(post originally written in 2017, tweaked a little for 2021)
Whenever church lessons cycle around to include the Word of Wisdom, I see an uptick in people talking about it, which is great. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of inaccurate info being passed around and even contention in those discussions. As I read those things I asked myself a question, “Are we making this harder than it has to be?” My goal with this post is to merely point out some issues and ideas to help make our understanding of this commandment a little less complicated.
The Three Premises
Before we jump into the Word of Wisdom, here are three concepts that are essential to having a correct understanding of the Word of Wisdom, AND the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we do not accept these three things, none of it will ever make sense, and we will never reach a point of simplicity.
- God speaks to us through His prophets.
- Living prophets supercede dead prophets.
- The words of living prophets (modern scripture) supersede ancient scripture (the Standard Works) Here are citations for all three: (D&C 1:38. D&C 21:5. D&C 68:3-4. D&C 112:20. D&C 124:45–46)
If those three concepts rub you the wrong way, then you won’t much like what I have to say from here on out. To keep it simple, I will refer to these three things as “The Premises” for the rest of the post.
Now, an analogy: Let’s say you use some specific software for your computer – like Photoshop. The first version I ever used was 1.0, way back in 1990. Since then, there have been something like 25 upgrades to the program.
Here is the question: If I need help with Photoshop v. cc 2017 1.1, do I dig out my old 1.0 manual to figure out my problem, or do I look online for the newest instructions?
A bit of a no brainer. Yet, I read responses from people saying things like, “In Section 89 it says…” or “I answered the survey questions based on what is written in Section 89.”
Why would you base knowledge of the Word of Wisdom on the first version that was given 184 years ago, when there have been so many upgrades since then?
To explore that idea, let’s look at some concepts that came to light from obvious misunderstandings that were brought up in the survey.
1. The Word of Wisdom IS a Commandment.
If you do not believe in The Premises, then you might find yourself bringing up D&C 89:2, where the Lord introduced the Word of Wisdom by saying, “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom…” This scripture does a great job in arguing that the Word of Wisdom is NOT a commandment, merely wise counsel – which is exactly right – IF you lived in 1833. But that was version 1.0.
Today’s upgraded version is different, and in force, if you have a testimony of The Premises.
“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.” (Ezra Taft Benson, 1983)
Basically, the “non-binding” version only lasted about 18 years before the upgrade to commandment status. It has been taught as a commandment ever since. In 1921, President Heber J. Grant added adherence to the Word of Wisdom to the requirement to enter the temple. (link)
2. “Hot Drinks” Means Tea and Coffee. Period.
If you read D&C 89:9, you will see, “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” What does that mean? Is hot chocolate a “hot drink?” Is iced Coffee okay? What about iced tea? Green tea? The original version opens up a lot of questions.
Apparently those questions about hot drinks popped up immediately after the revelation was announced. Both Joseph and Hyrum Smith both taught that “hot drinks” meant tea and coffee. (link) The Prophet Joseph said:
“I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. … Tea and coffee are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks.’”
So that version was very short-lived. Ever since then, “hot drinks” has been defined as tea and coffee. Of course in our society, there are all sorts of new ways to consume those two things. Iced coffee, iced tea, frappuccinos, etc. Coffee is coffee is coffee.
Tea has even more new ways to be consumed. Hot, cold, green, white, black, oolong, etc. However, anyone who spends more that 30 seconds researching will quickly find that black, green and white teas all come from the exact same plant. The only difference is the way that it is processed. Tea is tea is tea. If you read the label on the can, bottle or box, and one of the ingredients is “tea.” then it contains “tea.” Simple enough? Color is irrelevant. Green teas should keep us out of the temple just like coffee or alcohol.
But what about herbal teas? If it says things like mint, chamomile, peppermint etc., but does NOT list an ingredient that says “tea.” then it is not “tea.”
3. Stay Away From Strong Drinks, Hot Drinks and Tobacco – and Drugs.
I don’t know what illicit drugs existed back in the 1800’s, but I am pretty sure we have them beat. Pot, heroin, cocaine, meth and other illegal drugs are joined by a host of prescription drugs in a scourge on our society.
While these things are not listed in Section 89, they have been added by the Lord’s servants. President Hinkley is awesome:
“Some have even used as an alibi the fact that drugs are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway.” (link)
Over my lifetime, drugs have always been considered part of the Word of Wisdom. I don’t know when that began, but I’m sure it came about as a result of The Premises mentioned earlier.
