Tempted to Violate the Word of Wisdom

When we think of temptations related to the Word of Wisdom, we usually think of, you know, being tempted to violate the WoW. But I can think of a few different WoW-related temptations.

The temptation to judge those who violate the WoW.

Former T & S guest blogger Brandie Siegfried wrote this:

When I was ten years old, my mother had been a member of the . . . church for nine years. My father, while a believer in general Christian terms, was highly suspicious of religious institutions. My siblings and I were raised in the church.

As you might expect within our family, the members had the usual Mormon zeal for converting loved ones. We had to temper our enthusiasm, though, for fear of asserting the false premise that there was a simple choice: the Church or the NFL. Anyhow, the year that I was ten, my father surprised us all one Sunday by joining us for church. Instead of waving to us from the couch (Coors in hand, the t.v. tuned to sports, a look of utter bliss on his face), my dad was dressed up in shirt and tie, shined shoes, and a serious demeanor. This was really something, mind you. My dad smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor, and drank like a fish. We were all happy he was joining us, but also a little nervous about the possibility of a serious profanity breach during sacrament meeting. Anyhow, we arrived at church a bit late and had to sit on chairs in the back of the chapel. There weren’t enough for all of us to sit together, so I sat with my dad on the very back row. The rest of the family sat in front of us.

The talks weren’t bad, and one was quite inspiring. The speaker was elaborating on the importance of knowing that families are forever, that love doesn’t end with death, etc. Like many of his generation, under his rough and ready exterior, my father was a romantic. During this talk he sat forward, clearly interested. He nodded agreement at key moments in the talk. It was looking good . . .

And as he always did when beginning to think deeply, my father pulled his pipe out of his pocket, tamped down the tobacco, clicked open his lighter, put flame to weed, and began contentedly puffing. Still nodding from time to time, he was clearly settling in for much-needed spiritual refreshment. I wasn’t sure what to do. A moment later, my mother’s posture stiffened and she turned around with her mouth open in surprise. Not wanting to cause a scene, and being shy by nature, she turned back around and picked up her hymn book, turned to the closing song, and began fidgeting. Within minutes, as pipe smoke wafted its way forward over the pews, heads were turning our way. Eventually, I could see the bishop straining to see who was sitting at the very back of the chapel. It was looking to be a disaster.

I remember being surprised at how angry the other members were. We were so proud and happy to finally have Dad with us. I guess we expected others to feel the same. After the closing prayer, my dad stood up and looked around, clearly expecting to be greeted; but people literally went far around us, almost dramatizing their desire to avoid my father. Tension galore. But then a charming little old lady (the kind with perfectly blued hair and a pearl-studded purse that matched her earrings) came up to us and said hello. She shook my dad’s had and welcomed him to church. In an old fashioned way, she slipped her arm through his, and gently guided him out the front door. She told him she had always loved the smell of pipe tobacco, mentioned the good memories the fragrance brought back for her, and elaborated on how pipe-smokers always seemed so intellectual and mysterious. Then she led the conversation around to the word of wisdom, and invited my dad to share his views on health and well-being. It was done so beautifully, that it was my father who eventually pointed out that he didn’t want his kids to smoke; he shared his views with her on the evils of tobacco and expressed interest in a little pamphlet the church had on the word of wisdom. [Original post here.]

I think the reason that this story stuck with me is that we often create a false dichotomoy between Judging and Tolerating. Clearly, the little blue-haired lady didn’t tolerate the behavior, but she still managed to act in a non-judgmental manner. This is not an easy thing. A similar experience comes from Elder Nelson’s biography:

The mission president [in Yugoslavia] had arranged for the Church’s local legal counsel, a young woman lawyer, to assist the visiting Church leaders [including Elder Nelson] in procuring a suitable building for meetings. When the mission president had called her the previous evening to confirm the appointment with Elders Nelson and Ringger the following day, she sounded somewhat inebriated on the telephone. With unsteady speech, she explained that she had lost two court cases that week and was feeling a little down. “I will meet you tomorrow,� she slurred. “Long live Serbia!� When the Brethren met with her the next morning, they noticed that she had obviously applied her makeup with an unsteady hand. Nevertheless, they forged ahead with their search. The lawyer had, indeed, done her homework, and the Brethren were pleased with some of the alternatives she showed them . . . Following the search, the mission president apologized profusely to Elder Nelson for having retained a lawyer who was given to drink. Elder Nelson placed his hand on the young mission president’s shoulder and said, “Just look at her situation. Here she is, unmarried, living alone, and trying her best to compete in a male-dominated society in a male-dominated profession. The Savior has a soft spot in His heart for young women like her.�

What impressed me about this incident is that he saw the WoW violation not as a cause of problems as much as a result of problems, and he chose to focus on the underlying problem. This seems to be a good key for avoiding judgmentalism.

The temptation to improve on the WoW.

Two incidents from the life of President McKay are relevant here:

[David O. McKay] gently chided Apostle John A. Widtsoe, whose wife advocated such a rigid interpretation of the Word of Wisdom as to proscribe chocolate because of the stimulants it contained, saying, “John, do you want to take all the joy out of life?� But he didn’t stop there. At a reception [President] McKay attended, the hostess served rum cake. “All the guests hesitated, watching to see what [President] McKay would do. He smacked his lips and began to eat.� When one guest expostulated, “But President McKay, don’t you know that is rum cake?� [he] smiled and reminded the guest that the Word of Wisdom forbade drinking alcohol, not eating it. [From David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.]

It is always tempting to build a fence around the law so that we can assure ourselves and others of our own righteousness. But it is a temptation, like all others, to be avoided.

The temptation to limit the WoW to being simply a health code.

If there is nothing in there about fettucine alfredo, then it isn’t strictly a health code. More seriously, though, are two other reasons:

(1) Think about the blessings associated with the WoW:

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; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. 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. [D & C 89:18-21]

My suspicion is that if the blessings have to do with topics in addition to health, then the commandment does as well.

(2) I admit an element of debatability to the argument above, but I think this seals the case:

Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual. [D & C29:35]

The temptation to come up with zoo stories.

(An explanation: the term ‘zoo stories’ entered the Smith Family Lexicon after one of the first dates that my husband and I went on. We went to the zoo. I would ask the normal questions: I wonder why that animal looks that way, eats that way, etc., etc. And my husband would answer them. And I would believe him. Until I happened to read one of the little signs and realized that he was wrong. He explained to me that he wasn’t claiming that what he said was a fact, just that it was a possibility. Hmph.)

The WoW is not as it is because of tannic acid. Or caffeine. Or any other substance. Or even primarily health, but rather because of “evil and designs by conspiring men.” Making up reasons to make the WoW seem logical instead of arbitrary will not reflect God’s design but our desires.

[What’s killing me here is that I am so tempted to share My Own Pet WoW Theory, which I think is really, really, good.]

We like to pretend that the WoW is all about the temptation to partake of forbidden things because most of us don’t feel that temptation very often or very much, which means that we can pat ourselves on the back for our goodness and we can put a big check mark next to the WoW box. But do you really think God would waste time on a commandment that is irrelevant to most of the Saints? I don’t. We should pay a little more attention to the WoW-related temptations that plague those of us who would never consider having a drink.

