Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Now I think it’s time to talk about where our physical health does come into play, what importance it does actually have, because I do not think it is without value. What I have said has been about dismantling traditions I believe have been built up around our physical health, making it a thing of worship.
When we have identified a concern as being Telestial, that does not mean it is without value, but that it has limitations placed on its value. We are living in a Telestial world, where we influence and are influenced by Telestial forces. While the Lord does not teach us to focus on our physical health, He does acknowledge that it has its importance and function. Else why would He spend so much of His ministry healing and feeding people? Without sufficient physical health to function, we cannot accomplish our ordained purposes in this world. So we need to do what is necessary for our survival in this world, inasmuch as we continue to have missions to perform and lessons to learn that require our presence here.
When it comes to the temporal things, what we need is to maintain perspective. Sure, it would be good to not put toxic shit in food. Sure, it would be better if everyone and everything was better. That’s the nature of things being better, is they are better. But, it would be far better to focus on repentance and faith in God and serving his children. Our bodies are guaranteed to suffer toxins and poisons, that’s the whole state of being in this fallen and dark world. As you remove physical toxins, more will replace them, ultimately to your death if nothing else kills you first. One of the trials may be to see which poisons you will focus on eliminating, the spiritual or the physical. You only have hope at succeeding with one of those.
Physical health is a means. It is to enable you to engage in activities, for the purpose of being proven. Like money, it should be understood only in the context of how it can serve greater means, and what we are willing to exchange for it. How much time are we willing to exchange for it? How much energy spent studying health and arguing about what is and isn’t physically nutritious for someone other than yourself? How much extra money should be spent to buy the expensive organic stuff? Extra money that could perhaps be used to help the poor who cannot even afford the cheap prepared foods?
Physical health is a blessing, but what if illness can be as well? I am not saying those who have illness need to suck it up and appreciate their sickness, but I am saying that until the Lord sees fit to deliver you from an illness, some afflictions may actually be beneficial in the bigger picture. Some illnesses may be given because we need lessons that will be learned in overcoming them. Some illnesses may be given because the lessons that need to be learned and experiences that need to be gained are found under the illness itself, and the suffering can be consecrated for the benefit of your soul.
Job’s enduring of his afflictions was accounted to his benefit, even to double (Job 42:10). The woman with the blood issue was granted a Divine miracle for both her spiritual and physical benefit, which she may not have received without first suffering the blood issue. A blind man was ordained to his blindness from birth specifically so that he might miraculously receive his sight (John 9:1-3). We cannot experience physical illness outside of a temporal realm. We are here to endure experiencing the evil, so that from it, we might learn to appreciate and choose to know the good (Moses 6:55-56). If we are hoping to become like God, who has descended below everything we can suffer here (D&C 122), then we must expect that such experience needs to be accumulated at some point. By faithfully experiencing it now, you may be preventing the need to experience it again later. Or, by being driven to God in humility by your afflictions, you may find deliverance from the afflictions and obtain great faith in the bargain.
We know that God gives unto men weakness, that they may be humble (Ether 12:27). Some weaknesses may require different actions on the part those afflicted than are required of those who do not have that weakness, as people vary in their needs and individual glory like the stars themselves vary.
While the Lord speaks out against becoming focused on our physical well-being, He leaves the door open for Himself to grant individual instruction, built around the needs of each of His children. Such instruction may include guidance concerning things they should and should not consume. While God condemns men trying to fulfill this role, He is fully qualified and free to perform this station, and does not contradict scripture by doing so. When God gives personal instruction concerning temporal matters, it indeed becomes significant, for that person.
Mankind has an interesting notion, that if we focus on the little things we struggle with, we can obtain little “successes” and eventually move our way up to the bigger things. That is one of the reasons many want to focus on the Word of Wisdom, because if they can perfect that little thing, they can work their way up to the more important things.
I think this is deceptive, a calculated distraction. There are always more little things that a person can work on perfecting, and there are always little voices more than willing to point these things out. By constantly focusing on addressing these matters, the larger things will never be addressed, and mortality will end with all the greatest weaknesses still fully in place. We will not have accomplished the measure of our creation.
Rather than focus on the little things, what is the biggest weakness under which we suffer? What is our biggest flaw? What is the sin we are most given to committing? Perhaps that is the better thing to focus our attention on. Perhaps we should be more focused on the commandments God has given than on the “greeting” which is definitively not a commandment. That is how sin is overcome, that is how repentance is accomplished.
I have found that as I focus on obtaining more light and knowledge, and on tackling my own biggest hurdles, the smaller issues have an amazing tendency to dissolve on their own. Grace comes into play and as my heart is changed by addressing the big things, the change of heart naturally eliminates some of the lesser issues, without any active effort on my part.
I believe that the truths governing what is good and bad for our temporal bodies are as Telestial as our bodies themselves are, and as varied as can be. This makes it difficult for God to proclaim too many things concerning these matters, and obscene for one man to tell another what they should and should not do with their body. I believe the scriptures teach that what I do with my body is none of your damn business, no matter how fervently you might disagree with my choices, and what you do with your body is no business of mine.
I believe the Lord has been pretty clear on how little stock we should place in our physical well-being.
I believe that even when God does say something about diet, we have a dire tendency to take His words and ignore or wrest them to grotesque misinterpretations, allowing worship of our bodies, even when He explicitly warns against such behavior.
We seem to have minimal respect for what little God actually does and does not say in scripture about physical health, as well as many other things. Perhaps that, rather than our diet, is what needs to change.
If the Word of Wisdom is meant to understood as the Divine law of physical health, as purported, then the Lord seems to have neglected commentary on a number of key facets of our physical health. The revelation fails to make any mention of the topics of medicine or exercise, and even neglects two dietary components which have played a staple role in many cultures from the beginning: seafood, and dairy (from various animals).
SEAFOOD AND DAIRY
It is not enough to rationalize that these foods are unmentioned because they are not for consumption, a common vegan and vegetarian assertion. Tobacco is never good for human consumption or bodily use, and yet it gained Divine commentary. Strong drink is not for consumption, and also warranted counsel from the Lord. Not to mention that there is also substantial scriptural evidence that seafood and dairy are acceptable--if not outright endorsed--for our consumption.
Christ lived in a culture bound to the sea. He selected fishermen to join his selected discipleship (Matthew 4:18-22), and uses fishermen as symbols of angels and other servants of the Lord (Jeremiah 16:16; Matthew 13:47-50; Mark 1:17). He ate fish Himself (Luke 24:36, 42-43), and fed fish to others (Matthew 14:15-20). If consumption of fish were unacceptable, why use fishermen to represent His servants? Why eat fish and feed it to others? On what scriptural grounds can it be asserted that the Lord would want us to avoid fish?
