When the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) in 1833, he was told, among other things:
"And again, tobacco is not . . . good for man." (verse 8.)What the Prophet was told 163 years ago may not have been common knowledge back then, but that certainly is not the case now. There is considerable medical evidence today that tobacco is harmful and we should leave it alone.
But, according to the World Health Organization, many people substantially underestimate the risks of smoking.
"Smokers and non-smokers alike often do not fully appreciate the health risks of tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking," states the health organization. "The latest epidemiological studies indicate that death rates for smokers are two to three times higher than for non-smokers of all ages. If current smoking trends persist, about 500 million people currently alive, nearly 9 percent of the world's population, will eventually die as a result of tobacco."
That's a staggering projection.
"People who die from tobacco use do not die only in old age," the World Health Organization reports. "About half of all smokers who are killed by tobacco die in middle age. On average, these smokers who die in middle age lose about 20-25 years of life expectancy."
Consider further information provided by the World Health Organization, which each year promotes a World No-Tobacco Day. This year that day is May 31.
- Smoking causes about one-sixth of all deaths in developed countries.
- In areas where tobacco use has been common for several decades, tobacco is likely to be the most important risk of death in middle age.
- In the United States, it has been estimated that the annual risk of death from smoking is about 7,000 per million smokers, more than 60 times the risk of work-related fatalities, over 1,000 times the risk of death from air pollutants and 3,500 times the risk of electrocution.
- Also in the United States, among 1,000 20-year-olds who smoke cigarettes regularly, on average, six will die from homicide before reaching age 70, 12 from traffic accidents, but 250 will die from smoking before reaching age 70.
- In the 1990s, smoking is estimated to be the cause of one in five male deaths and one in 17 female deaths from cardiovascular diseases in developed countries.
- Smoking causes about 30 percent of all cancer deaths in developed countries. On average, about 90-95 percent of male lung cancer deaths and 70-75 percent of female lung cancer deaths in developed countries are due to smoking.
When the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith that tobacco is not good for man, He didn't offer any explanation, any reason why. Just a simple, direct statement. But why should the Lord have to explain His commands? Is it not reason enough that it came from an all-wise and all-knowing Creator for our benefit?
In the case of tobacco, science and medicine have given us plenty of reasons to totally avoid its use. Indeed, tobacco is injurious to the body and mind, damaging the heart, brain, nervous system, kidneys, lungs, muscular system, etc. But there is another aspect. Tobacco is also harmful to the spirit.
That could have eternal consequences for Latter-day Saints.
Those who use tobacco and violate the Word of Wisdom forfeit their opportunity to enter the temple, thereby giving up the blessings that come therein. They also forfeit many opportunities to serve in the kingdom, depriving themselves of the blessings that come from such service.
President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of the spiritual blessings of keeping the Word of Wisdom when he said:
"I am sure that a deeper value comes from the observance of the Word of Wisdom than the mere length of life, for after all we must finally all pass away. . . . Though we do wish to continue our mortal existence as long as we can, I am confident that there are greater blessings which will come to us than the strictly physical.
". . . The living of the Word of Wisdom is a test. Perhaps
the LordT chose to make a part of this test those things which would be universally used and would take character and courage and strength to leave alone. If one obeys the Word of Wisdom only because of the physical, perhaps it is of the letter. But if he can stand the test and prove himself, that he will obey the commandments of God, then it is of the spirit, and he will reap rich blessings." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 203.)