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Mormons and the Word of Wisdom

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bronco70, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. Bronco70

    Bronco70 world's worst Moderator

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    First off, I would like to respectfully request that this thread doesn't derail/devolve into an argument about the truthfulness or accuracy of the LDS faith, God, or organized religion in general. That has been discussed ad nauseum in multiple other threads. My intent is not to question the validity of the church, but rather to gain some specific insight from other perspectives.

    So you understand, I'm happy in the church. I fulfill my calling, pay my tithing, do my home teaching, etc. This works for me, and my family, and I don't have any qualms with the basic doctrine, either. I have several minor issues with the culture that has evolved within the membership, particularly in Utah, but this is generally of little consequence in regard to my faith. I also have major questions about blacks and the priesthood, but have already pursued that to a dead end. I don't believe I will ever find a satisfying answer in this life. As it was "corrected", I'm willing (begrudgingly) to let it be, for now.

    The Word of Wisdom, however, has me more than a little baffled. Basically, my concerns are related to interpretation of the WoW, and how it has evolved.

    1. Is the WoW a commandment? It's taught as a commandment, and adherence to it is required to gain admission into an LDS temple. But verse 2 reads:

    That seems pretty clear cut to me. What am I missing?

    2. The membership seems to practice (and the authorities allow) selective obedience. Within the WoW, there are several items which are obeyed with militant zeal, while others are acknowledged, but largely disregarded. I find it funny, in a sad way, that some are willing (eager) to thrust judgement and derision on someone who would, say, start his/her morning with a cup of coffee, then discuss (read: gossip) the matter of the sinner's damnation with other pious souls over a double cheeseburger and triple thick Oreo shake. Hypocrisy, really. The Wow promises:

    So, essentially, if you cannot "run and not be weary", you aren't living the WoW correctly.

    3. Interpretation of the relative importance of the WoW has changed over the course of the history of the church. There is plenty of documentation that the WoW was initially observed casually, not only by the membership, but by church authorities, including the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. B.Y. encouraged the membership, if they were going to break the WoW, they should at least profit in it also.

    https://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/jofdvol9p31_40brighamtobacco.htm

    Also, I have read (I don't have any links to back this, nor do I know it to be 100% accurate) that the supplies "punch list" that was given to members preparing to trek across the plains included coffee.

    4. Beer.

    I apologize of I'm overlooking something, but exactly what "mild drink", made from barley, are we talking about here? I know that mormons owned and operated breweries and wineries in the early history of SLC (well after the WoW was received). And that, historically, beer is considered a mild drink. Perhaps, I'm totally in left field with this one, so any insight is appreciated.

    For the record, I have not taken my concerns directly to my bishop. He is truly a nice guy, very understanding and compassionate, but I feel like I already know what he's going to tell me. I have, however, taken the matter to God. I have been praying about it, with real intent, that I would understand and/or be able to see some sense and consistency in it. So far, I haven't. But I plan on staying with that tactic for a while.

    Like I said, my overall faith is not going to be shattered over this. And there are other questions which may be even more important. But this is what is nagging at me right now. TIA.
     
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  2. Dr. Jones

    Dr. Jones In pursuit of #9 Contributor

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    Hats off. It takes guts to be devout yet admit to having questions. I believe every believer, regardless of faith, has some number of questions. I appreciate the honesty much more than those that come off as being a perfect member within the perfect church/religion. We're all flawed.
     
  3. Stoked

    Stoked Modstapo Moderator

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    For me personally I see it as a healthy life style code. I drink about 3 Cokes a day. Truth be told that is probably worse for me than a beer at dinner. I think the WoW has been interpreted by men the way all things eventually are. You have those that follow the letter of the law and those that follow the spirit. I think I lean far more towards the spirit of the law personally.

    I see the people that drink 5 sodas a day as less adherent to the WoW than the guy that has a beer with dinner. Moderation my friends, moderation. Now I also think certain things are down right a violation of the WoW such as heroin.