Many cultures have some form of animal milk as a common component in their diet, especially cultures lacking sufficient resources or proper circumstances for farming. Any overall discussion of diet should necessarily include this topic, but the Lord didn't. What the Lord does say about milk elsewhere in scripture is all positive:
One, it is foundational to diet, the first thing infants eat before moving onto heartier foods, culminating (interestingly) in meat (1 Corinthians 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:7; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2; D&C 19:22). Sure, this is used as an illustration to discuss the easier and more difficult to digest aspects of the gospel. But it would not make sense to use untrue symbols to illustrate truths. If milk or meat were unacceptable to eat, or unintended for that purpose, then it would destroy their use as symbols of the gospel, because the message would then be that the gospel is as unsuitable for consumption as are milk and meat.
Secondly, milk is one of the foods used to describe the Lord's offered blessings (Isaiah 55:1; 2 Nephi 9:50; 2 Nephi 26:25). The blessed and promised lands of scripture are frequently described as flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:26-27; Joshua 5:6; 2 Nephi 17:22; D&C 38:18). If we are not to be consuming milk (or honey), what then is the point of the Lord causing them to flow for us as a form of blessing? Ancient cultures all consumed these items when found, so on what grounds could we assert that they are flowing for some purpose other than consumption? If milk is unacceptable in our diet, why are the scriptures not inviting us to buy wine and vegetable juice without money and without price? Why are these lands not flowing in raw, cold-pressed organic grape juice and hummus instead?
As to medicine, there is no word or discussion of it in section 89 beyond treating sick cows with tobacco. We have no word there as to what is and is not acceptable for use as medicine. Medicine itself and physicians are both mentioned elsewhere in scripture without negative commentary (e.g. the Balm of Gilead; Jeremiah 8:22; Genesis 50:2; D&C 31:10), including affirmative self-reference by the Lord (Matthew 9:12). In a statement by Jeremiah, the ineffectiveness of a medicine is treated as an indictment of the people, not of the medicine (Jeremiah 46:11). The apostle Luke, who had perhaps the most intimate details and contact with the Lord and His family, was a physician (Colossians 4:14). It is noted that there are indeed physicians of no value (Job 13:4), and making this specific distinction requires acknowledgment that there are physicians who are understood to be of value, providing the basis for comparison.
This creates problems for attempts to assume correlation between western medicine and healthcare on the one hand, and condemned practices like sorcery on the other. I’ve seen people go to great lengths to condemn the entirety of western medicine, based on extremely thin cords of questionable reason. Some attempt to say that the evil and conspiring men (D&C 89:4) are specifically those who run healthcare and pharmaceuticals in America and the world. They point at many of the practices which have been engaged by these industries, which indeed include some wickedness and corruption. Or some base it on the pharmaceutical industry’s poor choice of adapting a greek root word for themselves (“pharmakeia”), when that root word is also a word that scriptural translators used for “sorcery,” which thing is condemned in scripture.
But looking up sorcery, witchcraft and the like in scripture, we find that these things are not ever defined. There is no discussion of what things can and cannot be mixed into medicinal compounds, or what medical practices do and do not constitute sorcery or witchcraft. The one feature that is named as a part of these things—the one noted danger—is that they are used to turn people away from God.
This is consistent with stories we find in the scriptures, for example that of Asa, found in 2 Chronicles. Asa suffered from a disease in his feet, which ultimately led to his death. But let’s look at why he died.
“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.” — 2 Chronicles 16:12-13
Some might assert that it is because he sought the aid of physicians, and therefore seeking the aid of physicians is bad, we should only seek aid from God. However this conflicts with the fact that Luke, chosen by Christ, was a physician. It conflicts with the fact that the Lord was compelled to heal the woman with the blood disease, who had been receiving attempted aid from physicians for years (Luke 8:43-48). if seeking help from physicians was inherently sinful, she would not have had faith sufficient to exact a healing from the Lord.
Asa’s mistake was that he sought aid from the physicians instead of the Lord, rather than in tandem with seeking aid from the Lord, or under direction from the Lord. He placed man above God, succumbing to the stated danger of sorcery. Had he sought to the Lord as well as the physicians, the Lord may have been able to heal Asa, whether through a physician serving Him or through miraculous means. Instead, Asa died.
We also have reference to people using plants as medicines, attributing to God credit for preparing those medicines for the benefit of His children.
“ And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—“ — Alma 46:40
Ultimately, if a medical practice or medicine is not used to turn people away from God, it becomes difficult to claim that practice is condemned, that it is necessarily sorcery or witchcraft. Indeed, if medicine serves to turn people to God, through the grateful perception that it is a gift of Him to help us, then in such instances the scriptures seem to argue it is necessarily a good thing (Moroni 7:15-16).
What modern instruction we do have concerning temporal treatment of the sick amounts to one verse, D&C 42:43.
"And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy." -- D&C 42:43
This verse tells us that for those who lack sufficient faith for a miraculous healing, we are to administer to their needs with “all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.” Herbal remedies certainly appear acceptable, but does this preclude the use of non-herbal medicine? Is it impossible that administering drugs for pain or certain conditions, with judgment and with skill, could constitute administering to them with tenderness?
Also worth noting, at the time of this revelation, medicine had not advanced from herbal derivatives and combinations to direct chemical compounds. Yet those herbal medicines were used precisely for the chemical reactions they would bring forth in the body in an effort to heal. Is it possible that an updated revelation might allow for more sophisticated chemical knowledge and application, if still within the bounds of proper judgment and skill? Is it impossible for individuals to receive personal revelation concerning non-herbal, manufactured medicines and procedures to use for themselves or those in their stewardship?
I readily admit that the healthcare and medical fields have been deeply corrupted by men. As have all other fields and practices. Medicine is not unique in its qualifications as wicked, and I am not convinced it has warranted any special attention or condemnation from heaven. The wicked within the field—like any wicked—are surely condemned, but the righteous within the field are righteous, independent of the wickedness found in their field. Blanket condemnation is a dangerous practice, as I believe God is far more offended by a wrongful condemnation of any righteous souls than of giving a wicked soul too much benefit of the doubt.
This is why I believe the understanding of Telestial truths being entirely variable from one person to another is highly relevant. A vaccine, or pharmaceutical, or medical procedure, or dietary outline may be very bad for one person, but very good for another. We rely too much on our similarities and are too lacking in respect for our differences when it comes to topics concerning our bodies.
