New Year’s Resolutions, Getting Healthy, and Your Word of Wisdom
We are three weeks into the New Year, just past that magic 21-days-to-establish-a-new-habit threshold, and facing the fact that, statistically, about 80% of new gym members in January quit going by mid-February and more than 50% of people have failed at their resolutions generally. Overall statistics vary but the number of the apparently 40-50% of people who make New Year’s resolutions annually who commit to health goals is between 40 and 50% of that total. We have a common interest in improving our health but a great deal of difficulty doing so. Why is that?
Psychologist Peter Herman identifies this phenomenon as “false hope syndrome” and says, “their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves,” leaving many people in a worse position by the end of the year than the circumstance that prompted their valiant but brief effort the year before. Finding that alignment between internal view and resolution to progress has been a focus for me in recent years so I’ve gathered some thoughts.
Since fitness hopes are the most common commitments made (and broken) annually (and because it has been a personal struggle for me) I’ve spent a good part of my 30 years of adulthood studying the way the body works. Given the mind-numbing plethora of contradictory but each scientifically-backed our-way-is-the-only-way patterns for perfect health out there, where does the genuine seeker for health improvement (whether that is weight loss, blood panel balancing, condition reversal, or strength/endurance training) turn?
LDS people have rightly long looked to the “Lord’s Law of Health” as the source for understanding. Like most revelations of depth it’s written in layers with truths available to the diligent seeker by study and by faith over time. Since much of the Doctrine and Covenants is written as rather the business side of setting up a church or as independent bursts of inspiration on a smattering of subjects of import, it’s very easy for us to miss the entirely different structure and content of this very unique modern revelation. I’d like to examine that revelation once again and perhaps shine light from some uncommon directions for your consideration.
At the most obvious level, the Word of Wisdom proscribes certain substances commonly enjoyed among the faithful members of the Church at the time the Prophet approached the Lord and received it. Certainly, members are almost all familiar with the story as told by Brigham Young of the situation in the small room above the Whitney store where the School of the Prophets was held:
When they assembled together in this room [where the School of the Prophets was held] after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry. (Journal of Discourses, 12:158)
For many members, that is the extent of the revelation: a proscription against wine and strong drink, tobacco in any context other than as an herb or for sick cattle, and hot drinks. Read at that basic level, the Word of Wisdom can do great good in the lives of adherents, eliminating many terrible sorrow-producing conditions, however the revelation at that level remains as narrow and open to abuse as the carnal commandments of the Law of Moses were. But it’s an option to so read it, answers the initial question Joseph asked, and is very useful in protecting the willing and obedient from the pitfalls endured by others not so … willing and obedient.
The deeper reader notes that the revelation also contains a prescription: that wholesome herbs (plants) and fruits (including nuts) in their seasons, flesh of beasts (sparingly), and grains were intended for man. Other members stop here, creating a variety of diets that comprise vegetarian or vegan (sometimes or not including animal by-products, which are not directly identified in the revelation either as proscription or prescription), plant-based, native diets worldwide, and versions of Paleo. They often enjoy tremendous health benefits and when those diets fit well with them so that they are maintained, they are physically transformed by them and often become profoundly motivated advocates for their plan’s general applicability to everyone. This is good. God is kind. The principles work. He wants us to have strong bodies and enjoy our existence here, and these willing and obedient also reap additional blessings, appropriately greater for their greater sacrifice and commitment.
Not by Commandment
At the next level, the reader considers the intro and conclusion to God’s revelation, looking for clues to broaden understanding, knowing that no law is temporal only (meaning not only physical but of or relating to mortality and time), seeking both the associated spiritual sacrifice and blessing. This reader notes several uniquenesses to this revelation.
The Lord has departed from his previous way of talking to the saints. He is offering a word of wisdom instead of a commandment, as preceding revelations have been given. Perhaps this is because, in compassion, he recognizes that alteration of their lives takes time and he doesn’t wish to draw hard lines while they are working at their obedience. This was the view offered by Joseph F. Smith. That makes sense, but listen to the words of Zebedee Coltrin, who attended the School of the Prophets:
Those who gave up using tobacco eased off on licorice root, but there was no easing off on Tea and Coffee; these they had to give up straight off or their fellowship was jeopardised (sic). …When the Word of Wisdom was first presented by the Prophet Joseph Smith (as he came out of the translating room) and was read to the School, there were twenty out of the twenty-one who used tobacco and they all immediately threw their tobacco and pipes into the fire.
