Thursday, February 26, 2015

Angels riding at reckless speed to help us - Elder Holland

"In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened 
we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection [see 2 Kgs. 6:16–17]. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham's seed."

—Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "For Times of Trouble," Devotional Address, March 18, 1980

Good and bad questions to ask during trials - from Elder Scott

I love this quote by Elder Scott! 

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, 

  • Why does this have to happen to me? 
  • Why do I have to suffer this, now? 
  • What have I done to cause this? 
will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, 

  • What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? 
  • What am I to change? 
  • Whom am I to help? 
  • How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? 
Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.

Click here for his whole talk: Trust in the Lord, Ensign, Nov. 1995 (bullet points added).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

10 Preparedness Quotes from General Conference

Deseret News posted this list of great quotes gathered by Kristen Price. 

Elder L. Tom Perry: "The Need to Teach Personal and Family Preparedness," April 1981 

“It is time to teach the basics — again. It is time to make the No. 1 priority of our welfare efforts personal and family preparedness. We must prepare now so that in time of need more of our members will be able to draw upon their own preparedness and not have to seek assistance from the church.” 

President Gordon B. Hinckley: "In the Arms of His Love," October 2006

“The best food storage is not in welfare grain elevators but in sealed cans and bottles in the homes of our people. What a gratifying thing it is to see cans of wheat and rice and beans under the beds or in the pantries of women who have taken welfare responsibility into their own hands.” 

President Thomas S. Monson: "Center Stage in Welfare," October 1980 

“Paramount is the responsibility to coordinate personal and family preparedness efforts, including food storage.” 

Bishop Victor L. Brown: "Preparation for Tomorrow," October 1982

“We also learn from the parable [of the 10 virgins] that preparation necessary to help them meet the immediate circumstances was a simple, everyday task. The arrival of the bridegroom did not require unusual or elaborate preparation. Our preparation should be deliberate and structured to meet today’s problems. We should prepare ourselves one step at a time as the Lord so inspires us.” 

President James E. Faust: "The Responsibility for Welfare Rests with Me and My Family," April 1986 

“Every father and mother are the family’s storekeepers. They should store whatever their own family would like to have in the case of an emergency. Most of us cannot afford to store a year’s supply of luxury items, but find it more practical to store staples that might keep us from starving in case of emergency.” 

President Ezra Taft Benson: "To the Fathers in Israel," October 1987 

“I ask you earnestly, have you provided for your family a year’s supply of food, clothing and, where possible, fuel? The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” 

Barbara B. Smith: "She is Not Afraid of the Snow for her Household," October 1976 

“I repeat, home storage should consist of a year’s supply of basic food, clothing and, where possible, fuel. After this goal is reached, emergency and expanded storage is desirable.” 

President Gordon B. Hinckley: "To the Boys and to the Men," October 1998 

"May the Lord bless you, my beloved brethren, to set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts. That’s all I have to say about it, but I wish to say it with all the emphasis of which I am capable." 

Elder L. Tom Perry: "If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear," October 1995 

“As long as I can remember, we have been taught to prepare for the future and to obtain a year’s supply of necessities. I would guess that the years of plenty have almost universally caused us to set aside this counsel. I believe the time to disregard this counsel is over. With events in the world today, it must be considered with all seriousness.” 

President Dieter F. Uchdorf: "Providing in the Lord’s Way," October 2011 

“This work of providing in the Lord’s way is not simply another item in the catalog of programs of the Church. It cannot be neglected or set aside. It is central to our doctrine; it is the essence of our religion. Brethren, it is our great and special privilege as priesthood holders to put the priesthood to work. We must not turn aside our hearts or our heads from becoming more self-reliant, caring better for the needy and rendering compassionate service.” Although the quote to follow doesn't come from a General Conference message, we thought it deserved to make the list as a number 11, or honorary mention, considering its timeliness. 

President Monson: "Are We Prepared?" September 2014 Ensign 

"We should remember that the best storehouse system would be for every family in the Church to have a supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, other necessities of life.” “Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had a supply of food and clothing and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have a supply of debt and are food-free. “ “Are we prepared for the emergencies in our lives? Are our skills perfected? Do we live providently? Do we have our reserve supply on hand? Are we obedient to the commandments of God? Are we responsive to the teachings of prophets? Are we prepared to give of our substance to the poor, the needy? Are we square with the Lord?" "We live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past."

Click here for a church talk I gave on preparedness last month with more quotes. Click here for more posts about preparedness. 

You just can't measure the influence of one convert. And a tribute to my dad.

I read a story that touched my heart, and then we realized my dad is amazing like this too! You just can't measure the influence of one convert. 

