Word of Wisdom comes in at #63

We should never rank commandments. Though it is human nature to categorize by importance, nothing is gained from the argument of this commandment being more valuable or meaningful than that commandment or that a disciple of Christ should heed this one but not necessarily that one since that one ranks lower on the list of Important Commandments. As true disciples of Christ, we should be willing to give all commandments equal credence and mental exertion. We ought to be humble enough to do whatever He asks, whether we can see the meaning or not.

Which is to say, I believe the Word of Wisdom is ranked 63rd.

About a year and a half ago, I found myself in the throes of an intense Diet Coke addiction. Every morning I had to drink a Diet Coke, and if I was having a particularly bad day, Diet Coke was the cure. If I were counting calories and needed a dessert, I had Diet Coke. It is technically not against the Word of Wisdom. People say maybe it’s against the spirit of the law but please, there’s no real argument for that. I was also in the midst of a faith crisis. Meaning on a regular basis I thought: holy crap! I don’t believe hardly anything in the Mormon Church anymore! (hyperbole for effect). Frankly, I was concerned about the amount of Diet Coke I was drinking and the money I was spending to feed the addiction and a non-Mormon co-worker said I should try tea. At the time, I had very little experience breaking the Word of Wisdom and I nervous about taking this step. However, I had come to see the w.o.w. as a commandment with little meaning. Mormons don’t drink tea and coffee because it’s genuinely bad for them (because neither really is) but because it is part of our cultural identity. If anyone knows anything about Mormons, it usually involves w.o.w. knowledge, and it separates us from the world. It helps us take the moral highground occasionally too and we feel good about that.

So I started drinking tea. There’s black and green and white and spiced and sweetened, with milk or plain, short or long time steeping. You can mix herbals and greens or whites, you can mix greens and whites, sometimes greens and blacks and you can drink it iced or hot. Even tepid is not bad. Greens and whites have anti-oxidants galore and blacks have the least caffeine of any caffeinated beverage. All this and you can enjoy the cultural keystone of many, many different countries.

I had no guilt attached to my tea drinking. No loss of the Spirit. No change in my prayers. Plus this whole new beautiful, limitless world was opened up to me. So I started on the coffee. It has also revolutionized my life in the beverage world. The more I drank tea and coffee, the more I could not understand the weight placed on the Word of Wisdom as a commandment. All good was happening and no bad and I was a bit perplexed since I remember discussing in my seminary class how breaking the law of chastity and breaking the Word of Wisdom were on par with each other. Also, because I was having so much trouble believing in the faith of my fathers, I desperately wanted the w.o.w. to mean something. I have no interest in the smoking or drug part of the w.o.w. and I’ve had a few experiences with alcohol but none of them very pretty or refreshing which has caused me to lose interest in breaking that part of the commandment. I am a part keeper and part breaker, but really it has to do with my tastes more than the commandment.

I do not try and rationalize this breakage in any way. I am breaking an important Mormon commandment and am inhibited in some ways in my activity in the Church because of it. I wonder about its weightiness though. I have a friend, recently moved to a very big city with her husband and new baby, and she finds she has little in common with some of the high-powered moms, their nannies and the whole play-date phenomenon. I said, why don’t you go back to Church (she was a Mormon)? And she said, because I don’t think I can give up the wine. And I said, what? who cares, just go to Church meet people you are care about, partake of the religious community and continue to drink wine. You’re breaking a commandment but not the worst one. She said, I think I would be way too self-conscious. So she remains isolated and alone despite the fact that she has a fair amount in common with Mormon mothers and shares much of their world view.

I’m sure we all have friends who avoid the Church because of their issues to the Word of Wisdom and in the end, I think that’s just plain strange. There’s the argument that the Church is a place for the sick and not for the healthy, that we should be meeting as sinners and not as perfected beings. There’s the argument that the Word of Wisdom just isn’t significant in ways like worshipping things other than God or committing adultery and therefore not a commandment worth ostrasizing people over. There’s the argument that little to no attention is paid to the meat sparingly or fruits, vegetables, and grains in abundance portion of the w.o.w. which means we can give the same heed to the hot drinks section. Then there’s mine: tea and coffee are great! Drink up!

I do not mean to advocate breaking the Word of Wisdom. Keep the commandment because it is a part of your belief system, because it is a part of your culture, because you have received blessings from keeping it, because God said you should do it. I wholeheartedly respect this response to the Word of Wisdom. However, as a people, I think we need to reassess our treatment of those who cannot for one reason or another keep it. To reassess those who cannot find the meaning in it or develop testimonies of it. The Church would be less without me in it. It’s less without my wine-drinking friend. It is less without your insightful friend that smokes. Less without the other very kind friend who goes to bars on the weekends. Even without the drug-addict and the chain-smoker, we are less of Church. And that’s not very satisfying to any of us.

Comments

  1. I agree that we should fellowship wow-breakers. The reality is that you give up your temple recommend, but there are myriad greater sins that fall under the general “are you otherwise worthy” that in reality are never mentioned becasue they are not explicitly delineated. And that is sad.

    The movement towards having the wow as a test of faith is fairly recent in Mormon history (~80 years). I have profoundly spiritual relatives (of pioneer stock) that used to drink coffee. Joseph never stopped drinking. But we do live in a different time, and the WOW is a test of fellowship. And because I believe that it is improtant I would hope that some day you might want to give up the coffee.

  2. Measure says:

    Man… I drink Diet Pepsi non-stop, but haven’t ever felt guilty for it, nor been tempted to break the word of wisdom.

    But I think… If you actively attend church, while at the same time blatantly violate one of the church’s main standards of living… I can see why people might not react kindly.

    It’s not that the WOW is as severe as the law of chastity, but that it is one of the standards, one of the outward signs, that tell other people, including other mormons, that you’re really mormon.

    I think other mormons would be right in expecting you to, at the very least, make an ongoing effort to conform with the law of the church. If you aren’t at least making an effort to follow the rules, why belong to the system at all?

    In an analogy… say you’re a football player, and the rule is that you’re not supposed to ride motorcycles without a helmet. If you continue to ride without a helmet, wouldn’t you expect your peers and leaders to continue to ask you to start wearing a helmet?

  3. I am glad you are a part of us. I hope your wine drinking friend will someday return, with or without giving up the wine.

  4. rleonard says:

    Amri I agree that the WOW is a lessor law. 1928 was a very important year for WOW enforcement.

    Go back and read your post My Childrens Children. Then read this post. I would argue that they may be linked.

  5. Good post, Amri. I think you’re right to point out that the WoW is, relatively speaking, a small-potatoes commandment. It’s a thousand times less important than the commandments to love our neighbor, for example, or to love God.

    So as for me, I’m happy to call you a fellow member of the church, tea and all. We ought to invite you to the next SoCal bloggersnacker.

  6. I think you’re wrong that we aren’t asked to rank commandments. See here, for example. http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6647

    That said, I agree that WOW is one of the lesser commandments. I do think that’s it’s a pretty good litmus test for where people are in terms of readiness to obey prophets, though. It’s a commandment (as of 1928) we’ve been asked to obey that helps to set us apart from the rest of the world and which we’ve been promised will bring us blessings. And I think this comment–“I think we need to reassess our treatment of those who cannot for one reason or another keep it”–is everything wrong with your post. You did not cite an example of anyone who was incapable of not obeying it; your examples are of people who just would prefer not to do it. I know plenty of chain smokers who have tried for years to stop smoking with little success that nonetheless attend church every week at the advice of advice of a caring bishop. But to compare that to someone who drinks tea because they like the variety is rather reckless, in my opinion. Similarly, disregarding the WOW for the sake of taste or convenience and then telling everyone that it doesn’t affect spirituality is reckless. Indeed, it would run counter to our doctrine.

    I appreciate the message you’re trying to convey: we should accept more people who are want to know about the gospel but who drink or smoke. But I that’s a world away of understanding it to be a commandment and ignoring it because you like the way green teas make you feel about your day.

  7. Living in North Carolina there are way fewer mormons than in other places. So I have friends who drink a little and smoke (none of them mormons). I would not alienate someone for drinking tea or coffee or even wine. But why be so willing to water everything down. As I read individual posts like this I find myself agreeing on some points and wondering what the big deal is. But then I take those dozen or so posts and put them together in my mind and I realize that there is a lot of pressure out there to water down mormon doctrine for one reason or another. Suddenly I am feeling nervous and I want to go to the temple!

  8. rleonard says:

    Its a minor commandment with huge implications.

    Just think about no WOW observance leads to:

    No baptism
    No temple marriage (also difficult time attracting a active LDS mate)
    No PH ordination
    In short no exhaltation

    All this for Coffee and Tea?

    There is a huge difference between joining the church and struggling with the WOW because of a life time of habits. I am completely sympathetic to this scenario.

    But Amri is flaunting her disobedience and seeking to justify it.

    Its all about the attitude.

  9. Sweet.
    I’m not seeking to justify my disobedience. I believe that obedience is a manifestation of faith and I have said many times over that the faith is the issue for me. rleonard, that’s nice of you to think that I can’t get married because I drink tea and coffee. Very generous.

    It is true that it is a small commandment with huge benefits attached to it. And that is a curious thing to me. Baptism, priesthood, temple are all things that have eternal significance. I think we would be hard-pressed to assign the same eternal significance to drinking tea or coffee. But they are inextricably linked.

    Also, I do not quite understand how it waters down the significance of the Church and its eternal principles by welcoming more members that do not keep the WoW. Is it because we are afraid that if it’s okay for others to do it, if we accept them doing it that we won’t find the impetus to keep it ourselves? That’s a funny kind of faith isn’t it?

  10. The watering down part comes in when we all decide to find some reason or another to not obey a commandment. You have an issue with WOW, others with tithing, others with Sabbath day etc etc. And all have seemingly justifiable reasons for not wanting to obey the commandment that irritates them the most. If we were to follow that pattern for everyone, eventually we wouldn’t be peculiar at all. Yes, I call that watering down.

  11. I understand that, Wes, but you don’t break the word of wisdom because I have a good reason for breaking it. Nor do break the study my scriptures commandment because other people have good reasons for breaking that one. Faith that causes action eventually has to come from your own individual view of the world and your own experiences with God. If I am solely persuaded by other people’s experiences then I think it’s time for my faith to grow up.

    I am also not down with the whole peculiar people thing. By all means, keep your own commandments in earnest attempts to follow God but the peculiar people idea is divisive in a way that is not Christ-like to me.

  12. MikeInWeHo says:

    Anybody see a connection between this discussion (esp. Comment #2, etc) and the fact that the Church has essentially stopped growing in many areas. Activity/retention rates are remarkably low. Does that matter? It’s really quite easy to keep people out of the Church.

  13. rleonard says:

    Amri,

    The creation of the “Jack mormons” in rural Utah and Idaho can be linked to the enforcement of the WOW in the 1920-1930 period. It caused lots of inactivity with many women remaing active and many of their husbands falling into inactivity.

    I am serious one quick way to scare away a potential active LDS mate is to disregard the WOW. Its the reality out there in the LDS dating market. Its like being an orthodox jew and deciding not to eat Kosher. Try to get a good Orthodox Jewish boy to marry you then.

    I do not think there is any fear that if lots of WOW breakers come to church that the principle will be watered down. We already had this battle in the church (1928), exprienced some pain, and have moved on.

  14. I am not talking about my ability to keep a commandment. I have no problem with W.o.W. But I have my own weaknesses. I think we should encourage each other to overcome their weaknesses rather than find their own reasons for not following the commandments that give them trouble. Remember the promise that our weaknesses may become strengths?

    What is devisive about being a peculiar people? My neighbors no I don’t drink or smoke. But I cook out with them and we are friends. They think I am peculiar because they don’t know any other adult men that don’t ever drink alcohol. What is devisive about that?

  15. Let me guess Mike, we ought to be following the example of the RLDS?

  16. To address the point about watering down – I am not talking about a mormon with trouble with the W.o.W coming to church. I already stated that I would not alienate anyone for that. I am talking about pressure in many areas that certain doctrines be changed because of changing times or common consent of the membership or whatever. Everyone out there has some reason why they think a particular part of the church, or commandment in the church should now be changed. If you do not want to obey the W.o.W that’s fine. I frankly would still be friends with you. But I think this post was not meant to announce to everyone that you intend to drink tea, rather it is a way of saying that you think this commandment is either outdated, or far enough down the ladder of importance that it does not need to be obeyed.

  17. I agree with the post, in the sense that we should fellowship all those who come to Church, their habits notwithstanding. I think that the Church’s culture encourages people to hide their sins or go inactive become of them, instead of shouldering on while trying to overcome them.

    But please, you’d have to forgive me if you lived in my ward and I was hesitant to sustain you as my child’s new primary teacher, or my daughter’s new young women’s advisor.

    Am I wrong in thinking that?

  18. rleonard–I don’t want to marry a man that can’t understand my relationship with my faith and the Church. Though you are right, a temple-going Mormon single man whose priority is temple attendance will not be interested in me. Still, low to connect those two. I followed the WoW diligently for many years and may again someday.

    I hate peculiar people because we believe that we have the claim that there are sides and that God is on our side, that He cares about us more than others. That we have a special in with Him and are more likely to get blessings or know what’s going on than other people. Rudeness, condescension, judgment and then of course things like wars and killing people have been generated from this belief.

    Also, my decision to not follow the Word of Wisdom entirely makes me less Mormon? But I read the BoM almost everyday. I go to Church every week, I served a mission and converted many, I have given hours and hours of my life to the Church, I went to BYU, my stories are Mormon stories, my world and heaven view are formed from Mormonism. But I’m not a Mormon because despite my adherence to no tobacco, drugs, eating meat sparingly and eating fruits, vegetables and grains mostly that I am not really a Mormon.

    That’s really weird. Really.

  19. Queno, is that because I have less access to the Spirit? That God would not communicate with me in order to lead your daughter down a Christ-like path?

    While I don’t hide this, I also don’t preach it. And like I said, I support any and all who keep the WoW. I don’t try and talk people out of keeping the WoW. I reinforce their decision. But it’s my Church and I don’t want to be forced out or left out because I cannot keep all the commandments.