Also conspicuously absent from the Word of Wisdom is any mention of matters concerning the need for exercise. When physical labor is mentioned in scripture, it is always to serve some purpose, not for the physical sake of labor itself (2 Nephi 5:17; 2 Nephi 26:31; Mosiah 2:14; Mosiah 18:24). Adam was to bring forth fruit by the sweat of his brow (Moses 4:25). He needed the fruit, and the sweat was merely the price to be exacted to obtain the fruit. This is wholly different than Adam needing to sweat itself for his body’s optimization. Nobody in scripture teaches or practices exercise for its own sake, it is only used as a means to obtain something else that is needed.
What if, instead of physically laboring merely for the sake of our body, we were to labor for a purpose? To serve others? Or to bring forth something valuable in our life, which could be obtained through physical effort? Rather than simply racking up miles of running, or picking up heavy stuff and setting it back down?
This is NOT to condemn exercise, or to say that nobody should exercise. It is merely noting that exercise is not ever taught as a scriptural necessity for its own sake, and perhaps the same results could be achieved while working for some other benefit. But as our world has changed to allowing people to exert themselves mentally or socially or emotionally to obtain fruit and bring things forth, we haven’t received any revealed word from the Lord telling us that we need to make up for the loss of physical strain by exercising. The Lord simply hasn’t given a recorded statement concerning its need or propriety, so in my mind the matter must necessarily be left to an individual basis.
Interpretations of the Word of Wisdom seem to evolve from generation to generation. For decades, the treatment of the Word of Wisdom has been to reduce it to a checklist of no-nos. No tobacco, no alcohol, no coffee, no tea, no illegal drugs. Prior to this, there were other popular reductions and interpretations, for example there was a period in which it was considered to be a greater affront to the Word of Wisdom to eat pork than to drink coffee or tea.
Recently, another iteration of the Word of Wisdom has become popular. This new iteration of the Word of Wisdom sells itself as the most “full” reading of section 89. But listening to the arguments and explanations for the newest rendering, they are always viewing the revelation through the lens of it being about physical health, even though the Lord has expressly stated He isn’t interested in that focus (Matthew 6:25; D&C 29:34-35; D&C 101:36-37). The spiritual blessings are usually only mentioned as an afterthought consequence, and the spiritual lessons of section 89 are not even breached. I am not saying nobody has ever attempted to look at the Word of Wisdom as though it were scripture—teaching us about spiritual things—I am only saying I haven’t found such an examination as of yet.
Along with considering symbolic, spiritual implications, I will look at the simplicity of what the revelation does say, and what it does not say. I don’t intend to disregard or ignore the straightforward reading of this revelation, which does include instruction concerning this temporal world. But a plain reading of this revelation doesn’t require adopting a lens built around worship of the body, so I will look at the content without that lens.
DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS, SECTION 89
Originally, the first three verses of section 89 were considered an inspired addition by Joseph to introduce the remainder, which constituted the revelation. Thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers, the early transcripts of the Word of Wisdom all included the content of these verses as part of the original transcript, pointing to their being a part of the same revelation.
“A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—“
Those intended to benefit from this counsel are addressed, at three degrees of increasing scope. It is also interesting to note the distinction between “the church” and “also the saints in Zion,” reflecting that the Lord doesn’t see these titles as defining the same group.
In the phrase "a Word of Wisdom," which form of the word "of" is meant here? Changing which definition is used can seriously alter the understanding of the phrase. Also, we have coined the name “The Word of Wisdom” for section 89 from this phrase, but “the word of wisdom” is actually named as a gift of the spirit, numbered alongside healing, prophecy, etc. (Moroni 10:9; D&C 46:17) It is probably worthy of its own investigation.
“ 2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—“
The Lord considers this a greeting, and unlike anywhere else in scripture, diminishes the understood import of His own counsel here by noting it is not to be understood as a commandment, or to be enforced by any form of constraint. Nowhere else in our scriptures does such a disclaimer from the Lord Himself exist, making it noteworthy.
I believe it is likely that the reason for this disclaimer is due to the Lord's foresight into how His words would be taken. He anticipated that men would indeed alter it into a commandment, which the people would eventually be told they must obey before they could even be baptized, and that constraint would indeed become implemented, with men depriving one another of the privilege to enter His house—the temple—on this basis. He knew mankind would attempt to entangle salvation itself with the content of this revelation, so He spoke against it to establish His word for them to act against, knowing full well that they would do that which He had forbidden (Moses 3:16-17).
What is being offered here is also notably not only “revelation,” but again, the “word of wisdom.”
This content is also showing forth the “order and will of God” pertaining to the saints’ “temporal salvation.” What is temporal salvation? Is it the same as temporal preservation? It would seem that the Lord prefers the term “preservation” when referring to forestalling death or protecting physical life (e.g. Genesis 45:5-7; 1 Nephi 5:14; 2 Nephi 9:53). The one other reference to “temporal salvation” in scripture applies to Noah (Moses 7:42). This could indeed be taken as preserving their physical lives, but could it perhaps be referring to something else? Were they only saved from death? Were they also saved from the wicked influence of those who were destroyed? Were they perhaps saved beyond merely retaining life in their physical bodies?
If we look at temporal salvation as salvation from temporal death, we also need to look at Christ, who is directly responsible for saving us from temporal death (2 Nephi 9:11; Alma 11:42; Alma 42:7-8). Interestingly, when He does it, it is after physical death has already consumed us. He doesn’t provide our “salvation” from temporal death by preventing it.
So, are there things besides death which one might need “salvation” from in the temporal world? Which this “temporal salvation” might be referring to?
“ 3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”
There is apparently A principle tackled in this section, which has attached promise, and is adapted to the capacity of the weakest possible saints. It is not adapted for those who cannot be called saints. What could this principle be?
If the principle were that we must focus on optimizing our physical health through diet, then we face a problem beyond the clear scriptural conflicts. Babylon herself—those who cannot be called saints—certainly knows how to obey this principle in spades. Hollywood, Babylon’s pinnacle, is far more successful in obeying such dietary restrictions than the LDS church membership. The dietary reading of this section is certainly adapted to Babylon’s capacity, perhaps evidently more so than ours.
So, what is the principle? And what is the promise (v. 21)?
“ 4 Behold, verily, 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—“
With “Behold,” the introduction has finished and the content itself begins with “thus saith the Lord.” Once the Lord establishes He is the one speaking, He first delivers the reason for this warning revelation: conspiring men. He does NOT say it is in consequence of concerns about physical health, it is due to the dangers of conspiring men. Ask yourself, when men conspire, what are they seeking? Are they seeking simply to destroy mankind’s health? Do we have moustache-twirling villains with dastardly intents primarily focused on destroying our health? Or is it more likely that these men have the same destructive lusts in their heart as any, for power and authority over their fellow men? To overcome man's agency and subject them, to which ends the destruction of physical health would only be—at best—an incidental byproduct? Rather than the goal?
