The Word of Wisdom Food Plan: A Medical Review of the Mormon Doctrine by Kenneth E. Johnson, M.D. (1993)

From Books in Word of Wisdom Literature by Jane Birch

See also the article on Kenneth E. Johnson, M.D.: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: A WFPB Medical Doctor” in Meridian Magazine.

Johnson_WoW Food Plan

 

Kenneth E. Johnson, M.D., The Word of Wisdom Food Plan: A Medical Review of the Mormon Doctrine (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 1993).

Copyright © 1993 by Kenneth E. Johnson, M.D.

[Later published under the title: Mormon Wisdom and Health: A Medical Review of Mormon Doctrine]

Johnson_Mormon Wisdom and Health


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgements…………………………………………………………………….. ix

Foreword…………………………………………………………………………………….. xi

Introduction

The Word of Wisdom Food Plan: A Disease Prevention Diet …….. xiii

Chapter One – Medicine and Religion in 1833………………………………. 1

Domestic Medicine…………………………………………………………………… 3

Botanic Medicine……………………………………………………………………… 4

Heroic (Mainstream) Medicine…………………………………………………. 5

Chapter Two – Medicine and Mormonism (1833-1900)…………………. 9

Chapter Three – Medicine and Mormonism (1900-1950)……………… 17

The Flexner Report/Bulletin Number Four……………………………. 21

The Denmark Story…………………………………………………………………. 23

Chapter Four – Medicine and Mormonism (1950 to Present)………. 29

Chapter Five – Food as Fuel for the Body: A Primer of Nutrition.. 35

Fuel For the Body…………………………………………………………………… 37

Fats…………………………………………………………………………………………. 38

Carbohydrates………………………………………………………………………… 40

Proteins………………………………………………………………………………….. 41

Cholesterol……………………………………………………………………………… 42

Fiber……………………………………………………………………………………….. 43

Vitamins and Minerals…………………………………………………………… 44

The Exception: Vitamin B12 …………………………………………………… 45

Salt …………………………………………………………………………………………. 46

Iodine …………………………………………………………………………………….. 46

Iron ………………………………………………………………………………………… 47

Chapter Six – Cancer…………………………………………………………………… 49

Lung Cancer ………………………………………………………………………….. 50

Breast Cancer …………………………………………………………………………. 51

Prostate Cancer………………………………………………………………………. 53

Cancer of Colon-Rectum Early ………………………………………………. 54

Cancer Detection…………………………………………………………………….. 56

Chapter Seven – Obesity…………………………………………………………….. 57

Chapter Eight – Heart Disease ……………………………………………………. 61

Diabetes………………………………………………………………………………….. 63

Hypertension …………………………………………………………………………. 63

Lifestyle Changes…………………………………………………………………… 63

Tests of the Human Heart………………………………………………………. 65

Ultrasound Tests…………………………………………………………………….. 65

1. Angiography………………………………………………………………………. 65

2. Thallium Stress Test……………………………………………………………. 66

3. Positron Emissions Tomography………………………………………… 66

Chapter Nine – Osteoporosis:

Our Love Affair With Meat, Eggs and Milk………………………………… 69

Chapter Ten – Maturity Diabetes: The Disease of Affluence……….. 73

Utah: Kudos and Concerns…………………………………………………….. 74

Southwest Indians: Their Problem………………………………………….. 76

The Micronesians In Nauru: Their Problem……………………………. 77

A Worldwide Problem…………………………………………………………… 78

Chapter Eleven – Fitness and Health: The Difference………………….. 79

Carboloading………………………………………………………………………….. 83

Chapter Twelve – Barriers and Paths Toward Change………………… 85

We Defend What We Do………………………………………………………… 85

We Want A Quick Fix…………………………………………………………….. 85

We Behave According To Our Habits…………………………………….. 86

We Are Misled By The Politics of Nutrition…………………………… 87

Food Labeling Law of 1994…………………………………………………….. 89

The Medico-Pharmacologic Complex…………………………………….. 91

Misinformation, Hype and Half-Truths………………………………….. 93

Chapter Thirteen – The Best Diets Are All Alike…………………………. 95

The Pritikin Diet…………………………………………………………………….. 95

The Fat Thermostat No-Diet Diet……………………………………………. 96

The McDougall Plan ……………………………………………………………… 97

The “Reversing Heart Disease” Plan……………………………………….. 97

The Food Guide Pyramid………………………………………………………. 99

The New Four Food Groups…………………………………………………. 101

The Word of Wisdom Food Plan………………………………………….. 104

Chapter Fourteen – Making It All Work…………………………………….. 107

The Basics…………………………………………………………………………….. 108

Starting Out Right…………………………………………………………………. 109

A Midday Break……………………………………………………………………. 109

For Supper (Dinner)……………………………………………………………… 110

Plan For Great Snacks…………………………………………………………… 110

Take Another Look At Eggs………………………………………………….. 111

Get Moving!………………………………………………………………………….. 112

Last But Not Least………………………………………………………………… 112

Conclusion: My Heart…………………………………………………………… 113

Appendix A – An 1833 Guide for the Prevention of Heart Disease by Ray Cowley, M.D   115

