The Word of Wisdom: A Warning from the Lord

By Allen Leigh, Guest Blogger

Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, known as the Word of Wisdom, was given in February 1833 and gives advice from the Lord about food and drink.

A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—

To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. (D&C 89:1-3)

That information was originally given as a warning to the Saints.

Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation— (D&C 89:4)

Later prophets made the Word of Wisdom a law of the church, but the church seems to have ignored or forgotten the counsel of the Lord that “conspiring men [and women] in the last days” would have evils and designs about our bodies.  I say this, because I don’t remember ever being told by church leaders and church literature that the Word of Wisdom is a warning about men and women who have hidden agendas about smoking and drinking.  So, let me state it clearly, the Word of Wisdom is first, a warning about conspiring men and women in the last days, and second, a mandatory health law of the church.

Scientists are researching the health of our bodies.  They are learning that tobacco and alcohol companies have kept certain information hidden from the public.  Anna Gilmore, Professor of Public Health & Health Foundation Clinician Scientist in the University of Bath’s Department for Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, reported that:

Tobacco companies use their price changes to win two ways in the UK: when tobacco taxes increase each year, the tobacco companies hide their price increases on more expensive cigarettes behind the tax increases, making large profits from smokers who aren’t bothered by price increases. Simultaneously, they cut the prices of their cheapest cigarettes so that smokers who would be deterred by price hikes continue to smoke. 

Researchers from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco studied documents from the tobacco industry that had been kept secret from the public and learned that tobacco companies were able to influence government regulation of tobacco products, such that regulations were favorable to the tobacco industry.

When assessing information presented by the tobacco industry, the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and regulatory bodies in other countries, should be aware that they are dealing with companies with a long history of intentionally misleading the public. They therefore should actively protect their public-health policies on smoking from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry and not consider the industry as a stakeholder, concludes a study by experts from the US and Germany published in this week’s PLOS Medicine.

The BMJ Group is a commercial subsidiary of the British Medical Association.  It published a report in 1998 titled Dark secrets of tobacco company exposed.  That report included the following paragraphs.

Just eight months earlier, BAT scientists had laid out some basic assumptions about cigarettes.   A 28 Aug 1979 memo reads: “We are searching explicitly for a socially acceptable addictive product involving: a pattern of repeated consumption; a product which is likely to involve repeated handling; the essential constituent is most likely to be nicotine or a ‘direct’ substitute for it.”

Public disclosure of once-secret industry documents has shown that Big Tobacco privately considered tobacco addictive and harmful at least four decades ago, even as it brushed aside claims that it manipulated nicotine in cigarettes to hook smokers.

The report discussed in detail efforts of BAT (the British cigarette maker) to increase nicotine use by its customers.  The report also mentioned efforts of  the American company, Phillip Morris, to increase the nicotine in its cigarettes.

Philip Morris, BAT’s competitor, already had discovered that by adding ammonia to its cigarettes, it could increase the ratio of free nicotine, and consequently the popularity of its Marlboro brand. In a few years, sales of Marlboro, with ammonia added, propelled Philip Morris past BAT to become the world’s No 1 cigarette manufacturer.

Another way that tobacco companies deceive consumers is through advertising that emphasizes positive effects of smoking while ignoring the many scientific reports about harmful effects of smoking.

Tobacco ads really do persuade teens to take up smoking, with every 10 sightings boosting the risk by almost 40 per cent, reveals research published in the online only journal BMJ Open.

The tobacco industry is now using smarphone apps — a medium that has global reach, including to children — to promote its products, warn researchers in [the online journal] Tobacco Control.

Tobacco companies are not the only companies that have hidden agendas about their products.  Researchers from the “London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, found that the alcohol industry had ignored, misrepresented and undermined scientific evidence in submissions made to the Scottish Government’s 2008 consultation, ‘Changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.'”

Dr McCambridge said: “There is a broad consensus internationally among researchers that the most effective measures to control problems caused by alcohol are to raise the price, control availability and restrict marketing activities. However, our study shows that key players in the alcohol industry constructed doubt about this wealth of scientific evidence and instead chose to promote weak survey-based evidence as well as making unsubstantiated claims to their advantage.

The bottom line to all of this is that tobacco and alcohol companies are businesses that try to maximize their profits, even if that is done at the peril of the public health.  Hence, the warning from the Lord about men and women conspiring in the last days to mess with our food and drink.

