1. Why was the Word of Wisdom revealed?
Video: Wisdom against conspiring men President Packer gives wisdom against conspiring men (D&C 89:1-4). (1:07)
D&C 89:4 Conspiring men
‘In 1997 Elder W. Eugene Hansen and I were asked to host the Honorable Michael Moore, attorney general of Mississippi, during a brief visit he made to Utah and Church headquarters. In a wide-ranging conversation with Mr. Moore, Elder Hansen and I raised questions about the lawsuit he had filed against the large American tobacco companies on behalf of the state of Mississippi. We knew Mississippi had recovered a sizable judgment and that other states, including Utah, were then undertaking similar action. We asked him specifically upon what legal theory the state of Mississippi’s claim had been based.
Much to our surprise, Mr. Moore informed us that the state’s cause of action had been based on a theory of “conspiracy,” which the evidence eventually conclusively showed existed among the tobacco companies and even among their lawyers. As Mr. Moore talked of his conspiracy theory and the efforts made by the tobacco companies to hide from the public the addictive and harmful effects of tobacco, my mind almost instinctively turned to section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. A copy of that book of scripture was quickly located, and after briefly explaining the background and import of section 89, I asked Mr. Moore to read verse 4.
We listened attentively as he slowly and deliberately read that verse out loud in his appealing southern accent: “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” (italics added).
The scriptural reference to “conspiring men” was not lost on Mr. Moore. As he finished reading verse 4, a broad smile came across his face, and with a twinkle in his eyes he said, “I never dreamed in visiting Utah I might find 10 million people who would agree with my conspiracy theories!”
My heart burned within me that day and has many times since as I have thought about Joseph Smith’s gifts as a prophet and seer.’ (Marin K Jensen, Out of Obscurity, The LDS Church in the Twentieth Century, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], p. 9)
There is another part of this revelation that constitutes a pertinent warning to this modern generation: “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.” (D&C 89:4.)
The Lord foresaw the situation of today when motives for money would cause men to conspire to entice others to take noxious substances into their bodies. Advertisements which promote beer, wine, liquors, coffee, tobacco, and other harmful substances are examples of what the Lord foresaw. But the most pernicious example of an evil conspiracy in our time is those who induce young people into the use of drugs.
My young brothers and sisters, in all love, we give you warning that Satan and his emissaries will strive to entice you to use harmful substances, because they well know if you partake, your spiritual powers will be inhibited and you will be in their evil power. Stay away from those places or people which would influence you to break the commandments of God. Keep the commandments of God and you will have the wisdom to know and discern that which is evil. (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1983, 54)
2. The Lord’s counsel about what is not good for the body
D&C 89:5 Strong drink
“Over the earth … 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; and it knows neither honesty nor fair dealing; it is a total stranger to truth; it drowns conscience; it is the bodyguard 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 the world has suffered.” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1942)
D&C 89:8 Tobacco
‘Let me talk to you rather plainly, my young friends. As a physician, who for forty years has witnessed firsthand the truth of those statements in the Word of Wisdom, I testify that they are true.
The beautiful scenes in magazine advertisements are not what the end results of cigarette smoking prove to be. This advertising in these magazines and newspapers is very deceptive. The end results are not nearly so pretty. They are oxygen masks and intravenous medication and literally hours of pain, misery, and gasping for breath.
I had my own comment printed and pasted on all cigarette advertising in the magazines of my medical office waiting room. It states:
“Many of the ads in this magazine are misleading, deceptive, and are a rip-off. For example, smoking does not make one glamorous, macho, or athletic. It does make one sick, poor, and dead.”’ (Malcolm S Jeppsen, General Conference, April 1990)
D&C 89:9 Hot drinks
‘When the Word of Wisdom was first promulgated in 1833, the question was at once asked: What is the meaning of “hot drinks?” Was it an injunction against consuming beverages so hot as to burn the tongue or mouth? That did not seem reasonable. Did it mean that the consumption of warm drinks should be reduced? That did not, even in that day, seem so unreasonable, for it was recognized that the stomach lining might be made unduly sensitive by frequent large ingestions of hot liquids. In fact, some clinical results of the modern day indicate that hot beverages, continuously used, predispose the stomach to certain serious disorders.
The question concerning the meaning of “hot drinks,” as used in the Word of Wisdom, was at last brought to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He defined “hot drinks” as tea and coffee, the two common household beverages of the day. Joel H. Johnson, with whose family the Prophet was intimate, relates that on a Sabbath day in July (1833) following the giving of the “Word of Wisdom,” when both Joseph and Hyrum Smith were in the stand, the Prophet said to the Saints: “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'”
On March 17, 1838, when the body of Seventies were preparing for their pilgrimage to the “land of Zion,” they agreed that they should see to it that “the commandments are kept, and the Word of Wisdom heeded, that is, no tobacco, tea, coffee, snuff or ardent spirits of any kind to be taken internally”
Sometime later, in 1842, Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother, in speaking upon the Word of Wisdom concerning the term “hot drinks” said, “There are many who wonder what this can mean, whether it refers to tea or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea and coffee”
He once said:
“I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom; 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.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 283)
Moreover, from the time that the Word of Wisdom was received, until the present day, the Church as a whole has understood and taught that the term “hot drinks” refers to tea and coffee and all similar beverages. This definition may be extended to include all drinks whether hot or cold in temperature which, like coffee and tea, contain any stimulating substance, for such are detrimental to health.
