The Word of Wisdom is a principle with a promise. Many of the lessons given on this topic will get mired in arguments over which foods are allowed and which foods shouldn’t be eaten. Some of that message needs to be discussed, but if that is as far as the discussion progresses then the main point of this law of health has been completely missed.
In Doctrine and Covenants 29:34 the Lord explains that all His commandments are spiritual. Not at anytime in the history of the earth has He given a purely temporal (physical) commandment. This means that even laws like the Law of Moses, which had a ton of physical requirements, was a spiritual law. It was given to promote the spiritual development of the people who lived that law. Here is the verse from section 29.
Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.
The Word of Wisdom has a lot of dos and don’ts in it, but once we understand the basics of those requirements it behooves us to seek for the spiritual reasons behind them. We should also look for the kinds of blessings we can expect from living this law. We need to remember that when it was given it was given as a word to the wise. Anytime the Lord tells us that wisdom dictates that we do such and such then to do otherwise is to invite disaster in our lives. In the early part of the 20th century the Church adopted the Word of Wisdom as a standing law to the members of the Lord’s Church.
A principle is a truth or law that contains other smaller truths within its scope. The Word of Wisdom is such a principle. The Lord is saying “Take care of your bodies.” By doing so many other laws become active in our lives. Let’s look at some examples.
Our bodies are holy
Things that are holy are pure before the Lord. The reason we came to earth was to obtain a body that would allow us to be resurrected and receive exaltation and an eternal increase in glory. If Satan can get us to corrupt our bodies or pollute our bodies, he not only makes a mockery of what God has created for us, but he also prevents us from having full access to the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Ghost cannot easily get through to a person who is under the effects of illegal drugs, alcohol, addictive substances, or to someone who has such unhealthy eating habits that they are unwell all the time. This includes some of us who are prone to overeating.
Does the Word of Wisdom promise us that it will act like a bullet-proof vest against all illnesses? No, it does not. What the Word of Wisdom promises us is that when we live our lives wisely, according to the Lord’s directives in this law, we will be as healthy as our bodies are naturally able to be. They will be clean of any impurities and substances that would impede our daily activities. This is why we are promised that we will be able to run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. We will feel good.
Caution about judging
Many of us are led to believe that particular eating habits are what is required in order for the Word of Wisdom to be lived properly. If that is what we interpret the Word of Wisdom is telling us to do then we should live that way. The problem comes in me looking at my neighbor and condemning my neighbor for not living the Word of Wisdom according to my interpretation of the law.
For example, some people may read the Lord’s statement that we should eat meat sparingly, and adopt a total vegan lifestyle that cuts out meat altogether. They feel justified in this lifestyle because that is how they have interpreted the Word of Wisdom. That is between them and the Lord. But condemning their neighbor for not also living the same way is a cause for concern. The Lord is not happy when we become judgmental in our attitudes.
Some will contend that caffeine (for example) is not addictive, so their drinks are not against the word of wisdom. Others will argue it is addictive and cite their sources. Again, we get back to the principle that the Lord has not given us a specific laundry list of foods that are forbidden or are required. He has given us general guidelines that we are expected to follow by the use of the Holy Ghost in our lives. What we may convince ourselves is okay to consume today, after some maturing in the Spirit we may determine that we would be better off without a particular substance in our life. Change for the better is what following the Holy Ghost is all about.
Hot drinks, as defined by the prophets, is coffee and tea. Yet many have convinced themselves that green tea is okay to consume in “healthy” drinks or in other foods. Why? Primarily because it isn’t black tea. Both are tea, and both come from the same plant. The only difference between the two is the age of the leaf used to make the drink. But this again is something that is between the person and their Bishop.
Blessings of living the law and warnings
What is it that the Lord desires for us more than anything else? Isn’t it that we will become spiritually sensitive and live according to the promptings of the Holy Ghost? This is what increases our desire to repent and gives us the strength to live the gospel in a Christlike way.
In verse four of section 89 the Lord says this:
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 in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—
The Lord knew that people would be trying to get us to consume things and do things that are harmful to us in the last days. He has forewarned us that this would be the case. What is he talking about? Think about the commercials you see for alcohol. What do they promise you if you will drink their product? They promise better sex, greater popularity, prosperity, etc. The prophets have already elaborated on the evils of liquor, and the destruction that comes from consuming it. The closest the advertisers come to admitting that liquor can be dangerous is their tagline of “Drink responsibly.”
This is just one example of people who know better, but are getting rich off other’s misery by convincing people to buy their product. The tobacco industry does the same thing. Then there is the pharmaceutical industry, the Beef Council, and a host of other groups who produce foods that will make us fat and unhappy, and prone to diseases of all kinds. They all make their living off of foods and substances that hurt our sacred bodies. These are the kinds of people the Lord was forewarning us about.
The promise to the saints is that those who live this law of health “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” What are these hidden treasures? The Lord doesn’t expound on what they are. He just promises us that we will find them.
Who is generally happier, the person whose body is teaming with chemicals like nicotine, alcohol, and other addictive substances, or someone whose mind is clear because they eat a healthy diet in proper amounts and get enough sleep and exercise each day? What kind of treasure is that kind of lifestyle? What’s it worth to the one who lives that way?
What is the difference in our lives when we live in such a way that we are able to be sensitive in our feelings to the promptings of the Holy Ghost? What do we expect the Holy Ghost to do for us in our lives? What do we think He has to teach us? It is the purpose and calling of the Holy Ghost to lead us back to God, our Father. It is His job to teach us to appreciate the sacrifice of Christ in our behalf. He leads us to repent and gives us a change of heart so we no longer desire to rebel against our God. He helps us find happiness and joy in living the commandments. He increases our love for our fellow man. What is this worth to us?
These things are hidden, because they are only available to those who have made covenants with the Lord through baptism and in the temple. These are blessings that are only available to those who have bent their wills to the will of the Father, who are striving to be wise in how they treat their bodies and live their lives. These are they who are trying to become holy, and who treat their bodies like the temples the Lord says they are.
When you have this lesson in class, I hope you don’t get bogged down in the minutiae of people’s interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. There are great promises and blessings attached to this simple law. We each need to decide for ourselves what the Lord wants us to do in our circumstances to be obedient to the law. We need to remember that it is not our place to judge others for how they live it. It is not our place to make excuses for why we should be allowed to consume things or do things that violate the law.
Our happiness in the eternities depends in large measure on how well we learn to accept the Lord’s Word of Wisdom to each of us, and how well we listen to the Holy Spirit in implementing it in our lives. This law does not restrict us, it frees us in many ways. The Word of Wisdom is a doorway to happiness.