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Saturday, March 12, 2005 

Someday, when I'm drunk

The Word of Wisdom is one of the great touchstones of mormonism, along with the Book of Mormon and polygamy. So, when it's gone, what will you drink first?

D&C 89 began as special counsel for our day, and has morphed over time into a kind of Christian Kosher. Someday, we may have official Talmudic intepretations of the law, perhaps finally justifying why we may drink Coke but not coffee (though Jim F. has thoughts on that topic). But I don't view the Word of Wisdom is a permanent fixture, nor do I believe that it directly concerns issues of morality the way our other commandments do. As a result, I frequently get the impression that the WoW will not continue in its present state.

D&C 89 is addressed to us particularly in the Latter Days, "in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist." This suggests to me that it is a reaction, a protectionary measure rather than a series of eternal laws. In particular, the section responds to concerns of poisoning and of indebtedness to Gentiles for alcohol (much has also been made of the folk legends involving chewing tobacco at the School of the Prophets). When these concerns are no longer an issue, will we see a return to the use of, say, alcoholic beverages within the Church, using "wine of our own make" (moonshine)? Would it affect the heart of D&C 89 if current interpretation permitted the drinking of a glass of wine a day, for instance? No -- in fact, this would go with the overall message, that of moderation.

The WoW has impacted my life for good and bad. I suspect that I will never enjoy cocktail parties or hanging out in bars. I had the pleasure of being the designated driver every weekend in high school. I also linger in the coffee aisle in the supermarket, sniffing the forbidden beans. Living in France was challenging, because smoking and drinking are national pastimes. Lately, my drinking, smoking friends can still run faster and further. I run and am weary. But yes, there have been treasures of knowledge I've enjoyed, being free of chemical dependency and being set apart from the world. It's been a great choice.

What does that choice mean? Does the Word of Wisdom involve issues of moral gravity like other commandments? I think the answer is no. Drinking coffee cannot be compared to adultery, theft, idolatry, or any other commandment. I believe the closest cousin to WoW transgressions are those of Sabbath-breaking, which seems a commonplace sin (a "péché mignon," as the French would say). It seems odd to me that it can keep you out of the Temple, because I don't see how those dietary rules affect our souls in the same way as these other laws. The best answer I can come up with is that D&C 89 is a very effective measure of how we obey laws we do not always understand. It is an Adamic form of sacrifice in that respect.

If we are to look for eternal structure within the Word of Wisdom, I would suggest that we should look to its spirit of moderation and the counsels of a healthy diet. I feel that it is pointless for us to talk about tannic acid or biblical fruit juices or caffeine or mitichlorians or any similar rationales for the diet as currently interpreted. We do these things to try and form a solid, immutable structure around a commandment that was given in our day, and was shaped and moulded by revelation -- but D&C 89 remains inherently a matter of practice rather than of theological intepretation.

Others here have highlighted how the WoW has afforded them health, strength and spiritual confidence, and I believe the promises made in the WoW are true. That said, in my opinion the particular diet mandated by D&C 89 is not an eternal concept. The scriptures indicate that Jesus will return to partake of wine with his disciples, so we can say that D&C 89 will not last indefinitely in its current state.

Anyways, what this boils down to is this: I keep the Word of Wisdom because it is a commandment, and part of the practice of a believing Latter-Day Saint. I don't know why we necessarily need all of it, outside of the general principles it contains, but I obey it and enjoy blessings from obedience and from a healthy lifestyle. And when I can drink, I plan on drinking this.

And here is a link to some amazing anti-alcohol posters from the Soviet Union. They are an artistic leap ahead of Mormonads, yet a mere half-step away from For the Strength of Youth.

Steve Evans

i've thought the same things about the WOW as you have. although i don't see it ever going away. some historians theorize that it gained its importance in the sphere of mormonism due to the discontinuance of the practice of polygamy. up until the beginning of the 20th century polygamy was the main tribal identifier of the mormons. when it ceased to be practiced the leaders placed a greater emphasis on the WOW, which took the place as one of the main outward expressions of mormonism. most members don't realize that the WOW was never considered mandatory until heber j. grant's presidency. drinking and smoking were not uncommon among the early saints in OH, MO, IL, and UT.

it's kind of strange to me how elevated the WOW has become among the general membership. i knew plenty of mormon kids in high school that would never touch a drop of alcohol, but had no problem w/ heavy petting. very warped if you ask me.

I really appreciate your post. The reason I couldn’t really write on this weeks topic is because I respect the LDS adherence to the Word of Wisdom the same way I respect my Catholic friend Mick’s decision to never eat meat on Friday’s or my Jewish friend Ariel’s decision to never eat meat at all. But if I could throw the Word of Wisdom to the side I would love to throw a cocktail party when my parents come to visit, one in the most beautiful fashion where all of my friends drop in for a martini and get to meet my wonderful parents and my wonderful parents get to meet my wonderful friends. I would also like my parents, who are extremely culinary by nature, to experience some of the amazing food they prepare with a wonderful wine that compliments the flavor perfectly… I would like this just as much as they would wish that I didn’t drink at all. But in my opinion the Word of Wisdom is about a commitment one makes to their Lord, a commitment I would never ask anyone to compromise, but like you mention, and “M” mentions as well, I don’t think it really has as much to do with health as many like to claim. If this were the case the Mormon community would be much healthier as a whole then they are, but instead they have discovered different vices which create unhealthiness.

Steve... great post! I would love to join you in a glass of that wine when the day comes. ;)

Gee, Steve, if you were a real lawyer it would have been a glass of Pomeroy's plonk, or perhaps a bottle, from a good year, of Chateau Thames Embankment.

Great post! When the Word of Wisdom gets rescinded, I'll celebrate it the way people celebrated the repeal of prohibition--I'll drink early and drink often. Before I imbibe, however, I'll light up a full flavor cigarette--none of that low-tar crap here. Then I'd start off with an Irish coffee (coffee with whiskey) just to make sure that I am covering all the bases. But my second drink would be a gin martini, prepared how we like 'em on the east coast: extra dry, straight up, with a twist.

Does Heavenly Father smoke. It's a wonderful pastime, and the tar and nicotine cannot possibly damage a perfected body.

I agree that adherance to the W o W is disproportionate to the adherance of, say, morality, sometimes...and that we cling to it because it makes us unique and "apart", but I also think that if ever God gave us a hand book for maintaining good health of a body...the WoW is as close as it gets. I think getting too nitty gritty about the WoW would take away a large part of our agency and responsibility, or else the Lord would be constantly adding to the list of no-no's:

Twinkies
Marie Calendar's Chicken Pot Pies
Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Mac & Cheese

basically anything processed and unhealthy...

Cigars.
Or a pipe.
I love the smell.

First drink will be a Lipton's iced tea. The next drink will be a scotch.

I too am somewhat mystified about the elevation of the WoW in these latter days. Certainly I can see the wisdom in it. There are advantages to having an alcohol and drug free congregation.

However, I am fairly certain that Mormons, of all people, could benefit from the wondrous effects of coffee. I am actually quite certain that when we get to the pearly gates of heaven we will be warmly welcomed with chocolate covered espresso beans and when those gates open it will be Starbucks and other assorted various sundry coffee houses as far as the eye can see. The more righteous you are, the finer the blend.

I hope you are correct and that I won't have to wait until I die to enjoy a nice cup of joe again. I will order up a Venti Guatamlan Antigua with cream and splenda. Just the thought makes me think of the tune "What a Wonderful World".

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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