This definition of “hot drinks” furnishes the key to this part of the Word of Wisdom….
That the expression “hot drinks” was used in the Word of Wisdom rather than “coffee and tea,” is notable; for by so doing a host of other injurious habit-forming beverages now used (or that may be used) become subject to the Word of Wisdom. Indeed, the use of the words “hot drinks” implies a knowledge beyond that possessed by man when the Word of Wisdom was received. It is remarkable indeed that Joseph Smith could so boldly declare himself against coffee and tea, as against all similar hurtful beverages, at a time when the world’s learning could not safely make the statement.
Human experience, since that day, is all against the use of coffee and tea, and similar beverages. They gradually influence harmfully the mind and the body of the user, especially if excesses are indulged in, and the tendency of the habit is to demand more and more….
It is to be emphasized that cold or iced tea and coffee come under the ban of “hot drinks”. The drug contained is just as injurious in iced as in hot coffee or tea….
Wise people, especially Latter-day Saints, should lay aside the caffeine-habit, if formed, and should avoid the use of all such beverages in the home, as should the whole world. True physical and mental enjoyment, and complete health cannot be won by those who are subject to the habit of drinking “hot drinks”—coffee and tea and related beverages. The waste of money alone, for unnecessary and harmful products, justifies opposition to all caffeine products except for industrial and medical purposes.’ (John A Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom, p.85-87, 99-101)
The Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise against the use of any drink containing harmful, habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided. (First Presidency Priesthood Bulletin, February 1972).
3. The Lord’s counsel about what is good for the body
D&C 89:11 In the season thereof
“The phrase ‘in the season thereof,’ referring to fruits and vegetables, has raised much speculation. It indicates simply the superior value of fresh foods as demonstrated by modern science, but does not necessarily prohibit the use of fruits or vegetables out of season if preserved by proper methods.” (John A Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations,3:157.)
D&C 89:12 To be used sparingly
‘The Lord admonishes us to eat meat sparingly, an admonition that is also verified by the findings of science today, since an excess of meat can contribute to cardiovascular diseases. However, he didn’t say that man should abstain totally from eating meat. In an earlier revelation he declared, “. . . whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God. For, behold, the beasts of the field and fowls of the air . . . are ordained for the use of man. . . . ” (D&C 49:18-19.) The key is found in the word “sparingly.”‘ (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], 361.)
D&C 88:124 Cease to sleep longer than is needful
[When Marion G. Romney was called as a General Authortiy] he felt that he needed some advice, so he went to Elder Harold B. Lee, a relatively new member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a former contemporary as a stake president. Elder Romney asked him for advice about how to be successful as a General Authority.
Elder Lee spoke about the necessity of receiving personal revelation in order to be effective and said: “If you are to be successful as a General Authority, you will need to be inspired. You will need to receive revelation. I will give you one piece of advice: Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested, and then in the quiet of those early-morning hours, you will receive more flashes of insight and inspiration than at any other time of the day.”
President Romney said: “From that day on, I put that counsel into practice, and I know it works. Whenever I have a serious problem, or some assignment of a creative nature with which I hope to receive the influence of the Spirit, I always receive more assistance in the early-morning hours than at any other time of the day. Following that counsel has helped me a great deal through the years.” (Joe J Christensen, “Ten Ideas to Increase Your Spirituality,” Ensign, Mar. 1999, 59)
4. Promised blessings for obedience to the Word of Wisdom
Video: Great treasures of knowledge President Packer teaches about great treasures of knowledge (D&C 89:18-21). (1:42)
D&C 89:18 Health
‘People are becoming increasingly health conscious. We have a running start on the world, a code so simple and easily understood. Not long ago I met Dr. James E. Enstrom of the University of California at Los Angeles. He is not a member of the Church. He speaks with complete objectivity. His studies indicate that actuarially speaking, Latter-day Saints live about 10 years longer than their peers.
Who can set a price on 10 years of life? What a remarkable and wonderful blessing is this Word of Wisdom. ‘ (Gordon B Hinckley, “Look to the Future,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 69)
D&C 89:20 Run and not be weary
‘The Lord promises that if we keep these commandments we “shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” D&C 89:20 italics added).
The Lord might be making us aware of another law of health—the need of proper exercise. Exercise such as walking and running and other forms of rhythmic action is important in maintaining cardiovascular fitness.
In our busy lives sometimes we are prone to excuse ourselves for not getting proper exercise by saying that we have neither the time nor opportunity. I know a busy young woman who exercises while listening to self-improvement tapes or memorizing scriptures. Almost anyone can do that.’ (Barbara A Smith, General Conference, April 1978)
D&C 89:21 The destroying angel shall pass by them
“This does not say and this does not mean, that to keep the Word of Wisdom is to insure us against death, for death is, in the eternal plan, co-equal with birth. This is the eternal decree. [1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Nephi 9:6.] But it does mean that the destroying angel, he who comes to punish the unrighteous for their sins, as he in olden time afflicted the corrupt Egyptians in their wickedness [Exodus 12:23, 29], shall pass by the Saints, ‘who are walking in obedience to the commandments,’ and who ‘remember to keep and do these sayings.’ These promises do mean that all those who qualify themselves to enjoy them will be permitted so to live out their lives that they may gain the full experiences and get the full knowledge which they need in order to progress to the highest exaltation in eternity, all these will live until their work is finished and God calls them back to their eternal home, as a reward.” (J Reuben Clark Jr, In Conference Report, Oct. 1940, pp. 17–18.)