Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Word of Wisdom, and the Widtsoes

I just finished reading a really wonderful book.  Pretty much the whole book is my favorite quote.  Of course the reason I like this book is because I agree with almost everything it says.  There's full disclosure.

My ancient copy looks just like this:

The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, by John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, a husband-wife couple.  You don't have to read their impressive biographies to know they are intelligent, scientific, and extremely wise people.  You just have to read this book.

Keep in mind it was published in 1938, which makes its insight into our current era of food consumption all the more amazing.  (Even more amazing is that the Word of Wisdom was given in 1833 --- long before the scientific world even knew what a vitamin was.)  The old publication date also means, of course, that some of the research is out of date, at the same time as it might indicate the authors' greater access to traditional food preparation.

Here are some great quotes to get you started:

  • "Faulty nutrition is a contributing factor in many of the diseases that plague civilization."
  • "It is a notable, well-attested observation that primitive peoples are largely freed from the diseases that trouble civilized man most."
  • "As we eat so is the composition of the blood stream, the nature-provided healing agent of the body.
  • "The training of the will is the beginning of personal power; and such training is always initiated by sincere, continuous desire."
  • "Another phase of modern food adulteration is the attempt to make an inferior article so attractive in looks that it may be sold at a first-class price."  (They go on to talk about dying meat redder with sodium sulphite, using food coloring in canned fruits, bleaching wheat flour white, etc.)
  • "A distorted public taste frequently leads to food treatments of possible danger to the consumer."
  • "The public should also be informed concerning cosmetics and toilet articles used so extensively by women."
  • "The best protection against food fraud is to use natural foods and food products, even though the cost may seem higher."
  • "The notation of the adulterant is often printed in very small letters...while the wholesome ingredients are printed in type so large as to shout from the self to the customer."  (This brought to my mind phrases such as "Made with Real Fruit!"  "No Trans Fat!"  "Whole Grains!"  "Natural!"  "Reduced Sugar!")
  • "Another method is to print on the package or loaf --- of a wheat product for example --- that the whole wheat kernel is used, that neither the bran nor the germ have been removed; but it does not state that in the process of preparation the vitamins have been destroyed."
  • "The money spent for education and medical care is small compared with the vast sum spent for advertising unnecessary or harmful commodities on the modern market."
  • "The principles of the Word of Wisdom point securely to the safe and sane way to health through proper nutrition and the use of natural food products, without becoming subject to the attacks of frauds."
  • "The well-nourished body has no unnatural cravings and does not need a 'lift'."
  • "Moral evil is never justified by economic good."
  • "A taste for the right food may be cultivated and maintained as easily as a taste for that which is imperfect or injurious."
  • "It is the duty of everyone to learn the facts concerning human nutrition as known today, to accept confirmed truth and to reject unfounded hypotheses, and to avoid all food fads."
  • "White of egg is the purest form of protein."
  • "Fats are utilized to produce heat and to supply energy for work.  They probably have other, more obscure functions, for if absent from food an intense craving for them ensues."
  • "Some of the fatty acids found in natural fats, as for example in butter, appear to be indispensable to complete health."
  • "Crossness, tiredness, misbehavior and all other symptoms of problem cases, both child and adult, result when the blood has too little calcium."
  • "Parents and teachers should therefore be very sure that they themselves or their so-called 'naughty children' are not innocent victims of mineral shortage and improper nutrition."
  • "When magnesium is omitted from the diet, calcium and phosphorus are drained out of the body so that not enough is left to make an X-Ray picture of the rat's skeleton."
  • "Since the proportions of minerals are not the same in all plants, the use of all edible vegetables is advisable to secure a full mineral ration."
  • "When the food is impoverished in its mineral or vitamin content, miscarriage is apt to result even though the mother may remain in seeming health."
  • "To be unable to take milk is a dietetic tragedy!"
  • "Mineral starvation is felt throughout the entire body and character."
  • "Teeth are an index of correct feeding."
  • "In many cases where people suffer from nettlerash from eating certain fruits, it has been found that these fruits could be eaten more freely if wholemeal bread and flour and other foods which contain more minerals, were substituted for highly refined foods."
  • "One should insist that every vegetable to be found in the market forms some part of a week's food supply."
  • "Much of the mineral content of fruits and some vegetables is found near the skin; for that reason, if possible the skin should be eaten."
  • "Vegetables should not be allowed to soak in water, for their minerals and vitamins are usually soluble."
  • "If kitchen sinks and garbage cans had hearts and lungs they would be the best fed animals in captivity!"
  • "Butter and cream, the yellow fats of meat, with a minimum of salad oil, should form the chief supply of fat in the diet."
  • "Whether vegetarianism is successful depends no doubt upon the intelligent skill with which vegetable food products are selected and combined."
  • "As men found that foods when refined could be stored and transported over long distances without spoiling, certain other diseases have developed."
  • "In communities where good natural food is available, deficiency diseases are rare.  They are often associated with poverty; but unfortunately they are also common today amongst all classes because the food used by many careless or uninformed modern civilized people yields a shortage, in greater or lesser degree, of the different vitamins and minerals.  This is too often due to ignorance of the facts of nutrition, as well as to an unnatural or perverted appetite; or to the desire of unscrupulous persons to profit by sales of devitalized foods."
