiping. Some things may happen less often, such as visiting the sick, but it’s still pretty regular (not like a Bigfoot sighting).
What’s the purpose? To stay spiritually healthy and prevent disease of the soul.
Spiritual Hygiene in Scripture
It’s fun to stretch a metaphor, but are there any scriptures in the Bible or Book of Mormon that point to a regular cadence of spiritual disciplines?
Yes! First off, back in Moses’s day, God instituted a ton of routines that were meant to keep the Israelites spiritually on track. Here are some examples:
- Daily burnt offerings in the tabernacle
- A weekly sabbath to rest and focus on God
- Seasonal feasts to reinforce spiritual truths
- And lots, lots more…
Here are some specific scriptures that mention things we can do every day to stay spiritually strong:
- Ps. 86:3, Mosiah 4:11: Cry out to God in prayer in the name of Jesus
- Acts 17:11: Read and study scripture
- Luke 9:23, 1 Cor. 15:31: Carry our cross (burdens) and die to self
- Prov. 8:34: Watch at wisdom’s doorway
- Acts 2:46: Meet together with our brothers and sisters to learn and grow
- Acts 5:42: Teach and testify of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him
- Heb. 3:13, Alma 31:10: Encourage and admonish our brothers and sisters to keep the faith
- Alma 34:38: Give thanks to God
Wow. If I did each of these every day (with the regularity of my morning shower) my life would improve quickly.
Spiritual Hygiene Is, Shall We Say, Important
Every 10-year-old boy I’ve ever met thinks that personal hygiene is largely optional. “Should I shower today? I’ll just shake my hair out real quick. Ah, here are some clothes on the floor for me to wear.” Sooner or later, a well-meaning mentor in his life explains that washing his body, combing his hair, and choosing clean clothes are not optional. They’re necessary. Every day.
Same with sin—daily buildup is inevitable. Sorrows weigh us down. Satan’s fiery darts sting. Terrible thoughts run like a filthy river through our mind.
We can’t let that garbage stay. We’ve got to take out the trash if we’re going to remain spiritually healthy and maintain a disease-free soul. Acts of spiritual hygiene wash away the ick.
Go On, It’s Good for You
My husband and I are in the thick of teaching our small sons to be clean humans. Don’t smear your greasy hands on the dining table at mealtime. Get your finger out of your nose. Don’t sneeze in my face. Sometimes, our little boys obey automatically. Other times, it’s a fight.
The thing is…being hygienic is right regardless of how my kids feel about it, whether it’s easy or hard.
Some goes for me and my spiritual health.
Sometimes spiritual hygiene is effortless. I don’t even think about it. I just automatically do it because it’s a no-brainer. Like washing my hands after going to the bathroom. Like praying before bed.
Sometimes I even look forward to it. Like anticipating a hot shower after getting really sweaty and dirty. Similarly, I look forward to certain church events with lots of joy and enthusiasm.
Other times, it’s a pain. Like flossing before bed when I’m bone-tired and wanna flop on my mattress and snore. There are times when I drag my feet on the straight and narrow, too.
What’s the point? No matter how I feel about it, it’s necessary.
Wow, Your Soul Is Sparkly Fresh!
Have you ever had someone sniff you and say, “Wow, you smell great”? (Always nice!) Similarly, we want others to detect the scent of the Holy Spirit on us. We want them to exclaim, “Wow, how kind of you!” and “I guess there is some goodness in this world…”
When we have good spiritual hygiene, we invite people to draw nearer. Who knows? They might discover they really like clean living.
When we have good spiritual hygiene, we maintain a state of robust spiritual health, with fewer highs and lows. We aren’t on top of a spiritual mountain one day and suffering in the spiritual hospital the next. This produces a steadiness of soul that we often simply call “peace.” Plus, we’re fortified against spiritual diseases that want to take hold of us and bring about our eternal death (and sneakily infect others around us in order to result in the same fate).
Finally, a strong spiritual hygiene routine keeps us in a state of spiritual readiness. For whatever assignment God has next.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.