Could aspirations for power one over another involve acts such as one person telling another what they can and cannot do? For example, what they can and cannot consume? What they can and cannot do with their own body? What treatment of their body will or will not offend God, when such statements are devoid of revelation? What will or will not damage the body, when our Telestial bodies are varied like the stars (D&C 76:81), having not only similarities but differences? Which differences might make that which is expedient for one be a problem for another?
Is it not evil and designing to catch the First World up in a storm of argument over the quality of our abundant food, while letting the Third World die of starvation by the droves? Is it not evil and designing to distract us with the false impressions of “important” dichotomies such as organic vs. non-organic, vaccines vs. anti-vaxx, to rile us up into contentions and judgments one with another, when liberty would dictate anyone could use any of these and none need harass or compel another for their choice?
The Lord also tells us that He has warned us, and is similarly forewarning us. What things has the Lord warned us about? What has He not warned us about? He frequently warns us about things which concern our spiritual welfare. He warns against sin and temptation and so forth, on a regular basis. However, whenever the Lord warns His people of a temporal danger, it is always an immediate danger, with an immediate instruction to facilitate deliverance from that danger. Lehi was given immediate warning and instruction to save the lives of himself and his loved ones (1 Nephi 2:1-2). Joseph, the earthly stepfather of Jesus, was given immediate warning and instruction to preserve the temporal welfare of Jesus and their family (Matthew 2:13-14). Noah was only given sufficient notice to prepare the ark to save the temporal lives of his family and the ark’s residents (Genesis 6:13-7:7). These were all individualized, time-bound instructions for temporal preservation.
There are no enduring warnings concerning temporal welfare that I can find in scripture, besides the assertion that section 89 is one. Therefore, whatever forewarning He is doing, which He implicitly ties to previous warnings, does not appear to be about temporal preservation, but instead about temporal salvation, which contextually appears to be a different matter.
“ 5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.”
God will address more concerning each form of drink specifically in the coming verses, but the baseline is that wine and strong drink aren’t endorsed outside of an assembly where we offer up our sacraments before Him.
What is it about wine and strong drink that would prompt the Lord to make these remarks about them? Would He be more concerned about how they would affect our body? Or about how they affect our spirit?
He says it is neither good, nor meet. What is the difference between these? What is “good” in the sight of God? What is “meet” in the sight of God? When might one qualification be met, while another is not? What is differentiation?
What are our sacraments? Why is it plural? Is the Lord’s supper one of our sacraments? Or is it His? What sacraments are there besides the Lord’s Supper? What is a sacrament? How is a sacrament ours? How do we offer up a sacrament, which is ours, before God?
“ 6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.”
This verse notes that the wine we drink in the offering up of our sacraments should be of our own make. Is this a standing law? Or was it a response to limited circumstances at a given point in time? Could there be some reason to make wine yourself? Something to be learned? When He says “your” own make, is He speaking individually? Or collectively to some sort of body?
We have been warned not to purchase wine of our enemies (D&C 27:3), but that revelation does not say to not buy wine at all. Who are our enemies? Why shouldn’t we buy wine of them? Can we buy wine from non-enemies? Could you buy from a non-enemy and qualify the wine as being of “your own make” if you identify communally with those who made and sold it to you?
The idea has been asserted that it was initially about the fear that our enemies would poison the wine, but upon investigation I find the idea seems to be only a derived assumption, with no Divine or authoritative statements to that end. We also have the word of the Lord that those who believe won’t be harmed by drinking deadly poisons (Mark 16:17-18; also, I note that intentionally drinking it to tempt the Lord makes one disobedient (Matthew 4:7) and disqualifies them from this blessing), and that we are free to require of God miraculous healing from poisoning (D&C 24:13). So could there be other reasons besides poisoning to not buy wine of our enemies?
Does “pure wine of the grape of the vine” negate the use of wines blended with other fruits? Including other vine fruits?
What else does wine represent? What other uses are there for “wine” and “the vine” in scripture? How could those things need to be “pure”? What else could this verse be understood as alluding to?
“ 7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.”
So strong drinks aren’t for the belly, they aren’t intended for drinking. That is not their ordained purpose.
Are all alcoholic drinks “strong drinks”? Or is the label of “strong drinks,” as opposed to “mild drinks,” a distinction between different types of alcoholic beverages? More on that when we reach verse 17.
Strong drinks are for washing the bodies. Why? How? What kind of “washing” could be referred to here? What symbolism could be understood in the use of strong drink to wash our bodies? What can be learned about our souls if we look at using strong drink—distilled “spirits”—to wash our bodies?
“ 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.”
What is meant by “not for the body”? Does it mean it is not for applying to the surface of our body, similar to washing our body? Does it mean something else?
If it is not for the belly, it is not intended for eating to fill our belly, it is not for physical nourishment.
Ultimately, it “is not good for man,” but for cattle. We are not intended to benefit from tobacco directly, yet we benefit from it indirectly. How can this principle be understood with spiritual things? Some things in this Telestial world are not good for us, but are they perhaps good for someone or something else? Could you give something to another which benefits them directly but might not benefit you directly? Or which might bring you benefit through sacrificing it for another’s sake?
Tobacco, which is not good for man but is good for cattle, must still be applied by man, and that with judgment and skill. What might this testify of? Are there things you might need to apply to others, but only with judgment and skill, as opposed to undiscerningly and wantonly?
“ 9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.”
I don’t see latitude for redefining “hot drinks” as anything other than what it says: hot drinks. If you have a drink, that also happens to be hot, He says its not for the body or the belly.
Strong drink and tobacco have similar prohibitions, but also contain direction for their use. Those things have stated purposes. So is there something hot drinks are for? Or do drinks which are “hot” serve no ordained purpose? Can you cool a hot drink, causing it to no longer qualify as a “hot drink”? If it is not a hot drink any longer, does this counsel reach its bounds and expire?
Why is it only hot drinks, why not hot food?
Again, what is meant when it is “not for the body”? Does that mean washing the body, like strong drinks? Or is it talking about the body in some other way? If they are not for the belly, they are not intended for the purpose of providing us physical nourishment through the belly. How do the body and the belly differ? Is it perhaps that one is interacted with internally and one externally?
What might hot drinks represent? If this were symbolic, what could be understood about not taking “hot” drinks into your belly, or using them in some way for your body? How is it bad? Obviously scalding your mouth or body is a damaging thing, but what might the excessive heat represent?
“ 10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.”
God here emphasizes “verily” that all wholesome herbs are ordained for us, in one way or another. What herbs qualify as “wholesome”? Which herbs don’t? On what grounds is the distinction made? Who gets to make the distinction? Who is bound under their interpretation?