While the Lord is infinitely compassionate, it was not his way with the early saints to offer them painful transition periods of questions and self-doubt as they moved from one state to another (at least not for his leaders). He had asked for immediate and profound transformations with deep sacrifices. In addition, many of the faithful stepped up to the plate over and over and over again on issues much deeper than their pipes or coffee.
Perhaps what the Lord offers here, in addition to that compassionate initial command, is a clue that some levels of the gospel are approached as a matter of personal choice, without threat of condemnation if they are not embraced, as a result of a seeker wishing to do more, know more, and be more. Certainly the preceding revelation opens those sorts of possibilities. And the Prophet Joseph stated:
A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world. … Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.
This knowledge is not available by commandment or constraint of the group but by revelation to the individual. Certainly, the Word of Wisdom according to the understanding of the individual is a prerequisite for further service and blessings in the temple but its adoption is not requisite to partake worthily of the sacrament.
As a “principle with promise” (an offered covenant) “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints” the Word of Wisdom offers a workable universal lifelong plan for spiritual renewal and increasing understanding which exercises its power in our lives through temporal issues we would otherwise take entirely for granted. It is also given with a warning that evils and designs do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days (he is warning and forewarning the saints). The introduction is concise and spare, carefully worded, and clear.
The conclusion of the revelation with the blessings of the kept covenant is as transcendently expansive as it is with all offered covenants, but we will consider these blessings in greater detail later in our analysis.
Interestingly, at the next level we notice that the Lord uses the language of creation when he begins his discussion of proscriptions. “It is not good neither meet” (emphasis mine) in reference to man’s use of wine and strong drink stands in stark contrast to the in-process evaluations of beautiful/ pleasant/precious/prosperous/gladdening conditions or parts of the creation in our creation story. Not good, then, implies by contrast not beautiful or pleasant or prosperous or precious, and the meet (according to Noah Webster’s 1828 suitable/proper/qualified/convenient/adapted, as to a use or purpose) reminds us that the plan put into place through the creation included specific relationships between the creation parts as proper and intended (meaning that there was an owner’s manual for the stewards of creation).
To be clear, then, we derive from the modern revelation of the Word of Wisdom and it’s references to previous revelations that 1) there was a plan for what uses would be proper and right for the individual elements of creation that God had provided, and 2) that there is a relationship between all of those elements of creation and mankind.
These observations are validated when the Lord begins his discussion of prescriptions. We find that herbs (and by extension fruit) and flesh and grain were ordained, an uncommon way to describe the place of food in the plan. Indeed, in ancient scriptures the word is primarily used to describe covenant sacrifice prescribed by the Lord, statements of policy by kings, or acknowledgements of the pre-existent plan unfolding in mortality. In one of many ways in which the Word of Wisdom illustrated structure, focus, and wording of wisdom literature (which unfortunately is beyond the scope of this analysis but is fascinating nonetheless), the spirits of plants and animals are included in a process rich with intent and planning, meant to be part of a symbiotic relationship with mankind that was carefully considered from the beginning. Even, interestingly, the beasts that mankind would keep or hunt also had an ideal or ordained food.
What we consume to survive and thrive is elemental to the harmonious working of creation (and we feel the law of consecration resonate through the Word of Wisdom). Certainly, this represents a shift for individuals who use food or wealth to titillate their senses, misuse it from its original intent, or misunderstand the straightforward relationships of elements of creation. We are reminded that Adam and Eve were tasked with being stewards of the Earth, meaning that mediating all of these relationships for a stable creation became the responsibility of mankind at the Fall. Like populating the earth with children, that responsibility or commandment has never been rescinded.
Finally, we find the promise at the end exactly where we would expect (after the terms of the offered covenant).
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
As with other commandments offered in preceding modern revelations, this blessing is conditioned on parallel keeping of the commandments already given, which include the Ten Commandments, the covenants of the gospel and associated church callings, and the law of consecration, (something we might be tempted to forget in our devising of diets). When we delve just a little bit later in our analysis into the roots of the Law of Consecration these promises will become even clearer and the relationship with consumption more obvious.
