The Gospel Doctrine lesson #22Doctrine and Covenants 89 , Word of WisdomDoctrine and Covenants 49:19–21; 59:15–21;88:124

I admit, I had already formulated what I was going to write about for this post before I read any of the references. I mean, it’s the Word of Wisdom— we all know what it’s about. And so I embarked on a desultory review and got stopped in my tracks. First, there are ALL SORTS of things in there I did not remember. And second, I think I might have to do a serious rethink of not just this post but also my life. Wow…maybe short for Word of Wisdom?

So, a more humble me has divided my thoughts into things that made me squirm, life lessons and tending to the Spirit.

The things I learned that made me squirm…and maybe we should all squirm a bit more.

1- We all have heard we are to eat meat “sparingly.” But I had completely forgotten that the following verse specifies what the definition of sparingly is: in times of “winter, or of cold, or famine.” I don’t think that’s how most of us eat without an intentional choice. I eat bacon whenever the diner waitress in my hometown calls me “honey”…which maybe has to do with famine of soul more than temporal famine…but can I justify that?

2- There’s a confusing list of grain designations. “Wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine…” Are we suppose to follow this structure? No idea.

3- When was the last time I was grateful? D&C 59 is listed as another resource for the Word of Wisdom and has a beautiful offering-the fullness of the earth is given to “please the eye and to gladden the heart” and “for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” And then goes on to say that we are to confess God’s hand in all things. For me, this meant taking a moment to pause. Notice the beauty. For me, color matters…the hot neon of a lotus blossom stem, the gorgeous coral color of a monkey’s bum, the emerald sheen of a pigeon’s neck. When I see these things, do I pause and express gratitude?

The things that tied into my life lessons in India and that matter to your life too.

When I moved to India, I basically became a vegetarian. I had been trying to eat meat sparingly, but in India it was just easier to go completely veg. NEWSFLASH: there is a wide range of completely delicious food with no meat. Most days it doesn’t even occur to me that I have not eaten meat. (Exception was when I was pregnant and felt like a cave woman ripping into protein via grilled chicken.) But I think the point is to be intentional. We can all make little changes which is better for us, and the earth, and our spiritual obedience.

Also, where I live the food is grown locally. By necessity I became a person who ate “every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.” However, I was terrible at second part of that phrased. I was grumpy. I wanted my strawberries when I wanted my strawberries. So, there are blessings for those who do willingly and different blessings for those who are compelled to be humble. I am clear which camp I too-often fall. You can choose better.

And then, this is the kicker. Perhaps it belongs solidly in the category of things that made me squirm but here goes: D&C 49:20 “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” Um, what? This reference was listed in conjunction with section 89 since verse 19 says beats and fowls can be used…but then the next two verses are about inequality and waste. I live in India where many people have very little. How do I make choices that reflect the Lord’s preference for material equality? This does not have a simple answer, no matter what our circumstances or where we live.

The things that tend to the spirit.

The Our Heritage manual says the WOW doctrine was given “for the care of the body and spirit.” We all know that physical, mental and emotional are all tied. Perhaps we need to acknowledge the spirit is tied in there too?

So, I have a 16 month old baby who has not slept through the night in a year. On good nights, she is up only twice. On bad nights, I am up about every hour. Sleep deprivation is real. (I did a simple test and found I have been functioning on 40% capacity. Good golly.) To say the least, my body and my spirit have been low.

But if the WOW doctrine is for the spirit as well then we need to acknowledge that women need to pay attention to self-care. Research shows that typically most of us are bad at this. (And if you are good at this— don’t feel selfish. Don’t let the rest of us make you feel guilty. Celebrate!)

As a young executive, I needed to make sure I prioritized church during busy travel seasons. Let’s acknowledge motherhood is a period of time where contradictory we need the greatest infusion of energy while we may have the least available to us. And all women, regardless of if we have children, are nurturers, but you can’t give from an empty bucket. (Yes, giving can help fill the bucket but sometimes that’s not what you need to fill it with.)

So, if we are following the intentions of the Word of Wisdom, then we women need to practice self-care for our bodies and spirits. (Confession: I am terrible at this.) We need to let dishes sit and go read a book. We need to ignore some emails and go meditate quietly in the companionship of our Heavenly Parents and let them love us. (A tip from a wise friend.) We need to create something. We need a nap. We need to call a person from our tribe. These are some of my rejuvenaters. I don’t know what yours are, but I know the intent of the Word of Wisdom commands we take care of our spirits. So commit to doing one thing this week. Just one.

Frankly, the Word of Wisdom surprised me with its richness and clear application for me to do better in my life. I hope you find nuggets of worth here as well.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

People Like Us Do Things Like That, Raquel Cook

“Here’s one of my most oft-quoted experiences: Somewhere along the line in my travels, I stopped in England and enrolled at Oxford University for a master’s program. (People like us do things like that!) I lived in a flat with a Muslim, a Jew, and an atheist. It sounds like a bad bar joke. The four of us would sit at night in our kitchen. One was observing halal, one was observing the Word of Wisdom, one was observing kosher, and one was a vegan. So we’d have these conversations about who was eating what and why. And we all just respected what the others were doing.

I got to be really, really close with the Muslim gal, Aisha, who was from Pakistan. She and I started reading scriptures together off and on. We’d one night read from the Qur’an and another night read from the Old Testament. Or we would pick a topic, like Mary the mother of Christ, or charity, or tithing, or some topic, and then we’d compare what our scriptures and prophets said about those things. We did that through the whole year. And there was never any attempt to convert. Only to understand.

At the end of that year, she presented me with a beautiful Qur’an, and she said, ‘Thank you for such a special year. You have made me a better Muslim.’ I was like, ‘You have made me a better Christian. You have made me a better Mormon.’ It was one of the most profound and gratifying compliments I’ve ever received.”

Other Related Women’s Voices

The Sanctity of the Body, Susan W. Tanner

“What would happen if we truly treated our bodies as temples? The result would be a dramatic increase in chastity, modesty, observance of the Word of Wisdom, and a similar decrease in the problems of pornography and abuse, for we would regard the body, like the temple, as a sacred sanctuary of the Spirit. Just as no unclean thing may enter the temple, we would be vigilant to keep impurity of any sort from entering the temple of our bodies.”