A Word of Wisdom: Now, With Even More Promise!

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by NotMolly

A Good HarvestOften, we consider the benefits of following the Word of Wisdom (section 89 of the Doctrine & Covenants, hereafter referred to as the WoW in this article) as fairly limited to our own physical, bodily results, as if it were a really great set of diet suggestions from a well-respected nutrition guru. And there definitely are some great blessings that result, so that’s a fine place to start.

Recent conversations with friends who have a wide circle of various passions started me thinking about the long-term results of a large group of people following through on WoW principles, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. And since it’s rare that I get excited about something without trying to share it with others, here are some of the bits and pieces that struck me as particularly interesting: the restorative powers of long-term doctrinal application.

Restoring Agency
We can experience immediate restorative blessings to the body and mind as our agency in temporal matters is established or returns. Taking charge of our intake choices may seem small, but as anyone who has ever struggled with emotional eating, compulsive food cravings, or even mild food addictions can share, establishing or reestablishing agency and autonomy is no small thing. It’s huge to feel capable of making emotionally healthy choices.

We’re promised increasing enlightenment as well. With the chaos that so often seems to overwhelm the modern information age, we need increased enlightenment to sort truth from half-truth, and exercise appropriate agency.

Restoring Cyclical Time
One of my favorite phrases in the WoW is “with prudence and thanksgiving.” Combine that with the idea of eating “in the season thereof”, and amazing things happen: we begin to receive a restoration of the cycle of signs and seasons, feasts and festivals that our Heavenly Father has set out from the beginning. We are given cyclical time, the rotation of seasons, of planting and harvest, as an enduring reminder of our Heavenly Father’s constancy, faithfulness, and endless creativity.

Autumn dawn

You’ve probably already noticed a certain amount of cyclical time in your life. The anticipation of regularly up-coming events seems to be built into our natures. As children, we anticipate birthdays, holidays, and regular anniversaries; like the start or end of school terms. We connect experience to time and that connection pulls us forward through the year.

In ancient times, Heavenly Father set out seasonal festivals linked to holy celebrations; connecting temporal experience to sacred observance is not new. It allows us to restore our cycles of gratitude, our links to past shared experience, and our hope for the future. Knowing that so much of time is cyclical, not linear, we can rest in the comfort of our Heavenly Father’s promises of constancy and repeated providence. We begin to understand the importance of undertaking the work required in this season, carrying hope for the blessing of an upcoming season.

Restoring Faith in His Timing
Experiencing these seasons, and tasting the fruits of a harvest gathered according to His timing, is a restorative reminder that His ways and plans can be trusted; that He will bring about perfect blessings in the right time.

After the rainThe differences between a perfect, ripe tomato, plucked from the vine at the height of its growth, and eaten out of hand, dripping with sun-warmed juices, and pale pink nugget of dry tomato-like substance strip-mined in Texas in the middle of January, are shocking. The latter comes from man’s desire to fulfill all wants immediately, without regard to the eons of divine engineering involved in producing a tomato. The former represents the culmination of the universe: one perfect moment of blessing, never to be repeated in so perfect a way.

He knows best how to bless His children. Experiencing some of the simplest joys that He designed for us to experience is one way to begin to understand how much joy He has in store… in His perfect time.

Restoring Stewardship
When humanity, through Adam and Eve, were given stewardship over the earth, we were pulled into the cooperative effort of experiencing creation, growth, death, and restoration. We are to care for the earth and all its capacity; we hold it in trust for our Father.

It doesn’t take much searching to find ugly statistics on the abuse of resources so often indulged today. Pollution, pesticide run-off, inhumane labor practices, inhumane animal abuses… there is much ugliness in the perverted state of stewardship that surrounds us.

Recent prosecution of factory-farm workers on animal cruelty charges seems to encompass this degraded stewardship: in order to meet an increasing demand for flesh, good men and women are pushed beyond humane stewardship, to cruel and disconnected acts that require them to shut off much of their own emotion just to deal with their actions. Why should pork producers need anti-depressants and treatment for post-traumatic stress? Here’s a hint: they shouldn’t. But with larger populations exercising restored agency and making different dietary choices, stewardship can be repaired and restored.

Following the WoW observation to eat meat sparingly, in times of famine or cold, has the power to restore healthy stewardship. When demand for meat is low to moderate, it can be met on smaller properties, with humane animal husbandry practices (case in point: Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm systems!)

