Addiction or Freedom – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk, Addiction or Freedom, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1988 General Conference.

This talk was a good reminder on the blessing of the Word of Wisdom – and how violating the Word of Wisdom will ultimately result in a loss of freedom…addiction.

Throughout the first portion of the talk, President Nelson taught about the cycle of addiction and various addictive substances. That part of the talk is very helpful, but it isn’t what I’d like to focus on today for this blog post.

After a short treatment of addictive substances, President Nelson offered a “Prescription” for overcoming addiction. This prescription is relevant to all of us – no matter the type of addition we may be suffering from.

Spiritual Prescription for Overcoming Addiction

Before I continue with the Spiritual Prescription, I want to quickly say that now, 20 years after this talk was given, we know that drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are not the only addictive substances destroying lives. We also know that there are other substances that are incredibly addictive will some ill long-term effects. I’m thinking mainly of the overconsumption of sugar and other processed foods.

I don’t advocate a complete avoidance of sugar. I think that it is okay in small doses. But many people are addicted to sugar and certain foods, and it has led them down a path of disease and obesity. I think that we can apply these same principles to any kind of physical addiction we might have.

One: Choose to Be Alive

I love this! Choose to be alive. This life is a gift. When we are in the throes of addiction, we forget this!

President Nelson stated:

“The choice for life brings an outlook of optimism. It breathes hope. It rekindles self-esteem—regarding one’s body as a timeless trust.” – Russell M. Nelson

I know that I’ve probably stated this before, but I heard Chad Lewis speak at a fireside once. He talked about his experiences in the NFL and after – including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. He has lived an exciting and full life, and told the audience that a major inspiration for him to do so was his father. About his father, Chad Lewis said, “He loved life enough to get after it.”

I love that. It has become a kind of motto for me – love life enough to get after it. This kind of love for life will help us to weigh various choices and sacrifices.

Yes, cookies and ice cream are good, but I do not want to eat them all the time. I don’t want to sacrifice future choices because of a current appetite. Choosing to be alive is fundamental for breaking any addiction.

Two: Choose to Believe

President Nelson states:

“Choose to Believe. Believe in God. Accept yourself as His child, created in His image. He loves you and wants you to be happy.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! Love it so much! Believe in God! and we need to accept ourselves. This is such a fundamentally easy mistake to make – not to accept ourselves as beloved children of God.

When we accept ourselves as His children, beloved and created in His image, then something changes within us. We gain confidence. I’m not talking about self esteem. I’m talking about the real confidence that will remain a part of us no matter what others say and do to us.

Accept yourself as His child. By doing so, we will begin to trust Him and His word – including His Word of Wisdom.

Three: Choose to Change

The change is only preceded by a choice to change. How do we choose to change? Probably education. Maybe also bad experiences. Not sure I have a single answer for this. But I know that if we want to change, we have to choose to change, and we have to believe that we can actually make this choice.

I think that there are a lot of people who want to change, but don’t think that they can. Don’t worry so much if you can or not (hint: you can). Just make the decision to do it.

Put another way, I was in a conversation with someone recently, and they said, “I don’t know how to do it.”

I realized that we don’t have to know how. Instead, we should focus on why. The how is really easy to figure out later on. Instead, focus on what to change and why. When we know what we want to change and why, when we really have these answers clear in our minds, we will figure out how to do it!

Unfortunately, we often get stopped on “how.” Let’s take weight-loss, for example. We might read diet book after diet book. A lot of people who are trying to lose weight know at least a dozen different diets, but none of them ever seem to work. Then, the next diet book comes out, they read that, hoping that it will finally answer how for them.

Instead, if they focused on why they wanted to lose weight – because they wanted to live longer, because they want to see their children have grandchildren, because they want their knees to stop hurting, because they don’t want to have to give themselves insulin shots, because they want to be more attractive for their spouse…etc. – then they would have enough of an answer to find out “how” in a jiffy.

So – make a choice to change. Don’t get fixated on how to change, just make a choice to do it – while remembering that you are alive, and that you are a beloved child of God. The universe (God’s universe) will point the way on how to change if you will just make the choice to do it.