Appendix B – Position Paper of The American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets      123

Appendix C – Recommended Reading……………………………………… 135

Index…………………………………………………………………………………………. 139


Foreword

 

Every aspect of modern life seems to have changed dramatically in just a few years. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the foods we eat. Microwaves and fast-food restaurants were all but unheard of a generation ago, but are now everywhere, along with an ever-growing array of appliances that modernize our kitchens. The emphasis is on convenience and speed of preparation.

At the same time, modern medical science has made discoveries about the power of foods that prevent illness and improve our sense of well-being. With knowledge about saturated fat, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and cholesterol, we are discovering, ironically enough, that the foods with the greatest power to protect the health of the body are the humble foods that have been familiar since long before the appearance of electric appliances or analytical scientists. The vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans that grow in the earth and are prepared in the simplest of ways bring us powerful nutrients that keep our bodies strong and our senses sharp, while animal products have been proven to be unnecessary and often harmful.

Understanding this new wisdom and putting it to use is the purpose of this book. As you turn its pages, you will find both scientific facts and practical information that can revolutionize your health and that of your loved ones.

Neal D. Barnard, M.D.,
President Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine


Introduction

The Word of Wisdom Food Plan

A Disease Prevention Diet

IN MATTERS OF HEALTH TODAY WE LARGELY CONTROL OUR OWN WELL BEING.

A few generations ago, uncontrollable infections were the major cause of illness and death. These acute diseases are now largely prevented by modern medical science, with the development and help of antibiotics, vaccinations, water sanitation, proper waste disposal, food laws, mosquito control and earlier, better medical care.

With the control of these acute infectious diseases, we now have a new set of diseases that make us sick and cause premature death. They are heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis.

We all want good health. But these diseases are rampant among us. What must we do to promote better health and prevent early death from these diseases? Reputable experts have some good answers to offer, and the good news is that each one of us can largely prevent the development of these diseases by the choices we make.

Dr. James O. Mason, one of the authors of “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health said, “Today more than two thirds of premature deaths are due mostly to chronic illness and conditions which are aided and abetted by people’s own lifestyle choices.”1

In 1988, Dr. C. Everett Koop, then U.S. Surgeon General, further focused on lifestyle choices when he said that 68% of all deaths in the United States are diet related.’ These facts are validated by the 1989 report, “Diet and Health,” published by the National Research Counci1.2 Both reports document the relationship between diet and the high incidence of cancer, heart disease and strokes.

Today, members of the LDS church have the benefit of sound medical knowledge and the blessing of revealed truth to guide their lifestyle choices, especially their food choices. They, in a real sense, choose whether or not they have good health.

In this book I will present anew the counsel of LDS church leaders beginning with Joseph Smith’s 160-year-old revelation, the Word of Wisdom. I will also present the medical and scientific facts known today that confirm its truth.

This book is written to encourage you and your family to improve your lifestyles. You do have a choice. By following all the tenets of the Word of Wisdom, a longer and healthier life with great temporal and spiritual blessings is assured. In addition you will look better, feel better, save money and lose excess weight.

When the Word of Wisdom was revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833, people knew virtually nothing about the harm of tobacco, the degradation of alcohol addiction, nor the effect of caffeine on the body. The Saints, who obeyed this law of health as best they could, did so by faith, not by knowledge. By inspiration, the church leaders gave direction to the Saints. There was gradual compliance by the faithful concerning tea, coffee, tobacco and alcohol. Mormons are now well known and admired for their stand on these health issues.

The focus in this book, however, is not about the narrow and well understood connection between Mormons and abstinence from these harmful substances. The Word of Wisdom revelation is much more than that.

It is a “law of total health.” Dr. Alvin K. Benson, BYU professor of geophysics and geology, used that term to describe the Word of Wisdom in a Joseph Smith symposium. He also said,

It’s exciting to see how continuing scientific discoveries verify the wisdom and insight revealed to the Prophet in the Word of Wisdom, a revelation given when knowledge of nutrition was essentially nonexistent.’

The bright light of recent scientific and medical advances is focusing new attention on the nutritional aspects of the Word of Wisdom. I call these the Word of Wisdom food plan because they give specific instructions about our food choices.

The full text of this remarkable revelation follows now, to provide easy access for members of the LDS Church and a reference for nonmembers. The food portion is italicized for emphasis. No other changes have been made.

Section 89 of Doctrine and Covenants. Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833, known today as the Word of Wisdom.