These are just three examples of how using the original text of the Word of Wisdom will leave us lacking. It has evolved since then, as society has devolved. If we don’t embrace The Premises, then we can busy ourselves making our own wine, etc. and rehashing the same Word of Wisdom arguments forever. Moving on…
Here are a few of MY observations regarding the Word of Wisdom to chew on. Get it?
1) Not All Aspects of the Word of Wisdom Carry Equal Weight…Right Now
Once I got criticized by a reader for not emphasizing 89:11, which reads, “Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.”
Her problem with me? I was not teaching that we should only eat fruit in the corresponding season. For example, eat tomatoes only in the summer. To me, this was bizarro logic, because following it to an extreme would make it so you could never eat a salad in Utah in January. Right?
I did spend some time searching our modern scriptures (General Conference talks) to see if any of the brethren had addressed this thing, and I had just missed it. I searched, and couldn’t find one reference from the brethren that suggested that we limit our intake of herbs and fruit to certain seasons.
My conclusion: There are other, more important things that the Lord wants His representatives to be teaching us than seasonal fruit issues. That is part of The Premises. (Perhaps it doesn’t even apply now that we have freight and refrigeration capabilities that weren’t even dreamed of in 1833.)
President Harold B. Lee once taught that what we hear in General Conference is more than just a series of random lessons”
“If you want to know what the Lord would have the Saints know and to have his guidance and direction for the next six months, get a copy of the proceedings of this conference, and you will have the latest word of the Lord as far as the Saints are concerned.” (link)
Apparently eating a BLT in February in Idaho is not one of those things.
Another thing that does not seem to be a top issue with the Lord and the brethren is the eating of meat. If you search the General Conference talks for the past forever, there are exactly two instances where a prophet speaks about this issue. One is from President Ezra Taft Benson, where he mentions it briefly, and opens the context to indiscriminate killing. “In this revelation the Lord counsels us to use meat sparingly. I have often felt that the Lord is further counseling us in this revelation against indiscriminately killing animals, for He has said elsewhere in scripture, “Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” (link)
The other citation I could find was Elder Boyd K. Packer, but he was using the concept as an example of people becoming fanatics:
“Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist. For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly. Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to eat meat is not ordained of God.” (D&C 49:18).(link)
As far as I could tell, none of the brethren have ever even used the words “vegan” or “vegetarianism” in a General Conference talk. (Other than one side reference to Ghandi.) Apparently, and much to my delight, the consumption of meat is not very high on the Lord’s list of concerns He has for His children. I guess there are bigger fish to fry. Yum.
Of course this could all change in a heartbeat. Maybe next October we will all be challenged to go vegan, or ‘eat more chikin,’ or stop buying grapes in December. It is always possible… but for now, I am going to focus on the things the Lord is focusing on.
2) Our Personal Beliefs Do Not Change the Word of Wisdom
Whenever there is a discussion that involves the Word of Wisdom, someone invariably brings up something that is NOT part of the Word of Wisdom by saying that it “should be,” or that it is implied. Oops.
Yes, we eat too much sugar. Yes, caffeine is the devil. Yes, the saints eat too much ice cream. Yes, being overweight is probably more dangerous than tea, etc.
All of those things may be absolutely true, yet none of them are a part of the Word of Wisdom. I find it remarkable how often people want to insert their own personal beliefs into the commandment, and expect others to live by it. I have even seen people take the Word of Wisdom, add a dash of the popular modern philosophies of health and science, and then start hawking books and cookbooks with the actual name “Word of Wisdom” in the title. (Funny, I don’t remember any of the brethren endorsing a Word of Wisdom diet.)
God’s servants speak for God. And one of the things God rarely does is explain his reasoning. Don;t get hung up on that.
3) The “Don’ts” Get More Attention Than the “Dos”
Earlier, I gave two example of directives from the Word of Wisdom that the Lord has not had His servants push. In contrast, search for the word “addiction” in the General Conference talks. Page after page of talks about addictions come up. Alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, pornography and even prescription drugs are spoken of over and over again.
One of the key concerns is how addiction affects agency. President Nelson taught, “We are free to take drugs or not. But once we choose to use a habit-forming drug, we are bound to the consequences of that choice. Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will!” (link)
The Lord and his servants are incredibly concerned about addiction. This happens at all levels of the Church. The substances that are most commonly talked about in worthiness interviews are drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Participation in these addictive substances is a deal-breaker when trying to be baptized or to enter a temple.
