Monday, July 13, 2009

He Said: Retire to Thy Bed Early

In Section 88:124 the Lord instructs:
Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
As long as I have been a Latter-day Saint I have considered this to be wise counsel. After only a year I went on a mission where we were expected to arise by 6 am and go to bed by 10 pm. Today it is 6:30am for missionaries and 10:30pm. For most of my life I have gone to bed at the latest around midnight but usually before 11pm.

Wikipedia gives a good overview on the amount of sleep we all need:

The National Sleep Foundation in the United States maintains that seven to nine hours of sleep for adult humans is optimal and that sufficient sleep benefits alertness, memory, problem solving, and overall health, as well as reducing the risk of accidents. A widely publicized 2003 study performed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrated that cognitive performance declines with six or fewer hours of sleep. A University of California, San Diego, psychiatry study of more than one million adults found that people who live the longest self-report sleeping for six to seven hours each night. Another study of sleep duration and mortality risk in women showed similar results. Other studies show that "sleeping more than 7 to 8 hours per day has been consistently associated with increased mortality," though this study suggests the cause is probably other factors such as depression and socioeconomic status, which would correlate statistically. It has been suggested that the correlation between lower sleep hours and reduced morbidity only occurs with those who wake after less sleep naturally, rather than those who use an alarm.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and University College London have found that lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but that too much sleep can also double the risk of death. Professor Francesco Cappuccio said, "Short sleep has been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes, sometimes leading to mortality; but in contrast to the short sleep-mortality association, it appears that no potential mechanisms by which long sleep could be associated with increased mortality have yet been investigated. Some candidate causes for this include depression, low socioeconomic status, and cancer-related fatigue. …In terms of prevention, our findings indicate that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health, and a sustained reduction may predispose to ill health."

It is fascinating that Wikipedia agrees with both parts of the revelation that we shouldn't sleep longer than is needful nor that we should not get enough sleep which is usually considered seven to eight hours for an adult, nine to ten hours for those 5-18.

Outside of the missionary culture I discovered during my seven years at BYU that most members didn't really put a great deal of stock in adhering to this principle of going to bed early and sleeping that much. The majority of roommates and friends burned the midnight oil. They were just warming up by about 10 pm. Most of them were lucky they got about five or six hours sleep every night. I knew many that slept right through 8am classes and even more that worked as student janitors at 4am who either stayed up all night or missed shifts.

The reality is that many Latter-day Saints go on less than eight hours of sleep since we are such busy people. I don't know too many people that go to bed at nine oclock at night. It can be argued that at the time of Joseph Smith they didn't have electric lights nor did people work at different times of the day and night. My father who worked the night shift had to sleep during the day. He never really got his sleep clock in tune with the amount of time he needed to sleep. As he got older he said he slept less because he knew his time was limited.

I know that is a struggle for many Latter-day Saints to get up early in the morning. I remember as a student at BYU that Hugh Nibley told me "I am a late person. I go to bed late at night and get up late in the morning. I don't operate well early in the morning." My own wife seems to go to bed between 1-3am despite getting up around 6:30am every day. She usually cries when I wake her up and says she is tired. I think lack of sleep contributes to her crankiness.

I had a roommate when I first went to BYU who went on about two or three hours of sleep. He was always dragging his behind. After two or three weeks he would crash and sleep an entire day on Saturdays in to Sunday.

Even David O. McKay admits in his book Man May Know for Himself he had difficulty as a teenager with the principle:
I am reminded of the passage from the Doctrine and Covenants, "Retire to thy bed early . . . arise early." Sometimes as boys Thomas E. and I did not retire early. The next morning father would stand at the door upstairs and say, "Come boys, it's time to get up," and we would turn over, hoping for a few more winks; but he would stand there, and say, "Come boys, those who dance must pay the fiddler." Oh, those happy days of youth!

Joseph B. Wirthlin in his book Finding Peace in Our Lives tells us why he considers getting up early of value:
Heed the advice found in the Doctrine and Covenants: "Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124.) The early hours of the morning give us a freshness and a time when we are unencumbered with the cares of the world. It can be a quiet time, a time to become organized and "prepare every needful thing." (D&C 88:119.)
Russell M. Nelson also agreed in Conference October 1986 that morning is a good time to put our lives in order:
To those who feel defeated and downtrodden, look to the early hours of the day for your rescue. The Lord tells us, “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124). The dawning of a brighter day heralds a time of forgiveness. Shadows of yesterday’s grief melt in the rays of early morn’s opportunity.

I guess early morning is a good time for repentance because wives, children and siblings are still cutting a few z's. You can pour out your soul without worrying anyone hears you if you feel like praying quietly out loud. I come up with my best posts right when I wake up around 5 or 6am.

Neal A. Maxwell in his book Notwithstanding My Weaknesses suggests we should get up early so we don't make mistakes due to weariness:
President Spencer W. Kimball has had those telling moments when he has felt as if he simply could not meet certain challenges. Yet he did and he does. Given our weaknesses, however, paced progress is essential, much as God used six measured and orderly creative periods (followed by respite) in preparing man and this earth. There is a difference, therefore, between being steadily and effectively or "anxiously " engaged, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, being frantically engaged one moment and being passive and detached the next. Lest we wrongly assume that traveling on the straight and narrow path requires hectic pace, let us remember that the Lord does not want us to weary by the way and for very good reasons. Thoughtless haste and spurts of service are not what is desired, for such naivete is like the businessman who confuses volume with profit. The Lord has clearly indicated His concern for us if we are weary; He has even given us counsel on sleep to avoid that weariness and in order to be vigorous: "cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124)

Heber J. Grant mentioning the death of Anthony W. Ivins in Conference October 1934 said he would have lived longer had he gone to bed earlier:
One of the greatest, most devoted and splendid members of the General Authorities of the Church has been taken from us at the ripe age of eighty-two. From his childhood until his death he has been a very studious man, gathering information on many subjects, and he was successful in all the walks of life in which he engaged. He was successful in more things than any other man I ever knew, and all his life fulfilled the requirements made in the D&C, Section 88, verses 124, 125, 126:

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated;

And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bonds of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace;

Pray always, that ye may not faint until I come; behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself.