  1. A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion
  2. To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days
  3. Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.
  4. Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: 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, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation
  5. That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
  6. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
  7. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
  8. And again, 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 judgment and skill.
  9. And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
  10. And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man
  11. Every herb in the season thereof and every fruit in the season thereof, all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
  12. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
  13. And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
  14. All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
  15. And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
  16. All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground
  17. Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
  18. And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
  19. And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
  20. And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
  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. Amen. (emphasis added)

As one reads carefully the italicized portion of the Word of Wisdom, one must ponder what one is being told about eating the flesh of beasts and fowl. One should especially pay attention to the word “sparingly” in verse 12, and note that “sparingly” is defined in verse 13 and defined for the second time in verse 15. It must be important. Furthermore, “sparingly” does not mean “in moderation.” The adverb means “severely restricted” and “only under certain circumstances” as it defines the eating of flesh of beasts and fowl in the revelation.

In addition to concern about the word “sparingly,” there should be concern and a greater appreciation of the phrase “All grain is ordained…to be the staff of life” (D&C 89:14). This phrase, “staff of life,” strongly suggests that our major food should be grains.

These two interpretations will be viewed in the light of discourses of past and present church leaders and in the light of recent medical knowledge.

But before documenting our present day knowledge, let us go back and review the health and medical conditions that existed at the time when the Word of Wisdom first came to light.


Chapter Two

Medicine and Mormonism

(1833-1900)

Hyrum Smith, the prophet’s older brother and closest friend, shared martyrdom with Joseph when they both were killed by assassin’s bullets in Carthage, Illinois in 1844. Two years before his death, Hyrum, as Patriarch of the Church, gave a lengthy discourse on the Word of Wisdom.

After affirming that the principles in the scriptures are the work of God and are pure, Hyrum said,

They are principles of righteousness; they are given for a blessing to the human family, and the salvation, temporal and spiritual, of his saints… .When God first made man upon the earth, he was a different being entirely to what he now is; his body was strong, athletic, robust and healthy; his days were prolonged upon the earth; he lived nearly one thousand years, his mind was vigorous and active, and his intellectual faculties clear and comprehensive, but he has become degenerated; his life has dwindled to a span; disease preys upon his system; his body is enervated and feeble; and his ment[al] and intellectual faculties are impaired, and weakened; and man is not now that dignified, noble, majestic, honorable, and mighty being that he was when he first proce[e]ded from the hands of his maker. God.., knows what course to pursue to restore mankind to their pristine excellency and primitive vigour, and health; and He has appointed the Word of Wisdom as one of the engines to bring about this thing, to remove the beastly appetites, the murderous disposition and the vitiated taste of man; to restore his body and vigour, promote peace between him and the brute creation, and as one of the little wheels in God’s designs, to help to regulate the great machinery, which shall eventually revolutionize the earth, and bring about the restoration of all things.

The Lord has told us what is good for us to eat, and to drink, and what is pernicious; but some of our wise philosophers, and some of our elders too, pay no regard to it; they think it too little, too foolish, for wise men to regard—fools! Where is their wisdom, philosophy and intelligence? From whence did they obtain their superior light?…They think it too small for him to condes[c]end to tell men what will be nutritious or what will be unhealthy. Who made the corn, the wheat, the rye, and all the vegetable substances? And who was it that organized man, and constituted him as he is found? Who made his stomach, and his digestive organs, and prepared proper nutriment for his system, that the juices of his body might be supplied; and his form be invigorated by that kind of food which the laws of nature, and the laws of God has said would be good for man?…

…Listen not to the teaching of any man, or any elder who says the word of wisdom is of no moment;… Why is it that we are frequently so dull and languid? It is because we break the word of wisdom; disease preys upon our system, our understandings are darkened, and we do not comprehend the things of God; the devil takes advantage of us, and we fall into temptation… Be it remembered—that this instruction is given “in consequence of evils and designs that do and will exist in the heart of conspiring men in the last days….”

After quoting from the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:10-15), Hyrum continued:

Let men attend to these instructions, let them use the things ordained of God; let them be sparing of the life of animals; it is pleasing saith the Lord that flesh be used only in times of winter, or of famine—and why to be used in famine? Because all domesticated animals would naturally die, and may as well be made use of by man, as not.

After quoting again from the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:16-21), he exhorted his listeners:

Let these things be adhered to; let the saints be wise; let us lay aside our folly and abide by the commandments of God; so shall we be blessed of the great Jehovah in time and eternity; we shall be healthy, strong and vigorous: we shall be enabled to resist disease; and wisdom will crown our councils, and our bodies will become strong and powerful, our progeny will become mighty, and will rise up and call us blessed…. We shall prepare ourselves for the purposes of Jehovah’ (emphasis added)

This discourse leaves no doubt what the pivotal word “sparingly” in D&C 89:12 meant to Hyrum Smith in 1842.