Randal Ridd recently told the story of returning to his mission in Mexico 35 years after he served. He found a 70-year old sister who had prayed that he would return so she could thank him for teaching her family the gospel. Brother Ridd said,
"As other family members entered the building, we shared hugs and tears. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my son standing with two full-time missionaries who were wiping away their tears with their ties. As we attended sacrament meeting, it was amazing to discover that the bishop was one of Leonor’s sons, the pianist was a grandson, the chorister was a granddaughter, and there were several young men in the Aaronic Priesthood who were grandsons. One of the daughters was married to a counselor in the stake presidency. Another daughter was married to the bishop of a nearby ward. Most of Leonor’s children went on missions, and now grandsons have also served missions.
"We learned that Leonor was a much better missionary than we were. Today, her children thankfully recall her tireless efforts to teach them the gospel: the importance of tithing, temples, and scripture study, of prayer and the faith to trust in it. She taught them that small decisions, over time, result in a full, righteous, and happy life, and they taught those things to others. Add it all up and there are more than 500 people who have come into the Church because of this one wonderful family" (Randall L. Ridd, Living with Purpose: The Importance of "Real Intent," Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, January 11, 2015).

I love that! As I shared this story with my husband, he said, "Think of your dad!"

"Think of how many people have been brought into the gospel and have served missions because he joined the Church."  

Here are my mom and dad, Joan and Ted Balderree. I'm so glad my San Diego beach loving dad joined the Church when he was doing an ROTC program at the University of Utah, and then married my wonderful mom.  I sure love them! 
So we started counting. 

And I started feeling tears in my eyes realizing the influence this one man has been on so many people, along with my wonderful mother of course. 

  • Five of my parents' seven children have served missions. 
  • Three of their children-in-law have served missions. 
  • Three of their oldest grandchildren have served missions. One of them is my son Adam!  
  • Five of their sons or sons-in-law have served in bishoprics so far. 
  • All four of their daughters have served as presidents of an auxiliary of Relief Society, Young Women, and/or Primary. 
  • All seven children have married wonderful people in the temple and are raising wonderful families.
  • My dad brought his mother, sister, and brother into the gospel. 
  • My dad and his sister have done oodles and oodles of family history work for our ancestors, and have taught countless others how to do it for their families. My oldest son learned from his Grandpa, and then lit the fire in our other teens to do family history and temple work. 
  • My dad's sister has served four missions, three of them being in family history centers. 
  • My dad's sister has at least four grandchildren who have served missions. 
  • My dad's brother has a couple sons who have served missions. 

My parents with their seven children and many grandchildren. This was about five years ago so I had long blond-ish hair with a white blouse just left of the middle. 

There is absolutely no way to calculate the influence of one convert -- my dad. 

Through my dad's choice to join the Church, countless others have joined and have influenced others to join, and influenced others in an infinite number of positive ways, from raising righteous families, serving in church callings, making a difference in the community, business, law, teaching, mentoring, caring, ministering, writing, speaking, serving, and being good Christian people. 

Even though neither of my parents served a full-time mission when they were young, my parents have been incredible missionaries themselves! 

They have ministered, loved, and cared for more people than I could count, in and out of their own ward and stake in Plain City, Utah. Just recently one of their neighbors whom my parents have loved for as long as they've lived there -- 40 years -- has become active in the Church, just went through the temple, and is now team teaching primary with my mom!  

If you ever wonder if it's worth opening your mouth and sharing the priceless gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that someone you care about can receive infinite blessings, just think of this Mexican grandma or my dad. 

P.S. Of course each one of us who was raised in the Church is a convert of our own, right? At some point we gain our own testimony and conversion and then we have the same wonderful potential for spreading blessings to others as the Mexican grandma or my dad has. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Doing vs. becoming... Elder Bednar gave the best advice to help prepare your child for a mission.

Tomorrow in seminary we're discussing ways to prepare to serve a mission. This 6-minute video clip from Elder Bednar holds the best answer to the question of how to best prepare for a mission.  This "doing vs. becoming" principle applies to other areas like going church and going to the temple. I hope you feel the Spirit like I did when he explained the difference. Beautiful. 

Here is Elder Bednar's whole talk. It's called "Becoming a Missionary Now" from October 2005 General Conference. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A super cool way to read the Book of Mormon!

I just discovered a treasure. 

It's a blog that walks you through reading the Book of Mormon a little each day for a year. 

