WofW: What Was He Thinking?

You’ve probably already heard by now, but the Word of Wisdom has been in the news the past week. If this is news to you, here is a brief explanation of what has been going on:

Back on August 23, NBC ran a profile on the LDS Church entitled “Mormon in America.” For the most part, it was fair, and not too mean, but they did make an inaccurate comment. (I know, you’re thinking, “NBC provided false information? How is that possible?“) Well it’s true.  When discussing the Word of Wisdom, they mentioned that caffeine was on the list of prohibited items for the faithful, along with alcohol and tobacco.

The Church usually doesn’t respond to stuff like that, but this time the LDS Newsroom issued a statement clarifying the misrepresentations in the program. (link here)  Regarding the devil caffeine, they said:

Finally, another small correction: Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine.  The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.

After this statement was posted, there were two polarized responses. First, the “Anti-caffeine-soda-ites” sat back in unanimous disbelief, while the armies who found joy in the consumption of said substance shouted its praises. Hypocrisy abounded on both sides.

Basically, the Church said that caffeine is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. And what they meant by that is that caffeine is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What this means to us is that absolutely nothing has changed, The Word of Wisdom has never been about caffeine.

That’s what happened. No big deal – but it has resulted in a lot more discussion about the Word of Wisdom – and that is always a good thing.

The following thought are random thoughts of mine. They do not necessarily represent the views of the LDS Church, or NBC News. You can share them if you like. You can disagree with them if you like – I don’t mind. You can live your life how you want, and that includes how you choose to observe the Word of Wisdom. BUT, if you post a comment saying that I am being judgmental, then you are dumb, and I will delete it. (My blog, my rules. So there.)
• We can simplify, or we can complicate. I tend to aim for simplicity in my religious observance, and I try to shun gray areas. I am also quite literal and/or orthodox. I think “gray areas” are exhausting. (Previous post here.)
• Through His prophets, the Lord has defined “hot drinks” as “coffee and tea.” In my simplistic brain this means “coffee and tea.” I don’t care what color it is – green, black or white. If it is made out of tea, it is tea. Same with coffee – if it is black or brown or green, it is coffee.  I also don’t care if it is hot, cold or lukewarm. Yes, swallow the irony that in the gospel, an iced tea is a “hot” drink. If it says coffee or tea in the ingredients, I don’t drink it. Or eat it. Even in ice cream.  It is easier than you think:  If the label say “tea” or “coffee” under the list of ingredients, I don’t buy it.

• There are lots of teas that aren’t really tea. Herbal, lemon grass, peppermint, chamomile, etc. all have one thing in common – they don’t say “tea” on the ingredient list. Same with barley coffees. (Which mysteriously tasted much better on my mission than they do in real life.) Since they don’t include tea, they are not tea, and are not prohibited.

• I love hot chocolate, which by definition, is not a “hot drink.” I especially like the hot chocolate that Starbucks sells at Christmas-time. However, I do not buy it because I don’t want to look like I am drinking coffee. I feel the need to stand for something to the people who see me as a representative member of the Church.

• God never mentioned WHY he banned coffee and tea. We all ASSUME it is because of caffeine, but that is only our attempt at logically defining the mind of God. We have no real basis in that assumption.

• Some people get freaked out that Jesus drank wine, and cite elaborate arguments to explain it away by saying it wasn’t fermented wine, or whatever. Personally, I don’t care if Jesus drank wine or not. Our health code wasn’t around back then. I would have been much more concerned if I read that Jesus and the apostles had a clambake. What? You didn’t know that Jesus couldn’t eat shellfish? Or bacon? Or baby back ribs?  Nope. All those things were prohibited by the Law of Moses. It makes me want to cry.

And do you know why they were prohibited? Me neither – because God gave Moses the command, but never told him “why”, other than to say that it would make them “unclean.”

• You might notice a trend here: God doesn’t always explain the reasoning behind His commands to us. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to use our mortal minds to make sense of it.

• I wonder if we might be surprised one day to find out God’s reasons for something we assume we know the answer to. Take, for example, the edict to eat meat “sparingly.” Imagine this dialogue, while there is a lull in conversation at the Final Interview:

You: So if we weren’t supposed to eat a lot of meat, why did you make it so yummy? Is it really that unhealthy?
God:  Oh that! It had nothing to do with health. It was about migration and economy.
You: What do you mean?
God: Well, when the restored Church was getting started, I knew that they would be on the move a lot. A livestock-based economy would have made that nearly impossible, and producing meat is much more expensive and difficult that growing produce. They needed to be agriculturally focused to survive, so I told them “easy on the meat.”

(Disclaimer: I am not claiming that this is what happened – it is just an example of how our thinking might not have anything to do with God’s thinking – so relax.)

• I tire of people telling me what the Word of Wisdom “means” to say.  I have learned that when someone begins talking about the “Spirit of the Law” beyond the “Letter of the Law,” they have usually just crossed that line between doctrine, and personal opinion. It is just fine with me if you hate white bread, but don’t try and tell me that the Word of Wisdom means that we are supposed to only eat whole wheat.

• We are told to eat meat and poultry sparingly – but there is no restriction of fish or shellfish. That means I can have as many lobster rolls as I want when I go to Maine.  Thank heavens I’m not Kosher. Lobster rolls are another in a long line of evidences that God loves me.

This is not a sin – but it is sinful. It is a Lobster Roll.

• I have never understood why people say that the Word of Wisdom suggests “moderation in all things.”  There isn’t anything in the Word of Wisdom that even suggests “moderation” – yet I hear it all the time. Seriously – go read it, and show me the moderation. Strong drink? No. Hot drinks? No. Tobacco? No. Fruit? Yes. Grain? Yes. Meat? Sparingly.  Where is the moderation in that?

• We don’t keep cooking wine in the house, but love a good Marsala sauce. Does that make me evil?

• Donuts are not listed in Section 89. Granted, the flour is made from grain, so you actually have a better case for donuts, than against them.  Other things not listed: Cake, Reese’s cups, buffalo wings, mayo. Things that should have been forbidden, but apparently were overlooked: Beets, black licorice and Miracle Whip.

• Why do alcohol, hot drinks and tobacco get all the attention? Why are they the primary focus when we talk about the Word of Wisdom? I think it is for two reasons:  1) Their prohibition flies in the face of society, and 2) Adherence is quantifiable. If you are in a temple recommend interview, and are asked “Do you eat grain and fruit of the vine?” then you are going to have a weird interview – because now you have to figure out a common definition of words like “grain” and “sparingly.” The other things are a straight-up yes or no.

• If the brethren do not focus on something – ever – then I figure it is not something I need to be overly focused on right now. For example, I can’t remember the last time I heard someone criticize our meat consumption in General Conference. I also know that Friday is Prime Rib night in some of the temple cafeterias. It must not be that big of a deal right now to the brethren, but watch, I’ll probably be eating my words this October. (I’m sure my Brazilian readers are breathing a sigh of relief.)

• There are many things that science is teaching us about what is good and bad for our bodies. Sometimes the scientists are right, sometimes they are wrong. However, just because science says green tea, or a daily glass of wine is good for you doesn’t mean it is OK with God. Why? Because the Word of Wisdom is more about obedience than it is about health. That is why it is a temple recommend question. Not because the Church is the Food Police. Please don’t confuse your personal views on eating healthy with God’s commandments. Remember, what God revealed in 1833 was years ahead of science.

• God has the right to change His policies regarding His health code for us. He has changed it before – He could do it again. It is possible that the prophet could announce that caffeinated soft-drinks and green jello are now banned – effective immediately. If he did, we would be told through official channels. That would be just fine. That’s why we have prophets – we are not stagnant in our beliefs and practices. Beyond what it says in Section 89, prophets have counseled us to stay away from prescription drugs abuse, energy drinks, and a host of addictive things that were not in even existence in 1833. And that is a beautiful thing.