The second president of the Church, Brigham Young, was only five years older than the Prophet Joseph Smith and undoubtedly survived the same childhood diseases. After bearing eleven children, his mother died of tuberculosis at a young age. Brigham’s first wife, Miriam Works, died in 1832 of tuberculosis after giving birth to two children.

Like almost everyone living in Nauvoo in 1839, Brigham was stricken with malaria. Malaria was endemic in the Mississippi River area, and almost all residents sooner or later had their “seasoning,” usually in their first summer when they were infected by the Anopheles mosquito. The Prophet contracted malaria at the same time as Brigham, but with characteristic charisma Joseph rose from his sick bed to heal others. Even though he was also ill with malaria, Brigham was helped by a blessing and accompanied the Prophet to comfort other victims of the disease.

Two months later Brigham was still not well and wrote that his health was so poor that he “was unable to go thirty rods to the river without assistance.” Three months later he was still “unable to sit up,” but nevertheless departed on a mission to England, being “fitted up” in a wagon. When he later reached England he was so emaciated that his cousin, Willard Richards, did not recognize him.

Three years later, having returned to Nauvoo, Brigham Young was stricken with severe scarlet fever. Ill for eighteen days, he had a sudden cardiac arrest which responded to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by his wife.

In an 1855 discourse, Brigham referred to his earlier illnesses as he counseled the Saints “to lay the foundation for a healthy posterity.” As he noted, we are to prepare to live instead of preparing to die, for he said,

The fathers and mothers have laid the foundation for many of these diseases, from generation to generation, until the people are reduced to their present condition. True, some live to from fifty to ninety years of age, but it is an unusual circumstance to see a man a hundred years old, or a woman ninety. The people have laid the foundation of short life through their diet, their rest, their labor, and their doing this, that, and the other in a wrong manner, with improper motives, and at improper times.

I would be glad to tell mothers how to lay the foundation of health in their children, that they may be delivered from the diseases with which I am afflicted, and have been from my youth up.. some say that “this is a miserable world, I do not care how soon I get through.” Well, go and destroy yourselves, if you choose; you have all the opportunity that you can desire; there is plenty of arsenic, calomel, and other means, within your reach… Latter-day Saints who live merely to get ready to die are not worth much; rather get ready to live, and be prepared to live to the glory of your Father in Heaven and to do the work He has given you to do) (emphasis added)

As will be pointed out later in this book, today we could substitute the words “fat” and “cholesterol” for Brigham’s words “arsenic” and “calomel.” There’s one big difference, though: in his time, arsenic and calomel were ingested out of ignorance. Today, we eat animal fat and cholesterol not in ignorance, but because of self-indulgent rationalization.

The commonsense approach of using one’s heart and head concerning the Word of Wisdom was discussed by Apostle George Q. Cannon who said in a 1867 discourse,

There should be a well settled conviction in the mind of every person belonging to this Church that it would be a real benefit for him or her to observe the Word of Wisdom, and carry into effect the counsel God has given on any point. If I do not see the evils that result from…eating meats to excess, and the benefits that would result from abstaining, what anybody else may see would only have a temporary effect upon me. I must feel in my own heart that it is injurious to me to indulge in these things; there must be a well settled conviction within me that this is the case.2 (emphasis added)

In 1868, another discourse by Apostle Cannon was an attempt to wade through the misinformation of those times. He said,

The greatest boon that God has given us, and that upon which every other hinges, is life. With life we need health, the power to carry out designs of our beings upon the earth. We are told that swine’s flesh is not good, and that we should dispense with it; and we are told that flesh of any kind is not suitable to man in the summer time, and ought to eaten sparingly in the winter. The question arises… “What then are we to eat if we drop swine’s flesh and eat very little beef or mutton.. .why, dear me, we shall starve to death.” In conversation with one of the brethren the other day, the brother remarked “the diet of the poor is principally bread and meat, and if they dispense with meat, they will be reduced to very hard fare.” I reasoned with him.. .that other articles of food could be raised more cheaply and in greater variety than the flesh of animals…. We as a people should turn our attention to the multiplication of varieties of food in our midst. We should not confine ourselves to a few articles of diet….It is an exceedingly difficult thing for most people to break off and discontinue cherished and long standing habits. ..we can have a variety in diet, and yet have simplicity. We can have a diet that will be easily prepared, and yet have it healthful. We can have a diet, that will be tasteful, nutritious and delightful to us, and easy to digest; and yet not wear out the lives of our mothers, wives, daughters and sisters in its preparation.’ (emphasis added)

First Counselor to President Wilford Woodruff in 1892, Elder Cannon’s counsel still applies today:

Our religion impresses upon us the importance of taking care of our bodies. There is a carelessness and an indifference even among us that are not found among many well-informed people in the world. Many of the Saints do not seem to be alive to the importance of those laws which pertain to well-being and preservation of the health and strength of the body. Their old traditions cling to them…Pestilence IS] of various kinds which we are led to expect through the word of the Lord are yet to break forth, [and] will have their effect in calling the Saints’ attention to those laws of life and health.

