Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live a strict health code and are well known for their obedience. This health code is formally known as the Word of Wisdom. In the early days of the Church, numerous brethren used tobacco during meetings, and the nastiness of the spittle and/or the smoke caused the Prophet Joseph Smith to ponder the situation. He then inquired of the Lord concerning it and received a revelation from God on the matter. This revelation is now known as the Word of Wisdom and is included in the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 89.
The Lord explains in the first verse that the Word of Wisdom is given “for the benefit of the council of high priests … and also the saints in Zion.” It was given to show “the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days,” but it was not commandment when it was first given (verse 2).
Verse 3 tells us that the Word of Wisdom is “a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” In verse 4 the Lord explains that this word of wisdom was given as a warning against “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” We recognize many of those evil designs in our day.
The Lord then proceeds to explain that “wine or strong drink” should not be used in the sacrament or taken into the body, but they should be used to wash the body (verses 5-7). Strong drinks are understood to be those with alcohol in them. “Tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man but it is “an herb for bruises and all sick cattle” and should be “used with judgment and skill” (verse 8). One of my sons had a bicycle accident while on his mission and had a terrible bruise. A member of the Church put a poultice made of tobacco on his bruise, and it healed quickly.
In verse 9 the Lord warns against “hot drinks,” known at the time as coffee and tea but could include the dangers of drinking anything that is too hot. Obedience to the Word of Wisdom now excludes the use of all illegal drugs and the misuse of all legal drugs.
After His warning about strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks, the Lord proceeds to give instructions about
“wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man” (verse 10). The Lord says that “Every herb” and “every fruit” should be used “in the season thereof; all these with prudence and thanksgiving” (verse 11). He states that the “flesh” of beasts and fowls is “ordained for the use of man” and are to be used with “thanksgiving” and “sparingly” – “only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” (verses 12-13). “All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life” (verse 14). “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” (verse 16).
After His explanation of what we should avoid and what we can use, the Lord concludes His revelation by explaining how the Word of Wisdom is a principle with a promise. “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” (verses 18-21).
The importance of living the Word of Wisdom was emphasized by President Thomas S. Monson in the October 2016 General Conference. “Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commandments and who faithfully observe the Word of Wisdom are promised particular blessings, among which are good health and added physical stamina.”
President Monson then proceeds to share the experience of John A. Larsen in World War II. During a battle in the Philippines, orders were given to evacuate before Japanese bombers and kamikaze fighter planes arrived. Four men, including Larsen, “gathered their gear and hurried to the beach, hoping for a lift out to one of the departing ships. Fortunately, a landing craft picked them up and sped toward the last ship leaving the bay. The men on that departing ship, in an effort to evacuate as quickly as possible, were busy on deck and had time only to throw ropes to the four men….”
Larsen was carrying a heavy radio on his back and trying to climb a 40-foot rope. He was only a third of the way up the rope when his arms began to burn with pain. He “silently cried unto God, telling Him that he had always kept the Word of Wisdom and had lived a clean life – and he now desperately needed the promised blessings. He later shared that “as he finished his prayer, he felt a great surge of strength. He began climbing once again and fairly flew up the rope. When he reached the deck, his breathing was normal and not the least bit labored. The blessings of added health and stamina promised in the Word of Wisdom had been his….”
I know that the promise of the Word of Wisdom is for all of us. If we are obedient to this law, I know that we can call upon God for the blessings of living it.