124 comments for “Tempted to Violate the Word of Wisdom

  1. One quibble. Suppose evil and designing men plotted to get us to spend more time with our families. Would that taint the activity?

    No. The intent of others cannot taint something that is inherently neutral or good. They can sometimes create an appearance of evil, but it is a tough argument to say that the Word of Wisdom is all about appearances. Could the design of such evil men simply be to get everyone to appear to be evil?

    Isn’t it much more likely that the designs here are to get gain through the exploitation of addiction? Possibly egged on by an adversary who wishes to destroy spiritual sensitivity, sound judgment, and family unity?

  2. “Suppose evil and designing men plotted to get us to spend more time with our families. Would that taint the activity?”

    Yes, if they advocated doing that instead of going to work and/or serving in the Church.

    My only point in bringing up the evil and designing men is that that is the reason given in the WoW for the commandment. I agree with you about the exploitation of addiction, but even that doesn’t completely seal the case, as many of the substances proscribed by the WoW can be used (by some people, at least) in a non-addictive way. But in that point, I was thinking more about the tannic acid people.

  3. “….a simple choice: the Church or the NFL.” I wonder if conversion and retention rates would increase if investigators were issued a TiVo upon baptism.

  4. So do we get to hear your pet WoW theory, Julie? I realize that undermines your zoo stories section, but I think that here in the comments as a sidenote to the great post above would be the proper context for sharing such a thing.

    Obviously zoo stories can be a problem when we take them as the gospel truth; however, it can be beneficial to hear speculations on the possible reasons behind certain Gospel-related doctrines, commandments, etc. Or at least it is for me.


    Speaking of evil and designing men….

    WoW = Word of Wisdom = World of Warcraft. Coincidence? I think not. [And surely this joke has been made before in the Bloggernacle].

  5. I love your zoo stories story, Julie. It makes me laugh because it sounds familiar.

    I’ve read a lot, so I have little snippets of information and partial bits of knowledge about a lot of different things, floating around in my head. And I’m a natural BS-er. I can usually come up with on-the-spot, reasonable-sounding, internally-consistent explanations for (or comments about) just about anything. More so when I’ve got some small amount of actual knowledge of the topic, which I often do (though not enough knowledge to really support my statements).

    So sometimes (often?) when Mardell (or someone else) asks a question or starts discussing a topic, I’ll jump in with a reasonable-sounding answer or comment that is, say, 30% actual knowledge and 70% speculation or conjecture or extrapolation. (Making up half-real, half-speculative information about animals at the zoo is _exactly_ the kind of thing I would do.) Since I can typically sound like I know what I’m talking about, most listeners don’t realize what’s happening unless they’re watching for it.

    After ten years of marriage, Mardell has a very keen ear for this and will call me on it regularly. Sometimes she calls me on a false positive, and then I have to protest, “no, this is something that I really _do_ know!”

  6. OK, William Morris, you dragged it out of me:

    I was reading Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (don’t ask) and the author mentioned that it is considered rude to have someone in your home for more than ten minutes without offering them tea, coffee, or alcohol. Bingo. I think the reason these items were selected for the WoW was because they are the standard social beverages, so accepting, declining, and/or offering them forces us to lay our Mormon card on the table right up front. In other words, there is nothing inherent in the beverage–it is all about their social function. But this, of course, is a zoo story.

  7. Well I’m alway consider it rude if I’m in someone’s home more than ten minutes and they haven’t yet offered me a cigarette. (Which is a smart-aleck way of saying that your zoo story seems to leave something out, doesn’t it? :P )

  8. No, Kaimi, it doesn’t explain tobacco at all. But I guess I’ve always thought of tobacco as categorically different from the drinks but I have nothing to back that up.

  9. So is it really so bad if I have a beer or two (and I mean just one or two) once or twice a year?

  10. #7: So how does proscribing tea, coffee, or alcohol because they have social significance tie back to the motivation given by the Lord (in consequence of evil designs by conspiring men)?

  11. ANA–

    It’s outer darkness for you, buddy! (How’s that for not judging?)

    My guess is that this is much like the no-earrings-on-guys thing: a very small, seemingly inconsequential act designed to test our willingness to obey with completeness.

  12. Sideshow–

    I have no idea. Maybe it is the evil and designing men that reinforce these as social beverages? I’m not entirely convinced by that idea, tho.

  13. I’m just like Kaimi, where I come up with reasonable sounding BS all the time. In a pursuit of honesty I’ve tried to tack on something to my explanations that designate it as what it is–my best guess as to what is going on.

    Anyhow, this is a really great post, (I also really like your theory, which I think is bolstered by the fact that most (all?) of the uplifting stories about the WoW are exactly the situation you describe. I heard one about one of the prophets meeting with the Queen of England during tea-time, and turning down the tea.)

    I think the judging is probably the worst violation, and one that I struggle with often. I grew up in a world where “bad people” were easily spotted by their cigarettes and beer. That sort of world view is easily bolstered by the common US high school experience where the rebelious (read: bad) kids really are the ones that drink and smoke. We don’t trasition well into being adults in a world where good people can do the things we associate so closely with bad lifestyles. Can I also suggest that this plays right into victim blaming where people who are raped, or robbed, or otherwise taken advantage of are villified for their own use of alcohol, and are asked “well what did you expect.”

  14. I think it all comes back to moderation in all things. (I’ve been called on using the phrase “moderation in all things” before, so if you want to get specific, the scriptures actually use the words “temperate” or “temperance.”)

    Some people are capable of having one or two beers a year and not becoming alcoholics. Some people aren’t. I’d rather be safe than sorry–especially since alcoholism runs in my family–and just not find out (by abstaining).

  15. Julie, thank you so much for bringing that story by Brandie Siegfried back to attention. It was posted the very same month I started to write for T&S, in October 2004. That story of the “charming little old lady (the kind with perfectly blued hair and a pearl-studded purse that matched her earrings)” was instrumental in triggering my own memories back to the time when I was branch president for a group of mostly older sisters. And thus all the wonderful experiences they brought in my life, as I have tried to retell in many of my posts. I know, has nothing to do with the WoW topic, but I just wanted to give credit to Brandie Siegfried.

  16. So…….

    According to Pres McKay…. I really like him……

    I can eat candy that has alchohol in it??? Great.

    Also I have been telling my wife that its OK that Coffee Ice Cream has real coffee in it. Looks like I am good to go. (and headed to Albertsons after work)

    Best post ever :)

  17. I like Rabbi Harold Kushner’s comment about keeping kosher, “Isn’t it incredible! Nearly five billion people on this planet, and God cares what I have for lunch!” Though the WoW obviously isn’t as broadly encompassing as Jewish dietary laws, I’ve found that way of thinking about it helpful. It’s a tangible way of bringing spiritual commitments into the realm of concrete, everyday life. I like your zoo theory, Julie. I actually had a non-LDS friend point something similar out to me–he suggested that every time we were out and I didn’t get coffee or beer, it was a kind of affirmation of my identity as a Mormon.

