“Lesson 22: The Word of Wisdom: ‘A Principle with Promise’” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), 121–26
To encourage class members to obey the counsel in the Word of Wisdom, as well as the Lord’s other counsel about physical health.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:
Doctrine and Covenants 89 (the Word of Wisdom).
Doctrine and Covenants 49:19–21; 59:15–21; 88:124 (supplemental scriptures).
Our Heritage, pages 25–26.
Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.
To gain a greater understanding of historical events related to the doctrine in this lesson, consider reviewing the following:
“The Word of Wisdom.”
Additional historical material for this lesson.
Ask a class member to prepare to summarize the historical background of the Word of Wisdom (Our Heritage, pages 25–26).
You may want to bring pictures of wholesome foods to use in the third section of the lesson.
As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.
Share the following story told by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“I recall a bishop’s telling me of a woman who came to get a [temple] recommend. When asked if she observed the Word of Wisdom, she said that she occasionally drank a cup of coffee. She said, ‘Now, bishop, you’re not going to let that keep me from going to the temple, are you?’ To which he replied, ‘Sister, surely you will not let a cup of coffee stand between you and the house of the Lord’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1990, 67; or Ensign, May 1990, 51).
Explain that the Word of Wisdom is a simple, straightforward law. Many people know of the physical dangers of disobeying this law. It is important to remember these consequences, but it is also important to remember the physical and spiritual blessings that we will receive as we obey the Word of Wisdom. This lesson discusses these great promises.
Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
Explain that Heavenly Father has provided our bodies for a divine purpose. They are a necessary part of His plan for our eternal progression. Because of their importance, Heavenly Father has given us a stewardship to care for them. In our dispensation, as in ancient times, He has revealed principles of good health to help us keep our bodies clean and pure. Our obedience to these principles is an indication of our love for Him and an expression of our gratitude.
Ask the assigned class member to summarize the historical background of the Word of Wisdom from Our Heritage, pages 25–26. You may want to show the picture of the Newel K. Whitney Store on page 128 of this manual. The Prophet Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom in this store.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 and 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 with class members. According to these verses, why is it important that we care for our bodies? (Explain that our bodies are temples and are holy to the Lord. We should keep them pure because they are the dwelling places for our spirits, which are the offspring of God. Respecting our bodies as temples of God manifests our testimony that we are children of God. It also keeps our bodies pure so they can be dwelling places for the Holy Ghost. Emphasize that how we care for our physical bodies affects us spiritually.)
Read D&C 89:4 with class members. What does this verse teach about the Lord’s reasons for giving the Word of Wisdom? What are some examples of “evils and designs … in the hearts of conspiring men” with regard to the harmful substances mentioned in the Word of Wisdom? (Examples include misrepresentations made in advertising and entertainment that using these substances is associated with happiness and success.)
How is the Word of Wisdom a manifestation of God’s love for us? How is it a manifestation of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet and seer? (Explain that the Lord revealed the Word of Wisdom to the Prophet Joseph Smith long before the accuracy of its principles was fully documented in scientific studies. This revelation anticipated the current epidemic of substance abuse. It forewarns and protects us against specific problems of our day.)
Note to the teacher: As you teach the second and third sections of this lesson, focus on the basic health principles revealed by the Lord. Avoid discussion of health fads, special diets, and other kinds of food and drink. Emphasize that the Lord has not specified everything that we should and should not partake of. “Such revelation is unnecessary,” President Joseph Fielding Smith said. “The Word of Wisdom is a basic law. It points the way and gives us ample instruction in regard to both food and drink. … If we sincerely follow what is written with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, … we will know what is good and what is bad for the body” (“Your Question: The Word of Wisdom,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1956, 78–79).
Write Not for the Body and the following scripture references on the chalkboard. Read each scripture reference with class members. Then list the substance it describes.
D&C 89:5–7. (Wine or strong drink.)
D&C 89:8. (Tobacco.)
D&C 89:9. (Hot drinks, defined as tea and coffee.)
Explain that in addition to these substances, we should not:
Use any substance that contains illegal drugs.
Use any other habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician.
Misuse prescription and other drugs.
What are some of the consequences of using these harmful substances? (Discuss physical and spiritual consequences. The following paragraphs about alcohol and tobacco are examples. If you are teaching youth, you may want to refer to the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, pages 36–37 .)
