29) SICK: What are some things we can do when we are sick?

Prophetic Statements

Joseph Smith

I preached to a large congregation at the stand, on the science and practice of medicine, and desiring to persuade the saints to trust in God when sick, and not in an arm of flesh, and live by faith and not by medicine, or poison; and when they were sick, and had called for the Elders to pray for them, and they were not healed, to use herbs and mild food. [1]

Brigham Young

To explain how much confidence we should have in God, were I using a term to suit myself, I should say implicit confidence. I have faith in my God, and that faith corresponds with the works I produce. I have no confidence in faith without works. Shall I explain this? I do not think I can fully present the idea to your understanding, but I will a portion of it; and to do so, I will refer to a circumstance that transpired in Nauvoo. A President of the Elders’ Quorum, old father Baker, was called upon to visit a very sick woman, a sister in the Church; they sent for him to lay hands upon her. It was a very sickly time, and there was scarcely a person to attend upon the sick, for nearly all were afflicted. Father Baker was one of those tenacious, ignorant, self-willed, overrighteous Elders, and when he went into the house he enquired what the woman wanted. She told him that she wished him to lay hands upon her. Father Baker saw a teapot on the coals, and supposed that there was tea in it, and immediately turned upon his heels, saying, “God don’t want me to lay hands on those who do not keep the Word of Wisdom,” and he went out. He did not know whether the pot contained catnip, pennyroyal, or some other mild herb, and he did not wait for anyone to tell him. That class of people are ignorant and overrighteous, and they are not in the true line by any means.

You may go to some people here, and ask what ails them, and they answer, “I don’t know, but we feel a dreadful distress in the stomach and in the back; we feel all out of order, and we wish you to lay hands upon us.” “Have you used any remedies?” “No. We wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed.” That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and to ask my Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, to sanctify that application to the healing of my body; to another this may appear inconsistent.

If a person afflicted with a cancer should come to me and ask me to heal him, I would rather go the graveyard and try to raise a dead person, comparatively speaking. But supposing we were traveling in the mountains and all we had or could get, in the shape of nourishment, was a little venison, and one or two were taken sick, without anything in the world in the shape of healing medicine within our reach, what should we do? According to my faith, ask the Lord Almighty to send an angel to heal the sick. This is our privilege, when so situated that we cannot get anything to help ourselves. Then the Lord and his servants can do all. But it is my duty to do, when I have it in my power. Many people are unwilling to do one thing for themselves, in case of sickness, but ask God to do it all.

A portion of our community have so much confidence in God, even men and women in this city, that if you put in their possession five bushels of wheat, they will dispose of it and trust in God for their food for a year to come. To me this is inconsistent; I know nothing about the consistency of such a confidence in God. But to me it is consistent for the poor man, or woman, that has been gleaning wheat, and has saved five or ten bushels, to lay it up for a time of need; though I understand that some of them are trying to sell it. Poor men and women who have had to beg for the last six months, and who have had nothing but what they obtained through charity, but who have now obtained a few bushels of wheat, are ready to sell it for something of no intrinsic worth, trusting in God to provide for them. This is inconsistent to me.

How shall I present consistent faith and religion, so that you may comprehend the subject? I will do my best, and leave the event with God. I believe, according to my understanding of the principles of eternal truth, that I should have implicit faith in our God; and when we are where we have no help for ourselves in the case of diseases, that we have the right to ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to administer by His power and heal the sick, and I am sure it will be done to those who have implicit confidence in Him.

Again, in regard to food, implicit faith and confidence in God is for you and I to do everything we can to sustain and preserve ourselves; and the community that works together, heart and hand, to accomplish this, their efforts will be like the efforts of one man. The past year was a hard one for us with regard to provisions, but I never had one faltering feeling in reference to this community’s suffering, provided all had understood their religion and lived it. Some few understand their religion and live it; others make a profession, without understanding their religion, and do not live it; consequently there has been a lack of union of effort to sustain ourselves, which has made it very hard for the few.

Suppose that we had done our best and had not raised one bushel of grain this year, I have confidence enough in my God to believe that we could stay here, and not starve to death. If all our cattle had died through the severity of the past winter, if the insects had cut off all our crops, if we still proved faithful to our God and to our religion, I have confidence to believe that the Lord would send manna and flocks of quails to us. But He will not do this, if we murmur and are neglectful and disunited. (Journal of Discourses Vol.4  pg.24-25)

If you want a revolution go to work to improve yourselves and give your minds something to act upon instead of looking at the faults of others. We are a poor, feeble set and have hardly eyes to see; and many of those who have eyes see not, but are constantly watching the weaknesses and follies of each other. Endeavor with all your mind and strength to improve yourselves and ask your sisters and brethren to improve their lives. I am preaching to you practical religion. Learn to take proper care of your children. If any of them are sick, the cry now, instead of “Go and fetch the Elders to lay hands on my child!” is, “Run for a doctor.” Why do you not live so as to rebuke disease? It is your privilege to do so without sending for the Elders. You should go to work to study and see what you can do for the recovery of your children. If a child is taken sick with fever give it something to stay that fever or relieve the stomach and bowels, so that mortification may not set in. Treat the child with prudence and care, with faith and patience, and be careful in not overcharging it with medicine. If you take too much medicine into the system, it is worse than too much food. But you will always find that an ounce of preventive is worth a pound of cure. Study and learn something for yourselves. It is the privilege of a mother to have faith and to administer to her child; this she can do herself, as well as sending for the Elders to have the benefit of their faith. 1

Spencer W. Kimball

We should do all we can for ourselves first: dieting, resting, taking simple herbs known to be effective, and apply common sense, especially to minor troubles. Then we could send for the elders…Frequently, this is all that is required, and numerous healings can be affected. In serious cases where the problems are not solved, we turn to our skilled and helpful men who can help us so wonderfully.” [2]


Exodus 23:25

And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

  1. The Teachings of Joseph Smith, p. 28; History of the Church 4:414
  2. “President Kimball Speaks Out on Administration to the Sick,” New Era, October 1981, p. 50.
  1. JOD, 13:155
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