Elder Cannon continues,

This revealed Word of Wisdom embodies the most advanced principles of science in the condemnation of unclean or gluttonous appetites; and if it were implicitly obeyed by the human family, it would be a power to aid in a physical redemption for the race.2 (emphasis added)

It is interesting to note that Apostle Cannon said, “pestilence[s] of various kinds…are yet to break forth.” As will be pointed out in this book, we have largely rid ourselves of infectious pestilence; in a very real sense, today’s pestilences are heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Eliza R. Snow was the most fascinating and dominant Mormon woman in the nineteenth century. Baptized in 1835, she became the wife of two prophets and was the sister of a third. Among her many accomplishments, she wrote the words for ten lovely hymns that still appear in LDS song books today. One of the hymns, “In Our Lovely Deseret,” was written more than a hundred years ago, but carries a vital message for us today. The second verse reads,

That the children may live long,

And be beautiful and strong,

Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise,

Drink no liquor, and they eat

But a very little meat;

They are seeking to be great and good and wise. (emphasis added)

How often do we and our children sing this hymn with gusto, but fail to obey one of its tenets?

Eliza’s brother, Apostle Lorenzo Snow, discussed the Word of Wisdom in a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in May, 1893. After reading D&C 89:10-16 and drawing “special attention to that part which relates to the use of meat, which he considered just as strong as that which related to the use of liquors and hot drinks,” Apostle Snow “was convinced that the killing of animals when unnecessary was wrong and sinful, and that it was not right to neglect one part of the Word of Wisdom and be too strenuous in regard to other parts.”2

In an 1897 meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple, Apostle Snow

…introduced the subject of the Word of Wisdom, expressing the opinion that it was violated as much or more in the improper use of meat as in other things, and thought the time was near at hand when the Latter-day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and the shedding of animal blood.1 (emphasis added)

Apostle Snow became the fifth president of the church in 1898.


The Denmark Story

World War I became the world’s concern in 1914, and a remarkable story[1] from that period has great implications for us, even today.

Dr. Martin Hindhede, chairman of the Danish Institute of Nutrition, had become convinced by previous research that a vegetarian-type diet would be beneficial for human health. He also knew that meat production required large quantities of grains and other plant foods. (Today we know that the production of one pound of meat protein requires six to ten pounds of plant protein.)[2]

Under a land and sea blockade by the Germans, Denmark could import no grains to support meat production, and its people were faced with severe food shortages. Dr. Hindhede convinced the Danes to embark on a large nutritional experiment that required a drastic change in the foods they ate. They slaughtered 80 percent of their hogs and 34 percent of their dairy cows. The grain that had previously been used to feed hogs and cattle became the major part of a new diet for the Danish people.

They started producing “war bread” from whole rye flour with 15 percent wheat and wheat bran. Until the war ended, each person by governmental decree was allowed a daily allowance of “very little meat” and small amounts of butter and milk. The main dietary staples were potatoes, cereals, and vegetables. Alcohol was forbidden, and no tea, coffee or tobacco were available. In essence, the large-scale Danish experiment observed all tenets of the Word of Wisdom.

The diet was low-meat, low-protein, low-cholesterol, low-fat and high-fiber.

Within a matter of weeks, the benefit of the Danes’ new food plan was apparent. During the year from October 1917 to October1918 when food restrictions were the most severe, the death rate from disease had dropped over 34% from the average of the preceding 18 years. It was the lowest ever known in Europe. Furthermore, Denmark was the only nation in Europe not to have a significant rise in the death rate as a consequence of the 1917 influenza epidemic (emphasis ours). That statistic gives additional credence to recent evidence that a plant-centered diet increases immunity to infectious disease.

The Danish experiment vividly illustrates the waste that occurs when grains are cycled through livestock. As John Robbins points out in Diet For a New America,[3] animal production wastes 90 percent of the grain’s protein, 96 percent of its calories, 100 percent of its fiber, and 100 percent of its carbohydrates.

In the years that followed, nutritional scientists began to study the effect of the consumption of animal products on health and disease. Mountains of data are now available to show this relationship.

As the science of nutrition progressed during the first half of the twentieth century, the LDS population continued to grow. Most Church converts emigrated to Zion in Utah.

During the leadership of seventh LDS church President Heber J. Grant, from 1918 to 1945, scientists first began to realize that tobacco was a deadly habit. President Grant was a strong proponent of the Word of Wisdom, preaching frequently about the revelation’s ban on alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee.

