Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 89

Food Diary

Write down everything you remember eating yesterday.

Pop Quiz

Now answer the following questions without referring to your scriptures.
  1. What hath God ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man?
  2. What are to be used sparingly--only in winter, cold, or famine?
  3. What is the staff of life?               
  4. What are we to use with prudence and thanksgiving?
  5. Which grain is singled out as being particularly good for man?
  1. All herbs (plants or vegetables)
  2. Meat, poultry, and wild game
  3. All grain, not only for man but for all beasts and fowls
  4. Every herb (vegetable) and every fruit in their season.
  5. Wheat
Now compare your food diary to these answers. How closely are you following the Word of Wisdom?


aWord of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—

To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the aword of wisdom, showing forth the order and bwill of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

Given for a principle with apromise, adapted to the capacity of the bweak and the weakest of all csaints, who are or can be called saints.

The Word of Wisdom wasn’t originally a commandment, just good counsel. Now it’s a requirement for temple attendance, so the "not by commandment" part has changed with later prophets. But anytime the Lord is willing to give us advice, it's a really good idea to follow it. In the 21st Century, when there are so many competing voices telling us what to eat and what not to eat, it is a wonderful blessing to have the Word of Wisdom as our standard for gauging truth.

What Not to Put into Our Bodies

Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of aevils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have cwarned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

That inasmuch as any man adrinketh bwine 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.

And, behold, this should be wine, yea, apure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

And, again, astrong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

And again, tobacco is not for the abody, 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.

And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

 This is the minimum commandment, and the one we seem to pay the most attention to. We tend to think of ourselves as perfect at keeping the Word of Wisdom if we don’t smoke or drink alcohol, tea, or coffee. We think it is a simple black-and-white commandment, cut-and-dried, just like tithing. But the Word of Wisdom has more to it than just avoiding tobacco and strong drinks, and we can’t expect to reap all of the blessings of the Word of Wisdom unless we keep the whole thing.

Joseph Fielding Smith:Many a man thinks he keeps the Word of Wisdom who knows only the ‘don’ts…’” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:148).

What to Eat and in What Way

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving...

14 All agrain 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...

16 All grain is good for the afood of man; as also the bfruit 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.

 Herein lies the higher law. We are to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables ("herbs"), and our staple foods should be grains, the "staff of life."

"The world's largest land mammals are strictly vegetarian, but in order to consume enough calories, many of them must spend much of their day eating. If we did that, we would have little time for education, the arts, or even religious practice. The cultivation of grains through agriculture, therefore, is the foundation of civilization in the history of the human race. Grains and other starchy plant foods provide significantly more calories than the typical vegetable or even fruit, allowing humans to satisfy their energy requirements in a much more efficient way. These foods can also be more easily stored away for us in times of cold or famine. Human civilization is not possible without the cultivation of grains" (Jane Birch, Discovering the Word of Wisdom, p. 34).

And we are to eat with "prudence and thanksgiving," virtues many of us in more affluent countries have completely neglected.

"To a significant degree, we [in the United States] are an overfed and undernourished nation digging an early grave with our teeth..." (Ezra Taft Benson, BYU address, quoted in Birch, p. 10).

What to Eat Sparingly or, Better Yet, Not at All

12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts 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 csparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.

14 All agrain 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 athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

Flesh should be eaten very sparingly, mainly just to save human life. It is pleasing to God that animals not be eaten if other things are available. In the U.S., there is no longer a time of winter or famine, because of refrigeration and shipping, so a good case could be made that the Lord would prefer we eat a completely plant-based diet. It was a different story in Joseph Smith's day. There were frequent famine situations, and winter itself was a yearly famine. Meat could be preserved into jerky or animals could be hunted when plants were scarce, dormant, or unavailable. For example: handcart pioneers' lives were saved by eating buffalo when their food supply was gone, and there is even a story that a mysterious man (John the Beloved?) appeared and handed out jerky. I believe the Lord is saying here that human lives are more important than animal lives, but animal lives are not to be wasted if other options are available, because "Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need" (D&C 49:20-21).

President Heber J. Grant said, "I remember recently reading that many of the doctors had come to the conclusion that excessive use of meat was one of the great causes of cancer, and of many other of the diseases that are destroying the human race. Year by year the inspiration comes to men through study and research to confirm, one by one, the teachings that came by the inspiration of the living God to Joseph Smith, the prophet of this last dispensation" (April 1923 General Conference).

