With the everchanging dietary landscape rising from a mixture of research, observation, and fads, confusion and discouragement may be the most common result.  Today the western world is mostly overweight to obese.[i]  The rise of chronic diseases and now auto-immune disease should be alarming.  It is no wonder that God revealed DC 89.  But, if read as a dietary law, it will again be confusing and ineffective.  For this section to have any value for the saints throughout time, it must contain pertinent information for a people living an organic, homegrown food reality and those of us flailing in a sea of toxins, and food almost devoid of nutritional value, reality.  Hence, this revelation is “given as a principle with promise.” 

Yet the promises listed at the end are not new to God’s children.  Daniel, and his fellow Israelite captives received such results[ii]; King David wrote poetically of these divine promises[iii] connecting them to the law of the Lord; Isaiah listed this promise language[iv] connected to waiting on the Lord; the children of Israel were delivered from a destroying angel connected to the Atonement symbols of Passover; and missionaries labor under the bright light of these promises.[v]  It would seem that each iteration gives the Lord reason to bless His children with those things that would facilitate the mortal experience physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Yet, many struggle with health consequences, all the while maintaining a temple recommend showing they don’t consume alcohol, tobacco, coffee or tea, as if it were a prescription for health. Yet, where is the realization of the promises expected from this “word of wisdom?”

While the section is known for its interdictions, an overview of the section allows us to see the Lord’s relative emphasis between Purposes, Don’ts, Do’s, and Promises.

Each section is four to five verses long except His recommendations for our physical and mental health which includes eight verses, almost double the number of each of the other sections. A more detailed list of the contents of each section reveal what seems to be specifics until one begins to study diet and finds the number of variables almost overwhelming and beyond most of us even those of us in the health care professions.  With enough personal searching on the internet today, one can even find support for the health benefits of almost everything the Lord forbids. 

Some have even lost faith in God because of dashed expectations stemming from connecting these promises to perceived “word of wisdom” prescriptions rather than understanding application to revelatory principles. So, what is the difference between principles and prescriptions?

“Principle: a general or basic truth on which other truths or theories can be based.” 
Merriam-webster dictionary

“Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances”
Richard G. Scott, Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86.

“A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions”
Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, April 1996, 22.

“A gospel principle is a doctrinally based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency. Principles provide direction. Correct principles always are based upon and arise from doctrines, do not change, and answer the question of “what?”  Principles provide basic guidelines for behavior and action.”  
Elder David A. Bednar, Act in Doctrine [2012], pp. xiv-xv

“In like manner, you and I can be assured of reaching worthy objectives in life by understanding and consistently following correct principles rooted in revealed truth.

Principles are anchors of safety. They are like the steel anchors a mountaineer uses to conquer otherwise impossible cliffs. They will help you have confidence in new and unfamiliar circumstances. They will provide you protection in life’s storms of adversity.

The productive power of correct principles can make your life a joyous, satisfying experience.”

Richard G. Scott, Conference, April 1993, The Power of Correct Principles

So, what are the principles illustrated in DC 89? 

  1. Customize all contained in DC 89 through personal revelation. v2
  2. Avoid addictive things, especially the social “gateway” addictions, that are used by conspiring evil men to take money at any cost, even that of human life and/or health. v4-9
  3. Eat every wholesome thing with thanksgiving (time, temperament, and focus) v11-12
  4. Use raw fruits and vegetables (determining which ones by revelation) as the main part of any meal.
  5. Eat a little meat when surviving cold or famine v12-13
  6. Use grains as a staple food and beverage source (determining which ones by personal revelation) v14, 16-17

So, remembering that these few interdictions aren’t necessarily forbidden because they are unhealthy but rather given to protect us from the chain of addiction they initiate.  One can debate the use of and frequency of eating meat until the principle is remembered that even animal life is sacred and designated for saving human life only under duress or necessity. So let’s examine each of these four divisions for principles we can apply universally through the changing environmental landscape.

Vs 1-4 Purpose: of these Principles w/ promises

  1. Encourage revelation
  2. Set forth God’s will for mortal salvation in the last days
  3. Establish basic principles which can make promises available
  4. Protect and provide for the most vulnerable and weak saint.  Are these our precious children?
  5. Protection from evil, conspiring and selfishly skilled men.

Vs 5-9 Don’ts: counsel in principle = commandment

  1. No Alcohol; No Tobacco; No Coffee; No Tea
  2. No other harmful things that fit the principle of addictive substances

Vs 10-17 Do’s: counsel in principle

  1. Do use wholesome plants (veggies)
  2. Do eat fruits
  3. Do eat with thanksgiving
  4. Do eat meat sparingly during times of cold and famine
  5. Do eat all grains, especially wheat

Vs 18-20 Promises

  1. Health, marrow (symbol)[vi]
  2. Wisdom, knowledge, hidden treasures of knowledge
  3. Run and walk without weariness (note: not fatigue)[vii]
  4. Destroying angel will pass them by.

There are other variables concerning health than just diet, including sleep, ergonomics, EQ[viii], exercise, etc.  If we search for principles in scriptural stories, we see that each of us requires various experiences that match the areas of needed growth. Elder Maxwell called these life experiences, our “customized curriculum.”  Section 42 ties health challenges to acquiring the spiritual gift of being healed[ix], noting that if never acquired, the infirm can still be exalted, if faithful.[x] Most often[xi] the life we end with is but the product of our choices not necessarily the skilled exercise of our agency.[xii] Learning to continually trust God under all circumstances, whether difficult or pleasurable is the goal of the experience for which we are promised.  God gave enough instruction to provide a mortality full of enjoyment and joy.

DC 104:17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

DC 59: 18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

2 Nephi 2:25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

So why is this section so vital to our temporal and spiritual salvation in the last days?  There is nothing so universally motivating to us in mortality as food, in the short term, and health, in the long term.  Father mercifully uses both of these to help us take action we may otherwise keep procrastinating.  Note the words of today’s living prophet in what will provide us with the peace and security that seem to be threatened as the Lord’s coming draws near:

“In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.”   President Russell M. Nelson, April 2018

Perhaps, then, this is why the second verse in this section specifies that this vital information is to be received, “not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation.”  Revelation not just to the prophet, but to each individual who needs and desires “health in the navel and marrow to the bones,” the absence of “weariness,” and a sense of safety from the destroyer.

[i] More than 2 in 3 adults (70.2 percent) were considered to be overweight or have obesity.  NIH; https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity

[ii] Daniel 1:6-20

[iii] Proverbs 3:8

[iv] Isaiah 40:31

[v] DC 84:80

[vi] “Marrow has long been a symbol of vibrant, healthful living, but in a day of life-saving bone marrow transplants, the phrase ‘marrow to their bones’ takes on an additional significance as a spiritual covenant. Elder James E. Faust, Conference April 1992; Church News 31 MAY 2001

[vii] To be weary is a condition whereby your entire self is in a state of depletion. Weariness is as much about your soul as it is your body. It can include having your emotional, relational and, yes, spiritual tanks simply emptied out.  https://www.scottcochrane.com/index.php/2016/03/14/are-you-tired-or-weary-a-vital-leadership-difference/

[viii] Emotional Quotient – unlike IQ, our intelligence quotient, the EQ is a repertoire of skills that balance our emotional traumas.

[ix] DC 42:43 43 And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food

[x] 52 And they who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons; and inasmuch as they break not my laws thou shalt bear their infirmities.

[xi] Even in the case of victims, God provides compensatory outcomes: See Alma 14:11 …the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

[xii] The exercise of agency requires a combination of knowledge, faith in Christ, freedom, and choice.