The Mormon 'Word of Wisdom'
Mormons believe the physical body is a sacred gift from God and should be respected as such. As part of the Lord's plan for His children, Mormons believe every man and woman needed to receive a body to come to earth and prove themselves faithful before the Lord. A part of faithfulness in this life is the ability to control and care for the body.
Mormons also believe that the body is made in the image of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Mormonism, according to modern-day revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith, teaches that the Lord has a resurrected body of flesh and bone. In addition, Mormons believe their bodies house the Holy Spirit, which members of the Mormon Church receive at baptism. In the scriptures we read these admonitions about our bodies:
1 Corinthians 3:16-17: "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."
Isaiah 52:11: "touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord."
For these reasons, Mormons follow a strict code of conduct regarding the care and respect of their bodies. Mormons believe the Lord's Spirit cannot dwell with someone who is disobedient to the commandments of the Lord. To remain pure, Mormons follow commandments designed to keep their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of these commandments is known as the 'Word of Wisdom.' Members of the Mormon Church believe the food we take into our bodies is important. Throughout the history of Mormonism, specifically in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832 at Kirtland, Ohio, Mormons believe the Lord gives direction about the treatment of the body.
The 'Word of Wisdom' began when Joseph Smith prayed about the use of tobacco at Church meetings. As a result, the Lord set forth the guidelines, which are now commandments, on the treatment of the body and the physical and spiritual blessings that will come from following those gospel laws. This revelation was recorded in what is now the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is referenced by all Mormons as an inspired law, a law that will allow its adherents to enjoy life on earth and show respect to their physical bodies.
The Word of Wisdom outlines several substances that are harmful to the body. These include coffee, black and green tea, tobacco, alcohol, and the various narcotics and illegal drugs that are prevalent today.
Mormons understand that Satan desires the children of God to be unhappy. He works hard to win over the hearts of humankind and drag them down to his "gulf of misery and endless wo" (Helaman 5:12). One of the ways Satan is attacking the children of God on earth is through attempts to convince them that their bodies belong to them alone and they can treat their bodies however they wish. But Mormons believe that Jesus Christ has bought our bodies with a price: He sacrificed His life so that all the children of the Lord would have a chance to come to earth, receive physical bodies, and overcome physical and spiritual death if they repent of their sins.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20: "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Mosiah 15:23: "They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death."
In addition to the guidelines on the harmful substances not to be taken into the body, the Word of Wisdom provides men and women with information on what is good for the body. These things include herbs, fruits, meat, and grain.
At the close of the revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gives a promise to those who follow these commandments:
"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" (D&C 89:18-20).
Mormonism teaches that the Lord has given us the gift of agency, so we can choose right from wrong and prove ourselves worthy of the blessings He has in store for us. Mormons believe the Word of Wisdom allows each man and woman to prove their obedience to the commandments on the care and respect of their physical bodies.
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