Here's the treasure part. 
  • Along with the daily reading, you get an inspiring question to help you ponder and apply a principle from the reading. I get sooooooo much more out of my scripture study if I take the time to write in my scripture journal about something I read. A daily question is great for that! I just realized that a handful of people left comments after today's reading post, so you could do your scripture journaling in a journal or on the blog or both. It's been fun to read others' thoughts about today's reading. 
  • Then you get a General Conference talk to study that teaches more about the day's principle. You could always listen to the talk later while you commute, cook, or clean. 
This is a cool way to study! If I weren't teaching seminary right now, I think I would try reading along with this great blog. I can't imagine the work it takes to choose a great talk each day to go along with that day's scripture reading. Such a treasure! 

Click here for Book of Mormon 365! 

Today is February 22. I wish I would have known about and shared this site on January first when some people start a new book of scripture. You could either jump in on today's reading, or you could hurry and read the first part of the Book of Mormon quickly to catch up and then start using her system. 

Here's an idea if you want to catch up. Today's reading assignment ends on page 84. If you wanted to catch up in a week you could read/listen to 12 pages a day, and add maybe a few more days to catch up to where the site would be then. That sounds like a ton, but it's totally doable if you're dedicated, especially if you use audio scriptures to help you along. If you read a page in about 3 minutes, you could finish 12 pages in 36 minutes. I am usually much slower than that because I stop, ponder, mark, make notes, jot something in my journal. But I can go fast if I let my audio scriptures push me along as I follow along in my book. 

Click here for some quotes about why principles are the main point when we study the scriptures. Below are three of my favorite: 

“One cannot honestly study the scriptures without learning gospel principles because the scriptures have been written to preserve principles.” (President Marion G. Romney, CES Mtg, 8/17/79)

“Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. ... As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles . Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. ... It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle.” (Elder Richard G. Scott, “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993)  

When Joseph Smith said his famous quote that "...Man would get nearer to God by abiding by [the Book of Mormon's] precepts, than by any other book,” he didn't say that would happen from reading it. He essentially said we would get nearer to God by applying the principles in the book. Just reading doesn't have the power to bring us nearer to God and change us to be more like Him. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Elder Holland on marriage, fearing not, and hanging onto your faith amid questions

Elder Holland recently gave a POWERFUL fireside to seminary and institute teachers worldwide.

Click here to watch the whole fireside.
Note: Elder Holland's talk starts at 17:49 and lasts about 40 minutes.  Before that is choir music, a prayer by my dear friend, and a 5 minute talk that I loved. 

Click here to listen AND READ Elder Holland's talk only.
I'm excited to print and mark it up. He titled it "Be Not Afraid, Only Believe."  

Click here for a summary of his talk from Deseret News. 

I loved having the honor of attending Elder Holland's fireside a couple weeks ago! Have you ever felt changed and healed from a particular talk? That's what this fireside did for me as a seminary teacher.  Elder Holland did some good pulpit pounding and got me crying from feeling the Spirit. I love that man!  I came home and typed up my notes for my missionary son Adam. I hope you love the talk too. How could you not -- it's Elder Holland, right?  

And if you've ever felt inadequate or compared yourself to others in a church calling, parenthood, or anything else you do, listen to the powerful message of the 5-minute talk by Elder Paul Johnson right before Elder Holland's talk. It was healing to my soul. 

This is me and Mike in line to get into the tabernacle. I'm feeling excited, because Elder Holland is my favorite!  

Sorry my phone camera was blurry. But you can tell it's Elder Holland, right?

The organist was Bonnie Goodliffe, our son Adam's organ teacher who plays for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She's amazing.

Some of our seminary teacher friends and their wives sang in the beautiful choir! It sounded awesome. 

 I love how before and after sunset, the temple stood out with more light than anything around it. Beautiful symbolism. 

Here is what Elder Holland just posted on his Facebook page about his talk: 

It was my great privilege to address our remarkable religion teachers in the Church Educational System recently. In my message to them I said: 
“If any of your students are unsettled, or if you are unsettled, reassure one and all that the victory in this final contest has already been declared. The victory is already in the record books—these books, the scriptures! We know for certain that if and when everything else in the latter days is down or dying; if governments, economies, industries, and institutions crumble; if societies and cultures become a quagmire of chaos and insecurity, nevertheless, through it all the gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that bears that gospel to the world will stand triumphant. It will stand undefiled in God’s hand until the very Son of God Himself comes to rule and reign as Lord of lords and King of kings. Nothing is more certain in this world.”

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Eight big reasons not to let your kids play violent video games

Parents, you may want to watch this for a family home evening lesson with your teens and pre-teens. You may be shocked at how bad video games have become, and how much they can effect people. 

Wow. This is a very interesting presentation on the powerful effects of violent media, specifically video games. 

