Prophecy fulfilled

". . . In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation - "

D&C 89:4The grim figures are staggering, and they keep accumulating with numbing regularity.

In just the past few months we have been told in news reports that:

Tobacco use was the biggest underlying cause of death in the United States in 1990, accounting for 400,000 fatalities, according to researchers of the U.S. Public Health Service and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alcohol usage was responsible for 100,000 deaths, according to the same study.

Two thirds of all homicides and serious assaults involve alcohol, noted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health philanthropic organization, in a report to the American Public Health Association.

Alcohol abuse was also involved in one out of four family problems and in one of three failed marriages, said the same study.

Lung cancer, traceable to increased smoking, has passed breast cancer as the leading cause of death among U.S. women, of whom some 53,000 will die this year from the disease, according to the American Medical Association.

Passive smoking, the inhalation of second-hand smoke by non-smokers, has been linked by the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, with tens of thousands of heart-disease deaths each year. It's the third leading cause of avoidable fatal disease, behind smoking itself and alcohol.

Five hundred million people - a staggering number twice the size of the entire U.S. population - who are now living are doomed to die of tobacco-caused diseases. More than 200 million of those are children or teenagers, according to a report to the Seventh World Congress on Tobacco and Health held in Perth, Australia.

The danger is that we lose all perspective when we deal with death rates this large, especially when they are often brought about over a long period of time and they involve a personal choice of behavior. Equally perplexing to the medical community is the passive response that such figures elicit among society at large.

Members of the Church have read these reports with mixed feelings. Too many loved ones have suffered and died, too many marriages have failed and too many lives have been destroyed for us to feel any sense of vindication. The world is now coming around to seeing the dangers the Lord so clearly warned us of generations ago.

It's been 160 years since Joseph Smith, bothered by the usage of tobacco in the 3-year-old Church, asked the Lord for guidance. The Lord's response, known throughout the years as the Word of Wisdom, is in the 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

It has now proven itself as a striking example of prophecy fulfilled. It was given in a day when medicine was in its infancy - before the germ theory of disease, before anesthesia, before even a solid understanding of how the body regulates itself, and in a day of folk medicines. But the counsel was absolutely on target. Your own doctor will give you the same advice today.

Church members used to feel peculiar in their adherence to the revelation. While they obeyed it on grounds of faith and common sense, they were surrounded by good people who saw no point to it. No more. The world has come to recognize that the instructions given on frontier America are essential to living a healthy life.

The focus is now on other, prescient parts of the Word of Wisdom. Consider its warning about "conspiring men" in this light:

Tobacco companies, faced with declining usage in the United States, are turning their attention to a world market. The market in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union amounts to 700 billion cigarettes annually - 40 percent larger than the United States, according to the New York Times. The trend has encompassed Latin America, Africa and Asia. That in turn has caught the attention of health officials in those countries and of the World Health Organization, which encourages them to take up the anti-smoking cause.

Besides the blessings of temporal health, the Lord also promised spiritual blessings: that they will find "great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures." (See D&C 89:19.)

The Word of Wisdom has shown itself to be much more than a quaint dietary code. It is a proven revelation and an unshakable testimony that the Lord does speak in these latter days.

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