During my final two years of schooling to become a dentist, I had the privilege of being taught weekly by one of the world’s foremost maxillary-facial surgeons. His personal preparation and training had been long and intense. After receiving his dental degree, he had received additional degrees in orthodontics, oral surgery, plastic surgery, and pathology. Because of his renowned ability, he was sought after by people from many parts of the world to repair mouths and faces following traumatic accidents, or to remove destructive tumors that left faces deformed and in need of his talents at facial reconstruction.
We had weekly seminars with this noted surgeon. They were held in the medical theater, where the dental students could view a patient’s particular disorder and see the results achieved following the surgical correction. In the sessions before the treatment, the clinical and laboratory findings were presented, and the possible cause or causative agents that might have contributed to the malady were discussed.
It was interesting how often the causative agent would be one of the harmful substances that the Lord had revealed to mankind through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The fact that the Lord had revealed the Word of Wisdom—with all its important counsel on the various substances that are beneficial, as well as those that are harmful to our bodies—long before that knowledge was taught by the medical community, has been a great testimony to me of the calling of Joseph Smith as the Lord’s prophet of the Restoration.
During those lecture sessions, I could have closed my eyes and imagined that I was seated in one of our Church meetings being taught about the blessings of living the Word of Wisdom. At almost every session this noted surgeon would vigorously denounce tobacco because of its harmful effects, and we witnessed it before our very eyes.
At that time evidence identifying smoking as a major cause of lung cancer was being documented. However, little was published about tobacco as a major cause of mouth and throat cancer. There in that theater as a dental student, I saw the devastating effects of cancer of the mouth and face, which were attributed not only to smoking but also to chewing tobacco. Keeping that powerful irritant in contact with the mouth tissue resulted many times in disfiguring types of facial tumors.
“And again, tobacco is Not for the Body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man” (D&C 89:8).
Alcohol was also condemned during those sessions as an irritant to the delicate tissues of the mouth and throat, causing other types of tumors.
“And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies” (D&C 89:7).
Tea and coffee were discussed, not only because of their adverse chemical effects on the body, but also because of the temperature of the drinks. The drinks were often taken so hot that, without realizing it, many individuals were drinking liquids close to the boiling temperature. Those detrimental effects were observed.
“And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly” (D&C 89:9).
But why do these substances act as they do? Why does one person contract an infirmity, and another in the same situation and environment never have a problem?
Our renowned instructor explained that under normal conditions, the cells behave in a normal manner; however, certain factors can trigger the cells to go out of control. These cells then become fast-growing and destructive tumors that can disfigure and threaten life. The sensitivity level at which the cells respond to the triggering factor, or T-Factor as he called it, depends on the inherent nature of the individual. Some people are very sensitive, so just a small stimulus would cause the change, while other individuals appear to be more resistant. This inherent level at which the cells can be triggered to change could explain why some people live long and seemingly trouble free, while others are affected easily and early in life.
With this understanding, perhaps we might understand better the meaning of the words from the Word of Wisdom, “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints” (D&C 89:3). For a person with a low level of resistance to a harmful substance, just one encounter may trigger unwanted and dangerous cellular changes.
It is interesting how far the medical community has come in vindicating the words of a prophet who revealed that great health law, the Word of Wisdom, when its principles were not very popular.
As a young dental student, I was extremely impressed with the knowledge of this outstanding maxillary-facial surgeon. He seemed to have great knowledge, and I was amazed with his skill. However, in reality, his knowledge was just a mite in comparison with the knowledge of the Great Physician—the one who healed the lepers, raised Lazarus from the dead, and made the blind to see. The Word of Wisdom is from Him, and medical science is just barely catching up.
Now, each day brings more and more evidence showing how important it is to live the Lord’s law of health and how dangerous those forbidden substances are to our bodies. Public opinion has turned partly toward the truth. To be in good condition is popular. Millions of dollars are spent on exercise equipment and health clubs. To obey part of the Word of Wisdom is more acceptable today, but Satan always has a plan to replace one he loses—drugs, immorality, pornography, and the weakening of family bonds.
I will ever be grateful for the wise counsel of a strong and inspired father when he taught, “If you always say no to the first temptation, you will not have to worry if you will be able to say no to the second one.” It brought peace to know that when I had strength enough to say no to the first temptation, I did not have to worry about the second. I was in charge.
The don’ts in the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) are clearly spelled out. But Church leaders and the scriptures, especially the Word of Wisdom, also talk about plenty of things you can do every day that will benefit your health.
“Were we more careful to obey the part of the Word of Wisdom that deals with the ‘do’s’ it might be easier to obey the ‘don’ts’” (John A. Widtsoe, in Conference Report, April 1926, page 110).
EXERCISE: Spiritual well-being is vital, but how you feel physically is also significant. Are you getting enough physical activity every day? President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Rest and physical exercise are essential, and a walk in the fresh air can refresh the spirit” (Ensign, November 1974, page 66).
SLEEP: It’s true, there’s nothing in section 89 about how much rest we should have each night, but go back a couple of pages to Doctrine and Covenants 88:124: “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” [D&C 88:124]
Your body needs adequate rest. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you should sleep all day.
FOOD: Eating correctly is another way of taking care of your body. The scriptures tell us that all grains are good for us (see D&C 89:14) and that meat is “ordained for the use of man” but should be “used sparingly” (D&C 89:12).
Directions for happiness and health are continually given to us by a very kind Heavenly Father. By using our agency we can conscientiously follow that inspiration, and by so doing bless our lives daily. The world will eventually find these truths by its trial and error method, as I discovered as a young dental student. But the obedient believer will already be happily enjoying the blessings.