In Sunday School today I stumbled across a familiar phrase in an unexpected place. I recognized the wording from the LDS scripture passage D&C 89:18, but here I was reading it in Proverbs 3:8: “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”
In both places, it is given as a blessing coupled with a commandment. This spurred me on to a wider study of the Word of Wisdom1 and the promises it offers for obedience to its principles. As it happens, each of the Word of Wisdom promises can be found in the Bible with no apparent connection to any health regulations.
The Word of Wisdom promises
Here are the direct promises attached to the Word of Wisdom as listed in D&C 89:18–21:
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; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. 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.
The same promises in the Bible
Here are some alternate means of obtaining the same promises in the Old and New Testaments:
Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. (Proverbs 3:7-8, emphasis added)
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3, emphasis added)
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, emphasis added)
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. (Exodus 12:21-23, emphasis added)
As I read them, all of these promises are connected to various forms of faith or trust in the Lord, especially the last one in connection with the idea of Christ being our passover lamb according to 1 Cor. 5:7.
What does this mean?
Believing as I do that Joseph Smith was either a great deceiver or was himself deceived, it would be easy for me to jump to the conclusion that he (or whoever had deceived him) was trying to replace trust in Jesus with adherence to health regulations, something that is patently dangerous when you consider Paul’s counsel in Colossians 2:16-23.
I hate jumping to conclusions, though, and would much rather give people the benefit of the doubt, so let’s think about this critically for a moment. We should all be familiar with the famous passage in D&C 130:20, which states, “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
In light of the above, I’d like to ask some open-ended, honest questions about this passage and the LDS belief regarding it: Is there a one-to-one relationship between these blessings and the laws upon which they are predicated? Could there be multiple laws leading to the same blessings? If so, would I need to keep all the laws in order to reap the blessing, or would only keeping one or the other be sufficient? These questions may seem nit-picky, but I think they deserve some serious thought. Whether you are LDS or not, I’m very interested to hear your views.