God iterates three ordinations for these wholesome herbs: For our “constitution,” for our “nature” and for our “use.” Our “constitution” is most easily understood and applied as referring to our health, our physical well-being. This was indeed an understanding in Joseph’s day. This is the only basis by which we tend to read and understand this section of the D&C.
But then what is the “nature” of man? How do herbs contribute to man’s nature? Is it our “natural” frame, the physical form of our “natural man”? Does eating these herbs contribute to sustaining our natural man—the enemy of God (Mosiah 3:19)—so that we might remain in this state of inhabiting it, facing its weaknesses that we might learn to overcome them and hopefully subject our natural man to the spirit? If fasting by abstaining from such food serves to strengthen the spirit (Alma 17:3), does that perhaps further testify of this understanding? Why are they not ordained for the “spirit” of man?
What about the “use” of man? Does that necessarily say man is using it for himself? The prior verse discussing tobacco noted that it was not for man directly, but for the cattle directly, by which man benefits indirectly. But the man must be the one to use it, the man must administer it to the cattle, with judgment and skill. So even the herbs not meant to be administered to man directly are still useful to man, for administering to those who would indeed benefit. Some things are perhaps ordained for a given man or men to administer, but not to receive in administration.
“Every” herb and fruit is ordained to be used, in some way, “in their season.” This says nothing of a need for only consuming local, indigenous fruits or herbs, as I have seen asserted. This says nothing for or against using preservatives either. It merely says they are to be used in their “season,” or in other words, when properly ripe, when they have grown and matured.
Some things are unwise for us to partake of or use before their properly ordained time. Adam and Eve sinned in partaking of the fruit before the properly ordained time. The law of chastity is about not engaging in certain behaviors until the properly appointed season of marriage has been reached. Some things can also be attempted too late, their season having passed. Regret is often a direct result of man failing to act within a season appointed unto them, only to look back in misery as they receive the consequences. For example those who procrastinate the day of their repentance (Alma 13:27; Helaman 13:38), and having passed from the mortal season, find that they never accomplished the work of repentance ordained for them in the season of their mortality.
Even when we are within the season for the use of the herbs and fruits, it is to be done “with prudence and thanksgiving.” We are to be learning wisdom among other things, discerning the proper circumstances for the things we engage in or do not. And thanksgiving is essential as God is highly offended by those who don’t confess His hand in all things (D&C 59:21).
“ 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.”
First of all, there is a noteworthy punctuation change in here, which potentially alters the context of what is said, and occurred only after Joseph Smith’s death. It is the comma inserted between “used” and “only” in verse 13.
One the one hand, it could be argued that the post-Joseph change is a violation of intent, catering to subsequent understandings or desired interpretations; that the proper interpretation is to remove the comma and read it as God being pleased when we don’t relegate the use of beast of the field and fowls of the air to times of winter and famine. This can be bolstered by a reading of 1 Timothy 4:3 and D&C 49:18.
Conversely, one could argue that the word “only” was used and understood a bit differently then (as it was), and that it would be appropriate to infer this comma (D&C 121:36 would be a good example of this type of reading). If so, then it isn’t inappropriate to write in what was already implied. Let’s look at the context and see if it reveals anything.
If the comma is improper, then the Lord isn’t worried about how many beasts and fowls we kill and consume. He isn’t necessarily indifferent, He has an opinion, preferring that we not limit our consumption within certain stated constraints. The difficulty with this reading is the end of verse 12. He begins with “Nevertheless,” which is a word that is used to switch gears, acknowledging that while the prior statement may be true, the content of this subsequent statement will be pointed in a different direction, as opposed to further bolstering the original statement. In this case, the word is used after the Lord confirms that animals are indeed for eating, which would seem to imply that He will now make a statement to the effect of not eating. Indeed, He says they are to be eaten “sparingly.” I don’t know of a definition for the word, past or present, that would be a synonym for “wantonly,” or “gratuitously,” or “regularly.” Sparingly always implies leaning toward less, as opposed to more. So to me, it seems safe to accept the comma as implicitly understood in the beginning. You might disagree.
Flesh is ordained for man’s consumption, with stipulations. It is to be used with thanksgiving, which is clearly important to God, as noted above. It is also to be used sparingly. “Sparingly” is understood differently by different people. Some understand it as meaning an absolute last resort, some understand it as being only according to a sense of need, some see it as meaning occasionally or not wantonly. The Lord hasn’t clarified His intended reading of that in scripture, so I suppose it needs to be understood individually, which means one individual doesn’t have the right to attempt to define it for another individual. The scriptures tell us nobody is given authority to tell another not to partake of them (1 Timothy 4:3; D&C 49:18).
It is “pleasing” to God to only use flesh of beast and birds in times of winter or famine (“cold” was a later addition). But it is not required. Nor does He say eating more often than that is displeasing, though one might infer that.
Are there other things that are ordained for man, but only sparingly? Are there things we cannot even expect to consume frequently or regularly? Spiritual things? Are there also things that we can sparingly be involved with and be acceptable before God, but too much attention or investment or consumption might be offensive to Him? Are there other things that are generally pleasing to God for man to not be involved with, or consume, or participate or invest in, except in highly specific circumstances which must be named by Him?
Comparatively, we have the herbs and fruits which are intended to be used in their season. Their seasons are cyclical, coming and going according to rather regular times and patterns which can even be anticipated, though there is variety as to what is in season and what is not in season at any given time. On the other hand, we have things which are to be consumed or engaged “sparingly,” and God may prefer they not to be used unless specific circumstances arise which might warrant their use. How might these testify of other things? Is this perhaps describing some of the experiences of mortality beyond putting stuff into our body?
“ 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;”
Grain is the “staff of life,” that upon which life leans for its support. This is the case for man, for domesticated and wild animals, and for birds (no mention of things in the earth, or things in the waters, here or anywhere in this section). There is something upon which all the stated life mutually relies for their survival in this world. What might that point to?
In the stars, the constellation Virgo—the Virgin—is holding something in her hand. The binary star Spica is represented by a grain of wheat in depictions of the constellation. If the Virgin is understood as testifying of the Virgin who brought Christ into the world, then the grain of wheat would aptly represent the Christ, who truly is the Staff of Life. This is strengthened by verse 17 noting that wheat is specifically for man.
“ 15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.”
What are “these” which He is referring to here? It doesn’t seem to refer to grain, beasts of the field or the fowls of heaven, as these all are addressed elsewhere, with different guidelines than those provided here. So it seems reasonable to to understand “these” as the “wild animals that run or creep on the earth.” Apparently undomesticated animals that run or creep on the earth aren’t in our best interest to use, unless there is not enough other food to suffice for our needs.
