WoW: Tying Up Loose Ends
Yesterday's post about the Word of Wisdom went a little crazy. In less than 24 hours it entered the top 10 of my most viewed posts, and received over 100 comments. Most of the comments made sense, and many were so long that it required a good 44 ounces to beat your way through them.
It became readily apparent that there were a couple of things that needed clarification.
1) Despite what it says in D&C Section 89:2, the Word of Wisdom is fully entrenched as a commandment in our LDS theology. Not a recommendation, or a suggestion, but a commandment. Like one of the 10.
President Ezra Taft Benson addressed this in April Conference in 1983, when he said this:
"In 1851, President Brigham Young proposed to the general conference of the Church that all Saints formally covenant to keep the Word of Wisdom. This proposal was unanimously upheld by the membership of the Church. Since that day, the revelation has been a binding commandment on all Church members."
2) There was some discussion as to the nature of the Word of Wisdom: Spiritual or Temporal. Here's a thought:
"Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created." D&C 29:34
3) I don't get the assertion that the "no" parts of the WofW constitute a commandment, and the other directives are just good advice subject to personal revelation. It's all a commandment - we don't pick and choose which parts are commandments - we pick and choose which parts we will obey. I have never seen anything that implies that the "no" parts of the commandment are more important than the "yes" parts. They are just easier to quantify.
4) One of the overriding points of the post yesterday was to establish that caffeine is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom, as reenforced by the recent Church announcement. There you go - now you can imbibe knowing that enjoying that giant caffeinated beverage is not a violation of the Word of Wisdom.
5) And in the words of the late Steve Jobs, "One more thing." Today, as we all stand before the fountain, making sure we have just enough ice to ensure the proper ice/soda ratio before we fill our cups with our preferred beverage, remember this:
...We really shouldn't be drinking caffeine.
What? But you said... ? Did you really think I was going to let us off the hook that easily? C'mon now! Just because caffeine is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom doesn't mean we haven't been told to avoid it! And it surely shouldn't be misconstrued as an endorsement.
Boyd K. Packer: You are a dual being, a spirit clothed in a mortal body. Your body is an instrument of your mind and the foundation of your character. Take nothing into your body which may harm it or disturb the functions of your mind and spirit. Anything that is addictive is dangerous.
Addictive? Caffeine? My pride says no, my headaches say yes. A stimulant? Oh, yes.
Richard G. Scott, on being worthy to use the Priesthood: Do you scrupulously avoid the use of stimulants and substances that conflict with the intent of the Word of Wisdom, or have you made some personally rationalized exceptions?
Russel M. Nelson, on self-mastery: Indeed, as you develop courage to say no to alcohol, tobacco, and other stimulants, you gain additional strength.
These are all quotes from General Conference talks. There are oodles more. To me, the most worrisome thing I keep running into is the idea that any addiction can impair the Spirit's ability to communicate with us.
I especially remember a leadership training video a few years ago, where President Hinckley, speaking directly to the bishops of the church, to refrain from using stimulants to get more work done. I was surprised that it was an issue, and a concern to him. I thought about it often, or at least on those occasions when I was drinking a Diet Coke on the way to Bishopric meting at 6:00am.
And I love this analogy by President David O. McKay:
"Stimulants are to the body what the lash is to the lagging horse - it causes a spurt forward but gives no permanent strength or nourishment. Frequent repetitions of the lash only make the horse more lazy; and the habitual use of strong drink, tobacco, tea and coffee, only tends to make the body weaker and more dependent upon the stimulants to which it is addicted."
No, he never mentions Mountain Dew, but I know in my heart that when he was talking about a "lagging horse," he was talking about me.
We all have agency, and can choose for ourselves. Drinking a caffeinated soda will not keep me out of the temple, but I will still feel some guilt when I know that I have crossed that line from mere want to NEED.