    Tangentially, I’ve rarely had anyone think the no-alcohol thing was strange, but a number of people have expressed shock and horror that I couldn’t have coffee. I once had a professor who expressed concern that I wouldn’t be able to get through grad school without it, and who gave me chocolate to try to make up for it.

  18. Once when my husband (a geologist by training) and I were at Arches National Park we heard a father explaining to his children how the arches formed:

    “The wind blew some sand against a big rock and it started going around and around and around until it sanded all the way through the rock …”

    Now whenever we hear a “zoo story” we quote that one.

    Julie, I think you’re absolutely right that the Word of Wisdom functions largely as a social marker for Mormons. It allows us to recognize each other and forces us to stand out when otherwise we might not.

  19. “I once had a professor who expressed concern that I wouldn’t be able to get through grad school without it, and who gave me chocolate to try to make up for it.”

    You say that like it is a bad thing . . .

  20. That was me. Not sure how I lost my last “a,” although I don’t want to be confused with the anonymous A.N.A. earlier in this thread, either.

  21. Thanks, Julie. I think there’s some merit in the idea, but I would argue the opposite is true for missionaries — esp. those assigned to areas where food and drink are an important part of hospitality. As a social demarcator, it hinders your work — removes some of the easiest bonding and developing of trust that can take place. Yes, it also makes missionaries stand out, but I found (and this may be particular to me and/or to Romania) that quite obviously, people already know that you are weird and different when you are a missionary and they are already at least slightly intrigued by all the new things you bring to Christiniaty — and there are plenty of things like that for Mormonism.

    Of course, having missionaries get drunk with investigators probably isn’t the best idea, either. ;-)

    At the very least, the ability to drink coffee and tea would have helped in some situations.

    Please note that I don’t advocate the loosening of the WoW by any means. I’m very happy not being a java slave, for example. I’m speaking only to the social uses of the drinks forbidden by the WoW.

  22. “I once had a professor who expressed concern that I wouldn’t be able to get through grad school without it, and who gave me chocolate to try to make up for it.â€?

    “You say that like it is a bad thing . . . ”

    Heh heh, not at all. I was quite happy to accept such charity. :)

    (If chocolate were ever added to the list of proscribed substances, now that would be a true test of faith . . .)

  23. Funny, bbell.

    But I have to say that I completely disagree with Pres. McKay on rum cake. It should never be eaten whether it violates the WoW or not.

    Soaking any dessert in rum is an affront to whatever other yummy ingredients are part of the dessert. Almost as bad is that sugar water mixture used to moisten some European-influenced cakes/tortes.

  24. William Morris, you border close to apostasy in that your comment could feasibly be extended to tres leches cake.

  25. Julie:
    “The WoW is not as it is [primarily] because of…health, but rather because of “evil and designs by conspiring men.â€? Making up reasons to make the WoW seem logical instead of arbitrary will not reflect God’s design but our desires.”

    I’ve heard this stated so confidently on T&S so many times that I think it qualifies as official teaching of the blog. Three comments about your claim:

    1) The “evil and designs of conspiring men” is given as a reason for the “warning”. But this does not explain what God’s aim is in the content of the counsel itself. What are they conspiring about? Has it nothing to do with temporal health?
    2) Yes there are no purely temporal commandments; like many other commandments, the WoW can serve any number of purposes. But the revelation plainly says that it shows the will of God in the temporal salvation of the saints. This is followed by a number of statements about what is and is not “for the body”, and the revelation ends with clear references to temporal health (health in the navel; run and not be weary etc.). I wholeheartedly agree that the WoW is directed to the whole, spiritual person (did God know that millions of Americans would be blowing $5 a pop on Starbucks circa 2006?), not merely temporal nature (as you cite from D&C 29:35, no commandment is). But still it’s strange to say that the WoW is not primarily about health. It’s a bit like saying that the law of chastity isn’t primarily about human sexuality, because that’s an aspect of the temporal body and as we know, no commandment is temporal.
    3) The mention of alfredo (in partial jest, I know) is like many others which seem to ask why God didn’t ban this or that substance (hasn’t he ever heard of Krispy Creme? Can’t..fight..the urge.). See http://timesandseasons.org/?p=2880#more-2880 This observation doesn’t preclude the fact that the WoW is primarily about health, it only precludes the fact that God thinks only of substances in the abstract. What you would eat and drink if you had God’s knowledge and virtue is not the same as what you would eat if you are being faithful to God’s commandments for everyone. The WoW makes clear that the revelation is given with a view to how it will be received, how easy it is for all kinds of people to obey, and what its effect will be on the weakest. These are things that all the latest journalistic reports on specific substances (not to mention most health experts I’ve ever heard) consistently miss. This is I think one of the great, wise aspects of the WoW, but this is a greatness in its form. In its content it is indeed primarily about health.

    Perhaps we’re both moving in a similar direction but two different ways (with two different understandings of “primarily about health”). I like reading 89 together with 29:35. But the reason I like it is because I think it helps us realize that physical health (even physical health!) is intimately connected to spiritual life, and no part of it is alien to spirit–even moreso for people who follow a revealed law of health. I sense that this is different from the lesson you take from reading the two scriptures together.

  26. Jeremiah,

    (1) No, I never claimed that the WoW has 0% to do with health. But I’m pretty sure that it isn’t 100% about health, either.
    (2) If your main complaint is with my use of the word ‘primarily,’ perhaps I should back down from it. I’ll defend ‘not 100% about health,’ but I don’ t see any point in trying to parse it more specifically than that.
    (3) My problem with the WoW being 100% about health is [let’s see: how can I put this delicately?], if it were, God didn’t do a very good job. I realize that nutrition is a continually advancing science with a lot of question marks, but I don’t think anyone would hold that black tea (or fruit out of season or red wine or 1-2 beers per year) is bad enough to get its own, specific entry in a health code that is extremely general about foods and yet seems to have it in for oatmeal. And this is my main complaint about the 100% health interpretation: it doesn’t make sense of the text.

  27. I loved this post!

    We only require church members that want a Temple recommend to adhere to a few of the prohibitions mentioned in the WoW, as defined by those we sustain to speak for the Lord. But there’s a lot of other good stuff in there, as well. Still, individuals have to figure out the correct personal application of the WoW between themselves and the Lord, and then avoid judging others on their personal applications of the WoW.

    For example, our family has a policy that we don’t hang out with friends on the Sabbath, outside of organized church events. We consider it a day for family. Last Sunday, one of my sons saw two of his friends playing in an adjoining yard, so he ragged on them for breaking the Sabbath. I had to explain that we had determined that our spending time together on Sunday was a good way to help us keep the Sabbath holy, but that this rule by no means extended to anyone outside of our family.

    Also, we need to keep the WoW in perspective. I was once in a meeting where Elder Dallin H. Oaks said that in his personal opinion, people with WoW problems that also love their fellowmen would likely be much better off in the next life than those of us that strictly keep the WoW, but don’t love our fellowmen as we should. I have relatives and acquaintences that are WoW zealots (I was also one at one time). They are judgemental and irritating to everyone around them. I think the Lord expects something better of us.

