Health and the Word of Wisdom

May 18, 2009

For the past two years I have sat for probably thousands of hours learning and studying about the human body as a medical student.  The more I learn, the more I realize that our God truly is God.  It is amazing to think that there is someone who knows perfectly how our bodies work and what each little enzyme does, exactly how each muscle contracts, and so on.  We think that we know a lot, and we do, but there is so much more to learn.

The Human Body

With regard to physical health, it is important that we take care of our bodies and part of that process involves being wise in what goes into our bodies.  God revealed to Joseph Smith a general outline of how we should do this. This is known as the Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants 89).  I find that by patterning my physical lifestyle and health philosophy after the Word of Wisdom is liberating–I feel better about who I am, I am healthier, and I have faith that God will bless me with certain things that he has promised to those who live by the Word of Wisdom (see below).  I hope to encourage you to see the wisdom that is found in living the principles found in the Word of Wisdom.

As I have thought about how I should live my life with regard to physical health, I often think of what Paul teaches the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19):

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Cor. 3-16-17)  . . . For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:19).”

Salt Lake City, Utah LDS Temple

I don’t think that it could be any more plain–we are supposed to take care of our bodies in every way, because they are temples, temples where the Holy Ghost resides.   Furthermore, our bodies aren’t ours, they are God’s, because they have been bought with the blood, tears, and suffering of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we should take care of them.

I truly hope that you will think about how you treat your body.  Do you maintain your temple by eating properly, exercising sufficiently, and sleeping the right amount?  I believe, based on what Paul teaches, that we will be held accountable before God for the way that we have treated our bodies.

So, how does the Word of Wisdom apply?  The Word of Wisdom and what Paul teaches are in essence the same thing, but the Word of Wisdom gives a few more guidelines for how to maintain our “temples”.  The point that I want to emphasize are the promises that God gives to those who live their lives according to the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:18-21).  He states:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.  And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”

Just as the destroying angel passed over those houses in Egypt that had the blood of a lamb painted on their door post (a reminder that it was the blood — Atonement — of the real Lamb saving them from destruction), those that abide by the Word of Wisdom will also not be hewn down.  Furthermore, health, strength, and treasures of knowledge will flow into our lives.  I  know that these promises are true, because I have seen them come into effect in my own life.

What does the Word of Wisdom teach us about health?  After the Lord lays out what we shouldn’t take into our bodies, He discusses what we should eat and how we should eat.  He states that we should eat mostly grains (D&C 89:14, 16), lots of fruits and vegetables (D&C 89:10-11, 16), and we should eat meat sparingly.  And when we do eat meat it should be during the winter or when there is a famine (D&C 89:12-13).  The diet that the Lord prescribes is a very sound diet.  Your body doesn’t need a lot of excess meat, what it needs most of is glucose and that is supplied by grains, fruits and vegetables.  Of course you can’t leave out the fact that their are essential amino acids, fats, and vitamins that we need from meat.  But if you eat just a small quantity of meat and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, you will get everything that you need.


In addition, the Lord teaches us that we need to use all of our food with thanksgiving and prudence (D&C 89:11).  I find it interesting that he says prudence.  According to the 1828 version of Webster’s dictionary, prudence means wisdom applied to practice.  This might be a stretch, but what I take away from that is that we need to be wise in how we eat–generally, we should eat less than what we typically do and we need to eat good wholesome foods (double-bacon cheeseburgers, fries, and many store-prepared foods really don’t fit in this category).

I wish that I could talk more about health, there is so much to say, but I don’t think that this is really the forum for that.  Please take care of your body by eating wisely, consuming the right amount and types of food, and exercising regularly. It will reap benefits in your life and from what the Lord and Paul teach, we will be much happier and live longer if we do.

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5 Responses to “Health and the Word of Wisdom”

  1. bfrancisco

    Recently, we received two questions, which apply to this post:

    Q. What do Mormons believe about spouses, who after they marry, neglect their bodies thru poor eating and exercising habits and becoming obese against their spouses’ wishes and to the great hurt of their marriage and children who grow up with this bad example?

    First, we shouldn’t judge others, because we do not usually understand their circumstances from our very superficial perspective. We all have struggles that we must deal with and sometimes the way things appear and the way things really are are completely different. One great thing is that God will judge us all based solely on us; he won’t compare us against someone else. Thus, we can be sure that our judgement is just.

    There is one thing that we must always keep in mind and that is that we are all at different levels of progression and understanding. I may have been taught by the Spirit that I am supposed to take care of my body and live by a higher standard. On the other hand, maybe you haven’t been taught the same thing yet, because you aren’t ready to receive it. The point is, we won’t be held accountable for laws and commandments that we didn’t know about. As we progress we are taught more and more, but that also means that we are more accountable.