Brad Bushman and his team reviewed 381 studies. He presents solid research of how violent video games: 
  1. increase aggressive thoughts 
  2. increase aggressive behavior
  3. increase anger
  4. increase physiological stress
  5. decrease empathy toward others
  6. decrease helpful behavior
  7. decrease self-control (this one comes in the Q&A at the end of the video)
  8. And why many people deny the negative effects of violent media 
Reasons people deny the negative effects of violent media:
  • fallacious reasoning "I've never killed anyone so video games don't affect me at all."
  • cognitive dissonance - "
  • psychological reactant - want it more if someone tells you can't have it, agress against the source of the prohibition. "I swear I could strangle whoever wrote that report. ... I'd pummel, maim, then strangle!"  "It's crap like you're article that makes me feel violent. It's not the games." "People who think video games cause violence should be shot!" 
  • third person affect - believe they are more resilient against affects of media than others
  • denial from media industry - news reports are going the opposite direction of scientific studies
Fascinating!  And very motivating to keep protecting my kids from these. 

My son, who is now 18 and serving an LDS mission, went through a long phase of longing and begging for the video games the neighbor kids were playing. He thought he was the only one whose parents didn't allow them. It was hard to resist his pleas. But I had studied and taught about the effects of negative media for years, and I knew that we didn't want any of those results in our family. 

Years down the road, my son has thanked me over and over that we said "no." 

He saw other young men become addicted to violent games, playing them into wee hours of the morning over and over and some of the negative effects they caused. Our son has been so grateful to be free from the distraction, addiction, and darkness that other young people have dealt with from these games. Parents, it's worth the hard work of saying no, even if your child thinks he is the only one not playing violent video games.  God laid out the standard, and it is very clear. These games do not fit the Lord's standard. They invite darkness, not light. They push away the Spirit, not invite the Spirit. 

What if your kids are already addicted to these games?  

I would recommend that you pray hard for guidance of what to do and then act on the promptings you receive. You could invite your child to watch this presentation with you. Hold FHE lessons studying the doctrine from the prophets and apostles. Be open to what the Spirit guides you to do. Your actions could help save their souls. President Eyring's wife ended up breaking her television because her sons kept disobeying their media standards. 

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “To you I have only one question: are you going to follow the true and living prophet or not?  It really isn’t any more complicated than that” ("When Shall These Things Be,” March 12, 1996, BYU Devotional, also Ensign, Dec. 1996).

Here is God's standard from For the Strength of Youth:

"Choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you. Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.

My husband, as an LDS bishop and lawyer, told of a connection he has seen with violent video games and pornography. You can read about that here.  

It may seem silly to say that violent video game addiction can be a gateway to pornography addiction, but think about it. They both can involve the same elements: immodest and pornographic images, violence, darkness and pushing away the Holy Spirit, escalation and desensitization, meaning the addict needs more quantity and more intensity to get the same high. Also, violent video games and pornography stimulate the same part of the brain. 

And because sometimes it can seem impossible to find wholesome entertainment, here is a post with 200+ clean, uplifting movies. (Disclaimer: I can only vouch for the top list, not the bottom list that was recommended by others.) 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why my family reads "For the Strength of Youth" every year

Here is how and why our family reads For the Strength of Youth booklet once a year. This is a small and simple habit that has brought big blessings to my family. 

You could add this to your daily scripture study, FHE, or a Sunday afternoon discussion. I invite you to try it too! This powerful little booklet isn't just for teens - it is God's will for kids and adults too. Here are some tips for reading, discussing, and marking to help your family get God's standards into their hearts.

HOW we do it 

We make it part of our morning scripture study. Another idea is to study a topic each week as part of family home evening or on Sunday afternoons. In our family, the person in charge of conducting that day chooses which topic we'll read. We invite everyone to bring their copy of For the Strength of Youth, along with their scriptures, so they can mark their own book and follow along.  We like taking turns reading the paragraphs. Once that topic has been read, each person shares something that stood out to them and we discuss it. Sometimes we ask questions to get them thinking and preparing for making the right decisions in a situation even if nobody else does. There are 18 topics or standards, plus an introduction from the First Presidency and an appendix. 

WHY does our family study this booklet every year?  