  28. One other point, Jeremiah, and I realize that this isn’t the realm of hard-and-fast evidence but of interpretation: one of the blessings from D & C 89 is that the destroying angel will pass by. If you think of the Hebrews putting blood on their doorposts, you don’t think of a ‘logical’ or ‘sensible’ or ‘scientific’ act, you think of a test of obedience laden with symbolism. I suspect that calling our attention to that story in the context of the WoW wasn’t an accident.

  29. I don’t think I need the WoW to make me stand out as a member of the church, I’m quite proud to make my membership known to those who are interested in such things. But I’m not going to force my views on anyone, either.

    I’m a recent convert (almost a year ago) and I must admit I’m starting to resent not being to get a beer if I want one.

  30. Julie:

    Tres Leches cake is soaked in sugar water? I thought there was dairy involved in the soaking. Hmmmm. I happily retract my apostate comments in light of this new information. Tres Leches cake is divine and so any processes that are part of its creation are as well.

  31. No, it is soaked in one of the leches. But since the process was similar, I thought you were railing against soaked desserts in general. Same goes for ras gullah/gulab jaman (my kids call them ‘dessert meatballs’).

  32. Julie, this is a great post. I think that the myths surrounding the practicality of the Word of Wisdom are second only to the myths surrounding blacks and the priesthood. (For my part, I theorize that we can’t drink coffee because of the curse of Cain, and that abstaining from ordaining blacks lengthened one’s life span.)

    William Morris, what WoW server do you play on (I play on Dark Iron with the name Thucydides).

    Nate’s only regret about his family being temple-worthy is that he can’t see his wife’s clavicles at social functions. Mine is that I can’t drink coffee. There’s just something about drinking 3 or 4 pots of it a day–and sometimes another one an hour before bedtime–that you just can’t capture by drinking 4 or 5 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke (even if it’s less expensive and there is roughly the same amount of caffeine).

  33. “No, I never claimed that the WoW has 0% to do with health. But I’m pretty sure that it isn’t 100% about health, either.”
    Yes but you did suggest that the mention of evil and conspiring and men precludes the theme of health in some way. I don’t think it necessarily makes the theme of health any less central, even a bit.

    “My problem with the WoW being 100% about health is [let’s see: how can I put this delicately?], if it were, God didn’t do a very good job.”

    I see more clearly where you are coming from here but I don’t agree (except in the sense that “100% health” sounds so strong that I’ll join with you in rejecting it). I don’t have a problem with revising our interpretations in light of very good external evidence. But the WoW claims from beginning to end to be about health; thus it will take a lot more to convince me that there is some esoteric meaning to its claims (perhaps if it had recommended bacon as a health food…). Besides, I may be able to agree with you about the WoW’s stand on particular substances, but as a whole our people are healthier than people who don’t live by it. The WoW is not a scientific nutritional text. But it does indeed do a “good job” of producing health in people who follow it. If the worst thing about it, health-wise, is that it prohibits tea (which no one in the world *needs* to drink for health and nutrition), then I think it’s in pretty good shape. It may be an intellectual embarrassment to us but there’s no way that it should make us worry for the health of WoW followers. I’m not skeptical of science’s ability to come up with good information about what certain foods and drinks do to our bodies, but I am skeptical of the world’s ability to come up with a code of health that is suited to a wide variety of people, makes them on the whole healthier and doesn’t do harm to them. By this standard I think that the WoW is pretty darned good. Perhaps we could now in 2006 imagine a better WoW than the one we have (in which case my faith in it as a health code is not diminished). On the other hand, in light of the fact that the WoW is not merely a statement on specific substances, but a set of counsel intended for a certain audience in all its variety and throughout history, perhaps it is still the best possible WoW, and still primarily about health. This because we don’t know all the effects of following the WoW. These effects, even in their health aspects, go way beyond the research on particular substances in isolation.

  34. “I theorize that we can’t drink coffee because of the curse of Cain, and that abstaining from ordaining blacks lengthened one’s life span.”

    Three points. Very nice.

  35. “Perhaps we could now in 2006 imagine a better WoW than the one we have”

    I believe in a God bigger than my imagination, which means that if God were behind this (which I believe) and it were strictly a health code (which I don’t believe), then there is no way we could imagine a better WoW than the one God came up with.

    Despite that, I think we are largely on the same page: neither of us believes that it is 100% about health. You are drawing the line in a different place than I am, but so what? I think what is more important is a commitment to the idea that people trying to come up with theories to account for what is in the WoW and why is to miss the point.

  36. I don’t really think of the Word of Wisdom as being a code of health, though following it does have some healthful benefits. It’s really a code of behavior, something to separate the Saints from the heathen masses, and that’s why it’s part of the temple recommend interview, which isn’t about health. Are you following the Word of Wisdom? Are you… with the program, not just by saying so in testimony, but by your actions, your everyday behavior? The WoW is a way of measuring obedience, and it became even more of this when it was specifically linked to coffee and tea. Technically, I guess I could be a heroin addict but still follow the proscribed health formula of the WoW.

  37. Ok,

    So you serve coffee ice cream at a church function. What happens next?

    My current bishop asks for seconds. What happens in your ward?

  38. Julie,

    What are we to make, then, of the apocyrphal 1971 FP letter saying that decaf coffee is okay to drink because the bad ingredients have been taken out?

  39. Kaimi,

    I’ll see you your apocryphal letter and raise you another apocryphal letter: the 1972 FP letter saying they were just kidding. (Which is my smart-aleck way of saying that I don’t want to discuss apocryphal letters. However if someone [cough. . . J. Stapley] shows up with a link, then we can talk about it.)

  40. See what I mean? It’s all about your actions/behavior, not the actual drink itself. Avoid the appearance of evil — drink coffee in orange juice cartons and you’ll be fine.

  41. Kaimi:

    I’m with D. Fletcher here. You could just as easily argue that it is about appearances (=social implications) as about the contents of the drink based on that letter.

  42. . Fletcher: …drink coffee in orange juice cartons and you’ll be fine.

    I prefer to just drink directly from wine bottles, but covered by paper bags.

  43. Anthropologist Mary Douglas, in her uber-famous book PURITY AND DANGER, wrote something about Moses’s dietary laws that I think applies to the Word of Wisdom as well:
    “It is one thing to point out the side benefits of ritual actions, and another thing to be content with using the by-products as a sufficiebt explanation. Even if some of Moses’s [or Joseph Smith’s] dietary rules were hygienically beneficial, it is a pity to treat him [or Joseph Smith] as an enlightened public health administrator, rather than as a spiritual leader.”

  44. Thank you, Costanza. (BTW: Purity and Danger–the newest edition–has one of the best book covers ever.)

  45. My edition has some nasty drain with a bar of soap next to it. Is that the one?

  46. re:36 You started me a’ thinkin’. Why not pray for a revised WoW? Maybe lobby for it even? It’s all about more light and continuing revelation, right? A Church that can jettison a few, well, problematic practices can certainly find a way to allow green tea and prohibit trans-fatty acids.

    What might a revised WoW read like?

  47. I\’ve lurked around this website for awhile, but only recently decided to comment. Some good arguments here, but hard to follow at times.
    The one thing I\’ve noticed about the WoW is that everything mentioned is a potentially addictive substance (particularly my mother\’s iced tea). Just about any type of addiction can enslave us and take us away from the Gospel\’s teachings. This seems to make more sense to me than the health argument.

