"In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days." D&C 89:4I have heard people say that this statement applies to drug dealers. While I agree with that statement, I wonder if is it limited just to them, or are there others who are conspiring against our health and well being? Who are these evil and conspiring men? What are they conspiring? What makes them evil?
Let's start with a principle that will help frame this discussion. In Jacob 4:14 it speaks about "looking beyond the mark." In his October 2016 LDS Conference talk Quentin L. Cook said:
"While there are many examples of looking beyond the mark, a significant one in our day is extremism. Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders. One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios. In both examples, others are encouraged to accept private interpretations. “If we turn a health law or any other principle into a form of religious fanaticism, we are looking beyond the mark.” (Quentin L. Cook, "Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus", October 2016 LDS General Conference)As I cover this subject, I want to make sure that we are focusing on the core doctrine and principles of the Word of Wisdom and not advocating extremism when it comes to this important passage of scripture.
In that same October 2016 LDS General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson also gave a talk on the Word of Wisdom. This is his closing statement in general priesthood meeting:
"Brethren, may we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of Wisdom, a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul, I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do." (Thomas S. Monson, "Principles and Promises", October 2016 LDS General Conference)First we receive a caution to not look beyond the mark from an apostle, then we receive instructions on how to avoid doing that from the prophet. Did you catch it? President Monson said we observe the principles set forth in the divinely appointed plan of the Word of Wisdom. We seek out the principles of the word of wisdom and we do them. So what are principles, and what are the principles in the Word of Wisdom.
In chapter 4 of David A. Bednar's book, "Increase in Learning" he provides a clear description principles by providing these definitions:
- A doctrinal statement answers the question of "Why?"
- A principle answers the question of "What?"
- The application answers the question of "How?"
We start going down the path of looking beyond the mark when we dictate the "How" to people rather than helping them understand the doctrine and principles. We should apply the "teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves" approach.
As an example, this is also how the idea that you can't eat anything with caffeine in it got started. Don't ingest caffeine is an application, not a principle. This is an example of looking beyond the mark. Most people have decided to avoid caffeinated soft drinks (and soft drinks in general), not because it is expressly forbidden in the Word of Wisdom, but because they understand the principle. They know that there are evil a designing people in this world who create things that do not bring health to the navel and add marrow to the bones. So, those that seek to follow this principle simply avoid those drinks in favor of drinks that support and promote good health.
Rather than focus on what you can't eat (as most Word of Wisdom discussions do), we should focus on the principles of good health in the section. There are 8 verses that list the the “Do” (D&C 89:10-17) part of the Word of Wisdom as opposed 5 verses in the “Do Not” portion (D&C 89:5-9)
Is there enough information in these scriptures to help us avoid the evil and conspiring men in our day?
Before re-reading this passage, we should define four words used in this section. Herb, sparingly, prudence, and fruit. It would be inappropriate to use a 2016 dictionary to define terms as they were used in 1830, so let's go to the on-line Websters Dictionary from 1828
HERB, noun erb. [Latin herba.]
- A plant or vegetable with a soft or succulent stalk or stem, which dies to the root every year, and is thus distinguished from a tree and a shrub, which have ligneous or hard woody stems.
- In the Linnean botany, that part of a vegetable which springs from the root and is terminated by the fructification, including the stem or stalk, the leaves, the fulcra or props, and the hibernacle.
The word herb comprehends all the grasses, and numerous plants used for culinary purposes.
- Not abundantly.
- Frugally; parsimoniously; not lavishly. High titles of honor were in the king's minority sparingly granted, because dignity then waited on desert. Commend but sparingly whom thou dost love.
- Abstinently; moderately. Christians are obliged to taste even the innocent pleasures of life but sparingly
- Seldom; not frequently. The morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, is more sparingly used by Virgil.
- Cautiously; tenderly.
PRUDENCE, noun [Latin prudentia.] Wisdom applied to practice.
- Prudence implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity in discerning and selecting them. prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence implies more caution and reserve than wisdom, or is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good. It is sometimes mere caution or circumspection.
- Prudence is principally in reference to actions to be done, and due means, order, season and method of doing or not doing.
FRUIT, noun [Latin fructus. The Latin word is the participle of fruor, contracted from frugor, or frucor, to use, to take the profit of.]
- In a general sense, whatever the earth produces for the nourishment of animals, or for clothing or profit. Among the fruits of the earth are included not only corn of all kinds, but grass, cotton, flax, grapes and all cultivated plants. In this comprehensive sense, the word is generally used in the plural.
- In a more limited sense, the produce of a tree or other plant; the last production for the propagation or multiplication of its kind; the seed of plants, or the part that contains the seeds; as wheat, rye, oats, apples, quinces, pears, cherries, acorns, melons, etc.