Four: Choose to Be Different

This is an interesting point that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, but I believe that it is critical. President Nelson explained:

“Choose to Be Different. Distinguish yourself from worldly crowds. Defenders do not resemble offenders. Among them are clever merchandisers who plot to link beer with sports, tobacco with charm, and drugs with fun. Scripture warns of those who so deceive:

“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.)

His Word of Wisdom includes sound nutritional guidance and simple instructions.” – Russell M. Nelson

Choosing to keep the Word of Wisdom does make us different! I know that many Mormons all over the globe have experienced this. As I think about this, I remember how L. Tom Perry would drink milk at corporate dinners. MILK! He was different. And it is a choice that we must make – we need to be okay with being different.

It can be hard to be different. This is true.

Recently, I started Intermittent Fasting. I’m sure that I’ll share more about my experiences at a future point on the blog, but I’ll quickly say that it is one of the most positive things I’ve ever done for my body, spirit, and the health of both. Through intermittent fasting I’ve finally found a way to address and wrangle in my own problems with certain foods (sugar-y ones!). I’ve finally found a way to feel like I’m a master over my body and appetites, rather than a slave to it.

But you know what? When you choose to do intermittent fasting, you are different. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch most days. I remember thinking, why can’t I just be like everyone else? Why can’t I just eat all day long?

Intermittent fasting has been a very spiritual decision for me, and when I asked myself these questions, I felt a spiritual response: You can if you want. But remember that every choice is a sacrifice. You can sacrifice breakfast and lunch now and eat whatever you like during your eating window. Or you can eat all day long and sacrifice future health.

I know what my future holds. I can look at my parents and my grandparents and I see type two diabetes, stroke, dementia, heart disease, and obesity. I can choose to be like everyone else.

But I want to be different!

Five: Choose to Exercise

Isn’t this prescription great!

President Nelson explained:

“Exercising the body and the spirit will aid in the climb toward recovery. Appropriate physical activity helps to combat depression, which so often accompanies addiction.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel very fortunate because for some reason I really love to exercise. Though it can be hard to get up and go for a run or do a workout,  I have been able to see the way that exercise can reward our lives. It keeps my head clear. I like being able to move my body. I love feeling strong.

The same goes for my spirit. I love having knowledge, faith, and strength. These only come with spiritual exercise. When we sacrifice the time to exercise – spiritually or physically – we gain so much more than the initial sacrifice. We are blessed with peace and confidence.

These blessings reinforce the other choices – to be alive, to believe, to choose, and to be different. As we exercise – spiritually and physically – we come to know who we are – spiritually and physically. We see the blessing our bodies and spirits are. We want to take care of them.

This is such good advice!

Six: Choose to Be Free

I love this final choice so much, I don’t even know what to say about it.

One thing that strikes me as interesting is how freedom is often misinterpreted.

When I was younger, there were people who thought my religion and its Word of Wisdom sounded confining and restrictive. They confused “freedom to” and “freedom from.”

All of us are free to choose. This is the agency that God grants us and that we fought for in our premortal life. But this freedom to choose is not the same as being free.

President Nelson taught:

“Often, however, agency is misunderstood. While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices, we are tied to the consequences of those choices.” – Russell M. Nelson

We are all free to choose. However, we must understand that the consequences of our choices may result in either liberty or captivity. This is the essence of choosing to be free – we want to choose liberty. We don’t want to be held captive by the consequences of the choices that we were free to make.

Freedom to = agency. The freedom to make a choice.

Freedom from = liberty. The freedom from captivity.

When President Nelson urges us to be free – he is talking about being free from captivity. Having liberty. Choosing to keep the Word of Wisdom does ensure a measure of liberty in our lives. We will not form addictions when we keep the Word of Wisdom. We might also be kept safe from some of the other enslaving consequences and diseases that come through dietary choices.

Of course there are exceptions. I knew a man that had never smoked a day in his life. He was fit and healthy. But because of a genetic mutation that he did know he had and that he could not alter, he ended up dying from lung cancer. This was a result of immortality – not a choice he made. And though he had to suffer this adversity, he was still free.