    Back then the leaders appeared to be more spirit of the law men and now they are more letter of the law. Just my perspective.
     
  4. Scat

    Scat Well-Known Member

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    Bronco, for what it's worth, I'm with you regarding this subject. I would much rather my teen get up in the morning and have a cup of black coffee than drink a 32 oz. soda at lunch. No way you can tell me that the coffee is worse than the soda.
     
    Bronco70 likes this.
  5. Bronco70

    Bronco70 world's worst Moderator

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    I agree with this completely.
     
  6. Beantown

    Beantown Well-Known Member

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    Its funny because I have been thinking about this alot lately. I think the church just totally bans stuff because they can be super super addictive.

    -I enjoy a cup of coffee maybe 10 times a year

    -I have had a beer on vacations maybe 3 times a year

    -I will eat a hamburger 2-3 times a month if that.

    -I dont do drugs, abuse prescriptions drugs, not addicted to soda, candy, foood etc.

    -I can honetly say Im not addcited to anything and eat healthy and exercise. Even though Im not perfect I believe I probably live a healthier life then most members I know.
     
  7. Bronco70

    Bronco70 world's worst Moderator

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    I absolutely believe (as Stoked pointed out) that moderation is the key.
     
  8. franklin

    franklin Well-Known Member

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    You're already a pretty damn funny dude, Bronco. I bet you'll make one helluvan entertaining drunk & I look forward to seeing this.
     
    Chris-L likes this.
  9. Dr. Jones

    Dr. Jones In pursuit of #9 Contributor

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    Yep, just get drunk in moderation!
     
  10. Stoked

    Stoked Modstapo Moderator

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    You can drink in moderation without getting drunk. Really enjoy an ale with your steak or a glass of wine with that italian food? By all means...

    Now if you are going to get drunk then you might as well go for it. No use half assing at that point.
     
  11. Dr. Jones

    Dr. Jones In pursuit of #9 Contributor

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    Dangit. I was hoping you could get drunk in moderation .. you know, just not too often..

    I kid.

    By the way, other than my posts, this has been a very good thread.
     
  12. Beantown

    Beantown Well-Known Member

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    Yea getting drunk throws that whole moderation thing out the window.
     
  13. Zulu

    Zulu Well-Known Member

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    Not to sure where I fall on this subject... I have a friend cough.. Eric.. Cough that has come to the idea that the WOW is completely open to interpretation and always tells me about stuff he has read about past prophets and apostles not obeying the WOW completely. He doesn't really go to much against the taught WOW now, he mainly enjoys an Ice tea every day or so.

    For me there has been time I have consumed alcohol knowingly and unknowingly, when I drank on my senior trip in Australia I felt like I was breaking the WOW and fully repented before I went on my mission a year later.

    Today I follow the word of wisdom the same way I taught it on mission, no alcoholic drinks, no smoking or chewing tobacco, no illegal drugs and don't abuse prescription drugs!

    But I don't really get down on those who casually follow the WOW!! Free agency yo!!
     
  14. Dr. Jones

    Dr. Jones In pursuit of #9 Contributor

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    I have met Zulu more than once. With all my faults I am extremely good at reading people and let me tell you a little about Zulu (relevant);

    This guy I respect as much as I possibly could. He lives his convictions the best he can. He admits he falls short, is imperfect. He can see when others should be trying harder to live a bit better, but refrains from judging. Having said that, I can tell he is legitimately concerned, but lives with a philosophy similar to "if not for the grace of God, there go I."

    He has no pretentiousness about being better for the way he lives, but does feel a sense of healthy pride in the fact.

    Bottom line is, he tries, recognizes he falls short. He doesn't look down his nose at others ..

    Because of this, imo, he is a wonderful witness for his faith.

    (I have had ZERO conversations with Zulu about religion or anything I discussed above .. I can just tell.)
     