  • Because these are God's standards for us today, not just for youth, but for children and adults alike. 
  • Because we need repetition of God's standards, just like we need repetition of the scriptures and gospel doctrines and principles. Each year we get more out of it, just like we do every time we study the Book of Mormon. 
  • This is an official publication from the First Presidency, so it is doctrine. It is truth. We will be blessed by learning and living it. 
  • Because each year, each family member is in a new place with his or her own testimony, stage of life, circumstances, experiences, temptations, and friends. So people pull different things from it each time we read it. The Spirit can teach each person what they need right now. 
  • If we aren't studying the doctrine on a regular basis about issues and temptations that are part of our modern daily life, how can we know and do God's will in each of these areas? 
  • Because our kids (and adults, let's be honest) will deal with peer pressure from friends and the media virtually every day of their lives. I think the peer pressure is the hardest to resist when it comes from fellow Church members whom we like. Some good LDS girls wear tight jeans or strapless prom dresses. Many church-going people watch movies or play video games that don't fit the Lord's standards. Most active LDS people in my area watch the Super Bowl on the Sabbath. Teens sometimes gossip or leave someone out at a youth activity. When most people around us are doing a certain thing, it's easy to think it's the right thing, and to start doing it ourselves. We all need repeated invitations to learn God's will in these areas and then to raise our actions to a higher standard. 
  • Satan has hastened his work and is trying his darnedest to pull good people down, and the standards in this booklet teach us how to protect our families from Satan's attacks, and how to stay more fully on God's side of the line.

If you want to mark your copy, here are some fun ideas: 
  • Underline the DO'S and DON'TS for a given topic, and mark those in the margin. 
  • Use another color to mark the BLESSINGS for obeying God's standard, and write "blessings" in the margin. 
  • If a good story or analogy or quote comes up in your family discussion, jot a note about that at the end of that topic. 
  • If you choose to look up the scriptures at the end of each section, you could jot a note about the gist of each scripture.
  • You could look for "if...then..." principles. At a training for young women leaders years ago at Temple Square, they gave each of us a new copy of the booklet and invited us to mark it in several ways, including this one. They even had us cross out words and write "If I...then I..." in sentences to help us see the cause and effect of our choices. 
  • I have enjoyed writing the date that we study each topic.

I invite you to study For the Strength of Youth with your family too! I promise you'll be blessed by studying and living these standards. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Word of Wisdom gems, and pics that might make you think twice about caffeine

This morning I taught the Word of Wisdom in seminary. Here are some quotes, a timeline, counsel of how to heal from sickness, how our health habits affect personal revelation, plus pics that might make you think twice about caffeine. And I'll throw in my own thoughts about why some of us develop an intolerance to foods like wheat, even though they're part of the Word of Wisdom.  Part one includes the quotes I gave my students on a handout herePart two of the post includes the other stuff. 

President Ezra Taft Benson: Natural foods, early sleep, and exercise affect your health AND your spirit. 

The condition of the physical body can affect the spirit. That's why the Lord gave us the Word of Wisdom. He also said that we should retire to our beds early and arise early (see D&C 88:124), that we should not run faster than we have strength (see D&C 10:4), and that we should use moderation in all good things. In general, the more food we eat in its natural state and the less it is refined without additives, the healthier it will be for us. Food can affect the mind, and deficiencies in certain elements in the body can promote mental depression. ... Rest and physical exercise are essential, and a walk in the fresh air can refresh the spirit. Wholesome recreation is part of our religion, and a change of pace is necessary, and even its anticipation can lift the spirit” (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Nov. 1974).

Ezra Taft Benson: Junk food can cause health problems and shorten life. 

“To a great extent we are physically what we eat. ... In most cases, the closer these can be, when eaten, to their natural state – without overrefinement and processing – the healthier we will be. To a significant degree, we are an overfed and under-nourished nation digging an early grave with our teeth, and lacking the energy that could be ours because we overindulge in junk foods. (“In His Steps,” BYU Devot, March 4, 1979). 

President Boyd K. Packer: A main purpose for the Word of Wisdom is revelation.  

"I have come to know that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. . . If someone `under the influence' can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings?  As valuable as the Word of Wisdom is as a law of health, it may be much more valuable to you spiritually than it is physically" ("Prayers and Answers," Ensign, Nov. 1979).  "Your body really is the instrument of your mind and the foundation of your character" ("Ye Are the Temple of God," Ensign, Nov. 2000).

President Ezra Taft Benson: Drugs and harmful substances put people under power of the devil. 

“The Lord foresaw the situation of today when motives for money would cause men to conspire to entice others to take noxious substances into their bodies. Advertisements which promote beer, wine, liquors, coffee, tobacco, and other harmful substances are examples of what the Lord foresaw. But the most pernicious example of an evil conspiracy in our time is those who induce young people into the use of drugs. My young brothers and sisters, in all love, we give you warning that Satan and his emissaries will strive to entice you to use harmful  substances, because they well know if you partake, your spiritual powers will be inhibited and you will be in their evil power. Stay away from those places or people which would influence you to break the commandments of God. Keep the commandments of God and you will have the wisdom to know and discern that which is evil” (“A Principle with a Promise,” Ensign, May 1983).