I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands and lives the Word of Wisdom. He has a very intimate understanding of it as a medical doctor. I’m grateful for his sound advice – that not only is helpful if we are addicted to drugs, but it is also helpful if we have more “minor” yet just as difficult addictions. I’m grateful to know that our prophet leads and guides us to have happier lives – both spiritually and physically. I’m also impressed because not only does President Nelson understand these principles, but he lives them. He’s 93! He has chosen to be alive, believe, choose, be different and be free.

President Nelson on a Swing click for source



The Word of Wisdom: Promises and Blessings – 2/2 (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21)

“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.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

See part one here.

So – we continue to learn about the blessings of the Word of Wisdom. I really love these blessings. They motivate me to be better at really keeping the Word of Wisdom.

Strength to Endure
Often, when thinking of the phrase, “run and not be weary, and…walk and not faint,” I think of what this means, physically. I think of running a marathon.

I ran a marathon several years ago. It was a really interesting experience. It required discipline. It was humbling. It was difficult. In running and training for the marathon, I loved the idea of having discipline. For once in my life, I felt like I had discipline! I could say no to bad foods. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to run. While none of this was easy, I felt like having discipline was like wearing a badge of honor.

I’m not as physically disciplined these days. And I miss that feeling of confidence. Not only that, but I can see how physical discipline effects me spiritually.

I know that the blessing for keeping the Word of Wisdom is more than physical. Keeping the word of wisdom helps us to endure both physically and emotionally/spiritually. I love this promise! We have been told that in order to receive eternal life, we need to endure. And in the word of wisdom, we are blessed with being able to endure! It’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

And one last scripture while we’re on this topic –

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

There are many ways to wait upon the Lord, and I guess I get the feeling that we shouldn’t underestimate the connection between our bodies and Spirits. When we keep the word of wisdom, when we keep our personal temples holy and pure, then we are blessed with renewed strength, we will run and not be weary and walk and not faint. We will be given the ability to endure.

Protection and Life
The Lord has always preserved His people. In this verse, there is a reference to when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of those who were covenant Israel (See Exodus 12:23, 29). The Lord preserves His people through commandments and covenants. Of course, the Lord loves us. But the children of Israel weren’t automatically saved from the plague of death brought on by the Destroying Angel. They had to do as the Lord had instructed, and apply the blood of a lamb to their doorframe. When the Destroying Angel saw this token, he “passed over” the home. The children of Israel were literally saved from Destruction.

Keeping the word of wisdom can also keep us from being physically destroyed before our time. This is kind of obvious. When we keep the word of wisdom, we avoid contracting preventable diseases or other problems. The Word of Wisdom keeps us healthy.

But I kind of wonder if there is more to this promise than avoiding life-threatening disease – especially when you consider we will all die anyway.

The Lord’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt was not only physical, but symbolic of the deliverance that Christ can offer to all of us. We can all, through keeping the commandments and making covenants with God, be blessed with the ability to overcome the world. This blessing results in our inheritance of an eternal “promised land” – heaven.

Keeping the Word of Wisdom will also help us to receive this blessing. When we keep the Word of wisdom, we’re blessed with physical health and strength, we’re blessed with knowledge, we’re blessed with the ability to endure. These are the ingredients we need in order to inherit eternal life. Truly, if we keep the word of wisdom, the destroying angel will pass over us.

Even though I’m not always the best at keeping the word of wisdom – I don’t always eat the most healthy things. Sometimes, I don’t treat my body like the temple that it is. I can see how the word of wisdom helps us to develop discipline. It helps us to understand our physical relationship with the Lord. I am grateful for the word of wisdom.

What are some of the blessings and promises of the Word of Wisdom you are grateful for? What have you learned as you’ve studied and pondered the Word of Wisdom?

The Word of Wisdom: Promises and Blessings Part One (D&C 89:18-21)

“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.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

I have to admit, this is my favorite part of the Word of Wisdom.

When the Lord introduced this new principle, he explained that it was a principle with a promise. In these last few verses, we learn of the promised blessing that will come when we follow the principle of good health.

