Wheat for Man

Okay, we’ve previously touched on a number of Word of Wisdom topics: medicinal marijuana, chicken marsala, meat eating. And we all know about the tobacco and alcohol part. But what on earth are we to think of the strange grains list? In case you had forgotten it, D & C 89:16-17 reads:

16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

What an odd list. So, men are supposed to eat wheat. Corn is for the ox, oats for the horse, rye and barley for animals. Other staple grains (notably rice, but also sorghum and millet, and non-grain soy) are ignored. (Well, they’re lumped into the back, which looks like they’re being classified as animal feed).

Are these verses part of the Word of Wisdom “requirements”? Should our missionaries, as they tell people to stop smoking and drinking, also be telling people to stop eating corn and rice and start eating wheat? Does this verse impact the longstanding debate over the Word of Wisdom and various low-carb diets? (And what about people with gluten intolerance? Doomed to hellfire and damnation?) Note that the placement of these verses, directly before the promise, suggests that they are pretty important. Do you need to be eating wheat in order to secure the promise that destroying angel will pass you by?

Pass the crackers, please.

14 comments for “Wheat for Man

  1. Matt Evans
    September 14, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    I think v16 answers your specific questions, but you’re right that v17 is confusing, especially concerning the purpose of the opening word ‘nevertheless.’

  2. September 14, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    Black coffee is out. So really tough Mormons have to resort to wheat mush, straight up, no sugar or milk.

  3. Janey
    September 14, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Personally, I wish the Church would decanonize D&C 89 and issue a “Proclamation on the Law of Health” instead. It would get rid of a lot of confusion about why something labeled “word of wisdom” talks about eating requirements instead of education. It would also make it so we don’t have to do mental gymnastics to get the current doctrine (no coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs) out of the actual text.

  4. Mark B
    September 14, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    If human beings would quit eating oats and their illegitimate offspring, oatmeal and Cheerios, we would have long since been spared having to see Wilford Brimley hawk the inedible junk on television, and the custodians of the church would join together in singing praises:

    Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy!

  5. Bryce I
    September 14, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Apparently, Mark B. is not Scottish.

    Oats,—a grain which is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.—Samuel Johnson: Dictionary of the English Language.

    If human beings would quit eating Cheerios, the custodians of the church songs of praise would be drowned out by the cacophony of petulant children wondering why they are being asked to sit quietly against their pure nature.

    BTW, didn’t the Church get rid of custodians in favor of “member involvement” a while ago?

  6. Kaimi
    September 14, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    So really tough Mormons have to resort to wheat mush, straight up, no sugar or milk.

    I don’t know, Danithew. That’s got water in it too. I don’t see anything about water in verse 17. (Unless, of course, you’re making your wheat mash with mild beer — then it’s okay).


  7. D. Fletcher
    September 14, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Quite a number of people I know have gluten allergies. No wheat for them.

  8. September 14, 2004 at 6:57 pm

    I’ve kind of wondered how we should square the Word of Wisdom suggestions/prohibitions with the South Beach Diet. As far as I can tell, carbs are very much a part of what is allowed by the WoW. Maybe I could obey both by drinking a low-carb “small” beer … :)

  9. Ashleigh
    September 14, 2004 at 7:58 pm

    This reminded me of an article I read about a little girl being denied her first communion due to a wheat allergy.


  10. D. Fletcher
    September 14, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    A family in our Stake all have the gluten allergy. They provide their own sacrament bread to the priests, who bless it in its own tray.

  11. diogenes
    September 14, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    Quite a number of people I know have gluten allergies.

    Probably celiac sprue, actually — not an allergy, but an autoimmune reaction.

    In which case, give the wheat to the ox and eat the corn yourself. Or tef, or quinoa, or buckwheat, which aren’t mentioned anymore than rice or millet.

  12. Julie in Austin
    September 14, 2004 at 10:36 pm


    I’m a South Beach fan (when I’m not pregnant, anyway) and I don’t see a WoW conflict: whole grains are fine. There’s nothing in the WoW that demands the use of refined grains and sugar.

  13. September 15, 2004 at 11:35 am

    Julie, thanks for the correction. I have made the mistake of thinking that carbs=grains which isn’t wholly true. I just know that my wife kind of frowns at me when I reach for the bread.

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