  20. Amri,

    Let me say that I do not think I am better than anyone. I myself have my own downfalls. I love the fact that there are so many Christians in this area. When I see people worshipping God it touches my heart. If I were a big jerk, my neighbors wouldn’t just think I was peculiar, they would think I was a big jerk. I suppose there are jerks in and out of the church, but being a jerk doesn’t come just because you are peculiar ie: obeying God’s commandments.

    I do not think you are not a mormon. I just think you should be trying to overcome this weakness rather than finding a way to justify continuing in it.

    Thank you for your missionary work. As a return missionary, I know that is a big sacrifice.

  21. I’ll take an occasional cup of tea over an occasional soft drink (diet, caffinated, whatever) any day of the week. It is healthier, regardless of what the WOW says. And although it is not a popular position, I feel no guilt in saying I keep the spirit of the WOW during my temple recommend interview even though I probably drink 2 cups of tea a week. As a church, we are doctrinally all over the place as to the importance of the WOW and which lines are emphasized that it seems pretty low on the totem pole of commandments that I need to do better about.

    That said, it is what I feel comfortable doing. Certainly not a prescription for everyone else.

  22. Amri, you are a bone fide Mormon. Anachronistic, but Mormon.

    I hate peculiar people because we believe that we have the claim that there are sides and that God is on our side.

    This is what is painful for many faithful, myself included. I do believe that God is on our side, that God sustains our sacraments and oblations.

  23. NE,
    What is the spirit of the W.o.W? It says don’t drink tea. During the Temple interview when you are asked if you obey the W.o.W do you say that you keep the spirit of the law or do you simply say you keep the word of wisdom?

  24. Queno,

    If your desire is for your children to be taught by someone who gives exact heed to all of God’s commandments…well…I think you’re going to find that they won’t be learning a lot.

    My biggest struggle with the church is the constant need for public knowledge of individual salvation. It’s really not any of your business if Amri drinks coffee and teaches your children. If the bishop feels that Amri is fit to teach your children, I don’t understand why you have a problem with it.

    The analogy is trite and overused, but clearly effective: if sins stunk like cigarrette smoke, no one would come to church because they’d be too embarrassed. So the need to constantly talk about Bro. X or Sis. Y’s stinkiness seems foolish to me.

  25. JamesP,
    There is a difference between someone with sins they are trying to overcome and someone blatantly deciding that they will not follow certain commandments.

    God has called all sinners to himself and his church. But once they get there He expects them to repent.

  26. rleonard says:

    Amri,

    I think you are a Mormon actually. I have read all your posts and you are LDS. WOW disobedience is something that you can start tomorrow if you so choose.

    By the way my Brigham Young descended wife was occassionally drinking coffee when we met. She drank it on Friday at the bank she worked at with Donuts. She quit it when she met me. I did not know and would have married her anyway. She never would have posted something like this though. She knew it was wrong, felt guilty, and stopped on her own accord.

  27. Wes,

    With all due respect, it is none of your business whether or not (or how or why) someone decides anything about their salvation or church membership.

    You and you alone are ultimately responsible for your salvation. Not mine, not Amri’s. To pretend otherwise creates the stigma that so often drives people away from the Church.

  28. The spirit of the word of wisdom is to improve the health of our lives by prescribing substances we should embrace and others we should limit. I do not get up in the morning and drink 4 cups of coffee. I do not have wine with every meal (or ever for that matter). Rather, on occasion, if working late, driving late at night, or waking very early in the morning and needing a boost, I will choose a cup of tea rather than a sugary Coke or even a Sprite. Now, if that makes me less of a WOW observer because I have decided that for my body, tea is far less harmful than even a 7-up, well then I’ll take my chances in the afterlife for being dishonest in my temple recommend interviews.

    I get annoyed when people who wouldn’t bat an eye at me eating a steak every night for dinner will act like I, someone who truly uses meat sparingly and mostly in the winter, is less worthy to enter the temple for an occasional cup of tea. (That isn’t directed at anyone in particular, just annoyance in general.)

    For the record, I’ve been known to say both.. just yes, or yes, I strive to keep the spirit of the WOW.

  29. Amri:

    This is my favorite blog post ever. Although, I am not sure how to respond.

    As a tea, coffee, wine drinking, once upon a time, Mormon I can sympathize with your friends situation re: returning to church and yours with the significance of the WOW. It would, at times, be nice to have the social aspects that the Mormon church offers. Don’t get me wrong, I have wonderful friends and we have interesting discussions all of the time, but it isn’t the same as what I find in the Mormon community and no, I am not talking about the spirit or any of those other things that just popped into everyones head as they read the above. I am talking about a commonality that I don’t currently have in my daily life. But I hardly think it is fair to those who feel strongly about their beliefs for me to return to church only after making my Sunday morning stop at Starbucks after my late night at the local bar with friends. These people have made a commitment that I clearly have chosen not to make. They have done this out of their faith and to gain rewards. If I show up I’ve had my cake and eaten it too. I’d like to, but I can see why people would be annoyed and frustrated and judgmental. For this reason I just get my dose through blogs.

    Still I love what you’ve written.

  30. JamesP,

    I agree, which is why I said I would still be friends with Amri even if she drank all the tea in China. But I do think you shouldn’t expect to be called as a sunday school teacher giving lessons on the W.o.W if your attitude is that you don’t really believe in it. Frankly I think I will be the last in heaven if I make it at all. I have been excommunicated though I am now again a member in good standing. I don’t ever make eternal judgments because I have too much to loose. But there isn’t anything wrong with saying that there is a major difference between blatantly announcing our refusal to obey commandments and sincerely having difficulty obeying at times.

  31. Re #28

    I better clarify before I go home for the night. I don’t think someone who eats a steak every night for dinner is somehow going to hell or even should be denied a temple recommend. I just find it incredibly interesting that tea, which doesn’t even show up in the WOW (and yes, I know the interpretation), gets more attention than practically every other verse with the exception of wine/strong drink and tabacco.

  32. I’m not questioning your perceived level of spirituality, and I don’t know in person, so I can’t make a real judgment (i.e., you’re throwing me an argument that you can’t prove and I can’t refute). You can make your own choices.

    But, it seems here that you’re deliberately choosing to violate one of the rules that the general church leadership is important enough that you can’t get a temple recommend. An addiction to tea is one thing, if you recognize it and are working to resolve it. But to say, pfffft, I like green tea, and I think this is no big deal?

    I’m uncomfortable with presenting my children with the view of the world that “I don’t deem this commandment important, because not obeying it has no effect on me, so I’m going to break it” (and obviously, temple attendance isn’t important to me either).

    But, we can bitch and moan about 1928 and all that crap, but the bottom line is: We teach our children that sometimes, you do things just because it’s a commandment, even if you don’t notice any change because of it.

    Sometimes, obedience is what’s justified, and your example smacks that in the face.

    Call me a square, that’s OK.

  33. J. –I also believe that God honors our sacraments and oblations. I believe that the peculiar people language and ideology isn’t not how God operates. I’m not certain how I believe in the Right way to do things, but I am certain that if the Mormon way is the only Right way then it still is not about sides. It is not about comparison or being the favored child.

    Sure the post is a bit inflammatory, but I do not believe that my disobedience is blatant. I have sincere and earnest issues of faith and I’m also not good at doing things if I can’t have some confirmation on or clearness of conscience about. I can’t get that with all aspects of the WoW. Also, it came about because I believe completely in the godly principle of moderation and fighting against addiction. Diet Coke was a genuine addiction that has been helped out trememdously by my decision to drink tea. That is not a rationalization for my breaking the commandment just that real spiritual earnestness was involved in trying to understand what to do about my addiction.

    That said, what is blatant disobedience? And why should it keep people out? I understand if you preach your way as The Way but I don’t do that and I know how to teach Sunday School in a way that is Mormon faith promoting not Amri faith promoting.

    Alice, people that do everything do receive their rewards. They go to the temple, they receive much more respect and credence in Church than I do. I have problems with the Temple so don’t go for reasons other than the WoW but I still love it and miss that perk. I think you should come worship with us, just forgo some of the part of worship (like Temple).

    And NE, I’m right there with you.

  34. What is the spirit of the W.o.W? It says don’t drink tea. During the Temple interview when you are asked if you obey the W.o.W do you say that you keep the spirit of the law or do you simply say you keep the word of wisdom?

    Wes, what do you say? Do you say “yes” or do you say “well, I keep versus 5-9″.

  35. Amri,

    I am also glad that you have continued to attend church and fellowship with the saints. I wish everyone in your situation did the same thing.

    I have a question though… Are you hoping that all pressure to obey the word of wisdom as defined by modern prophets would cease in the church? When you say:

    However, as a people, I think we need to reassess our treatment of those who cannot [sic] for one reason or another keep it.

    what do you hope that reassessment will lead to?

  36. I don’t think you’re a square queuno, I just think you underestimate my intelligence, my discreetness, and my care for the Mormon church. If I were to teach your children, they would never know my habits. I believe that talk with adults can be different than talk with children and that talk over the pulpit is different than a blog post. However if you don’t expose children or adults to an array of faith structures and practices then I think you get wacky kids.

    Rleonard, I appreciate your story about you and your wife. I feel guilt over my inability to believe and work on that a lot. For whatever reason I do not feel guilt over my tea habits.

    And Wes, wow you’ve been through a lot. And I understand your desire to want to do everything possible because you’ve experienced so much. My disobedience comes from honest faith questions and also I believe that community should be much bigger than we allow it to be, because we’re afraid of what other people’s “disobedience” will do to us.

  37. Re:#34

    I say yes.

    But I do have other issues. My bishop recently asked to have a PPI with him. In that interview he asked if I was having family prayers, reading my scriptures, family home evening etc. You know, the general questions in an interview to see how things are going. They aren’t always going great with me. But when they aren’t, I dont say I don’t believe in doing what the prophet has said. I simply must admit to having failed to allocate time properly or simply that I was lazy last month and didn’t do my home teaching (frankly that is my biggest weakness). But you will not hear me saying that Home teaching isn’t important in order to justify my weakness. Instead, I will say that I should do better and that I will do better.

  38. Amri,

    I wish you the best. If your disobedience comes from faith questions then I truly hope your faith will grow as I hope and pray for my own faith every day.

  39. It may be that the problem some of Amri’s critics have with her stance is its unapologetic nature. She freely admits that the WOW is 1) important, 2) a commandment from God and 3) something she is not interested in keeping. She then turns to her audience, church members, and says, in effect, “you shouldn’t judge me and the church should try and keep people like me in it.”

    To which I respond, well sure–but no one likes to have their eye poked with a stick. I seriously doubt that you could find 5 members of my local congregation who would treat anyone who violated the word of wisdom with anything but caring and respect.

  40. Duane #39:

    I am sure you are correct in your assessment of your congregation, but I bet plenty of them (far beyond 5) would discuss the “transgressions” over Sunday night dinner, and maybe later over the fence with their neighbor because it is human nature to gossip and judge, not Mormon human nature, but just simply all human nature. Wouldn’t it be nice though if that didn’t happen, if the Mormon church was recognized for this unique behavior rather than the not drinking, not smoking unique behavior? Sure it is an unrealistic fantasy, but I think it is the point I draw from the post and it is a good point for everyone everywhere regardless of religion.

  41. All of us prioritize commandments. Many of us choose to ignore some, and a few of us even acknowledge that we ignore them.

    Our faith community is not the best in accepting imperfections, or in accepting those of us who are less than perfect or less than completely devoted.

    I fear that the singer, Todd Agnew’s, perception of his church may apply to many of our congregations:

    “Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
    The blood and dirt on His feet would stain the carpet
    But He reaches for the hurting and despised the proud
    I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd”

    When Jesus said He was sent to help heal the spiritually afficted, I think that included those of us who fall short, and those of us who do not even realize we fall short. It included those of us who have difficulty keeping the word of wisdom, paying tithing, obeying prophetic counsel, maintaining a year supply, sharing the gospel with our neighbors, attending the temple regularly, doing family history research, making regular home and visiting teaching visits, contributing fast offerings, avoiding swearing, caring for the poor–and it includes those of us who may have given up on some or all (or lost our testimony of some or all).

    Interestingly, when Jesus listed who would be on the right and left hands of God, word of wisdom compliance, and other uniquely Mormon identifiers, were not even mentioned. Perhaps that is in part what Joseph alluded to when he said “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite.”

  42. Alice,

    That would be nice.

  43. Geoff J–Sure I wish that tea and maybe even coffee weren’t a part of the official WoW. Will I do any work to get that changed? No. Bigger fish to fry in that arena.
    I think bishops can straightforwardly say to their congregations: here is the word of wisdom, this is exactly what it is, these are the perks you get from living it. Some people can’t/don’t. I want to welcome them into our congregation. Like what Alice said, I think there’s a human nature piece that makes it hard for the good son not to be jealous of the prodigal son or the sinner because we want recompense for the sacrifice that we’ve made. But I believe that leadership in wards and stakes can continually teach love and tolerance that may to some degree counteract that natural instinct to shun those who won’t do what we do.

    I don’t mean to be abrupt in my admittance of this. I am just not a secretive person. I’m open with my questions, concerns, issues, bad habits, immaturity (my bro is convinced my WoW problem is immaturity and I’m open to that idea)I can relate to God better when I’m not hiding so much. I’m really a likeable, kind person. Not the tea-drinking punk some of you think me to be.

  44. Seth R. says:

    Yes Amri,

    You were correct to say that we shouldn’t rank commandments.

  45. What I see as the larger issue at stake in Amri’s post is that *all* of us have those commandments that we either fail at miserably (despite our best efforts) or disobey blatantly. Some people work on Sundays despite the admonition to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Some people gossip despite all the encouragement in the scriptures and by church leaders to be kind and not gossip. Amri is just in a unique position that one of her particular trouble commandments is one that is such a “status” (for lack of a better word) commandment for Mormons. It’s a commandment that marks someone as identifiably Mormon in most societies, and it’s something that’s used as a mark of faithfulness in temple recommend interviews, etc.

