The Word of Wisdom: “A Principle with Promise”

Lesson 22 – D&C 89; 49:19-21; 59:15-21; 88:124; Our Heritage pgs. 25-26


Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley: “I recall a bishop’s telling me of a woman who came to get a [temple] recommend.  When asked if she observed the Word of Wisdom, she said that she occasionally drank a cup of coffee.  She said, ‘Now, bishop, you’re not going to let that keep me from going to the temple, are you?’  To which he replied, ‘Sister, surely you will not let a cup of coffee stand between you and the house of the Lord.’ ” (Ensign, May 1990, 51)


As we study the clear, simple law of health given by the Lord, it is important to remember the physical dangers inherent in violating this commandment, but the most important thing we should remember is the sacred promise of physical and spiritual blessings for faithful, loving obedience.  


Why was the Word of Wisdom revealed?

Our bodies were provided by Heavenly Father for a divine purpose. They are a necessary part of His plan for our eternal progression. He has given us a stewardship to care for those bodies, revealing the principles we need to observe to keep our bodies clean and pure.  Obedience to this law of health expresses our love for Father and our gratitude for our bodies and the doctrine of eternal progress. 


1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20 give reasons for caring for our bodies as temples of our spirits. We also need pure bodies so that the Holy Ghost can be our companion.  Caring for our bodies physically has a definite effect on our spiritual health.


D&C 89:4 gives another reason for the Lord’s revelation of the Word of Wisdom. An example of the “evils and designs…in the hearts of conspiring men” that are associated with harmful substances include the misrepresentations associated with happiness, success, and social relationships that are put forth in advertising and entertainment.  TV and movies continue to encourage the use and abuse of substances.


The Lord’s love for us is indicated by the fact that he gave us this law of health long before science began to discover and understand the effect of both harmful and healthful substances on our bodies.  He was also loving in His requirement for obedience when He gave 18 years (a generation) between revealing the principles in 1833 and making them a commandment in 1851.  He gave the opportunity for those addicted to tobacco and/or strong drink, etc. to overcome their difficulties before He asked the Saints to observe these principles to be regarded as being “worthy” for full fellowship in the Church.


The Lord’s counsel about that which is not good for the body

(Note: Our leaders have asked that during the discussion of what is not good and what is good for the body, that we focus on basic health principles revealed by the Lord—taking care not to discuss “health fads, special diets, and other kinds of food and drink”.)


The Lord has not specified everything that we should and should not partake of. “Such revelation is unnecessary,” President Joseph Fielding Smith said. “The Word of Wisdom is a basic law. It points the way and gives us ample instruction in regard to both food and drink…If we sincerely follow what is written with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord,…we will know what is good and what is bad for the body” (Improvement Era, Feb 1956, 78-79)

D&C 89:5-7 – Wine and strong drink  (alcoholic beverages)

D&C 89:8 – Tobacco  (smoking and smokeless tobacco use)

D&C 89:9 – Hot drinks, defined as tea and coffee  (That IS the doctrinal requirement)

In addition, we should not:  use any substance that contains illegal drugs, use any habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician, or misuse prescription or over-the-counter drugs. (The wise Latter-day Saint will exercise good judgment rather than continually rely on antacids.)


The First Presidency has declared: “Drunken with strong drink, men have lost their reason; their counsel has been destroyed; their judgment and vision are fled…Drink has brought more woe and misery, broken more hearts, wrecked more homes, committed more crimes, filled more coffins, than all the wars the world has suffered.” (Conf. Report, Oct. 1942, 8)


The Lord’s counsel about that which is good for the body

D&C 89:10 – Wholesome herbs—nourishing vegetables and plants

D&C 89:11 – Fruit

D&C 89:12 – Flesh of beasts and fowls (Note the guidance on using meats; see also D&C 49:19, 21)

D&C 89:14-17 – Grains (Note the guidance on using grains in verses 14 and 16)

D&C 88:124 – retiring to bed early and rising early—getting adequate sleep

President Brigham Young said: “Instead of doing two days’ work in one day, wisdom would dictate to [the Saints] that if they desire long life and good health, they must, after sufficient exertion, allow the body to rest before it is entirely exhausted.  When exhausted, some argue that they need stimulants…But instead of these kind of stimulants they should recruit by rest” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 187).


In D&C 89:11, we are counseled to use food “with prudence” and “with…thanksgiving”. This should prompt us to eat nourishing food and use moderation in both the kind and amount of food we consume. We should also remember to offer thanks to our Heavenly Father for each day’s supply of food. 


Promised blessings for obedience to the Word of Wisdom

D&C 89:18 – Physical Health.  D&C 89:19 – Wisdom and great treasures of knowledge.  D&C 89:20 – The ability to run and not be weary and walk and not faint.  D&C 89:21 – Protection from the destroying angel.  In general, obeying the Word of Wisdom will produce a better quality of life and a longer life.  Some, however, will suffer severe illnesses or disabilities despite faithful obedience. Even when such physical difficulties come, the spiritual blessings of obedience may be received. 


The spiritual treasures of knowledge received may include testimony, knowledge of divine truths, personal revelation, patriarchal blessings, and temple ordinances and covenants.  Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “I have come to know …that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation…If someone ‘under the influence’ [of harmful substances] 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”(Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20).


The promise of D&C 89:20 could include increased mental and emotional strength, self-mastery, and self-sufficiency.  Additionally, we may gain increased strength to resist temptation and the patience required to continue, day after day, in the struggle toward eternal life.


As for the promise that the destroying angel will pass by us (D&C 89:21), that means that we will be saved from spiritual death and blessed with eternal life through the Savior’s Atonement.


Obedience to the Word of Wisdom would solve the world’s economic problems: President Heber J. Grant taught that, “the Word of Wisdom…would solve the economic problems…of every…country, if it were obeyed by the people of the world” (Conf. Rpt., 1936, 48). The amount of land, money, and other resources consumed to produce harmful substances, advertise them, purchase them, and treat the consequences of their use could be used for beneficial purposes rather than destructive ones. 


Obeying the Word of Wisdom is associated with additional benefits:  In studies by social scientists, it has been shown that Church members who live the gospel, including the Word of Wisdom, are more likely than others to have happy marriages and satisfactory family lives. They are also less likely to engage in premarital or extramarital sex, experience depression, or be involved in delinquent, deviant, or antisocial behaviors. (Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues [booklet, 1998],46-47)


Obeying the Word of Wisdom helps a missionary teach with power: One missionary reported that while he was teaching the Word of Wisdom, he was asked by a man, “Do you mean to tell me that you have never tried drugs, smoked a cigarette, or tasted alcohol in any form?” The missionary answered, “No, sir. I never have.” He later described that experience: “A power went through me at that moment and I knew why I had always kept the Word of Wisdom. I am grateful that when I came to that moment in my life, I was able to bear a strong testimony of the importance of the Word of Wisdom because I had always been obedient to it.”


Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength (D&C 10:4):  This counsel also applies to our health. It is dangerous to disregard our physical limits and abuse and overwork our bodies.


Tattoos and unusual body piercings: Having received the Lord’s counsel about not defiling our bodies by partaking of harmful substances, we should also refrain from defiling our external surface with tattoos or unusual piercings. Such modifications can have negative physical, social, and spiritual consequences in spite of their seeming popularity in some segments of society.