We are promised great blessings from obeying the Word of Wisdom. Whatever.

I’m going to keep it because God asked me to – and I love HIm.


word of wisdom, caffeine, LDS, MMM Mormon, humor, humorist

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  1. I appreciate your comments, especially as you suggested we don’t necessarily know why God gave each particular instruction.
    I view the Word of Wisdom as an opportunity to demonstrate my obedience every day, multiple times a day as I make a conscious decision as to what to consume and what not to consume As promised in section 89, I have received countless blessings as a result of my obedience. I find that as a result of my obedience, I am a more disciplined persona and find additional obedience and wise decision making even easier. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to strengthen my will every day through my choice to be obedient.

  2. I have always appreciated verse 4: Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

    Good enough for me; I want to stay away from the bad guy. I am sad to learn about black licorice though. I have always been the one to clean up the bag after the red ones are all gone. I must repent…

    Thanks, MMM, for the belly laughs,
    From another MMM

  3. I love you MMM!!! (in a completely friendly, not creepy, semi-stalkerish way). You remind me of my Dad (but a bit wittier). No nonsense. I wish everyone could see things more black and white. If it is bad, don’t do it. If it is good, do it. If you wonder if it is bad or good, go to the scriptures, go to the general authorities, pray about it (even though you probably knew before all that stuff whether it was bad or good). The gospel is easy to live and the more closely you live it, the easier it gets.

  4. Now on to deeper topics… So where exactly is Kolob? If you want to get a good discussion going during EQ, pull out WoW, Kolob, or local politics.

  5. I’m going to step in a play referee on this post. In the words of the illustrious Sue, “NOTHING seems to get people riled up about their own little hobby horses like the Word of Wisdom.” So true.

    I had to delete some comments that were just plain mean, some that came from anti-mormons.

    Even more, I was also saddened to see how many comments were just people spouting their opinions that are completely unsupported by anything other than the commenter’s personal bias. If you are going to bang your personal drum, or say something inflammatory, at least back it up with something – a scripture, a quote – something!

    I don’t want this to turn into another pseudo-mormon blog where people take shots at each other and tickle each other’s ears with faux debate. If you want that, there are plenty of other blogs.

  6. To be honest… I think the WoW gets put way too much in the forefront than it should. We have many commandments and my guess is that people drinking and smoking are not whats tempting most active members nowadays…Mind you, there are several other questions asked in a temple interview…However, there is not doubt that if someone smells alcohol or smoke on someone at church, those people are instantly labeled as an “inactive member.”

    The fact is we all break a commandment sooner or later. The fact is that you CAN have a beer and still go to the temple. All of that is up to the discretion of a bishop/stake president conducting an interview (throught the spirit).

    I love President Monson’s quote about if all of our sins smelled of smoke, we would not be able to bear going to a sacrament meeting because of the stench…Somehow, the WoW has become the top commandment for many, which is funny, because anyone who has delt with breaking commandments of any kind, will know that breaking the WoW has far less consequences than that of Adultery/fornication…

    I always found it hypocritical of students at BYU that would shun a student who drank or smoke and judge them, only to turn around and break another commandment, which is probably worse.

    Things cannot and will not be black and white nor should they. This is what got the Pharisees of the NT in trouble when Christ came. They followed their law to the letter, without realizing the spiritaul blessings and reasons for them… We are commanded to be honest in our daily doings (temple question)… There is no black and white to that, but it is still a commandment.

    Here is a quote from President Kimball that uses moderation:

    “We refrain from taking harmful substances into our body. Through wisdom and moderation in all things, we seek good health and a sense of physical well-being.

    It is not enough to refrain from adultery. We need to make the marriage relationship sacred, to sacrifice and work to maintain the warmth and respect which we enjoyed during courtship. God intended marriage to be eternal, sealed by the power of the priesthood, to last beyond the grave. Daily acts of courtesy and kindness, conscientiously and lovingly carried out, are part of what the Lord expects.”

    With that, I don’t think it is ever enough to just do the do’s and don’t do the don’ts… The Word of Wisdom lacks many health guidelines that are good/bad for our body and does not name everything we are commanded to obstain from by name… Thats where the spirit comes in.

  7. Church literature relating to the question is found in a Priesthood Bulletin statement dated February 1972:

    “With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.”

  8. I got tired and only scanned the last two thirds of the comments (OK, OK, OK . . . all but the first four comments). . . but I find it fascinating that of all the gospel principles, NOTHING seems to get people riled up about their own little hobby horses like the Word of Wisdom . . .

    I cannot even begin to count how many gospel doctrine lessons about the W of W have been hijacked by people getting passionate about ‘higher laws’ and explaining in all sincerity that the Lord REALLY meant NO meat when He said ‘meat to be eaten sparingly’ . . . and then there are the raw foods purists who are absolutely positive that their choice is far superior to everyone else . . .

    What IS it about the W of W that inspires such impassioned debates and diversity of thought?

    (And I, personally, think that licorice-flavored salt water taffy IS the manna mentioned in the OT and WILL be on the menu in the Celestial kingdom) ;o)

  9. I agree with you wholeheartedly and am very happy to belong to a non stagnant church where we evolve as God requires and not as science dictates

  10. I agree with your points here completely. If I’ve read them right, you’re saying that obedience shouldn’t depend on our early understanding of a reason for a commandment. That we need to be more humble in just accepting the will of the Lord sometimes. But how do you explain this to others who view this as “blind faith”? Some times I think blind faith is not the worst thing, but others disagree. What do you think?

    1. I’m looking, but I can’t find it. It might be in my notes from a training meeting with one of the Apostles. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be a “church-wide” statement.

  11. After reading all this I was listening to a tape by S.Michael Wilcox abt C.S.Lewis. Here is a quote that I like, “Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good.”

  12. I think your post is spot on, but I’ll still add my two cents. I think a lot of times we get wrapped up in trying to determine what a fairly insignificant commandment means. I don’t mean that it’s not an important commandment to follow, but that it’s not a commandment that has been around for millenia that the Lord expects all generations of his children to follow (we know Noah was definitely drinking some of the fermented wine) like many other of his commandments. The Word of Wisdom ultimately plays a small part in our salvation. It’s an accessory commandment that we are expected to obey in this dispensation. It doesn’t matter why we are expected to obey; we just need to show our obedience.

    Like you said, this is a commandment that the Lord could change at any time (Acts 10). However, I don’t think the Lord plans on telling us that we don’t need to be charitable anymore. I don’t think He is going to say we don’t need to have faith anymore or hope anymore. He’s probably still going to expect us to have patience. However, these are all things that almost all of us struggle to achieve. Personally, I think the Lord is going to judge me a lot more harshly for not being charitable than He is for my interpretation of eating meat sparingly. Even though any sin will keep us out of Heavenly Father’s presence, I think there are more important things to focus on than reinventing the Word of Wisdom. I think it’s enough that we follow the clearly defined portions of it with strict obedience and do our best to follow the rest as best we can.

    I think a lot of people get wrapped up in trying to define a commandment that is already pretty clearly defined by our prophets and apostles (in the important parts). The other parts of the commandment are left open to personal revelation. There’s no need to try and force our view on others. The Lord (and his leaders) has left it up to us to decide…and honestly, I think there are much more important things we should be worrying about (being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, charitable, etc.). Instead, we become like the Jews and are wrapped up in the length of the fringes of our garments. Eventually we become guilty of “looking beyond the mark” and missing what’s truly important in the Gospel. I do think it’s important that we follow the commandments with strict obedience. I just don’t think we need to try and make God’s commandments more difficult (especially the ones He tries to make simple).

    That being said, I do think it is important that we be as healthy as we can…without going overboard. Again, I think that part is left up to personal revelation as to what is necessary for each of us.

    I apologize for writing a novella…I’m sure I’ve broke some blog comment etiquette, but I felt like I need to write this down for myself to crystalize my thoughs(and mabye it’ll help someone else).

