Many Church members easily identify Doctrine and Covenants 89 as the Lord’s health law. But this revelation is much more than a guide to better physical health. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained:
“All of God’s commandments, including the Word of Wisdom, are spiritual (see D&C 29:34–35). We need to nourish ourselves spiritually even more than physically” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 81; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 65).
President Boyd K. Packer added:
“Surely the Word of Wisdom was given so that you may keep the delicate, sensitive, spiritual part of your nature on proper alert. Learn to ‘listen’ to your feelings. You will be guided and warned and taught and blessed” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 24; or Ensign, May 1996, 19).
Elder Russell M. Nelson warned:
“If you yield to anything that can addict, and thus defy the Word of Wisdom, your spirit surrenders to the body. The flesh then enslaves the spirit. This is contrary to the purpose of your mortal existence.” Elder Nelson promised: “As you develop courage to say no to alcohol, tobacco, and stimulants, you gain additional strength. You can then refuse conspiring men—those seditious solicitors of harmful substances or smut. You can reject their evil enticements to your body” (The Power within Us , 61).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
The Lord commands us to avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. He ordained herbs, fruits and vegetables, grains, and meat to benefit our health, though He commands that we use meat sparingly (see D&C 89:5–20; see also Daniel 1:8, 12–16).
Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, p. 123.
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 206–11.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 89:1–4. Because Heavenly Father loves us, He warns us of present and future dangers.
Show the class examples of advertisements for alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea. Ask: Why do so many people respond to advertisements and purchase these products?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:1–4 and find reasons the Lord revealed the Word of Wisdom. Ask:
What do the words “do and will” imply? (v. 4).
What might the phrase “evils and designs … in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” mean? (v. 4).
What motivates people to sell products that are harmful?
Have students read verse 2 and mark the phrase “to be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint.” Explain that prophets today have declared that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment (see the first two commentaries for D&C 89:2 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325,
Have students read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 89 and find when this revelation was given. Ask:
How much was known by medical science about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea in 1833? How has that changed?
What does this advance warning show about Joseph Smith’s inspiration?
Share the following observation by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“Look upon the Word of Wisdom as more than a commonplace thing. I regard it as the most remarkable document on health of which I know. It came to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, when relatively little was known of dietary matters. Now the greater the scientific research, the more certain becomes the proof of Word of Wisdom principles. The evidence against tobacco is now overwhelming. … The evidence against liquor is just as great” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 67; or Ensign, May 1998, 49–50).
What are examples of things not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom that are forbidden by the prophets today? (Illegal drugs, abuse of prescription drugs.)
How would you respond if today’s prophet forbade the use of one of your favorite foods as part of the Word of Wisdom?
Point out that early Saints exhibited faith by obeying this revelation without knowing all the reasons why. Ask: How should we respond to commandments from our Heavenly Father? Testify that even if we do not understand all the reasons for a commandment, the Lord will bless us when we obey (see Moses 5:6).
Doctrine and Covenants 89:3–21 (Scripture Mastery, Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21). The Word of Wisdom is given for a principle with promise, providing both physical and spiritual blessings.
Tell students: Imagine you found a box of treasure that you could keep.
What would you hope to find in the box? (List responses on the board.)
Why do you consider these items treasure?
What does the word treasure mean? (Have students come up with a definition, and write it on the board.)
Invite students to watch for a list of treasures in section 89.
Ask what section 89 teaches. Invite a student to read the historical background for section 89 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (p. 206). Read and discuss verses 1–2, referring to the first two commentaries for verse 2 in the institute manual (p. 207).
Invite students to discuss some of the physical blessings they have received from obeying the Word of Wisdom. Read verse 3, and suggest students mark the phrase “a principle with promise.” Have them mark the reference to verses 18–21 in footnote 3a. Have them read verse 18 to find what principle the Lord is speaking of. (“Do[ing] these sayings” and “walking in obedience to the commandments.”) Read verses 18–21 and list on the board the promises made to those who obey the Word of Wisdom. Suggest students mark these promises in their scriptures. Have them tell what each of these promises means to them. Ask: Are most of these blessings physical or spiritual? Share the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“[In addition to health] there is a greater blessing promised in the Word of Wisdom. Those who obey it are promised that they ‘shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures’ (D&C 89:19). This is the personal revelation through which you can detect [temptations] or other dangers” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 23; or Ensign, May 1996, 19).
Earlier, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Packer said:
“Our physical body is the instrument of our spirit. In that marvelous revelation the Word of Wisdom, we are told how to keep our bodies free from impurities which might dull, even destroy, those delicate physical senses which have to do with spiritual communication.
“The Word of Wisdom is a key to individual revelation. It was given as ‘a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints’ (D&C 89:3).
“… If we abuse our body … , we draw curtains which close off the light of spiritual communication” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 16; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 14).
Compare the Word of Wisdom’s blessings with the treasure list on the board. Discuss the following questions:
Why are the Word of Wisdom’s blessings more valuable than worldly treasures?
How are the spiritual blessings that come from obeying the Word of Wisdom even greater than the physical benefits?
What spiritual blessings have you experienced by living the Word of Wisdom? (Answers might include being worthy to do temple ordinances and having the companionship of the Spirit.)
Read Elder Russell M. Nelson’s statement in the introduction to section 89 (p. 150). Ask:
How does keeping the Word of Wisdom show the Lord that your spirit and not your body is in control of the choices you make?
How is refusing alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea like resisting other temptations and sins?
Share your testimony of the Word of Wisdom and give examples of blessings you have received from obeying it.
Doctrine and Covenants 89:5–20. The Lord commands us to avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. He ordained herbs, fruits and vegetables, grains, and meat to benefit our health, though He commands that we use meat sparingly.
Show the picture Daniel Refusing the King’s Meat and Wine (Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 114). Invite students to briefly tell the story depicted in the picture, or tell it yourself (see Daniel 1:8, 12–16). Ask: Why were Daniel and his friends more healthy than those who ate the king’s food? Be sure students understand that they were healthy not only because of the foods they ate but because they were obedient to the Lord.
Explain that the Word of Wisdom not only prohibits certain substances but also gives counsel on the use of others. Have half the students read Doctrine and Covenants 89:5–15 and find substances that are forbidden or are to be used sparingly. Have the other students read verses 10–20 to learn what the Lord has ordained for our use. Invite volunteers to share their findings, and list them on the board. Point out that meat is included on both lists. For help with difficult words or phrases, refer students to the student study guide (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for D&C 89; see also the commentaries for D&C:89:5–17 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 208–10).
Discuss the following statements. President Boyd K. Packer said:
“Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom. It’s well known that tea, coffee, liquor, and tobacco are against it. It has not been spelled out in more detail. Rather, we teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation.
“Everything harmful is not specifically listed; arsenic, for instance—certainly bad, but not habit-forming! He who must be commanded in all things, the Lord said, ‘is a slothful and not a wise servant’ (D&C 58:26)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 22; or Ensign, May 1996, 17).
President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, said:
“Some have even used as an alibi the fact that drugs are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway. But who doubts the deadly consequences of such? Common sense would dictate against such behavior” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 65; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 50).
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