One hundred forty-eight years ago a revelation from God was given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. At that time few could understand the reasons for many of the restrictions placed upon them in the matter of their dietary and health habits. As a result, I am sure there were many who did not choose to observe what came to be known as the Word of Wisdom.
On the other hand, there were others who, because of their faith and their desire to be obedient to the word of the Lord, accepted and heeded the counsel and instruction.
I have always felt that the promise given in the last four verses of this revelation (found in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants) is one of the most glorious promises that the Lord has pronounced for our benefit. Let me remind us all of the great blessings he has promised:
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” (D&C 89:18–21; italics added.)
Too often we think of the promise as pertaining only to observance of the Word of Wisdom, but if you will note the phrase in the first sentence, it states, “walking in obedience to the commandments,” which means that we observe not only the counsel in this revelation, but keep the other commandments in order to obtain the promise.
This revelation has such far-reaching effects on so many aspects of our lives, and on the social behavior of those in our communities, that I firmly believe most of the ills of society today could be cured by the acceptance and observance of the Word of Wisdom.
Consider, if you will, the spiritual, moral, physical, and economic problems caused by the use of tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol. Evidence is continually surfacing to show the harmful effects of these substances, not only on the user, but also on the unborn fetus. I need not go into detail about how much money we spend on welfare services, lawsuits, and other legal fees, as well as on vandalism, cigarette-related fires, and restoration of public and private property caused by the use of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.
How fortunate we are to belong to a church with a prophet to guide us who receives direction from our Heavenly Father! Throughout the ages God has revealed his will to man through his prophets, and when the people have followed the prophet, they have been blessed and prospered. We should be grateful for the principle of revelation and accept the word of the Lord without having to wait for science to prove its truthfulness.
Parental example is the greatest method of teaching youth what they must do to gain the promised blessings from the Lord. Young people are most fortunate if they live in a home where parents teach and observe the Word of Wisdom. They must carefully consider the consequences and the effect their teaching and example will have on the children who have been entrusted to their care.
No one would knowingly go into his garden or a forest of beautiful trees and pour a mixture of poisons at the roots of flowers or shrubs or other growth which have been cultivated for our pleasure. Yet there are those who make no effort to stop, but actually assist in getting people to use the habit-forming substances which eventually poison the bodies and minds of those who indulge, causing many forms of illness, and even death.
A while ago a bishop called me from California to make an appointment to bring in a young man from his ward who was involved with a group whose conduct and morals were anything but what they should have been to foster good health and happiness and respect. The bishop felt I could help the young man make the necessary changes in his life to get back into the mainstream of society. We made an appointment.
They came in just after a general conference session one day. The long hair, dress, and general appearance of the young man left no doubt about his life-style. I asked him to tell me his story. Briefly, this is what he said:
“I am a returned missionary and a married man with a child; and here I am—a hippie, a drug addict, and guilty of many misdemeanors and even felonies. I am most unhappy. This is not what I want.”
I asked him how it was that a man with his background ever got mixed up with this life-style. He said that one day when he was feeling despondent and discouraged, he decided that he wanted to be free, that he did not want to be bound by any traditions or Church restrictions in any way. In a spirit of rebellion, he went out one day with some fellows who took drugs—and then he said: “Here I am. Instead of being free, I’m a slave. In a way I am a fugitive. I wish you could help me. I just don’t know what to do.”
Before he left he assured me that he would cut his hair and clean up and break away from these people, and that he would turn himself over to the law and do all he could to repent and live as he should. The following is from a letter written by him after he returned to California:
“Dear President Tanner, I pray that you will know the true feelings of my heart at this time. I now live my life inside prison walls. It is my desire that others do not fall into the hands of Satan, as I did. If relating my experiences to other young people like myself can be of some worth in their lives, this is my hope. … I’m thankful that I was blessed with a bishop who has been my closest friend through all my trials. I’m grateful for your interest, President Tanner.”
I use this young man as an example to show that his background should have given him the strength to resist or overcome, and it shows how dangerous it is for a man like him, let alone a youth without such background, to even associate with those who tamper with drugs. We must all be alert for the signs of discouragement and despondency which could trigger the despair leading to the wrong associations and resulting in the wrong habits. We must make opportunity to show our love and interest and concern for our neighbors, whoever they may be.
For the person who says, as did this young man, that he wants freedom from responsibility, to be able to do as he wishes, and that it is his life to live and nobody’s business what he does, let me quote from a verse which appeared in the Daily Universe, 3 July 1975, courtesy Robert D. Bailey, Director of Safety, IML Freight, Inc. It was titled “Nobody’s Business”:
It’s nobody’s business what I drink!
I care not what the neighbors think,
Or how many laws they choose to pass!
I’ll tell the world I’ll have my glass!
Here’s one man’s freedom that can’t be curbed,
My right to drink is undisturbed.
So he drank in spite of law or man,
Then got into his old tin can;
Stepped on the gas and let it go,
Down the highway to and fro.
He took the curves at fifty miles
With bleary eyes and drunken smile.
Not long till a car he tried to pass;
There was a crash, a scream and breaking glass.
The other car was upside down,
About two miles from the nearest town.
The man was clear but his wife was caught,
And she needed the help of that drunken sot,
Who sat in a maudlin, drunken daze,
And heard the scream and saw the blaze,
But was too far gone to save a life,
By lifting the car from off the wife.
The car was burned, and the mother died,
While a husband wept and baby cried,
And a drunk sat by—and still some think
It’s nobody’s business what they drink!
It is very difficult with all the glamorous advertising we see about the so-called fun and sociability involved with smoking and drinking to get our own message across that these habits will lead to poor health and premature death. We see people all around us drinking and smoking—men and women who are leading citizens. Young people see it in their homes with no evident ill effects. They see it advertised in all the popular magazines, in the daily press, on every television set, in many movies, on billboards, and over the radio.
These advertisements are shown with well-dressed, healthy-looking, successful businessmen with big cars and fine offices, with young men and women engaged in all kinds of sports, attending socials, standing around with a cigarette in one hand and a glass in the other, all seeming to have a good time.
The ads never show a man or woman nursing a bad headache the morning after, nor do they show the crumpled cars, the mangled bodies, the broken homes, or men lying in the gutter. They do not show a man facing a doctor who has just told him he has cancer of the throat or lungs, nor do they show an emphysema victim in the hospital being fed with a tube through the nostril because he cannot swallow.
It is no accident that there is less incidence of cancer and fewer cancer deaths in heavily populated Latter-day Saint areas or where the use of those things forbidden by the Word of Wisdom is curtailed. Surely the Lord gave a revelation and a promise for the benefit and blessing of his children.
Recent events in the field of athletics have brought favorable publicity to the Church and its people, to the extent of referring to our members who have been involved as wholesome, clean-cut young people who are a credit to their church and the various sports in which they have participated.
May they and we continue to stand for physical, mental, and spiritual health through observance of the Word of Wisdom and receive the blessings predicated upon obedience to the word of the Lord.
1. Relate a personal experience about the blessings of obeying the Word of Wisdom. Ask family members to share feelings or experiences they’ve had.
2. Are there some scriptural verses in this article that the family might read aloud, or some supplemental scripture you desire to read with them?
3. President Tanner says, “We must all be alert for the signs of discouragement and despondency which could trigger the despair leading to the wrong associations and resulting in the wrong habits.” What are some of these signs? What can family members do when they see these signs in others?
4. Discuss ways family members can prepare themselves to always obey the Word of Wisdom.
5. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head concerning the Word of Wisdom?