  13. You know this blog is a gift from God…It lets us know that we are not alone in our struggles. Thank you sisters and brothers for your sharings. I’m going to give up my 40 year habit of Excedrin. There is a catch to this comment. I need your prayers in my behalf. But if you only have time to pray for one extra person, do it for mCat.

  14. MMM, Great post. I agree with you, especially about the whole black licorice thing being overlooked.

    I also want to say I think you are a rock star (Like Donny Osmond). Your blog has really taken off. I remember when you only had a handful of followers and now I have to scroll through over 100 comments in order to leave a comment. Congratulations.

  15. Wow! So many comments! I love it!
    Why is it that you always seems to write about something that is heavily on my mind? I have been thinking a LOT about the word of wisdom lately, specifically about food, and not so much on the “don’ts.” But, nonetheless… I love Coke. I also really enjoy chamomile tea and peppermint tea. But I don’t have any sort of actual “tea” nor do I consume anything with coffee, be it candy or say, tiramisu. I guess no one in cyber-land needs to know that, but I’m just saying it because it makes the point that I really agree with your post. It was so well written and I really enjoyed reading it!

  16. Thank you for explaining what you referred to in a previous post. I missed the NBC article and the church’s rebuttal. I will just keep doing what I have been doing. Living the best I can, trying to change for the better as I go and let everyone else do what they want. Enjoyed your post. (I like Miracle Whip. Will that keep me out of the Celestial Kingdom?)

  17. I loved this post. Really, it was awesome.

    The way I see it, God gave us some very black and white commandments. As for the rest of it? I believe it’s given line upon line and also to those who need it. For instance, gluten is not forbidden by the Word of Wisdom. However, I recently, within the past few months, have found that if I consume gluten, I get raging hangover-like symptoms the following day. I have some inflammation issues and they are exacerbated by gluten. And of course, when I am in pain and have a headache and feel like puking, I am in no condition to house the Holy Ghost. So I have decided to amend the WoW for myself and prohibit gluten. Yes, it’s a new thing. Yes, I expect to mess up because I love me some bread and cake. But if I know better, I should do better. Right? For me, that’s kind of what the WoW is all about.

  18. I love the picture at the top of the post! I admire your ability to express your ideas so clearly. I have always wondered why Joseph Smith didn’t drink alcohol when he was having the surgery on his leg as a child. It seems like that story gets told a lot in Primary (my home for the last 6 years) when they discuss the WofW. The word of Wisdom had not been given at that time.

  19. Can we pause for a moment and consider the members of the church when the Prophet Joseph was given the Word of Wisdom revelation? What drinks were available to them beyond coffee, tea and alcohol? KoolAid? No. Soda? No. Lemonade? Doubtful. Apple juice? In season, and as long as it wasn’t ‘hard apple cider’. That pretty much narrows down their liquid consumption to water. Basic H2O. No flavoring, no carbonation, no colors.

    We are picking nits here when, if you stop and think about it, our choices are so numerous we should probably feel a little guilty about only being denied coffee, tea, and alcohol! It is so much easier for us than it had to be for them.

    I’m grateful for modern science and the technology that allows me to drink soda – caffeinated or not – and juices and barley drinks, if I so choose. But, seriously, Miracle Whip and black licorice? If Joseph had only known how far we would go, I am sure he would have mentioned those two!

  20. I’ll give you the beets and Miracle Whip… but believe it’s considered heresy to include black licorice in that grouping!! Also think you missed one… brussel sprouts taste like dirt, therefore should be considered as “unclean” (or dirty)!!!

    As for caffeine… it physically makes me sick, so it’s no problem to avoid in everything (well except for chocolate – in “moderation” – LOL). Thanks for the great blog post – I really enjoyed it!!

  21. “Looking for the path to safety in the counsel of prophets makes sense to those with strong faith. When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. Then if his counsel seems comfortable and reasonable, squaring with what they want to do, they take it. If it does not, they either consider it faulty advice or they see their circumstances as justifying their being an exception to the counsel.”
    -Safety In Counsel, Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, June 2008.

  22. I have to disagree with those who contend that the Word of Wisdom is all about obedience and not health. A re-reading of Section 89 just might be helpful:
    V.2 – sent as a greeting, not as a commandment. Yes, some of the WoW is used in worthiness interviews but the point of the revelation is not a commandment. It is about “temporal salvation” – not specifically spiritual salvation, even though there are spiritual blessings promised also. This revelation has everything to do about our health!
    v.13 Spiritually speaking, though, I think the case could well be made for “pleasing the Lord” by avoiding killing and consuming animals. (Why is this principle basically ignored? – I’d love an answer to that one.)
    v.18,20 “health in their navel and marrow to their bones”, “run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” – the promises are mainly promises of physical strength and wholeness – health!
    v.21 We are promised that the destroying angel (death) will pass by us – we can be healthy and functional to our old age if we obey these sayings.
    I have made an extensive study of the relationship between diet and disease in the last few years in a quest to regain my health. The scientific evidence testifying to the wisdom of all of the points in this revelation – including the admonitions to eat vegetables, fruit, grain, and meat only sparingly or not at all – is overwhelming. It is my opinion that Saints who rationalize and ignore these precepts are sadly leaving some of the Lord’s greatest and most specific promised blessings “on the table” so to speak.

    1. The question of temple worthiness is about obedience. Of course the blessings associated with the Word of Wisdom as recorded in section 89 are broader than just temple worthiness. But those blessings also come through obedience.

    2. However the WoW is a commandment now. So it is also about obedience. I don’t see why it can’t be both about health and about adhering to the commandments of God. We have commandments to avoid sin that protect our spiritual health and commandments that protect our physical health. Not every spiritual commandment is in our temple recommend interviews and not every physical commandment is either. And everyone is at different spiritual levels. No one is perfect.

    3. I think that saying the WOW’s promises are mainly promises of physical strength (“health in the navel…”)severely limit its scope. In the Bible Dictionary under “health” it states that in old English the word denoted (not only) healing power, (but also) deliverance, and salvation. None (or very few!) of us get out of this world alive. And many very righteous and obedient saints have been afflicted with serious health issues. The bigger picture is eternal salvation – not just only being physically healthy during mortality.

    4. Interesting comments! I still contend that Section 89 is given as advice mainly for temporal health – as it clearly states. The policy of the church currently is that adherence to certain of the prohibitions are a requirement for full participation in the church. I can find no revelation making this a commandment – it is an inspired policy and practice that developed over the years. It serves to unite the members and effectively distinquish us and remove us from the “world.”

      If you want a temple recommend only then you better obey the specific “don’ts” in the WoW as currently interpreted. If you want to fully claim the promises of health, strength, and longevity associated with these principles then you would be “wise” to obey the “do’s” also.

      Since this is a temporal principle there are no guarantees because the mortal condition is imperfect. However, the Lord can only bless us to the extent that we live the law associated with the blessings we desire.

  23. MMM, what do you think about Jeanene’s comment about re-watching the Pres. Hinckley and Larry King Live interview? If the Prophet of God states something, I’m going to follow it. I’m just confused:

    CALLER: I was wondering about some of the guidelines in dietary restrictions Mormons live by, and how strictly members follow it. Because I was reading, once, the word of wisdom. My impression was that its major point was that one should respect all life, including animals and, as such, only consume them when absolutely necessary to sustain life, and to then eat them sparingly. But I’ve noticed that Mormon — this is rarely followed by Mormons, and I’m wondering if this has anything to do with, as reported by “TIME” magazine.

    Larry King: OK, president?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, I don’t know. You’ve read a part of the word of wisdom. The word of wisdom covers many things. It covers the excessive use of meat, as I see it. It covers, in a very particular way, the use of tobacco and alcohol.

    Larry King: By saying no?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: By saying, by proscribing those things.

