Agreeable, Vol. III

11Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.

Consider the following example: A young woman–someone who is not deeply committed to the church, though she was raised in it, but who nonetheless respects it and wants to be part of this faith community–has just arrived as a new member in a typical YSA ward. She has just arrived because she has spent most of the past year living abroad, where among many other challenging and enlightening experiences, she became a devout fan of tea. Tea (black tea, the real stuff, no herbal substitutes, thank you) every morning; that’s her routine. She will soon, as a new member of the YSA ward, be invited into an interview with the bishop who will want to get to know her a little–and, of course, it is entirely possible, perhaps even likely (seeing as how the YSA ward frequently organizes temple trips, and this young woman does not have a recommend), that a question about the Word of Wisdom will come up. When it does, I hope that the YSA bishop won’t make it into a thing. What do you think?”

Agreeable. What if Amanda Knox’s biggest problem was that she picked up tea drinking while abroad? On the definitive ranking of commandments, tea drinking comes in at #63. There isn’t a bishop in the world who doesn’t have bigger fish to fry than a tea-drinking YSA. If the topic comes up, the bishop would do well to talk about what drinking tea means in different contexts. This woman incorporated tea into her daily routine while living abroad, presumably because it was a regular part of the culture she was visiting. In some places, to refuse a cup of tea places a person firmly on the outside of a culture. Tea can signal hospitality, relaxation and tradition. Within Mormon culture, a culture the woman was raised in and presumably understands, tea symbolizes something else entirely. The young woman herself likely recognizes that not conforming to church norms makes it more difficult to be fully integrated in the faith community. While discussing cultural expectations the bishop should personally affirm that he wants the woman to continue her participation in Mormonism and encourage her to maintain her ties to the faith community that she still honors and wants to be a part of. He should warn her, however, that—human nature being what it is—not everyone is going to withhold judgment about her real or perceived peccadillos.



  1. I’m going to take this to mean that I can eat coffee ice cream with impunity. P.S. “Peccadillo” is one of my favorite words.

  2. Woe to those who excuse unrighteousness!

    But yeah, drinking tea is pretty low on the naughty list.

  3. The Other Clark says:

    I think pecadillo is a subspecies of armadillo, right?

  4. Angela C says:

    Coffee ice cream is not a hot drink. Also, it’s delicious with Heath Bars, and not bad with pretzels.

  5. Where’s Dr. Pepper on the sin list? > iced tea or < iced tea?

  6. Dr. Pepper is the result of true transubstantiation and should be treated with the reverence it deserves. Shame on you, WVS.

  7. Where the word of wisdom is concerned, tea is certainly less a health concern (that’s what the W of W is, right? A health code?) than eating tons of red meat, having an unhealthy BMI, etc. If the bishop had a problem with my tea drinking, I might ask why the other stuff, while unhealthier, is less emphasized.

  8. Nathan Whilk says:

    “Tea can signal hospitality, relaxation and tradition”

    Woe unto them that call stimulants relaxing and relaxants stimulating.

  9. it's a series of tubes says:

    Dr. Pepper on the sin list? Blasphemy!

  10. If caffeine is not the “issue” with tea & coffee, and if a decade’s worth of research actually indicates positive health benefits from both, then for the love of XXX will someone in this church please tell me what the problem is?! Is there an inside joke I’m missing here?

  11. There’s a tendency for Mormons to back-engineer the Word of Wisdom. This leads to two opposite results: 1) Assuming that if the Lord said no hot drinks, and Joseph and Hyrum said that means tea and coffee, and tea and coffee both contain caffeine, that therefore the real reason the Lord said that must’ve been because caffeine is bad, and therefore no Coke or Pepsi or Dr. Pepper, either. (Nobody says no chocolate, for reasons unknown.) 2) Assuming that the purpose of the WoW is to promote good health, and then assuming that exceptions are justified whenever they have an ostensible health benefit—a glass of wine for your heart, a cup of tea for meditation or whatever, etc. But why not just do what it says* and spare yourself the elaborate rationalizations? I don’t think drinking tea is a great and malignant sin. I do think that a tendency to rationalize rather than obey is indicative of a different problem.