Health in the Navel, Marrow in the Bones
The first blessing is actual health. Now, this doesn’t mean that we will never get sick. But that we will have healthier lives because of living the word of wisdom. This seems like the most obvious consequence of keeping the Word of Wisdom. Just because it is obvious, though, doesn’t mean we should overlook its importance! Good health is an amazing blessing. When we have good health, we are better able to enjoy life.

I have always experienced fairly good health. I’ve never had a life threatening disease. Of course, there have been times that I’ve been sick, and when I’ve gone through that, I think, “This is the worst thing EVER!” And, afterwards, I am always amazed at how great it feels to be normal – not to have a runny nose, or fever, or some worse symptom.

Recently, though, I have had a problem with endometriosis. I have known about this problem for about five years, but hadn’t done anything to treat it because I wasn’t done having children. Then, this summer, it was acting up again, and I decided to see a doctor to do something about it. Since I knew that we were done having children, I prayerfully considered her advice: hysterectomy.

I elected to have the surgery – seven weeks ago. I’m already feeling so much better! I have more energy. I feel like I’m better able to enjoy life again. Even though I still have to get back to normal (my abdomen will need a bit of strengthening after that surgery), I’m noticing the quality of my life increase. I’m so grateful for health.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, there is a scripture that reads:

” Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:18-19

I love this! When we keep the Word of Wisdom, and use the food that Heavenly Father has given us as He has directed, then it will strengthen our bodies and enliven our souls. The physical blessing of the Word of Wisdom is pretty cool.

Another blessing of the Word of Wisdom is wisdom! (Imagine that).

One of the best examples of this blessing is found in the example of Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego). They had been brought to the court of Nebuchadnezzar to be trained by his people. They would be added to his large counsel. They were young and first would go through various exercises. The first thing to do was to get healthy and strong. They were told to eat the “Kings Meat” and drink the “King’s Wine.” However, this diet was against the dietary code of Daniel and his Israelite brethren. They asked if they could be exempt from this part of the King’s training.

Of course, the eunuchs who were in charge of preparing Daniel and his brethren were worried about the results of their lack of participation. Daniel offered a challenge – they would keep their own Dietary code for ten days, and if they didn’t appear and perform well, then they would submit to the King’s diet.

After ten days, the boys appeared healthier than all of the other boys who had eaten the king’s meat. We also learn of another blessing:

“As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” – Daniel 1:17

In addition to their good health, these boys had received knowledge in all learning and wisdom.

I think that this makes sense. When we are following the Word of Wisdom (not necessarily the diet fad of the day), our brains work better. We receive the nutrients we need in order to have maximum function. We may not have six pack abs, but we won’t be “meat-heads” either. The Lord knows our bodies, He designed them. While we may not have an understanding of the benefits for various foods and our body, the Lord does. Our diet does more for us than our appearance -it also helps us have wisdom.

I, personally, am interested in this promise. I am always looking to improve my wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. If I want to do this, then I will stay closer to His Spirit through keeping the Word of Wisdom. Elder Richard G. Scott has taught us how to enhance the power of the Spirit in our lives:

“On the other hand, spiritual communication can be enhanced by good health practices. Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation.” – Richard G. Scott

It makes sense that if we don’t cloud our minds with the negative effects of drugs, then we will be blessed with greater wisdom. I find it interesting to also note that good eating habits help to enhance our ability to receive revelation and gain wisdom. Good food = Brain food.


I’m grateful for these blessings of the Word of Wisdom. I’m grateful to enjoy good health. I love being able to learn, think, and grow. I’m grateful that Heavenly Father has given us insight on how our bodies effect us physically and mentally. Have you experienced these blessings as a result of keeping the Word of Wisdom? How have the blessings of health and wisdom effected your life?

Click here to read part two of The Word of Wisdom: Promises and Blessings.