    Generally speaking though, as I stated in the article, we will be held accountable for how we treat our bodies. Like Paul teaches, our bodies are temples and we need to take care of them, both physically and spiritually.

    With regard to children and bad examples. We won’t be held accountable for our parents examples, but we will be held accountable for our own actions. Therefore, as we are taught truth by God we need to abide by that teaching, regardless of whether or not it contradicts what our parents have taught us, either through example or otherwise. We need to love God more than our parents or anyone else and be willing to make changes for God as we are taught by Him, even if that means going against what our parents think.

    Q. How do the dietry and life style doctrines of mormons compare to those of other faiths?

    Thanks for the question. I am not sure and honestly, I have never studied much about other religions’ dietary lifestyles. It does seem to me that many religions recognize the importance of not consuming substances or foods that can be harmful or addictive in any way. I do know that Seventh-Day Adventists have dietary guidelines that their members live by, but I am not sure what those are. I will say this, I think that it is intuitive that we need to take care of our bodies and maintain them well and this is reflected in many different denominations and religions.

  2. Patty

    I am not LDS, but think it is wise and wonderful to take care of our bodies – especially when it come to addictive substances.
    In quoting 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19 I would like to draw your attention to: “ye are the temple of God… if any man DEFILE the temple of God…”
    You said, “I don’t think that it could be any more plain–we are supposed to take care of our bodies in every way.” Are you saying obeying the WoW is equivalent to  not defiling our bodies?  Perhaps that is why following the WoW is one requirement for worthiness to enter the temple?
    Please consider: Jesus explains it this way in Matthew 15:15-20: what goes into the mouth (food and drink) is digested and eliminated, this does not defile a man.  What comes out of a man (lies, evil thoughts, blasphemies and so on) is what comes from the heart and this is what defiles a man.
    While exercise, good diet, and health habits do offer us some good, it is godliness  that is valuable in every way. (1 Timothy 4:8)

  3. Ben


    I agree with you, godliness is the goal and I agree with you and Christ that it is what comes out of our hearts is what defiles us. 

    I believe that Christ expects us to care for our bodies as he outlined in the Word of Wisdom and as has been further clarified by other prophets.  In this way, yes, I believe living by the WofW, is a part of not defiling our bodies.  

    The bottom line is that the Lord has given us a commandment.  Unfortunately, this one seems to be viewed as “unconventional” by much of the world.  Regardless of what others think, this commandment has become a major blessing for me, not only because I don’t use the substances the Lord describes in the first half, but because I live by the second half as well.  These blessings are available to all if they will abide by the conditions that were outlined.

  4. Tony


    With regards to this subject, I am quite confused.
    I am an investigator of the Church and I have been there many times in the last several months. I have been touched by the deep level of faith shown by everyone there.
    I know that all these members do not drink alcohol, or smoke or drink coffee etc, I believed after my lesson on the WoW  that ingesting these things is a sin because it goes against the instructions of God.  I know that the WoW tells us to look after our bodies and eat healthily.
    However,My confusion comes from I myself am overweight and I know several church members who are severely overweight which i know is unhealthy. As this is not eating well and healthily ( i know some members may have other issues but I’m assuming some of them are like me, and simply eat too much, and too much bad food) is this not as bad as drinking alcohol or smoking in the eyes of God as it is not completely following the WoW? Is this not also a sin? Or am i wrong in labelling it as a ‘sin’? 
    Confused! Sorry for the rambling the question!

  5. Jan

    One great thing about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost once you are baptized is that these issues, (like how well to take care of our bodies, what shows we should be watching/not watching on TV, what the best use of our money is any given month, etc) are personally answered for us when we ask for them.  The more we live worthy lives and allow the Spirit to be with us, the more He can refine us and help us to improve.
    I used to not care about my health very much at all.  I was fat, then thinner, then fatter, then thinner and it didn’t bother me.  But as I’ve really tried to live the parts of the Word of Wisdom that are written in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Spirit has showed me the other parts, (probably the “hidden treasures of knowledge” that come with keeping the basic law)  that really make me feel healthy and good about myself.  Now I love healthy foods, exercising, and taking care of my body. 
    I don’t think you can label it a “sin” to be overweight; but for sure if you have already had the Spirit tell you not to have another cinnamon roll, you are accountable to follow that direction.  The more knowledge that you have, the more obedience is required.
    Also, an interesting aside–in The Atlantic a couple of months ago, there was an article talking about how “foodie-ism” is just masked gluttony.  I thought it was very insightful.  Preoccupation with food is how gluttony is defined.  Not that Mormons believe in the 7 Deadly Sins, but still. . .