Curious PigsRestoring humane animal husbandry restores joy. Bringing an animal to harvest, knowing they have lived a peaceful, healthy, and even happy span of days does not result in PTSD. Why would we not choose a path that allows us to elevate producers from the basest, most soul-damaging practices currently required to maintain factory farm meat production? “Sparingly” may refer not only to absolute quantity.

(It’s encouraging to note that many people all over the world are latching into the idea of restorative stewardship. Truth echoes and re-echoes in the human soul!)

When we are connected to this prime stewardship, we understand the importance of conservation, wise resource use, reducing polluting habits, and finding positive solutions to real-world problems: we have concrete opportunities to purify, consecrate, and sanctify the land. We feel more strongly about supporting other businesses and practices that enhance humanity’s stewardship over the earth. We seek to deal more honestly with our neighbor. We seek to create, not to destroy.

Restorative stewardship carries easily into land use and adaptive reuse to the greater benefit and blessing of Heavenly Father’s children. Urban farming, community gardens, land reclamation, lower pollution levels, greater healthy food access in food deserts (rural and urban), personal providence and confidence, the lifting and easing of poverty and hunger… there are so many ways LDS people can become passionately involved in carrying out the restorative doctrines within the WoW!

Restoring the Dignity of Interchange
Where there is prudence, there is increased thanksgiving, increased value, and increased respect. As we become more connected and interconnected, we develop a much greater understanding of and appreciation for the work of others. As we restore and preserve relationships within our various spheres of stewardship, we reduce conflict and stress that add burdens to our own hearts and the hearts of our siblings in Christ. Greater gratitude and respect changes the tenor of every human interchange.

JoyfulThere is a reason farmer’s markets and artisan fairs are mobbed with smiling people. We crave connections that are real and dignified. We are coded in our very cells to enjoy the sight of the harvest, and smile at those who place it before us. We are children of Divine Parentage: we delight in the creative pursuits that we were designed to carry out, and can develop increasing appreciation for the pursuits others are inspired to undertake, and the work required to undertake it.

In so many ways, however, the modern world serves to divorce us from this hard-coded capacity. Society often teaches us to denigrate the labor, and we buy into the lie that leisure is the goal, not labor. Application of WoW principles, brought concretely into the everyday world, changes everything.

Can you imagine the general happiness and well-being that greater dignity of interchange produces? What if those who harvest crops were provided for more amply? What if we collectively valued the labor more highly, and sought out ways to support and restore the dignity of the laborer? What if we celebrated and honored farmers more than sports figures or wealthy CEOs, because we were actively applying the dignity of stewardship outlined in the WoW?

Early builders of temples in this dispensation were able to focus on their work  with purpose and respect for their own labor because others chose to proffer their respect for the effort in tangible ways, sewing shirts and delivering hot food to the builders, pitching in to make the temple project a cooperative, dignified, holy undertaking.

In a society where so many are largely divorced from the simple production of food, it takes effort to make creative, purposeful work into a cooperative effort, but the means are there. We’re not restricted to cash offerings on a donation slip today, particularly if we’re feeling that inspired push to do more, whether that involves making sure our household finds ways to grow a portion of our own food, refusing to patronize companies who abuse the land or their laborers, pushing for reforms that support families making an effort to provide healthy foods to the public, working to ensure fair compensation and safe housing for those who provide the food on our table, or other real-world activities that restore dignity and humanity to our means of exchange and interchange.  We can make our gratitude to Heavenly Father for the blessings of a magnificent and productive world an everyday reality as we restore the dignified relationships among His children.

Principles with Endless Promise
I have a feeling that the more I study and pray over the tangible effects of observance and application of the Word of Wisdom, the more far-reaching promise and blessing I might see. And if more and more of us see similar things? Those promises and blessings and principles go far, far beyond avoiding coffee.

What extended promises have you felt through observation of doctrinal principles in the Word of Wisdom? Where have you received restoration through gospel application?

About NotMolly

Liz blogs as NotMolly, and lives on the western reaches of the Rocky Mountains with her Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal husband, their four beloved Minions, a huge number of books and assorted musical instruments, and four very spoiled pet hens. She can occasionally be somewhat serious and ponder The Big Stuff. And then she'll probably lapse into puns again...

6 Responses to A Word of Wisdom: Now, With Even More Promise!

  1. Ramona Gordy says:

    Thank you for this wonderful synopsis of The Word of Wisdom. This is the best explanation of God’s purpose for us in this law that I have heard as a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    • Liz C says:

      Ramona, I’m glad you like it! I’ve been having a grand time thinking about all the possibilities for application. Very cool potential, and it doesn’t require anything but our own determination and willingness to get going.

