This article is part of an occasional series called “Word of Wisdom Reflections.” You can also read Randy Campora’s personal story about overcoming cancer.
By: Randy Campora
Recently my wife and I celebrated our-year anniversary of eating a whole food plant based diet. For me this also was the one and a half year mark of being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, having surgery, losing 80 pounds, and becoming totally cancer free. We have had so many wonderful blessings come about from these trials, and I want to share some things with you.
I want to give you a spiritual hug, something to ponder as you contemplate your life at present. I know you would not be reading this unless you are contemplating big changes in your life, or have recently undertaken them. At this point in your story you very well may have forgotten just how loved you truly are in the councils of heaven.
However, one crucial caveat: please don’t think I am presenting the following as an outlier fancy-pants hidden-silver-bullet doctrine, or that I’m a person who thinks if only our leaders would preach of such things in General Conference. No. I am giving this to you as something to ponder and lift your spirit, that perhaps it might lead you to think of the great love your heavenly parents have for you, and how much they want you to follow their holy pattern to find happiness while you grow also through trials.
Not so Dire Straits
Ever notice that the biblical phrase “strait and narrow” is not straight, but strait? This actually means: narrow and narrow. Interesting. Narrow gate, narrow way. That’s a lot of narrow!
Are you at a time in your life when you are feeling the constriction of the guard rails on this narrow way? Are your elbows hitting against the sides of this narrow phase in your life? It might be because of health problems that have caught up to you, or other physical and spiritual changes that you feel prompted to make, or challenges and trials that you simply never thought would be part of your life but here they are and maybe you did nothing to deserve them.
Sometimes I think the way is so narrow because Heavenly Father does not want us to turn back, but go forward. It takes some room on the road to execute a spiritual three-point turn. The gospel often takes that option away from us to a degree with its Christ-like narrowness.
So then, where are the roomy spots on the narrow way?
Forward and up! The way forward stretches as far as the eye can see, or at least up to the next bend in the way. And up, oh my, there is all the room in the world as we look up. There we find all the good things: God’s love and care for us, the Holy Ghost’s ever-present contact, access to information and guidance, warnings for our safety. All the good stuff is up, and we’ll feel less claustrophobic the more we focus up there.
Perhaps another way to not feel restricted by a narrow way is to shrink our ego and personal will, then there is more elbow room and fun on the narrow path as we try to do the things God is showing us. It is not easy to shed things on the narrow way, but once we have it is much more comfy and roomy.
Besides, one of the paradoxes of the narrow narrow way is that there are so many other wonderful people there with us! Not many early Saints crossed the plains alone, did they? Such is the narrow narrow way: friends and family with us, and God always accessible above us.
Maybe the way seems narrow on occasion because the things we are bumping into are these lovely people, not the guard rails. Take notice of them, they can help you. You don’t have to do this alone. One of my greatest surprises was how delectable it was to meet and to spend time with all of the wonderful medical staff when I was in the hospital for an esophagectomy. With them around the way did not seem narrow at all, and they helped me look up and forward.
Now let’s turn our minds to the promises given at the end of Doctrine and Covenants Section 89.
What is a navel for? It gives us physical sustenance by a connection to our mother while we are in her womb. At that point in our development, we cannot survive without this connection. Is the promise of health in the navel a promise of a healthy, strong spiritual connection to our heavenly parents, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, while we are here on earth, separated from them in a way that we previously had not been? I don’t know about you, but I need that. I know a lot of other people who need that. I know of many who need it desperately but don’t know it’s what they need.
What does marrow do? It is where our blood is made. Blood is a powerful, recurring symbol in the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout all eras, and our physical blood is indeed life itself for our bodies. Could this part of the promise be assurance that our bodies will carry us through to the very day that our loving God has appointed as our time to pass from this earth and go to the spirit world, and it won’t give out a day sooner? That’s comforting, and there are days when I need all the comfort I can get.
Our modern world is full of great treasures of knowledge, but there are still voids and updates in science and in practical knowledge. Might this part of the promise be that as we follow the words of wisdom of our heavenly parents we can find health and healing for our personal physical burdens that might be different from what the world, at any given time, would proscribe?
I think these promises can mean many things to each of us throughout the phases of our lives, but these are some that come to my mind in my current phase.
Two Points of Wisdom
In the scriptures the phrase health in the navel is only found in two places.
We’ve just talked about the first. But the second is almost impossible to guess. Okay, give up? It’s Proverbs 3:8. Is there anything connecting these two unlikely dots in scripture? Let’s take a look.
Proverbs happens to be a part of the Old Testament that was considered by the ancient Hebrews to be Wisdom Literature. These are sections of the Bible or Torah that did not give doctrinal or historical facts, but rather conveyed wise heavenly concepts on how to use the teachings found in scripture to follow and become like God and Jehovah. Proverbs, for example, is thought to have been written by King Solomon, whose wisdom is fabled, but there is more there than meets the eye. Where did his wisdom come from?
The ancient Hebrews considered the Wisdom Literature—which also include such books as Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon—to have a feminine connection. Specifically, they held it as part of the ancient belief that the god El, whose son was Jehovah (Yaweh), had a wife whose name was Asherah, and it was Asherah and her love for all her children that inspired the Wisdom Literature.
As an example, turn to Proverbs chapter 8 and read from verse 22 to the end of the chapter, but replace the words wisdom, she, and I in your mind so that they refer directly to your Mother in Heaven, so that she is speaking in the first person, about herself and to you directly.
This is the wonderful eternal Mother, of whom we know so very little, who together with Heavenly Father brought your marvelous eternal spirit into the pre-existence, and on whose lap and in whose loving arms you and I first learned what it was to be godly and to be a son or daughter of God, and to have a brother as our Savior. I am sure that our earliest memories there were of being eternally, unconditionally loved by Mother and Father.
When you read this chapter in this way, can you see how much your heavenly parents love you, including your Heavenly Mother? Can you feel how much they want you to live on this earth in a healthy, happy and godlike way, emulating them and your savior? Have you ever known a truly loving mother to not care about what her dear child puts in its mouth, or to just forget to cook them nice healthy meals day after day? Is it far-fetched to imagine your Heavenly Mother to be concerned about this area of your earthly life? No, I don’t think so at all—I think her love includes this vital aspect of your earthly experience.
So many questions!
Here is a another: Do you think it is random that Section 89 is called the Word of Wisdom? Joseph could have been inspired to call it any number of things, but he was given to call it the Word of Wisdom, as it was clearly presented to him as such, in that specific phrase.
Do you think it is coincidence that the phrase we started out this scriptural exercise with reminds us immediately of the temples, which collectively are the home on earth of our Heavenly Parents and our Savior, the very places we go to feel the closest to them, and to learn how their ways differ from those of the world?
Is it not possible to see the guidelines presented there in Section 89, much of which we have easily ignored, as being the loving, wise council from a Heavenly Mother and Father on how to live happily and healthily now that we are on earth in our physical bodies for the very first time in our eternal history (though it won’t be the last)?
It has been my experience that my Heavenly Parents are looking down upon me, their little fault-prone son, as I have been led through the Spirit to more fully follow all their words of wisdom, and are saying: Sweetie Pie, your Father and I are so happy you’re finally eating your vegetables!
See Randy Campora’s bio and personal story of overcoming cancer here: “The most horrible, wonderful experiences of our lives.”
Randy also posted an earlier Word of Wisdom Reflection here: “There is No Way I Can Do This! and Other Lies.”