Our Bodies Are Temples of God
Once again there are tremendous resources for this lesson found in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). This includes Brigham Young, Chapter 29, Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 36, Heber J. Grant, Chapter 21 and David O. McKay, Chapter 11. Remember, these can all be found on “lds.org” (first click on the bar in the lower left hand corner that says “Go to Classic LDS.org”) then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” All of the manuals are listed at the bottom of that page. Be sure to not miss that terrific resource of Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual, Section 89. This can be found at “institute.lds.org” then click on “Course Catalogue” on the top bar.
In this section we read, “Our bodies are so important that the Lord calls them temples of God…” (p. 167). Following is a repeat of what was printed in this blog in November (Chapter 26: Sacrifice) but really fits better here:
The concept from Paul that our bodies are temples of God is beautifully developed by Jeffrey R. Holland (before he became an apostle) in a talk, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” given at a BYU Speeches of the Year, 12 January 1988. In this talk, he stated:
Paul's warning to the Corinthians takes on newer, higher meaning:
. . . Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye
have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,
which are God's. [1 Corinthians 6:13-20; emphasis added]
Our soul is what's at stake here‹our spirit and our body. Paul understood that doctrine of
the soul…because it is gospel truth. The purchase price for our fullness of joy (body and spirit eternally united) is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, "Well, it's my life," or worse yet, "It's my body." It is not. "Ye are not your own," Paul said. "Ye are bought with a price."
One of the current temptations of the world attacking youth concerning their bodies being temples of God is tattooing. A wonderful Ensign article, "I Have a Question" by a medical doctor appeared in the Ensign. He discussed many other points concerning medical and social-emotional damage from tattooing as well as the spiritual damage from disobedience to this aspect of the Word of Wisdom:
Similarly, when individuals follow the body-defiling practices of multiple piercing and tattooing, they dull their spiritual sensitivity. Tattooing the body seems analogous to spraying graffiti on one of our beautiful temples.
So often individuals are motivated to participate in these activities because they want to feel valued and accepted by their peers; they may even have feelings of low self-worth. In truth, the real basis of self-worth is the knowledge that we are sons and daughters of God, who loves us. The Holy Ghost is the custodian of that knowledge (Ensign, Feb. 1999, 52).
In this lesson most of what we learn comes from the Lord revealing Section 89 of what is known as the Word of Wisdom. Brigham Young shared how we got this wonderful revelation:
President Brigham Young said: “I think I am as well acquainted with the circumstances which led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom as any man in the Church, although I was not present at the time to witness them. The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph’s kitchen, in a house which belonged to Bishop Whitney. . . . The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. 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 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 (Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual, Section 89).
In this section we read, “Our Father knows that we face temptations to treat our bodies unwisely or to take harmful things into them” (p. 169). President McKay talked about one time when he was tempted and how he handled it:
During a visit with the queen of the Netherlands in 1952, President and Sister McKay had an interesting experience. The queen had scheduled 30 minutes for a visit with them. President McKay carefully watched the time, and when the half hour was up, he politely thanked the queen and began to leave. “Mr. McKay,” she said, “sit down! I have enjoyed this thirty minutes more than I have enjoyed any thirty minutes in a long time. I just wish you would extend our visit a little longer.” He sat down again. Then a coffee table was brought in, and the queen poured three cups of tea, giving one to President McKay, one to Sister McKay, and keeping one for herself. When the queen noticed that neither of her guests drank the tea, she asked, “Won’t you have a little tea with the Queen?” President McKay explained, “I must tell you that our people do not believe in drinking stimulants, and we think tea is a stimulant.” She said, “I am the Queen of the Netherlands. Do you mean to tell me you won’t have a little drink of tea, even with the Queen of the Netherlands?” President McKay responded, “Would the Queen of the Netherlands ask the leader of a million, three hundred thousand people to do something that he teaches his people not to do?” “You are a great man, President McKay,” she said. “I wouldn’t ask you to do that” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 103).
President Joseph F. Smith also gave wise counsel concerning temptations which may come from members of the Church:
I recollect a circumstance that occurred three years ago in a party that I was traveling with. There were one or two who persisted in having their tea and coffee at every place they stopped. I preached the Word of Wisdom right along; but they said, ‘What does it matter? Here is So-and-so, who drinks tea and coffee.’ … I said at one time, ‘Oh, yes, you say it is a good thing to drink a little tea or coffee, but the Lord says it is not. What shall I follow?’ The Lord says that if we will observe the Word of Wisdom we shall have access to great treasures of knowledge, and hidden treasures; we shall run and not be weary, we shall walk and not faint; and the destroying angel shall pass us by, as he did the children of Israel, and not slay us. … I will pray for you and earnestly beseech you, my brethren and sisters, … to cease practicing these forbidden things, and observe the laws of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 323-4).
