Getting Healthy, Staying Healthy, Being Healthy The Mormon Way
We live in a time where we are health conscious in all areas.
Issues about health surround us daily. They can be seen parading through the media, in the classrooms of our schools, on the minds of our government agencies, and most certainly on the thoughts of all individuals. We have become a physically health conscious society, worrying about what to eat, how much exercise we need, what medicine is good for us, how much sleep we need to get, and even how much water we need to drink.
Mental health is a current topic of discussion in every venue also. From, how to have a positive self image, to dealing with the damages incurred from the issues of abuse, mental awareness can be seen everywhere.
Another area of concern on the minds of individuals today is that of spiritual health. Everyone seems to be searching for a belief system that they can have faith in.
In whatever area of heath that we may have issues with today, our Father in Heaven has already seen our concerns and has provided council for us. That council can be seen by studying His word through His prophets. Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration of The Church of Jesus for these latter days, has given instruction to all people of the world in regards to this issue of health; it is known as "The Word of Wisdom."
In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89 we are taught about the Lord's requirements for healthy living.
On February 27, 1833 the prophet Joseph Smith, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS church, received a revelation from the Lord concerning the spiritual, as well as physical, well being or health of His Children. This revelation is now recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 89, and is known as the "Word of Wisdom" or a code of health.
This particular standard of healthy living, which the "Mormon" community strives to live by probably provokes more questions from non-members of our faith than any other of our teachings. Exploration of the document itself can clear up a multitude of misunderstanding about this code of health.
The historical background for the revelation on health as related by Brigham Young.
"I think I am as well acquainted with the circumstances which led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom as any man in the Church, although I was not present at the time to witness them. The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph's kitchen, in a house which belonged to Bishop Whitney. . . . The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry." Brigham Young
However, let’s look at some of the reasons the Lord himself gives for the answer to Joseph’s question.
Understanding the terms, "Principle" and "Promise".
It is a statement of principle with a promise attached.
To understand this reason, we must first define the term principle.
"A principle is a general and fundamental truth that may be used in deciding conduct or choice." "It is a basic truth, law or assumption, a rule or standard."
Similarly we also must make sure that the term promise is given correct definition.
A promise is "a declaration that something will or will not be done." It is an "express assurance on which expectation is to be based."
"Principle with a promise" statement can be made into an if...then.... statement.
Simplistically, we might be able to make an equation from the "principle with a promise" statement to an "if/then" equation.
"If you do this then you will get this."
The "principle" or rules part of the revelation is usually the part that most people think they understand. It is where the average person will ask a question like, "Oh, you're Mormon, you can't drink coffee, right?" The answer is right, and the conversation is over. But, the wonderful "promise" part of the revelation is seldom discussed. That is why I have chosen to discuss that first.
"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;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
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." (Section 89)
Health, means much more than just to be physically healthy.
The first promise given is that of health but this promise does not necessarily have reference to only our physical bodies. To understand the blessing of health to the fullest, one may just have to be deprived of it. The health benefits of the Word of Wisdom have been proven over and over since the original reception of the revelation. The studies of today find the effects of prolonged tobacco and alcohol consumption to be hazardous to your health. Not only do these practices affect the users themselves but they also affect the lives of those closest to them. The instructions that were given in the Word of Wisdom were far before their time scientifically speaking.
The physical benefits of living these laws are a reward in themselves, but does this mean that if you live by these rules you will never be sick? The answer is no, sickness and disease are a part of this mortal existence and will always be a trial as long as we live in this sphere.
The promise of "health" as related in the scripture itself is that of "health in the navel, and marrow to the bones." This particular reference in itself is one of life. The navel is another word for "center point" and is the reminder of the lifeline that we have as a "child of God" to the Father, this life line is Christ. Christ is also the marrow or "rich and nutritious food" on which we rely; He is the "innermost or essential part" that we need to live.
Just like the bone would die without this lifeblood, so too would our mortal body be confined to the grave without the life blood of Christ. He is the promise of life because of His death and resurrection, we too will live again. The health we enjoy now is a blessing but the health we will enjoy because of obedience to eternal law is guaranteed.
Wisdom and Knowledge comes from obedience.