When it says “use,” is that limited to consumption? Or not? Why are these given a different provisional use than the other animals? Why are these not also ordained to use during the winter? What makes them different? How can the differences be understood as testifying of greater things? Do we have some things that really aren’t great to use or engage if they can be avoided, but when there is a serious lack of other options it is better for us to partake and receive what limited good we can, than to not partake at all?
“ 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.”
The Lord tells us that all grain, fruit of the vine, and all other yielded fruit is good for man’s food. It does not say a word about anything else being bad for the food of man. Silence by the Lord does not constitute assumed disapproval, despite any assertions otherwise.
Something interesting about verses 16 and 17 is that the Lord first notes that all grain is good for man, then makes named selections of grain for man and various animals. Why? Perhaps man and each animal is matched with the grain that is generally best for them, yet all are still acceptable to man? This makes me think of the Telestial Kingdom.
On the one hand, we all inhabit this space under that name. Yet the Telestial Kingdom is like to the stars (D&C 76:81), and Paul notes that there are many different stars and they vary in glory (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). There are truths contained within this sphere which are dependent upon conditions here. Telestial truths. For example, one person can eat a peanut and have it be good for them, while another can eat one and die because of an allergy. These truths, contained within the bounds of this Telestial sphere, may vary from person to person as the stars vary from one to another.
Could verse 17 be using varied food for varied creatures as an illustration to testify of how diverse our Telestial needs are? That while some few blanket statements can be made concerning our needs, there is also a range of diversity where one thing is good for one person while something else is good for another?
This might extend beyond food to many other things, for example a pharmaceutical drug. Or vaccine. Or behavior. Or job. Or viewpoint. Or selection of imposed temporal circumstances. Or anything, if it is something confined to the Telestial realm. That’s why I don’t care what “studies show” to be true or false, good or bad, right or wrong, because another study always shows the opposite. It is a pointless battle to me. Telestial truths are as varied and changing as the starry heavens above, providing ever-shifting sand as the foundation for any who would build upon them.
Also worth noting, “mild drinks” are fermented drinks, that is the definition understood in the days when the revelation was given. The Lord literally tells us barley and other grains are good for making fermented drinks, which the non-LDS recognize includes beer. This is why the early Mormon settlers built beer breweries all over Utah. Yes, the Lord gave us grains to make beer. For drinking. Apparently even among the weakest of all saints. There’s a good article about it HERE.
“ 18 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;”
This verse contains a MAJOR caveat for the revelation. It is not enough only to “keep and do” the sayings of this revelation religiously, you must also be fulfilling the pre-requisite of "walking in obedience to the commandments." If you are not already obedient to all things which are commanded, then strict obedience to this explicitly non-mandatory revelation will not gain you its offered rewards.
What is meant by “keep” and “do”? They are clearly different, how? The understanding of “do” seems obvious, it is about our performing actions in line with these sayings. What about “keep”? Perhaps we keep the sayings by preserving them in their original form? Perhaps when we alter the revelation, whether the text itself or the understanding and application of it, we are failing to “keep” the sayings?
The blessings offered here, through verse 20, are not noted as the "promise" the Lord said He would offer in verse 3. He gives a noted promise in verse 21. These blessings enumerate things that actually come as a consequence of "walking in obedience to the commandments," as each blessing is attached to commandments elsewhere in scripture (D&C 130:21). "Health in their navel and marrow in their bones" is a promised blessing in Proverbs 3:7-8, as a consequence of humility, fear of the Lord and willfully departing from evil.
“ 19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;”
Wisdom and knowledge are gifts of the spirit, and given as a result of seeking them. Seeking involves inquiry, pondering, obedience and sacrifice. The Lord blessed King Solomon with wisdom and knowledge above the rest of the world, having nothing to do with his diet and everything to do with his obedience to the Lord and his heart at the time of the request. (1 Kings 3:5-14; 2 Chronicles 1:7-12).
Ether 4:13 and D&C 8:11 both speak of knowledge that is hidden, being in records yet to come forth. We must ask for the knowledge and come unto Christ, and we may receive it. All treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, are contained within the Father and Son (Colossians 2:2-3).
“ 20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31 directly attaches these precise blessings to waiting upon the Lord.
“ 21 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.”
Here is the promise from the Lord. If a person is "walking in obedience to the commandments," and they both "keep" and "do" the sayings in the revelation, then the destroying angel will not be the one responsible for their death. It does not say they may not be slain or otherwise suffer unto death. But when the Lord sends forth an angel with the task of destruction, like unto other times (Genesis 19:1; Exodus 12:23; JST 1 Chronicles 21:15; Psalms 78:49), that angel won't be responsible for their death.
“…as the children of Israel" does not necessarily say "you are the children of Israel, and you will therefore be recognized as such." The phrase could also be understood as referential, pointing to the time that the destroying angel visited the children of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 11:4-7; 12:12-13, 23), and that this visit will simply occur in a manner like unto that one.
Mormon Traditions — The Word of Wisdom, part 2: Scriptural Examination of the Importance of Physical Health
Throughout history, God has given man guidelines about what to eat and what not to eat. However, upon examination we find that these guidelines are never framed around serving our physical health or temporal well-being. Indeed, the Lord Himself has asserted that He has NEVER given a commandment for the sake of our temporal, carnal situation.
“Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created. Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.” — D&C 29:34-35
When man is given dietary instruction, it is for the purpose of teaching mankind some things through tangible, temporal symbols. The Law of Moses is filled with dietary guidelines intended to testify of Christ. To instruct Peter to begin working among the Gentiles, he was given a dream involving a change to dietary guidelines (Acts 10:9-15; Acts 11:5-9). Christ’s sacrament is explicitly about pointing to His flesh and blood, not ours.
This is not to say that mankind has no obligation to obey the temporal guidelines. But the temporal guidelines are given to serve as spiritual teaching tools. They have no inherent power to modify our spirits one whit (1 Corinthians 8:8). We cannot address our spiritual health through our physical health, or the laws governing our physical consumption. This notion was prevalent among the Jews, and specifically condemned (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:20).
From time to time, you can plainly see that the dietary guidelines that God gives are subject to change. But the gospel is meant to be unchanging, coming from an unchanging God (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), placing the same requirements upon all men for salvation (2 Nephi 26:28; 3 Nephi 11:32; D&C 130:20-21). So, if that is true, then the dietary instructions themselves cannot be considered part of the core gospel, for they do change. That is not to say that it was not valid instruction from God, or a legitimate revelation. What it means is that such instruction was only given to a portion of mankind at a point in time, without application to any who fall outside of the group that God applied the instruction to.