President Joseph F. Smith also gave wise help for dealing with temptation and the wonderful result of doing so:
Why cannot we rise to that degree of intelligence that would enable us to say to the tempter, “Get behind me,” and to turn our backs upon the practice of evil. How humiliating it must be to a thoughtful man to feel that he is a slave to his appetites, or to an over-weening and pernicious habit, desire, or passion (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 326).
Of course, temptations come from Satan who influences men to do his will, which is anything contrary to the will of God. President McKay gave wonderful counsel about how this happened with tobacco. By studying these words of a prophet, we can be warned and discover the same pattern being used today with other temptations concerning the Word of Wisdom:
“Evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men… [D&C 89:4].” The purport of that impressed me in the twenties, and the thirties of [the 20th] century. I just ask you … to recall the methods employed by certain tobacco interests to induce women to smoke cigarettes.
You remember how insidiously they launched their plan. First, by saying that it would reduce weight. They had a slogan: “Take a cigarette instead of a sweet.”
Later, some of us who like the theatre, noticed that they would have a young lady light the gentleman’s cigarette. Following this a woman’s hand would be shown on billboards lighting or taking a cigarette. A year or two passed and soon they were brazen enough to show the lady on the screen or on the billboard smoking the cigarette. …
I may be wrong, but I thought I saw an indication recently that conspiring men now have evil designs upon our youth. Keep your eyes and ears open (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 107-8).
In the last paragraph of this section we read, “If we do not obey the Word of Wisdom, the Lord’s Spirit withdraws from us” (p. 167). President McKay gave examples of this in order to avoid “rapids” into which Satan would lead us:
As I recall the influences upon my young life, I believe the greatest was the memorizing of that important saying: “My spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle.”
Then there were … others, and they were all in the form of warnings. The first came to me as a boy as I sat on a spring seat by the side of my father as we drove into Ogden. Just before we crossed the bridge across the Ogden River, a man came out from a saloon, which was just on the northern bank of the river. I recognized him. I liked him because I had seen him on the local stage. But on that occasion he was under the influence of liquor, and had been for, I suppose, several days.
I did not know … he drank, but as he broke down and cried and asked father for fifty cents to go back into the saloon, I saw him stagger away. As we drove across the bridge my father said:
“David, he and I used to go [home] teaching together.”
That was all he said, but it was a warning to me that I have never forgotten, about the effect of dissipation [or excessive drinking].
A little later, a teacher [assigned] us to read a story about a group of young people sailing down the St. Lawrence River. … I cannot give you the author, I cannot give you the title, but I can give you the memory that has stayed with me, about those young folks who were drinking and carousing and having a good time in the boat sailing down that noted river. But a man on the shore, recognizing, realizing the dangers ahead of them, cried: “Hello, there, the rapids are below you.”
But they ignored his warning, defied him. “We are all right,” and continued in their jocularity [or joking] and their indulgences. And again he cried out: “The rapids are below you,” and again they gave no heed to his warning.
Suddenly they found themselves in the rapids. Then they immediately began to row for the shore, but it was too late. I do not remember but just the words of the last paragraph, but cursing, yelling, over the rapids, over the falls they went.
Negative? Yes. But I will tell you there are many in the stream of life who are rowing just that way. I have never forgotten that story (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 106-7)..
President Grant also taught this principle of keeping commandments and communication with God:
Another reason for which I am so anxious that the Latter-day Saints should observe the Word of Wisdom is that the Lord says it was given to us for our temporal salvation [see D&C 89:2]. I would like it known that if we as a people never used a particle of tea or coffee or of tobacco or of liquor, we would become one of the most wealthy people in the world. Why? Because we would have increased vigor of body, increased vigor of mind; we would grow spiritually; we would have a more direct line of communication with God, our Heavenly Father; we would be able to accomplish more (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 192).
In the last section of this lesson, President Boyd K. Packer is quoted stating “The Word of Wisdom is a key to individual revelation” (p. 171). In an earlier talk, he also discussed the concept that indulgence in things harmful for the body decreases our ability to listen to the Spirit:
I have come to know … that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. From the time you are very little we teach you to avoid tea, coffee, liquor, tobacco, narcotics, and anything else that disturbs your health. … If someone ‘under the influence’ can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings? 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 (Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20).
Perhaps one of Satan’s best “counterfeits” is his attempt to replicate “happiness” that comes from keeping the commandments. We would do well to remember the counsel of Alma to his son Corianton:
Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10).
President Joseph F. Smith discussed this false concept of happiness from breaking the Word of Wisdom:
The drunkard becomes a slave to his drink; others become slaves to the use of tea, coffee and tobacco, and therefore they consider them necessary to their happiness; but they are not really necessary to their happiness nor to their health (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 326).