There is even more scientific evidence of this today. The damage animal foods can do to the human body has been clearly shown by the decades of research done by T. Colin Campbell, detailed in his eye-opening book, The China Study. 

"Eating animal foods comes at a price since the nutrients in them are not packaged ideally for regular human consumption...they have 1) too much cholesterol (any is in excess of our need, because the human body produces it), 2) too much protein, hard for our kidneys and livers to process, and creating an acidic environment conducive to cancer growth, 3) too much fat, 4) too few vitamins and minerals, 5) too much iron, contributing to chronic illnesses, 6) no phytochemicals, 7) no carbohydrates, 8) no dietary fiber 9) too many hormones, both natural and artificial, 9) too many pollutants, pesticides, etc., because animals are further up the food chain and these become concentrated the higher up you go" (Birch, p. 16-17).

Jesse Evans Smith, wife of President Joseph Fielding Smith, when asked what the prophet ate, said, "My husband doesn't eat meat...We eat lots of fruits and vegetables" (Improvement Era, April 1970, p. 59).

Promised Blessings

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, ashall receive bhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the adestroying angel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

These are beautiful blessings. Gaining them requires adherence to the entire Word of Wisdom, the prescriptions (things we should eat) as well as the proscriptions (things we shouldn't ingest).

Whereas the proscriptions prevent lung cancer, cirrhosis, addiction, and drug overdose and their attendant homicidal crimes, the prescriptions can prevent or reverse heart disease, many types of cancer, and diabetes, as well as greatly reducing risks or effects of arthritis, asthma, cataracts, macular degeneration, colitis, constipation, dementia including Alzheimer's, diverticulitis, gallstones, ulcers, hypertension, kidney disease, kidney stones, multiple sclerosis, obesity, osteoporosis, Parkinson's, and varicose veins. (See T. Colin Campbell's landmark book, The China Study, or the Forks Over Knives documentary, available on YouTube and Netflix, for scores of studies providing evidence.)

"Every modern society that has seen an increase in the amount of protein and fat in their diets has seen a concomitant rise in chronic illness of every kind" (Birch, p. 18).

Blessings of the Word of Wisdom.  

Health in their navel:  
The navel (the torso) houses most of the vital organs—heart, lungs—also the digestive organs. The Word of Wisdom will greatly reduce the risk of lung diseases and heart disease. The Word of Wisdom is high in fiber (particularly if whole grains, fruits and vegetables are used, rather than highly processed ones) and that, combined with “prudence” in portions keeps digestion working well. The health of the digestive tract is closely tied to the health of the immune system.

Marrow to their bones:
“The key cells in your immune system are lymphocytes…which originate in the bone marrow.” (Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, p. A-18) Keeping the Word of Wisdom promises strength in immunity. 

Elder Boyd K. Packer: I have come to know that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation…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 (Oct. 1979 General Conference).

Bill Beardall: [When I was a missionary] years ago, the third missionary discussion talked about the Word of Wisdom…We would always try to get a commitment from the investigator to live the Word of Wisdom. When the investigators accepted this principle, they were able to understand subsequent discussions. Almost without exception, I found that if they had not started to live this important principle, they could not comprehend further growth in the gospel (The Gospel Doctrine Class).

President Heber J. Grant said, No man who breaks the Word of Wisdom can gain the same amount of knowledge and intelligence in this world as the man who obeys the law. I don’t care who he is or where he comes from, his mind will not be as clear, and he cannot advance as far and as rapidly and retain his power as much as he would if he obeyed the Word of Wisdom (April 1925 General Conference).

Run and not be weary:
This promise implies speed and strength. Elder L. Tom Perry related the story of how the Word of Wisdom aided a runner named Creed Hammond in his October 2016 Conference Talk.

Walk and not faint:
This promise implies endurance. 

The destroying angel shall pass them by:
The Word of Wisdom offers protection from many terminal physical diseases, as mentioned above.

Additional blessing:
President Heber J. Grant said, [The Word of Wisdom] would solve the economic problems, not only of our country, but of every other country, if it were obeyed by the people of the world (April 1936 General Conference).

How is this so? Addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs are terribly expensive, both in purchase cost, loss of income, and medical costs later on. And a reduction of animal products would save water, land, and other resources.

"It takes roughly 25 gal. of water to produce a pound of lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes or wheat, 49 gallons for a pound of apples, 815 gallons for a pound of chicken, 1,630 gallons for a pound of pork and a whopping 5,214 gallons of water for a pound of beef. You would save more water by not eating one pound of California beef than you would by not showering for six months......We could instead directly consume the food we feed the animals with much less cost to the environment and to our health...Not only could we feed ourselves, we'd have enough food left over to feed all of the world's poor" (Birch, p. 84).

