During my junior and senior 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 were long and intense. He first became interested in dentistry while studying another field in his undergraduate studies. He was accepted in the dental school and received his dental degree. He then went on to receive 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, which was constructed in such a way that it appeared like a small stadium with the students seated in semicircle rows above the patient, thus giving the dental students a view of the patient as each particular disorder and its effects were discussed. We could 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 were witnessing it before our very eyes.
At that time more and more proof was documented linking smoking as the major cause of lung cancer. However, little was published about tobacco as the 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. By keeping that powerful irritant in contact with the mouth tissue, disfiguring types of facial tumors were formed.
“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 very interestingly, 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 seem to contract an infirmity and another in the same situation and environment never have a problem? Or why doesn’t one person with the same life-style as another suffer the same medical problem? Why can one who has smoked all his life live to be a hundred years old? Why do some have their lives drastically shortened and suffer severe disfiguring effects from smoking and drinking?
Our renowned instructor explained that under most normal conditions and situations the cells behave in a normal manner; however, there are certain factors which can trigger the cells to change from their normal behavior and go out of control. These cells can become fast-growing and destructive tumors that can be disfiguring and life threatening. 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 are much more sensitive than others, 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 can live long and seemingly trouble free, while others are affected so easily and early in life. In the Word of Wisdom the Lord has forewarned us of substances that we must avoid, substances that can cause some of those unwanted and undesirable cellular changes.
With the understanding that just one encounter with a triggering substance can cause so many untold problems in a person with a low level of resistance to that substance, 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).
Even though those years as a student do not seem to be that long ago, it is interesting how far the medical community has come to the point now of 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 so impressed with the knowledge of this outstanding maxillary-facial surgeon. He seemed to have so much knowledge, and I was extremely amazed with his skill. However, in reality, his knowledge was just a mite in comparison with the Greatest Physician who ever lived. I mean the one who healed the leper, 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 second plan behind 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.
When you read the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89), you may automatically think it is about the things you shouldn’t partake of. The don’ts are spelled out.
Church leaders, the scriptures and 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, Conference Report, Apr. 1926, p. 110).
So let’s do the do’s.
Exercise: Spiritual well-being is certainly important, but how you feel physically is also significant. Are you getting enough physical activity every day? Consider what President Ezra Taft Benson had to say about the matter: “Rest and physical exercise are essential, and a walk in the fresh air can refresh the spirit” (Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 66).
Sleep: Are you always tired, or are you sleeping too much? 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. [D&C 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.”
It might seem like a little thing, but 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 honoring your body. The scriptures tell us that all grains are good for us (D&C 89:14), and that meat is “ordained for the use of man” but should be “used sparingly” (D&C 89:12).
President Benson has also counseled us about the importance of maintaining a good diet. “In general, the more food we eat in its natural state and the less it is refined without additives, the healthier it will be for us” (Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 66).
What would happen if the next time you’re watching a video with friends, you choose to eat vegetables and drink fruit juice rather than snacking on chips and soda pop?
It’s easy to only worry about not using the things that are bad for you. But by also concentrating your efforts on the things that will benefit your health, think how much better off you’ll be.