Let’s start at the beginning of time, and work our way through the scriptures to see what they do and do not teach about physical health and diet.
Prior to Moses and his Law, we begin with Adam and Eve. God gave them wide license in what they could consume.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.” — Genesis 1:29-30
In fact, they were only given one restriction: they were forbidden from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” — Moses 3:16-17
This story of Adam and Eve is allegorical, intended to teach us some things about ourselves and our condition in this world. It isn’t a story about an actual tree with actual fruit which Adam and Eve actually ate, thereby offending God and bringing about the Fall. It is all symbolic, meaning the dietary restriction is being used as a symbol.
Something never acknowledged in discussion of Adam and Eve is that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was indeed good to partake of, good to eat. The sin could not have been the action of eating the food itself, for Eve “saw that the tree was good for food.”
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” — Moses 4:12
In fact, all which grew, which was good for food, was ordained for man to eat.
“And I, God, said unto man: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which shall be the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” — Moses 2:29
“And the Gods said: Behold, we will give them every herb bearing seed that shall come upon the face of all the earth, and every tree which shall have fruit upon it; yea, the fruit of the tree yielding seed to them we will give it; it shall be for their meat.” — Abraham 4:29
The sin was disobeying God when He said not to eat it, not because it wasn’t to be eaten at all, but because it wasn’t to be eaten yet. It was the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3; Moses 3:2-3), the day of rest, and the labors of mortality were not to begin until after the Sabbath ended. The fruit of this tree was intended to be eaten after the day of rest.
There were no other laws governing consumption of food given until the days of Noah, after the flood. First, the Lord reaffirmed once again that all plant and animal at that time was given to man for consumption and use.
“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” — Genesis 9:2-3
But there was a new restriction placed on the preparation of meat, which we don’t have a record of occurring prior to the Flood.
“But, the blood of all flesh which I have given you for meat, shall be shed upon the ground, which taketh life thereof, and the blood ye shall not eat. And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.” — JST Genesis 9:10-11
If dietary restrictions are meant as tools of instruction, what instruction could be understood from this rule? What is represented by the blood? Why not consume it? Why are we given the instructions that we are?
The dietary laws given to Noah remained as stated until the Lord gave Israel the Law of Moses.
THE DAYS OF MOSES
When Moses was leading the children of Israel, they were exceedingly difficult and hard-hearted, resulting in the Lord giving them the Mosaic Law to afflict them (D&C 84:18-27). The Mosaic Law includes a bunch of highly restrictive food guidelines. I don’t feel like diving into those laws in depth as they are now dead, but the majority can be found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
These restrictions were never once taught as having anything to do with preservation of physical health. Instead, these restrictions were symbolic, intended to illustrate to the hard-headed Israelites in tangible form some ideas concerning Christ, and how they should govern themselves in relation to His gospel. When they determined that the eating restrictions themselves were somehow salvific rather than symbolic, they perpetuated their condemnation by missing the mark, prompting much Divine and prophetic criticism (Paul constantly harped on this point in the New Testament).
The Mosaic Law and it’s dietary restrictions were maintained until the resurrection of Christ. But even during that time, the Lord justified the breaking of the food laws (Matthew 12:3-4), knowing that they were dead and empty, and not given to save the children of Israel but to condemn them.
“The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions.” — Joseph Smith, Aug 27, 1843
While Moses led the children of Israel through the wilderness, as part of their restricted diet, they were fed with manna from heaven. (Where were the leafy greens? Surely a God concerned with optimal physical health would provide a balanced diet of assorted foods, right?) But even in following their food laws with the manna, the Lord would later note that it ultimately profited them nothing.
“Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” — John 6:49-51, 56-58
Christ’s statements are very interesting here, noting that although the manna was given that the children of Israel might “not die,” in the same breath He had already stated that they “are dead.” For all their obedience in and reliance upon eating the manna, for purposes of not dying, they still all ultimately ended up dead, as we all do. The bread provided by the Law would ultimately still lead to death. But the bread Christ provides, juxtaposed against the bread of the Law, offers life eternal, whoever eats of it “shall live for ever.”
FROM MOSES TO CHRIST
The story of Daniel is often used to propagandize children into vegetarianism. The weakness of this claim is deplorable, and such efforts are condemned by the Lord in scripture (1 Timothy 4:3; D&C 49:18). Daniel refused to eat the king’s meat because of concern in would “defile” him.
“ But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” — Daniel 1:8
Defilement is a term used to describe breaking God’s commandments. Christ specifically states that food itself cannot defile a man (Mark 7:15). So Daniel’s concern must have been due to the king’s food not meeting the requirements of the Law of Moses, and Daniel chose to abstain rather than to break the Law he lived under. Whether the word “meat” is understood here as flesh, or as food in general, Daniel never condemns “meat” in his statements, and his only reasoning was concern about defilement, a term tied to sinning against God’s laws.
“Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us. And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.” — 2 Nephi 28:7-9
The wicked are frequently condemned specifically for eating, drinking and being merry. But why? It cannot be because these things themselves are inherently bad, even when all combined. The parable of the Prodigal Son ends with eating, drinking and being merry as a good thing (Luke 15:23-24). So what is it? Could it be that these things are all temporal concerns, and the damnable factor is that people have made these things their focus, at the expense of eternal concerns? Rather than these things simply being a part of the temporal experience, as they seek the eternal things?
Fasting is another dietary practice that appears in these early days, and is subsequently reaffirmed through time as a good thing (Psalms 35:13; Joel 1:14; Alma 6:6). However, the practice does not involve stated, symbolic guidelines of what should and should not be eaten, nor is it ever once claimed as being to benefit the body. Fasting involves depriving the temporal self of what it requires, a sacrifice. The resources you don’t use can be used then to bless others.
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.” — Isaiah 58:6-8
In willfully depriving the temporal body of its needs, it's sway over the spirit is weakened, it becomes subjected further to the will of the spirit, which is in the similitude of Christ (Mosiah 15:2-5). Spiritual strength is increased by proper practice.
“ But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” — Alma 17:3
“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” — Helaman 3:35
“ And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” — 3 Nephi 12:6
Blessings can also be sought from God through fasting, by demonstrating our willingness to sacrifice for what we are seeking to obtain by His hand.
“ And he caused that the priests should assemble themselves together; and they began to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the mouth of Alma, that he might speak, and also that his limbs might receive their strength—that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God. And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort:” — Mosiah 27:22-23
“ Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” — Alma 5:46
Some have sought to delve into the direct benefits of fasting to the physical body, treating those benefits as important. Not only does this utterly lack scriptural support, I think it entirely misses the mark. Fasting is an opportunity to serve God and our fellow men, to sacrifice, and to appeal for Divine aid. All these things have the effect of strengthening our spiritual bond with heaven. To take what is meant to connect us with heaven and instead make it about purely temporal benefits is to choose the temporal over the spiritual. This corrupts the practice from being a Divine one to a worldly one.