On the other hand, not eating enough whole grains has never once come up in a worthiness interview that I am aware of.
So yes, the “Don’ts” get more attention than the “Dos,” possibly because the “Don’ts” pose a greater danger to our spiritual growth and progression.
The observance of the “Don’ts” is also easy to quantify: “Do you smoke – yes or no?” Yet the “Dos” offer a never-ending opportunity for improvement. I can always eat healthier, plan and shop for food more carefully, add more fruits and vegetables to my diet, etc.
4) There IS Flexibilty in SOME of the Word of Wisdom.
Do you have celiac disease? I cannot believe for a minute that Heavenly Father would expect you to consider wheat as your mainstay just because He said it in Section 89.
Many people who suffer from cancer or other debilitating conditions find relief through medical marijuana. Just last year the Church released a statement that read, “While we are not in a position to evaluate specific medical claims, the Church understands that there are some individuals who may benefit from the medical use of compounds found in marijuana.” (link)
In both these instances, the remedy flies in direct conflict with the teachings of the Word of Wisdom, and I’m sure there are countless more. Personally, I believe God is merciful, and it is not for me to judge. There are circumstances where exceptions are granted – but exceptions are just that – exceptions, and shouldn’t be used to minimize the importance of the norm. Self-decided exceptions can get into fuzzy areas quickly,. For example: A young man can take Ritalin for his ADHD and it is a medical treatment, but if his brother steals a pill and takes it for fun, it is a sin.
Personally, if I ever felt I needed an exception to this, or any other commandment, I would consult with the Judge in Israel who has stewardship over me. That’s right: My Bishop. I would not take a decision like that lightly.
I did not intend for this to be this long, so I will summarize it briefly:
• The Lord has graciously given us the Word of Wisdom to help protect us and bless us physically, mentally and spiritually. I know this is true. I also know that I have much room for improvement.
• The Word of Wisdom is ever-evolving because the world we live in is ever-changing. If we don’t acknowledge these changes, our beliefs become outdated.
• If I am hung up on a part of the Word of Wisdom (or the entire Gospel) that the Lord and His servants don’t seem too concerned about, I should probably reevaluate my focus.
• If I find myself criticizing the Lord or His servants, and suggesting the I know what should and shouldn’t be in the Word of Wisdom, I ought to take a deep breath and re-think what I am doing.
• If you do not have a testimony of The Premises that I outlined earlier, please get one. That way, when the inevitable changes come, you will be able to adapt to them and count them as blessings. It will also prevent you from wrestling with, or sharing out-dated doctrine.
• The blessings that come from living the Word of Wisdom are real, and worth it.
I wrote two previous posts about the Word of Wisdom back in 2012 that you might find applicable:
Four years ago I was the gospel doct teacher in our ward. I traded teaching Sec 132 for 89, I don’t like teaching either but that’s another story. I dislike WoW lessons because I feel we *are* short sighted and the lesson always dissolves into nit-picking about personal choices. So I remember thinking how do I make *this* WoW lesson better? I decided to make a disclaimer at the beginning of the lesson, “We are talking about the WoW today. Verses 5-11 are important. Those are the warnings that if you ignore, will keep you out of the temple. If you’re not worthy to enter the temple, you’re not worthy to live with God. Follow those things and be worthy. Now we’re going to focus on the rest of the section (the DO’s).” It was actually a great lesson. We had a visitor that day who came up and said they’d had that lesson the week before in her home ward and that they didn’t even finish the section because people were being ridiculous. The last few verses are the most important as far as I’m concerned. Those are the promises for our sacrifice and obedience. However, I will say this, after going this this last 18 months of Covid, I understand why people drink … I just do. This year I’m teaching Valiant 10s, and it’s gonna be amazing! We’re going to talk about making good choices and building good habits for our bodies and minds.
Maybe the hardest thing about the understanding of scripture, ancient or recent, is that so many of us bicker over the meanings. I believe we are in greater spiritual danger when we cast judgement and condemn others for interpreting scripture differently than we do, than when we unwittingly eat or drink something contrary to what the Lord intended. And of course, this applies to all debatable scripture, not just the word of wisdom. Contention is of the Devil. I loved this article, and I have a sister who holds a very different interpretation. The point is, I can argue with her about our differences, or I can see that both of us are trying to understand to the best of our ability and let my love for her come before my need to be “right.” In the end, it will all be cleared up, and all we can do is our best according to our understanding. The minute I find myself feeling angry or overly impassioned about my own interpretation of anything, the spirit has left the room. To love God is the first and greatest commandment, and to love each other is like unto the first. No matter what scripture is up for discussion, I wish that these two would be in the forefront of our minds as we discuss. These are just my thoughts as I have been reading many articles and opinions on this subject.