  48. I love the drain and the bar of soap! It is perfect for that book. We think the soap is clean, we think the drain is unclean, liminal space, etc.

  49. “What might a revised WoW read like?”

    Thou shalt not eat anything with a can of cream of mushroom soup in it, nor anything like unto it. Thou shalt not eat anything with pesticides, BGH, the flesh of the creatures of the sea with mercury, nor anything like unto it. Thou shalt not eat green bell peppers, because they are an abomination to me. Thou shalt not eat anything harvested by people who are oppressed. Thou shalt not eat cavier, liver, rabbit, beef tongue, beets, or oysters, because they are an abomination in my sight. Thou shalt not eat anything made from genetically modified organisms, anything that contains transfats, or anything like unto it. All thine food shall be organic, locally grown, and low in fat and cholesterol.

    How’s that?

  50. And on what basis are we to conclude that public health “administrator” and spiritual leader are mutually exclusive concepts?

    Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

    Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.
    (D&C 29:34-35)

    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; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

    And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. 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.
    (D&C 89:18-21)

  51. 44: How could there be an appearance of evil unless somewhere there was actual evil? Is the WofW about smoke where there never was a fire?

  52. Julie, you can’t be serious. I think it’s pretty obvious that if the Word of Wisdom were revised, it would look something like this:

    Coffee is great, but no INSTANT coffee
    No tea–it’s unamerican (remember the revolution!)
    No herbal tea–it’s for sissies
    Beer is fine, but anyone who drinks Budweiser will be cut off (forever)
    Rum, whiskey, vodka, and gin are good anytime, but tequila is only allowed on weekends
    No books by Al Franken (the die is toxic)
    No KoolAid, Hawiian Punch, or Flavor Aid type drinks (we want to avoid the very appearance of mass-suicides)
    No non-Kosher hot-dogs (who knows what’s in those things anyway)

  53. The thing about dietary restrictions is that they inevitably target things that are widely viewed as fun or socially desirable.

    Mormonism: No wine, no smoking, no coffee. Yeah, we’re normal.
    Orthodox judaism: No ham, no cheeseburgers, no shrimp cocktail. Yeah, they’re normal too.

    Someone needs to start a religion with a dietary code that mandates no brussels sprouts, no caulifower, and none of that gross canned fish stuff. I would sign up for that in a second.

  54. Julie: I favor DKL’s revision–by far–except I like books by Al Franken. I think the WofW should forbid books by Ann Coulter.

    You say, Thou shalt not eat cavier, liver, rabbit, beef tongue, beets, or oysters, because they are an abomination in my sight. I’m not sure what cavier is, but if it is anything like caviar, then it is not possible that it would be forbidden. The same for liver, rabbit, beef tongue, beets, and oysters. And–I would think that a revised WoW would require that everyone eat fresh mussels in the Fall. And foi gras would be required at least once a year. Kidneys, however, would be out.

    You also said, Thou shalt not eat anything made from genetically modified organisms. Yikes. That would mean eating almost nothing at all. No hybrid vegetables, no cattle or chickens bred for weight or more eggs. Virtually everything we eat has been genetically modified over the years.


  55. DKL:

    I don’t actually play WoW. I just know a lot of people who do. Luckily, my home computer is a very old iMac running OS 8.6 — otherwise I might be tempted to check it out.

  56. To balance the rum cake, here is another David O McKay story (from the Teachings of the Prophets manual):

    During a visit with the queen of the Netherlands in 1952, President and Sister McKay had an interesting experience. The queen had scheduled 30 minutes for a visit with them. President McKay carefully watched the time, and when the half hour was up, he politely thanked the queen and began to leave. “Mr. McKay,� she said, “sit down! I have enjoyed this thirty minutes more than I have enjoyed any thirty minutes in a long time. I just wish you would extend our visit a little longer.� He sat down again. Then a coffee table was brought in, and the queen poured three cups of tea, giving one to President McKay, one to Sister McKay, and keeping one for herself. When the queen noticed that neither of her guests drank the tea, she asked, “Won’t you have a little tea with the Queen?� President McKay explained, “I must tell you that our people do not believe in drinking stimulants, and we think tea is a stimulant.� She said, “I am the Queen of the Netherlands. Do you mean to tell me you won’t have a little drink of tea, even with the Queen of the Netherlands?� President McKay responded, “Would the Queen of the Netherlands ask the leader of a million, three hundred thousand people to do something that he teaches his people not to do?� “You are a great man, President McKay,� she said. “I wouldn’t ask you to do that.�

    There is another quote in the manual where President McKay offers more detail on why stimulants are bad for your health.

    Is President McKay’s explanation that “we do not believe in drinking stimulants” a zoo story? Can’t the Word of Wisdom be interpreted by prophets after Joseph Smith?

  57. I assume that the numerous quotations from other scriptures in section 89 are relevant. They seem to support the idea that the WofW is not only a health commandment: 1 Corinthians 12:8, Moroni 10:9, D&C 46:17, Proverbs 3:7-8, D&C 77:126, Isaiah 40:31, and Exodus 12:21-23 (implicitly in verse 21).

  58. Excellent joke, DKL.

    – – –
    Whose moral (If there were such a thing as a moral to a joke, that is!) for ME would be:

    Were people were made to serve rules? Or rules, people?

    . . . NOT just a slogan! Since although each society’s rules are distinct, what’s universal is they all have some type of rules!

    Yet: Each individual within a society approaches certain of its rules flexibly, believing them to be roughly utilitarian, and other rules they’re more rigid about, believing them to be intrinsically enlightened.
    – – –
    “bad” = how we feels when we don’t abide by whatever standard for behavior we truly feel to be important.

    “judgemental” = how we feel towards others who don’t abide by these same standards.

    “humor” = what we engage in to make light of this self-shame or outward shaming when we see ourselves or others accomodate pragmatic considerations in the face of our um COLLECTIVE (lol: not “conscious,” but) CONSCIENCE! Alternately described as whatever’s been indiscriminately poured into us when impressionable. To then have solidified into our respective superegos!

  59. I agree with those (most everyone in the Bloggernacle, it seems) who say that the primary effect of the Word of Wisdom now-a-days is to serve as a distinguishing feature between us Mormon folks and the rest of the world. But I’m a bit more skeptical of those who say the Word of Wisdom “is about” this aspect of the practice, as if this is what God primarily intended when the Word of Wisdom was initially received by Joseph Smith. I suspect we are confusing one effect of the Word of Wisdom with the initial intent behind it.

    Having said that, I do suspect the reason the 20th Century Church put so much emphasis on Word of Wisdom compliance (including transforming it into a “100% abstinence rule”) was to create a very visible behavioral line between us and the rest of the gentiles. But that’s a different issue. (Or is it?)

