Friday, May 03, 2013

Want to Live Longer? Try Living Like A Mormon.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If the general population knows anything about Mormons, it's that we avoid certain substances: coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, etc.  It's an avoidance that definitely sets us apart, not to mention helps us live longer.*  Many people probably don't know the specifics behind why members of the LDS Church adhere to such a strict health code.  Scott A. Johnson, an LDS naturopathist living in Utah, would like that to change.  If non-Mormons followed the counsel given by the Lord to the prophet Joseph Smith (which is set forth in the 89th section of the Doctrine & Covenants) and Mormons paid stricter heed to it, he believes, all would benefit.  Anyone who's been through Primary knows that the so-called "Word of Wisdom" is a principle with a promise to all who follow it.  Johnson reiterates just what those promises are—good health, knowledge, energy, and the spiritual blessings that accompany obedience.  
Johnson doesn't expect readers (especially those who are not Mormon) to just take it on faith.  Not at all.  In his new book, The Word of Wisdom: Discovering the LDS Code of Health, he goes through the Word of Wisdom with a fine-tooth comb, giving scientific evidence to support the principles within.  He elaborates on many of the topics, including the dangers of eating too many animal products (including milk!) and the advantage of using herbal remedies to encourage the body's natural healing processes.  While Johnson focuses on parts of the revelation which aren't usually emphasized (herbs, for instance), he backs up what he's saying with science, scripture, and personal experience.  Still, Johnson's approach will no doubt feel a little radical to most of us.  While I think nothing of abstaining from coffee, tobacco and alcohol (which I've done all my life, with no ill effects), I balk a little at the idea of shunning convenience foods in favor of organic ones.  While I know it would be beneficial health-wise, it feels a little too granola girl for practical, uncomplicated me! 

Still, Johnson brings up some great points, which definitely make his case for eating more naturally.  What I feel is missing from his book, though, is practical solutions for busy individuals and families.  To me, the information he presented felt overwhelming instead of encouraging.  Plus, the book's written in a rather clinical way that makes it both very dense and a bit dull for the average reader.  Even though The Word of Wisdom: Discovering the LDS Code of Health is less than 100 pages (not including Appendices), my attention wandered every time Johnson slipped into scientist-speak (which was often).  Sometimes it felt like I was reading a Nutrition textbook, when what I really wanted was more of a handbook, with both basic information and ideas to help implement more healthful living into my daily life.  

Overall, I think the book is helpful, well-written and full of sound principles.  I just felt overloaded with information and under-armed with real-life solutions.  In other words, I believe in what Dr. Johnson is saying (especially since he's reiterating what was said in a revelation I believe came from God), I just don't know how to do it, if that makes any sense.  The book definitely made me think, though, and that's always a good thing.  

* According to demographic research referenced in the book (resource listed on Page 117), LDS males in Utah live 7.3 years longer than their non-LDS counterparts, while LDS females live 5.8 years longer than non-member females in Utah.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  G for nothing offensive

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Word of Wisdom: Discovering the LDS Code of Health from the generous folks at Cedar Fort via the author, Scott Johnson.  Thank you!

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