Let me confess that I am a hit and miss reader. I have enjoyed every blog? that I have read, and have appreciated the way your thoughts generate my own thoughts and research. This is the first time I have ever commented anywhere online about anything. Maybe that is an indication about my strong feelings regarding what I feel is the most important part of the Word of Wisdom. (I recognize what I feel is not really important to others, but I do wonder why we don’t talk about these promises more often) President Monson touches briefly on them in his conference talk Oct 2016. I wonder if the conversation / discussion / contention would be lessened if we just remembered the promises that come with the commandment. I personally need health, wisdom and great treasures of knowledge. I am not exactly sure of the meaning of the destroying angel in this scripture, but it sounds comforting. Thanks for listening. I hope that I haven’t broken any rules. I do love the three premises. They fit so closely into what I have been reading by Elder Bednar and Elder Holland.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
Please keep sharing. I will be here more often.
Loved reading this. I agree 100%. I get a lot of flack for the way I eat. I am allergic to a lot of foods…most grains, all nuts and all legumes. It makes eating more of a chore than anything else. Because of these limitations I feel best if I eat veggies and animal protiens. It is what works for me and helps me feel healthy and strong. I think that is what we need to think most of – what helps us function at the top of our game…both our brain and our body.
I once read a part of the History of the Church where at Zion’s camp they were setting up tents and found a rattlesnake. They quickly dispatched it, and the Prophet Joseph Smith came along and admonished them that they shouldn’t kill animals unless it was for eating. Then almost directly after telling them that, he drew a bead on a squirrel up in the tree and shot it dead and simply walked away. The brethren were a bit surprised at his actions, but I think they saw it as a test, so they retrieved the squirrel and cooked it up and ate it. I don’t know what this has to do with the word of wisdom, except that I agree with the sentiment about not killing animals unnecessarily (and always feel a little guilty when I accidentally let my chicken expire), but I like getting a glimpse of the prophet’s sense of humor. Thought you might appreciate it.
I didn’t know people were discussing the seasonal issues. As I was reading this, I had a thought on the “fruits in the season thereof” I’d like to share. When I purchase strawberries in January, I am eating the fruit in its season, because it has been imported from South America where it is growing, and was harvested at ripeness, in its season. So in eating that lush, ripe strawberry, grown in its summer season in Argentina, and flown to my winter season in January, I am still eating the fruit in the season thereof. Same goes for any fruit. As I buy salad tomatoes, I’ve been noticing that the tomatoes at the store are at first a little greenish, then they’re very yummy and ripe, and then they get kind of old, overripe, and odd-looking as the crop finishes in one location, then they are suddenly back at the almost-ripe stage. It’s about a 3 1/2 week cycle. If you look carefully at the labels, the country of origin changes with the ripeness cycle – the tomatoes are being harvested in different places, following the growing seasons in those locations. An interesting thing to think about.
I love your take here and agree with most of it, but it was would be nice if you quoted D&C 49:18 correctly. It says if you forbidden to abstain…..so…..that would mean forbid someone from not eating meat. It’s a double negative which trips up a lot of people.
About 49:18 – that verse is in the context of a quote – and it is not my quote, it is President Packer, so I wouldn’t presume to change it.
GREAT post! I loved it yesterday when I read it, I love it today when I shared it with my sister (who invariably stands on her soap box about not eating meat whenever the WoW is discussed). I am reading through the comments at the bottom of the survey, and I agree that some of them do cause concern regarding our understanding, our commitment to living the words that come from the mouths of living prophets, and our ability to rationalize as we see fit. LOVED your beginning with The Premises. The whole post is excellent, and I will refer to it often. THANKS!
Thanks for the summary and especially some of the explanations of modern additions!
The only thing I would add is that each of us is allowed/encouraged to receive our own additional revelations for our own lives. So if I pray to know how I can better keep the commandments of God, he might say to me personally, “Don’t eat —-” or “Do eat —-.” It wouldn’t be the WoW for everyone, but as long as it didn’t conflict with the rest of the WoW (a “commandment” to drink coffee would be very suspect), I would think of it as the way he wants me personally to interpret the WoW.