Each and every requirement therein made Brother Ivins fulfilled, except the one "retire to thy bed early." I believe that he would have lived longer had he fulfilled that requirement, but he generally studied until midnight.

I guess he would have lived to 90 had he heeded the advice of the Lord. I am sure most of us would like to last until 82 even. If you really aren't too concerned about how long you live and want to cut off a few years of life then you should continue a reduced sleep cycle.


  1. D&C 89:16 says, "All grain is good for the food of man; ...", and D&C 89:17 says, "Nevertheless, wheat for man, ..."

    I physically cannot eat wheat (as well as a great number of other grains), so how literally do I take these verses? :)

    Sometimes, the principle behind the law is more important than the law itself (Mark 2:25-27). The principle, in this case is good health. The specific implementation of this principle will vary tremendously based on individual biology (

    1. Wheat has been seriously modified through genetic modifications and irradiation and pesticides since the time of Joseph Smith, and gluten is abused by many industries including the meat industry in the form of meat glue (yuck!). Additionally, traditionally bread dough was fermented, which caused much of the gluten to be eated up. Maybe it's more a "traditional wheat for man" than processed junk wheat for man. Maybe your body has been too damaged by unknowingly eating junk to make a come back, but wheat is important for man. We just need to be aware of what exactly it is we're Really eating so our bodies will be healthy enough to tolerate and benefit from it. Just a thought for you(0; Sleep is always going to be important. Our bodies need rest. Sweet dreams and God bless(0;

  2. We're also told to avoid over-indulging in food, and your photos makes it clear that you don't follow that rule. Being overweight has long been recognized as one of the most serious threats to health and longevity.

    Lose 60 pounds, and then you MIGHT be in a position to make pronouncements on how other people care for their bodies.

    1. Good heavens. Have you done any research at all?

      Extra weight is a sign of a body out of balance, not gluttony. It has everything to do with a world where food is produced as an industrial commodity, instead of part of our daily lives. Soaked with glyphosate residues, commercial food crops destroy the balance of our digestive systems and rob our bodies of vitally-important micronutrients and trace minerals. The glyphosate doesn't kill human cells, but it does kill the beneficial bacteria our digestive tracts need to operate as they should. When the beneficials are gone, they're replaced with glyphosate-resistant microorganisms which, instead of breaking down the food we eat so it is bioavailable, consume the nutrients we need and produce neurotoxins.

      And this is just one of the physical challenges of our "civilized" world.

  3. Agreed. The biggest killer in our society is being overweight.
    It will be a great day when the Church leaders approach the WoW as it is really meant.
    What do you guys think the reaction would be if they start pulling temple recommends from anyone/everyone that is overweight?
    Bring it on.
    I'll pop the corn.

  4. What is this a thread highjacking? I covered the topic on Eating Meat Sparingly in an earlier post. You can slam me there if you want we are discussing retire to they bed early and don't sleep longer than is needful. I don't see your logic that a person has to be perfect in all things though. I do a good job at going to bed early so in that I follow the Lord's counsel to Joseph Smith.

  5. So I'm required to read your entire small-minded blog and suffer through all your pompous pronouncements in order to comment anywhere? Pointing out your hypocrisy isn't allowed? Wow. This just goes to show how true it is that whether you can see it or not, you really do have LOTS of control issues, plus an authority complex--meaning that you think you have some special right to it.

    BTW, it would do you good to learn to punctuate and edit. Commas: an aid to clarity and coherence. Look 'em up.

  6. I would ask our commenters to be kind. We don't mind controversy or disagreement, but it is so much more enjoyable when it is productive and epithet-free. Let's show a bit of class, people!

  7. Dr. B - The counsel "Retire to thy bed early" should be evaluated within the historical context rather than the present. Back then, there was no such thing as "shift work", and there was no night culture like we have today.

    As you yourself subsequently point out, the real issue is not when you go to sleep, but how much sleep you get. Even shift workers can get adequate sleep if they go to sleep at the same time during their days off.

  8. "the wisdom of men has always been foolishness to God"

  9. Wow, I think "Anonymous" has some personal issues with Dr. B. It's funny the logic that Anonymous is using. He calls the information in this post a "pompous pronouncement" by Dr. B. and calls him out for hypocrisy. I didn't see anywhere in the blog where Dr. B. pronounced that this is the only way to live and that he was perfect in all areas of his life.

  10. It is silly to have all these negative comments on here,why all the judgement. Now if you want to point out hypocrisy, look at yourselves throwing the stones. no one is perfect but our goal is to try and become like Christ and follow his commandments. I do not know the write of this article, i started my night with a fast hoping to learn how to repent and become better, a scripture came to my mind so i typed in how vaguely i remember it going, and stumbled upon this article. i am grateful to the author of it, and the quotes you put together. these are definitely changes i need to make and the answer to my fast. Thank you.