The two greatest sins, next to committing the “unpardonable sin” are murder and breaking the law of chastity. President Grant explained the connection between the law of chastity and breaking the Word of Wisdom:
The crying evil of the age is lack of virtue. There is but one standard of morality in the Church of Christ. We have been taught, thousands of us who have been reared in this Church from our childhood days, that second only to murder is the sin of losing our virtue; and I want to say to the fathers and to the mothers, and to the sons and daughters, in our Primary, in our Mutual Improvement Associations, in our seminaries and institutes, in Sunday School, in the Relief Society and in all of our Priesthood quorums—I want it understood that the use of liquor and tobacco is one of the chief means in the hands of the adversary whereby he is enabled to lead boys and girls from virtue (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 194).
Prophetic voices from the past are validated with a quick internet search today which will reveal statistics that alcohol is involved in at least 34% of all murders and that more than 50% of rapes occur when the rapist has been drinking.
On a positive (and doctrinally important) note, President Joseph Fielding Smith proclaimed:
One of the main purposes of this moral life is to obtain these bodies and if they are not kept clean then they are not fit for exaltation...The purpose of this great revelation (D&C 89) on the care and proper treatment of the body is that the body may be sanctified in truth and cleanliness, as well as the spirit (Church History and Modem-day Revelation, 1:383).
We Are Commanded Not to Take Certain Things into Our Bodies
The first question in this section is, “What has the Lord commanded us not to take into our bodies?” (p. 167). President Joseph F. Smith declared that there were only two options for latter-day Saints when it comes to the Word of Wisdom:
Perhaps those who are accustomed to these habits think this is a very trivial or very unimportant thing to talk about to a vast congregation like this, but I never see a boy or a man, young or old, addicted to this habit and practicing it openly but I am forced to the conclusion to the conviction in my mind that he is either ignorant of God’s will concerning man or he is defiant of God’s will and does not care anything about the word of the Lord, and that alone is sufficient to bring sorrow to the heart of any man who has any regard or respect for the word or will of the Lord and would like to see it obeyed (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 325).
The Word of Wisdom was first given “not by commandment or constraint” (D&C 89:2). However, these were words added by Joseph Smith (see heading to D&C 89). Here is President Joseph F. Smith’s explanation of this:
The reason undoubtedly why the Word of Wisdom was given as not by “commandment or restraint” was that at that time, at least, if it had been given as commandment it would have brought every man, addicted to the use of these noxious things under condemnation; so the Lord was merciful and gave them a chance to overcome, before He brought them under the law. Later on, it was announced from this stand, by President Brigham Young, that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation and a command of the Lord. I desired to mention that fact, because I do not want you to feel that we are under no restraint. We do not want to come under condemnation (Conference Report, October 1913, p. 14).
It is true that early in the history of the Church the Word of Wisdom was not emphasized as strongly as it later was. However, from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we learn:
…by 1930 abstinence from the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea had become an official requirement for those seeking temple recommends (p. 1584).
However, as will be learned by reading the statements of earlier prophets in this blog, they had no question from the beginning that this was revelation from the Lord. Brigham Young certainly felt this way, as well as denying that this commandment was past its usefulness:
This Word of Wisdom which has been supposed to have become stale, and not in force, is like all the counsels of God, in force as much today as it ever was. There is life, everlasting life in it—the life which now is and the life which is to come (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 212).
A terrific endorsement of the Word of Wisdom as well as pronouncement of another great blessing not mentioned in the manual comes from President Joseph F. Smith:
President Joseph F. Smith taught that the Word of Wisdom was more than a prohibition against tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol; it contained practical counsel for good health and spiritual growth, and those Saints who obeyed it would draw nearer to the Lord and become more like Him. To remind the Saints of the importance of the Word of Wisdom, he sometimes read Doctrine and Covenants 89 in its entirety in a meeting. “Now, it may seem altogether unnecessary and out of place, perhaps, to many, for me to occupy the time of this vast congregation in reading this revelation,” he once said, but read every word of it anyway to emphasize the great value of the message (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 323).
President Grant discussed the false concepts of some:
I have heard any number of Latter-day Saints say 'Why, the word of wisdom is not a commandment'. What does the Word of Wisdom say? That is the mind and the will of the
Lord The day is gone by when the Lord will trifle with the Latter-day Saints. He has said that His Spirit shall not always strive with man (Gospel Standards, 55-56).
President Grant added these feelings:
As I read the Word of Wisdom, I learn that it is adapted to the weakest of all the weak who are or can be called Saints [see D&C 89:3]. And I believe that it would be a wonderful aid in the advancement of the kingdom of God if all the Latter-day Saints would obey this simple commandment of the Lord…
There is not a man or a woman among all the Latter-day Saints but who could keep the Word of Wisdom if they got down on their knees … and pray[ed] to God for help (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 196).