    Larry King: No to caffeine?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: No to caffeine, coffee and tea.

    Larry King: Do you know why? Dietary — in the Old Testament were based on the health of animals and stuff.

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Well, the wonderful thing is that the Book of Mormon — I mean, the word of wisdom has shown to be fruitful in what — the accomplishments.

    Larry King: You are ahead of yourself in the health craze?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes, this man I met here not too long ago at UCLA, Inkstrom (ph), I think his name is, who has conducted a study for some 14 years, taking a peer group of Latter-day Saints, a peer group of the other population, and reached a conclusion that because of the degree to which we observe the word of wisdom, Mormons have a life expectancy of from eight to 11 years longer.

    Now, who in the world wouldn’t give almost anything for eight to ten years of life? I have here with me, right now, a statement from “The Los Angeles Times” on this very fact. “The study conducted by UCLA tracks the morality rates and health practices of nearly 10,000 California high priests and their wives for 14 years. As a follow up to research Inkstrom published in 1989, the study confirms that the healthiest active Mormons have a life expectancy that is eight to 11 years longer than that of the general white population in the U.S.,” close quote.

    Larry King: Based on those figures, my wife will outlive me by 67 years?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Larry King: Neither would I. We’ll be right back, don’t go away.

    1. I agree that it is confusing. Avoiding caffeine is good counsel, and we would all be better off following it. My point, and I believe the Church’s point, is that although staying away from caffeine is good counsel, that does not make it part of the Word of Wisdom. Staying away from energy drinks is also good counsel, and has been talked about in official church publications – but that does not make it part of the WofW either. Neither will keep you out of the temple. That said, you are very wise – it is always safer to follow what the prophet says.

      I might also consider it more of a prophetic pronouncement if it had come through a different venue than Larry King Live. I’ll have to give that some thought.

    2. Good thoughts on this. I like how you mentioned the venue of Larry King Live (verses, say, over the pulpit in General Conference). In other words, so while we avoid caffeine in general, it is not strictly prohibited as many LDS members have been taught to believe all these years.

    3. The ultimate question: What is, or is there a difference between “council” and “commandments.” I say yes. The WoW didn’t start out as a commandment. And now it is. But I agree that Larry King Live may not be the best venue for a sudden declaration the church is against caffeine. However, I don’t think following a prophet’s council is a bad idea either, even if it isn’t a commandment.

  24. Well we are a peculiar people…peculiar about our choice of drink, about our ‘interpretation’ of a commandment (hello worlds biggest oxymoron), and definitely peculiarly opinionated 🙂
    I enjoyed your post and agree…but had to giggle at a few of the comments!

  25. Great post! I agree with you on many points. The WoW should be prayerfully studied by each individual person, and then if they feel they need to make changes in their life that’s great. That doesn’t mean that their neighbor needs to make the same choices.
    I do think though, in regards to eating animals, that we need to prayerfully consider what the scriptures say. Eating animals should not be taken lightly. We are given permission to eat meat, but we are repeatedly admonished to do so only when necessary.

  26. This may have been mentioned already, but I am not in the mood to read all the previous comments. Sorry. I have seen video of Pres. Hinckley being interviewed by Larry King. The question of caffeinated soda came up and The Prophet did, indeed, state that members should not be drinking caffeinated sodas. Granted, this was not given by way of commandment, but it made an impression on me. Also, caffeine is addicting, thus, it falls into the category of something we should strive to avoid. Love your writing, by the way. I am your newest follower.

    1. I don’t think he said “should.” I think he was observing that many don’t. In fact what he said was “right” — no shoulds in that quotation.

    2. Why split hairs? I was loosely quoting what I remember The Prophet saying. I had not run and looked at the video before posting a comment. I know Larry King was not the most respectable venue, but Pres. Hinckley was the prophet whether he was in front of CNN’s camera, in his living room, or in front of the pulpit in the conference center.

  27. Okay, never mind. Just reread it and noticed you answered my question. Sorry. I don’t like the taste of iced tea, so I don’t drink it. I still don’t know how I’d feel about it if I wanted to drink it.

    1. Oh, not me. Iced tea is the one thing I miss from my pre-member days. (I was just a kid, so I don’t remember much from those days, but I do miss iced tea.) But I’d rather have the blessing for following the words of the prophet — no coffee, no tea (in any form).

  28. I have one question… and I am not joking here… “Hot drinks” do not include iced tea, correct? Iced tea surely has caffeine. But it is a cold drink. I know tons of people that will drink Coke but would never be caught dead with a iced tea in their hand. Is iced tea now deemed okay since it’s cold? Honestly, I have no idea.

  29. If one chooses to follow TWOW to the letter, it is his/her right to do so. If one has health issues that preclude consumption of one or more of the mentioned substances, it is my personal opinion that the Lord will make concessions. If one has health issues where substances mentionted to avoid are required for life to continue, again, I believe the Lord will make concessions. That is between you and your God. But to me, it makes sense that something entitled “The Word of WISDOM” should insite one to use WISDOM and agency; the greatest gift given to us by God. We were not sent here to Earth to follow blindly, but to be educated about God’s Law, understand the consequences of both obeying it and not obeying it, and then choosing for ourselves whether we will abide by it or not, after taking the matter to the Lord in prayer and supplication. That directive was outlined in The Garden of Eden, and has not changed. Simply following the prophet for following the prophet’s sake is not acting in wisdom. Brigham Young himself sated, “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” Following the counsel of the prophet because you have faith and have a testimony that the words he has spoken are True is a completely different thing. You know your body, the Lord knows your body. Taking in the words of Section 89, pondering and researching them, then going to the Lord in prayer to understand them for you and your body is the way to truly know how best to live a healthy and “close to the Spirit” life.

    1. The directive outlined in the Garden of Eden that has not changed is this: Do what God says, or you will be punished.

      Usually that Brigham Young quote gets dusted off to help people justify why they won’t follow a specific counsel.

    2. The directive in the Garden of Eden was to obey two seemingly contradictory commandments, nevertheless thou mayest choose for thyself. Pretty much exactly what my father told his children when I was growing-up: “These are the rules of my house. Follow them, or there’ll be trouble. But I want to know that you know why you’re choosing to follow, otherwise you’re painting me as an angry dictator who gives you no choices.” Agency was given to us, and because He knew we’d screw it up, He provided a Savior and Atonement.

      I’ve respected your comments and posts since I began reading your blog, whether I agreed with them or not, but I do not respect your last statement there about dusting off a quote to justify not following counsel. I don’t believe you’re implying I am not following the Word of Wisdom (at least I hope not) by making that statement. I know I follow and obey my Father’s counsel, and am right with God; and I know you don’t know me. But it still leaves a cloud of judgement after its read. Maybe not for me, but certainly for some. It also gives off an air of “don’t listen to Brigham.” What he said is in the same class of trusting God, following the counsel of His prophets, and choosing for ourselves as Moroni’s Promise. Basically, when you receive these things, ask God in the name of Jesus Christ, if they’re true. If they are, the Holy Ghost will confirm that to you. D&C 9:8 – Study it in your mind, ask me if it’s right, and I’ll confirm it (or you’ll get no confirmation).

      I’ve mentioned this in a comment before: President Benson stated women’s primary role should be at home with the children. The Family Proclamation says basically the same thing. I know women who followed that counsel blindly and were miserable, eventually leaving their families and the Gospel. I know women who studied it, prayed about it, and stayed home with their children despite the financial strain, and were happy beyond belief. I have a relative who desperately wanted to stay home, prayed about the counsel, and was told to keep working. She was criticized and gossipped about in her ward. Her bishop denied her a temple recommend because she wasn’t supporting her leaders. Three years later, her husband was arrested for illegal activity, they divorced, and she had a job with great health care and day care benefits, and was able to provide for her children without having to ask for help. The Lord knew her situation. She followed the directive of studying it, praying about it, and going forth in confidence and faith. But by your statement, she was justifying her reasons to not obey.

