"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

The Word of Wisdom

by Bruce R. McConkie

A revelation given to Joseph Smith, February 27, 1833, containing a part of the revealed counsel in the field of health, because it begins, "A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of ... the church" (D. & C. 89:1), is now commonly known as the Word of Wisdom. As a revealed law of health, dealing particularly with dietary matters, it contains both positive and negative instructions. Its affirmative provision gives directions for the use of meat and grain by both man and animals; its prohibitions direct man to refrain from the use of certain specified harmful things. (D. & C. 89.)

Three types of things are prohibited to man by the Word of Wisdom -- tobacco, strong drinks, and hot drinks. By strong drinks is meant alcoholic beverages; hot drinks, according to the Prophet's own statement, mean tea and coffee. Accordingly the negative side of the Word of Wisdom is a command to abstain from tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor.

Abstinence from these four things has been accepted by the Church as a measuring rod to determine in part the personal worthiness of church members. When decisions are made relative to the granting of temple recommends or approving brethren for church positions or ordinations, inquiry is made relative to these four items.

Obviously the standard of judgment must be uniform throughout the Church, and local officers are not at liberty to add other items to this list. However, there are many other substances which have a harmful effect on the human body, though such particular things are not specifically prohibited by the Word of Wisdom. Certainly the partaking of cola drinks, though not included within the measuring standard here set out, is in violation of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom. Harmful drugs of any sort are in a like category.

Some unstable people become cranks with reference to this law of health. It should be understood that the Word of Wisdom is not the gospel, and the gospel is not the Word of Wisdom. As Paul said, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14:17.)

There is no prohibition in Section 89, for instance, as to the eating of white bread, using white flour, white sugar, cocoa, chocolate, eggs, milk, meat, or anything else, except items classified under the headings, tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor. As a matter of fact those who command that men should not eat meat, are not ordained of God, such counsel being listed by Paul as an evidence of apostasy. God has created "meats," he says, "to he received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." (1 Tim. 4:3.) If some particular food or drink disagrees with an individual, then that person should act accordingly without reference to the prohibitions in this particular law of health.

Actually, the Word of Wisdom is only a small part of the revealed truth relative to health and the use of food and drink. For instance, months before the Word of Wisdom was revealed, the Lord said this to his saints: "The fulness of the earth is yours the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion." (D. & C. 59:16-20.)

When first given the Word of Wisdom was not a commandment, but it has since been made one. "Give heed to this Word of Wisdom," President Joseph F. Smith said. "It has given unto us `not by commandment'; but by the word of President Brigham Young, it was made a commandment unto the saints. (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., p. 365.) The Prophet himself gave this decision: "No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office after having the Word of Wisdom properly taught him, and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with and obey it." (Teachings, p. 117.)

Obedience to this divine law brings many temporal and spiritual blessings. Physical well-being and increased temporal prosperity are among the temporal advantages. In the spiritual field, those who observe this law "shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures." (D. & C. 89:18.) In other words, through the cleanliness resulting from keeping this law of health, and by "walking in obedience to the commandments" (D. & C. 89:18), the saints will qualify for the companionship of the Holy Spirit, with great spiritual endowments coming as a result thereof. (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., pp. 365-368.)


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