    Amri’s point raises a couple of questions for me: why is the Word of Wisdom the commandment that functions as this unique gatekeeper (a signal to others of one’s faith as well as a signal to church leadership of one’s obedience)? Also, what is the stance of each of us towards each other’s unfaithfulness and disobedience? How might we think about creating a greater sense of welcome for those who are not obeying all the commandments (even if we don’t agree with their decisions, which we certainly do not have to do)? How do we create a place where others feel welcome to be themselves, and where they can feel okay bringing up issues like this in order to work them out in the context of a loving community?

    P.S. Amri, when I have kids, you can teach them.

  46. A Mormon Drinker says:

    Interesting. I just got done posting almost a dozen or so comments on this exact same topic over at Millennial Star:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2006/06/30/p1684#more1684

    I’m trying to remain an active Mormon, despite the fact that I drink beer/wine, coffee, and tea. I understand your friend’s reluctance to associate with other Mormons, despite the many things she shares in common with her fellow Mormon Moms. Despite ranking 63rd in order of, say, “eternal” importance (although if I had to split hairs, I’d say the real ranking is 67th), it ranks #1, Numero Uno, on the Mormon Identity Scale. As I said at Millennial Star, a Mormon Drinker is like an Amish person trying to remain part of the Amish community while keeping a house full of products from General Electric and a Hummer H3 in the barn.

    I’d love to see the WoW reversed, or at least relaxed, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. In fact, I can see caffeinated soft drinks being added to the WoW, before I can see coffee or tea being removed from the WoW. Furthermore, I see the Church reversing its stance on Gays before I can see any wholesale changes being made to the WoW. You can read my reasons why over at M.S…

    But you are so right about the shock of not finding the bogeyman (guilt, loss of spirit, shame, etc.) around the WoW corner after that first cup of coffee or tea. Unlike, say, real “sins” (i.e. rape, murder, incest, theft, emotionally/physical abuse, even alcoholism, drug abuse, slander, self-righteousness, pharisaiism, etc.), the WoW as a 100% abstinence (as oppossed to moderation ) commandment is truly a case of the Emporer having no clothes, save for the coffee cup in his hand that he’s using to hide his nakedness.

    Amri, if you start a Mormon Coffee Drinkers club, I’ll be your first member.

  47. A Mormon Drinker,

    I don’t know what the Mormon Identity Scale is. Can you help me?

    Assuming it means what I think it means, don’t you think that those accepted doctrines which make us very peculiar to the rest of the world ought to rank highly in terms of our “identity”? Look at it in the abstract. If I am part of a group that does A, while most of the rest of the world conversely does B, don’t you think I would be likely to associate doing A with being part of my group? Indeed, it would be a great way to figure out who was part of my group and who wanted to stay in my group, right?

  48. s wonders how do we create a place where others feel welcome to be themselves and where they can feel okay bringing up issues to work them out in a loving community.

    I’m not convinced that we have failed at this– although that is the prevailing dogma. I wonder if most of the discomfort we feel at church isn’t internal. If I show up to church dressed radically different than everyone else in the congregation am I really the subject of whithering looks from the bishopric, or do I simply feel out of place?

    Aren’t there many places in the Mormon church where we are free to bring up issues that we want to work through? It seems perfectly fine, for example, to discuss the evolution of the WOW in Sunday School, but the appropriateness of discussing personal struggles with the WOW might depend on what it adds to the learning environment. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three other places where it would always be appropriate to discuss personal struggles with the WOW in a church context.

  49. Interesting discussion. Many of the points are echoed and expanded in one of my favorite quotations, which I also posted on T&S a while ago:

    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 your 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 calling and in a very short time he had the spiritual strength to change his habits and give up his tobacco. Then the next step of preparing his family for the temple was within easy reach.
    .
    Those words of Brother Robinson’s have come back to me again and again: “I didn’t knot 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 s valuable and not pressure for them to give up their habits firs. 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 witness and recreate the conversion process.

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

  50. Amri: I think bishops can straightforwardly say to their congregations: here is the word of wisdom, this is exactly what it is, these are the perks you get from living it. Some people can’t/don’t. I want to welcome them into our congregation.

    Is that it? Do you think that most bishops don’t welcome those who are not adherring to the Word of Wisdom into their congregations now?

    I guess I’m not seeing how what you described here would be a change at all — unless you mean welcome them in but not ask them to change (aka repent).

  51. A Mormon Drinker says:

    jimbob (#47): I think you’ve got a handle on the Mormon Identity Scale.

    You said: “…don’t you think that those accepted doctrines which make us very peculiar to the rest of the world ought to rank highly in terms of our “identity”? Look at it in the abstract. If I am part of a group that does A, while most of the rest of the world conversely does B, don’t you think I would be likely to associate doing A with being part of my group?”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head, and you’ve also identified the thing I hate most about arbitrary (in my opinion) “identifiers” like the WoW. It creates an “us” and “them”. It’s putting the Blacks on the back of the bus (or refusing them the Priesthood); it’s forcing the Jews to wear Gold Stars; it’s the Star-Bellied Sneeches vs. the Sneeches without Stars (see Dr. Seuss for that reference)…

    It draws a line in the sand that says, “These people are righteous/worthy; and these people aren’t.” It creates fear, judgment, and leads to Pharisaical behavior.

    If you want an “Identity”, how about Christlike identifiers: a changed heart, a kind-hearted disposition, a happy countenance, etc.? (By the way, many Mormons I know DO “wear” these identifiers.) Such an Identity is Inclusive, not Exclusive. Such an Identity may be worn by one with long hair and sandles, or tattoos, or multiple piercings, or Amri drinking a cup of tea, or Levi Peterson’s Cowboy Jesus smoking a cigarette.

    Why does Amri’s friend NOT want to associate with the Saints? It’s simple, because she drinks wine, she is not “us”, she is “them”. Mormons are good at fellowshipping, great even, but it must be on their terms. This is why there are only 12 million members (maybe 4-5 million active) currently “in” the Mormon Tent. Were we to fling open our doors and welcome Amri’s friend and others like her, I think you’d see our membership numbers truly “blossum like the rose”.

  52. Aaron Brown says:

    I haven’t yet read any of the comments above, so my apologies if I repeat what others have said.

    With respect to the question of whether we should “rank” commandments … of course we should, on some level. Clearly, murder and certain sexual sins are worse than WOW compliance or paying a monthly fast offering, or what have you (at least if you take certain scriptural texts seriously). The interesting question, to me, is how we should rank the importance of certain commandments.

    Consider the temple recommend interview questions. One of the questions concerns Word of Wisdom compliance. The fact that the question is there could prompt one to conclude “Gee, my failure to comply would keep me out of the Temple, so abstaining from all this stuff must be really, really important to God in the grand scheme of things.” This strikes me as a logical conclusion. Yet, since I think our collective focus on the Word of Wisdom has certain negative effects culturally (not to deny the positive ones), I tend to want to see this differently. I tell myself “Word of Wisdom compliance is really, really easy to self-monitor. Ergo, the Church puts the question in there, not because WOW compliance is as important as other things, but because it is really to assess our compliance in a black and white way, and the Church needs some bright-line standards thrown in there with all the other stuff.” After all, think about how often we hear how important “hometeaching” is. Seriously, the way we talk sometimes, you’d think Heaven and Hell will be distinugished by those who did their hometeaching, and those who didn’t. Yet, there is no question about Hometeaching in the temple recommend interview. Why, I wonder.

    Aaron B

  53. J. Mormon says:

    Amri,

    For what it’s worth, I think you sound like a wonderful person and any (LDS or not) guy would be lucky to have someone like you. :)

    What I find amusing in this post is that your point, at the most basic level, is that people shouldn’t feel judged if they aren’t obeying the WoW – that they can still be good Mormons. And yet, here you are getting all of these stones thrown at you.

    My hat’s off to you, Brave Lady!

  54. A Mormon Drinker,

    I wouldn’t bet on the membership numbers blossoming if we dropped the WOW. I have attended Unitarian services and greatly admire their laid-back teachings, but they aren’t exactly among the fastest growing churches–although the rate of a church’s growth is only one measure of its success in any case.

    I’m also not convinced that getting rid of the WOW is going to even make a dent in fear, judgment abd Pharisaical behavior. Human ingenuity will see to that.

    Comparing the division of WOW observers and non-observers to blacks on the back of the bus and Nazi’s forcing Jews to wear the Star of David strikes me as unhelpful. It strikes me as incredibly harsh.

    Finally there is nothing in the definition of what it means to be Mormon which excludes the long-haired, the pierced, the tea drinkers, the smokers et al from possessing the Christ-like identifiers you mentioned. It appears that your definition may need to be expanded. Some years ago I came to understand the word “Mormon” as much more inclusive than I had ever imagined it–and that allowed me to realize that I had a place in the body of Christ.

  55. I don’t really think that church members are exclusionary toward people who break the WoW, or any other commandment really.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks that people who sin shouldn’t go to Church, or that drinking coffee is grounds for being kicked out of Sacrament Meeting.

    I think what is disturbing some people (myself included), is the attitude. From your post, Amri, it sounds like you are saying, ‘I don’t find this commandment important, and I don’t see the big deal with drinking tea, so I’m going to do it, and you should be okay with it.’

    But disobeying the WoW is major enough to keep one out of the temple, so it is at least important in the sense that it’s grounds for participating in what is arguably the center of Mormon worship.

    When I was struggling with the Word of Wisdom, my friend (who is not Mormon) said to me, ‘There are so many things you can have. Why is it that you want the one you shouldn’t?’

  56. In response to what Duane (#48) and GeoffJ (#50) ask, I would say that the church leadership and membership have been encouraged to accept everyone in their imperfections, etc. However, way too many wards while verbally professing acceptance for all, subtly ostracize, exclude, gossip about, etc. the members that are visibly less faithful, more radical, etc.

    In my own personal experience (which I realize is not everyone’s), discomfort at church has been motivated more often than not by an unwelcoming or exclusionary ward environment (as opposed to personal discomfort arising from my own sinful behavior).

  57. s,

    What you are calling ostracizing I think is better described as encouragement to repent. In my opinion, nobody in this church who is at least working toward better keeping all of the commandments will find anything but encouragement in the vast majority of cases.

    I think Crystal has it right in #55 – Amri does seem to be implying that we should not only love and accept the people who don’t adhere to the standards of the church but that we should stop “pressuring” them to start adhering to the commandments. If that really is the unspoken implication it faces the problem that our scriptures repeatedly tell us to “say nothing but repentance“.

  58. AMD (#51),

    I conceded it was an identifier; I didn’t concede that “identifier” meant organizational tool for death or discrimination. Perhaps we can take genocidal and Jim Crow references off the table (and just focus on Dr. Suess).

    As I’ve stated above, I’ve known lots of members with WoW problems. I loved them and befriended them like any other member. But if I didn’t know them from Adam and I saw them smoking, of course I’m not going to “identify” them as being a member. Once I find out they are, I accept them as a member with faults as much as the next person.

    Perhaps the problem is that you see the word “identifier” as a tool for keeping out the heterodox, whereas I see it as a tool for recognizing the (at least superficially) orthodox.

  59. A Mormon Drinker says:

    Duane (#54):

    You make some good points.

    “I wouldn’t bet on the membership numbers blossoming if we dropped the WOW. I have attended Unitarian services and greatly admire their laid-back teachings, but they aren’t exactly among the fastest growing churches…”

    It probably isn’t productive to compare the growth or non-growth of the Mormon or Unitarian Churches based on a single factor like the WoW. I believe a more logical WoW would impact Mormon growth, but I’ll admit that this belief is nothing more than personal opinion.

    I’m also not convinced that getting rid of the WOW is going to even make a dent in fear, judgment abd Pharisaical behavior. Human ingenuity will see to that.

    Sad, but probably true.

    Comparing the division of WOW observers and non-observers to blacks on the back of the bus and Nazi’s forcing Jews to wear the Star of David strikes me as unhelpful. It strikes me as incredibly harsh.

    Fair enough. My intention was not to necessarily equate WoW with blacks on the back of the bus and Nazi’s forcing Jews to wear the Star of David, but to suggest that the compulsion to separate us/them, worthy/unworthy, good/bad along on somewhat arbitrary lines stems from the same general fear-based, elitist compulsion. Certainly WoW elitism is nowhere in near the ballpark of the other two examples. I should have been more specific in pointing that out.

    Finally there is nothing in the definition of what it means to be Mormon which excludes the long-haired, the pierced, the tea drinkers, the smokers et al from possessing the Christ-like identifiers you mentioned. It appears that your definition may need to be expanded.

    This seems to contradict your second paragraph re the ubiquity of Pharasaical behavior. I think it is fairly common for some Mormons to not recognize such Christ-like identifiers in the long-haired, the tattooed, the tea drinkers, et al.

    Some years ago I came to understand the word “Mormon” as much more inclusive than I had ever imagined it–and that allowed me to realize that I had a place in the body of Christ.

    You sound like a model Mormon/Christian. Would be happy to know you.

  60. A Mormon Drinker says:

    jimbob (#58):

    You sound like another Mormon I’d like to know. Care to share a hot cup of Postum with Duane and I?

    Re Jim Crow and genocidal references, see my response to Duane in #59.

  61. s’s observation of subtle ostracization, exlusion, being made the subject of gossip etc. is consistent with what I have observed–but I don’t think, as he does not seem to think, that such ostracization necessarily comes as the result of sin, but rather because the person fails in some other social category such as dress, politics, weight, etc. I would bet the house that an attractive, gregarious person could light up in sacrament meeting and still have friends to spare.

    When I look at it that way I am more disposed to Amri’s argument. It would probably reflect better on us as a people if we did exclude people because of their sins rather than their failure to meet social expectations. Amri seems to be saying that because the WOW is malum prohibitum rather than malum in se, ostracization for failure to observe it is the result of violation of social rather than moral norms. That strikes me as a reasonable place to end up.

    If that is what Amri is saying, the problem I still have is her unique means of setting up the argument. Because she is aware of the social norms and flaunts the fact she ignores them, I’m not entirely sympathetic to her argument that we ought to reassess how we treat those who don’t observe the WOW because I worry that if people embraced her attitude, that particular norm would become meaningless. I am entirely sympathetic to the broader argument that we should resist organizing ourselves into cliques and social sets based on our ability to fit in socially.