      From the LDS published Bible Dictionary we read: “In the Lord’s Church the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the Patriarch are prophets, seers, and revelators to the Church and to the world. In addition, every person may receive personal revelation for his own benefit.” That means on everything. I pray you, I, and everyone will remember that, and not look down on or criticize anyone who acts in faith and follows God even if by doing so they may not be doing what everyone else is doing.

    3. I was not insinuating that you don’t follow the WofW. You are anonymous – how would I know? I have observed that (in my experience) that specific Brigham Young quote is often used as an excuse.

      Your explanation of the Garden of Eden directives was spot on – but you didn’t include the consequence: “If you don’t do it the way I say, you will be kicked out out of the Garden and die.”

      Yes, we are blessed with, and expected to use, personal revelation. But to say that it applies to everything doesn’t work for me, My problem is that this if you follow this line of thinking, it falls apart.

      For example: Money is tight. My wife and I have decided that there is no way we can pay 10% tithing right now. So, we decide that 5% works for us. So, we are going to start praying to see if it is OK to only pay 5%.

      See how ridiculous that sounds? I don’t need to pray about everything. I have faith in prophets and scriptures.

      I am not passing judgment on the WofW habits of anyone – merely stating my views. (As I mentioned in the disclaimer)

    4. I don’t find it to be rediculous at all. You have a struggle in front of you, so you take the matter to the Lord. If you decide to only pay 5%, then pray to see if that’s right in the sight of God, and He reveals it to be OK for the time being, then it’s right. If He reveals it to be OK forever for you, then it’s right. If He reveals it to be wrong for you, and you do it anyway, then it’s wrong. See the common link? IF HE REVEALS IT…. Hey Israelites: don’t intermarry. Moses: Go get yourself a Cannanite wife. He revealed it to Moses to be right for him. Hey World: Don’t kill. Hey Nephi: Go kill Laban. He revealed it to him to be right. The question is, are we honestly receiving revelation, or just convincing ourselves we are. If you don’t LIKE paying 10% tithing, and you go to Him about it, my guess is you’re more than likely to not get a confirmation that it’s ok to only pay 5%. D&C 10:5 “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” Luke 21:36 “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” No, we don’t need to be slothful and unwise servants by being commanded in all things (that’s what that intelligence and agency He gave us is for), but when something arises that we are unsure of or have not encountered, studying it out in our minds, deciding on it, asking whether or not its right, and then acting in faith based on the revelation is growing and strengthening. And, if you wanna get down to it, it’s what we’re told to do by God, so if we want to be obedient…;)

    5. I am not joing this particular debate, but are you saying a woman was denied a temple recommend because she worked and didn’t stay at home with her children? There has to be more to that story.

    6. Susan: yes, she was. No, there is not. She didn’t do drugs, drink alcohol, eat meat more than once a week & chicken twice, she exercized, and never had tea or coffee. She paid her thithes and fast offerings. She fulfilled her callings and attended her meetings. She had an exemplary VT record, and neither associated nor sympathised with antiMormon groups. But her bishop felt that by ignoring the counsel when her husband already had a job that provided enough for her to stay home that she was blatantly and beligerantly going against her leaders. It was at the time when a BYU prof got exed for her extreme femenist views and criticisms of the church, and my relative’s bishop said he wanted to make sure his congrgation didn’t fall that way. She spoke to her Stake Prez about it and got it back, but it did happen.

    7. I think the important thing to remember concerning a situation like that is that the members are not perfect, no matter their stewardship. The Gospel is perfect but the people are not. I can’t imagine being in that situation but I am glad it did in the end get resolved.

    8. I know this might get crazy…but you should do a post on personal revelation and how that might change commandments. Or maybe on how to tell what your receiving is revelation or your own thoughts and desires

    9. I hope this isn’t a threadjack, but I’m interested in your interpretation of the Garden of Eden story.

      First Anonymous said:
      “The directive in the Garden of Eden was to obey two seemingly contradictory commandments, nevertheless thou mayest choose for thyself. “

      And then you responded:
      “Your explanation of the Garden of Eden directives was spot on – but you didn’t include the consequence: “If you don’t do it the way I say, you will be kicked out out of the Garden and die.””

      I agree with you about the consequence, (obvi, that’s a pretty WELL ESTABLISHED story) But what you are leaving out is the intent behind the whole Eden plan in the first place. The message isn’t:” Don’t go against God or you will suffer!” (Although to be fair, I suppose it is a reasonable conclusion to come to, Christian denominations throughout history sure thought so!)

      But the message I get is this: God is giving a choice. “To stay in paradise, you must not eat this fruit. To multiply and replenish the earth, you cannot stay in paradise.”

      It’s one of my favorite things about Mormon theology, the celebration of Adam and Eve, and the thought that the first act of humanity was one of intentional choosing, instead of a foolish mistake.

    10. I don’t think the comment section is adequate to delve into this subject – perhaps it should be discussed in depth in another post sometime. I apologize for my over-simplification – I was just making a point about the misunderstanding of “agency.”

      Here is something to ponder: Was the transgression an educated, “intentional choosing,” or a mistake made by a couple who were “like little children.”

      Eve herself said she was beguiled, and a reading of Moses 5:9-11 implies that they never really understood things until they were given the Holy Ghost – well after they were booted from the Garden.

      Just a couple thoughts. If you want to continue chatting about this, please email me at middleagedmormonman@gmail.com. (Because this was kinda threadjack) 😉

    11. Totally not on the WofW topic, but in respect with the obedience part…. I heard a church leader once say that if you think you your circumstances are different or that you are special and that a commandment or church counsel doesn’t apply to you, you better be as sure as Nephi was when he slew Laban.

  30. I haven’t read any previous comments, yet. Or your previous post {yet}. However, after reading this one brought up some of my own thoughts. Hope you don’t mind if I share.

    1. Article of Faith No. 9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

    2. Article of Faith No. 6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

    3. The Church Magazines. They are modern day scripture by the those in authority to preach the gospel to us. This is how we receive constant word from our prophets.

    4. Joseph Smith—History 1
    Pearl of Great Price
    …the devil, that there were no such things as …revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that…

    5. The Word of Wisdom was written just after Emma was tired of the men spitting their tobacco all over the floor. Yes…men in the school of prophets chewing tobacco. A new commandment was introduced. Just like the 10 commandments were given to Moses to share with the people of HIS time……even after he had been teaching them quite a few things already. Or how about the Saviour himself when he taught his disciples….. “A new commandment I give unto you……” (John 13:34.) There is always going to be new commandments as we are ready for new ones. It never comes all at once.

    6. Energy drinks. Colas. There was no such thing invented at the time of Joseph Smith when he received the Word of Wisdom.






    8. Counsel given by President Boyd K. Packer: “The Word of Wisdom was ‘given for a principle with promise’ (D&C 89:3). … A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions. Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom. … We teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation. … Obedience to counsel will keep you on the safe side of life” (“The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Ensign, May 1996, 17–18).

    9. D&C 58: 26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    D&C 58: 29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

    There’s more……but I should remember that this is your blog…..not mine. : )

    Thanks for sharing YOUR thoughts! Love your blog.

  31. Some additional thoughts:

    We probably shouldn’t confuse the TR question with the section in the Doctrine & Covenants. The TR question is specific: Do you keep the Word of Wisdom? And it’s commonly interpreted to include the things you cite in your OP. And they are easily quantifiable as a base line for temple worthiness, just like tithing is a quantifiable baseline for temple worthiness.

    But just as King Benjamin teaches us that our retaining a remission of sins depends on how we care for the poor (even though the TR interview does not), so section 89 contains other counsel that, if followed, brings blessings. (Not temple or any other kind of worthiness; just blessings.)

