The Word of Wisdom: An LDS Guide to Health

…And also one of the hardest things accomplished this month.

In a nutshell, the Word of Wisdom is a health guide for members of the LDS church. The Word of Wisdom is found in The Doctrine and Covenants (one of the revealed scriptures of the LDS church), Section 89. Joseph Smith gleaned this revelation once he pondered the use of tobacco by the members of the church.

Therein we find that The Word of Wisdom, revealed by the Lord himself, is for

“the benefit of the…church, and also the saints in Zion.” Section 89: 1

The idea here is that our bodies, which provided a vehicle to gain experience in this mortal world in preparation for eternal life with Heavenly Father, is a temple for our spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17). So we see that, just as we maintain our motor vehicles for effective transportation, we must do the same for ourselves. Seems like common sense, right?

Here are a few things we should abstain from according to the Word of Wisdom:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Coffee and tea
  • Illegal drugs
  • Harmful or addictive substances

Whoa, did that just say tea?


I love me some green tea in the morning. In fact, green tea is considered a staple of health in the Far East. Why, oh why should I have to give it up?

There are many interpretations on the status of tea within the LDS church. Some say you may have decaffeinated tea, others say herbal teas are fine, and still others go hard-core, to the letter, no “hot drinks.” Let’s face it, caffeine is a recognized drug which is habit-forming. I can understand where Joseph Smith was coming from, but man, no tea? Okay, okay, I’ll give it up–but that doesn’t mean I have to like it…

A Healthy Diet:

The Word of Wisdom isn’t just a list of things you cannot have, it’s a formula for dietary health. Heavy emphasis is placed on consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Meat is taken sparingly, which works great for me because I’m now a vegetarian. Here are a few verses from the Words of Wisdom,

All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man…

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…

As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat.” A healthy, moderate diet is essential to good health, and something our modern society has an issue with. Take a look at the ingredients in the packaged food you eat. What about the vegetables and fruits at the store? Do you know where that fruit comes from? Can you even pronounce some of the ingredients in your cereal? The Word of Wisdom (and common sense) asks us to eat fresh, whole foods which elevate our bodies. How can our spirits travel in this life without a sound vehicle?


The Word of Wisdom does not mention exercise, however given the agrarian culture of the early 1800′s, exercise was just a standard part of life. Regardless of the times however, sufficient exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle.

One excuse we often use to avoid exercise is a lack of time. We talked a little yesterday about how our modern life is nothing short of a rush to the next event or project. I am the same way with Project Conversion. There is little time for much else, but like our family, we must make time for exercise.

Before I gave up my life for a year, I loved jogging and I even bought the exercise program P90X. P90X is an extreme video fitness program that reminds me of Marine Corps boot camp. Naturally, I love it, but for the last couple of months, spending an hour a day for this 13-week program just didn’t work.

The Word of Wisdom prompted me to start again.

Nothing beats a few early morning push-ups.

You want a better, healthier family? You want a healthier body? Time–dedicated time–is required for both. LDS doctrine maintains that we are spirit children of Heavenly Father, placed on this earth to gain real experience and wisdom, that we might return to him ready to reside in his kingdom. We can’t do that sitting around making excuses for ourselves. Even if you don’t have a specific religion, good eating and exercise habits are a must. Life is just more enjoyable that way.

The key with all things is moderation. If you’re new at eating healthy and exercise, remember that slow and steady wins the race. Jumping in balls to the walls without a plan will result in heart-breaking failure. Have a local gym? Join and talk to a personal trainer about your fitness goals. Having a buddy join you in your workout routine also works wonders for motivation. LDS members are also famous for growing their own veggie gardens. This can be an enjoyable activity for singles and families as you grow self-reliant on your food choices and you know exactly where your food comes from.

This is also about curbing addiction. When I gave up tea for the month, I understood the challenge. I was forced to consider why I wanted or even needed the tea. Was I addicted to the substance or the ritual of my pre-dawn drink? Either way, something is going wrong. As with eating well and exercise, handling addiction should be handled carefully and gradually. Speak with local health professionals in your area or support groups to help combat this issue.

So where are your health weaknesses? What excuses do you make to avoid eating right and exercise? We all make them, so you aren’t alone. The idea is to commit to change, not a program. Programs come and go like trends, but staying healthy never fades. I challenge you to start thinking of ways to implement this lifestyle today. The Word of Wisdom promises,

And all the saints who remember to keep and do these sayings…shall receive health in their naval and marrow to their bones.–Section 89: 18


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  • Blackbird

    Just wanted to add that the reason herbal tea is allowed is because it doesn’t actually contain any tea.  It’s just a drink of herbs and spices steeped in hot water-no tea leaves used.