  62. Mormon Drinker,

    LOL! I would be pleased to sit down have some Postum, though my tastes run towards Pero and milk.

  63. An anecdote from an SLC east bench ward: we tell our home teachees who smoke and drink that we hope they’ll come to Church. We want them to come back because we believe the Church is true. In all likelihood, they think we are harassing them and perhaps they write blog posts about how the Church stalks them and won’t leave them alone (they have never told us not to come back or that they want their names removed). But still, we insist that we would be more than happy to have a hint of the smell of cigarette smoke in sacrament meeting if they would like to come be with us there. For what it’s worth. (This is not to imply that if and when they come back we will not encourage them to obey the modern interpretation of the WoW — that’s the rub about continuing revelation: it doesn’t really matter how JS or his early-Church peers lived and understood the WoW; the current application as directed by an early-twentieth-century Prophet binds us. In other words, I am not sure what this post is saying. My guess is that all will welcome you back to Church, but I would think you are expecting a little much if you require people not to encourage you occasionally, and even by way of doctrinal admonishment, to obey the WoW.

  64. I don’t believe it’s the lay members’ place to tell other people to repent. I believe we love others and serve and then keep the commandments and relate to God in the best way we know how. Admonishment is for bishops and stake presidents etc. That’s the one nice thing about hierarchy. It takes the responsibility to judge off of us regular church goers and gives it to someone who has been given keys and gifts to judge and to love.
    This post is to lay members, not leadership. Breaking the WoW is wrong and against Church standards. I am not claiming otherwise. It seems to me though that the non-judgers get a little too caught up in making sure the sinners know they’re sinners and that the only right thing to do is repent. Repentance is very personal and best done with fewer people. So God, the repentant, the bishop if necessary. More than that makes it too cumbersome and ineffective.

    I don’t feel uncomfortable going to church, but people feel uncomfortable about me. They’ve voiced that, they’re condescending sometimes in their urging to get me to do what is right. I’m not ready to make those changes yet but I feel certain that Church is a place to work out my faith struggles. It’s contrary to what I believe about Church to have a struggle, leave, reconcile, follow the rules and then come back.

    My suggestion about what leadership should do is along the line of Pres. Hinckley talking about tolerance. He wouldn’t tell us over and over if it weren’t a problem and I have a hunch that includes tolerance inside the Church as well as out. If leadership repeats a certain message, the members take note.

  65. Mark IV says:

    Amri, just so you know – I hate tea, but I love tea-drinkers. :-)

  66. Amri (#64),

    Isn’t your post about lay members not admonishing others really an admonishment on your part of those who are admonishing you? Aren’t you calling for the repentance of those calling for yours?

  67. D. Fletcher says:

    Coffee is delicious, and it’s pretty good for you, too. God created the entire world, including coffee beans, and tea leaves, and vineyards of grapes.

    I’d only be careful in making a public statement, depending on the character of your local ward leaders.

    The Word of Wisdom is simply a measure of obedience, and some people are more stringent about enforcement than others.

    But regardless, Amri, I’ll be glad to see you in the Celestial Kingdom. I’m convinced, God doesn’t care at all about punishing coffee drinkers.

  68. Mark, just so you know, I love the idea of tea, like tea-drinkers (I never could get on board with saying I love you to perfect strangers, even if they are sinners), and obey the WoW for no other reason than that it is in the D&C and is currently applied as an absolute prohibition on the substance (that is, I believe God commanded it).

    Also, I would suggest, as was noted above, that drinking tea is only malum prohibitum and not malum in se. That is, even the D&C section on the matter is qualified with the statement that the WoW is given “[i]n consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” and not because drinking tea is and always has been evil. There is something about the last days that makes it prohibited. Since it is only malum prohibitum, I think it is plausible that it is not necessarily a sin to drink tea but rather a transgression, i.e. something less than a sin. It remains willful disobedience to the current will of God for us all and therefore rightly bars temple attendance. But I would agree that it is not a sin to be ranked with sins against life, such as murder, sexual sin, abortion, etc.

    However, I would like to add a response to Amri’s statement in her post that

    [t]he more I drank tea and coffee, the more I could not understand the weight placed on the Word of Wisdom as a commandment. All good was happening and no bad and I was a bit perplexed since I remember discussing in my seminary class how breaking the law of chastity and breaking the Word of Wisdom were on par with each other.

    As noted above, I do not personally believe that drinking tea is malum in se like fornication is. But here is where they are similar: my guess is that those who fornicate have the same reaction in that the more they do it, the more they think that the commandment is absurd and see nothing negative resulting from the act, as long as it is done “responsibly” and, to the contrary, my guess is that they would also argue that “all good was happening and no bad.” Doing it and realizing that nothing physically negative results from doing it responsibly — and to the contrary it is pleasurable and therefore good — would make one wonder why such an absurd commandment exists in the first place. (And, as we all know, a great many people do not believe there is anything wrong with fornication and to the contrary that it is good and healthy.) This is perhaps why Jesus said that it is an adulterous generation that seeks signs — because when committing the act nothing seems wrong with it and therefore a sign is demanded that God really does command his people, etc.

  69. I have no problem with people who drink, pretty much anything–tea, coffee, jagermeister, abscinthe, whatever. My best friend in college could drink 12 shots of vodka in an hour and remain essentially unimpaired (though he never drove in such a state). But my rather negative response to this post and to many of the comments in it seem to come from a sense that a root here there is a rejection of the idea that the prophet can recieve divine inspiration to call us to do things which lack a basis which an atheist secularist would recognise as rational. As such, it seems to me that this is a rejection of the prophet as such. This sense is in part elicited by the fact that of the four possible reasons for obeying the WOW, its divinity was never mentioned. I can understand addiction problems making compliance an issue, I can understand a lack of faith making it an issue, but to claim faith and then try to flat rationalize one’s way out of the commandment seems internally contradictory, almost gives the sense that you are not really knowing yourself and your own feelings, and I do not understand it. It feels like a rejection of an attitude of humility before the commandments of our savior, and it feels like the rejection of the idea that this Church was divinely organized and is divinely guided. It seems to me that to struggle is one thing, to reject another.

    Also, I think that those who are so quick to toss charges of hypocracy risk it, and the pride associated with it, themselves.

  70. Responding to DFletcher at 67:
    It’s not a matter of punishment. It’s a matter of what you’re becoming (as DH Oaks made clear in a most excellent talk).

  71. Kevin Barney says:

    Traditionally, Jews actually do number the commandments (they add up to 613).

    When I was younger I was probably more narrow-minded on this subject. But I’ve been through a lot of priesthood leadership training that really beat into our heads the importance of accepting into fellowship people, WoW issues notwithstanding. So in recent years I’ve internalized that attitude. And I think my particular ward is pretty good at doing that. Our bishopric takes the lead and models this for the rest of us, and I’ve learned from their fine example. I think there are precious few members of my ward who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a coffee or tea or wine drinker or smoker come to church (especially since we’re such a small ward, and we desperately need the bodies!).

    But I realize not all wards have internalized this lesson the way mine has. And even in my ward there would probably still be some gossip. And even if the entire ward would welcome someone with open arms and not say a word about it and utterly eschew any gossip, I’m sure a lot of people would still just feel too guilty about it to come, and would self-select out of active participation on that basis.

  72. Kristine says:

    Amri, I want to agree with you on this one, I really do, but I can’t quite. For one thing, I’m not convinced that the Word of Wisdom is entirely about the health of our bodies–my Marxist spin on it is that obeying the WofW keeps us from participating in some of the most destructive production processes in the modern economy. Coffee and tea production (and meat production) are really hard on the land and on workers. That can be somewhat mitigated by trying hard to buy “Fair Trade” products, but it seems simpler to just skip it.

    Mostly, however, I think the WofW is a fairly straightforward obedience test: will you or won’t you modify some aspect of your behavior as a show of commitment to a religious community? If the answer is that you won’t modify your behavior, then how seriously should the community take your commitment? What happens if everyone who wants to participate declares her own rules and demands that they be respected–then you’re in UU territory, which is a great place to be, but very different from Mormonism.

    That said, I’m absolutely for tolerating, respecting, loving, welcoming members who can’t or haven’t yet changed their habits! (And I say all of this as someone who’s had her own fling with coffee and regularly consumes enough Diet Coke to drown an elephant).

  73. cj douglass says:

    Amri, I think the brethren have made it clear how to rate coffee and tea on the scale of commandments. I can’t remember the last time I heard those two words even spoken in GC. Sadly, neither is eating meat sparingly spoken of. That being said, as a former coffee and tea drinker and Starbucks employee, I have experienced and witnessed the powerful effect addiction can have on our basic ability to choose. That in and of itself is reason enough to abstain. Are individuals effected differently? Ofcourse but when you say there are people who can’t obey the wow, doesn’t that tell you something if someone can’t make the choice to quit?

  74. Amri (#64): I don’t believe it’s the lay members’ place to tell other people to repent.

    The scriptures indicate pretty clearly that it is the duty of saints the admonish one another and “keep each other in the right way”. The good news for us all is that section 121 makes it clear how we should admonish and declare repentance to each other though. It is only to be done “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile”. So if we as a people do not meet that standard set by Christ in our admonitions of one another, that part is something we should change.

  75. Oh Amri, you know you’re in trouble when you’ve even lost the Marxists. :)

    It seems that what you are preaching is that members who are gossipy or judgmental should repent. I’ll gladly take that sermon, it’s a good one and always timely.

    And in return, it looks like you got a dozen sermons back on the Word of Wisdom. So hopefully everybody got something they needed!

  76. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 15 Cut the sarcasm, please. I’m not RLDS, although I am looking into the CoC more. They do seem to have useful ideas for someone like me.

    re: 67 Hi, D. What’up?

    re: 69 TMD sums it up nicely. Maybe this post isn’t about the WoW at all. It’s about the validity of prophetic authority, since there’s no ambiguity about the use of coffee and tea in current Church practice. I’ll pass, but very much respect people who stay in and follow the WoW as currently interpreted.

  77. Amri: There’s the argument that little to no attention is paid to the meat sparingly or fruits, vegetables, and grains in abundance portion of the w.o.w. which means we can give the same heed to the hot drinks section.

    I’ve heard this argued before, and like you, I think it’s a pretty silly approach. For my part, I mostly find the Word of Wisdom to be a nuisance that I’m willing to live with–like having to wake up early for PEC or Ward Council. But we mustn’t pretend that there’s any moral equivalence between disobeying the portions of the Word of Wisdom that remain mere counsel and the portions that have become de facto commandments by virtue of their status as temple recommend requirements.

    Amri: Then there’s [argument for ignoring the admonition against hot drinks]: tea and coffee are great! Drink up!

    Well, then, I’ve got some bad news for you (or good news, depending on how you look at it). Fine wine, single malt scotches, craft brewed beer, and well-mixed cocktails all offer far broader landscapes of sensory pleasure than mere coffee or tea in all their varieties.

    In any case, the Word of Wisdom is expressly “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.” This, no doubt, includes me–and I’m thankful that the current interpretation requires adherence to only the restricted, de facto commandment portions of Word of Wisdom. I’d hate to have to give up summer barbecues.

  78. I agree that the WoW is, largely, a joke. However, this leads to some interesting consequences:

    1) We are taught that more revelation isn’t coming like it used to because the church isn’t living according the the revelations which they already have.

    2) We focus A LOT of time on preaching the WoW.

    3) This would lead me to believe that either the church is simply being stupid in doing this and thus (2) is wrong (by stupid I mean wrong, really, really wrong) or we must be keeping the first 62 commandments pretty well and (1) is wrong.

    Either that or the church is right to focus on the WoW because it is actually #3 on the list.

  79. Mark Butler says:

    George Albert Smith taught the importance of this principle:

    If we believe as we claim, that Jesus is the Christ, and that we are the children of our Heavenly Father, then how careful we should be to conduct ourselves that we may be worthy of the temples we occupy, which were created in the image of God.

    How many of us realize that by taking into our systems things that our Father has forbidden, we defile the temple of the spirit? How many stop to consider that when we give way to the weakness of the flesh, we deprive ourselves of opportunities that await us in the future, and cut ourselves off from the blessings that the Lord hath in store for the faithful?
    (George Albert Smith, CR, April 1905, p.62)

    Wilford Woodruff related that Brigham Young once visited him from the after life and told him the following:

    “I have come to see you; I have come to watch over you, and to see what the people are doing. I want you to teach the people- and I want you to follow this counsel yourself- that they must labor and so live as to obtain the Holy Spirit, for without this you cannot build up the kingdom, without the spirit of God you are in danger of walking on the dark, and in danger of failing to accomplish your calling as apostles and as elders in the Church and kingdom of God. Brother Joseph taught me this principle.”

    Now that is the sum of the whole matter. Our bodies are very finely tuned instruments, ever susceptible to being knocked out of alignment and dead or muffled to the voice of the Spirit, a voice without which we are in danger of walking in darkness, and failing our missions here upon the earth.

  80. Frank! It’s true! Who will love me if I’m without the Marxist? You’ll be my friend right? You nicely prod me to keep the Word of Wisdom and I’ll nicely prod you to not be gossipy. I’m pleased with that deal.
    Kristine, while I’m as anti-consumer as the next anti-consumer, your reason for keeping the WoW is not really Mormon. It’s not really in the text, nor is it in much of our tradition. It is a lovely reason though. And when I give up tea, it will be one of mine.
    MarkIV-since most of the world is tea-drinkers I nominate you the most Christ-like, since you love the most of us. Thank you.
    Kevin–I’ve found that the more a branch or small ward needs you the more tolerant they are of you (mind you I’m not looking for a place to preach, just be accepted) I think the needing of each other makes us a more Christian community. I”m glad your ward is like that.
    DKL–I like the principle for the weakest of the Saints idea and I am willing to sacrifice things for others. I think it’s wonderful to say I will never drink alcohol because you may have an addiction to that and we don’t want to take the chance. It’s funny though that Joseph Smith choose that language when it was just a guideline and not a commandment and he downed the tea and wine with the addicts and non-addicts alike.
    Geoff J–okay you’re right. You can tell me to repent. I need the faith to first, so maybe we’ll have to work on that.
    Mark Butler–you’re gonna have to work harder to convince me that tea is gonna throw my poor little body-temple out of whack.