    Of course, reading stuff into section 89 that isn’t there is the job of prophets, not me. Hence the value of specific declarations about what is meant by “hot drinks.”

    As for the rest of the “health code,” plenty of personal blessings for personal compliance all around. Just not incremental temple worthiness. (Or a pass to judge one’s neighbor.)

  32. I agree wholeheartedly, MMM. I’m amazed at how tactfully your post was written, as evidenced by a lack of disagreeable comments. I work in food labeling, so I always read food labels and make sure that I’m aware of what I’m consuming. My biggest pet peeve is when LDS people think it’s ok to consume products that contain tea or coffee, just because the products aren’t hot. While a lot of the WofW is left to personal interpretation, the ban on coffee and tea is pretty clear. You have addressed that here, and I said my piece on your last post. Obedience should always be the focus of any discussion of the Word of Wisdom. Well done, Sir.

  33. as I am contemplate revamping my health into what many would call an extreme life style, it involves cutting out most grains. I struggled when I thought about the WoW but as grains are so altered from how they were particularly wheat I don’t feel so bad about it because they are not the same grains the WoW was talking about

  34. I may be repeating someone, as I didn’t read through all of the comments (dumb or otherwise), but here is my personal take on the Word of Wisdom. The WofW is there to help us avoid addictive substances. If I am addicted to caffeine, which I have been on occasion, then it is part of MY WofW. Mine, not anyone elses. Heavenly Father does not want our minds muddled by stimulants or depressants, He wants us paying attention to the Spirit.

    We honestly have too much to do in this life, as members and human beings, to go around judging people on what they should or should not be drinking/eating. I have too much to worry about in my OWN life.

    That being said, I am going to go enjoy my Dr Pepper now. : )

  35. I think the general assumption that we don’t drink coffee or tea because of the caffeine must not be true. If that is the reason we don’t drink it, why not decaf and why wouldn’t caffeinated soda be a no-no. I assume there is a different reason. I don’t know what it is and I don’t have to.

    I’ve heard a primary president say that the reason we don’t drink decaf is that people would see us and not know that it is decaf, and I cringed. We don’t have to make up reasons when none has been given. It is just what the Lord has commanded.

    1. In my mission (Germany, late 70’s) we were told decaf coffee was fine. Go figure. (I drank it exactly once. It was awful and I determined that I would rather offend someone than go through the pain of drinking it again; no one ever got offended by my refusal.)

  36. I was once asked in a t-rec interview by a member of the stake presidency whether or not I drank Coke, which was apparently his pet question. At the time my mariage was falling apart and when he said he wanted to counsel with me, I was relieved knowing that someone cared. About soda pop. However, I was able to proudly tell him that I did not drink Coca Cola. I figure, however, if that question was truly inspired he would have asked if I drank Pepsi.

  37. I quit drinking caffeinated sodas once. I believed as a youth that coke was on the “don’t” list, so I had my last one just before I went into the MTC. 2 months later I was giving blood in Richmond, KY and felt woozy when I stood up. The lady gave me an ice cold coke and told me to drink it all before I left. That was, like, the best coke I ever drank.

    I liked this post a lot, Mormon Guy. I remember trying to teach my Seminary kids the difference between Worldly Sorrow and Godly Sorrow, and what it means to have the commandments written on your heart. You hit it on the head when you said, “…because God asked me to – and I love Him.” I can tell that you do, and that, my friend, is the highest praise.

  38. I can just say “amen” to the whole post, but a serious AMEN to the miracle whip.

    People can add their own interpretations all they want to their OWN lives. If you can honestly answer all the temple recommend questions then you are doing okay. It is obedience, and the beautiful promises given in the last four verses of the revelation include both physical as well as other blessings, making me believe that following the WoW is more than just a law about our health.

    My own two cents.

    1. Although, I should add that I believe you should follow all the counsel given in this revelation, not only the big no alcohol, no coffee and no tea.

  39. Great post! I stand corrected on the moderation thing. I often throw that out there I think as a “spirit of the law” sort of thing which really, that’s crap.

    All scripture should be interpreted on a personal level but there is that clear difference between interpretation and commandment. I am totally on board with you on the whole “gray area” thing. Who needs the gray area? The Word of Wisdom is very black and white. Sometimes I think there are members who make living the gospel more complicated than need be. When it all comes down to it the most important thing is that we are living the gospel daily. If we are constantly doing our best to follow the “black and white” commandments, following the counsel of our leaders and being led by the spirit then we will know whether the choices we make in our lives are going to be for our good or not.

    Also, we all have the freedom of choice and I think it is so important to not be judgmental. Too many times I have heard that members sometimes come off as seeming as though they think they are better than other people. I hope that is never the case with me.

    BTW, I didn’t find your post judgmental at all. And one of the things I like so much about your blog is this attitude
    “BUT, if you post a comment saying that I am being judgmental, then you are dumb, and I will delete it. (My blog, my rules. So there.)” Love it!

  40. The Word of Wisdom has been a hot topic in our house for the last few weeks. After study and prayer, we’ve decided that in applying it to our lives, we will stop eating meat. My feelings on the meaning of “sparingly” don’t include eating factory farmed animals… it kind of goes against the idea of using animals in wisdom and thanksgiving, really.

    Do I think everyone should do this? No. What is sparingly for us is different to sparingly for someone else. Ok. Fine. I class vegetarianism along the same lines as the caffeine thing. A few of the prophets were veggies, which gives me good reason to suppose it isn’t a BAD thing. Just like avoiding caffeine consumption. Personally, I have a strong addiction to refined sugar. I don’t consume it at all, because if I do, I literally can’t stop myself from gorging. I don’t expect others to hold themselves to this behaviour.

    I’m trying to focus more on the DO list, because I fail at it miserably. Eating foods in season? Um, no. Eating grains? Not really. Running and not getting weary? HAHAHA.

    I have plenty to do, plenty to work towards, and hopefully my efforts in being more strictly obedient in this area will help me in other areas of my life.

    Turning to the New Testament, Phil 3:19, there is mention of people whose “god is their belly” being destroyed. Something to think about, maybe.

  41. Ok kind of off the point of everyone else, but are fish not animals? And does that not make the flesh meat? Maybe that’s just a misinterpretation of a younger person raised by vegetarians but could you clarify your thoughts of this one?

    1. It never says meat. Here is the verse:

      12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

      Also referred to as Beast of the field” in vs 14, and D&C 49:19.

  42. Oh and as a side note, if you are going to go to the Utah State Fair, you can happily try some fried green jello and wash it down with a coke and a funnel cake. And still go to the temple. Isn’t life grand?

  43. Bottom line: Think of the way the world would be changed if no one drank alcohol and smoked a cigarette, let alone did drugs. The heartache, the lives destroyed and lost, literally and figuratively, the money saved, the crime and degradation avoided. This is what the WoW has always been about to me, plain and simple. I think kvetsching over what color your bread is is totally looking beyond the mark.

  44. Can I still say, even if the WoW isn’t a health guide, that does not mean that we should all let ourselves go. please everyone, be smart about your health and take care of that body God gave you.

    1. Sorry, that is what I meant when I said it isn’t a health guide. I should have been more specific. Just because the Word of Wisdom isn’t telling us to not eat fast food, that doesn’t mean we should.

  45. My ex-husband is a Muslim-Animist. This may sound weird, but it is fairly typical of Central Javanese people. He has a “peganan”, which is kind of a protective, power-giving spirit. My ex had to go in to the jungle and fast until the spirit told him what would be required of him in order to keep his protection/power. My ex was told (he said) he could never take sate off the skewer with his teeth – he had to use a fork. I he could not eat watermelon or papaya and he had to provide a weekly offering. Well, for this little white girl, this all seemed kind of weird – but strangely, it made sense later when I became a Mormon – the Wow didn’t trouble me because I understood immediately, that it was about obedience. Even though I love coffee and alcohol, and even though they are far more pernicious than papaya and watermelon, I get it. I was also a Catholic for a while – so I understand “all things in moderation”. It is kind of a credo for Catholics. I like it – but alas, I am not a Catholic. I was also Muslim for a while – the pork thing was difficult. Again, though, I marvel at the attention we get. Seventh Day Adventists, Jewish people, Muslims have many and more severe dietary restrictions than we do. All of which, ostensibly came from God – oh wait, I forgot Hindus! – In fact, McDonald’s is opening the first vegetarian Mickey D’s in India! I am rambling. Thanks MMM and all the posse. This has been instructive and fun!

