“Shouldn’t it also be a ‘sin’ to overeat?” Ensign, June 1975, 21–22
Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D.
Let’s first discuss Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, known as the Word of Wisdom. This revelation was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in direct answer to a question. He had been offended at the density of the smoke in the room where he was attempting to hold the School of the Prophets, the same room in which many of his other revelations were also received. [D&C 89]
The prophet’s wife, Emma, was also offended by some of the men spitting tobacco on the floor. As a result, Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord about the use of tobacco by the elders. He received as an answer the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom.
The Word of Wisdom was not intended to be a complete law of health. It answered the Prophet’s questions about tobacco, prohibited the use of alcohol and hot drinks, and counseled us to eat meat sparingly. It also made some remarkable promises about the blessings we shall receive if we obey this counsel.
Now, what about overeating? I am reminded of the admonition found in Section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “For behold it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant. …” (D&C 58:26.)
The Lord hasn’t given us a specific revelation on overeating, but neither has he given us a specific one on narcotics, sleeping pills, pep pills, or tranquilizers, or on rest or exercise. He has, however, given us some excellent guidelines. We have been taught that our body is a holy temple and that we must take care of it. Through his servants we have been counseled to develop good habits of rest, exercise, and physical hygiene.
The Lord does not want us to become a slave to anything, whether it is alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, food, or just plain laziness. We are on earth to learn to discipline our minds and our bodies in order to become capable of even greater things.
When our appetites control us, when we neglect to keep our bodies and minds in the best possible condition, we may not be literally breaking the Word of Wisdom, but we are neglecting a sacred trust that the Lord has given to us when he gave us our marvelous bodies.
As is usual, the counsel from the Lord on this subject is reinforced by medical research. Studies around the world show a correlation between high blood pressure and obesity, which probably accounts for the greatly increased death rate of obese persons. Individuals with mildly elevated blood pressure have a death rate two and a half times higher than those with normal blood pressure. As the blood pressure increases, so does the death rate.
Other diseases and ailments are also more common in obese individuals, including diabetes, which is four times more common in this group.
In addition to the above problems, an obese person is often unhappy with himself and his appearance, and his activities may be restricted by his excess weight.