In President McKay’s day, there certainly was no question, as explained in the heading in a Priesthood/Relief Society manual:
“The Word of Wisdom is a clear commandment given by revelation from the Lord” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 104).
President McKay reinforced this:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands committed unequivocally to the doctrine that tea, coffee, tobacco, and intoxicants are not good for man. True Latter-day Saints refrain from indulgence in tobacco and drink, either of stimulants or of intoxicants, and by example and precept, teach others to do the same (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 108).
The Word of Wisdom prohibits “hot drinks” (verse 9). The manual states, “Church leaders have said that this means coffee and tea, which contain harmful substances” (p. 169).
The following comes from the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual:
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. . . .
“Tea and coffee . . . are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks.’”
Brigham Young also discussed this in historical context:
This Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of hot drinks and tobacco. I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned therein; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee—the beverages in common use (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 212).
Hopefully Latter-day Saints do not have as much trouble living the Word of Wisdom today as they apparently did in President McKay’s day, but just in case some still do not think “We are commanded…” (title of this section) is as serious as the Lord intends it, here is President McKay’s council about this commandment:
The particular sentence that I wish to call attention to is this: “Inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink … behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father.” That is the word of God to the people of this generation. It stands with just as much force as the words of the Savior, “If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself” [John 7:17]. Latter-day Saints, you know this statement of the Savior’s is true; we testify that if any man will do the will of God he will get the testimony, in his heart and in his life, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. We accept the words of the Savior, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” [Luke 13:3] Those eternal truths, so tersely expressed, we accept as true. We may not live up to them wholly, but as a people we accept them, because they are the word of God. Just so strong, just so eternal stands this truth … , “Strong drink is not good for man” [See D&C 89:7]. Yet [many years] have passed, and during that time this doctrine has been preached every week, if not every day, in some congregation of Israel, and still we find in our midst a few who say, by their acts, it is good for man.
I am glad when I study this passage, to find that the Lord did not say, “Strong drink to excess is not good;” nor “Drunkenness is not good.” Suppose He had weakened that expression by modifying it and saying, “Strong drink in excess, or when taken in large quantities, is not good,” how soon we should have justified ourselves that a little drink is good. But like other eternal truths it stands unqualified; strong drink is not good.
I think tobacco is a vice which should be shunned as the bite of a rattlesnake. … The Lord has said that tobacco is not good for man. That should be sufficient for Latter-day Saints.
Members of the Church who have formed either the tobacco habit or the tea and coffee habit, or both, are prone to seek justification for their indulgences in things which the Lord has said plainly are not good for man. Whenever they try to do so, they only parade the weakness of their faith in the Lord’s words, which were given as admonition and “wisdom,” and obedience to which will bring blessing as certain and sure as if he had said, “Thou shalt not” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 104-5).
President Joseph F. Smith also taught about the opportunity for each of us to learn for ourselves about this commandment as well as the resultant safeguards that follow:
When we do the will of the Lord, then shall we know of the doctrine, that it is of God; then shall we build upon the rock; then when the floods descend and the storms beat upon the house, it will not fall (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 326).
In this section is discussed that tobacco, tea and coffee should not be used. These are all stimulants. President McKay explained the medical problem with stimulants:
There is a substance…which when taken into the human system, tends to increase the beating of the heart; which in turn increases the rapidity of the circulation of the blood and of breathing. This causes the body to become warmer and more exhilarated. After a time, however, this temporary enlivenment passes off, and the body is really in a greater need of rest and recuperation than it was before the beverage was taken. Stimulants are to the body what the lash is to the lagging horse—it causes a spurt forward but gives no permanent strength or natural nourishment. Frequently repetitions of the lash only make the horse more lazy; and the habitual use of strong drink, tobacco, tea, and coffee, only tends to make the body weaker and more dependent upon the stimulants to which it is addicted (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 105).
President McKay continues with the spiritual problem with the use of stimulants:
A person’s reaction to his appetites and impulses when they are aroused gives the measure of that person’s character. In such reactions are revealed the man’s power to govern, or his forced servility to yield. That phase of the Word of Wisdom, therefore, which refers to intoxicants, drugs, and stimulants, goes deeper than the ill effects upon the body, and strikes at the very root of character building itself. …
During the last one hundred years, the marvelous advance of science has made it possible for man to determine by experiments the ill effect of intoxicants and drugs upon the nerves and tissues of the human body. Observation and experiment have demonstrated their effects upon character. All such experiments and observations have proved the truth of the … statement: “Strong drinks and tobacco are not good for man” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 106).