  46. Not long after I joined the church I was working at a pizza restaurant. A perk of the job was getting free soda. I found myself going in to work on my days off just so I could get my fill of cola. That’s when I realized: I *might* be addicted to caffeine. I’m glad to have learned and be beyond that now.

  47. Ironically it was not NBC who made the comment about caffeine (well, I guess it was them indirectly, because they chose to air that part of the interview) – it was actually the member family from Lehi that mentioned it. They said, “We don’t drink caffeine – we ‘mainline’ it.” Which made me think “What the crap does ‘mainline’ have to do with not drinking caffeine? Yes, avoiding polygamy is ‘mainline’ Mormonism, and not drinking tea and coffee is ‘mainline’, and not being ornery that women don’t get the Priesthood is ‘mainline’, but where they heck did they get the caffeine thing?!”

    Then I read a lot of comments from people quoting an interview of Pres. Hinckley with Mike Wallace in which Pres. Hinckley said Mormons don’t drink caffeine… and then people saying “If Pres. Hinckley said it, it’s good enough for me.”… and then I had to start hitting my head on my desk, because the same people who say that really DO believe it’s explicitly against the WoW. *smh* I couldn’t help but start quoting Elder Christofferson’s talk from April GC where he said: “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.” So if you want to be just like Pres Hinckley, then sure, don’t drink caffeine, because apparently he doesn’t. But don’t go around spewing nonsense about how not drinking caffeine is “mainline” Mormonism. That’s a bunch of hogwash and just gets people confused.

    That said, I agree with Cheryl on the WoW personal-revelation thing, and I don’t think that personal revelation means it’s “not the WoW” anymore. The WoW is MUCH more than “don’t drink coffee, tea, alcohol, or use tobacco.” (the WoW, after all, is ALL of Sec. 89). HOWEVER, the WoW was given “not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom” – SO the only parts of the WoW that has been “upgraded” to “Commandment” are the tea/coffee/alcohol/tobacco parts. The rest is STILL the WoW, it’s just classified under the “revelation and word of wisdom” part (or, “smart suggestions”) – which means, to me, that it has to be interpreted by each individual for their individual needs and circumstances as such. But there are parts of the WoW that I feel, for ME, are commandments (when I receive personal instruction through revelation, I believe it becomes a personal commandment). But just because YOU receive personal revelation for YOUR situation doesn’t mean it’s a commandment for everyone else.

    And there’s only one point I completely, flat-out disagree with you on. If the WoW was going to ban something, it would have to be Mayo – definitely not Miracle Whip. Just sayin’

    1. FWIW: “Mainline” is a term that means to inject directly into the vein. So, by saying “we don’t drink caffeine, we mainline it,” they mean the indulge constantly.

      Also, I disagree that only selective parts of the WoW have been upgraded to commandment status I think it all has. I don’ t think personal application has any more place in the WoW than in the Law of Chastity, or tithing.

  48. While we are on he subject of false things said about the Word of Wisdom can we all stop telling the false story of how it was received? Yes, Emma was tired of scrubbing the floors, but the tobacco was not dripping through the floors into her kitchen below the school of the prophets. (in the Whitney Store).

    Also, I think that the W of W should be changed to include a ban on miracle whip.

  49. Interesting post and commentary as this has been in the forefront of my mind lately and is on the list of items to discuss next opportunity with my Bishop. I refuse to ask him when we go to dinner as couples since I like him to enjoy some time just being SB.
    With my still undiagnosed gastric issue and unexplained weight loss, fatgue and loss of appetite, there are several approaches that the medical field is entertaining for me.
    1. Coffee. It is one of the few things that doesn’t upset my stomach and helps my guts to function (without going into too much detail, I cannot have fiber)
    2. Medical marijuana – as is is known to alleviate nausea and increase appetite.
    3. Feeding tube. Fairly invasive and comes with additional health risks. It will bypass the stomach itself, but not guaranteed to be completely nonsymptomatic since it involves the rest of the gut as well.

    You can see that none of these are appealing to me. None are a guaranteed sure thing every time and clearly two of them fly in the face of my temple recommend.

    Let me pose this hypothetical question to you:
    It’s your wife. Her weight is not just unhealthy low, but dangerously so and her lifestyle is nearing a complete standstill. She is in constant pain and while she has enjoyed the comfort of many priesthood blessings, the diagnosis, relief and dare-we-hope- cure is still no where in sight.

    Her primary care doc is an active card carrying member and suggests that medicinal use is appropriate in this instance. Your wife agrees and is pretty much desperate for any relief.

    You say?………….

    1. I don’t.

      My wife and I would need to ask God, and he doesn’t respond well to hypotheticals.

      Sorry that I punted, but this is way too important for me to go spouting off my opinion. But I do hope you find you solutions.

    2. Have you looked into anything outside of the medical field? My sister has Crohn’s, and while she has a good Dr. that seems to know what he’s doing (this is her 2nd or 3rd, with the previous ones NOT knowing what they are doing), it has recently become obvious that going to a Dr. or depending upon “expert” medical advice doesn’t always get a solution. Because of this, we are more open to unconventional ways for her to stabilize her disease.

      I just stumbled upon this stuff called Diatomaceous Earth. You should look into it. Go to http://www.earthworkshealth.com/human-use.php and read up on it. I don’t sell the stuff, and have no affiliation with it whatsoever. I just found it and it might be worth your time to research it a bit.

      I’m sorry about your health problems. What a sticky, miserable, and frustration position to find yourself in. I pray you find a resolution and can become healthy soon!

    3. Some thoughts for consideration . . .

      Have you tried acupuncture, a good chiropractor, naturalpathic doctor, psychologist? Some serious problems have been remedied by others than medical doctors. My chiropractor has helped people overcome a miriad of illnesses, even those that normally require surgery. He even resolved a reproductive problem with one simple adjustment. I know some people who have found solutions to digestive issues by simple breathing exercises, stress management, and/or probiotics. Seaweed binds with heavy metals and toxins in our body and is used by the Japanese, especially in times when exposed to radiation. Maybe this can be helpful to some.

  50. I totally agree with you on all points.

    And I would like to add that I have been Mountain Dew-free for over eight months now. Hopefully that will counteract the bottles of Marsala, White and Red wines I have in my pantry.

  51. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! My mom tortured us when it came to the WOW and then to top it off my patriarchal blessing admonished me to obey the WOW in every aspect. With so many conflicting views and the strongest from my own mother I have grown up almost afraid to eat anything. Your answer rings true to me and I am finally going to put the issue to rest. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

  52. Thank you!!! I was trying to get my point across about this very thing in Sunday School last week (the lesson wasn’t even on the WoW, I was talking about following a prophet) but of course some thought it was an open discussion about the evils of caffeine and chocolate. It’s not about food, it’s about OBEDIENCE!

    Now excuse me, I’m gonna go eat a slab o’ meat.

  53. Exactly! The Word of Wisdom is about obedience, not health. Discussions in classes always veer toward the idea of health, and so people get into debates about whether you should eat a bowl of spaghetti every day (!) or if it’s ok to drink green tea because it’s healthy. Health isn’t the issue here–obedience is.