Who is capable of keeping the Word of Wisdom?

Verse 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."

If you have a disease that is weakening you, or if you need to be saved temporally from a physical injury or defect, the word of wisdom is designed most particularly for you! The promise doesn't apply to all "mankind," but specifically to those "who can be called saints"--in other words, those who are willing to rely upon Jesus Christ. If we ask for his grace to overcome our bad habits and create good ones, we will receive it. If we try to do it on our own, we may have difficulty succeeding. 

My personal testimony of the Word of Wisdom has been greatly strengthened since the year 2016. Although I always considered myself to be keeping the Word of Wisdom perfectly because I didn't smoke or drink, a more careful, prayerful study and implementation of the revelation completely changed the direction of my life. 

I had suffered the effects of a debilitating, degenerative, hereditary disease for 30 years, although I had never gotten a proper diagnosis. By the summer of 2016, I could hardly walk a block because of inflammation in my tendons, it hurt my arms just to hold a book, and the three hours of sitting at church were filled with back and hip pain. I had re-entered Utah State University in 5 years before, working slowly towards a Piano Pedagogy degree, but I had to drop out in the spring of 2016 because by then I could only play the piano for 5 minutes at a time. I lost all my hobbies, and many other abilities, even cleaning the house, pulling weeds, or chopping vegetables. I was in pain all of the time. I saw over a dozen different health professionals that year for help in managing the pain and disability. As I attended the temple (painfully), I wondered why I was not enjoying the blessings pronounced there of strength, speed and endurance, despite "perfectly" keeping the Word of Wisdom. 

While I waited 5 months (!) for an appointment to see a rheumatologist, my youngest daughter convinced me to watch a documentary she saw in high school, "Forks Over Knives." The documentary was about whole-food plant-based eating, and how it could prevent or relieve many chronic or deadly health conditions, among them, arthritis. I contacted one of the doctors in the documentary, Dr. Jon McDougall, and he told me to try eating 100% plant-based for just a week. He said I'd know that quickly whether it would help. Since I could see that whole-food plant-based eating matched the Word of Wisdom, I decided to try it. It was really tricky to learn to cook without meat, eggs, and dairy, but on day four, I experienced a massive drop in pain!

I read The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell; The Starch Solution, by Jon McDougall; Discovering the Word of Wisdom, by Jane Birch; How Not to Die, by Michael Greger. Once I realized that this was a perfect match with the Word of Wisdom, I wondered why I had never had the faith to eat the way the revelation recommends without reading about all the science behind it.

As I have changed my diet to strictly contain only those foods recommended in the Word of Wisdom in their most wholesome forms, mobility, energy, digestion, and immunity improved markedly. Muscle, joint, and headache pain dropped dramatically within that first week. Morning stiffness became minimal. By the time I got my turn to see the rheumatologist in January of 2017 and finally got the correct diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis with Enthesitis, I did not need expensive arthritis drugs with unpleasant side effects. The Word of Wisdom had nearly healed me.

Today I can hike for hours at a moderate pace, I can sit in church with zero pain, and I can practice the piano for an hour a day. I need less medication and even my vision improved so much that I had to get new, weaker prescriptions twice. I don't need glasses to read anymore at all! I am back in school and set to finish my degree this coming semester. I have all the energy I need. I do still have bone spurs, fused neck vertabra, and tendon damage that was done before I changed my diet, but I can work around them. I continue to improve as the years go by. As an added benefit, it's easy and inexpensive to build food storage if you don't bother with meat, dairy, eggs, and highly-processed foods like oil.

There is another great personal testimony of the blessings of paying attention to the whole Word of Wisdom in the August 2016 Ensign.

Invitation to Act--Review your food diary and ask yourself, How can I better align with the Word of Wisdom? Pray for personal revelation, and listen for the Spirit to tell you what you need to change and how. The blessings will be huge!

President Thomas S. Monson reminded us of the importance of the Word of Wisdom in October 2016 General Conference: 

"In 1833 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith a plan for healthy living. That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom. It gives specific direction regarding the food we eat, and it prohibits the use of substances which are harmful to our bodies...

"May we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of Wisdom, a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul, I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do" (emphasis added).

For more information, see BYU professor Jane Birch's very helpful website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Various grains are specified for the animals as certain animals cannot digest all of the grains. Eating meat is actually mentioned three times but most people miss the last one.