I was raised in Russia at a time when believing in God was ridiculed and most of my friends were atheists. I went to medical school in Moscow, where I learned about dietary practices that can prevent and treat heart disease. I was shocked when a friend informed me that these medical practices were almost the same as the centuries-old health code of the Russian Orthodox Church. For the first time in my life I thought that maybe there really might be something meaningful for me in religion.
I began to read the Bible. I was intrigued one day while reading the story of Daniel and his friends’ refusal to eat their “daily provision of the king’s meat [food, not necessarily flesh],1 and of the wine” (see Dan. 1:3–8). Daniel proposed that they be allowed to eat “pulse” and drink water instead. He asked that this diet be put to a test to see if it was healthier than the king’s diet. After 10 days Daniel and his friends were found to be “fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (Dan. 1:15). God also blessed Daniel and his friends with “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Dan. 1:17). After three years the king discovered that in matters of wisdom and understanding Daniel and his friends were “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm” (Dan. 1:20).
This was stunning to me—10 times wiser! I wanted to know what that special food was. In my Russian Bible the word used for pulse means “vegetables.” “This could not be true,” I thought. No one can live for three years eating only vegetables. They do not contain all the nutrients essential for sustaining human life. I was confused. I searched Bibles in other languages and found that “pulse” had been similarly translated. I put aside the matter as a mystery.
Some years later I was converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and joined the Church. In the process I learned about the Word of Wisdom as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Lord told the Prophet in 1833 that wholesome herbs and fruits are for the use of man, that meats “are to be used sparingly,” and that “all grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine” (see D&C 89:10–12, 16). The Lord then promised that all who follow these commandments would “find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (D&C 89:19). This impressed me as teaching the same principle of cause and effect that I had found in the story of Daniel.
With great interest I turned to chapter 1 of Daniel in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible. I found the word pulse in verse 12 and looked at footnote 12a. I was overjoyed to learn that its meaning was not “vegetables” but “foods made of seeds, grains, etc.” I also studied the Bible Dictionary and learned that pulse in Hebrew refers to “seeds, and may include the grains of leguminous vegetables or any other edible seeds.”2 I began to appreciate how an understanding of the Bible can be enlarged by a study of the Doctrine and Covenants and Bible Dictionary.
Then not long ago I was given a high council assignment over welfare and asked to encourage food storage in our stake. In an attempt to learn about this calling, I read that members are encouraged, depending on where they live, to store “water, wheat or other grains (such as corn and rice), legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), salt, honey or sugar, powdered milk, and cooking oil.”3 I remembered the story of Daniel and noticed that many of the food products we should store are what Daniel ate and what the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat. This was very meaningful to me and confirmed in my heart that the eternal truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ are the same, whether they are lived and taught in Old Testament times or in our day.
The scriptures also caution us to avoid extremes. In section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord counsels that “all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man” and are to be used “with judgment, not to excess” (see D&C 59:16–20).
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “I thank the Lord for a testimony of the Word of Wisdom. I wish we lived it more fully. … The promise is before us that if we will do so, we shall receive health in the navel and marrow in the bones and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures (see D&C 89:18–21). To me it is marvelous that beyond the promises of a physical nature is the promise of hidden treasures of knowledge concerning things divine and eternal.”4
I thank the Lord that truths followed by Daniel, and essentially given again by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, encouraged in our Church handbooks, and borne testimony of by modern prophets have paved the way for me to enjoy the blessings that come from great treasures of knowledge that are “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Morm. 9:9).