  54. “Because the Word of Wisdom is more about obedience than it is about health.”
    ^^ This ^^

    I taught a class in HP Group about the WoW and the inevitable long discussion of how ‘scientists have validated the health benefits’ tried to ensue. I pointed out that some of those same scientists would say that one beer with dinner was a good thing. Then I asked if one beer a month would *really* affect your health one way or another. Answer, no. Then I asked if one beer a month would affect your ability to hold a recommend. Answer, yes.

    The inescapable conclusion is that the WoW is about obedience and that coupled to this particular commandment are specific promises regarding health, among other things.

  55. Substitute for marsala wine… 1 cup gingerale mixed with 2 T balsamic vinaigrette. My friend is a chef and cooks with it all the time. It works perfectly!

    1. Bless you for sharing that! It is going in my cookbook! Any other substitutions for the other alcohols used in cooking? I love to cook. And I love marsala, too, but am leary to buy a meal with it or cook with it. Thanks so much!

    2. you can adjust the balsamic vinaigrette upper down a tablespoon depending on the quality of vinegarette. A higher quality than her at you use less, a cheaper vinaigrette you use more. I use a high quality vinaigrette can only add 1 tablespoon to ginger ale, but if you purchase a cheap vinaigrette from Walmart you might use 3 tablespoons. you want to maintain a sweet flavor… so as slowly to taste. If you think you’ve added a little too much vinaigrette, you can add to brown sugar to restore the sweetness. This mixture taste delicious and has the same acidic level as marsala wine, leaving you with the same cooking experience! Good Luck!

  56. Well, if you read the first page of the WofW (you know, before you turn the page and start reading the lists of ‘eat this not that’) the Lord explains WHY he gave the word of wisdom. It is to protect us from wicked and desiging men in the Latter-Days. If you think about it, we need to be on our guard ALL the time these days. How often do bad things happen to drunk people? How much does that fixation on coffee prevent people from getting things done? Addiction prevents us from hearing the warning voice of the Spirit, even if that addiction is a triple Baconator. Although it is NOT in the word of Wisdom, we have been told to bridle all our passions, even our passion for food and drinks. We have been blessed with the ability to think and act for ourselves. If we understand that drinking 4 big gulps is going to make us fat, we can’t hide behind the excuse that it isn’t in the WofW. We are also counseled to avoid the very appearance of evil. So if the rest of the world thinks we eat really healthy and can’t drink caffine, what are they thinking when they see us doing what they believe is against our religion? (On those lines, I have never evaluated my observance of the WofW more than when I saw that scene in SWAT where the guy is accused of cheating on his wife with a burger and fries!)It might not be spelled out in exact detail but is it going to hurt us to avoid caffine as much as possible? Will it hurt us to cut back on the ribs and eat more broccoli?

    1. Which makes it even more interesting that the Church proactively put it out in the media that caffeine is not in the WofW. Maybe with Gov. Romney walking around with a Diet Coke, they felt that the public needed to be educated.

  57. One thing I keep in mind is that the WoW is revelation adapted to the capacity of the weakest of saints. That, to me, means this is the bare minimum that you need to be doing (or not doing). EVERYONE can abide this. I also think that leaves room for other people to follow something more stringent if they feel that applies to them. Like my stake president doesn’t eat meat at all. And our friend who has had somehow survived terminal cancer three separate times takes eating grains and fresh (not cooked) vegetables to an extreme. There is wisdom in that, too.

    But for me, whether or not caffeine is mentioned in the word of wisdom, I know it to be an addictive substance. And the brethren certainly have spoken to us about staying away from addictive substances and behavior. So while it’s not banned by the WoW, I’ve seen enough people trying again and again to give up their diet coke or mountain dew that just can’t seem to get away from the stuff–and going through withdrawal symptoms when they do–that it seems like wisdom in me to just avoid it and not ever have to worry about a possible addiction. And even if you don’t get “addicted” I just don’t think caffeine should be used in my body like that on a regular basis. In fact, knowing that soda isn’t good for me at all, I hardly ever drink it (which at some times is quite a trial because I do love soda. A cold coke in a glass of crushed ice with a straw is so good! But if I do that a few times a year that’s ok with me. But since there is such a thing as caffeine-free coke, that’s what I opt for.)

    Anyway, I’m surprised that more people don’t want to avoid or limit major sources of caffeine regardless of the WoW.

    1. I agree, and I am not advocating caffeine consumption just because it is not part of the WoW. Neither is strychnine.

      My point is that there are lots of healthy thing we can do for our bodies that are beyond what is prescribed by the WoW. Wonderful, important things. But they no longer fall under the definition of the Word of Wisdom.

      If my sister wants to be a Vegan, that is fine, but it is an extension of her choice, not an extension of the WoW.

    2. No argument. Basically the No’s in the word of wisdom will keep you out of the temple. That’s where the line is drawn. It is what it is. But I don’t think we should all stick our heads in the sand saying, “A health code! A health code! We have got a health code! We don’t need any more revelation!” All while ignoring other pertinent health counsel (avoid addicting substances)from prophets and apostles.

    3. I am so grateful for continual revelation from our prophets and apostles. I have been on my own personal anti-addiction kick, which has included striving to carefully follow the more literal parts of the WoW. While I have never struggled with coffee or tea (which both contain higher levels of tanic acid that can cause all sorts of health problems like migraines), sugar has been my addiction of choice for many years. While the WoW does not ban sugar, it has become a personal revelation for me to remove it from my diet for an extended period of time so that I can focus more on the Lord and my family and less on the ice cream in my freezer. I love that we have the WoW to provide us with guidelines and the leaders of our church to continually guide us as we try to do the Lord’s will. I also love that one day I will be able to enjoy a slice of cheesecake without it messing with my head.

  58. Yep, yep, yep. I found myself scratching my head this week, wondering why this was news. “Mormon church announces nothing changes in its official interpretation of the Word of Wisdom.” Hmmmm.

    1. Black licorice is sexy, I learned that form a study done by USA today. It’s tasty too. I don’t mind eating a beet now and then but I agree on the Miracle whip.

  59. I truly believe that aside from the “no’s”, the WoW is a health guideline we’re asked to follow to the best of our ability. Does this mean we should be wary of the processed foods that are now at our fingertips? For sure. We have brains, and we should use them. Does that mean we are condemned and are not allowed to reap the blessings of doing our best if we don’t follow every single iota of an idea that is in the WoW? Doubtful. We are also commanded to be perfect. But we can only be perfect with a lifelong repentance streak.

    It’s really simple: Stay away from the no’s and do the do’s. But I also believe it’s up for personal revelation concerning some of it. A friend of mine felt they should eradicate meat from their family because of heart disease. Does that mean all meat is bad? No, but for them it seemed crucial. I don’t drink soda and I stay away from caffeine when I can. Why? I have an addictive personality and soda just made me feel gross all the time. Does that mean my husband will get the stink-eye from me when he orders his Diet Coke (with caffeine) every time we go out? Nope.

    Thank you for mentioning the “moderation in all things” thing. That widely-used inaccurate phrase drives me nuts. So somebody feels in order to be healthy they adopt a whole-foods-leaning-towards-raw-veganism diet? Big whoopdie deal. They will probably be awesomely healthy! And as long as they stay away from coffee, they’re good to go.

    1. Right: But as soon as personal revelation enters into the equation, it ceases to be the Word of Wisdom. If your friend was inspired to eradicate meat from their lives, that is great, but it is now a personal revelation for them – not a function of the W of W.

    2. MMM-
      I thought that was a given.

      I have no idea what you are talking about. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

    3. Cheryl: I don’t think it’s really a “given” to many people. So many times I hear people explaining what the WoW means with things that really have nothing to do with it – like the moderation thing.

    4. Oh, Julie, thanks! I totally missed that. Crystal, my apologies. That was funny. 🙂

      MMM- I meant it was a given for YOU. Since this is your blog post and all. 😉

  60. what!? I’m the first here to comment. well then, please don’t delete the stupid ones, they might be kinda funny.

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