In this section is found a powerful sentence, “We should avoid anything that we know is harmful to our bodies” (p. 169). President Boyd K. Packer first declared the commandment and then discussed those things not included:
We have accepted as the Word of Wisdom in the Church standards that we will not change. You are not going to go on a mission unless you observe it. You are not going to go to the temple for the more sacred ordinances unless you observe it. That is no tea or coffee or liquor or tobacco or whatever else is covered by it.
We get strange letters asking if this or that is a part of the Word of Wisdom. Marijuana is not listed in section 89! And neither is strychnine or arsenic listed! But, of course, they are not habit-forming.
The point is, if you want to move on spiritually and do as you ought to do in this life, the principle outlined in the Word of Wisdom shows you the requirements. You cannot just toy with it (CES Fireside for Young Adults, 2 February 2003). These firesides can be found at “institute.lds.org” then click on “CES Firesides” on the top bar.
One of the very best resources for this lesson, especially to help parents teach their children the principles of the law of the Word of Wisdom is For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. If parents do not have a copy of this in the home, they need to ask their bishops for one. It is also found online at “lds.org” then click “Menu” at the top then under “Family” click “Youth” then scroll down and find under “Quick Links” (on the right) click on “For the Strength of Youth.” The information below is from the section on “Physical Health.” There is found very specific guidelines from the Prophet to youth:
Never use tobacco products, such as cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, cigars, and pipe tobacco. They are very addictive and will damage your body and shorten your life. Also, do not drink coffee or tea, for these are addictive and harmful.
Never use tobacco products, such as cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, cigars, and pipe tobacco. They are very addictive and will damage your body and shorten your life…
Any drug, chemical, or dangerous practice that is used to produce a sensation or “high” can destroy your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. These include hard drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications that are abused, and household chemicals (p. 36-37).
One of the questions that inevitably come up with a discussion of the Word of Wisdom is “What about coke?” The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states the following:
With the appearance of cola drinks in the early 1900s, the Church was confronted with cold beverages containing caffeine, a harmful substance believed to make coffee and tea unacceptable. While no official Church position has been stated, leaders have counseled members to avoid caffeine and other addictive chemicals (p. 1584).
Brigham Young taught that failure to live the Word of Wisdom is failure to the community:
A man who indulges in any habit that is pernicious to the general good in its example and influence, is not only an enemy to himself but to the community so far as the influence of that habit goes. A man who would not sacrifice a pernicious habit for the good it would do the community is, to say the least of it, lukewarm in his desires and wishes for public and general improvement (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 214 ).
It may be important in this lesson to discuss the exorbitant price that our society pays for not following the Word of Wisdom. Here is what President Joseph F. Smith emphasized:
If this commandment were observed by the whole people, the vast amount of money that now goes out to the world for strong drink and these other things forbidden in the word of wisdom, would be saved at home, and the health, prosperity and temporal salvation of the people would be correspondingly increased (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 324).
Under President Heber J. Grant, the First Presidency issued the following:
Over the earth, and it seems particularly in America, the demon drink is in control. Drunken with strong drink, men have lost their reason; their counsel has been destroyed; their judgment and vision are fled; they reel forward to destruction. Drink brings cruelty into the home; it walks arm in arm with poverty; its companions are disease and plague; it puts chastity to flight it knows neither honesty nor fair dealing; it is a total stranger to truth; it drowns conscience; it is the body guard of evil; it curses all who touch it. Drink has brought more woe and misery, broken more hearts, wrecked more homes, committed more crimes, filled more coffins, than all the wars of the world has suffered" (Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 8).
To get a feel of what this statement means today, there have been about 1.3 million soldiers die in U.S. wars. For comparison, about 100,000 people die each year just from causes related to alcohol. This means that deaths just from alcohol in about 12 years totals more than the deaths of U.S. soldiers in the entire 234-year history of our country.
It goes without saying that prophets are, of course, prophetic. Now, concerning “social consequences” to just our nation of breaking the Word of Wisdom. An internet search of government statistics reveals that about one of every five dollars spent by the US government in the 1990s on health care was for the treatment and conditions due to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. The economic cost due to these same vices in that same time period was almost half of what the government spent on social security.
President George Albert Smith said some interesting things about tobacco:
The use of tobacco, a little thing as it seems to some men, has been the means of destroying their spiritual life, has been the means of driving from them the companionship of the Spirit of our Father, has alienated them from the society of good men and women, and has brought upon them the disregard and reproach of the children that have been born to them, and yet the devil will say to a man, “'Oh, it's only a little thing" (Conference Report. April 1918).