  • "Since vitamin B is soluble in water it may be stored in the body for a very brief time only and this store is soon exhausted.  Therefore, it should be found plentifully in the daily diet of all ages."
  • "When the gums or any parts of the body bleed easily, it may be taken as a warning that more vitamin C should be taken in the diet." (They note it is found in high quantities in raw summer milk --- if cows are fed in pastures --- and in liver lightly cooked).
  • "Ordinary cow's milk is deficient in vitamin C, except where cows are grass-fed."
  • "Vitamin D stimulates generally the metabolism of the necessary minerals in the cells of the body... there may be ample minerals in the food but without the presence of vitamin D they cannot be used properly."  (They cite a study showing that average duration of labor is much lower in women with sufficient vitamin D levels).
  • "Sunlight is the best physician known to man."
  • "The absence of vitamin E from the diet tends to cause sterility in males and miscarriage in females."
  • "Everyone should eat some raw food, including milk, fruits, and leafy vegetables --- every day if possible."
  • "One must learn to enjoy food prepared by Mother Nature --- she is the best cook.  She knows her job."
  • "A wise daily diet would include two or more cooked vegetables, some raw food in the form of salads, whole grain bread or porridge, an ample supply of milk, eggs and butter, and the use of flesh foods 'sparingly,' which should include occasionally liver, kidneys, brains and sweetbreads."
  • "No artificial product, even though scientifically compounded, can supplant nature's food."
  • "Resistance to infection depends largely upon the food."
  • "It is a dietetic duplication to combine sugar and starchy foods."
  • "Pure sugar is one of the most concentrated foods known, one lump containing an amount equal to that found in about three feet of sugar cane."
  • "The habit of eating rich desserts is an acquired taste." 
  • "Since the substances lost by such milling are valuable human foods, the reasons for producing refined flour, when it would be easier to render the whole kernel into flour, may well be sought."
  • "White flour keeps much better --- weevils and worms do not care for it (they would starve to death on it!)"
  • "Hot breads should be avoided and only a day or two old bread eaten, so that thorough mastication may be encouraged."
  • "One would much rather be healthy though plump than to be thin, if ill-health were the price paid."
  • "It is very likely that diet may be found a valuable ally in the fight against cancer."
  • "Children were meant to be well born; parents must understand what is their share in this grave responsibility." (Referring to offering them proper nutrition).
  • "Whey, which contains the milk sugar and most of the minerals of the milk, is an excellent food... and could, with profit to the health, be more often used in this country."
  • "Carnivorous wild animals are characterized by large livers.  Man has a relatively small liver."
  • "The heavy meat eater does not as a rule eat sufficient amounts of the other necessary foods."
  • "Undoubtedly, if the present amount of meat consumed in America were cut in half, better health, greater resistance to disease, keener zest of life, and truer enjoyment would wait upon the people."
  • "In hot weather the meat intake should be reduced, and vegetable proteins substituted."
  • "The well equipped modern kitchen has a vegetable juice extractor."
  • "There are many possible variations of such delicious health drinks.  Why then tamper with those which are dangerously habit-forming as well as injurious?"
  • "The excessive heat required to brown any food --- even toast --- destroys all vitamins and if it is browned too much it tends to cause a deterioration in the starch and fiber of the grain."
  • "The delicate linings of stomach and alimentary tract are much too precious to be experimented with because questionable artificial flavors are cheaper."
  • "It is wiser to spend a little more money for natural foods than to spend it to cure or alleviate a diseased body." 
  • "Neither man's food nor his drink should be monotonous and of this there is no need, for nature has been lavish in her bestowal of health-giving delights."
  • "If one is cheerful and thankful for all blessings, the food and drink will be greatly enhanced to his good."
  • "Many undernourished children are lacking not good food but proper rest.  The body utilizes its food and restores its energy during rest and sleep."
  • "The mind is connected closely to the body, and is its master.  Love will promote health; hate will undermine it."
  • "Faith, hope and charity, and a constant seeking after the truths of life and the universe, with a determination to accept them when found, form the foundation blocks for good health."
  • "Adherence to the Word of Wisdom reduces the cost of living by the larger use of the less expensive foods."
  • "Humanity has need for the warning and help offered by the Word of Wisdom... There are too many flabby wills; too little self-conquest."
  • "Obedience to the positive factors (of the Word of Wisdom) helps destroy the appetite for the negative factors."

You of course will have to read it to find all the interesting studies cited, and more detailed scientific breakdown of every good nutrient (known in the 1930s).  I so appreciated the wisdom with which the Widtsoes approached the whole topic.  Good, old-fashioned sense.


  1. Here in Cache Valley there's a little free range chicken farm that ventured into pork processing this past year. I bought some smoked bacon from them, and they said it might be different, as they used sea salt and celery seed to preserve it. Then my roommate and I read up on how commercial bacon is made, and thought about all the instances where the commercial is the normal.

    And incidentally, one of my favorite Widtsoe quotes is from one of his dry farming texts: "The desert shall be conquered!"

    1. Processed, packaged meats are a perfect example of "distorted public taste"! I remember the first day Cam and I cooked grass-fed beef together. I couldn't believe how RED it was! And it was distinctly more filling, and delicious!

      Did you find the sea salt/celery preserve to be very different from what you were used to?

  2. Meredith, this is an amazing post. Thank you for sharing this book. I would love to read it myself now.