“This Word of Wisdom”

Nobody likes to be told what to do. Maybe that’s why the Lord so often teaches us gently and seeks to persuade rather than compel.

In 1833, when the Lord provided guidance about how to care for our bodies, He called it “a Word of Wisdom,” given by “greeting; not by commandment or constraint” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:1-2). Did this mean that people could safely ignore the instructions or that the Lord didn’t care how they responded? Of course not. These instructions were intended to enlighten their minds so that they could make more informed decisions. By willingly following the guidance, they would receive the promised blessings.

When we are baptized, we declare that we are willing to keep the commandments of God. (See 2 Nephi 31:10, 13-14, Mosiah 21:35, Alma 7:15.) We make the same declaration every time we partake of the sacrament. (See 3 Nephi 18:10, Moroni 4:3.) “Willing” means we don’t have to be compelled. We don’t look for an “out.” We want to follow Him.

Mormon lamented that his people were unpersuadable:

When I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.

Moroni 9:4

What if we don’t agree with the direction we’re given? This gives us a tremendous opportunity (1) to demonstrate our trust in the Lord and (2) to learn from Him. Sometimes, we receive instructions from the Lord which we don’t understand. (Consider, for example, Mormon’s testimony that God had “whispered” some directions to him “for a wise purpose” known only to God: Words of Mormon 1:7.) However more commonly, the instructions themselves are meant to teach us principles which we can then apply more broadly. The Word of Wisdom was not meant as a checklist. It is a mindset which enables us to make wise decisions about how we nourish and maintain our bodies. The more accurately we understand the principles taught in the revelation, the more empowered we are to make good decisions independently.

Today I will obey God willingly. I will seek to align my will with His and to understand the principles He is teaching me through the instruction He provides.

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