It may also be good to quote President Grant who had this to say to those who complained about this doctrine:
Some members of the Church in President Grant’s day complained about the numerous sermons they heard on the Word of Wisdom. President Grant commented: “There is seldom a conference when someone does not take it upon himself to tell us: ‘Please do not speak on the Word of Wisdom. We hear it so much, we are sick and tired of it.’ ” President Grant responded to such complaints by saying: “No mortal man who is a Latter-day Saint and is keeping the Word of Wisdom is ever sick and tired of hearing it. When a man leaves a meeting and says … ‘Can’t they find something else to talk about besides the Word of Wisdom; I am sick and tired of it’—of course he is, because he is full of stuff that the Word of Wisdom tells him to leave alone (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 190).
Online at “LDS Resources on Codependence” is found an article entitled, “Hold On To Hope: Help for LDS Addicts and Their Families,” by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone (of the Seventies) and Dr. Rick H. From this series presentation (the whole series is terrific) comes the following concerning the idea that breaking the Word of Wisdom will not keep us from God’s presence:
A bishop tells the story of an elderly sister who came in for a temple recommend. When he asked her about adherence to the Word of Wisdom, she admitted that she had one cup of coffee each morning. When he asked if she could quit and was told no, he suggested that he could not issue a recommend until compliance with the law was met. The woman grew very angry and said, "I don't think it is that significant! One cup of coffee is nothing. I can't believe a loving Father would hold me out of the celestial kingdom for one cup of coffee a day. Why then, should you hold me out of the temple?" For a long moment the bishop looked at her and then said very gently, "I suppose that there are many, many things far more serious than a cup of coffee. Certainly one of those more serious things is rebellion against God. As a member of the church you know what the Lord has taught concerning the Word of Wisdom. If you know the law and still refuse to obey it, that is a very serious state of rebellion. So as long as you continue in this state of opposition, you cannot dwell with God."
Elder Robert C. Oaks, of the Seventy, further emphasized in an Ensign article:
Some Church members may have reservations because of a physical appetite they are not quite willing to surrender. In an effort to justify their behavior and to avoid facing the challenge of keeping their appetites within heavenly bounds, they may say, “Surely the Lord will not keep me out of the celestial kingdom over a cup of coffee every once in a while” (Ensign, July 2005, 30).
President Joseph Fielding Smith had this to say on the matter of breaking the Word of Wisdom and going to the celestial kingdom:
Yes, he will forgive you, because he is going to forgive every man who repents; but, my brethren, if you drink coffee or tea, or take tobacco, are you letting a cup of tea or a little tobacco stand in the road and bar you from the celestial kingdom of God, where you might otherwise have received a fulness of glory? (Doctrines of Salvation 2:16).
While breaking the Word of Wisdom may not be a serious as breaking other commandments, it remains a commandment. There are serious consequences for breaking any commandment.
A great resource for this section is:
Brad Wilcox, "What’s Not on the Warning Label", New Era, Oct. 2008, 38–41
We Are Taught That Certain Things Are Good for Our Bodies
President Joseph Fielding Smith said the following relating to this section:
So much stress has been place upon the "don't" in this revelation that whenever we hear it mentioned the vision of prohibited liquors, tobaccos, teas, coffees, etc., comes before us. We seldom hear of the things mentioned which are "ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man." The Lord has given us all good herbs, fruits, and grains. These are to be the main foods of men, beast, and fowls. But we should not overlook the fact that they are to be used with "prudence and thanksgiving" (Church History and Modern-day Revelation, 1:385).
Some good understanding of the ideas presented in this section could come from just discussing the picture on p. 168.
Two terrific resource articles for this section are:
William T. Stephenson, "Cancer, Nutrition, and the Word of Wisdom: One Doctor’s Observations", Ensign, July 2008, 42–47
Lora Beth Larson, "The Do’s in the Word of Wisdom", Ensign, Apr. 1977, 46
Elder James Talmage cautioned about this section:
In the observance of the Word of Wisdom caution should be used. Personal opinions often color our practices. We have the right of free agency, but nevertheless we should not try to stretch the Word of Wisdom to conform with our own opinions. For example: The Word of Wisdom is not a system of vegetarianism. Clearly, meat is permitted. Naturally, that includes animal products, less subject than meat to putrefactive and other disturbances, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. These products cannot be excluded simply because they are not mentioned specifically. By that token most of our foodstuffs could not be eaten" (Evidences and Reconciliation, 3:155).
Work, Rest, and Exercise Are Important
If more discussion of the value of work is desired, you may refer to this blog, November, Chapter 27.
Rest instead of stimulants was encouraged by Brigham Young:
The constitution that a person has should be nourished and cherished; and whenever we take anything into the system to force and stimulate it beyond its natural capacity, it shortens life. I am physician enough to know that. … If you will follow this counsel, you will be full of life and health, and you will increase your intelligence, your joy, and comfort (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 212).
