Spiritual Sunday: The Word of Wisdom

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.

Gifts

When the Word of Wisdom and other commandments are followed, then blessings are given of health and strength, wisdom and knowledge.

My Thoughts

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

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. sharpcas says:

    Interesting post thanks for sharing. I like to read about what you believe.

    Catholicism is like the opposite. It’s like this, enjoy a glass of wine but don’t have too much. Have some coffee don’t have a whole pot. Have some chocolate, don’t binge. While I don’t think moderation is great sometimes I feel like I really connect to the way my church believes. Because, in terms of food, if I was on a strict paleo diet for the rest of my life and never ‘cheated’ how could I ever enjoy

    I was wondering why your church doesn’t believe in wine, since Jesus himself drank wine. I’m talking a serving size not getting drunk or anything.

    1. sharpcas says:

      Oops i think I deleted the last part of that sentence. How could I ever enjoy a treat. That’s what it was supposed to say

    2. Lisa C says:

      Thanks, Cassie. I’m glad it’s interesting for you. I like learning about other people’s beliefs, too.

      This is something I was actually going to cover in a future post, but I’ll explain what I understand about the wine. This is an excerpt from the Word of Wisdom that covers drinks:

      5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine 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.

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

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

      I’ve heard it explained that “pure wine of the grape” is grape juice. I also think it could have been something similar to the “grape cooler” recipe in Nourishing Traditions that I made last fall. From what I understand, historically people have fermented their drinks, such as wine, to preserve them, but not all fermented drinks have to have a high alcohol content. I don’t believe all wines mentioned in the Bible were strong wines. In fact, the Word of Wisdom mentions using grains for “mild drinks.” So I believe fermented drinks are totally fine, as long as they aren’t “strong drinks.” But even though it’s nice to have those explanations, I’m okay with taking things on faith, too. None of the advice in the Word of Wisdom comes with its own explanation. He just says, these are good, these aren’t. To me, the important thing about the Word of Wisdom is realizing that it is health advice from the Lord.

      By the way, our church used to use wine for the Sacrament but eventually switched to water; I assume for the sake of simplicity.

    3. Lisa C says:

      As for moderation… I don’t think that idea really comes across in our church’s teachings. It’s more like, here’s the ideal, now do your best. In regards to food…I think it depends on how you interpret the Word of Wisdom. I know that most members of my church believe it’s fine to have things like soda, chocolate and junk food “in moderation.” Of course moderation could mean a little bit every day to one person, and once in a blue moon to someone else.

      I can’t say why drugs and alcohol have been forbidden, though I have my ideas. Personally, I think of it as a safety measure. One that I’m grateful for, since knowing my personality, history of depression and the way I react to sugar, I’d have had a good chance of slipping into a pattern of alcohol abuse. I could totally see my dad being an alcoholic, too, with the way he stressed and was always in pain and had emotional issues. I know that not everyone who drinks has drinking problems, but no one who never drinks has drinking problem. I’m glad I’ve never been at risk for alcoholism, despite having the genetic makeup for it.

      I hope I don’t sound preachy, those are just my honest feelings.

      1. xochinelson says:

        I am also LDS and I am new to the Weston A Price/ Nourishing Traditions thing. I love the research behind the diet and traditional foods, it makes a lot of sense to me. However before I heard about it, I was borderline vegetarian, only eating meats like chicken and salmon a couple times a month, and not really ever eating red meats. Now that I am eating much more animal products such as red meats, bone broths, liver, etc., I have begun thinking about the Word of Wisdom and how it says to “eat meats sparingly, only in times of winter”. I am curious on your thoughts on that.

        Also, thank you for this blog!

      2. Lisa C says:

        Thank you for your comment! Yes, I find that a hard one to interpret. Like you, I didn’t eat much meat before…usually about once a week. But I was so unhealthy! My husband thinks “sparingly” is an individual thing, as in you don’t eat more than your body requires. I like that. I have digestive issues and don’t assimilate nutrients easily–meat nourishes my body better than plant foods. But I don’t have it every meal. I try not to have more than I need. My need does seem to increase in the winter months, interestingly. I think we just have to be prayerful and consider how the Word of Wisdom applies to us as individuals.

      3. xochinelson says:

        That makes a lot of sense. Thank you!!

      4. xochinelson says:

        And now that I think about it, I began eating meat more while I was pregnant. My body started craving it which was weird. It was probably because I wasn’t getting enough protein.

      5. Lisa C says:

        You’re welcome! And yes, our bodies do need more protein when pregnant!

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