    I think Jeremiah is right to point out that the Word of Wisdom is, to put it bluntly, largely a “health code.” It is fashionable among some in the Church to throw up one’s hands in frustration and conclude that since one can’t make perfect “health sense” of what is and what isn’t formally prohibited in the Word of Wisdom, it must not really be about “health” after all. Instead, it must be about something else (“obedience,” etc.). But look at how Mormon leaders have historically talked about the Word of Wisdom. They have very frequently and bluntly touted it as a “health code.” That should count for something in our analysis. I’m not saying that the pronouncements of this or that G.A. can settle the argument definitively, but in the aggregate, the history of Mormon leaders treating the Word of Wisdom as if it’s “about health” should at least give us pause as we entertain other theories.

    Aaron B

  60. President Hinckley’s First Presidency message about Joseph Smith that mentions the Word of Wisdom was revised in December 2005 from this:

    The so-called Mormon code of health, widely praised in these days of cancer and heart research, is in reality a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1833 as a “Word of Wisdom� from the Lord (D&C 89:1). April 1977 conference report, 1994 New Era reprint

    to this:

    The code of health followed by Latter-day Saints, which is so widely praised in these days of cancer and heart research, is in reality a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1833 as “a Word of Wisdom� from the Lord (see D&C 89:1).

  61. #8 I believe it was common practice in the 1800s for men to smoke together, a custom which would support Julie’s zoo story. In fact, up until rather recently (20 -30 years ago maybe?) it _was_ common courtesy to offer someone a smoke, at least if you were preparing to have one yourself.

    On the other hand, I am only 30% sure I am correct.

  62. No one seems to have brought up President Packer’s opinion that obeying the Word of Wisdom increases one’s ability to recieve revelation. 123…and even more directly,”I have come to know also that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation.” 4

    I’d have to agree with his conclusion, when we have a healthy body and are obedient to the laws fo the church, we are more in tune with the Spirit.

    Reminds me of another quote from the Welfare manual about taking care of one’s temporal needs so that their spiritual needs can then be addressed.

  63. My last Stake President in Wyoming once opined in a Bishop’s leadership training meeting that he considers any sacrament meeting where he doesn’t smell tobacco at least once, a failure.

  64. “And on what basis are we to conclude that public health “administratorâ€? and spiritual leader are mutually exclusive concepts?” If you read Douglas’s entire argument you would notice that she does not suggest that they are mutually exclusive (although from the quote I provided it appears that way). Her larger point is that the health benefits of a code produced by a prophet is secondary to the fact that it is produced by a prophet. That is important, especially if some prohibited items are found to be beneficial or not harmful.

  65. …and probably important to remember when (happened to me recently) a coworker who knows you don’t drink coffee sees you eating chocolate and asks, “doesn’t that have caffeine in it?”

  66. Jim F.

    I had foie gras here in NYC a couple of weeks ago, and congratulated myself for not living in Chicago.

  67. I think obedience for the sake of obedience is a sad theology indeed. A distinguishing marker, a test of discipline, sure. But a principle without a promise is silliness.

  68. Mark, that doesn’t make sense to me.

    (1) If there are reasons besides just obedience for doing something, then it isn’t purely a test of obedience, now is it? If we want a pure test, there needs to be no other compelling motivators. (Although I don’t think this is the case with the WoW).

    (2) I see no problem with their being promises associated with a test of obedience. Of course there would be. It is still a principle with promise.

  69. This is a particularly interesting post to me as I indeed had a tannic acid conversation today at work. A co-worker found out I was Mormon and explained how she had a classmate who was also Mormon and how this Mormon had explained that she didn’t drink coffee or tea. My co-worker asked the classmate why, and the classmate responded that coffee and tea have tannic acid which will completely stain your insides and is bad for you.”

    I responded that I thought that was silly and that while the WOW was a health code, the real reason we don’t drink coffee and tea is because it is a revelation and commandment and because God has asked us not to.

    I think that the unfortunate aspect of using a strictly health-related explanation for the wow, at least in talking with non-members, is the missed opportunities to talk about modern day prophets, modern day revelation and the importance of commandments. At least share the gospel, instead of seeking to convert others to the dangers of tannic acid.

    It reminds me of speaking with a Muslim woman about why Muslim women wear the veil. She said, “Non-Muslims always give the reason of promoting modesty, but the real reason is that Allah has asked me to. And that is enough.”

  70. I enjoyed this post and comments.

    Re: smoking in Sacrament mtg and the members’ response:

    Brother Robinson was not comfortable in attending Church. He had some few habits that were not in harmony with Church teachings. But the day that changed his life came when an inspired leader called him to serve in the Sunday School. Initially, he turned down the calling, saying, “But, I don’t live the Word of Wisdom.” The leader said, “Brother Robinson, we’ll take you like you are. Then, if you’re willing, we’d like to help you.” Brother Robinson’s response was, “I didn’t know the Church would take me like I am.” He accepted the callin and in a very short time he ahd the spiritual strength to change his habits and to give up his tobacco. Then the next step of preparing his family for the temple was within reach.
    Those words of Brother Robinson’s have come back to me again and again: “I didn’t know the Church would take me like I am.” Aren’t we thankful that the Church will take us just like we are? For don’t we all have some areas in our life that stand in need of improvement?
    To have the fellowship of the Saints while we are working on our problems is a great, great blessing. President Gordon B. Hinckley visited our stake several years ago and dedicated a chapel. He said that an appropriate message might be if there were a large sign on the outside of the building that said, “Smokers Welcome.”
    We have found in our activation efforts that that welcome and acceptance and love is so valuable and not pressure for them to give up their habits first. When we extend that unqualified welcome and love, we can create an atmosphere where the Holy Ghost can bear witness to their hearts. And herein is the spiritual key to activation: like missionary work, simple teaching, fellowship, and a humble testimony allowed the Holy Ghost to bear testimony and recreate the conversion process.

    – (Stake) President C. Terry Graff, Leadership Session, GenCon 4/1985

  71. Julie, I agree on the first point, as to the second I do not see the point in the Lord spending a lot of effort giving commandments with only artificial benefits. The Word of Wisdom contrary to prevelant opinion here is a prime example of a commandment whose blessings are founded in natural law. I daresay *all* commandments have blessings that ultimately are founded in natural law of some sort or another.

    We say wickedness never was happiness. Why? Why can’t wickedness be happiness? Because God said so? Hardly – that would make all morality arbitrary. We might as well take up a petition and ask him to repeal any commandment we don’t like.

    God does not have complete discretion over his laws – they must harmonize with principles beyond his personal control. This Alma makes abundantly clear – in indeed probably the most theologically striking section of the Book of Mormon – Alma chapter 42.

    In short if God changed his mind and ordained the consumption of lots and lots of alcohol, he would be hard pressed to keep us from getting sick.

  72. #7: So how does proscribing tea, coffee, or alcohol because they have social significance tie back to the motivation given by the Lord (in consequence of evil designs by conspiring men)?

    I don’t think it is all about social stuff (although I really like that thought). I think some of it is that there are some for whom a predisposition to addiction could mean that it wouldn’t take much to become addicted. (I think I actually read about this somewhere, but can’t remember where, so I can’t back that up with chapter and verse.)

    My friends and I were also talking about how much money we save by not consuming alcohol and tobaccos. Sometimes evil and conspiring men simply want to make money off of things that aren’t good for us (think the tobacco companies, for example).