  15. margodydek

    margodydek Well-Known Member

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    One of the rules of my mission was that the missionaries were not supposed to drink the tap water. However, when you've been walking all day in 98 degree weather with 90% humidity, and a local offers you a glass of ice water, it's mighty hard to (1) tell them no, and (2) do it in a way that doesn't make you sound like a douche. Needless to say this was one of those rules that very few missionaries obeyed. However, there was a time in mission where my companion and I decided to be 100% obedient and basically challenge the Lord to his promise when he said, "I, the Lord am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." So we did everything by the book, which of course meant that no more tap water. I didn't keep it up for my whole mission and to be honest I never noticed a spike in "spirituality". However, I will say that the most successful time on my mission was during that time.
     
  16. colton

    colton All Around Nice Guy Staff Member

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    I'll give you my responses, Bronco. I've researched this quite a bit myself over the years, so I think my comments are pretty accurate. Hopefully you'll find them helpful.

    1. "Is the WoW a commandment?" -- In the beginning, no. But now yes. Although an argument could be made that it was the will of God that the Saints follow it even in the beginning, else why would it have been given? And what is a commandment other than an expression of the will of God for us to follow? Anyway, as you know it wasn't a requirement for church members to follow the WoW at first. Brigham Young in 1851 went a long ways towards changing that, (if I recall correctly) telling the Saints that it was now the will of God for it to be a full-fledged commandment rather than just a suggestion. The implementation of the commandment was still not complete for another 50-60 years after that, when eventually Pres. Grant made adherence to the prohibitions a standard for temple recommends. The Wikipedia article has some good info on the history of the WoW, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_of_Wisdom if you haven't read it yet. I've got another, more complete source I can email you (a master's thesis on the topic)--if you're interested, send me a PM.

    My take is basically, if you support Brigham Young as prophet and president of the church, and subsequent church presidents, then you support their ability to clarify existing revelation, and/or to modify them as times & circumstances warrant--including in this case to change the WoW into a commandment.

    2. "The membership seems to practice (and the authorities allow) selective obedience" -- Absolutely. But I disagree with your "So, essentially, if you cannot "run and not be weary", you aren't living the WoW correctly" sentence. What about paraplegics, for example? Are you going to say they don't live the WoW correctly? Other counter examples are easy to find. So the "run and not be weary" line doesn't mean that in a literal, absolute sense. I agree that we should be very nonjudgmental towards others--and in fact when my high priest's group was discussing this a couple of months ago, several of the members expressed similar sentiments. I think one of them said something along the lines that "tobacco is one of my very favorite smells at church, because that generally means someone is trying to return to the fold."

    3. "Interpretation of the relative importance of the WoW has changed over the course of the history of the church." -- Sure, see my comments for item 1 above. In addition to the "make a profit from tobacco" stuff at the UTLM link, I also have a relative who worked for a while as a trucker for a beer company. I also knew a man in Wisconsin who worked for years at the local brewery after he joined the church. Heck, I even had a missionary companion who worked as a bartender to save money for his mission! :) As near as I can tell, it's the church's policy that it's sinful for *church members* to partake of the prohibited substances, because we've made covenants not to, but not necessarily sinful for others to do so. I personally do not judge nonmembers at all for, for example, drinking beer*--but I'm grateful for the teachings of the church that have led me myself to never try it. My grandfather was an alcoholic, fortunately sober when I knew him, and who knows? I could easily have ended up one myself.

    By the way, I've browsed the UTLM website a lot, and have looked up many of their references. Unfortunately I've discovered they *frequently* take quotes out of context, and so I've stopped trusting anything from there. At most I'll google a quote from their website to see if I can find it anywhere else with more context. I'm not saying that the quotes are wrong in this case, just that I've stopped trusting them in general.

    4. "Beer." -- I've had non-alcoholic drinks from barley before. I had a member in Germany give me a nonalcoholic beer, for example. And it seems like when I was growing up, my mom stocked Postum in our cupboard, which if I recall correctly is a barley-containing drink as well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postum. So "mild drinks from barley" makes perfect sense to me.


