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The Continuing Importance of the Word of Wisdom


In the October 2016 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Monson devoted his Saturday evening Priesthood Session address to the Word of Wisdom, the Latter-day Saint law of health, originally received in 1833. Some might have been surprised that of all the possible topics to choose from, President Monson spoke on this subject. But we easily forget the importance and value of this health code.

Among other things, the World of Wisdom prohibits the use of tobacco and alcohol. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use is one of the world's greatest health threats, killing around six million people each year, including over half a million deaths from second-hand smoke. The Australian government recognises tobacco use as one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia, killing an estimated 15,000 Australians each year and costing Australia $31.5 billion in social, health and economic costs annually.

The World Health Organization also estimates that globally over three million deaths annually are attributable to the use of alcohol. In Australia over 5,000 deaths and over 150,000 hospitalizations were due to alcohol consumption in 2010, with the number of deaths increasing by 62 per cent since the study was last undertaken a decade previously. A recent study put the annual economic cost of alcohol abuse in Australia at $36 billion in direct costs, foregone wages, hospital expenses, child protection expenses, and indirect societal costs. The same study reported a horrific toll in abuse with 70,000 Australians annually the target of alcohol-related assault, including 24,000 adult victims and 20,000 child victims of alcohol-related domestic violence.

In contrast to these costs, Medical Daily recently reported health benefits of the Word of Wisdom and the Mormon lifestyle, translating into years-longer average life-spans for Latter-day Saints.

Health and healthcare costs, including curbing substance abuse, are a major priority for governments around the world. In Samoa the Prime Minister is taking note of the role that churches and their teachings can play in improving his nation's health. Governments around the world would be well-advised to follow the Samoan Prime Minister's advice.

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