Lesson 25: Living the Word of Wisdom

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 213–18


The purpose of this lesson is to help us better understand and live the Lord’s laws of health.

Introduction

“When Paul C. Kimball, a Latter-day Saint student at Oxford University in England, was asked to coach a young, inexperienced rowing crew, he said he felt ‘rather weak. I had never done any coaching.’

“However, he accepted the invitation with one condition: ‘If I am going to coach you,’ he told the rowers, ‘I am going to make you train according to my rules.’ His rules were total abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee. It took the boys about a week to decide to accept his condition.

“With their agreement secured, Kimball ‘took them in hand and … worked with them every afternoon for three hours till February.’ That month they entered a series of rowing meets against all the other colleges at Oxford. ‘My boys were competing against crews composed of men who had been rowing since they were tiny tots,’ Kimball said. ‘This group I had was made up of inexperienced boys. But they had trained hard, and not one of them, so far as I know, used a cigarette during this period, or had a cup of tea or coffee, or drank any alcoholic drink.’

“Still, when the day of the race came, no one thought the inexperienced crew had even the remotest chance of winning. When the cannon sounded, starting the mile-and-one-half race up the Thames River, it was expected that the young crew would fall back quickly. But by the time the rowers reached the half-way point, Kimball, who was running along the bank shouting instructions to his crew through a megaphone, noticed that his charges were still running even with their competitors.

“Kimball shouted his last word of counsel: ‘Sprint!’ They sprinted beautifully and within a minute had stretched out a hundred feet ahead of their nearest competitors. They won the race with ease.

“Each day of the six-day rowing competition, it was expected that Kimball’s crew would be defeated. But each day, following the same tactics, they won handily. ‘When people asked me how I managed such success with novices, I answered, “I made those boys live right,”’ he said. ‘When the sprint came, their lungs were clean; their systems were clean; their blood was clean, and their nerves were strong’” (Joseph Walker, “Victory on the Thames,” Church News, 20 Feb. 1983, 20).

The Lord’s Laws of Health

  • What are the Lord’s laws of health? (The Word of Wisdom, proper rest, and exercise)

Our bodies house our eternal spirits. They will serve the same function in eternity. Our bodies are so important that the Apostle Paul called them “temple[s] of God” (1 Corinthians 3:17). Because our experiences affect our bodies and spirits, we must be careful to keep our bodies clean and healthy.

The Lord’s laws of health are meant to preserve our physical, mental, and emotional health. The Lord knows that when we are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy we can participate in activities that build us spiritually, bless others, and build the kingdom of God.

Many of the Lord’s laws of health are found in Doctrine and Covenants 89. This section, called the Word of Wisdom, tells us what to eat and what not to eat. Among the substances we are warned against are strong drinks, hot drinks, and tobacco.

Strong Drinks

Strong drinks are alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine, and beer. These and all other alcoholic beverages should never be consumed (see D&C 89:5, 7).

Hot Drinks

Hot drinks are defined as coffee and tea. However, our Church leaders have told us not to use any beverage that contains drugs or other ingredients that are harmful or habit forming.

Tobacco

We are not to consume tobacco in any of its forms (see D&C 89:8).

We should always avoid any other substances, including food or drink, that will create unnatural desires or cravings or upset the natural functions of our bodies. Failure to do so will cause us great personal misery.

If we are in doubt about a substance, we should follow the counsel of Elder Joseph Fielding Smith: “If in doubt as to any food or drink, whether it is good or harmful, let it alone until you have learned the truth in regard to it. If anything offered is habit-forming, we will be safe in concluding that it contains some ingredients that are harmful to the body and should be avoided” (“The Word of Wisdom,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1956, 79).

President Ezra Taft Benson told us to avoid anything or anyone who would influence us to consume any unhealthy substance: “My … brothers and sisters, in all love, we give you warning that Satan and his emissaries will strive to entice you to use harmful substances, because they know if you partake, your spiritual powers will be inhibited and you will be in their evil power. Stay away from those places or people which would influence you to break the commandments of God.” President Benson said that if we keep God’s commandments, we “will have wisdom to know and discern that which is evil” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 72; or Ensign, May 1983, 54–55).

