Word of Wisdom in Mormonism
One of the more distinctive characteristics of the Mormon faith is its code of health, known as the Word of Wisdom. This code was given as a divine revelation to the prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, after he had pondered and prayed over the fact that his fellows in the leadership of the Mormon Church had the habit of using tobacco in meetings, frequently leaving a dirty mess to be cleaned up later.
It is interesting to note that many of the revelations in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) have come in such a manner. Our loving Heavenly Father often waits for his children to start to ponder over a specific matter that poses a source of concern or uncertainty. He allows time for them to come to their own realization that something is amiss in their lives or in their knowledge, and only after they have fervently and prayerfully sought answers does He grant an increase in their understanding. Such was the case when Joseph Smith offered his very first vocal prayer, wondering which of the many Christian churches could be the true one. God chose that moment to shed great light and revelation upon Joseph, actually appearing to him along with the resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ. Perhaps God in His wisdom knows that a person is far more likely to follow His counsels if that person has already come to his own conclusion that he lacks doctrines or practices that could prove beneficial.
Thanks to Joseph’s sincere seeking of truth, we have the restored gospel of Christ and we also have the Word of Wisdom, introduced well before the modern scientific community conceived of the idea that certain human pastimes could actually be very hazardous. These include the use of coffee and black tea, tobacco (by chewing or smoking), alcohol, and the various narcotics and illegal drugs that have become so prevalent in today’s world.
Countless individuals around the globe are suffering the effects of alcoholism, and their families likewise suffer through the frequent consequences of domestic violence, divorce, financial incapacitation, and deadly disease and automobile accidents. Drunkenness also plays a role in date rape and offensive behavior and speech. Tobacco and illicit drugs induce strong addiction and are a cause of physical, social, and mental degradation. Even coffee and tea contain addictive and harmful substances, and people rely on them like a crutch to get up in the morning and to socialize with friends. The short- and long-term negative effects of using these various harmful products are becoming more and more evident.
The revelatory message sent from God about such things contains, as an introductory statement, words of warning pertaining to “. . . evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” Indeed, addiction and financial ruin are no accident, because industries that supply alcohol, tobacco, and drugs thrive on such.
Hopefully over time, more people will recognize the benefits of quitting the use of cigarettes and other harmful substances. Many will start to make better decisions about such things, whether they believe it is God’s will or not.
If only people would better understand that God’s will is for their good! The Lord wants His children to be physically healthy. Moreover, He desires them to be spiritually healthy. He has stated in modern scripture, “. . . not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal . . . for my commandments are spiritual.” Mormons observe many commandments which may appear to have only temporal (or physical) implications, including the Word of Wisdom, emergency food storage, offerings of money and food for the needy, chastity and fidelity, and the strict duty of parents to look after the physical welfare of their children. Yet these practices primarily allow us to show humility, obedience, and commitment to God; they teach us to walk in balance and temperance and to be prepared in all things; they increase our love; and they strengthen our resolve to obey the Lord at all costs. Only in this mindset, which, as it turns out, is a very spiritual quality, will be find adequate faith to call on Christ’s grace and be saved, finally returning to His presence to live with Him and the Father for ever more.
Mormons truly want to follow Christ and become more and more like Him. Harmful substances can only impede the fulfillment of that lofty goal. So Mormons abstain from such, and they meanwhile strive to exercise and to consume healthy and wholesome foods including grains, fruit, meat in moderation, and herbs. By so acting, they believe they become eligible for promised blessings as described in the divine revelation: “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.”