    Finally, there is a direct tie between the WoW and the law of chastity. Elder Cook talked about this in a talk my hubby heard. Also, these days, with date rape drugs that could be slipped into “just one drink,” I think there is an extra level of protection there as well. Those men who plan rapes like that seem to fall into that “evil and conspiring men” category pretty well.

    In short, I think the protection comes at many levels. Not to mention the simple blessings for exact obedience and being able to then be worthy for temple attendance, which allows for that whole hidden treasures bit. And we have spiritual protection against any other evil and conspired dangers.

  73. Thanks Julie. I’m especially glad to have a definitive prophetic statement that alcoholic desserts are okay. (I’m so tired of kidding myself with the old “alcohol cooks out” fiction every time I order something in a wine sauce or eat a rum flavored truffle.)

    Any chance you can you get me a similarly unambiguous quote about coffee flavored ice cream?

    How about jello shots and tequila snowcones?

    This would really mean a lot to me.

  74. “Sometimes evil and conspiring men simply want to make money off of things that aren’t good for us (think the tobacco companies, for example).”

    Or think McDonalds, for example. :)

  75. A man I home teach says he has an old church magazine (Ensign?)–very old–which has a Bull Durham tobacco ad in it. I want to get a copy of it (if he really has it) to use in a priesthood lesson;)

  76. #83
    I was trying to avoid a generalization that could be read as all marketing and advertising people of not-necessary foods and such are evil and conspiring. :)

    And, at least McD’s gives you some healthy choices. :)

  77. Julie, well done. My $.02 worth says that you are right – our WoW now serves as a social marker. Your comments on judging those who fall short in this area are needed and welcome. It is good to occasionally be reminded that Jesus kept company with winebibbers. I have a question though. You said if forces us to “lay our Mormon card on the table…” Why confuse the issue by bringing gambling into a post on the Word of Wisdom? :-)

    I know of a micro-brewery that is owned by a woman. That should let us off the hook when it comes to “evil and conspiring MEN”. I have it on very good authority that the mild barley drinks her brewery produces are first rate. I’m sure we could find a female vintner somewhere, too.

    My father was a deacon in rural Utah during the 1930s. When he passed the sacrament to the bishop on the stand, the bishop would first remove his chaw, then spit into the brass spittoon next to him on the stand, before partaking of the bread or water. They don’t make them like they used to, and I guess we can all be glad for that.

  78. Bill (#73): You should be even more grateful that you don’t live in California where foie gras will soon be unavailable, by law.

  79. re: 88 They’re going to ban foie gras in California? This state really is nuts.

    Weren’t there originally spitoons in the SLC temple? Maybe that’s some anti-mo folk tale, but I seem to remember a photo. Anybody have a link to it? So maybe the WoW really has evolved over the years.

  80. Well, when John Taylor reorganized the School of the Prophets in the early 1880s, before the Salt Lake Temple was complete, one of the primary goals was to get all the ecclesiastical leaders to obey the Word of Wisdom (and enter polygamy) – to provide the proper example of course. President Taylor died before the temple was dedicated, but if he had anything to do with it, I doubt there were any spittoons on the inside.

  81. I see you have already fallen under their spell, M&M.

    Actually, I detest McDonald’s. :)

  82. “In fact, up until rather recently (20 -30 years ago maybe?) it _was_ common courtesy to offer someone a smoke, at least if you were preparing to have one yourself.”

    It still was in Italy a dozen years ago, on my mission. My companions and I were offered cigarettes many times.

  83. Yes there were spitoons in the Salt Lake Temple. They are visible in the unathorized photographs that were taken before the church decided to take their own official photographs. Adherence to the Word of Wisdom was not required for a temple rec. until 1921. WillF. in respons to your question about prophets other than Joseph dealing with the word of wisdom–the answer is yes. Until th elate nineteenth century church leaders were debating amongst themselves about just what the word of wisdom meant. Was beer prohibited? Brigham Young Jr. didn’t think so because it was not “string drink,” plus he enjoyed imported Danish beer. Lorenzo Snow believed that the emphasis should be on the portions of the WoW that placed restrictions on the consumption of meat. Many meetings of the 12 and FP were spent debating how the revelation should be interpreted. Obviously neither Snow nor Young won the day. Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant were the strongest advocates for the Word of Wisdom as we now live it (emphasis on coffee, tea, smokes and alcohol).

  84. Not only wasn’t it “string drink,” it wasn’t “strong drink either.” lol

  85. If you want to read about the evolution of the church’s relationship with the WoW, see Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 (Urbana: Univesity of Illinois Press, 1986, 1996), Chapter 13 “The Adoption of a New Interpretation of the Word of Wisdom.”

  86. Costanza: Your spitoons are flower pots without flowers. They are still there, but they have flowers in them (tho they’re not the same spitoons because they have been replaced).

  87. Brigham Young gave a talk where he said that no one should chew tobacco in the Tabernacle – that it was a horrible disgrace and that if someone did, they should kindly be led out the door. So I have a hard time believing this activity prevailed in the temple – if anything standards should have risen.

  88. #84. It wouldn’t be an Ensign–the Ensign has never had any advertising. The Improvement Era, which the Ensign replaced, did accept advertising, but, alas, I don’t remember any Bull Durham ads during the 1960’s.

    Maybe the ad was in the Relief Society Magazine. :-)

  89. “Brigham Young gave a talk where he said that no one should chew tobacco in the Tabernacle – that it was a horrible disgrace and that if someone did, they should kindly be led out the door.” And then he said that if they wanted to they could have a double portion after the meeting.

  90. Blake, you must have a better source than I do for the spittoon/flower pots thing. The only thing I have ever read on the subject was in Dialogue years ago (Fall 1996). The article is entitled “Inside the Salt Lake Temple – Gisbert Bossard’s 1911 Photographs.” The author of that article identified the object as a spittoon (page 32). Obvioulsy further research proved this false. Do you have the reference handy?

  91. #95

    I agree that the discussions that went on among the Bretheren on this subject are quite interesting, especially the differences of opinion as to what parts were most important.

    The “if/then” that resulted and that has been ingrained in LDS society seems lacking to me:

    If vs. 5-9, then vs. 18-21.

    This thought process leaves out the majority of the section, and yet we are taught that the blessings of vs. 18-21 will be ours if we adhere to vs. 5-9.

    How different would our Church be today if we only used 1/3 of Section 132, or only vs. 1-5 of Exodus ch 20?

  92. Jim F, here’s the best way I can think of to frame the replacement paradox such that it’s consistent with the theme of this post:

    Let’s say I’ve got a mug of beer, and I replace each gulp I take with more beer (rather than drinking the mug down and refilling it). At the end of the night, is it still the same mug of beer?

  93. DKL: Of course the man at the bar hopes that it is the same mug, for then he would have a credible argument for the cop on the corner that he didn’t drink any beer.

    Costanza: Being a historian doesn’t necessarily make you dense; and not knowing about that paradox of identity doesn’t make you anything at all.

  94. Dave (106):

    Sounds like the kind of question that would require empirical testing. Who wants to sacrifice for the cause of science? :P

  95. #52, good to hear from you. “diamond dave” is a cool handle. I look forward to more of your comments.