He was also concerned about the food plan in of the Word of Wisdom. In 1925, President Grant exclaimed that:

No man who breaks the Word of Wisdom can gain the same amount of knowledge and intelligence in this world as the man who obeys that law. I don’t care who he is or where he comes from, his mind will not be as clear, and he cannot advance as far and as rapidly and retain his power as much as he would if he obeyed the Word of Wisdom.[2]

Twelve years later he said,

I think that another reason I have very splendid strength for an old man is that during the years we have had a cafeteria in the Utah Hotel I have not, with the exception of not more than a dozen times, ordered meat of any kind. On these special occasions I have mentioned I have perhaps had a small tender lamb chop. I have endeavored to live the Word of Wisdom and that, in my opinion, is one reason for my good health.[1]

President Grant’s statement about breaking the Word of Wisdom is similar to one made by his contemporary, film producer Cecil B. DeMille, who said, “The history of mankind has shown us, we cannot break God’s laws, rather we break ourselves against them.”

President Grant died just before the end of World War II in 1945. Ezra Taft Benson, then an apostle, traveled to Europe to assess the postwar damage and determine the needs of the starving Saints.[2]

The first statistics that caught my medical attention as a young doctor were the death rates of Europeans under Nazi occupation during and after the war. The graph on the next page shows that during the Nazi occupation, deaths from heart disease, strokes, and other circulatory diseases dropped dramatically in Norway.[3] Caloric intake was low; no one was fat. Despite hunger and stress, these people were protected from fatal strokes and heart attacks. As soon as the war ended, milk, eggs, and meat became available, and the death rates rose to pre-war levels.

When President George Albert Smith became the eighth president of the LDS Church in 1945, it seems clear that he made choices about his food habits that relate to the Word of Wisdom. His son-in-law recorded, “In the summer he eats no meat, and even in the winter months he eats very little.” [4]

In 1950, Apostle John A. Widtsoe and his wife, Leah, published a book, The Word of Wisdom, A Modern Interpretation.[5] Learned and well esteemed, Apostle Widtsoe was a Norwegian immigrant and Harvard graduate. In the light of today’s knowledge his book deserves review and comment.

Interestingly, it never mentions the word cholesterol and mentions the word fiber only a few times. Of course, most facts about cholesterol and fiber were not known in 1950. Today they are the “buzz words” in the news and health media.

Widtsoe’s book came under some unjust criticism because of his indictment of white flour. His indictment was based on the fact that in 1950 the white flour was stripped of most of its vitamins, minerals, and protein. Now we know that the refinement process also strips flour of its fiber. Today’s “enriched” white flour is supplemented with added nutrients, but is still missing the fiber.

Forty years ago when Widtsoe sought the truth, he relied on faith in the Word of Wisdom revelation. He wrote in his book:

Conflicts may appear between the teaching of science and the Word of Wisdom. The Food and Nutrition Committee of the National Research Council recommends meat daily; but the Word of Wisdom says definitely [eat] meat sparingly and then only in winter or famine. In time the scientist will prove that the teaching of the inspired Word is correct and until then it may be relied on as a safe guide. To date, nothing has been discovered to set at naught any truth taught in the Word of Wisdom, and if we may judge by the past, all statements made therein will in time be proved true. (emphasis added)

Many of the things that Widtsoe wrote have been confirmed by subsequent medical and scientific studies.

The following, in his own words, gives us a challenge for modern living:

It was shown early in the history of plant science that plants contain all of the necessary food substances: proteins, fats, starches and other carbohydrates, minerals and water. Later it was discovered that the plant kingdom is the best source of the sixth necessary group of food substances, vitamins.

The great Builder of the earth provided well for the physical needs of His children. Countless varieties of edible plants, vegetables, cereals, fruits and nuts are yielded by Mother Nature for man’s daily food. Some furnish one predominating food element, some another, each filling some need of the human structure, as bricks in a wall, or as promoters of proper metabolism, to secure his health.

Man should partake in plenty of all edible fruits and vegetables. It is a mistake for a normal person to say: “I don’t like this vegetable or that,” and refuse to eat it. Children should be taught to eat and enjoy all the different kinds of vegetables so that their bodies may grow in bone strength and nerve tone a well as in size. This practice should be encouraged in adults as well, for all have need of the nutritive value of fruits and vegetables.

Most fruits should be eaten raw, fully ripe, and “in the season thereof.” Fruits and vegetables should be eaten in liberal amounts by young and old, and with grain products should form the bulk of the human dietary.

If one uses meat it must be used sparingly and in winter or famine only, as stated in this wise law of health. They who wish to be well and gain the promised reward stated in the Word of Wisdom must obey all of the law, not just part of it as suits their whim or their appetite, or their notion of its meaning.

…The foods used by many careless or uniformed modern civilized people yield a shortage, in greater or lesser degree, of many necessary food factors, especially of vitamins and minerals. This is because so much of the food of so-called civilized man today is preserved, salted, sugared, purified, polished, pickled, canned, extracted, distilled, concentrated, heated, dried, frozen, thawed, stored, packaged, processed and refined! The Word of Wisdom warns against the “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”

If prudence is knowledge applied to daily need, then one with an intelligent interest in food and good life habits is in no sense a faddist or “crank.” Indeed, every one should have such a sound fundamental knowledge of nutrition.