The Word of Wisdom – It’s not Just about Flat Abs (D&C 89:14-17)

Update – May 15, 2014 – I will probably post about this later, but remember that this post is part of a learning process. I have been doing more experimenting with my own lifestyle, and I’ve been learning more about health AND the Word of Wisdom. Lately, I have been personally (and spiritually) inspired to pursue a Primal diet. I know it sounds hypocritical, and when you read this post, that will seem like the case. Keep in mind, this post was written in 2012, when I was only beginning to try to understand the Word of Wisdom and my diet.

I don’t want to take down this whole post because it was an important part of my process, and I think that the questions I ask are worth asking, even if I have come to different conclusions now.

As I said, I have transitioned into a Primal diet. That being said, I don’t have flat abs (yet!), and I feel GREAT. My mind is clearer. I feel like I’m experiencing more of the promise of the word of wisdom now that I’ve cleaned up my diet. So, if you are reading this blog, proceed with caution. I’ll link to an updated post as soon as I write it!

“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;

And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

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—

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.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:14-17

As I studied this group of scriptures, I was led to the account of Daniel 1:6-20 and his brethren, when they were in the King’s Court. They didn’t want to break their dietary code by eating the “king’s meat.” Instead, they wanted to eat their own foods – which consisted mainly of grains.

As a test, they ate their diet for 10 days, and after this time, they had the following results:

“And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
– – –
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” – Daniel 1:15

This result really intrigues me. I get the feeling that maybe Daniel and his brethren weren’t ripped. They appeared “fairer and fatter in flesh.” I’m not exactly sure what this means. I doubt that it means that they were fat or obese. I also don’t think that they were underweight or “ripped” like we see so many people who are “fit” today.

I can’t help but wonder how skewed my perception of what healthiness or fitness looks like. I wonder how healthy a six-pack (especially on a woman) is. Of course, that is what we consider completely fit right now. But is it really best for our body – overall? Is it best for our organs, bones, or brains? We are more than our muscular system. I wonder if the obsession with health is actually contrary to the word of wisdom. In fact, I watched this talk Weighty Matters: Current Approaches to Evaluating Body Weight and Weight Loss, by Susan Fullmer about healthy weight, BMI, and other body weight issues. It was really interesting – we don’t know much. Many of the things that we think we know may be wrong! For example, people with a BMI that classifies them as “overweight” are actually usually healthier than those with an “underweight” BMI. You would never get this idea from looking at current media (or pinterest) trends.

I’m realizing that I’m a little confused and maybe brainwashed by the idea that I should be super-thin or fit. Usually, in order to obtain a six-pack body, you have to abandon carbs and eat mostly meats. (Think Paleo). I don’t know that I’m sure how the low-carb high protein diet fits into the Word of Wisdom!

So, when I see this story of Daniel, He denied the King’s Meats and instead ate his own diet of pulse and healthy plants. I know that this diet probably didn’t result with super-duper muscles. I’m sure he looked healthy, in a more balanced, moderate way. I am beginning to realize that I may have an incorrect expectation on what “health” or “fitness” looks like. The Word of Wisdom, keeping our Bodies temples, is much more than being tiny or skinny. It is about having a working body. Additionally, the Lord wants to bless us with spiritual, emotional, and mental health.

As I write this, I don’t want to sound like I’m supporting obesity. Instead, I think that we should not be so focused on our body. Rather, we need to focus on keeping the word of wisdom. If we are keeping the word of wisdom, then we ought to be confident in the results – our bodies, our minds, etc. If we are keeping the word of wisdom, then we ought to also accept the results – that they may not look like what is popular. They may not be as heavy as a Renoir Woman, as skinny as a runway model, or as fit as an olympic gymnast. If we keep the word of wisdom, our bodies will probably vary by each person (tall, short, big frame, small frame, etc), but we will be able to run and not be weary. We will also be blessed with knowledge and understanding. When we keep the word of wisdom, we aren’t blessed with a shredded body, but we’re blessed with an able and fit body – capable of handling the stresses that are placed on us – capable of enduring. We’re blessed with mental and spiritual capability. When we keep the Word of Wisdom, instead of washboard abs, we are a temple.


Another note. As I have been studying the word of wisdom, I’ve noticed a connection between agriculture and civilization. This probably sounds obvious, but here’s an example of exactly what I mean:

“And we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city, yea, even the walls of the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom.

