The following guest post comes from Skip Hellewell, founder of Word of Wisdom Living, a blog about the Word of Wisdom.
Skip Hellewell is an engineer who spent his career in the medical field before taking up writing. Though he has the greatest respect for the medical profession, he also recognizes the limits of medicine, as practiced today. This understanding led to his focus on prevention as a health and longevity strategy. Skip is the father of six children, grandfather of fifteen, and the husband of Clare. He is a fifth-generation Mormon and a student of the Word of Wisdom, the Mormon code of health. Skip and Clare divide their time between Laguna Beach, California, and the small town of Midway, in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
Resolutions? How About 52?
Some things in life just take time. To comprehend the genius of the Word of Wisdom, for example, may require a lifetime. Once achieved, it is like seeing into the Heavens: We gain a fuller appreciation of Joseph Smith’s gift of revelation, and we better appreciate the Lord’s tender mercies.
With the Word of Wisdom, these tender mercies came in cycles. An immediate benefit was protection from the alcoholism so rampant on the Western frontier. Corn was easy to grow but difficult to market—transportation was primitive and spoilage was likely. Distilling corn into whiskey solved both these problems. Abstinence protected Mormons from alcoholism when the Temperance Movement was still in its infancy. Later, avoiding tobacco gave protection from tuberculosis, the most frightening epidemic of the late 19th century, as well as the 20th century scourge of cigarette-related lung cancer.
Protection from these and other ills primarily came from following the three prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom. The four prescriptions of the Word of Wisdom (a diet rich in wholesome fruits, vegetables, grains, and a little meat) are not yet commonly observed in the Church. This brings us to the chronic diseases of our time. In the mid 20th century the epidemic of chronic diseases reached frightening levels. These related illnesses—heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity and diabetes, and many autoimmune diseases—now account for the great majority of premature deaths. Remember the phrase, “destroying angel”? There is a growing mountain of scientific proof that the best protection from these diseases is to fully live the Word of Wisdom.
There are two challenges to living the whole Word of Wisdom: First, the four prescriptions of the Word of Wisdom are simply written but nutrition is an infinitely complex subject. It’s all very complicated but we deal with such challenges all the time—we simply seek inspiration. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a recent conference talk titled Two Lines of Communication. The two lines were priesthood revelation and personal revelation. The Word of Wisdom exemplifies this dichotomy:
o The prohibitions have been defined by priesthood revelation. Compliant members don’t drink alcohol, use tobacco, or drink coffee or tea.
o The prescriptions call out for personal revelation. We differ in our circumstances, we will likely have differing dietary needs, but we all must seek wisdom.
The second challenge is that many forces work against a healthy diet. The food environment of our nation has been described as “toxic” but it can also be addictive. Habits are hard to change; saying is easy, doing is hard. These then are our two challenges: learning what to eat, and then doing it. Of course, there is also the problem of getting the family to change.
It is a historical first, but there is now a website dedicated to living the prescriptions of the Word of Wisdom, called wordofwisdomliving.com. The site is noncommercial; there are no advertisements. The purpose of the site is to first inform, and then to converse, to share. Each week of the year the site will suggest one healthy change. By year’s end, these 52 healthy changes—to be adapted according to each person’s inspiration—can transform our lifestyle and our health. Check it out.