Promises of the Covenant
The promises include:
- health both as received directly while incubating before birth and in self-sustaining manner after our birth (reaching backward through the veil and reminding us of the intent for which our bodies were made and the ordinations of pre-Earth life as well as our ability to be self-sustaining here);
- wisdom and great treasures of knowledge including some not generally available;
- the ability to exert ourselves at various levels of intensity without wearying or fainting (common scriptural references to enduring to the end of our lives that take this apparent code of health far beyond the physical or temporal);
- and the promise of salvation in the midst of the tribulation of Egypt (a common archetype reference to the tribulation of the last days) that will be so selective as to be personally administered by angels (perhaps an interesting relationship promise between mankind and the angels not often noticed in a more peripheral physical reading of the Word of Wisdom).
By acknowledging the overt connection made with the creation, the health seeker understands “food” in an entirely elevated way as one means for fulfilling the command to be a wise steward of the earth (who knows the ordinations of all things and works for the harmonious fulfillment of all God’s intents for his creation). This seeker is then inspired to study all of our revealed scripture on the creation to understand more fully the responsibilities and powers of this stewardship in the context of all of God’s plans.
In doing so this seeker is increasingly aware of the mind of God in the understanding of his plans. The Vision of Moses (what we now know as the first chapter of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price) was one example of the great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, that can come to the honest seeker of the full purposes and intents (ordinations) of God’s magnificent plan (and is, in the tradition of Moses, another richly textured and layered creation story). Once again, the Word of Wisdom is wisdom literature in its most classic sense, inviting us as mortals to a view of eternal laws and purposes.
A Closer Look (one level deeper)
Just as several individual chapters of Moses each reveal a different subtext with an entirely unique allegorical story hidden in plain sight, the prescriptions reveal additional insight with our returning attention. For instance, each of the proscriptions also contains a clarifying prescription, identifying the truth that evil is often a matter more of misuse or ignored ordination than mere existence.
- Wine has a place and the Lord prescribes it’s use in the sacrament and that they should make it themselves with their eyes single to that purpose. How beautiful a process would that be for the obedient winemaker? Rather like being a temple shepherd.
- Strong drinks, or rather the manmade conversion of plants ordained for good, are good for washing the outside of our bodies but not nourishing the inside. What does this tell us about our efforts to convert the good things he has ordained for our use under prescribed circumstances?
- Tobacco is an herb, a plant with an ordination, and its use also does not include the inside of our bodies but is useful, this time not as a cleanser but as a medicine. What happens when we convert a medicine with a specific ordination to a recreational use? On how many levels are we tempted to do this?
- Hot drinks, or plants converted to a stimulating drink that substitutes for water, are not for us (though mild drinks are appropriate). Is there something to be gained in simply “drinking” water and its spiritual metaphors rather than using that water to alter the ordinations of the herbs for our own titillation?
Clearly, we are warned against adulteration of purposes. In the process of eliminating the proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom in our path of discipleship, the first step of our journey of obedience to this covenant, we are continually led to discover the original intent of the creation and align ourselves with that and reminded that nothing that God created, even though used by man in evil ways, is intrinsically evil when used appropriately.
Inherent in this truth is the idea that the earth was designed to return to a paradisaical state under the stewardship of righteous mankind and requires the intervention of God only when mankind fails in the collective stewardship. He defines four ways that we alter the use of his glorious gifts to us and in the very same breath corrects our use along basic principles that outline a relationship even with things that could harm us: make it holy, wash ourselves, heal ourselves, choose pure water. Sound familiar? By converting the proscribed uses back to ordained uses we and the Lord sanctify them.
Reading another level further we find that the prescriptions have each a reminding caveat, allowing us to wisely understand our relationship to these good things and the eternal plan for times and seasons.
Wholesome herbs and fruits are ordained in their season, reminding us that we are a part of a cycle that is regional and specific to our individual climate and that no matter how sophisticated our shipping and economies may become, we are partners with the earth where we are. Geography matters to the Lord. The scriptures are filled with metaphors of gathering the fruit of the earth when it is ripe and in its season. We are wise to be patient with the process of maturing and not assume that merely because we can get it that it is always good for us.
Do we eat a plant that has lived its life locally, matured, and is fully prepared to give us the full measure of its creation? That plant lives in the same environment we do and is designed for us, explaining the nourishing power of regional traditional diets. This is a relationship that is much more widely understood in Eastern cultures than in the West, where (in the former) the body takes in fats and proteins and heals in winter, sloughs the resultant water and fat accumulations off in the spring as bitter herbs sprout from the ground, enjoys the stimulating abundance of summer, and returns to the healing richness of fats and proteins as winter approaches in its time. The idea of seasons also prepares us to understand the mortal truth that when and where is as important as what and how.