(Note: there are 6 more definitions of this word in the 1828 dictionary, but these first to definitions are sufficient for this discussion)
Now, with those definitions in your mind, re-read the 8 "Do" verses of the Word of Wisdom.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Here are the principles I picked out of this section of the Word of Wisdom
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
- Eat wholesome herbs (Vegetables)
- Eat fruit (Fruits, seeds, and grains)
- Flesh of beast and fowls is to be used sparingly
- Eat grains (all grains)
Even though there are only 4 basic principles in this section it opens up hundreds, if not thousands, of different things we should be eating. Most people get hung up on things the "can't" eat. I can't eat milk, or I can't eat meat, I can't eat fat, I can't eat carbs, I can't eat sugar, or any of the other fads that come and go. Instead we should be focusing on what we should be eating to promote good health.
By focusing on the principles of of the word of wisdom, we avoid an entire classes of foods that have been created and processed by people who's motive is not your good health, but is to addict you to their food and keep you as a "user". It has been said that there is no money in pushing sweet potatoes, kale, and quinoa on people, but there is huge money in pushing chicken nuggets, fries, and diet coke. Those items are designed to keep you coming back for more.
Let's pause and discuss this idea of sparingly vs. moderation. Some claim they are living the word of wisdom by saying that they eat meat in moderation. The word moderation is never used in this passage of scripture. In fact it is only used once in the entire LDS standard works and that is in Philippians 4:5 and that verse has nothing to do with eating meat. So where did this idea of moderation come from? Again, it is caused by ignoring the principle and making up an application. By definition, this is looking beyond the mark. The principle is to use the flesh of beasts and fowls sparingly (frugally or seldom). There is sufficient scientific evidence that eating meat is not healthy. It should be obvious that this principle of eating meat sparingly should be as religiously followed as avoiding tobacco use. However, if you start preaching that you can not eat or use any animal product ever, then you may want to evaluate if you are looking beyond the mark. The best definition I have ever heard of this is that moderation applies to the good things in your life, while sparingly and abstinence apply to the things that are not good.
To complete this discussion, we should look at what have the prophets and apostles have said in general conference about these verses? Using scriptures.byu.edu you will notice that there has been a dearth of references to this section of the Word of Wisdom. Here are about the only two quotes that specifically address items in the "do" verses. Neither of them are very recent.
"In this revelation the Lord counsels us to use meat sparingly. I have often felt that the Lord is further counseling us in this revelation against indiscriminately killing animals, for He has said elsewhere in scripture, “Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” D&C 49:21
Wheat is particularly singled out as being good for man, as is the fruit of the vine—vegetables and all fruits. This is the wisdom of the Lord on the matter of sound nutrition and diet.
The Word of Wisdom allows us to know that the Lord is vitally concerned about the health of His Saints. He has graciously given us counsel for improving our health, endurance, and resistance to many diseases. (Ezra Taft Benson, “A Principle with a Promise”, April 1954 General Conference)
"Young people, learn to use moderation and common sense in matters of health and nutrition, and particularly in medication. Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist.So, you have to ask yourself “Why?” Why has there been no significant mention of the "do" portion of the Word of Wisdom in General Conference recently? On the surface, it seems strange considering the current state of health of the Church population in the more developed countries. I would like to offer 3 ideas:
For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly (see D&C 89:12 Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God” D&C 49:181 [The context for verse 18 is verse 19: “For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air … [are] ordained for the use of man for food.” D&C 49:19 Section 49 was specifically directed to members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (the Shakers) to correct some of their erroneous doctrines. One of their beliefs was not to eat flesh-meat or fish.]
Another scripture counsels, “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; … 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” D&C 88:124
Honor the principle of the Word of Wisdom and you will receive the promised blessings. “All saints,” the revelation promises, “who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments,” are promised that they “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones” and “shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” D&C 89:18, 20
The Word of Wisdom does not promise you perfect health, but it teaches how to keep the body you were born with in the best condition and your mind alert to delicate spiritual promptings. (Boyd K. Packer, The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises, April 1996 General Conference)
- Perhaps with so much else going on, this portion of the word of wisdom is not a real priority. The people who are really suffering from not following these principles are those who live in the wealthy 1st world countries and have access to an abundance of animal based and highly processed foods. It would not seem to be prudent to spend much time in general conference on the overweight American problem when there are many members of the Church around the world who do not have enough to eat.
- Perhaps the commandment and the blessing are enough to stand on their own. It is a basic commandment that has blessings that quickly follow obedience. Obedience to things that appear on the surface to be temporal usually have blessings that are easy to recognize. Another example of this would be the law of tithing.
- Perhaps this is a wheat and tares issue. By imposing the "do" portion of the word of wisdom on members we would uproot some of the weaker members. By allowing all to grow together until the harvest then it will be easy to see the difference between the wheat and the tares.
Going back to my first question, who are these evil and conspiring men? They are those who would try to harm our physical bodies by creating, marketing, and distributing food, drinks, or drugs that would harm us. How do we identify them? Just like most things, it is easy when you know how. Any time someone comes up with a new diet or a lifestyle all you need to do is simply run it through the filter of the Word of Wisdom. Is it in alignment? Then you are probably on a good path, but if it is in direct conflict with the revelations of God then you are probably building on a sandy foundation with materials provided by evil and conspiring men.