The most ardent Word of Wisdom enthusiasts cannot claim that this inspired document gives the last detailed word in nutritional advice. Scientific knowledge concerning man’s diet is yet in its infancy. Many new angles to old truths are being discovered constantly. When such are definitely established in the best laboratories of nutrition to be facts, not mere theories, then they may be accepted and used and they will be found to be in harmony with the general principles set forth by the Word of Wisdom. The advice in the Word of Wisdom to use prudence in all these things implies that one should be ready to accept and apply new truth.”[1] (emphasis added)

It has been more than forty years since the above words were written by Apostle Widtsoe, who brought into clear focus the spiritual reality of the Word of Wisdom and its relation to the medical and scientific truth of that time.


Chapter Four

Medicine and Mormonism

(1950 to Present)

When President George Albert Smith died in 1951, Second Counselor David O. McKay became president of the LDS Church. The Korean War was several months old; I had been called into the Army Medical Corps and in 1952 the U.S. Army sent me to Korea at a time of heavy fighting. There I learned a valuable Word of Wisdom lesson.

As a team of doctors using a primitive artificial kidney machine, we were able to save about half the American and Korean soldiers who developed acute kidney failure as a consequence of severe battle wounds.’ In autopsies of the soldiers who died, the difference between the American and Korean soldiers was very apparent.

Autopsy studies on Korean soldiers showed no evidence of early atherosclerosis, the beginning of heart disease. They were protected from the ravages of atherosclerosis by their plant-centered diet, low in fat and cholesterol. But even the young American soldiers showed early evidence of the disease; in fact, the disease was far advanced in some of the them.2 With today’s knowledge, it is clear that the American diet containing excess fat and cholesterol was the offender.

We now live in the age of magic antibiotics, the eradication of polio, the miracle of organ transplants, and the power of artificial kidneys. We have wonderful diagnostic and therapeutic tools whose names are so long that we identify them only with initials. Medical knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds, yet we are still dying prematurely. Why? Because we as a nation and as individuals have not taken the steps to prevent premature death. Perhaps someday a diet of excess fat and cholesterol will be looked upon as we now look upon tobacco and alcohol.

In an article in the “Church News” section of the Deseret News, Dr. Ted Adams, Director, Fitness Institute, Division of Cardiology, LDS Hospital, states, “We all want good health! Very few possessions ever equal the gift of good health.” He recommends maintaining exercise, as well as reducing fats, simple sugars and sodium in the food, getting proper sleep, proper skin care, taking good care of teeth and gums, avoiding substance abuse, changing the type of food to maintain a proper body weight and scheduling periodic medical checkups.

All of these generalities are good, but I should like you to focus on the food recommendations. They are: reducing fats and simple sugars in food and changing the type of food to maintain a proper body weight. If the 1988 statement by Surgeon General Koop that 68% of all deaths in the United States are diet-related is correct, the most important focus on our lifestyle should be on our diet. What we eat largely determines whether we have good health or die prematurely of preventable disease.

During the first half of the twentieth century, the United States made enormous strides in the health of individuals because prevention programs were developed and put in place. The U.S. Public Health Service programs were noteworthy. There were immunization programs, quarantines for communicable disease, programs to eradicate mosquito-borne disease, water sanitation and fluoridation treatment programs.

Gradually, however, certain miracles of treatment became medical celebrities: first insulin, then thyroid and other hormones, then antibiotics. These injections and pills, along with hundreds of other therapies, became the leading edge of medicine. We thought that with enough money spent on research and development we could solve today’s health problems. The focus became treatment, not prevention.

Unfortunately, money cannot buy everything. Affluence has even made our health problems worse. The countries too poor to produce or import animal products do not have the degenerative diseases that plague the Western world. Preventable heart disease takes a terrible toll in money and lost lives. One man in nine now develops prostate cancer. One woman in eight now develops breast cancer, and the statistics for both cancer of the prostate and breast are worsening each year.

Yet we still hope for the quick fix. A huge industry now spends millions of dollars to fashion magic bullets against chronic and deadly degenerative diseases. Sound noble? It might be, except for the fact that they don’t work and we already have the knowledge to prevent many of these medical problems. The answer doesn’t involve a pill or a quick fix. What it involves is a different food plan.

A recent series of six nationally published newspaper articles gives some insight into our “medical-pharmacologic” effort and the expenditure of taxpayer money. Take a look at some of the expensive research programs you are funding with your state and federal tax dollars:

  1. At the University of Wisconsin, researchers are studying the adrenal hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandosterone) for its ability to preserve youth. Injections of DHEA are being given to animals and even a few humans.
  2. Scientists at Temple University and other universities are studying DHEA as well as two other hormones, thymosin and melatonin, as the search for anti-aging chemicals continues.
  3. A geneticist at the University of Colorado now reports that by changing one gene involved in oxygen metabolism he is able to increase the three-week life span of a round worm by 110 percent. One overly enthusiastic science reporter explained that “the gene involved in oxygen metabolism turned into a frenzied ninja that attacked free radical molecules.”
  4. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, located at Tufts University in Boston, evaluates more than two thousand people each year. Research subjects are housed in a dormitory-like facility and paid a small wage while they are studied.