The second promise, of wisdom and knowledge, is also one of great importance. It is said, "a healthy body makes a healthy mind" but it is much more than this. Living the law shows obedience to the commands of the Lord and by His own law, affords us the right to have His spirit to be with us. Having this spirit, or gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, gives us the ability to rely on his promptings and direction.
The Holy Ghost is the spirit of revelation. His job is to reveal, testify, and teach us all things necessary to bring us back into the presence of our Father; thus, we can have great treasures of knowledge, even treasures that are hidden from the rest of the world, only to be revealed on condition of obedience. This personal revelation increases our capacity for understanding and wisdom.
Stamina and Energy are not something that comes in a drink.
The third promise to run and not be weary, and walk and not faint is one of increased energy and stamina. It is interesting to note that society today has come up with all kinds of ways to try to receive this blessing on their own. Energy drinks like, Monster, Rock Star, and AMP, are all examples of the world's counterfeits or answers to the problem of low energy. True energy is only received by obedience to the Lord; He is the source of all energy.
Eternal Life is the greatest of all the promises.
The fourth promise is one of eternal consequence. This promise has reference to the Old Testament account of Moses and the deliverance of the Children of Israel from bondage. In the account the last plague that the Lord saw fit to inflict upon Pharaoh and the province of Egypt, by Pharaoh's own words, was that of the death of all the firstborn in the land. Moses instructed the people to take the blood of the lamb and apply it to the posts of their doors. This application of blood was in reference to the Atonement of Jesus Christ which by the shedding of His blood, the firstborn, would save all of His children. Hence, this promise is one referring to the blessings of the atonement in one's life. The full application of the atonement requires obedience to all the laws and ordinances of His gospel.
THE PRINCIPLE that is taught is one of obedience to law.
The principle is simply one of obedience. The first law of heaven is obedience and sacrifice. The Word of Wisdom requires one to be obedient to the Lords commands, and to sacrifice the desires of the "natural man" or personal "will" and submit to the will of the Lord.
To put it simply the Lord's reason for giving His children these "rules" or "suggestions" is simply so that He can bless us.
Here are some of the Rules and Commandments that are outlined in the Word of Wisdom.
Substances that are harmful for our bodies:
- Alcoholic drinks (see D&C 89:5-7).
- Tobacco (see D&C 89:8).
- Tea and coffee (see D&C 89:9; latter-day prophets have taught that the term "hot drinks," as written in this verse, refers to tea and coffee).
“But what about drinking Coke, I thought you Mormon’s couldn’t drink Coke?”
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.)
“Why can’t it be more specific?”
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: "Such revelation is unnecessary. The Word of Wisdom is a basic law. It points the way and gives us ample instruction in regard to both food and drink, good for the body and also detrimental. If we sincerely follow what is written with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, we need no further counsel. . . .
"Thus by keeping the commandments we are promised inspiration and the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord through which we will know what is good and what is bad for the body, without the Lord presenting us with a detailed list separating the good things from the bad that we may be protected. We will learn by this faithful observance that the promises of the Lord are fulfilled."
The foods that are good for our bodies:
Obedience Brings Promises
With the emphasis on health in today's society, more and more, the word of wisdom is being seen as scientifically valid. Statistics show that people who abide these rules of health live longer and enjoy more productive lives; however that is not the major reason for the commandment. The commandment is simply a test to see if we are willing to be obedient. Obedience brings promises.
- Word of Wisdom
The Word of Wisdom is for our physical and spiritual benefit.
Studies on Alcohol and Tobacco
- NIAAA Home
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Tobacco Facts | Tobacco Effects | Effects of Tobacco
Our Tobacco Facts are a great place to learn about immediate Tobacco Effects and the long-term Effects of Tobacco.
Links to learn more about the Word of Wisdom
- The LDS Health Code
The following text was given to Joseph Smith as revelation in the year 1833. It outlines principles of healthy living that go far beyond the scientific knowledge of the 1800s and much of this century.
- FAIR Topical Guide: Word of Wisdom
The following are additional topic areas related to Word of Wisdom.
- Word of Wisdom / Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health
Find information on the Word of Wisdom and our Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health.
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