It’s been almost a year since I’ve been meaning to write this post and others relating to my religion’s health code, the Word of Wisdom. I’ve mentioned it probably several times, but never have I actually explained it. So here goes.
The Word of Wisdom is found in a book of modern day scripture called The Doctrine and Covenants. This book primarily consists of revelations from God given to Joseph Smith, who we believe to be the first modern day prophet, and was also the founder and first president of our church. Section 89 contains the Word of Wisdom. It was revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833, after there were some concerns:
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 [Joseph Smith] 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, Journal of Discourses, Vol 12, page 158
While Joseph Smith only asked about tobacco use, the Lord revealed that other substances should be avoided, and then gives counsel on what things are good to put into one’s body.
Not for the Body
The Word of Wisdom proscribes “strong drinks” (clarified to mean liquor), “hot drinks” (clarified to mean tea and coffee), and tobacco. Though not specified, street drugs and abuse of prescription drugs clearly fall under this category of substances that are not for consumption.
Tobacco is suggested as an herb for sick cattle, and “strong drinks” are for the “washing of the body” (think rubbing alcohol).
Good for the Body
“Wholesome herbs” are “ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man.” Herbs are understood to mean edible plants, such as vegetables and herbs. Fruits are considered good. These plant foods are to be eaten “in the season thereof” and to be used with “prudence and thanksgiving.”
Flesh of beasts and fowls of the air are also ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving, but they are to be used sparingly: “it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
Grain is ordained for the use of man and beast to be the “staff of life.” It can also be used for mild drinks.
The Word of Wisdom does not mention seafood, dairy or eggs. I do not know why.
When the Word of Wisdom and other commandments are followed, then blessings are given of health and strength, wisdom and knowledge.
I have many, many thoughts on the Word of Wisdom. I wrote my explanation above as plainly as I could without going into any interpretation that hasn’t been officially given by the church. In a future post or two, I would like to go over some thoughts on how it relates to traditional diets, my own interpretations, and how, despite being incredibly simple, I believe it is a good recipe for health.
Mostly, I wanted to get this out there to show others the basis of my belief about food: That we should try to abstain from things that are harmful to our bodies, and that we should put good, wholesome food into our bodies. There are very few things that are prohibited in the Word of Wisdom, and a vast array of foods that are deemed good for mankind. I’ve seen literally every kind of food being demonized by one group or another, and while of course there is room for individuality, I believe the Word of Wisdom makes it clear that God has provided an abundance of different types of food for his children.
It is a piece of good counsel which the Lord desires His people to observe, that they may live on the earth until the measure of their creation is full. This is the object the Lord had in view in giving that Word of Wisdom. To those who observe it He will give great wisdom and understanding, increasing their health, giving strength and endurance to the faculties of their bodies and minds until they shall be full of years upon the earth. This will be their blessing if they will observe His word with a good and willing heart and in faithfulness before the Lord.
–Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol 12, page 156