Here is President Benson saying the quote above. 

True to the Faith: Anything harmful is not in harmony with Word of Wisdom. 

Anything harmful that people purposefully take into their bodies is not in harmony with the Word of Wisdom” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 186).

President Thomas S. Monson: Treat our temple bodies free from harmful substances.

“‘The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are’ (1 Corin. 3:17). May we keep our bodies – our temples – fit and clean, free from harmful substances which destroy our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being” (“True to the Faith,” Ensign, May 2006). 

Ezra Taft Benson: Health affects the spirit, and sin affects the body.

There is no question that the health of the body affects the spirit, or the Lord would never have revealed the Word of Wisdom. God has never given any temporal commandments – that which affects our stature affects our soul. ... Sin debilitates; it affects not only the soul but the body. The scriptures are replete with examples of the physical power that can attend the righteous. On the other hand, unrepented sin can diffuse energy and lead to both mental and physical sickness. Disease, fevers, and unexpected deaths are some of the things that have been directly related to disobedience. (“In His Steps,” BYU Devot. Mar. 4, 1979). 

What about caffeine? 

The LDS Church has NOT made a direct statement about cola drinks. On the other hand, there are quotes below saying we shouldn't drink harmful or addictive substances. An Ensign article that caught my attention is The Energy Drink Epidemic by Thomas J. Boud, MD. It's a very motivating article! He addresses the epidemic of health problems caused by overuse of the most common drug today: caffeine. Some of his quotes follow. The pictures below are based on his article. 

Compare a healthy bone with a bone with osteoporosis, which is brittle and fragile. Osteoporosis is one of the health problems related to overuse of caffeine. 

 Image from

Now compare a web made by a caffeine-free spider with a caffeinated spider. 

This is a normal spider web.
This is a web made by a caffeinated spider.
The two spider web images courtesy of NASA, from 
this article.

Here are some quotes about caffeine. 

Joseph Smith: “Hot drinks” means coffee and tea

“Tea and coffe are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks’” (In Widtsoe, Word of Wisdom, p 85-86). 

Priesthood Bulletin: Addictive or harmful drinks or substances should be avoided. 

"With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised ... against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided" (Priesthood Bulletin, Feb. 1972 [volume 8, number 1], 3-4; see also "Staying Healthy: Welfare Services Suggests How," Ensign, Jan. 1981).

Thomas J. Boud, MD: Caffeine abuse causes addiction and serious health problems. 

“[There is] abuse of a drug to which people give little thought, even though it is now the most commonly abused drug on the planet. What [is the] habit? Excessive cola consumption. The drug? Caffeine. ... Doctors are seeing more and more patients with caffeine-related symptoms and medical conditions. This situation has been made worse by the exploding use of heavily caffeinated...‘energy drinks.’” (“The Energy Drink Epidemic,” Ensign, Dec. 2008.) 

Some of the medical issues associated with caffeine abuse: 

Jitteriness, agitation, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, rapid heart rate, decreased brain blood flow, compromised long-term growth in infants, elevated blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders, osteoporosis, acid reflux, urinary incontinence, restless leg syndrome, tremors, irritable bowl syndrome, atrial fibrillation, episodes of rage, irregular heart condition, and potentially coronary heart disease. (See Thomas J. Boud, MD, “The Energy Drink Epidemic,” Ensign, Dec. 2008.) 

Average amount of caffeine in different drinks: 
  • Regular cola: 41 mg  
  • Tea, brewed: 47 mg  
  • Coffee, instant: 57 mg  
  • Coffee, brewed: 107 mg 
  • Weak energy drink: 120 mg
  • Average energy drink: 220 mg
  • Extreme energy drink: 500+ mg 
(See Thomas J. Boud, MD, “The Energy Drink Epidemic,” Ensign, Dec. 2008.) 

Click here for a printable handout of the quotes above that's the right size to glue into your scriptures. 

On the right side is handout of the quotes above. 

Go here for Word of Wisdom gems part two, including a timeline, scriptures, counsel on how to heal from illness, and my take on the whole gluten issue. 

Word of Wisdom Gems part two

A timeline of the Word of Wisdom becoming a commandment.
  • 1833: Word of Wisdom revealed to Joseph Smith, not yet a commandment. 
  • 1851: Brigham Young proposed that all Saints formally covenant to abstain from tea, coffee, tobacco, and whiskey. 
  • 1882: President John Taylor changed the Word of Wisdom to a commandment. 
  • 1919: The First Presidency, under President Heber J. Grant, made the observance of the Word of Wisdom a requirement for receiving a temple recommend. 
  • Today: The Word of Wisdom continues to be an important commandment today, and obeying it is a prerequisite for baptism, temple attendance, missionary service, and other worthy service in the Church. (See D&C and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual.) 
If you've ever heard someone criticize early Church members or leaders about using substances that are prohibited today, seeing the timeline above helps us understand it wasn't a commandment until much later. 

