This article is part of a series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Featured Author Jane Birch.
Last week on Discovering the Word of Wisdom I reflected on an important announcement by the World Health Organization. They have concluded that, based on the strength and quality of the evidence, processed meats definitely cause cancer and red meats likely cause cancer as well. (See: “Meat Causes Cancer.”) As expected, there were plenty of negative reactions to this article. People hate to hear bad things about foods they love. Of course, everyone is free to ignore or rationalize away the evidence. Sadly, the exact same thing happened when tobacco was finally declared a carcinogen.
Do I expect the evidence that meat is a carcinogen to change people’s eating habits? On the contrary, I know many people will go on eating just the way they always have. Why am I so sure? Watch this video of cigarette smokers being asked whether they will give up cigarette smoking when it was first confirmed that smoking causes cancer. Were they going to give up smoking? No, because they “liked smoking.” That was reason enough to ignore or rationalize away the evidence. Short video clip: “1962 smokers not worried by cancer!”
Today I explore a different question: might it be wise for us to ask for a recommend from the Lord for any food we consume?
Our Body is a Temple
None of us would dump trash on the floors of one of our beautiful LDS temples. The very thought makes us sad. We love our temples and treat them as literal houses of the Lord, because they are. But these sacred buildings are not the only temples which should be protected so that the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell there. In the New Testament, Paul tells us,
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?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
Although we would never trash one of our beautiful LDS temples, too many of us feel free to put trash and other unwholesome substances into our body temples. Why? Is it because we feel we “own” our bodies and have a right to treat them as we please?
But the Apostle Paul teaches us that our bodies are not our own possessions, to do with them as we please. He teaches us that our bodies are from God. Moreover, that we are “bought with a price.” And what a price! Paul concludes that we should therefore “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
What foods should we allow into our body temples that would glorify God?
The Temple Recommend
Because our beloved LDS temples are sacred, only those who are “recommended” by priesthood leaders can enter into them. To get a temple recommend, we are interviewed by Church leaders, who ask us particular questions to help us evaluate our standing before the Lord and to determine whether to recommend us for temple service.
When we go to the House of the Lord, temple workers carefully examine our recommends to make sure they are current. If they have not been properly processed or if they have expired, for even one day, we are not permitted to enter.
Recently, I went through the temple doors and all the way to the temple desk before realizing I did not have my temple recommend with me. The priesthood holder at the front desk is a friend and neighbor in my ward and this same individual greets me every Tuesday when I go to the Provo Temple and therefore knows I have a temple recommend. But I knew even a friend would not allow me in without following the proper procedures. He cares too much about the Lord’s holy house to do that.
I was ready to return home without the opportunity for temple service that day, but this kind temple worker offered to call our bishop who could, according to temple procedures, verify that I have a current temple recommend. This process took time, but no one complained or tried to hurry it. We knew that following the proper procedures was much more important than other considerations.
No one enters an LDS temple without a recommend, even if it is socially awkward or appears to be unkind. Some considerations are just more important than others.
What About Asking for a Recommend for the Foods We Eat?
How careful are we about what we allow into our body temples? Would it make sense for us to make sure that the food that enters our mouth also has a recommend? What if we only ate those foods specifically recommended by the Lord for our body temples and turned away every food that does not have a proper recommend?
D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom, is a document that outlines the foods the Lord specifically does and does not recommend for our bodies. Obviously, we should not allow anything into our body temples that the Lord specifically tells us is not recommended, which includes alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. What about other foods? Like the questions in the temple recommend interview, we can use the text in D&C 89 to question the foods we might eat to see if they “pass” the test and are found worthy to enter our body temples.
For plant foods, here are some of the questions we might ask:
- Is this wholesome?
- Is this in “the season thereof”?
- Is consuming this prudent?
- Can I eat this with thanksgiving?
For meat, we could ask:
- Am I using this sparingly?
- Is this a time of winter, cold or famine?
- Is this a time of excess of hunger?
- Can I eat this with thanksgiving?
What About Food Not Specifically Mentioned in the Word of Wisdom?
The principles in D&C 89 cover many types of foods, but there are some that are not specifically mentioned. Which foods are not mentioned, and how do we determine whether these foods are recommended by the Lord or not?
The world of food can be divided into two main types: plant foods and animal foods. The Lord addresses both in D&C 89:
The Lord has ordained all “wholesome” plants for our “constitution, nature, and use.” This would seem to include most, if not all, of the wonderful whole plant foods He created for us: whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains in their natural condition. What is left out? The Lord tell us nothing about unwholesome plant foods, which might be highly processed or refined foods that have been robbed of most of their nutrients and/or combined with other unwholesome ingredients.
The Lord ordained meat for our “use” (albeit to be used sparingly and preferably only in times of need). What animal foods are left out? There are two types of animal foods not mentioned by name: dairy and eggs. (Some people would also suggest fish is also left out; others classify fish as a type of meat, since they are all the muscles of various creatures and have very similar nutritional profiles.)
So, there are three main categories of foods that the Lord does not specifically recommend in the Word of Wisdom: unwholesome plant foods, dairy, and eggs. What about these foods? Since the Lord did not recommend these foods in D&C 89, is there anywhere else in scripture where He specifically recommends them for our use in these last days or can we conclude that these foods do not have a “recommend” from the Lord?
At the very least, we can probably agree that these foods must not be vital for our health as the Lord has not “ordained” them for our use, as He has the other foods, so we are certainly free to leave them out of our diets without any worry. (I would also suggest that science supports leaving them out for health reasons alone [see Notes below].)
However, there is another way to discover whether foods not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom are recommended by the Lord. Recall that when I showed up at the temple without a temple recommend, there was a procedure in place to allow the worker to get information I could not readily provide him with: he could call my bishop. In a similar way, when foods show up that do not have a recommend from the Lord, we can call our Father in prayer to find out from Him whether He recommends those foods for our consumption. The Lord can give them a recommend, but if we do not receive this witness, we might want to simply not allow them into our body temples.
Using these questions, along with prayer, we can require that the foods we eat have a recommend from the Lord before we allow them into our body temples. This can help us do as the Apostle Paul says, “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
For Help Starting on a Word of Wisdom Diet
For help on embracing a healthy Word of Wisdom diet, see: “Getting Started on a Whole Food, Plant-based Word of Wisdom Diet.”
Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.”
For more on why I believe processed foods, dairy, and eggs are not healthy additions to a Word of Wisdom diet, see these two articles:
Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Wholesome Herbs and Every Fruit” Meridian Magazine (June 24, 2014).
Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: What About Dairy and Eggs?” Meridian Magazine (August 5, 2014).