We all know what the Word of Wisdom is, right? Of course we do—and in fact, so do persons who know very little else about the Church. The word “Mormon” seems to be synonymous with our choice to abstain from smoking and drinking. Many see this choice as a form of bondage, a way of curtailing our freedoms and keeping us from having any fun. But as Dr. Scott A.Johnson points out in his new book, the Word of Wisdom was given to us as a means of protection and a way to keep us healthy.
Years before the dangers of tobacco use were discovered, the Lord counseled us to stay away from it. Before we even knew what alcohol did to our internal organs, we were told not to drink it. The early members of the Church didn’t understand all the reasons for the Word of Wisdom when it was first given and so obeyed because of faith, but today we know—we’ve seen pictures of lungs burned black because of smoke inhalation. It’s plain that such practices are harmful to our health, and we are grateful to the Lord for paving the way so we could know how to avoid some painful and fatal diseases.
I have to be honest—when I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get anything out of it. If you’ve been a member of the Church longer than fifteen minutes, you’ve got the Word of Wisdom thing pretty much memorized. So I was surprised—in a good way—to see this book take off in a different direction. Rather than spending all 120 pages discussing the advantages of avoiding tobacco use, the author then went on to explain proper use of herbs and how they can be beneficial to us. I’m married to an herbalist and I was raised by an herby mother, so this all resonated with me—I’ve seen for myself how proper administration of the right herbs can change lives. In fact, I have to give credit to my recent dramatic weight loss to this very concept. Read more about that here.
Then we enter into a discussion about meat. We’re told in the Word of Wisdom to eat meat sparingly, and it’s true that we eat far too much meat in our culture—just ask any cardiologist. We’re reminded that grains are highly beneficial, and then—possibly my favorite part—the author reminds us that we’re to use our own best judgment in these things and to use foods in moderation. I liked that reminder a lot because not everyone can eat the same way to achieve maximum health. For myself, I feel best when I eat a diet devoid of grain and with a lot of meat. I’ve actually taken a lot of guff for that, as some people feel that my choice to limit my grain intake means that I’m not living the Word of Wisdom. My particular body needs to eat a certain way, and Dr. Johnson recognizes that in the book—we must seek for the diet that encourages our unique bodies to heal and to function properly for them. The purpose of the Word of Wisdom is to encourage us to live strong, healthy lives, and I’ve found the way to do that for myself.
I was also very pleased to see a section in this book about caffeine consumption. It is true that the Word of Wisdom does not mention caffeine and that the Church has no official stance on it. Dr. Johnson points out, however, that caffeine is harmful to the body and goes contrary to the Lord’s desires for us—that we remain in control of our emotions, that we seek for optimum health, and that we not become dependent on substances. To quote Dr. Johnson, “Caffeine is the most abused behavior-modifying drug in the world.” Anyone who has questions about caffeine’s relationship to the Word of Wisdom should read this book—it makes things much more clear. You can read my thoughts and feelings about caffeine here.
Dr. Johnson himself is proof that living the principles of the Word of Wisdom is a blessing in our lives—he was diagnosed with a very painful joint disease, and after much research and study, he determined that by adhering to all the teachings outlined in the Word of Wisdom, including limited his meat intake and using healing herbs, he would experience a lessening of his symptoms. He is now living a full, rich life, able to do without many of the medications he was taking when first diagnosed.
Our bodies were made by our Heavenly Father, and so who better to tell us how to take care of them? I’ve seen it for myself—the Word of Wisdom is a guide and a tool given to us to help us be healthier and stronger than we would be otherwise, and I’m so grateful for it.