Brigham Young continued concerning rest:
Instead of doing two days’ work in one day, wisdom would dictate to [the Saints], that if they desire long life and good health, they must, after sufficient exertion, allow the body to rest before it is entirely exhausted. When exhausted, some argue that they need stimulants in the shape of tea, coffee, spirituous liquors, tobacco, or some of those narcotic substances which are often taken to goad on the lagging powers to greater exertions. But instead of these kind of stimulants they should recruit by rest (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 212).
Joseph F. Smith also had wise counsel for this subject:
In the mad rush of life for worldly honors and for the possession of the perishable things of this earth men do not stop before they get weary, and they do not rest before they become faint. They appear to think that what is necessary for them when they become weary and faint is to take stimulants to refresh themselves, that they may be able to run a little farther for a few moments. In this way the man of business braces himself up by taking strong drinks. The housewife and the mother who has the care of her family upon her hands, after she has toiled until she has become faint, feels that she must, in order to keep up her strength, take a cup of tea, and thus brace up her nerves and strengthen herself for a little while that she may be able to finish her day’s work. Now, if the pure intelligence of the Spirit of God were substituted for the stimulating influence of the tea and the liquor; if we could by some means get a sufficient portion of the Spirit of the Lord within us that would cause us to know just what to do when we felt weariness and faintness coming upon us, without resorting to the aid of stimulants and drugs that go far to injure our systems and make us slaves, to an acquired appetite, it would be a great deal better for us (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 326-7).
If more discussion on exercise is desired, it would be greatly enhanced by going to the newly revamped “lds.org” and clicking on the bar “Search all LDS.org” at the top then type in “exercise” and hit “Enter” on your keyboard (okay, don’t hit it too hard). Some terrific articles and quotes from general authorities pop up on the first four pages found there.
Promised Blessings for Living the Lord’s Law of Health
The manual explains:
The scriptures tell us about God’s laws: “No temporal commandment gave I … , for my commandments are spiritual” (D&C 29:35). This means that His commandments concerning our physical state are for our spiritual good (p. 171).
President Grant taught:
There is absolutely no benefit to any human being derived from breaking the Word of Wisdom, but there is everything for his benefit, morally, intellectually, physically and spiritually in obeying it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 193).
President Ezra Taft Benson also declared:
The Word of Wisdom is a law—a principle with promise. If we obey the provisions of the law, we receive the promises. If we do not, there will be both temporal and spiritual consequences (Ensign, May 1983, 53).
The manual states that one of the blessings is “Physically we have been promised good health” (p. 171). President Heber J. Grant shared his motivation for preaching so many sermons on this subject:
Much of President Grant’s motivation for preaching the Word of Wisdom came because he had a friend whose life was ruined by cigarettes and liquor. This young man gave up smoking so he could serve a mission, but he started to smoke immediately after his release from full-time missionary service. Smoking led to liquor drinking, and liquor drinking led to a loss of virtue and to excommunication from the Church. He died at a young age, and Heber J. Grant went to visit his grave. “As I stood at his grave,” President Grant recalled, “I looked up to heaven and made a pledge to my God that liquor and tobacco would have in me an enemy who would fight with all the ability that God would give me until the day of my death (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 189).
In President Grant’s manual is also made an important statement worth discussing:
From personal experience, President Grant knew that those who obey the Word of Wisdom will not be immune from all sickness and disease. He acknowledged that “being blessed does not mean that we shall always be spared all the disappointments and difficulties of life.” However, he repeatedly testified that when Latter-day Saints keep the Word of Wisdom, they receive blessings of health, prosperity, and spiritual strength that they would not be able to receive if they did not obey this law…
When disease attacks a man whose body is full of tobacco and full of liquor, or who has been guilty of excesses and abuses in any phase of living, then he has no claim on these promises [referring to D&C 89:18-21] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 190, 195).
Thus, keeping the Word of Wisdom may not prevent us from diseases usually associated with those who break this commandment, but keeping this commandment will always benefit us spiritually.
In this section we read, concerning D&C 89, “The Lord promises us that we “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (p. 171). Brigham Young had this to say about that:
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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 213-4).
President Joseph F. Smith added his testimony and concerns about “treasures” as promised:
Are not “great treasures” of knowledge, even “hidden treasures,” something to be desired? But when I see men and women addicting themselves to the use of tea and coffee, or strong drinks, or tobacco in any form, I say to myself, here are men and women who do not appreciate the promise God has made unto them (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 328).
President Grant added this terrific statement concerning knowledge:
The Lord has told us through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“If a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life, through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” [D&C 130:19].
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 that 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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 192).
Another blessing of living the Word of Wisdom not mentioned in the manual is that of discipline. It is always good to remember what President James E. Faust taught in conference:
The word for disciple and the word for discipline both come from the same Latin root—discipulus, which means pupil. It emphasizes practice or exercise. Self-discipline and self-control are consistent and permanent characteristics of the followers of Jesus, as exemplified by Peter, James, and John, who indeed “forsook all, and followed him” (Ensign, Nov 2006, 20).