  2. william wiltfong says:

    And may I chime in with a hearty ‘well done’ as a member of almost 40 years. I have also found interesting parallels with aspects of the WoW and the temple experience itself. But that’s just me as an old guy.


  3. Paul says:

    Interesting post. While I really get the discussion of meat, I still struggle with the notion of vegetables “in season.” Our global supply allows us to have vegetables in season from somewhere in the world all the time. I’m not convinced that is a bad thing. I don’t deny that a homegrown tomato may taste better than a factory farmed one (though I’m not sure mine do; I am a challenged home gardner at best, and each year I grow two or three of what President Kimball used to call $6 tomatoes), I do believe that I eat better with fresh produce (even organically grown) all year round. Surely part of our stewardship (as evidenced by the work done over many years at the Benson Institute at BYU) is to sort out how to improve crop yields and feed more people more efficiently, making the most of our resources. Doing so is analagous to the servent with several talents multiplying the same.

    • Liz C says:

      Here’s my take on it: eat in season for your region. Use healthy preservation techniques to store the local and regional harvest. It changes how you view food and those who produce it, and has far-reaching impact on things like seed diversity and natural resource exploitation.

      All-season access to everything comes at a high cost in environmental damage, destruction of regional food cultures (too much emphasis on meeting a global market, versus actually working with the local climate and soil), transportation/fuel costs, human rights abuses, etc–all of which are, to me, signs of faulty and destructive systems that don’t lead to the liberty of stewardship we might develop to replace them.

      A few years ago, during the LDS world report during Conference breaks, there was a great piece on restoring local, traditional food culture in Samoa. It was a really inspiring look at why restoration sometimes requires retrenchment, but can yield amazing progress for a culture and region; it was *spot on* application of WoW principles, in my mind.

      I do think that improved land stewardship and crop yields can be part of the applied promise, so long as we don’t pervert the process with hazardous chemicals that endanger the farmer and eventual consumers, and we don’t pervert the process of traditional hybridization (successive breeding for positive traits: stewardship; transgenic manipulation: tragic perversion… and there’s a huge, ugly push to confuse everyday folks about the major and vital difference between traditional hybrid development and transgenic manipulation in the creation of GM organisms that are already polluting our food supply, thanks to a very few, very evil large corporations. I have… strong opinions based on science. 🙂 )

      My great-grandfather grafted five kinds of apples onto one rootstock, because the people in his household liked loads of different apples, and there wasn’t room for a whole orchard. THAT is stewardship.

      Apples with foreign genes inserted so they won’t ever brown when cut… that’s something different from stewardship. Plants that have foreign genes inserted to produce insecticides that kill insects… and bees and other pollinators… also different from stewardship.

      What I know of the Benson Institute’s work is stewardship. What I know of some other places that I won’t name here? Not stewardship. A counterfeit. Destruction.

      Current “Big Ag-Chem” is a problem; it does the opposite of what mindful production and consumption through application of the WoW can do, as it distances producers from consumers, dehumanizes the work of growing and harvesting, and imposes significant financial burdens on growers.

      This is not a new problem; it’s been an increasing issue since the 1830s and 1840s here in the US and elsewhere. Great book on the foundations of our current and wicked Goliath is “Larding the Lean Earth”.

      Frankly, I’m a lousy gardener. Not even $6 tomato style. Just… bad at it, so far. Things die when I plant them, or the clever hens break through all our protections and joyously eat the seeds and plants. So we keep attempting home gardening, rejoice in the scant harvest we manage, and use local producers that are producing food in ways consistent with the values we feel inspired to treasure (like open-pollinated, non-GMO/transgenic seed stock, organic and permaculture practices, fair wages, etc). We share ourselves out for manual labor to neighbors who are GREAT gardeners–our sweat at harvest in exchange for excess produce. We live well on pretty much nothing a year, so our sweat is our best asset. 🙂

      I’m a good preserver. Canning, drying, freezing–that stuff I can DO. So we’re able to preserve the local harvest, and the end result is both healthy for the body, and healthy for our minds–we’re working to decrease our household cognitive dissonance between what we feel pretty darn strongly about, philosophically, and what our very slender budget can afford.

      For us, the continued effort to follow the modern prophetic counsel to grow some portion of our own food has gone a long way to preserving and sustaining our family relationships and work ethic, and has helped to unite us with our neighbors and other people who are trying to follow that same counsel. That unification and restoration of dignity in our relationships and interchange is huge.

      • JessK says:

        As my sister-in-law told me, quoting the Primary song: The Lord told us to plant a garden…He didn’t say we had to harvest anything! 🙂

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