Tuesday, November 5, 2013
# 1: The Word of Wisdom
Living the Word of Wisdom is a good idea. Even though you may no longer believe in everything the LDS Church teaches, why not just go along with the healthy habits you've developed over a lifetime of Mormonism?
As you know, the Word of Wisdom forbids drinking alcohol, using tobacco, or doing harmful drugs. It also says you should eat healthy food and take care of your body. What good advice this is! Living a clean, sober life helps you think clearly, use time wisely, and save money.
You surely know that hard drugs like cocaine, meth-amphetamines, and heroin do devastating things to people's lives. When your TBM (True-Believing Mormon) testimony crumbles, I don't think you'll be tempted to use any of these types of drugs. But you may be tempted to try alcohol or tobacco. Please resist these temptations.
Why? Because whether or not Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 is divinely revealed, alcohol and tobacco are still harmful, addictive substances. They're expensive, they're habit-forming, they cloud your thinking, and they damage your health.
Alcohol is especially dangerous. People do a lot of stupid things when they're drunk. Some can handle alcohol just fine, like Jesus did, but too many do not use it responsibly. They get drunk and get in fights or drive a car or end up cheating on their spouse. It's better to not take the chance. It's better to refrain from alcohol.
And tobacco is bad for you, too. Here's a website that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put together that details how harmful cigarette-smoking is. And smoking's expensive. Have you seen how much a pack of cigarettes costs these days? It's about 5 or 6 bucks. If you smoke a pack a day, that's about 150 dollars a month! You could be using that money more responsibly. You could spend it on things like food, housing, transportation, education, entertainment, paying off debts, investing, or donating to charity.
You may be tempted to take up the habit of drinking coffee or tea. You probably don't consider them to be sinful anymore. Honestly, I don't know if drinking coffee or tea is sinful either. Coffee and tea aren't that harmful to your health, if they're harmful at all. But don't drink coffee and tea anyway.
Why not? Because taking up the habit of drinking coffee or tea will brand you as one who is outside the mainstream of the LDS community. Even if you drink it secretly, it will take you further and further away from your Mormon identity. With every sip, you will consider yourself less and less Mormon. This blog argues that, for the vast majority of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who lose their traditional testimonies, the best route is to stay active in the Church and to continue living the modern LDS lifestyle.
Also, much of religious devotion is expressed symbolically, and many symbols are arbitrary. For example, does it really matter if we go to Church on Saturday or Sunday, or on any other day of the week? Traditional Seventh Day Adventists would argue, yes, it does matter. They say that God clearly designated one day, Saturday, to be the Sabbath day. And some Christians argue that Sunday is definitely the one day out of the week that God designated as the Sabbath day, and that to hold church services or administer the sacrament on another day is wrong. But here's my response to the Saturday vs. Sunday debate: To quote Jesus, "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."
In my opinion, it doesn't matter what day of the week the Sabbath is. All that matters is that we have a Sabbath day. All that matters is that one day of the week we go to church and focus our attention away from worldly things and toward heavenly things. Sunday seems to be working out well for most people, so how about we just keep the Sabbath on Sunday? Sound good?
In a similar way, the Church reccomends that we have Family Home Evening on Monday nights. But let's say a father has to work late on Mondays. Could Family Home Evening be moved to Tuesdays? Of course it could! The precise time of the week for Family Home Evening is unimportant. The really important thing is that a family sets aside a certain time of the week to gather, pray, sing hymns, and teach eachother about God.
So, abstaining from coffee and tea is one of the many things that Mormons do to show their devotion to God. So what if coffee and tea aren't harmful to your health? When a Mormon does not drink coffee and tea for religious reasons, God honors and supports his or her expression of faith and devotion.
It doesn't matter so much that we refrain from those particular drink. The Word of Wisdom could just as well forbid chocolate milk, or any green-colored liquid. The important thing is that the Word of Wisdom forbids us from consuming something.
Here's another example that shows what I'm talking about. (I'll risk being repetitive in the hopes of being clear.) When Catholics and other Christians observe Lent, it doesn't matter so much what they give up, what really matters is that they give something up. Usually they give up something that's harmful, like chocolate or screaming at their kids, but often they give up things that are perfectly fine, like eating toast, or playing with a yo-yo. As Mormons, we sacrifice coffee and tea for God. We don't merely refrain from coffee and tea for 40 days, we do it for our whole lives. I know it doesn't make 100% sense, but just do it anyway. God will approve of your sacrifice.
Yes, Joseph Smith routinely broke the Word of Wisdom, and so did Brigham Young, and so did a lot of other early Church leaders. And yes, tea and coffee aren't really that bad for you. But just go ahead and keep the Word of Wisdom anyway. It'll be good for you.