I believe the coffee and tea industries are probably also guilty of withholding information from the public, but I haven’t found any scientific studies to substantiate that belief.  In future postings, I’ll present scientific research about the effects on our bodies of tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee.

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5 Responses to The Word of Wisdom: A Warning from the Lord

  1. rogerdhansen says:

    Allen, for me your two main points are a hard sell. “The WofW is first a warning about conspiring men and women in the last days and second, a mandatory health law of the church.” While I agree with both sort of, I’m a bit of a skeptic.

    First, let me state unequivicably, that the tobacco industry is a nasty business and smoking is a nasty habit. There have been any number of studies and exposes that have gone after industry. And smoking appears to be on the decline in the US. But in developing countries it appears to be on the rise. I would like to see the US STOP exporting tobacco products, period.

    Second, for me, the LDS Church lost a lot of credibility when it recently excluded colas and other caffeinated drinks from the WofW. Clearly the health problems associated with soft drinks are much worse than any health risks associated with drinking coffee or tea. (And I’m a Coke drinker.)

    Third, the issue with alcohol is a tough one. Clearly alcoholism is a problem. But I have a bad heart, and mild alcohol consumption is generally viewed as a positive for heart patients. (But with the caveat: If you don’t drink, not start.) Additionally, many Mormons appear to be taking prescription drugs in lieu of alcohol. If this is the case, where is the net gain?

    Fourth, I’m not a big believer in the last days. We need to just live our lifes the best way that we can.

    So in conclusion, I would like to see flexibility in the WofW. Sure, an absolute prohibition on tobacco is fine. But I’m not sure about the rest. My father, a biochemist and nutritionist, used to preach “Moderation in all things.”

  2. Allen says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks for your comments. You and I have some differences in our viewpoints, and that is good, because it gives your visitors a broader view of the topics discussed in your blog.

    I do need to modify my statement that the WoW is a mandatory health law of the church. It is mandatory for temple covenants and is, I think, mandatory for baptism of new converts, but it is not mandatory for continuation of church membership and attendance.

    I think of the WoW as an example to us of a health law, rather than a health code based on all of the substances that might be harmful, and the Lord expects us to use common sense and current medical advice concerning substances not mentioned in the WoW. I don’t drink colas, and I drink carbonated drinks only occasionally. I don’t drink colas, not because of the WoW but because I don’t want the ingredients in the colas to be in my body. Same thing applies to carbonated drinks — I don’t want the high sugar content of the drinks in my body.

    I think that most LDS probably think of caffeine when considering tea and coffee as drinks. The Lord, however, didn’t say why tea and coffee were to not be used; caffeine is just one of the substances in “hot drinks” that might be harmful. As my mother got older, her doctor advised her to take a stimulant for her heart. She talked with her Bishop, and he approved her drinking one cup of coffee each day. She retained her temple recommend and temple attendance even though she drank that cup of coffee each day. So, the WoW does have flexibility, depending, of course, on the flexibility of the Priesthood leaders involved.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    David Brooks, NYTimes conservative pundent, during the recent Mormon moment, commented that he liked the WoW because it required a sacrifice from the members. I think “sacrifice” is a much better description of the WoW than health code or health law. If the WoW were to be updated, then it might fall into a health category.

    My grandfather, who was both a bishop and a stake president (and a wonderful man), couldn’t wait to get out of Cache Valley (he lived in Smithfield), so he could have a cup of Joe. My mother (who is also a wonderful person) used to secretly drink coffee when her great grandchildren weren’t around because she was afraid of setting a bad example. I told her to not worry, your 90 and if you enjoy your coffee your great grandchildren can certainly handle it. My father used to maintain his temple recommend despite the fact that he drank coffee and tea. (And he didn’t lie to the bishop.) I think the prohibition against coffee and tea is not always rigidly enforced.

  4. rogerdhansen says:

    Rosalynde Welch, at the 2013 FAIR Conference made the statement:

    “When I observe a religious practice like fasting (and I would add WoW), I momentarily de-throne the sovereign self, the self that would move from moment to moment merely on whim or appetite or preference. In turn, the knowledge that I am sharing the experience with my covenant tribe give me a feeling of commonality, connectedness, embeddedness.”

    “Rules that limit choice, even when the choices they limit are otherwise morally neutral, tame the ego, force us to accept experience as it comes to us rather than as we wish it were. Observing rules merely for the sake of the observation itself is a valuable ascetic practice.”

    I personally would put the WofW in this category.

  5. Pingback: What About Tea and Coffee | Tired Road Warrior

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