It would definitely be personal revelation. But it wouldn’t be the word of wisdom
I’m not convinced on the meat part. Everyone always gravitates to the word sparingly and completely forgets about the next part:
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
This is one of the most clear parts of the word of wisdom, and the lack of updates seems to indicate that it would still be in effect. The Lord is happy when we don’t eat animals. I don’t think He is happy with how his creations are treated in slaughterhouses and chicken farms.
Yes, it is not appropriate to label meat eating as a sin and forbid it, but it’s pretty clear we should not be a meat and potatoes society since most of us have access to fruits, vegetables and grains all year long.
To understand what is true, and what is not, consider this passage: “…these are the words which I spake unto my servant Moses, and they are true even as I will.” [Moses 4:32]. It follows that whatsoever God speaks to the living Prophet is true even as He wills.
Thanks for a great post…I am a day late but enjoyed reading it this morning…Great food for thought!
first, i want to say that i loved this read. it was researched well enough to get the key points across. it has great value but has only scratched the surface of the simplicity. i would go even further to point out that it comes down to a greater simplification; and that simplification is more referring to your “2) Our Personal Beliefs Do Not Change the Word of Wisdom” section, where i believe you are referring to common sense. however, the prophets have spoken about the things you mentioned in this section. so, now i get to the greater simplification of the word of wisdom (more so relating to the don’ts) when it boils down to it, our whole purpose of our existence in this round of creation is to gain control of our mortal frames so that they are subject to our spiritual will and not worldly desires. when we allow our bodies to be controlled by a substance, we are failing our mission. therefore, it is against the gospel in general (not just the word of wisdom) to partake of too much of anything. your “drug” could be fast food, or sweets. if you are a slave to sugar, than it is against the word of wisdom. if you can’t get through a day without drinking a Mountain Dew than it is against the word of wisdom. if you are addicted to eating fast food and have to have McDonald’s everyday, then that is against the word of wisdom. if you are overweight due to an addiction to something, then that is against the word of wisdom. i don’t see how this can be misunderstood as a “our personal beliefs” when it seems pretty clear that it is not in line with the teachings of the Gospel. if anyone can point out a flaw in my reasoning, please feel free to correct my ignorance. i’m always willing to learn from those who have more wisdom than i do.
I completely agree with your thoughts that “our whole purpose of our existence in this round of creation is to gain control of our mortal frames so that they are subject to our spiritual will and not worldly desires. when we allow our bodies to be controlled by a substance, we are failing our mission.” There are many teachings from the prophets that support this idea, and it is discussed frequently.
I disagree that this idea is included as part of the the Word of Wisdom. It is far more specific. For some reason that I don’t know, the Lord did not paint the Word of Wisdom with a broad brush, as you have. He was much more specific. However, I believe that every specific you mentioned does fall within your description as an affront to the Gospel and our purpose herein life.
Love this quote from Jeff, “our whole purpose of our existence in this round of creation is to gain control of our mortal frames so that they are subject to our spiritual will and not worldly desires. when we allow our bodies to be controlled by a substance, we are failing our mission.” And, I agree with the rest of your comment, MMM.
From the Heber J. Grant manual Teaching of Presidents of the Church: In addition to exhorting the Saints to obey this specific counsel, President Grant and other Presidents of the Church have spoken out against the use of harmful or habit-forming substances such as illegal drugs. President Grant said, “The Lord does not want you to use any drug that creates an appetite for itself.”1
I’ve always liked this quote to help me avoid things that aren’t mentioned in the WOW, but are within the Spirit of it.
We had a lively discussion on the WoW in Gospel Doctrine today. Pretty much covered the points of your post. I guess that is Well Done for us. We have an elderly Brother who is Jewish and was raised Kosher. He still keeps Kosher, as he cannot bring himself to eat pork, dairy with meat, etc. He also keeps the WoW, so he says eating is very complicated for him. He seldom comes to ward dinners. I always love his comments in class, a nice Jewish point of view.