A similar study is underway at the Baltimore National Institute on Aging.

  1. The National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland has used taxpayer money to fund twenty-one research centers for the study of organic compounds with such unlikely names as limonoids, glucarates, phenolic acids, flavonoids, coumarins, polyacetylenes, and carotenoids. They are searching for what appear to be strong anti-cancer compounds in plants such as garlic, licorice root, flaxseed, citrus fruit, carrots, celery, and parsley.
  2. “Free radicals” and “anti-oxidants” are the new buzz words in the anti-cancer industry. The National Institutes of Health had launched an unprecedented five-year study involving more than 40,000 women but it was canceled because of compliance problems. It was a $17 million study that was designed to identify the role of vitamin E and beta carotene, both anti-oxidants that researchers theorize might prevent cancer and heart disease.
  3. Roche, the world’s largest vitamin producer, is building a multi-million dollar plant that will produce 350 tons of beta carotene per year. That’s enough to supply every American adult with one daily 50 mg capsule—or the equivalent of seven large carrots. Does every adult in America need the equivalent of seven large carrots each day? No one knows, but you’ll soon see advertising for it.

All this research is expensive and time-consuming—and is particularly questionable when we already have so many answers. Instead of spending our money on pills and extensive research, we should use it to educate ourselves and our children about a food plan that can prevent disease.

Researchers already know that people in countries with diets that consist almost entirely of locally grown fruits and vegetables are protected against cancer and heart disease.’ In America, on the other hand, where fresh produce represents only a small part of our diet, cancer and heart disease are the most frequent causes of death.2 Those facts should cause us to question our priorities—and question where our limited research monies should be spent.

Inspired Church leaders have practiced and taught the principles in the Word of Wisdom. President David 0. McKay, ninth president of the LDS Church, often urged members of the church to live all the tenets of the Word of Wisdom.

Too many members move along the lines of least resistance,” he said, “and yield to a craving appetite developed by disobedience to the Word of Wisdom of God, thus depriving themselves of spiritual as well as physical strength… Neither the Church nor the world at large can hear too much about the Word of Wisdom…. It is [the] courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals…. With the ideals of right living before him, no Latter-day Saint can continually violate the Word of Wisdom with impunity)

It is recorded that the tenth president of the LDS Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, had a “disdain of meat and [a] love of vegetables.” As his wife reported, “my husband doesn’t eat meat,” but rather “lots of fruit and vegetables.”2

In his book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Joseph Fielding Smith recorded our first prophet’s words:

This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.3 (emphasis added)

The Word of Wisdom was given to us 160 years ago. Today, with recent medical “events,” we can see the “reason” for the Word of Wisdom. It has been given to us in the last days and is carefully adapted to the circumstances in which we live.

In language that is plain to everyone, President Ezra Taft Benson has given several strong messages about the Word of Wisdom. In a 1974 article entitled “Do Not Despair,” he wrote “In general, the more food we eat in its natural state and the less it is refined without additives, the healthier it will be for us.”4

In a talk he gave in 1979 to BYU students he said,

To a significant degree, we are an overfed and undernourished nation digging an early grave with our teeth, and lacking the energy that could be ours because we overindulge in junk foods…. We need a generation of young people who, as Daniel, eat in a more healthy manner than to fare on the “kings meat”—and whose countenances show it. (Daniel 1)1

In 1983 President Benson spoke to the students at Rick’s College, and this talk was used as the First Presidency Message for September 1988. In it, he said,

There is no question that the health of the body affects the spirit, or the Lord would never have revealed the Word of Wisdom…. Disease, fever and unexpected deaths are some of the consequences directly related to disobedience…. To a great extent, we are physically what we eat. Most of us are acquainted with some of the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom, such as no tea, coffee, tobacco, or alcohol. But what need additional emphasis are the positive aspects—the need for vegetables, fruits, and grain, particularly wheat. We need a generation of people who eat in a healthier manner.2

President Benson’s desire to repeat this message and to send it church-wide in the First Presidency Message through an official church publication should tell us the importance that he placed on it.

The pages that follow will present new nutritional facts that relate to poor health and premature death caused by bad food habits. Old fallacies about protein and some half-truths about fat will be discussed. The macho image of the meat eater will be examined. Data will show that cow’s milk is not the perfect food for children or adults. Heart disease and its prevention will be explained in understandable terms. And most important, practical information will be given to help you make changes in your lifestyle and food habits.

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