With prudence and thanksgiving we are further reminded, ensuring that we understand that there is a rich measure of wisdom to be gained in knowing how these plants/fruits are best to be used and with what spirit they should be. Perhaps we often assume that the thanksgiving response is a relationship between ourselves and God, and certainly that is true, but it is also a relationship between ourselves and our food (and our resources and our circumstances and each other), allowing us to receive the good each was ordained to give us with humble thanks and an unwillingness to misuse, overuse, or waste its matured completeness and its ordination. For instance, in traditional India one never eats before first providing food for another and meditating in grateful silence, and the preparer of food is considered a key person in the household as the feelings and thoughts of that person are imparted to the food and thereby become part of the bodies of all who consume what is prepared as that person has also judiciously selected only “good” and ripe food attuned to the needs of the members of the house. At the point of maturity and ripeness our food can certainly be preserved and done prudently it will retain much of its value and can be used at a later time. Certainly God also has a plan for “gathering into barns.”
Flesh and fowl are ordained for man, again with the reminder to be thankful, and further with a warning to be sparing. If we would please God we would not use these unless we are dealing with winter (when plants are in a non-producing season of their lives), cold (when the time for harvest is past), or famine (when the earth has colluded to interfere with the relationship between the harvest and man). It would seem that fish (like dairy and eggs) are not discussed, perhaps acknowledging geographical realities. All these are rich metaphors of the life cycle of man and the reality that the Lord has planned for every contingency, that when we are in less than ideal circumstances we are permitted and encouraged to live. In this context we understand how the animals have given their lives freely for our sustenance in a lone and dreary world and we are left incredibly humbled and grateful (note also the careful prescriptions given to Noah for man’s relationships with animals in Genesis 9.)
Grain was also created for man and for the animals (and here we see how the loving and divinely planned creation extends to the lower forms of three distinct groups that are fed naturally by grains in the environment), but the second verse reminds us that while grains are universally provided for animals, they are famine foods for man. Many people assume that the pronoun’s antecedent is the animals in the previous verse who are eating the grain, but the Lord has already explained the place of the animals in our diet in this tight and unrepetitive revelation. He is now defining the proper place of grains, and in the third verse continues his discussion of grains by further specifying how the grains are intended to be used for man and the domesticated animals for whom man has direct responsibility.
When the children of Israel left Egypt God offered them something better than the comfort food of the breads they ate around their pots at night and for which they mourned as they traveled. They were clearly to understand that this staff of life (we use a staff to help us when we weary or might stumble, when our terrain is less than easy, and the phrase “staff of life” appears nowhere in the Bible – indeed this is the only place it appears in scripture – since it is a modern construct) was less ideal than what he could provide for them. They were clearly to understand that they were not in a famine because the Lord was with them and they did not need their grain, which stores conveniently until it is needed both before and after consumption. They were not to store the manna and they would not need their bread, though generously the Lord made their manna taste like their grains.
Daniel and his friends, however, were in a famine, carried away to a prosperous kingdom far from the temple and in that dire circumstance observed the diet of people in a famine: Grains. Pulse (or grain legumes, like chickpea or lentil or varieties of beans) in Daniel’s time was prepared for consumption by soaking, a treatment that renders the protective phytates (which inhibit sprouting of the grain when not exposed to moisture so that it can be stored, and which, when consumed, inhibit digestion of crucial minerals and can cause gut dysbiosis) innocuous. Pulse was soaked, then dried and ground for baking or boiled. The simple act of soaking grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes provides the same health benefits for us and completes their ordination. Interestingly enough, it also renders them digestible to many people who otherwise have difficulty with them, once allergies and intolerances are healed.
Once again, the fruits of the earth were all good, but times and seasons of use were crucial for their good to be meet, to match their ordination. A famine is an appropriate time to consume grain, interestingly different from the provision of flesh for famine, cold, and winter, and there is a particular way in which that grain is consumed that understands the life cycle of the grain and the way it must be transformed to be an ideal food for man. We are therefore wise to store grain against future unforeseen events in the climates in which we live and to know how to prepare it when the time comes that we need it.
