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In Part 5b of this series on revelation we will closely examine the revelation given to Joseph Smith known as the Word of Wisdom. If you have not read Part 1 of this series, I highly recommend that you do so before reading this post (you can read it here). And if you haven’t read Part 5a, click here to read it before you continue. The point of the posts in the revelation series is to show how culture, bias, and worldview affect the way revelation or inspiration is interpreted.

In this post we will dive into (and attempt to interpret) the text found in Section 89.

89:1 “…for the benefit of the council of high priest… and also the saints in Zion” So this is written for all members of the church.

89:2 “…not by commandment or constraint…” Sounds like a suggestion. (This will be discussed in detail in the next post.)

89:3 “Given for a principle with promise…” If you give heed to the Word of Wisdom, you are promised certain things.

89:4 “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…” When I read this, I can totally apply it to the marketing departments today that work so hard for tobacco companies, but what this verse is actually referring to is people who wanted to poison the wine that was sold to the church leaders.

89:5 “…as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good… only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him” Don’t drink the sauce unless you are participating in the sacrament.

89:6 “…wine, yea pure wine of the grape of vine, of your own make” Make our own wine from grapes! I need to start my own vineyard! Again, if they made it themselves, they knew it wasn’t poisoned.

89:7 “..not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies” Anybody heard of washing your body with alcohol? Soap was available during Joseph’s time. Alcohol… not for the belly – this could be a reference to the calomel doctors or the herbal doctors that were mentioned in part 5a of this series.

89:8 “…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 judgement and skill” Medically speaking, tobacco really can help heal bruises. If anyone is a rancher or knows a rancher, please let me know if tobacco is being used for cattle. (See Part 5a for the interpretation of “tobacco…neither for the belly”.)

89:9 “…hot drinks are not for the body or belly” In General Conference, Apostle George Q. Cannon declared:

…on the subject of the word of wisdom.  Almost every elder who has spoken from this stand has felt the necessity and importance of calling the attention of the people to this subject.  We are told, and very plainly too, that hot drinks-tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa and all drinks of this kind are not good for man… we must feed our children properly… We must not permit them to drink liquor or hot drinks, or hot soups or to use tobacco or other articles that are injurious.” (April 7, 1868, JD Vol. 12.)

“Hot drinks” are interpreted today only as coffee and certain teas, not so much hot chocolate or soup. (See the first Word of Wisdom post for even more clarification on what “hot drinks” means and how it makes it into the Word of Wisdom.)

89:10 “…all wholesome herbs God hath ordained…” Which herbs are the wholesome ones?

89:11 “Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof…” It’s always better to eat what is in season, even in today’s world.

89:12 “flesh also of beast and of the fowls of the air…for the use of man…to be used sparingly” So when I visit Tucanos for all-you-can-eat meat, I should balance out my meat intake with some of the grilled pineapple…mmm…grilled pineapple.

89:13 “…only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” Now that we have refrigerators, we can have meat anytime!

89:14 “grain …for the use of man” In 1829 the “Graham bread” was invented by Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister and huge advocate of dietary reform. He was most famous for—you guessed it—graham crackers. Sylvester was a big believer in vegetarianism and the temperance movement. His bread was made from unsifted flour and was free from chemical additives such as alum and chlorine, which he believed made bread unwholesome. He also preached that a healthy diet was a cure for alcoholism and sexual urges. He preached that an unhealthy diet stimulated sexual desire and that meat, milk, or any animal byproduct produced lust. Graham was a big promoter of what he believed to be a wholesome diet. From this example, we can see an emphasis on the relationship of healthy eating and grains even during Joseph’s time period. Random fact: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg, the inventors of corn flakes, were followers of Sylvester Graham.

89:16 “grain is good…also the fruit of the vine” Another fruit-of-the-vine reference.

89: 17 “…wheat for man and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine…and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain” No corn flakes or corn on the cob? No oatmeal? No rye bread? And what about mild drinks of barley… beer? Beer me! Actually you can drink barley water and it is very healthy for you. This for me is probably the oddest verse. I had a hard time finding references for this even in Joseph’s time.

*”Rye for the fowls” – So thanks to one of our readers, Jon and after some research, rye is not for the fowls. Rye is labeled a “Protease Inhibitors”. Which means it inhibits digestive enzyemes and, when present in high levels in the diet, may decrease the avian body’s ability to digest proteins and lead to pancreatic hypertrophy. Although these enzyme inhibitors are present to a degree in all plants, significant levels are found in all legumes, corn, lettuce, oats, peas, peanuts, barley, beets, buckwheat, wheat, rice, rye, turnips, sweet potatoes and potatoes.  (Avian Medicine: Principles and Application by Branson Ritchie, DVM, Ph.D.) BUT, if you cook these things the protease inhibitors are readily inactivated… Anyone cook their bird’s food?  Don’t feed it to chickens or turkeys either. Rye contains a low mount of pentosans or arabinoxylans (about 3.5%) that interfere with digestion.  Chickens fed rye produce a wet and sticky excreta. There is also a higher moisture level in litter, increasing the problem of ammonia production. (Study by the University of Saskatchewan)

89:18 “saints who… keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones”

89:19 “And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures”

89:20 “And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.”

89:21 “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.” These last four verses detail the blessings/promises from heeding the Word of Wisdom.

In the next post we will discuss the evolution of the Word of Wisdom and what it is today and of course talk caffeine!

Born and raised in Northern California, Pablo received his education at Ricks College and BYU with a BA in Spanish, minor in PE Coaching. Pablo served his LDS mission during the years 94-96 in Rosario, Argentina. He now runs a skate shop and batting cages in Orem, UT. He's married and has 4 boys.

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