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.)
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; speeches.byu.edu). 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)
- 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.