Harold B. Lee and Marion G. Romney: Sleeping and arising early invites personal revelation. 

When President Romney was first called as a General Authority and Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, he went to Elder Harold B. Lee for some advice about how to be successful as a General Authority. Elder Lee said: “If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive revelation. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested, and then in the quiet of those early-morning hours, you will receive more flashes of insight and inspiration than at any other time of the day.” President Romney said: “From that day on, I put that counsel into practice, and I know it works. Whenever I have a serious problem, or some assignment of a creative nature with which I hope to receive the influence of the Spirit, I always receive more assistance in the early-morning hours than at any other time of the day. Following that counsel has helped me a great deal through the years.” (Quoted by Elder Joe J. Christensen, "Ten Ideas to Increase Your Spirituality," Ensign, March 1999).

For the Strength of Youth: Avoid chemicals to get a high, addictions are serious.

"Avoid any drink, drug, chemical, or dangerous practice that is used to produce a “high” or other artificial effect that may harm your body or mind. Some of these include marijuana, hard drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications that are abused, and household chemicals. Use of these substances can lead to addiction and can destroy your mind and your body. Addictions harm your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. They damage relationships with family and friends and diminish your feelings of self-worth. They limit your ability to make choices for yourself. If you are struggling with any type of addiction, seek help from your parents and your bishop now."

John A. Widtsoe: The body affects the spirit, so we should increase our health. 

“… The condition of the body limits the expression of the spirit. The spirit speaks through the body and only as the body permits. … Hence, if the body is in poor condition, man must strengthen it as the days increase; if it is strong from the beginning, he must make it stronger (John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, 5th ed, p. 171).

President Spencer W. Kimball: Just because arsenic isn't specifically listed doesn't mean it follows the Word of Wisdom.

Everything harmful is not specifically listed; arsenic, for instance—certainly bad, but not habit forming! He who must be commanded in all things, the Lord said, is a slothful and not a wise servant” (D&C 58:26). (“The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Elder Boyd K. Packer: April 1996, pp. 22-3)

Boyd K. Packer: Word of Wisdom doesn't promise perfect health but...

“The Word of Wisdom does not promise you perfect health, but it teaches how to keep the body you were born with in the best condition and your mind alert to delicate spiritual promptings.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,”Ensign, May 1996, 18, emphasis added)

President Spencer W. Kimball: Heal ourselves with diet, rest, herbs, and then priesthood blessing. If those don't solve it, then seek professional help. 

“We should do all we can for ourselves first: dieting, resting, taking simple herbs known to be effective, and apply common sense, especially to minor troubles.  Then we could send for the elders... frequently, this is all that is required, and numerous healings can be affected.  In serious cases where the problems are not solved, we turn to our skilled and helpful men who can help us so wonderfully” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Administration to the Sick,” New Era, October 1981, page 50). 

Elder Jörg Klebingat: Take responsibility for your own body. 

“Take responsibility for your own physical well-being. Your soul consists of your body and spirit (see D&C 88:15). Feeding the spirit while neglecting the body, which is a temple, usually leads to spiritual dissonance and lowered self-esteem. If you are out of shape, if you are uncomfortable in your own body and can do something about it, then do it! Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that we should “regard our body as a temple of our very own” and that we should “control our diet and exercise for physical fitness” (“We Are Children of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 87; Liahona, Jan. 1999, 103). President Boyd K. Packer has taught “that our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character” (“The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character” [Church Educational System fireside, Feb. 2, 2003], 2; Therefore, please use good judgment in what and especially how much you eat, and regularly give your body the exercise it needs and deserves. If you are physically able, decide today to be the master of your own house and begin a regular, long-term exercise program, suited to your abilities, combined with a healthier diet. Spiritual confidence increases when your spirit, with the help of the Savior, is truly in charge of your natural man or woman.” (“Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence,” Ensign, Nov. 2014)

Scriptures about Health 

D&C 42: 43-44: When sick, if you don't have enough faith to be healed, use herbs and mild food diet and get a priesthood blessing. 

“And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food...  And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray and lay their hands upon them in my name...” 

Alma 46:40: The Nephites used herbs (medicinal plants) to cure their fevers. 

The Nephites were saved from death by "fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases...”  