As the student of this great revelation returns repeatedly to study and apply these principles which unveil themselves over time and through experience, he or she continually discovers how unique every person’s relationship with the earth and with his or her sustenance (the “food” or “medicine” or “cleansing” of personal experience) is. Due to the seasons of an individual life, one food or another (both literal and metaphoric food), while wholly good for someone else, shows itself as not ideal or not for the season of another. Principles, like prudence and thanksgiving or famine and harvest, however, are consistent. After much experience and much revelation through diligent seeking, we know a great deal about what feeds us, what titillates us, what we eat merely because we have a taste for, what is sufficient for us, and what we need in the various seasons of our lives. We understand ourselves as we understand the intents and purposes of creation, the knowledge of both inseparably parallel.
By living in harmony with the earth, the other creations, and exercising our responsibility to manage the myriad relationships these all entail, the Lord opens the windows of heaven and reveals the way he works with everything. This is the same promise given to those who practice consecration of their worldly resources. Not only do we move with less pain and more flexibility, less baggage and more energy, but we do not waste our lives trying to digest that which is not for us or too much for us. Our physical self is invigorated, but so is our emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual self as virtues like hope, faith, long-suffering, charity, meekness, knowledge, and temperance proliferate within us.
The Word of Wisdom is the food equivalent of the Law of Consecration, giving every person the resources necessary to perfectly sustain and taking no more than that gluttonously for ourselves. Consecration is a holy relationship between us and every other created thing. With practiced obedience and increasing enlightenment, like the angels we can always say, “We have sufficient for our needs,” and move with the most amazing freedom and power to do God’s will. Then, understanding with greater clarity the intricacies of God’s plan, seeing as Moses and Nephi and Mahonri and John did, we stand with the angels when the final harvest comes and know how the destroying angel chooses because we know the mind of God.
The Word of Wisdom, like all wisdom literature (though this analysis has been entirely insufficient to illustrate the many varied and beautiful ways it fits with the long tradition of that ancient form whose purpose was to bring man into the presence of God) is first and foremost a map to the diligent seeker to use something so simple and elemental as what we consume and when and how to draw us to God. As one finds treasures of knowledge and wisdom through a lifetime of experimenting with these truths, one knows far more than what manner of eating creates health but one does know that. There is no further need to rely on the “Lo here” or “Lo there” from any horizontal authority. With the power of testimony and pure knowledge one can run and not be weary and walk and not faint – in other words, one has all that is needed to fulfill one’s own mission and ordination here on earth and return triumphant to the presence of God a victor. At this point it is appropriate to carefully consider and hold sacred the promises given through the veil individually as we seek further light and knowledge along our mortal way.
If you feel drawn to be a vegetarian or vegan, by all means, see if that is God’s plan for you and know by revelation. Your body may not be able to handle the idea of “winter” and needs to live in a perpetual spring and summer, and that may contribute to your best overall health at this stage of your life. If you follow a keto plan in the winter and feel prompted that your body is starved and suffering its own famine at other times, you will discover that you need very little meat, even less than those who also eat other foods (thus preserving the respectfully spare use of animals). You will be strong and someday the spring and summer will come for you too. If you are mentally and emotionally or socially or spiritually in a famine so severe that no other “food” is available for you, grains may support you while you get your bearings, as the good staff of life that they are intended to be, until your personal famine ends. Other very specific treatment plans, which eliminate identified substances that cause reactions within your body and feed with limited but richly nutritive foods may ideally help pull you through a healing time. With prudence and revelation you will know.
If you feel healthy and your circumstances are following a natural cycle, you are wise to consume what is “in season” and many people find that 3-Season diets bring them into great harmony with all around them. But whatever “diet” you choose, understand that food is a great and grand metaphor for what God has placed here to sustain you and you would do well, as with your other consecrations, to prayerfully and prudently consider how you use that. As with all things, the confirmation of “good fruit” (your mind is clear, your emotions are more even and rich, you have more energy and fewer physical symptoms, your sleep is restful, your relationships unfold more naturally, and the spirit speaks more easily to you) will let you know that what you feel motivated to do is truly the best thing for you at this time.
In addition, medical research increasingly points to the role of inflammation underlying most disease. Because more than 70% of our immune system is in the 1/2 inch of tissue lining our gastrointestinal tract, our defense against what would overcome us is profoundly related to what we choose carefully – or not so carefully – to consume. When that food is “good” for us our body recognizes it and is strengthened in every process that follows. Because the Word of Wisdom informs what we allow to enter that system which drives every other process in our soul, it is the most profound guidance we have ever received to protect us from “conspiring men,” whether they exist in our communities or in our own appetites and passions and is indeed a revelation for the temporal salvation for the saints in the last days. It will protect us against being overcome, a concept mentioned 7 times in the introductory chapters to John’s Revelation. This is certainly an important aspect of our personal armor in an infected world.