And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.” – Mosiah 9:8-9

The righteous, civilized people always till the ground. They always harvest and eat grains, seeds, and other fruits and vegetables. They do raise flocks, and one would assume that they are eating cheeses, milks, and some animal products. They may fish or forage for other wild foods, but they don’t have to worry about availability of wild foods because they are self-sufficient based on their cultivated crops.

On the other hand, we see what happens with those who stop being industrious and growing crops. They begin to lose their culture and are completely dependent on wild animals or wild plants.

“And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.” – Enos 1:20

The Lamanites, who had given up agriculture also gave up civilization. I bet they were ripped, but I doubt that they lived as long. I doubt that their lives were abundant with understanding and happiness. They might have looked good in a loincloth, but they didn’t understand their bodies were temples. They didn’t have the Spirit striving with them. Most likely, they didn’t enjoy good, overall health.

There is more to healthy living than looking good.

In this modern age, we don’t have to live with the connection between growing food ourselves and mealtime. We just get our food from the store. Some of the popular diets (high protein/meat) may not seem as uncivilized because we get our meat nicely packaged in the supermarket. But it seems like the Lamanites were living a high protein diet; where the Nephites and other righteous civilizations were eating diets that were more plant-based. I bet after eating such a protein-rich diet, the Lamanites noticed their abs, then decided they would look good in a loincloth!

Our modern “diets” may make us look good in a loincloth, but they may not be best for our health or society. I suppose that this is why the Word of Wisdom is so helpful. Even when we get conflicting dietary advice, we can look to the scriptures and know what we should eat in order to be our best selves.

Have you made the connection between the Word of Wisdom and body image? What do you do to keep a healthy body image? How do you wade through fad diets verses the prophetic counsel we’ve been given?

The Word of Wisdom — Good Stewardship (D&C 89:12-13)

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;

And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:12-13

So you know, this post is all about meat…


First of all, I’ve got to say, I love meat. I grew up in Texas. I can’t help but love steak. And Pork Chops. Chicken. I like it grilled, fried, and baked. I am not to partial as to how it is prepared, but I love it. However, I realize what the Doctrine and Covenants teaches here…there may be too much of a “good thing,” and I begin to question how much meat I should eat, and what exactly is sparingly.

Unfortunately, I feel like we can’t really get conclusive answers elsewhere. Given some of the “fad” diets that we have right now (Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, etc), this part of the Word of Wisdom can seem a little confusing. Even though I don’t truly believe that a banana is worse to eat than sausage wrapped in bacon, I find myself worrying about eating too many “carb-y” or sugary things – including fruits(!) – and not enough meat.

The thing to remember is, protein DOES NOT EQUAL meat. There are easy ways to get proteins from plant sources, too, and these are probably healthier for us. I feel like this confusion and misunderstanding is just because of what we hear every single day – about “health” and “diet.”

As I think about it, though – I’m reminded that the Word of Wisdom is always the best guide, no matter what doctors and scientists say. In the 1950s and 1960s, Doctors promoted cigarette smoking as healthy! Of course, now we realize that this advice is absurd. I wonder, in fifty years, will we finally be learning the truths of a good diet, and then look back and shake our heads at things like the Low Carb Diet, or other constrictive diets that rely too much on meat – even processed meat – over whole foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains?

It can be hard to banish the so-called wisdom that may be stopping us from fully embracing the word of wisdom.

So, now, when we look to the Word of Wisdom, we are taught to eat meat sparingly – in times of cold, winter, or famine. This can still seem quite flexible, and maybe even confusing. However, studying these two verses, especially the scriptures footnoted in this verse may add insight. Here are a few things I noticed.

There Have Always Been Dietary Laws
We know that there has always been a dietary law. Long before Joseph Smith and Doctrine and Covenants 89 came about, the Lord gave laws concerning diet to ancient Israel. They were commanded only to eat specific types of meat. Many kinds of animals were considered unclean. While we don’t categorize meat as clean or unclean, it is important to note that the amounts of meat eaten by the ancient Jews must have been limited based on the fact that there was so much they couldn’t eat. They didn’t have as many options, so they probably ate more plants than we do now.