D&C 88:124: Sleep early for more energy in your body and mind. 

“Retire to thy bed early, that ye many not be weary: arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” 

The Word of Wisdom Do's, Don'ts, and Promises from D&C 89.

  • wine and strong drinks (alcohol)
  • tobacco
  • hot drinks (Joseph Smith said that means coffee and tea)
  • all wholesome herbs (plants, which includes vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds); every herb (plant) and fruit in its season, use with prudence and thanksgiving; 
  • meat used with thanksgiving and sparingly
  • all grain is the staff of life, wheat for man
  • health in the navel, marrow in the bones 
  • find wisdom and great hidden treasures of knowledge
  • run and not be weary, walk and not faint
  • destroying angel pass by and not slay you (Boyd K. Packer says that means we’ll be saved from spiritual death)

Here are some other scriptures that have to do with God's law of health. 
  • Doctrine and Covenants 49:18-21
  • D&C 59:16-21
  • D&C 88:124
  • See also D&C 49:18-21
  • Genesis 9:11 (see the Joseph Smith Translation)

Gospel Principles manual and John Taylor: Your body is a history of your life.

"There is another record that will be used to judge us. The Apostle Paul taught that we ourselves are a record of our life (see Romans 2:15). Stored in our body and mind is a complete history of everything we have done. President John Taylor taught this truth: '[The individual] tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. … That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who shall sit as judges' (Deseret News, Mar. 8, 1865, 179). (Gospel Principles, chapter 6).

President James E. Faust: Spiritual healing comes from testimonies born and heard. 

“Spiritual healing…comes from bearing and hearing humble testimonies. A witness given in a spirit of contrition, thankfulness for divine providence, and submission to divine guidance is a powerful remedy to help relieve the anguish and concerns of our hearts” (James E. Faust, Ensign, July 2005).

I've been thinking about the wheat issue.   

I've been thinking about the term "wholesome herbs (plants)" in D&C 89:10.  In agreement with President Benson's statement above about eating foods in their whole, natural, unrefined, unprocessed state, that seems to describe "wholesome" to me. When man messes with a food and makes it different than God created it, the food just isn't as healthy. Dr. Mercola and other health experts have written numerous articles about the harmful effects of man-made artificial foods like aspartame (Nutra Sweet) and Monosodium glutamate (MSG) as well as other things like artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives that aren't real food. And plenty of articles why eating real food in the most natural state is really good for us. My weakness is sugar, which isn't as bad as artificial foods, but it's still refined and can still mess with blood sugar, hormones, mood, and long term health. Darn it.

I've also thought long and hard about why so many people aren't tolerating wheat any more, if the Word of Wisdom says wheat should be our staff of life (see D&C 89:14-17). My son and I developed an intolerance to gluten (wheat) and some other foods, and it was hard for me to make sense of this. I don't know the answer, but I have an idea. It might be that after a couple generations of eating like this:  
  • processed, refined foods like white flour, sugar, and corn syrup
  • then adding chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides while things grow
  • and adding artificial hormones to meat and dairy products
  • then adding man-made foods like artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, MSG, and preservatives
  • hybridizing and then genetically modifying foods 

After years and generations of eating foods that aren't the way God created them, I guess it doesn't really surprise me that so many people are developing allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances to foods like wheat. I can now eat wheat again if I don't overdo it, but it really makes me look forward to the resurrection when all our bodies can thrive on the whole, natural foods God has created for us. 

Which reminds me, my friend who can't tolerate wheat normally, does fine on an ancient, non-hybridized wheat called Einkorn. It's quite expensive, so she learned to bake with natural yeast, similar to a sour dough starter, and she can eat wheat as long as the protein has been broken down by the natural yeast first. This is something I would like to learn soon. 

God revealed the Word of Wisdom in 1833. It wasn't until the mid-1900's that the first major studies showed that smoking caused serious health damage. Years later we've seen science back up other aspects of this divine, inspired law of health. 

I have a testimony from much personal experience that what we eat can directly affect how we think and feel, our stress level, our sensitivity to the Spirit or irritability toward others, our energy level, our short term health and immunity, and of course our long term health.  My Grandma Balderree, who lived to be 100, believed people are healthier if they eat at least 50% raw foods, especially emphasizing raw veggies. I sure feel better when I eat that way, and when I use whole foods and limit junk food. The book Potatoes Not Prozac lays out how people can completely alleviate their depression, anxiety, energy slumps, irritability, and so on just from changing the diet.

Heavenly Father sure is smart!  

Go here for Word of Wisdom gems, part one, including a quote handout that you can glue into your scriptures, and pics that will make you think twice about caffeine.