By the same token, what you “consume” to survive and thrive in other areas of your life is equally important to your temporal salvation and the same rigor that you applied to your diet can inform careful, prayerful choices in your social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual world. Through prayer you can know if there is a social “coffee” or an emotional “tobacco” that you need to eliminate or more appropriately “use” through sanctification and you will know those ordained foods in each of those areas of your life as well. It will take a lifetime to really know who you are and what feeds your whole soul and that is the way it is meant to be. With the most incredible economy, the Word of Wisdom can inform your whole health for the entirety of your temporal existence and, like the temple, never grow old and threadbare.
And now an afterword to the addict.
You have struggled and had a yo-yo cycle of commitment and broken promises. You are worse off than if you had never had a moment of hope and committed to more than you were really ready and able to stick with. You have not been aligned in yourself with the plans and purposes of God for you, not felt you had the resources to make such a huge change of heart and life, and you know it in the very center of your soul with an awful sense of your own lostness. It seems so much easier for everyone else. Your life is not just one problem but many, a steady accumulation of the effects of one after another health problems, whether those are physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, or social.
There is hope. Isaiah most beautifully promises that we can have power to “loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free and that ye break every yoke” (emphasis mine) and he offers a profoundly beautiful prescription. That YE is so important. YOU can break this yoke. He will help.
You can almost read in those first verses of Chapter 58 the “but I’ve tried everything.” May I humbly, with Isaiah, suggest that you haven’t done it his way long or thoroughly enough? May I suggest that you look carefully through the counsel that follows, a formula nearly 3000 years old and likely as old as creation, and see what apparently unassociated guidance you could better follow to help you break this yoke? There is reason that fasting (also a voluntary choice to rely on the Lord rather than on what we think feeds us) has such power.
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.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
The keeping of the other commandments already given was a condition of the blessings offered in the Word of Wisdom. Wisdom literature is rife with the command to both love God and to love our fellow man before all other things, beautifully illustrated by the Savior in the conversation with the good student of the law and the story of the Good Samaritan that followed. These are the weightier matters of the law that Jesus repeatedly chastised the Scribes and Pharisees for ignoring, and we are invited to give great attention to these weightier matters as well.
- Are there those around you with bands of wickedness, heavy burdens, and oppressing situations whose arms you could lift, whose way you could brighten, whose load you could ease?
- Are there hungry, poor, and naked in your life, perhaps even in your own house, whom you could assist?
- Do you understand that this is the finishing work of the Sabbath? Is your time on that day given to consideration of the needs, spiritual and mental and emotional and social and physical, that you’re aware of in your circle and have you prayed to know what your role is in providing relief?
All blessings come with an act of profound faith and it has always been God’s way to bless us as we bless others. You will know what is truly asked of you, the boundaried help you can offer to those around you who need you, and you will have more resources than you think you do to provide that help. It will be God who makes the difference in their lives but he requires of us to give all that we can to love him and love each other first. May I suggest that you prayerfully read the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and ask the Lord whom he would have you help as you seek this blessing to throw off your own yoke? And then may I suggest that, with careful consideration whether you have the wherewithal and the internal alignment to keep that commitment without yo-yoing, putting your hand to the plow and not looking back, that you make a covenant with God? When your resolve flags reread the promises in Isaiah offered to those who love the Lord their God with all their hearts, might, minds, and strength and their neighbors as themselves. See how they parallel with the promises in the Word of Wisdom.
With a covenant as old as creation driving your decisions, you will find that it is no more burden to skip the cake than the adultery, pass by the ice cream as you do the dishonesty, leave the chocolate as you would the frivolous shopping, put away the unnecessary prescription medications as you would unrighteous judgment, get up early to exercise as well as to check on your neighbors, drink pure water as you drink the word of God, and keep your resolutions both physical and spiritual, all for the greater cause of looking in the face of God.
Image credit: The Beauty of Being Boring, lds.net, lds.net, Bruce Satterfield, Detail from The Creation of Adam, wikipedia, Bill Looney, UK Eat Seasonably Interactive Calendar, lds.org, San Antonio Celestial Room, Heinrich Hoffman, lds.org