The First Presidency declared: “Drunken with strong drink, men have lost their reason; their counsel has been destroyed; their judgment and vision are fled. … 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1942, 8).
Each year tobacco use causes nearly 2.5 million premature deaths worldwide. Tobacco use also harms millions of innocent victims. For example, smoking by pregnant mothers passes on toxic chemicals that interfere with fetal development, afflicting approximately 3 million babies each year. These babies have lower birth weight and increased risk for neurological and intellectual delays and for premature death. Other innocent victims include nonsmokers who regularly inhale secondhand smoke. These people have much higher rates of respiratory illness and are three times more likely to die of lung cancer than those who do not inhale secondhand smoke. Smokeless tobacco is just as addictive as cigarettes, and users of smokeless tobacco have cancer rates up to fifty times higher than those who do not use tobacco. (See James O. Mason, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 59–61.)
The use of substances that are forbidden in the Word of Wisdom is increasing in many parts of the world, especially among youth. How does advertising entice people to use these substances? (Discuss the false messages of such advertisements.) How do peers and other people entice people to use these substances? (You may want to discuss how to resist appeals such as “Just a little won’t hurt,” “Just once won’t hurt,” “Everyone else does this,” and “No one else will know.”) What are some other ways people are tempted to use these substances?
How can seemingly small violations of the Word of Wisdom be damaging?
How can we strengthen ourselves against temptations to use harmful substances? (Invite class members to tell of experiences when they have resisted temptations to violate the Word of Wisdom.) How can youth help each other obey the Word of Wisdom?
How can parents effectively teach their children about the Word of Wisdom and help them obey it? (See the Family Home Evening Resource Book , pages 228–31.)
The harmful substances that are prohibited in the Word of Wisdom cause addiction. Why are addictions to these substances dangerous? How can people overcome addiction to drugs and other harmful substances?
Emphasize that there is hope for people who struggle with addiction. Overcoming addiction usually requires great personal desire and discipline, together with repentance and help from the Lord. Family, friends, and Church leaders may also provide help, and in some cases professional help may be necessary. Invite class members to share examples of how people have overcome addiction to harmful substances.
Write Good for the Body and the following scripture references on the chalkboard. Read each scripture reference with class members. Then summarize it beside the reference. If you brought pictures of wholesome foods, display them now (see “Preparation,” item 4).
D&C 89:10. (Wholesome herbs—nourishing vegetables and plants.)
D&C 89:11. (Fruit.)
D&C 89:12; see also D&C 49:19. (Flesh of beasts and fowls.)
D&C 89:14–17. (Grains.)
D&C 88:124. (Retiring to bed early and rising early—getting adequate sleep.)
What does it mean to use food “with prudence”? (D&C 89:11; see also D&C 59:18–20; answers could include that we should eat food that nourishes our bodies and use moderation in the kind and amount of food we eat). What does it mean to use food “with … thanksgiving”? (D&C 89:11). How can we show the Lord our gratitude for the food He provides us?
What guidelines has the Lord given for using meat? (See D&C 89:12; see also D&C 49:19, 21.) What guidelines has the Lord given for using grains? (See D&C 89:14, 16.)
What counsel has the Lord given regarding sleep? (See D&C 88:124.) How does getting adequate sleep affect us physically and spiritually?
President Brigham Young said: “Instead of doing two days’ work in one day, wisdom would dictate to [the Saints] that if they desire long life and good health, they must, after sufficient exertion, allow the body to rest before it is entirely exhausted. When exhausted, some argue that they need stimulants. … But instead of these kind of stimulants they should recruit by rest” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 187).
The Lord revealed the Word of Wisdom as “a principle with promise” (D&C 89:3). Write Promised Blessings and the following scripture references on the chalkboard. Read each scripture reference with class members. Then list each promise beside the reference.
D&C 89:18. (Physical health.)
D&C 89:19. (Wisdom and great treasures of knowledge.)
D&C 89:20. (The ability to run and not be weary and walk and not faint.)
D&C 89:21. (Protection from the destroying angel.)
How have you been blessed as you have obeyed the Word of Wisdom? (Invite class members to tell of physical and spiritual blessings they have received.)