Concerning this blessing, President McKay explained:
You show me a man who has complete control over his appetite, who can resist all temptations to indulge in stimulants, liquor, tobacco, marijuana, and other vicious drugs, and I will show you a youth or man who has likewise developed power to control his passions and desires…
The Church urges men to have self-mastery to control their appetites, their tempers, and their speech. A man is not at his best when he is a slave to some habit. A man is not his best who lives merely to gratify his passions. That is one reason why the Lord has given the Church the revelation of the Word of Wisdom so that, even from boyhood and girlhood, young men and young women may learn to control themselves…
He who fails to live it robs himself of strength of body and strength of character to which he is entitled. Truth is loyalty to the right as we see it; it is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals; it is always power (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 108-10).
Another blessing, that of becoming worthy of the Lord’s presence is taught by President Joseph F. Smith:
We see great reasons for the principles contained in this chapter of the book of Doctrine and Covenants [section 89] being taught to the world, and especially to the Latter-day Saints. It is nothing more nor less than that simple Word of Wisdom that was given in 1833, for the benefit, the help, and the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, that they might purify and prepare themselves to go nearer into the presence of the Lord, that by reason of keeping this law they might fit themselves to enjoy the blessings that He is more than willing to bestow upon them, if they are worthy (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 324).
Concerning this same idea, President Joseph F. Smith plead and promised:
Now, I do wish with all my heart—not because I say it, but because it is written in the word of the Lord—that you would give heed to this Word of Wisdom. It was given unto us … for our guidance, for our happiness and advancement in every principle that pertains to the kingdom of God, in time and throughout eternity, and I pray you to observe it. It will do you good; it will ennoble your souls; it will free your thoughts and your hearts from the spirit of destruction; it will make you feel like God…it will bring you nearer to the similitude of the Son of God, the Savior of the world… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 328-9).
Desired blessings from God were implicit in the following admonition by Brigham Young (note the Word of Wisdom in the middle of two great principles):
Bishops, Elders of Israel, High Priests, Seventies, the Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency, and all the House of Israel, hearken ye, O my people! keep the word of the Lord, observe the Word of Wisdom, sustain one another, sustain the household of faith (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 211).
Blessings can also be found in the opposites of the consequences warned of by Brigham Young:
The Spirit whispers to me to call upon the Latter-day Saints to observe the Word of Wisdom, to let tea, coffee, and tobacco alone, and to abstain from drinking spirituous drinks. This is what the Spirit signifies through me. If the Spirit of God whispers this to his people through their leader, and they will not listen nor obey, what will be the consequences of their disobedience? Darkness and blindness of mind with regard to the things of God will be their lot; they will cease to have the spirit of prayer, and the spirit of the world will increase in them in proportion to their disobedience until they apostatize entirely from God and his ways (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 212).
That we can always count on blessings promised by the Lord was declared by President Grant:
I find recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants a very short passage which reads:
“I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” [D&C 82:10].
I wish that every Latter-day Saint would remember these few words. How I wish that they were engraven upon our memories and upon our hearts, and that we would determine that God shall be bound to fulfill His promises unto us, because we will keep His commandments. There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven—so we are told by the Prophet Joseph—before the foundations of the world, upon which all blessings are predicated, and when we receive any blessing, it is by obedience to the law upon which it is predicated [see D&C 130:20-21]. If you and I desire the blessings of life, of health, of vigor of body and mind; if we desire the destroying angel to pass us by, as he did in the days of the children of Israel, we must obey the Word of Wisdom; then God is bound, and the blessing shall come to us (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 191-2).
Elder John A. Widstoe listed the following blessings for living this wonderful law:
The rewards for keeping the Word of Wisdom are four fold.
1. Self-control. In verse 3 of the revelation which states that the Word of Wisdom is "adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all Saints."
2. Strength of body, included resistance to contagion, is a result of wise living.
3. Clearness of mind is the gift of those whose bodies are in a healthy condition.
4. Spiritual power comes to all who conquer their appetites, live normally and look upward to God (Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, p. 37).
Brigham Young taught of blessings from living the Word of Wisdom beyond this life:
Prepare to die is not the exhortation in this Church and Kingdom; but prepare to live is the word with us, and improve all we can in the life hereafter, wherein we may enjoy a more exalted condition of intelligence, wisdom, light, knowledge, power, glory, and exaltation. Then let us seek to extend the present life to the uttermost, by observing every law of health, and by properly balancing labor, study, rest, and recreation, and thus prepare for a better life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 214).
Brigham’s next injunction should go without saying for members of Relief Society and Priesthood:
Let us teach these principles to our children, that, in the morning of their days, they may be taught to lay the foundation of health and strength and constitution and power of life in their bodies (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 214).