As for me, I love whole wheat and oatmeal and chocolate, but am allergic to all three. When I was eating whole wheat and oatmeal, I could not eat strawberries (half a strawberry brought an asthma attack), or other berries, or melons, fresh corn, peaches, and a salad only once or twice a month. When I stopped eating whole wheat and oatmeal, all the fresh fruits and veggies were able to come back into my diet. So I made a wise choice for me. White flour doesn’t bother me, (well, I am diabetic), so I eat seeded breads, barley, brown rice, and quinoa, and white chocolate.
Thank you for the quote by Pres. Benson. Your post was great food for thought and I agree with the three premises you wrote. I feel they are important points for members to keep in mind. It saddens me when others dig up bones from our past to chew on without taking in the concept of line upon line, precept upon precept. I wish I could articulate my thoughts better. I seek personal revelation and move forward with faith. I figure I’m on the right path when I can feel the companionship of the Holy Spirit with me.
Enjoyed your post. Don’t disagree with it at all.
Two points of clarification. There were two talks at the Oct 2016 GC that mentioned the WofW. (Although I don’t think either one disagreed with your statements, so I just bring them up to your attention.)
And there is an LDS member that does have a diet/lifestyle based on the Word of Wisdom and her interpretation of it.
(I removed this link because it is making money off of a private interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. MMM)
Keep up the good work!!
I am aware of both of those talks. I don’t think I ever said that there are not talks about the Word of Wisdom, merely that they never seem to talk about meat or seasonal fruit eating.
Thanks for doing what you do!
Downloaded this superior blog and it didn’t print after the first three conclusion points, leaving out the remaining three, etc. There should have been seven pages, but only six printed. Could not find any way of retrieving that important missing material. Help!
Try saving it as a PDF file. Then try printing the PDF
Thank you for sharing this. I’m preparing the same lesson for next week in our ward. You’ve articulated many of the thoughts that have been swirling in my brain about the WoW for a few weeks. I told the class today, when announcing next week’s lesson we’re not talking about what sodas we drink or should or shouldn’t we be vegetarian, or gluten free etc. I am always frustrated with WoW lessons, because we seem to go down a very prescriptive, and predictable path. I’m going to write my lesson so that we’re focusing on the blessings we receive from this commandment. I just discovered Pres. Benson’s talk this week. It’s been a great resource too.
I appreciate this post, but now I have a question about The Premises.
How do we distinguish between evolving doctrine and absolute truths? For example – the evolving WoW doctrine versus the absolute truth that Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus are separate people.
Some members of the Church freak out, as in they question the truth of the restored Gospel, when living prophets change/update doctrine. They believe that a prophet”s words are set in stone and should not be changed.
Other members disregard much of ancient scripture because they feel it is out of date.
I just saw a Facebook post about the change in doctrine in 1978 about priesthood ordination. I remember that day clearly and with deep gratitude for President Kimball. However, I know members left the Church over this change.
How do we teach and preach about the restored Gospel that allows for doctrinal changes and eternal absolutes?
If you have already written about this, I’m sorry I missed it.
Great questions. Please let us know when you have figured it all out, so YOU can write a post about it for me! (Was that cowardly enough?)
Ha! I would never call you cowardly, especially when you have a WoW picture heading that includes chocolate AND Dr. Pepper. My current WoW understanding allows for Diet Dr. Pepper. Real Dr. Pepper is too pure for me.
I do hope that some of your readers will comment on this topic. Otherwise you may have to address it, at length and with links, in another post. Especially if we are counseled to become Vegan at October General Conference!
A bishop once told me that doctrine never changes, but principles do. I wonder if we sometimes confuse the two.
Here’s my two cents–The question of absolute truth and evolving doctrine is an interesting one. I’ve long said that The Word of Wisdom is part of the law of obedience. When it was given, the saints knew little about the health dangers of the particular substances, but those who were obedient received great blessings. Would we have the faith to be obedient if the Prophet revealed that we are to abstain from caffeine? Or lemonade? Or chocolate? Or any other commonly used and loved substance? We show our faith and obedience by keeping the Word of Wisdom as it has evolved through the prophets. Interesting to me is that in my patriarchal blessing the only commandment I’m warned to keep is The Word of Wisdom. I don’t say much about it because my study of it and the promptings I’ve had are for me only. As with so much of the gospel we have to get a testimony of it for ourselves and the application of truths may be slightly different for each person.
Nice thoughts. Thanks!
Thanks! Your thoughts are well-grounded and bring me peace.