  96. Well, I’ll do it. Especially if it’s a not too bitter, dark brew. But you guys get to sing the karaoke. (I dunno bout you guys, but it seems dirty just to type that here!)

  97. .. the replacement paradox .. elegantly addressed in a British court opinion explaining why the Magna Carta is no longer the law of the land in any particular (and using the example of a bicycle). (FYI, the Magna Carta forbids traffic tickets among other things).

    “The Reification of Beer.� sounds like a great name for a blog.

  98. So today at work, I stopped by the desk of a QA guy who’s been working closely with one of my programmers. He’s a great guy–does really good work and is skilled enough to avoid the natural tendency for antagonism that can grow between developers and the QA folks.

    After we were done discussing business, I mentioned the box of Nicorette that I noticed above his desk (Nicorette is the gum with nicotine in it that’s supposed to help people quit smoking), and I asked if he was quitting smoking. He said that he didn’t smoke, but that he was an anti-smoker. He kept the box of Nicorette at his desk for other smokers in the office if they wanted to chew a piece instead of going outside to smoke.

    I asked him if I could have one. I explained that I had smoked for about 10 years, and I quit cold turkey. Now that I hadn’t smoked for several years, I was curious about what the Nicorette was like. He was non-committal and kind of low key in response–he probably didn’t want to encourage me. So I took a piece and ate it.

    Well, the guy kind of flipped out. He was like, “I can’t believe you just did that!” and “don’t blame me if you start smoking again.” He called my eating the piece of chewing gum a “suicidal gesture.” Kind of funny.

    Anyway, here’s what Nicorette tastes like, for any of you who are curious: the chalky candy covering has an keenly artificial peppermint flavor that lasts about 2 1/3 minutes. The gum itself starts out hard and quickly becomes rubbery–never quite fitting the bill for a satisfying chew. After about 4 minutes, it caused a mild irritation in the throat–a light burning sensation–that went away immediately when you stopped chewing. For a satisfying peppermint chewing gum, I recommend Doublemint instead; it has Nicorette beaten on every count.

  99. Sorry to interrupt the jovial bantering,
    but I just wanted to add one extra thought on the WoW and it’s purpose. I agree that it is not entirely a health code and that it has deeper spiritual ramifications. However, right now, I see it more as a principle of service; an act of charity for our fellow men. By restraining as a people- and creating a social climate or proactive positive environment where alcohol, tobacco, stimulants, etc. are not social icons and healthier alternatives are enjoyed, we create an environment safe for those who are the weakest among us. This was one of the reasons given for the revelation.

    See D&C 89:3

    While I might not have an inclination for alcoholism (DNA or personality type or whatever), someone in my family, or my neighbor might. Alcohol, smoking, caffeine, other stimulants are like roulette.

    Case in point: My grandfather is an old sailor- never to be seen w/o a pipe. He drinks copious quantities of whatever is on hand- and at 86 yrs old is still a concert pianist par excellence. I kid you not that his freaky talent is the same whether he is inebriated or not. His wife- (now dead) lived the same lifestyle by his side and wasn’t so lucky. Her smoking and drinking (exacerbated by years of early versions of The Pill) caused a massive stroke when she was 50 which left her terribly disabled and hinging on death for years.

    What about the perspective of the WoW as a Christ-like, chivalrous concept and way of life (for women and men alike to follow) which wouldn’t in any way contribute to the he** of those weakest (spiritually, socially, mentally, physically) among us?

    Some people can tolerate them, others experience dramatic consequences. Looking at a society and realizing that there would be those who were physically weak (not able to tolerate tobacco or alcohol etc.), or mentally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, unable to wrestle an addictive substance or a mind-altering substance, wouldn’t our HF want to watch out for those people first? Isn’t that a major point of Christianity– caring for your neighbor? The sick? The disadvantaged? The young? The poor?

    So, if I can enjoy my lemonade clutch with my girlfriends instead of a coffee clutch- and therefore don’t socially contribute to caffeine consumption which might *or might not* affect my friend’s undetected breast tumor, I’m going to sacrifice that cup of coffee for her, even if it is ‘just in case’. Likewise, I’m also grateful that my friends who exercise and have high metabolisms don’t constantly want to go the Crispy Crème shop, as that pattern would probably kill me in no time flat. If, by teaching others that you can get ‘high off of life man’, instead of drinking together, perhaps you save a life or prevent a broken family grappling with alcoholism, or save a friend precious money which would have gone to Big Tobacco.

    It’s a very loving act- a very Christ-like act to think of it as a help for family members, friends and neighbors. This also resonates with the info we’re getting today about second hand smoke. We all refrain “for the weakest among us”.

    Of course, the whole point of ‘social’ service is negated when WoW is used as a put-down for those very people we are supposed to be serving and for whom it could have possibly been created. Also, service is not achieved when the goal is twisted and our positive social environment becomes a totalitarian one. It’s supposed to be a safe option.

    In its true light, the WoW doesn’t make us a cut above the crowd- snagging us all the great jobs and promotions, guaranteeing an Olympic physique, or stamping our Celestial Kingdom ticket. It puts us in work and motion -giving of ourselves for our fellow man, which makes us the ‘least and the servant’.

    Just some thoughts.

  100. i just don’t like it when WofW zealots don’t read the whole thing, and follow all of it. Like not eating meat unless its times of winter or famine. Since it really is neither i think this scripture good be used to support the idea that we should all be vegetarians unless we a starving. But we choose to ignore that verse. And we also ignore the verse that says that wheat is for humans not oatmeal and yet people feed their kids cheerios in sacrament. Isn’t that breaking the word of wisdom. it names oatmeal by name. But it does not name tea and coffee by name just mentions some thing about temperature. Why don’t we obey all of why only some of it?

  101. Did anyone else catch Garrison Keillor’s comments about the WoW on Prarie Home Companion yesterday? The show was in Salt Lake City. He listed some of the accomplishments of Utahns and then asked something to the effect of, “and just imagine how much more they could have accomplished with coffee” (maybe someone else has a better memory for what he said). Then he gave some examples, including having missionaries knocking at your front and back door, the tabernacle choir singing through things much faster, and so on. He also said how he appreciated our abstaining from coffee as it left more for the “rest of us” and helped keep the price down.
    At some point it will be available here: http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/archive.php (week of 2006/06/24)

  102. I converteted about 5 years ago, and in so doing, quit \”using\”; alchohol, coffee, tea, and chewing tobacco cold turkey. It was the roughest month in my life. A year later, I was talking to my Bishop, who used to be my home teacher, about the WoW. He made a few points that have stuck with me:

    1) It was written for \”the weakest among us\”.
    2) It was a covenant (this for that).
    3) The lord gave us all free will to make decisions.
    4) To some beer was not considered strong drink.
    5) If I did not follow it, I would still be welcomed at church, but not allowed in the temple..

    Now, I admit to having a beer every now and then, but never to drunkeness, and to avoid the problems, I do not talk religion while drinking it. Someone had a great point when they said that if the church spent as much time focused on home teaching as they did on the WoW, there would be a lot more saints in heaven. Thank you for listening, and I appreciate this forum. It has kept me up way past my bed time.

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