    Final remarks: Something that I think goes largely unnoticed, is that the period of time when the WoW went from being a suggestion in the church to an enforced commandment, ~1860-1920, is exactly the time period when refrigeration became available, first on the commercial scale and then for individual households. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigeration and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator. Alcohol had substantial importance as a preservative in the time period when the WoW was given, but as electric refrigerators became more common, the need to rely on alcohol to preserve things was greatly reduced. I personally feel that's a large reason why the Lord saw fit to change the WoW into a more enforced commandment for the church during those years.


    * but not to the extent of getting drunk
     
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  17. Bronco70

    Bronco70 world's worst Moderator

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    Thanks, colton. That is some material for me to digest. I appreciate the time you took to lay it out like that.

    A couple of things, though...

    Hopefully you give me enough credit to know that one's ability to "run and not be weary" will not always hinge on what one takes into one's body. I was referring, of course, to those who are just plain out of shape, due to bad diet and lack of exercise. I know plenty of mormons like this. But if you were to ask them if they live the word of wisdom, most would answer affirmatively, without hesitation. To me this is an issue. That certain aspects of the WoW don't carry the same weight as others (no pun intended...)

    As far as barley drinks go, on my mission we were instructed to drink a common barley tea (a hot drink, frequently), in lieu of water, so I am aware of barley based drinks that exist, but I have been unable to find evidence of common beverages that would have been made by the people of that time and place other than "beer" and "small beer" (a beer with around 1% alcohol). And while I understand that alcohol may have been needed for preservative purposes, if distillation technology was there, why not just produce potable water?

    Lastly, and this is my biggest hangup, is that all my life I have been taught that God is unchanging - the same yesterday, today, and forever. But the WoW doesn't reflect this. I understand that as mankind and society expand and evolve, some things need to accommodate. The Law of Moses, for example. But to me, the WoW seems like it should be straight forward, and that there is no need for it to apply differently to various generations of the church. From the get go, God could say "Don't consume this, and this, and this..." But perhaps I'm looking at this too simplistically.

    Again, I do appreciate the input from everyone.
     
  18. bigb

    bigb Free at last!!! Contributor

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    Please note I'm not trying to be a smartass when I say this, but that wouldn't work. How would Joseph Smith have known what the heck God was saying if He'd said "Don't smoke ganja, heroin, or crack. Don't snort cocaine. Don't abuse oxycodone or percocet."

    Personally, I've always found it amusing when people are so black and white with most of the Gospel "laws". I think we all do the best we can with the limited knowledge and understanding we have and God sorts it out in the end. Personally, I choose not to drink. I tried it in high school and didn't like it, that's the reason I choose not to. Not because some Seminary teacher told me not to.
     
  19. Chris-L

    Chris-L Well-Known Member

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    As someone who has known him almost 20 years, this is spot on. And is the reason he is about the only person from the church who still calls me a friend (and i him) after me not attending for 15+ years. My brother Eric is the same way, live your life the way you see best, and cast no judgement on others for doing it differently. I drink quite often, and i smoke. Because of that most of the people i grew up with in the church have chosen to not have a relationship with me in any form. Even my LDS neighbors won't let their children be friends with my children because choices me and my wife make that do not align with what they believe. It's hard for me to understand how people can let personal moral choices define every aspect of their lives so significantly.
     
  20. franklin

    franklin Well-Known Member

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    I'm plenty buzzed right now so take this for what it's worth...

    My view on this is God (Jesus) has a Work of perfecting humanity and that takes incremental steps. Was Eve to be born with all knowing knowledge? If so then what is the point of continual advancement over time? IMO, if there is a God then nursing humanity along is logical PROGRESSION.

    Look, if we're going the "God is unchanging" route then there really is no need for neandertha man, Noah's water conquest, kingdom fighting conquests, or any African racism angle. God could have started humanity with every single piece of knowledge possible and we'd be fighting the good vs. evil battle until every last soul has taken a body.
     

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