    More. later. must. work.

  81. Just a quick comment to those who keep talking about the eating meat sparingly and fruits and grains in abundance. I think one of the reasons those verses are less spoken of is because they are more subjective. How do you measure what sparingly is? Is eating meat once a year, once a month, or once a weak springly? And how much fruit and grain = abundance? On the other hand, no coffee, no tea, no drugs, no alcohol is much easier to gauge.

  82. Hmm – I guess this post just isn’t some folks’ cup of tea? As for me, I think they’re all just the pot calling the kettle black, anyway.

  83. A thought occurs to me, about meat eaters and consistency.

    Yes, we sometimes judge tea drinkers harshly (like evil wicked satanic on-the-fast-train-to-hell Amri) and ostracize them. Sure. And yes, we don’t really do the same for carnivores. And yes, that is inconsistent.

    But what we’re missing is that ostracism is the gift that keeps on giving. Divide it up as many times as you’d like, and you’ve still got more!

    The solution is clear: Ostracize the meat eaters too! Be judgmental about those barbeque-ers! More ostracism means more fun for everyone.

    So, where to begin? Hmm. Well, I had hamburgers with Christian Cardall a few days ago. Clearly, he isn’t eating meat sparingly. I therefore recommend that none of you speak to him. Let the expanded ostracism begin!

    (This comment is directed to everyone on the thread except for Amri, who I am ostracizing. Because she drinks . . . you know, the T word).

  84. Garrison Keillor already explored what might happen if Mormon’s started drinking coffee en masse:

    http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2006/06/24/scripts/coffee.shtml

  85. Any pining for the good old days when the Word of Wisdom was just counsel, may find it interesting to search through the text of History of the Church for references to it. Fairly often the references are high council proceedings involving the standing of members and officers in the Church. The Word of Wisdom was just counsel, but failure to abide counsel mattered in a way we’re not so familar with today.

    From February 20, 1834:

    Minutes of the High Council

    The president opened the Council by prayer.

    At a church meeting, held in Pennsylvania, Erie county, and Springfield township, by Orson Pratt and Lyman E. Johnson, High Priests, some of the members of that church refused to partake of the Sacrament because the Elder administering it did not observe the Word of Wisdom to obey it. Elder Johnson argued that they were justified in so doing, because the Elder was in transgression. Elder Pratt argued that the church was bound to receive the Supper under the administration of an Elder, so long as he retained his office or license. Voted that six Councilors should speak upon the subject.

    The Council then proceeded to try the question, whether disobedience to the Word of Wisdom was a transgression sufficient to deprive an official member from holding office in the Church, after having it sufficiently taught him.

    Councilors Samuel H. Smith, Luke S. Johnson, John S. Carter, Sylvester Smith, John Johnson and Orson Hyde, were called to speak upon the case then before the Council. After the Councilors had spoken, the President proceeded to give the decision:

    No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office, after having the Word of Wisdom properly taught him, and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with or obey it; which decision the Council confirmed by vote.

    From Volume V:

    During the appointing of the high council, Elder Kimball made some general remarks upon the Word of Wisdom.

    He commenced by saying that he always despised a penurious principle in any man, and that God despised it also; for he was liberal and did not look at every little thing as we do. He looked at the integrity of the heart of man. He said some would strain, nip and tuck at the Word of
    Wisdom, and at the same time they would turn away a poor brother from their door when he would ask for a little meal for his breakfast. He compared it to the man that was stretched upon the iron bedstead; if he was too long, they would cut him off; if he was too short, they would stretch him out. And again, he said, it made him, think of the old Indian’s tree, which stood so straight that it leaned a little the other way, and the best way was to stand erect.

    In the after part of the day he renewed the subject by saying that he did not wish to have any one take any advantage of what he had said, for he spoke in general terms; but said he had always obeyed the Word of Wisdom, and wanted every Saint to observe the same. He said that, when he was in England, he only taught it once or twice in public, and the Saints saw his example and followed it. So likewise when the elders go to preach, if they will observe the Word of Wisdom, all of those will whom they bring into the kingdom; but if they do not, they cannot expect their children will, but they will be just like themselves; for every spirit begets its own. Neither will such elders be able to do much good; for the Holy Ghost will not dwell in them, neither will the Father nor the Son; for they will not dwell where the Holy Ghost will not, and neither of them will dwell in unholy temples.

  86. I can’t believe how fast your threads go.

    I like your post, Amri. One thing I’ve always thought about people who beat themselves up because people can’t stop smoking is there are those people who are jerks and they don’t beat themselves up at all about breaking that commandment.

  87. Sister Brown, there may be something to Kristine’s commerce-based argument. Your fellow Consenter, J. Stapley, wrote something on this at Splendid Sun, and I wrote on Trade and the Word of Wisdom at Millennial Star There is an opening in the text for this line of thought: “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men.” Transferring money into their possession is the primary design of most conspiring men.

    http://www.splendidsun.com/wp/index.php/2005/09/15/154

    http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2006/02/01/p1444

  88. Um, Wes, #81,

    “no coffee, no tea, no drugs, no alcohol” isn’t even in section 89. . . and the ‘sparingly’ text is actually much more measurable than ‘hot drinks’.

    and that inexorably-persistent-in-the-circles-of-the-powers-that-be-attitude pretty much sums up why I’m very much with Amri on this, and feeling less and less “mormon” every day.

  89. Kaimi, I also refuse to speak to you because you are incahoots with those who do NOT eat meat sparinlgly. Please keep on your side of the country.

    WillF–G.K. isn’t always funny, but that’s funny thank you!

    JohnMansfield-minutes are great and the links are good too. I think that anti-consumerism matched with J.S.’s warning of men with conspiring hearts is anachronistic though for me much of what J.S. has taught has come to inform me as a consumer and being an agent unto myself and this includes some of the way I relate to the WoW. Interesting to think about.

    And Xon, you are not less and less Mormon. Don’t leave and don’t leave me among these pack of wolves (esp Kaimi). It is not Mormon to try and figure out why we do what we do. The figuring usually turns out to be a little silly (like my figuring here with the WoW) but it’s just human. Be misanthropic but if you’re like me, you’re a Mormon through and through. Many of them just drive you crazy.

    Annegb, I worry about us too because we pass desperately poor people on our way to work or school or whatever but we feel good about our status before God because we don’t drink tea or coffee. C-C-C-Crazy.

  90. rleonard says:

    Amri,

    Have you ever really met to many people that looked down on Coffee drinkers? Like oH my gosh that Gentile coffee drinker is a such a sinner!!! I am tbm and have never heard any comments like that from my TBM family or friends. That is nothing more than a caricature of the average active Mormon.

    I feel like you are pushing the whole Mormons are judgemental a little bit to far. Most Mormons have a inactive brother or coworkers like crazy that drink coffee.

  91. My wife came running up to me after Sacrament meeting this last Sunday to let me know that the missionaries were in the hallway explaining to their investigator that green tea is okay. She wasn’t telling me this so I would do something about it but rather because she wants so bad for it to be true.

  92. My mission president condoned a would-be convert’s decaf coffee drinking all the way up to her baptism.

  93. I am struggling to find my response to the statement(s) that if the WoW were not a commandment more people would come to church vs that if the WoW were not a commandment it wouldn’t really change the number of attendees.

    Right off the bat I thought, well I would come to church if they would drop the whole WoW thing, but than I remembered that small little thing I don’t have called a testimony and thought, maybe actually I wouldn’t.

    I think that if I believed in the church 100 % the WoW wouldn’t be an issue for me. I don’t follow the WoW because I lack faith. Because I lack faith I don’t see the point to abide by the WoW. Yet there are other rules, commandments, guidelines that I do see the point to abide by, faith or faithless, and strive daily to improve myself in these areas, such as love thy neighbor and be Christlike.

    The WoW is important to follow if you are a practicing Mormon, but so is being Christlike. One isn’t more important than the other, but following the WoW to merely stand apart from other individuals doesn’t sound like a good reason to follow. This logic sounds more like a marketing scheme and does bring up the issue of Mormon vs Non-Mormon / Jack-Mormon.

    I don’t think anyone is going overboard and saying that Mormons are the most judgmental people, at least I don’t think that this is what Amri is saying, but it brings up points that are interesting and important to discuss. Are you following the WoW for the right reasons? Or simply as an identifier? If it ends up that you are following it simply as an identifier, then isn’t it true that maybe Christlike should rank higher on the scale of important rules to follow? Christlike produces a greater good for a greater amount of people than does abstinence from tea.

  94. At the funeral of my uncle many years ago, his former bishop explained how the recommendation process had gone for my uncle to become a high priest. When the bishop made the recommendation to the stake president, the president said, “But Brother so-and-so is a smoker.” The bishop said, “Well, he might as well be a smoking high priest as a smoking elder.” The bishop didn’t say how that part of the story ended, by my uncle passed away many years later as a nonsmoking temple worker.

  95. Very. Late. To. The. Party. (BTW, greetings from England!)

    I was once told by an Indian member how his not drinking tea had him ostracized from his family. So, here’s the international perspective: for cultural reasons, the WOW is a much harder prohibition in some countries than it is in the US. Being Indian or Japanese and not drinking tea is jarring. That sounds silly, but those are our American ears talking.

    The WOW succeeds in making a gnat into a camel.

    And Amri, don’t worry, I break the commandments all the time. Especially Jesus’s #1: try as I might, I simply cannot love my neighbour as myself. Funny how no-one gives me grief about that one at church.

  96. Kevin Barney says:

    Around these parts, we’re pretty liberal on the margins of the WoW. Our RS President drinks decaf coffee. Another sister in the ward who happens to live in my house and sleep with me, but otherwise shall remain nameless, drinks iced coffee drinks. Hey, they’re not hot, right? In my view green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, but hey, if someone wants to drink green tea and say it’s not covered, I would look the other way.

  97. Ronan,

    If you don’t believe you can keep the second great commandment, I do not want you teaching my children.

  98. Thomas Parkin says:

    Amri,

    My friendly aquaintance. Keep the Word of Wisdom. It is a sign to yourself, symbolic of the state of your heart and the depth of your commitment. If it is such a small deal, of so little significance, why let it be a catching point? Why not keep it? Ah, if it is a matter of being required to keep it it IS a big deal, but breaking it is not a big deal – that seems like a logical fallacy. It reminds me of the friends I have that insist that sex is no a big deal, and then spend almost all their emotional and spiritual energy in the pursuit of it. If it is no big deal, then why the big deal?

    There are, of course, many more important things. It isn’t an eternal principle. Christ turned the water into wine. Joseph drank wine. (I once drank 16 shots of Jack Daniels in less than half an hour. – on a unrelated note.) We will very likely drink champagne in the Celestial Kingdom. But, for now, like many things, it is what it is. I beleive that if you can commit to keeping the Word of Wisdom, your faith will increase and things much more important than the Word of Wisdom will come back into sharp focus for you. If not, not.

    That’s part of my experience and my two cents.

    T

    ~

  99. Mark Butler says:

    “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
    (John 5:17)

  100. Kevin Barney says:

    An historical note: Most of us think that the WoW started out as counsel, and was only made a commandment in the 20th century. It is important for people to know this so that they don’t freak out when they learn that Joseph drank wine in the upper room at Carthage Jail the day he was killed, or James Talmage smoked cigars, or any other of a myriad such examples.

    But apparently the first half of my statement above is not the case. The WoW came out of the womb as a full-fledged commandment, and was only dialed back to counsel status when so many people either couldn’t or wouldn’t keep it. This was demonstrated in a fine paper at Kirtland MHA a few years ago by Paul Hoskisson, whose day job is Assyriologist, which I specifically mention because Ronan likes to see that word used in the Bloggernacle as often as possible. I haven’t seen the paper published yet, but just based on listening to it it struck me as persuasive.

    So, in reality, the WoW was born as a commandment, quickly dialed down to counsel status, and then resumed commandment status under HJG.

  101. #98, SIXTEEN shots in less than 1/2 hour? Bruce Springsteen should write a song about you (“16 shots! 16 shots! 16 shots and we’ll take that ride!”).

  102. Ronan! We’ve missed you. Please, please love yourself. and your neighbor too. You make baby Jesus cry.

    Kevin, that’s great! The lobbing back and forth of commandment status. I don’t break the WoW because it wasn’t really in the good ole days. More because I am obstinate and a lil evil.

    rleonard–people do get irked by WoW breakers. That doesn’t seem clear even from this thread? Mostly, it’s the condescending “since you don’t practice Mormonism like I do, you aren’t really one of us” kind of pats on the head that I get. I’m not paranoid. It happens.

    Thomas Parkin, we should throw around our worst drinking stories! I have very limited experience and have chosen for it to remain that way but the first time I ever got drunk was the most pathetic night of my life. Well, close, anyway. My unwillingness to keep the WoW is more based in my belief system than just being lazy or wanting to be like the world. I don’t have depth of commitment to the WoW or some other things so the symbol seems a little worthless to me.

    I recognize I am a little immature on this point, but we do agree that the WoW is less eternal than other commandments that make bona-fide, deep connections with God and Jesus. It is less important than taking care of the poor and the needy or praying with all our hearts or being honest and full of integrity right? We agree on that?
    Plus how on earth am I expected to handle all those Mormons that don’t want me around unless I”m tanked up on tea.

    Family story: Hugh B Brown used to drink decaf all the time and it shook my grandmother’s (his daughter in law) testimony so deeply that she died still bitter that a general authority couldn’t even keep all the rules.

  103. Kevin, I will definately look forward to that paper. I’m a little bit skeptical becasue the Kirtland high council was just down right fickle. The excommunicated people for dancing with non-members, for heaven’s sake. Seems to me that they would tack on WoW violation to charges against someone who was already being tried, but not for the WoW specifically (Seems to me that Oliver Cowdry experienced this as well, though I should probably look it up).