    You’re right though in that with some aspects of the Word of Wisdom, personal interpretation is allowed.  Good luck with giving up the tea for a month.  I’m sure it’s not easy!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Blackbird. Unfortunately, I’m one of those hopeless “all or nothing” people. Oh well, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

  • AustinSFaux

    I love that video…..hehehe

  • David

    First of all, just a little shout-out to I haven’t done P90X yet, but I have done Insanity — peace out, Shaun T.!

    Here’s a link to D&C 89. I’d really like to quote the entire promise and its beautiful language:

    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;

    19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

    20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

    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.

    I wanted to expand on the significance of our physical bodies relative to Mormon doctrine. Of course, the following is all qualified with “Mormons believe”. :)

    Taking care of and using a physical body is one of two primary things we’re learning in this life. The other is agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, something we simply couldn’t previously do while living as spirit children in the presence of our Heavenly Father (who has an immortal, physical body of “flesh and bone”, just as Jesus did after His resurrection; see Luke 24:39, D&C 130:22).

    Now we have physical bodies, albeit mortal ones, and we have “passed through the veil”, forgetting all we knew of our “pre-existence” and the reality of God and His plan. We each chose to leave God’s presence and come here for this experience, this test of faith, “to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abraham 3:25), with the understanding that while there is no guarantee of success (i.e. we each can choose for ourselves), a way would be prepared and provided for us to return to God’s presence and become like Him, that way being through Christ’s perfect life, His resurrection, and His atoning sacrifice.

    Since we are not responsible for our bodies being mortal, resurrection (salvation from death) is a free gift to all (see 1 Corinthians 15:22, Alma 11:42). However, exaltation (salvation from sin) *is* contingent on our own choices. We each must choose to follow Jesus Christ and _qualify_ for the blessing of exaltation, but if we do our part, through His grace it will be enough, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

    With this understanding, the Lord’s direction on taking care of our physical bodies* is significantly more than just good advice, although it certainly is that. Learning how to do it properly is one of the primary reasons we are here on this Earth. And the blessing at the end of the Word of Wisdom is specifically coupled with “walking in obedience to the commandments”, that is, everything is tied together. We can’t simply pick and choose which commandments to follow if our true goal is eternal happiness, aka exaltation. In a recent General Conference talk, Elder Russel M. Nelson, one of the current Twelve Apostles, described this as “the cafeteria approach to obedience” and warned that it “will not work” (see Face the Future with Faith).

    If our goal is to lose weight, that’s admirable, but God wants us to set our sights higher; if we do, the weight loss will just be gravy.

    * Most prominently given in D&C 89, known as “the Word of Wisdom” due to the language in the first verse, but there are
    other scriptures as well; see, for example, D&C 88:124. Sexuality is also directly applicable, but is an entire subject unto itself.

  • Jessi

    Hi Andrew,   here we are again, my grandaughter and I are reading your blog.   We want to say that as you strive to keep the word of wisdom, (and all the commandments)  It somehow “purifies yourself before the Lord.”
    It is hard to work on everything at the same time.  Since you gave up tea, and are missing it, you can pray for added help to forget about it.  Tell Heavenly Father, how you feel and ask  Him to take the desire away.   This is easy for Him to help you with, because you are sincere in your desire to complete your experiment.  I think our brain cannot change quickly without His help.   You will know He helped you and it is an amazing feeling!    To be in control of our bodies is a Christlike attribute.  This is an ongoing process, like you mentioned with exercise.
    This works with all the commandments.   Experiment for a period of time to really live it and see the corresponding blessings  flow into your life.    The laws and the blessings are the same for everyone.  
    We are rooting for you !!

    • Anonymous

      I am humbled every time I read something similar to the first line of your comment. The fact that one or more individuals are huddled around a computer screen giving my antics just a few minutes of their time…oh I thank you for joining me, even for a moment.

  • Kitsune

    This is what I fight with everyday. My “addiction” and health are both related, as I am addicted to food. You know what I mean. It was hard, and still is sometimes, making the changes that I have. I eat healthy now, but the temptation is still there, threatening to break me down and pull me under again, to a place I dont want to be anymore.

    My excuses are “I dont have time” or “I will get to it soon” or “Ill do it later” when it comes to exercising. Getting out and actually doing it is hard for me, and I struggle with it. I struggle with a lot, and its killing me, literally.

    Small steps, small steps…

    • Anonymous

      You’ll come through, but the will must be there.