June 15, 2015
I have been wanting to write this blog for a long time. This isn’t some doctrinal essay, it is Amy’s interpretation (with backup from modern prophets and apostles) of an often ignored part of the Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants Section 89). I know my idea of nutrition and our country’s idea of nutrition are different. Eating nutritiously means eating at least 5 servings of colorful vegetables per day and 2-3 fruits. It means eating more complex carbohydrates to prevent insulin spikes. It means using healthy oils and using less processed foods.
If my patients are really struggling with their health, I recommend for my patients to do a food elimination diet, going off of wheat, dairy, egg, and more for 3 weeks each. When I mention going off of wheat, they get this pained look in their eye. Give up wheat? But it’s the “staff of life.” I usually wince when they say this. Allow me to explain why.
What follows will be portions of the text of Doctrine and Covenants Section 89. I will make comments in blue and add quotes in green. I do not make comments on the whole word of Wisdom, as I believe there is abundant information out there already on other parts. I try to make comments on the missed, or ignored portions. Please prayerfully read and consider your feelings on this important tool.
If you would prefer it in PDF form, click here.
The Doctrine and Covenants Section 89
1 A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—
2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—
I love the introductory verses of this section. It is a gift for us to allow us temporal salvation—saving us temporally, or saving us physically from the plagues of the last days. We all know there are plenty of temporal addictions in these days. Much more than just the tobacco, tea, coffee, and the alcohol that was known in the days of the prophet Joseph. The Lord knew about all the hard-core drugs of our day, of prescription drug abuse, caffeine, and yes, even food addictions.
3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. This law is for the weakest of all Saints. This means that we can ALL handle this. To receive the promise, we must obey the principle.
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men (like food scientists, tobacco growers coalitions, alcohol brewers) in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8 And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
This was later clarified to mean tea and coffee. But what of other drinks that contain caffeine. Are they also against the Word of Wisdom? An official statement by the Church’s leaders reads: “With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, 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, p. 4.)
More importantly, are you using caffeine as an addiction? If you stop, do you crave it and get withdrawal symptoms like headache and fatigue? Can you function without it? Caffeine is a marvel for staying awake when you are driving at crazy times of the night. It is a drug, and should be used that way and treated with respect.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
The word herb refers to vegetables and plants that are nourishing and healthful for man. (D&C Student Manual-Institute) We should use vegetables and plants for our constitution. The definition of constitution is “the composition of something.” It means that herbs are ordained to support the core and foundation of your body. They should be the foundation for a good diet. I recommend half of your diet should be veggies.
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
In the season thereof: “Some have stumbled over the meaning of this expression and have argued that grains and fruits should only be used in the season of their growth and when they have ripened. This is not the intent, but any grain or fruit is out of season no matter what part of the year it may be, if it is unfit for use. The apple under the tree bruised and decaying is out of season while the good fruit is waiting to be plucked from the tree.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:385.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe explained: “The phrase ‘in the season thereof,’ referring to fruits and vegetables, has raised much speculation. It indicates simply the superior value of fresh foods as demonstrated by modern science, but does not necessarily prohibit the use of fruits or vegetables out of season if preserved by proper methods.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 3:157.)
With modern preservation techniques, today it is possible to enjoy nearly every food “in the season thereof” all through the year. I would add, with modern shipping techniques, we have vegetables and fruits in their proper season all year long. There are some benefits to eating more of the fruit that is in season at certain times of the year. Isn’t it interesting that oranges are in season at the same time that our bodies require more Vitamin C to combat cold and flu season?
Prudence and thanksgiving: Prudence…meaning wisdom, judgement, and common sense. Often, the way we eat is anything but prudent. Eating until we are gorged and it is uncomfortable to walk. We live in a generation of overeaters and food addicts. Members of the LDS church, since they can’t have any other physical addictions and not feel guilty, choose food as their addiction (and control, criticism, or perfection). I think each of us should evaluate why we eat. Keep a careful food journal for a week and record not only what you eat, but why you ate it. Were you hungry, or just craving it? Were you sad, angry, tired? Explore these reasons and learn more about your relationship with food.
How should we treat our bodies? “We will regard our body as a temple of our very own. We will control our diet and exercise for physical fitness…
We will be careful about which counsel we heed. Many so-called experts give advice for the body—without thought for the spirit. Anyone who accepts direction contrary to the Word of Wisdom, for example, forsakes a law revealed to bring both physical and spiritual blessings.” (Elder Russell M Nelson “We are Children of God,” Ensign, Nov 1998)
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
It is not necessary to be commanded in all things. With the guidelines the Lord has given in this revelation, we should have little difficulty in determining both what and how much we can wisely eat.
“In another revelation (Sec. 59) we are told they are not to be used ‘to excess, neither by extortion.’ The difficulty with most of the human family, is eating too much, and failing to heed his counsel. There would be less disease and mankind would live longer if all would also heed the counsel of the Lord concerning the use of wholesome foods.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:385.)
“The Word of Wisdom is not a system of vegetarianism. Clearly, meat is permitted [see D&C 42:18]. Naturally, that includes animal products, less subject than meat to putrefactive and other disturbances, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. These products cannot be excluded simply because they are not mentioned specifically. By that token most of our foodstuffs could not be eaten.” (Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 3:156–57.)…
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
If you look at when the Word of Wisdom was given, they did not have herbs and fruits in the winter. They had dried meat, dried fruits, and grains as a food source. It really was “the staff” that allowed them to survive. A staff is a stick that you lean on when you can’t balance yourself. It isn’t needed when you can hold yourself up. We don’t need to survive on grains if we have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as discussed previously with verses 10 and 11.
16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
The Word of Wisdom is a great plan for protecting our physical bodies, our temples. Paul declared:
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).
Satan would have downplay the importance of taking care of our bodies. “One of the ultimate ironies of eternity is that the adversary, who is miserable precisely because he has no physical body, invites and entices us to share in his misery through the improper use of our bodies. The very tool he does not have and cannot use is thus the primary target of his attempts to lure us to physical and spiritual destruction.
The adversary attempts to influence us both to misuse our physical bodies and to minimize the importance of our bodies. These two methods of attack are important for us to recognize and to repel.
When any of Heavenly Father’s children misuse their physical tabernacles by violating the law of chastity, by using drugs and addictive substances, by disfiguring or defacing themselves, or by worshipping the false idol of body image, whether their own or that of others, Satan is delighted.” (Elder David A Bednar, “Things as they Really Are,” CES Fireside June 2010)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “we came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith p. 181.)
Our physical bodies are so important. We must care for them, for we will have them for eternity. As we care for our body by feeding it foods that nourish it, by exercising and getting adequate sleep, by taking time to be still and breathe, we can experience better health to enable us to feel of the spirit.
The purpose of the Word of Wisdom is more spiritual than physical. The blessings of obedience are much greater than just physical health (see D&C 76:5–10). Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote: “The reward for keeping the Word of Wisdom is four-fold. 1. Self-control is developed. That is implied in verse 3 of the revelation which states that the Word of Wisdom is ‘adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all Saints, who are or can be called Saints.’ 2. Strength of body, including resistance to contagion, is a result of wise living. 3. Clearness of mind is the gift of those whose bodies are in a healthy condition. 4. Spiritual power comes to all who conquer their appetites, live normally and look upward to God.” (Program of the Church, pp. 39–40.)
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!
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.
(Jorg Klebingat, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence,” October 2014 conference)
I would echo (and alter) Elder Klebingat’s words: If you are uncomfortable in your own body, then do something about it. Love your body for the beautiful creation it is. Care for it, nourish it. Enable yourself physically and spiritually.