Great post! In your opinion when are the prophets speaking for the Lord as commandment for the church? I ask because there are a lot of books that the Apostles and General Authorities write that don’t become official doctrine or commandments but more opinion. So when is it opinion vs from the Lord? One that is constantly quoted is McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine.
Good question. All I can say is that I tend to associate General Conference address with Scriptures, but I don’t pay much attention to the books you mentioned. (The Church has stopped publishing Mormon Doctrine, btw)
I agree with you on this point.
What’s your opinion on General Conference talks from General Authorities that aren’t the Apostles? I mean obviously they are great and we would be wise to follow the counsel. But when does it count as hey this is now a commandment and not opinion? I used to think that if it was published by the Church then I was pretty safe to regard it more than just opinion but now I don’t know.
Good question. This is merely my OPINION: Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve all hold keys. Members of the Seventy and aux. presidencies don’t. I see the direction given by those who hold stewardship over me through priesthood keys as more significant than those who don’t. I do think all of them give really valuable and wise counsel which ought to be listened to, but I look at it a bit differently.
Although this post is of serious content, I would see nothing amiss in adding the tag line you use for the light hearted posts.
“The word of wisdom, now with bacon.”
Are you teaching us that the entire body of conference addresses and other writings and addresses of the GAs is automatically canonized?
I think canonization is formal process that has to be voted on, so no. I don’t think they are canonized. But I do believe in D&C 1:39, so there’s that.
Here is an article that delves into why Conference talks and such are considered to be scripture: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-the-living-prophets-student-manual/chapter-6-general-conference?lang=eng
I found this while researching the topic:
When are the words of the prophets to be considered scripture? The Lord said: “And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:3–4.)
Although the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, “only the President of the Church,” spoke President J. Reuben Clark Jr., “the Presiding High Priest, is sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church, and he alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church, or change in any way the existing doctrines of the Church. He is God’s sole mouthpiece on earth for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true Church. He alone may declare the mind and will of God to his people. No officer of any other Church in the world has this high right and lofty prerogative.” (Church News, 31 July 1954, p. 10.)
President Clark further explained how one can tell if a prophet has been inspired of the Holy Ghost: “We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’
“In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.” (Church News, 31 July 1954, p. 9.)
Good quotes, however the irony is that – according to President Clark – his own words do not carry any official weight, and are merely opinions, because he is not “The Prophet.” So we should discount what he said? I think not.
I will still consider all 15 men to be “prophets, seers and revelators,” because that is how I sustain them. I also don’t see how teaching or shining additional light on a given doctrine or principle is considered “Changing the doctrines of the church.”
Thank you for bringing sanity and clarity to a gospel principle once again!
As you said that we don’t pay enough attention to the “do’s” of the Word of Wisdom, I think these are some of the “do’s” that we don’t use enough:
“… to be used with judgment and skill” (D&C 89:9)
“… to be used with prudence and thanksgiving” (D&C 89:11)
“… to be used sparingly [not omitted]” (D&C 89:12)
“… in times of famine and excess of hunger” (D&C 89:15)
“… sent … by… the word of wisdom” (D&C 89:2)
All of these phrases say to me that I am to use the Spirit, judgement, and wisdom in making choices.
We too often treat the Word of Wisdom and the words of the brethren like a Mosaic law (Word of Wisdom 0.1). I think that if we were to treat it more like an example of possible applications of the Spirit and our brains, with the agenda to do what is right in the sight of God and right for our bodies, it isn’t hard to get this right, to be less judgmental of others, and to not stress over the details.
What’s right for you may not be right for me. What’s right for me today may not be right for me tomorrow. How do we know? As the Word of Wisdom says, by using wisdom, prudence, thanksgiving, judgment, skill, and using the “wisdom” and “great treasures of knowledge” promised us through obeying this law 🙂 (D&C 89:19).
Great post, MMM! And I love your comment as well, Bryan. Thanks!
Thanks, Jenny 🙂
Love this thought — “I think that if we were to treat it more like an example of possible applications of the Spirit and our brains, with the agenda to do what is right in the sight of God and right for our bodies, it isn’t hard to get this right, to be less judgmental of others, and to not stress over the details.” Well said.
I am saving this. Excellent for everyone and especially new members, youth, and inactives.
I was born in western kentucky 1949 and did grow up in the traditions of baptists. I first learned of the word of wisdom in the 1970’s. I do believe it to be true . The word meat is a hebrew word for food, all food, not just the flesh of animals. Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yeilding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
Thank you for an insightful post.