You may want to point out that those who obey the Word of Wisdom will generally live longer and have a better quality of life than if they did not obey it. However, some people have severe illnesses or disabilities despite obeying the Word of Wisdom. Explain that these people can receive the spiritual blessings of obeying the Word of Wisdom even if their physical difficulties continue. Moreover, the Lord’s promises are for eternity, and those who do not receive all the promised blessings in this life will receive them hereafter.
What are some examples of how obeying the Word of Wisdom helps us “find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures”? (D&C 89:19). (Discuss how obeying the Word of Wisdom helps a person’s mental capacities. Discuss also how it helps a person receive spiritual treasures of knowledge, such as testimony, knowledge of divine truths, personal revelation, patriarchal blessings, and temple ordinances and covenants.)
Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “I have come to know … that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. … If someone ‘under the influence’ [of harmful substances] can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings? As valuable as the Word of Wisdom is as a law of health, it may be much more valuable to you spiritually than it is physically” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 28–29; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20).
How might the Lord’s promise in D&C 89:20 apply to us physically? How might it apply to us mentally and emotionally? (Answers could include that we will have increased mental and emotional strength, self-mastery, and self-sufficiency.) How might this promise apply to us spiritually? (See Hebrews 12:1–3. Answers could include that we will have increased strength to resist temptation and to “run with patience the race” toward eternal life.)
How might the Lord’s promise in D&C 89:21 apply to us?
Explain that anciently, just before the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, the destroying angel passed over the Israelites’ firstborn sons because the people obeyed the prophet Moses and marked their doors with lamb’s blood (Exodus 12). Similarly, as we “[walk] in obedience to the commandments,” including the Word of Wisdom, the destroying angel will pass by us, meaning we will be saved from spiritual death and blessed with eternal life through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. (See Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 24; or Ensign, May 1996, 19.)
Emphasize that the Lord has given us the Word of Wisdom because He loves us and is concerned for our physical and spiritual well-being. Explain that the Word of Wisdom is more than a code of physical health; it is also a key to great spiritual blessings. Suggest that class members evaluate whether they are treating their bodies the best they can, in accordance with the Lord’s counsel about health. Testify that as we follow this counsel, the Lord will fulfill His promises to bless us physically and spiritually.
You may want to use one or more of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.
President Heber J. Grant, the seventh President of the Church, taught that “the Word of Wisdom … would solve the economic problems … of every … country, if it were obeyed by the people of the world” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1936, 48). How do you think this could be so?
Consider the amount of land, money, and other resources that are used to produce harmful substances, advertise them, purchase them, and treat the consequences of their use. For example, in 1985 the cost in America of health care and lost productivity related to the use of tobacco was approximately $65 billion (see Ensign, Sept. 1986, 61). The costs of the production and use of alcohol are also very high. Consider the potential economic impact of using these resources for beneficial purposes rather than destructive ones.
Social scientists have found that Church members who live the gospel, including the Word of Wisdom, are more likely than others to be happy in their marriages and satisfied with their family life. They are less likely to engage in premarital or extramarital sex, to experience depression, and to be involved in delinquent, deviant, or antisocial behaviors. (See Robert L. Millet and Noel B. Reynolds, eds., Latter-day Christianity: 10 Basic Issues [booklet, 1998], 46–47.)
Obeying the Word of Wisdom blessed one missionary in an unexpected way. While he was teaching a man about the Word of Wisdom, the man looked into his eyes and asked, “Do you mean to tell me that you have never tried drugs, smoked a cigarette, or tasted alcohol in any form?” The missionary looked directly at the man and spoke with a strong voice, “No, sir. I never have.”
The missionary later described the experience that followed: “A power went through me at that moment and I knew why I had always kept the Word of Wisdom. I am grateful that when I came to that moment in my life, I was able to bear a strong testimony of the importance of the Word of Wisdom because I had always been obedient to it.”
What counsel did the Lord give Joseph Smith in D&C 10:4? (See also Mosiah 4:27.) How might this counsel apply to our health? What are the dangers of disregarding this counsel?
The Apostle Paul taught that our bodies are holy to the Lord and that they are temples in which the Holy Ghost can dwell (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Just as we should not defile our bodies by partaking of harmful substances, we should not defile their external surface with tattoos or unusual piercing. Such modifications can have negative physical, social, and spiritual consequences. (See David A. Burton, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 52–53.)