    I don’t know that we can take the actions of the Kirtland High Council as being normative.

  104. rleonard says:

    Hi Kevin,

    My understanding is that prior to 1928 there were a series of attempts to make the WOW mandatory by different Prophets but the members of the 12 would never 100% support it.

    What would happen is BY or Pres Snow would give a talk mandating WOW observance and several members of the quorum would go home drink a beer, puff a Cuban and complain that old Pres Snow was at it again. So the effort to enforce the WOW would die down for a few years and then would flare up again. As the older apostles who liked beer, cigars whatever died out after the turn of the century the WOW gained traction till it finally became a commandment in 1928. This also happened with the Quorum of the 12 with Polygamy as you well know.

    The other issue is that prior to the 1920’s temple attendance was really quite rare (endowments took 6-9 hours and very little work was done for the dead by rank and file members) and there was no control mechanism like annual TR interviews to see if people were really observing the WOW cause very few people actually attended the temple very much. Temple attendance was for the elites. Check your family history out very few people were initially sealed when they were married. Most were sealed later in life or by descendants doing family history work

    This is all covered in Mormonism in Transition 1890-1930

    My grandfather has told me that he remembers in the early 1930’s in SE Idaho that there was a real battle over the WOW and that many LDS men went inactive for a time as they struggled with the new found WOW observance. Many of these men later overcame their WOW issues and were finally sealed to their spouses in the 1950’s and 60’s

  105. I would personally rather be a member of the Church that is known for loving its neighbors, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry, rather than a member of the Church that is known for abstaining from tea and coffee.

    What I’m saying is that, while the Word of Wisdom is a key identifier of a Mormon, I don’t think it’s the most flattering one, nor do I think it does enough justice to the mission of the Church. It sets us apart from the world, but does it really identify us as the people we want to be (i.e., disciples of Christ)?

    I think the Word of Wisdom is fine; I don’t think we need to abolish it or anything. But I do think it receives undue attention. I don’t think it should be one of the major factors that distinguishes Mormons from non-Mormons. I would rather be identified as a Mormon by virtue of genuinely Christlike behavior, personally.

    Additionally, I believe that shifting some of the focus from the WoW would help prevent instances where WoW-breakers are ostracized into inactivity.

  106. rleonard says:

    Oh,

    Also all 4 of my great grandfathers were active LDS who smoked and drank prior to 1928. They went partially inactive cause of the WOW and were sealed to their spouses in the 1960’s

  107. Antonio Parr says:

    rleonard: re: your comment 106: Your great grandfathers figured out the key to successful repentance in the Church: wait until both the sin and the sinner are too old to make a difference: “back when I was at the BYU, I had a few problems with . . . “

  108. Kevin Barney says:

    You know someone’s an oldtimer when they call it “the BYU.”

  109. Jon in Austin says:

    Perhaps why some (myself not included) feel as though those who willfully break the WoW is that if they lack sufficient faith to keep one of the more meaningless and easier (assuming you’re not a convert with massive amounts of nicotine in your veins) commandments, why should they then desire for them to instruct others or provide an example of keeping the commandments and following the counsels of a living prophet?

    Then again, maybe I do feel this way… Talk about a run-on sentance.

  110. A Mormon Drinker says:

    Many WoW observers here seem to acknowledge that:

    1.) Some of the details of the WoW don’t make a lot of sense (i.e. coffee and tea probably aren’t that bad for you and probably matter very little in the grand scheme of things).

    2.) We are inconsistent in the way we observe the WoW (i.e. we follow the “hot drinks” rule and ignore the “eat meat sparringly” rule).

    3.) We exaggerate the important of the WoW — or we place too much emphasis of the WoW — over more important, more Christlike, commandments that are difficult to measure, commandments we likely all fall short of.

    It is heartening to me that there haven’t been a lot of posts citing this or that medical study or folk urban legend to justify the inclusion of coffee and tea in the WoW. (Although we have seen a Marxist use-of-land argument… very original!) In any case, such arguments always felt defensive to me, very “1980s”.

    Instead, almost every WoW observer here has justified following the WoW based on some variant of the following: “its a test of faith”, “God said so”, “God’s ways are not our ways; the reasons are known only to him”, etc.

    To be honest, I have almost as much trouble understanding this reason as I have trouble understanding the health merits of abstinence (as opposed to moderation) from coffee, tea, beer/wine. I understand why we’d want to follow God — this is self-evident — I just have a hard time understanding why God would require a “test of faith” of his children? It makes no sense to me. It seems petty, controlling, and manipulative even. Hardly Godlike. I’m thinking of the many tests of faith in the Old Testament – Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac being most obvious – and Joseph Smith’s test of Heber C. Kimball and his wife, among others.

    Does blind obedience (obeying a law we don’t understand) develop into a skill we need for the next life? I don’t see it. Can Person A learn more by blindly following a checklist of arbitrary rules than Person B who has learned eternal principles (not arbitrary rules) that make sense, and figured out the best way to live life and serve God/Fellow Man? Person A has learned only one skill – obedience – while person B has learned a host of skills. Person B would seem to have more experience and qualities for being a God than Person A.

    The WoW in its broad stokes seems to be a Godlike, “Person B” commandment: Our bodies are precious gifts from God and we need to learn to use them wisely and we’ll be blessed in both body and spirit if we do. Perfect! However, no coffee, tea, alcohol, etc. smacks of arbitrary “blind faith”. More Godlike to me would be warnings against addiction and abuse of such substances, not arbitrary avoidance. In other words, alcoholism is bad, drunk driving is bad, abuse that stems from alcohol is bad, addition to coffee and tea is bad… the abuse of the substances are bad, not the substances themselves, or responsible use of the substances.

    Sorry for the long post, but this is a sincere question. I’d appreciate responses that address the importance of “tests of faith” in general, as opposed to responses re WoW in particular, as we’ve batted that one around for awhile now.

  111. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.

    It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God, and favour with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.

  112. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 111 So Amri, Kevin B’s wife, xon, et. al….their faith that they are “accepted of him” is “in vain” because they don’t follow the WoW as assiduously as you?

  113. AMD(I thought u were giving up that handle?),
    Tests of faith are important for developing a true and personal relationship with God. The Savior made the ultimate sacrifice and as a result conquered sin and death. The savior requires of us the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit initially to enter into salvation. As we truly become one with the savior as he is one with the Father, we eventually come to live the law of consecration in which we willingly give all that we have.

    This self sacrificing is important precisely because it develops within us something that is characteristic in him. It develops love for him and enriches us with the spirit. It is not “blind” faith so much as it is developing a deep sense of trust so that we can receive all that he has in store for us. How much can we really trust him if we can’t give up something as trivial as coffee or tea?

    Moreover, this helps our humility. It is important to be teachable. The WOW is a simple way for us to become that way until self righteousness kicks in and then we have a new problem altogether.

  114. Does blind obedience (obeying a law we don’t understand) develop into a skill we need for the next life?

    Perhaps looking from a slightly different position we could agree that neither “Person A” nor “Person B” can actually have an existence in the real world. All of us claim a space in a continuum somewhere in between these two hypothetical opposites.

    It is particularly problematic to characterize a certain behavior as “blind obedience”. And probably smacks of hubris to characterize my own supposedly less-“blind” pursuits as being somehow inherently more thoughtful and full of merit. The truth of it is that we all base much of our thinking on axiomatic premises, and we continually act on unsupported assumptions without questioning them much.

    Indeed, if we intend “blind obedience” primarily as a dismissive pejorative, perhaps this itself provides the very evidence that belies any supposition that my approach is somehow morally or intellectually superior.

  115. I understand the importance of faith tests, but it seems to me that life is full of so much that tries our faith that it doesn’t seem mandatory for these tests to be made up of commandments that are easy to follow or interpret, that are black and white, measureable, or with little eternal (or maybe temporal) meaning.

    My faith in God and my allegiance to Him has been tested through death of people I loved, or the hurtful choices of others, or the understanding of my place in the Mormon Church, or giving my all to a “married” Church and finding myself still single, or watching mental illness in my family, or feeling it in myself. Those are faith tests. Whether or not I can follow a less meaningful law, feels less meaningful. My faith is strengthened when I choose to rely on God through a death it is not necessarily strengthened when I practice the self-control to not drink tea. Again, I’m not trying to advocate WoW breakage for all, but I don’t think it’s the faith test God gives us to build the faith we need to get to Him.

  116. Kevin & J. Stapley,

    Historical question: I thought that “strong drinks” in the original WOW referred to hard liquor? My impression is that wine was included in the prohibition only after BY decided that vinyards wouldn’t work out in southern Utah. (As I recall, Great Basin Kingdom mentions the early Saints’ attempts at a Deseret wine industry). Can either of you confirm or disconfirm this for me?

    Another historical note–as I recall, Arrington also mentioned that the “hot drinks” prohibition eventually took on its present-day shape for two reasons. Brigham felt that, since strong drinks had been essential to male social life before they were forbidden, women should make a similar sacrifice; and coffee & tea were the female social equivalent of whiskey. Beyond that, the early Utah settlers could no more afford to import coffee and tea than they could afford to import wine.

  117. Serenity Valley, I don’t know about tea, but as I understand it coffee was a staple product pretty much everywhere in the 19th century. So much so that even pioneer families going west received rations of coffee. My understanding is that “hot drinks” is a term used in the second great awakening to refer specifically to coffee and tea, and it has simply dropped from usage (though I’m at a loss to buttress this understanding with any meaningful references).

  118. Historical context on D&C 89 ad nauseum:

    http://www.ldsgospeldoctrine.net/kn/dc/dc089.pdf

    Kevin #100, that is exactly right. Verses 1-3 of the present day text of D&C 89 were not part of the revelation, but an introduction held seperate and in italics in the 1835 edition D&C and only inexplicably added into the text later for reasons presently unknows to historians.

    As for any accusations of selective prohibitions between alcohol/coffee/tea/tobacco and meat, its because meat is not placed into the list of explicitly proscribed substances in the text of the revelation itself. Read it.

    And as for the WofW being a lesser commandment, I dont see it as such. The WofW teaches us to be deliberate about what we consume, because it has spiritual consequences. I believe this applies to all things we consume, and not just through our mouths. We need to be deliberate about everything we take into us, wether it is what we look at, or read, or listen to, or drink, or eat. Everything we consume impacts us to a degree. If we are not deliberate about what we consume, then we will too freely consume all sorts of things that are harmful to use, both physically and spiritually. And that is the message of the WofW. The items there are proscribed because of evil designs in the hearts of conspiring men, and not necessarily because of immediate dire consequences.

    What other things are the evil designs in the hearts of conspiring men are trying to get us to consume? Identify them, and avoid them, and you will be blessed with a more spiritual life. That is what the WofW teaches, it is teaching a spiritual principle, compare D&C 89:20 with Isa. 40:31, they are the same.

    The WofW is not a physical commandment.

  119. Kevin Barney says:

    SV, I’m no authority on the WoW, but my guess is that a strict constructionist reading (to borrow an expression from constitutional jurisprudence, by which I mean reading the words as they were originally intended in their first context) of it would produce a very different result than our developed, tradition-overlayed reading of it. In particular, I think that you are right that “strong drink” originally meant hard liquors (so beer and wine would have been ok), and I further think that “hot drinks” literally had to do with temperature at which drinks are consumed.

  120. Extreme Dorito: Kevin #100, that is exactly right. Verses 1-3 of the present day text of D&C 89 were not part of the revelation, but an introduction held seperate and in italics in the 1835 edition D&C and only inexplicably added into the text later for reasons presently unknown to historians.

    Well it’s pretty obvious to me that Jesus wanted them added.

  121. Kevin Barney says:

    An amendment to my #119: beer would have been ok under an original reading; wine is specifically dealt with in the text.

  122. Adam Greenwood says:

    “However, as a people we should reasses our treatment of those who cannot for one reason or another keep it.”

    True, but that’s not you. You are just being willful. I just can’t find a lot of sympathy for someone saying they can break whatever rules they want and I still have to give them hugs and kisses.

    Want people in church to accept you despite your Word of Wisdom problem? Don’t crow about it in public.

  123. rleonard says:

    Since this is BCC I thought I would throw this out there.

    Do you think we are due for a revision on Hot Drinks? I think a case can be made that moderate coffee and tea use is not harmful. I say this as I drink a Coke:)

    How would this happen? You never hear Coffee and Tea mentioned in GC anymore.

  124. J. Stapley says:

    SV, it seems to me that wine wasn’t included in the prohibition until much later. Brigham did council the Saints against intoxication and excessive use of “Dixie Wine,” but he seems to have drunken it late in life as did many around him. It was used in many sacrements (including the temple until the 1900’s, if I am not mistaken). Dennis Lancaster wrote a fun history of Dixie Wine for Sunstone in 1976 (summer) pg. 76.

    As to the hot drinks interpretation, it was published in the 1842 Times and Seasons in an editorial by Hyram:

    And again ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee. Why is it that we are frequently so dull and languid?

    There no doubt could have been some insistance that tea and coffee be included for equity reasons, but I personally am skeptic of that. The Young Heber J. Grant stuggled with his Coffee addiction just as he did with his 5 glass a day beer habit (see Ronald W. Walker (1984) Young Heber J. Grant’s Years of Passage. BYU Studies, vol. 24 no. 1)

  125. So really my sin is willfulness and not the breaking of the WoW?

    I can break it as long as I don’t admit that I like it? Or I can get acceptance if I say, “Gosh, I really wish I could follow the WoW.”? sip. sip.

    Fair enough. I am willful.

  126. Rosalynde says:

    We often assume that the WoW is in the TR interview because it’s important to the Church, but I think the opposite is true: the WoW is important to the Church because it’s in the TR interview.

    So why is it in the TR interview? As others have pointed out, adherence to the WoW is an extraordinarily poor direct indicator of general Christian morality. But precisely for that reason–because it’s merely malum prohibitum, because you’d have no other reason to adhere to it except that you were Mormon–it’s a very good indicator of loyalty to the institutional Mormon church. And for both the initiate’s benefit and the protection of the most Church’s esoteric teachings, it’s necessary to assess both general Christian worthiness and specific institutional loyalty before granting access to the temple.