Also during the Mosaic period, we have a prophecy from Jeremiah concerning Zion in the last days. This prophecy includes a promise of restoring health and healing wounds.
“For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.” — Jeremiah 30:17
This actually touches a topic that is further treated elsewhere in scripture, which is that by addressing our spiritual health, we can receive Divine aid and healing for our physical health as a byproduct. There is scriptural support for this idea, while there is none that I can find supporting the inverse.
The final perceived idea concerning dietary importance that surfaces in scripture prior to Christ’s ministry comes from Alma. I say “perceived idea” because the topic in the verse actually has nothing to do with diet, but in modern times has been wrested to be read as pertaining to the Word of Wisdom and what we consume.
“And this I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell; yea, and he has also said that the righteous shall sit down in his kingdom, to go no more out; but their garments should be made white through the blood of the Lamb.” — Alma 34:36
Assertions are made that our bodily temples become “unholy” in part through perceived Word of Wisdom offenses, through consuming things we should not. However, that cannot be what is understood from this verse if one would simply read it. The self-same verse tells you what kind of temples the Lord dwells in, which temples are considered holy: the hearts of “the righteous.” And if righteousness of the heart—not the belly—qualifies a temple as holy, then it is necessarily unrighteousness of the heart that makes the temple unholy. Not what food goes into the belly, even if the food were to physically damage the body.
THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST
Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses, thereby bringing it to an end. Once again, the guidelines concerning diet were changed, testifying that no specific dietary restriction constitutes a necessary portion of the gospel of Christ. During His ministry, Christ only had a few things to say concerning diet.
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” — Matthew 6:25 (see also — Luke 12:22-23; 3 Nephi 13:25)Clearly, our body and our consumption is not considered of high importance to the Lord. He also decries the notion that we pollute our body by what we eat.
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man….Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?” — Matthew 15:11, 17
“There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man…And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” — Mark 7:15, 18-23
Yes, Christ was specifically responding to complaints about eating with unwashed hands, but the principle He used to dismiss their complaints is equally applicable to food selection.
Jesus also specifically noted the foolishness of men in judging one another on the basis of what they do and do not consume.
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners…” — Matthew 11:18-19
During Christ’s ministry He visited John the Baptist, who was considered of Him the greatest prophet born of a woman (Matthew 11:11; TPJS p. 275-276). Yet John ate a diet that was essentially the opposite of vegan, being exclusively animal products.
“And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” — Matthew 3:4
As Christ’s death was approaching He instituted an ordinance which involved eating and drinking: the Lord’s Supper.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” — Matthew 26:26-29 (see also — Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20)
In instructing them concerning this ordinance of food and drink, Christ laid out for them the symbolic teachings of what they were eating and drinking, making absolutely clear that the symbols behind the temporal practice were what was most important. The Lord later specifically affirmed that the symbols themselves were where the importance was, and that what was consumed in the ordinance didn’t matter in and of itself (D&C 27:2). The Lord also instituted this sacrament among the Nephites during His post-mortal ministry among them (3 Nephi 18:2-11; 3 Nephi 20:3-9).
THE TEACHINGS OF PAUL
Once Christ ascended into heaven and the Apostles were left with the task of teaching His people, they ran into a lot of opposition from those concerned with temporal matters. Paul spent much of his time trying to teach among the Jews, who were still attached to the Mosaic Law and their belief that temporal laws were sufficient to gain spiritual salvation. So he focused a lot of his remarks specifically on letting go of our attachments to the temporal.
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” — Romans 8:12-13
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” — Romans 14:17
Paul made many statements particularly concerning food, that none of it has the power to defile a man and all has been given us by God for our use, until we all ultimately die. He condemned diet as a basis for judging others, and as a basis for believing oneself righteous. Note: the word “meat” doesn’t necessarily only mean flesh, but was a word also used for all food.
“For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” — Romans 14:2-5
“I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” — Romans 14:14
“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them…” — 1 Corinthians 6:13
“Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.” — 1 Corinthians 8:7-8
“Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” — 1 Corinthians 10:25-26
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” — Colossians 2:16
In spite of this, Paul’s statements are also a primary reference for assertions about defiling our bodily temples through improper food consumption. But upon examination of his statements, those assertions collapse. We begin with this one:
“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 Corinthians 3:16-17
Paul first establishes that we are the temples of God, as opposed to the outer buildings of wood and stone that the people were so focused on. This is not where Paul establishes how our bodily temples are defiled, only the punishments for doing so. He covers the defilement later in this epistle, in chapter 6.
“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” — 1 Corinthians 6:13
After noting that food and the belly are built for each other, and that both are ultimately scheduled for destruction, Paul condemns fornication. He continues on that thread up through this statement, and the end of the chapter:
“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?” — 1 Corinthians 6:19
Paul was appealing to the people to not defile their bodily temples through fornication, not diet. How is this not understood?
Paul also prophesied that in the last days the wicked—not the righteous—would attempt to determine what others should and should not eat.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” — 1 Timothy 4:1-3
During Joseph Smith’s work restoring the gospel, the Lord once again sought to give us some perspective concerning our temporal body.
“Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.” — D&C 101:36-37
The Lord also repeated to us the same instruction he gave all dispensations, save those under the Mosaic Law. The fulness of the earth is here for our use.
“Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; 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.” — D&C 59:16-19
The Lord explicitly declares His displeasure with those people who attempt to impose dietary instructions on their fellow men.
“And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;” — D&C 49:18
Whether the term “meats” is understood as only flesh or as all food (which seems more fitting, as v. 19 includes “that which cometh of the earth”), God declares that He did not “ordain” any person to forbid another in their dietary choices, meaning they are serving a master other than Him.
The Lord instituted the ordinance of the sacrament among us as well, according to the same pattern as among his disciples in Jerusalem and America. Bread and wine are indeed advised, being the best symbols of the Lord’s body and blood. But the Lord does inform us that ultimately what we eat and drink for the symbols doesn’t necessarily matter, it is the what they represent that matters.
“For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” — D&C 27:2
Interestingly, some of the clearest statements that we have from the Lord informing us that spiritual health can bring forth physical health are found in a revelation we received through Joseph.
“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” — D&C 84:33
“And any man that shall go and preach this gospel of the kingdom, and fail not to continue faithful in all things, shall not be weary in mind, neither darkened, neither in body, limb, nor joint; and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed. And they shall not go hungry, neither athirst.” — D&C 84:80
And then there is section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, aka the Word of Wisdom…