Meat is Ordained for the Use of Man
The Lord teaches us that the beasts of the earth and fowls of the air were ordained for our use – for food and raiment. I know that this may seem ego-centric, but it is true: the earth and it’s contents were created to be used by us. However, this does not justify exploitation. Instead, it is implies how we ought to treat the earth as a sacred and special gift. It was created by God for us. It isn’t just something we can trash. We must be judicious and reverent – this shows Heavenly Father our gratitude for such amazing gifts.

Used Sparingly
Being a good steward does not mean that we will never use the gifts that the Lord has given us. We don’t need to take it to an extreme. It doesn’t mean that we try to leave the environment alone, completely. It doesn’t mean that the earth is better off without us. The Lord does want us to use all of what He has created. We learn:

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:17-20

The Lord doesn’t want us to take either extreme. We are supposed to use what he has given us – even animals and other natural resources, but we are to use them with judgement. I guess it seems simple enough.

The thing is, I realize, as I read this, I am part of a society which does not seem to understand the idea of judgment. It seems like we live in a world that is all about excess and even extortion. I think of how animals are raised – beef, pork, chicken. How is this judicious? How is it not extorting these animals and the land that they live on? Perhaps I shouldn’t buy into this industry. It is difficult because meat is so much cheaper when you go to the supermarket and buy ground beef that has been packaged and sold by a big plant. It is a lot more work and money to go and purchase beef from a local farmer – who has used good, ethical practices to raise, feed, and even slaughter cattle. Of course, as I write this, I realize, if I only purchase meat raised by ethical (and non-extortionist) farmers, then I will eat a lot less meat because it is hard to afford!

I am not an animal rights activist. I have never really put much thought into the entire subject. I like the taste of meat. That is all I usually think about. However, as I study the Word of Wisdom, I realize that there is more to it than appeasing my appetite (which has a tendency to become insatiable). I realize that this commandment is not only about my health, but about the health of the earth that the Lord has blessed me with. There are problems with eating too much meat. I’m not going to get into the nutritional ramifications other than the fact: if we’re eating too much meat, we’re probably not eating enough plants – so we’re robbing our bodies of important nutrients. We may be making ourselves sicker. Not only that, buy by eating too much meat, we are probably impacting our entire landscape – by subsidizing the big beef industry which is neither judicious nor sustainable.

So…In all, I guess this is where I’m grateful for the Word of Wisdom. I don’t know how our habits will impact us. I think that we are only beginning to learn (obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc). I think that eventually we will learn what we have already learned in the past: God’s wisdom – the Word of Wisdom – is always right. Even when “conventional wisdom” says otherwise, we know the truth. Even if we can’t pinpoint the exact reasons why we obey, even if our belief goes against the culture, we know that God’s ways are higher than our ways. (See Isaiah 55:8-9.)

So, I’m going to do my best to be a better steward. I’m going to eat less meat, and more plants. I’m going to be a wiser and more judicious consumer. I’m going to show the proper respect and gratitude that the Lord expects and deserves for the blessings he has given me.

What are your thoughts and feelings on this part of the Word of Wisdom? What do you do to keep it? Have you noticed blessings from eating meat sparingly?

The Word of Wisdom – With Prudence and Thanksgiving (D&C 89:9-11)

“And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:9-11

Here is the part of the Word of Wisdom where the tone begins to change. We go from what we shouldn’t be consuming to things that we should eat.

I have a few thoughts concerning this set of verses.

Wholesome Herbs
If you look down in the footnotes, we learn that “wholesome herbs” are any kind of plant that is for food. Plants are the first thing mentioned – that we should be eating! I’ve never realized this before. Often, when I think of the Word of Wisdom, and what I should eat, my mind goes instantly to wheat – being the staff of life. Yet wheat is mentioned later in the chapter. The first mention of what we should be eating is “wholesome herbs.” In current language, we could say, veggies and fruits. I find this interesting.