    (Ronan’s exactly right that the WoW is much harder to observe in India or France than it is in Provo. But I’d speculate that it’s also much harder to keep temple covenants like consecration in India or France than it is in Provo, so the WoW TR stipulation still works for the protection of would-be initiates who wouldn’t be able to keep solemn covenants for the same social reasons it’s difficult to observe the WoW. But maybe I’m totally off base on this one.)

    Amri, you’d like to see lower barriers to entry into a vibrant Mormon community and thus greater access to the benefits that community provides. So would I, really. I really, really would. But look around: groups with the highest barriers to entry also have the strongest social cohesion, and it’s that sense of cohesiveness and corporate effort that we want. Groups with low barriers to entry have correspondingly weak community identity and cohesiveness. Lowering the barriers to entry into the Mormon community would, it seems to me, weaken the very community we’d like to extend.

  127. Rosalynde,
    Maybe I’m too idealistic to believe that that is true. I don’t expect/want the Church to change the Temple requirements for me. I don’t want them to change the WoW, I mean it’d be nice but it’s not vitally important to me. I just want a place and a wee bit of respect. The Mormon Church is my Church. It’s my family’s church and I love it and have given so much to it. It has given back over and over as well. But I find myself in state of disbelief over many things in the Church. It seems to me that most people in my sitch leave but I don’t want to, I still want this to be my church. I want to go and feel like I”m a part, that people use my spiritual gifts and I use theirs. That we care about each other and worship God and Christ together. My church can keep me out of the temple, because I choose not to follow all the rules, it can keep me from serving in big callings like RS pres where I might influence many people. I’m okay with that being a part of my church. Just let me come, let me give and let me receive, let me work out my struggle with God.

    As you say though, I agree that communities that change this strict rules loose their cohesion.

  128. Jeremiah J. says:

    Amri: If my limited reading of Mormon blogs is any indication, your estimation of the WoW is pretty close to that of many others. Myself I don’t get too worked up if I see a saint downing an iced tea, and have tried to get several WoW breakers to be active anyway (without, however, telling them that the WoW isn’t that ‘weighty’).

    But ranking commandments, evaluating commandments based on what seems to immediately result from breaking them, or justifying disobedience based on the fact that, ‘hey, I do it, and I’m really righteous and spiritual so it must not be that bad’ seems to be exactly the kind of seminary-grade theological sillyness that I hear ridiculed from time to time.

  129. Adam Greenwood says:

    Exactly right, Ms. Brown. The Church has room for sinners, since we’re all sinners. But it doesn’t have room for schismatics, unbelievers, and Church of Sheilaites.

    Your broad church has been tried over and over again and its always ended in a whimper. Its almost always designed to appeal to people who don’t really believe in the institution anymore but who have emotional ties to it, which is a ver narrow class of people.

  130. Veritas says:

    I havent come close to reading all this so forgive me if this has been mentioned –
    But, it has long been ok to drink herbal teas (including green tea) and decaf coffee. I regularly drink herbal teas. Maybe, Amri, if you are worried about this you could limit your love of tea and coffee to herbal and decaf? I love tea also, and collect tea sets from around the world (im totally addicted to japanese teas sets) and have never felt that Im in any way shape or form breaking the word of wisdom. Neither has any bishop or anyone else I’ve ever talked to about it. Mint tea is my favorite – arabic varities especially.

    In fact, I have a very strong testimony of the WOW. I can say I have felt the benefits spirtually from following it. And I do adhere VERY strongly to the meat sparingly (actually Im pretty much vegetarian – I’ll eat fish, dairy, turkey on thanksgiving if it was a free range), fruits in their seasons etc – this is how I have always structured my eating habits. I have never struggled with the alcohol or tabacco or even coffee/tea (despite my utah born and bread grandparents drinking iced tea my whole life – with a TR). But, when I have fallen out of habit of the other parts of section 89, I have felt a strong difference in my life. It is a PRINICPAL with a promise, for sure. I believe very very strongly in that.

    To me, obedience to the WOW is something that is followed as a principal, and as a litmus test for worthiness to enter the temple. I feel like obeying the word of wisdom is like showing Heavenly Father how grateful I am for a body, as well as excercising a large degree of faith (which is what helps our faith to grow) despite not necesarily totally understanding it. I find that the more I focus on it and live it to the fullness of the principal, the more I come to understand and feel its benefits.

    Its like, you can’t know what blessings come from keeping the sabbath day holy or Fasting (something I personally struggle with) without trying it. Our religious worship, including the WOW, is truly an experiment.

    Often, when we struggle with things like this and write them off its because what we are really struggling with is whether or not it actually comes from Heavenly Father or from men. If it comes from God, its a lot easier to follow =)

  131. Church of Sheilaites?

    Adam, the church has plenty of room for unbelievers, even the ones that do not yet cry “help thou mine unbelief.” Amri’s post argues that we should not discard members that are not yet willing to live the whole law; you would show them the door?

    My guess is that it’s Amri’s tone that bothers you more than anything, the fact that she doesn’t live the WoW is minor compared to her seeming lack of humility or willingness to be taught. May I suggest that’s her problem and not yours? She isn’t asking us to change our laws — she’s asking for a spot on the pew even if she does not (“cannot”, in her terms) live the WoW. Where, under the law of Christ, is there room for us to deny her?

  132. Jon in Austin says:

    In revision to my earlier comment I submit the following. Its not the lack of faith or the breaking of the commandment that bothers me and would rule you out as a leader/instructor/whatever. Its the attitude. All the while reading your post I knew I didn’t agree with you and I wanted to comfort you and welcome you with open arms.

    However, after reviewing some of the other comments (see 61 and 69) the thing that bothered me was the defiant, I know I shouldn’t if I want to go to the temple and I’ve lived it before but don’t want to now attitude that was quite a turnoff.

    If instead, there was acknowledgement of the a few things like this is The Church of Jesus Christ (not the Mormon Church as is frequently quoted by the author, the difference is subtle but important) led a living prophet and the Wow is the will of God for His people in these days and I’m trying to follow it.

    Humility is what I admire about Pres. Hinckley and many of our church leaders- my personal lack of it notwithstanding. That’d get you a lot further than the quasi-confrontationalism above.

    Just my two cents.

  133. If the WoW is ranked 63rd, what is ranked 64th? Is it speeding on the open interstate or jaywalking? Both of those seem to be wrong if I really bother to think about them for very long, generally speaking I don’t bother and I engage in both behaviors whenever I can. Seriously, what “bad” things are less bad than the occassional breaking of the WoW?

    Although I don’t have a WoW “problem” it is really hard for me to get too exercised over a behavior that so many people who seem far more christlike than myself engage in regularly. I don’t understand giving up the ability to attend the temple (probably the only reason I don’t personally cheat) but I’ve got bigger problems of my own with which I need to deal.

  134. Ty B, 64th is the Law of Chastity.

  135. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 129 (p. 2) That’s an over simplification, Adam. Roman Catholicism is broad in practice and acceptance (but not doctrine and teaching); it’s doing very well globally these days. The tolerance-leads-to-decline argument, which always references European or mainstream American churches, doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. Conservative doctrine combined with flexible practice seems to be the best combination, at least in terms of gathering converts. One can point to conservative churches that were inflexible and also ended in a “wimper.” Familiar with what happened to the Christian Scientists over the past few decades?

  136. MikeInWeHo: Familiar with what happened to the Christian Scientists over the past few decades?

    Without adequate medical treatment, they all pretty much died off.

  137. Adam Greenwood says:

    Anon,

    Ms. Brown already has a spot on the pew. Her real complaint is with the Word of Wisdom, not with the restraining order her local ward filed to keep her from coming inside.

    The church does not have plenty of room for unbelievers who have no wish to believe. Not at all. Especially when those unbelievers want to be public with their unbelief and still embraced, which makes them schismatics.

    http://hirr.hartsem.edu/Bellah/lectures_5.htm

  138. Adam Greenwood says:

    “Roman Catholicism is broad in practice and acceptance (though not doctrine) but is doing very well globally these days.”

    Roman Catholicism is doing well *globally.* In the parts of the world where it is doing well, it is not a very open and accepting faith. African Catholicism is pretty high-proof stuff. In America, almost all Catholic growth is due to immigration. Those segments of the American church that aren’t declining are the ones that tend to be more traditional-minded and less Sheilaist.

    Conservative doctrine combined with flexible practice is good for conversions only in expanding into new cultures.

  139. Fair enough. I am willful.

    So am I, brother.

    Though it is a bumpy road, I have been marginally successful at conformity and obedience in the church. Still, I sometimes find myself surprised when people in the church who are otherwise discerning seem to accept me without decrying my obvious sinfulness. And over the past decade, it has been a fearful moment every time I passed through the portals of the temple. Each time I envision the doors slamming shut against my passage, the guardians of the gate detaining me. I am grateful that the Lord is ever forgiving.

    Just keep striving to do your best. The Lord can require no more from us than that.

  140. A Mormon Drinker says:

    Jon in Austin (#132) and Adam (#122) and others seem to object more to Amri’s tone and attitude than to the fact that she drinks coffee and tea.

    Well I’m bothered by Jon and Adam’s tone and attitude! :^)

    Jon wants Amri to show more humility, to admit that this is The Church of Jesus Christ and led by a prophet and the WoW reflects the will of God…

    I’m sorry, but am I missing something here? That statement is the antithesis of humility. Don’t you see that Amri doesn’t believe that, at least not to the degree that you do? In my opinion Amri has shown a great deal of humility by: 1.) admitting that she has many questions and doubts; 2.) that the WoW may be God’s will after all, she’s just not sure herself; 3.) that she may one day go back to observing the WoW; 4.) that she has no problem with the Church denying her temple attendance or important callings because she doesn’t observe the WoW, 5.) that she isn’t asking the Church to change the WoW for her or anybody else… all of that IS humility!

    She has simply asked that Mormons — her Peeps! — accept and respect her on her terms. And this is willfull? I don’t get it.

    Ironically, I think it is Mormon attitudes (and tone) towards WoW violators (and their lack of humility re their beliefs) that bothers Amri the most too. You are both arguing about the same thing!

  141. Amri's drinking buddy says:

    Adam, your own words condemn you.

    This is a lay church, an amateur church,and always has been, as anyone knows who studies our attempts at banking in Kirtland, at building Zion in Missouri and Nauvoo, at crossing the plains in the handcarts, and so on. It is by grace we are saved after all we can do.

    Amen, brother.

  142. A Mormon Drinker says:

    Rosalynde brings up the barriers-to-entry-fosters-social-cohesion idea…

    It is certainly an interesting subject to kick around. Armand Mauss has written extensively on the subject. Check out The Angel and the Beehive as well as some of his Dialogue articles.

    I’d be curious to know what the group thinks of the barriers to entry that existed during the time of Christ? A broken heart & contrite spirit and a willingness to follow seemed to be all one needed to gain entry. I’m not a Biblical scholar but I imagine the Pharisees and Sadducees had pretty good social cohesion via their considerably stricter barriers of entry.

    I’d like to think Christ’s Church (and eternal truths) would flourish regardless of barriers of entry, would not need to resort to somewhat arbitrary barriers of entry (like the WoW) as a gimmick to foster social cohesion.

    In any case, I’m sure it is a subject the Brethren think a lot about. From strictly an institutional standpoint, the barriers to entry must be set just right to foster maximum social cohesion and growth… pitfalls await institutions that set the barries too high (FLDS? Amish?) and too low (Universalists?). To be sure, the barriers to entry to the LDS Church have gone up and down like a well-greased high jump bar since 1830.

  143. I suppose Amri’s attitude could be seen as humble in a way. I have no problem letting her have a seat on the pew. I am puzzled as to why I even need to know about it however.

    Why is this instructive? Is it to criticize the judgemental? Well, that sounds judgemental.

    Is it to tell everyone what they are missing or how wonderful and liberated she feels? Well isn’t that attempting to persuade others?

    Is it because of doubts and feeling that you are just being manipulated? That sounds like a stumbling block that may need some work. It is absolutedly personal and none of my business but then it is also posted on the bloggernacle.

    Is it because you are tryi8ng to find the line of exactly were you can do the least and still enter the kingdom of God? I doubt it, that just doesn’t make sense.

    Is it to see if you can prove it is possible to deliberately disobey God and still have his love. It pretty obvious from the scriptures that you do. Can you let that love grow within you like a wellspring of eternal life while you are willing to go just this far, no further? I dont think so.

    You are more than welcome to my ward but I just don’t get it. It seems to me much more productive to try to ponder, pray and study why the Lord would ask of us to live such a law and to enter the temple to commune with him, covenant with him and learn of him. Let your mind be opened. I do hope to see you or anyone like you on the pew in my ward. Good luck and God bless in finding whatever it is you are looking for.

  144. Kristine says:

    Amri–it occurs to me that you may have impaled yourself on the horns of a peculiarly Mormon dilemma. We don’t require much in the way of creedal orthodoxy, but we do define ourselves by normative practices. Some questioning of the rationale of the practices is accepted among practitioners, and failing in one’s believing attempts to implement these practices is sometimes met charitably, but for you to say *both* “I don’t believe,” and “I won’t practice” is very threatening, because it leaves no recognizably Mormon ground for believers to meet you on. In a way, I think that’s exactly your point–you think believing Mormons ought to be able to step off of their turf to meet you. You are probably right, but it is asking a lot!

  145. Rosalynde says:

    Re: #142

    Barriers to entry into the primitive Christian church? Err… sell all you have and give it to the poor!

  146. Wowee-Zowee. Ouch-ee.

    Hmmm, what to say, what to say?

    Maybe I’ll just sit here quietly on my pew.

  147. Several years ago, when I first started the job I have now, I still smoked and drank. A guy that I worked with was always being self-righteous about the fact that I smoked and was constantly warning me, saying things like each cigarette takes away 72 seconds of my life (“which 72 seconds?” I’d ask). So the other day, we had a margarita party at work. I declined to drink, of course. Knowing that I don’t drink for religious reasons, this smug, anti-smoker interjected, “If Jesus could drink, then that’s good enough for me.” To which I responded, “Oh, yeah? Well Jesus could smoke, too, you know.” That shut him up.