To promote our health and happiness, the Lord created all things of the earth for us to use and benefit from. They are to “please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul” (D&C 59:18–19). The Word of Wisdom suggests some foods that we should make part of our diet. These foods include all wholesome herbs and fruits (see D&C 89:10–11; 49:19). We may also eat the flesh of animals and of fowls of the air and use the skin of animals for clothing (see D&C 89:12–13; 49:18–19); however, we are not to kill animals for mere sport or pleasure and waste the meat (see D&C 49:21). The Word of Wisdom also states that all grain is good for people and animals. Wheat is especially good for us.

Although we should make every effort to find out which foods are good for us, we should be careful to avoid extremes in using or refraining from using certain foods. Such action is not justified by the Word of Wisdom (see D&C 49:18).

Other scriptures besides Doctrine and Covenants 89 discuss the Lord’s laws of health. One of these reads, “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; 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). We are also told to labor, but not to labor more than we have strength (see Mosiah 4:27; D&C 10:4).

  • How does the Lord’s caution “cease to be idle” affect good health? (Activity strengthens the body.)

  • How does the Lord’s admonition “cease to find fault one with another” relate to our good health? (Faultfinding creates emotional distress, and emotional health is necessary to our happiness and spiritual well-being.)

Laws with Promises

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21. What does the Lord promise to those who live His laws of health and keep His commandments? (“Health in their navel and marrow to their bones”; wisdom; knowledge; “hidden treasures”; protection from “the destroying angels”)

Some of the greatest rewards we receive for obeying the Lord’s laws of health are “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (D&C 89:19).

  • What is wisdom? (Discernment in the use of knowledge)

  • What are “hidden treasures”? (The most sacred and deep things of God)

These “hidden treasures” are revealed to us by the Holy Ghost: “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God … which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Corinthians 2:10, 13; see also D&C 88:11–12).

The sacred and deep things we learn will always be with us if we obey God’s commandments. The Lord has promised: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).

As we receive wisdom, knowledge, and understanding through the Holy Ghost, we can become more like our Father in Heaven. We will become better sons, fathers, husbands, priesthood holders, and disciples of Christ if we use what we have received to bless our own lives and the lives of others.

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “For observing the Word of Wisdom the reward is life, not only prolonged mortal life but life eternal” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 211).

The Old Testament prophet Daniel had a clear and pure understanding of the Lord’s laws of health. His story illustrates the blessings we receive when we live these laws.

  • Show visual 25-a, “Daniel was blessed for keeping the Lord’s laws of health.”

After Jerusalem was captured, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon wanted certain young people from the captives to be taught his language so they could be servants in his palace. This meant, however, that they were to eat and drink substances that they had been taught not to eat or drink.

Daniel was one of these young men who were chosen. But unlike some of the others, Daniel refused to drink the wine and eat the improper foods that were offered. He asked instead that he be permitted to keep the Lord’s laws of health and eat foods he knew were healthful. This was agreed to, as a test. After a while, those who drank the wine and ate the improper foods were compared to Daniel. Because of his obedience, Daniel was healthier than the others and had been given wisdom, knowledge, skill in learning, and visions. (See Daniel 1:3–6, 8, 12–19.)

If we are obedient to the Lord’s laws of health and His other commandments, we, like Daniel, will be blessed with these same gifts, probably in mortal life but certainly in eternity. The Lord has told us that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). He has also said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).

  • What other blessings might we receive by obeying the Lord’s laws of health?

Conclusion

The Lord’s laws of health were given to bless us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. By living these laws, we are promised many blessings. These blessings will help us strengthen ourselves and our families, serve others, and build the Lord’s kingdom.

Challenge

Commit yourself to obey the Lord’s laws of health at all times.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review Gospel Principles chapter 29, “The Lord’s Law of Health.”

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.