In the past, haven’t kept this part of the word of wisdom…Not consistently. I don’t have anything against fruits or veggies, but I really like other things – like carb-y things: bread, pasta, cookies, Pizza. Who has time for veggies when there are so many other things to eat!!!

Thankfully, I had the impression that I needed to change some of my habits. (This impression came in the form of my thighs). So, earlier in the year, I started drinking water. Then, I started eating at least five servings of veggies/fruits a day. (3 Veggies and 2 Fruits). I have to say, the change has been really amazing. Everything in my life is getting better. I feel better about what I eat (less remorse). I love fruits and vegetables, and I’m loving them even more. And other things like digestion are going well, too (won’t get into that here, but I can say that I don’t need to eat Fiber One anymore…) It’s amazing how keeping the Word of Wisdom is good for us.

With Prudence
So, as much as we can get excited about vegetables and fruits, the Lord includes a caveat: with prudence. This is great as it helps me to remember that there needs to be wisdom applied even to good things. We need to eat in moderation. Veggies and fruits are an important part of our dietary needs, but they aren’t everything. We need to eat wisely.

As I think about this, I also think about how we may modify some things that begin healthy. For example, eating a potato chip may not be the most prudent way to eat potatoes, or is a Chee-to the most prudent way to eat corn(?).

Finally, I think that prudence can also be applied to preparation. There are times when we can destroy the health benefits of plants in the way we prepare and consume them.

With Thanksgiving
Finally, in anything we eat, we need to do it in joy and thanksgiving. We need to be cheerful and grateful. This is a key. Eating well shouldn’t be a drudgery. It should be a way that we celebrate and show our gratitude for the creations of the Lord.

How has keeping this part of the word of wisdom been beneficial in your life? How do you remember to eat enough fruits and veggies?

The Word of Wisdom – Tobacco…Not Good for Man (D&C 89:8)

“And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:8

In reading this, I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather, who struggled with tobacco his entire life.

My Grandpa

My grandpa didn’t grow up in the Church. He wasn’t introduced to the gospel (and the Word of Wisdom) until he was an adult – long after he had developed a dependence on tobacco. Not only that, but when he was young, tobacco wasn’t considered to be harmful. I understand his situation, so I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on him, but tobacco destroyed and eventually took his life.

My grandfather passed away several years ago; however, for the last 15+ years of his life, he suffered from Emphysema. Throughout this illness, he still smoked and used all kinds of tobacco products. I can’t imagine having Emphysema. He was hospitalized – nearly to the point of death – several times. He died a slow and painful death because of Emphysema, and the thing is: it could have been avoided. Even though my grandfather developed a tobacco habit long before science understood the dangers of tobacco, he could have been spared this illness by following the commandments of the Lord.

I feel like in seeing his example, it was imperative for me to learn from it. Because of my grandpa, I’ve never been tempted to smoke or use any kind of tobacco. So, studying this verse seemed to be kind of redundant, but I kept studying – and I have learned something useful, too.

I was struck by the idea that our bodies are created by God. They are sacred … they are holy.

We have been taught:

“The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:35

We need to keep our temples holy. And Heavenly Father has given us instruction on how to do it. He, as the creator of our bodies, is qualified and able to teach us how to keep our bodies from being defiled.

Heavenly Father knows what is good for us. He knows everything. He knows the true purpose of all of the plants and herbs that he has created. Sure, some of them may have an effect on our bodies, and those effects may even feel good, but they aren’t necessarily good for us. It is easy to see how tobacco is bad for us. However, there are other ways we can defile our temples – not only through tobacco. Currently, it seems that the struggle with our bodies is with food.

People are defiling their temples through neglect and eating poorly. And the results of such choices are just as Heavenly Father warned: …and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” I have to admit, I’m not always the best at keeping my body pure. Sure, I don’t use tobacco, but there are times when I choose to eat things that aren’t nourishing to my body. It is a hard habit to break. But it is good for me to remember the experience of my Grandfather – and to trust God by keeping the Word of Wisdom so I don’t have to endure unnecessary illness.

What do you do to help keep your body pure and undefiled? How have you felt blessed as you have done so?