  148. Kristine says:

    Amri–it’s my pew, too. Scoot over.

  149. Rosalynde says:

    (Okay, so I’m a little slow about these things, and a little paranoid—but were you responding to me in #146, Amri? If so, and if I offended you, I’m sorry—I was just trying to make light-hearted rejoinder to AMD above. If you were talking to somebody else, or just joking, then, well, put this apology on file for the next time I say something stupid—probably sometime in the next few minutes! :) )

  150. Adam Greenwood says:

    “Adam G., your own words condemn you.”

    Well, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been made an offender for a word. But usually there’s a little more substance to the accusation. As I understand it, accepting that this is a lay, amateur church means I have to think its doctrines and practices are pick-and-choose? I await further explanation.

  151. The WoW (and tithing, too) don’t say much about the content of your heart, or the greatness of your soul. They do have the advantage of being fairly easy commandments to follow, if you haven’t taken up smoking and aren’t already alcoholic. They’re also fairly binary, which makes them good gatekeeper commandments for measuring willingness to obey and to sacrifice to the church.

    I think the problem is not with acceptance or non-acceptance by members, but with the false perception that church participation is all or nothing. You either perfectly follow the 263 commandments the must be obeyed to achieve exaltation, or you’re a worthless, sinful slacker with no place in the community of Saints.

    Sure, the leaders encourage people to do it all, but that’s their job: to encourage and motivate people to become 100 percenters. In reality, we’re all sinful slackers about something. And if I don’t want to be a 100 percenter, I don’t have to be! I can be an 80 percenter and still be a real asset to the community. Even as a majorly slacking 40 percenter, I’m still useful and accepted.

    The trick is to embrace your inner slacker and stop feeling guilty about things that aren’t sinful in and of themselves. If you’re friendly and kind and participate, even the most ardent 100 percenter will be glad you’re at church. If some members gossip or fret your lack of a temple recommend or your WoW problem in meetings, maybe that’s their own “sinful slacker” problem to work on. You don’t have to fix that for them.

    Your wine drinking acquaintance needs to move past the “all or nothing” attitude. If you embrace the good, good things come.

    Amri, I think your focus on the positive and your perseverence in the face of your faith challenges are inspiring.

  152. I agree with you Ann. Frankly, I think the Church benefits from the participation of even a 1 percenter, and I think the 1 percenter would benefit too.

    I do not think Amri’s critics are bothered so much by her not keeping the WOW, or her not believing in it (or certain other aspects of Church teachings)–it is the fact that she has stated this in a public forum. And we all know that such a thing is just not done in polite Mormon society. Perhaps publicly acknowledging “flouting” and disbelieving the WOW are almost as incendiary as burning an American flag–not that publicly destroying a flag, or unapologetically disavowing observance or belief in the WOW is intrinsicly evil, but the message is seen by many as representing a profound rejection of one’s country or religious community.

    I do not agree with that interpretation, but I can understand it.

    I doubt that many commenters would react as severely were I to write that not only do I not have a one year’s supply, but I have no intention or interest in obtaining one in the foreseeable future. Even though a year supply is a fairly identifiable Mormon marker (just ask almost any professional mover), somehow it is not the same lightning rod of a principle. Perhaps that is because most Mormons do not have a full year supply, or because it is not a TR question, or because it is not as observable as partaking of WOW forbidden substances.

    All of us are sinners, and most of us admit to doubts in some form about various aspects of the Church and its teachings. Some of us even say incendiary things in otherwise polite Mormon society. I am glad the gospel tent, as I perceive it, holds all of us, and I am glad, Amri, that you continue to participate as fully as you desire and that your congregation has not cast you out, but lets you share a pew with other respected saints.

  153. Jon in Austin says:

    AMD (#140),

    I see your point. Wishing I were as eloquent as others here, Doc in 143 summed up exactly how I feel.

    And yes we were arguing about the same thing :)

  154. mullingandmusing says:

    re: 123
    Just for the record, WoW is still talked about in Conference. Try here, here and here (Elder Maxwell’s last talk).

    In one of those talks, Pres. Faust quotes President George Albert Smith: “If you cross to the devil’s side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the spirit of the Lord.” We can argue about that, but that’s a prophet quoting a prophet, and I think it’s worth considering. And remember the WoW has promises about protection from the destroying angel. Pretty great promises, IMO.

    Amri, it may be possible that people are concerned about this issue because, whether one feels it or not, WoW living affects us spiritually. This is not about a competition for the “who’s the most righteous” award. If people are playing that game, then, as others have said, they have things to work on, too. (But don’t we all play that at times and in our own way?) But just because we shouldn’t be competing on the place on the righteousness-o-meter doesn’t mean that the commandments aren’t just that – commandments from God. For our own good. Thinking they are silly or outdated or pointless doesn’t eliminate that fact. And such thinking can cause us to deny ourselves blessings God desperately wants to give us.

    I am one who thinks we ought to smell more smoke at church, and we have been told that by our local leaders here. But that doesn’t mean we pretend that disobedience doesn’t has its affects. As someone said, the WoW is primarily a spiritual law. Its promises are primarily spiritual. Once that is understood, picking the WoW apart has no merit anymore. It was received by revelation. And it involves God’s wisdom that no blog can tackle. Sure, it has a health element. It does have a social/community impact. But that is not how the Lord explains its purpose. It is to protect us from conspiring people (and from the destroying angel), and is to open up treasure chests in heaven. That, in large part, comes from the temple. But it also comes simply from trying to obey, even if it doesn’t make sense. Parents do that. They give rules that don’t make sense to the kids, but have wisdom, love, perspective and safety as the driving force.

    Do what you can. Keep going to church. Absolutely. Sit by me anytime you visit my ward. :) But please don’t dismiss the WoW as pointless, because God says it isn’t. And all that means is there are even more blessings awaiting. Let’s stop thinking about bad, bad, bad vs. good, goo, good, and just realize that we embrace these things because they open up more of what God wants to give us — either now or eternally. (And heaven knows that we all have things we can change to tap into those blessings more, so, again, this isn’t a competition.) But why second-guess God? Father knows best. :) The WoW, like all other commandments, is there for us to come unto the Father through the Son. Each commandment we seek to obey has the potential to bring us closer to God – not because we check it off the list, but because we can have our hearts changed through God’s grace as we do “all we can do.”

  155. Eric Russell says:

    I think this point has been made already, but I’m going to make it again just for kicks. I think most of us would agree that there isn’t much natural morality in the WoW. In terms of morality itself, I actually think #63 is a bit high. I’d probably put it down in the hundreds, and tea and coffee are pretty much off the charts altogether.

    But the WoW has been made a significant commandment by the prophets and thus a significant part of the commandment to obey the prophets or keep the commandments itself. As such, I think the WoW and tithing say a great deal about the content of your heart. Indeed, for believing members of the church, they just might say more about the content of your heart than the issues of natural morality. I think the trick to finding peace is to reject your inner slacker and start feeling guilty – and then, of course, to do something about it. Any other path will lead to mists of darkness.

  156. Thomas Parkin says:

    Hi Amri,

    I’ve snipped several paragraphs.

    I snipped drinking stories because they are a brag – and it isn’t something I mean to brag about, but can’t help myself. It’s an old habit. And I snipped a bunch of extra advice, because I just did. I don’t want to be or seem pushy – and at the same time I realize that I do want to push you. I know that can come around wrong and can backfire. I don’t want to swat an gnats, either. But one man’s gnat …

    I do want to say something about being “Christ-like”, however, and the ‘more important’ commandandments. Christ was certainly kind and tolerant. Being “Christ-like” is not only about being kind or forgiving. It certainly is those things. But it is many things besides. He was also perfectly obedient, and sacrificed everything to doing the will of the Father. It has taken a long time to break my will – and it isn’t perfectly done yet, of course. But it wasn’t until I realized I had to surrender my will, that I honestly had to be willing to give it up … there is the scripture about whoso findeth his life will lose it, but whose loseth his life for my sake will find it… That is a very difficult scripture for me. I found I could really talk around it. I put so much effort into finding my life. That is tough to even have any deisre at all to give up. But, when I finally have to see the damage that I have done and can do to myself and others, then I’m willing to sacrifice my will, then I’m willing to say … whatever my Lord desires, I will strive to do and to be – and only then and only then do the REAL blessings begin to flow. And they are marvelous: scope, freedom of movement, the quickening of the inner man, the ministering of angels, love. I honestly have had the the Spirit in my life, even when I was breaking commandments and finding satisfaction in doing so – because there was always that part of me that wanted to be good. But nothing, my friend, like this.

    Whenever I think about Esau giving up his birthright for a mess of pottage – man, that is me. Don’t let it be you, Amri. (My father, a very good man, recently told me that the man he relates to most in the scriptures is Cain. When the Lord told him that his sacrifice was insufficient it was “more than he could bear” – and my father says that is how he often feels. My father recently gave up some huge plans to go on a mission – and it was very very difficult for him. I don’t know why we imagine this is going to be easy, or carry a grudge when we find out it isn’t.)

    Best to you, as always. :)

    ~

  157. Amri's drinking buddy says:

    Adam, let me spell it out for you:

    1. In your latest T&S post, you quote G.K. Chesterton, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” And then you explain how your fear of not being perfect has kept you from serving and performing to your fullest capacity. Similarly, Amri has expressed a willingness to serve and participate in the LDS community despite not being perfect (although she comes pretty darn close).

    2. More importantly, you say, “It is by grace we are saved after all we can do.” Agreed.

  158. Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine there is an indigenous tribe which developed a unique set of social mores and cultural practices some of which have religious significance attached to them. Imagine further that some of these practices were developed at a time when the tribe was under attack or threatened and those practices came to serve as a reliable marker of one’s membership with the tribe. Over time attacks on the tribe have lessened but a persecution narrative is handed down from generation to generation.

    Suppose that one of the unique, religiously significant practices is to not wear shoes. Now consider two cases: 1) A tribe member decides to wear shoes, but does not discuss this with other members of the tribe. 2) A tribe member decides to wear shoes and makes it public in a discussion forum. Assume that the tribe member who makes non-shoe wearing public has a good faith reason for doing so.

    Here are some questions:
    1. Are 1 and 2 essentially the same?
    1(a). If not, how do they differ?
    1(b). Should those differences matter to members of the tribe? To the public shoe wearer?

    2. Is “judgment” a legitimate part of a self-iniitated, public discussion of one’s shoe wearing?

    3. If, in addition to a religious significance, a social significance has attached to non-shoe wearing, should those sensibilities be considered when choosing to wear shoes? When making public sttements of non-adherence to the shoe wearing tradition?

  159. ADB (#157),

    I think you find hypocrisy where there is none. I’ve read Adam’s posts, and they seem to be about trying hard but falling short (“after all we can do”). Amri’s post is about not trying at all, but still wanting unqualified acceptance in the church by all members. Not exactly apples and apples, is it?

    If Amri was telling me that in a moment of lack of faith she became addicted to cigars and has had a dickens of a time stopping, the issue might be different. Instead, she’s related a story about how she decided one day that while she believed in the WoW she wanted to drink green teas because she needed a pick-me-up. These aren’t exactly facts I’d want to be working with to be making the point I think she’s trying to make.

  160. Adam Greenwood says:

    #157,
    see Jimbob, supra, first paragraph. Amri Brown doesn’t think she’s doing badly, simple as that. She thinks the WoW is stupid and her refusal to abide by it is no reflection on her. She doesn’t think the WoW is “worth doing.”

  161. Adam, your comment #160 is a gross mischaracterization. Nowhere did Amri say that the Word of Wisdom was “stupid,” nor did she say that a failure to live it does not reflect upon her. She has not said that the Word of Wisdom was not worth doing. I’m not Amri, but I believe you owe her an apology. You have spoken ill here and need to correct yourself.

  162. Howdy Ho neighbors (except Adam who is not being very neighborly)

    Last night, around my pew comment I felt really bad and alone and a little dramatic and even thought, why is it I go to Church again? But after sleeping and playing with friends, I feel fine.

    My post was over the top, but indeed that is what gets us going in the Blogdom of God. Here’s a recap (in case you missed the subtleties) Over the past 3 years I’ve been going through severe faith crisis. Mostly I kept on trucking, doing exactly what I thought I should do. Then I found myself ridiculously addicted to Diet Coke. Addiction is against the Wow for me, and one of the important eternal principles for me. Since I found myself with so little belief I tried tea. And I liked it. Mind you, I wanted there to be meaning. I wanted guilt, I wanted a lightning bolt something to show me that my faith crisis was unfounded. Nothing happened. That was very disconcerting to me. As I have not followed the WoW I have tried to figure out why I cannot muster faith over it. Is it because commandments are ranked? (yes to a certain extent) is it because this is a fundamental part of culture but not eternal doctrine? Maybe. and maybe I”m dead to the Spirit. (I’m sure many of you think I am). In my WoW experience, I’ve met others who will not associate with the Church because of it. I think the Church is lacking without them. It would be lacking without me. Is our community big enough for people like me? Or people not as willful or not as stuck in faith crisis as I am? I say yes.

    Some of you say no.

    That is fair. But my questions are real and sincere. Not beligerent and rude. My faith is failing me. That breaks my heart. I cannot find meaning. That breaks my heart. For my personality and relationship with God, it is difficult to do some things without meaning. I also do not want to give up Church. Some of you want me and people like me, some of you don’t.

    In the end, I want to have space to figure out who I am as a Mormon and follower of Christ. I want to be kind to you. And I want you to be kind to me.

    I’m sorry that my enjoyment of and honesty about tea is offensive. That was not my intention. I intended to ask real questions.

  163. E. C. Smith says:

    Amri, as the person who dragged you into the madness that is blogging at BCC I apologize for the insensitive and hurtful remarks made on this thread. Your friendship means a great deal to me, and you have been an important example over these short months as I’ve gotten to know you better. I think that if these people had the privilege to know you in real life they would feel ashamed of themselves.

    )))HUGS(((

    Elisabeth

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