    *I realize that it says some other things about meat and produce in its season and so forth, and also that it says it’s not a commandment. But for purposes of the temple recommend interview, Word of Wisdom compliance now means 1) no alcohol, 2) no tobacco, 3) no coffee, 4) no tea (meaning tea made from the leaves of the tea tree), and 5) no other illegal/illicit/addictive drug use.

  12. “I do think that a tendency to rationalize rather than obey is indicative of a different problem.”

    Unquestioning obedience to the precepts of men is, IMHO, indicative of an even bigger problem.

  13. “Agreeable. What if Amanda Knox’s biggest problem was that she picked up [meat eating] while abroad [and that she now weighs 400 lbs]? On the definitive ranking of commandments, [mean eating] comes in at #[10]63 [- and, it should be noted, the Word of Wisdom does not mention BMI (Body Mass Index)].”

    Here’s the difference, Travis: Meat eating will likely shorten Amanda’s life; tea drinking will likely extend it. WoW is a HEALTH guideline, not a metric of obedience.

  14. I think it’s interesting that everyone is focusing on the health aspects of the Word of Wisdom. I don’t think health is what it’s about at all, or at least not mainly. The revelation was given “in consequence of the evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days,” with the side effect that those who keep it may be healthier, I suppose, but I’m not sure that verses 18-21 necessarily have to do with physical health. My understanding was that it was Brigham Young who said that tea and coffee were the “hot drinks” referred to, and that was primarily because he was annoyed by the Saints spending money on them instead of on other things that he thought would be more useful or prudent (, among many other articles on this subject). Given the environmental damage done by coffee, tea, sugar, and cattle-raising practices then AND now, the exploitation of workers and farmers in the production of these goods, as well as the waste of money and other resources caused by dependence on the various substances we use, I would think that members of the Church should be as concerned about the social, humanitarian, and environmental effects as about the debatable health benefits or harms from consuming alcohol, tea, etc.

    As for the young woman mentioned in the original post, I don’t understand why she would feel the need to start or to continue drinking tea unless it’s so that she can somehow highlight her lack of commitment to the church or show that although she “respects” it (?), she doesn’t want to be identified as someone who’s devout for whatever reason. Which is fine, so long as she understands and accepts that if she doesn’t play by the rules, however arbitrary those rules are, she can’t expect to get the prize at the end. If she is self-aware enough to be fine with that (e.g., she has no desire to have a temple recommend, etc.), then the Bishop should let her be. She will eventually either bring herself into conformity or not, and either is a valid choice as long as she does it with full knowledge.

  15. Angela C says:

    “he was annoyed by the Saints spending money on them instead of on other things that he thought would be more useful or prudent” Like copies of the Deseret Alphabet?

  16. Heh heh, yeah. Thus the “he thought.”

  17. Villate: The health benefits of Camellia sinensis and genus Coffea are, in fact, NOT debatable. And to even imply that the institutional church or most of its membership possess a rudimentary environmental conscience is ridiculous. As for whether Angela “understands and accepts that if she doesn’t play by the rules, however arbitrary those rules are, she can’t expect to get the prize at the end” – well, that’s just revolting. She’ll miss her heavenly reward because of … Tea? Do you understand how that sounds? Please place that sentence in the context of the great injustice and suffering in this world we Christians are charged to address. See also “earrings” under “Bednar.” You, like David, trivialize the faith.

  18. Hedgehog says:

    Does her Bishop know that anecdote about the old lady whose teapot didn’t pour tea in the presence of Spencer W. Kimball? I recall that from an old Sunday School lesson. Strikes me a Bishop might bring that up.

  19. As long as she doesn’t drink it while it is hot (which is a subjective standard), is it a violation of the WofW – like Pres. McKay enjoying rum cake?

  20. Villate,

    I don’t understand why she would feel the need to start or to continue drinking tea unless it’s so that she can somehow highlight her lack of commitment to the church or show that although she “respects” it (?), she doesn’t want to be identified as someone who’s devout for whatever reason.

    I don’t disagree with where this comment of yours ends (“If she is self-aware enough to be fine with that (e.g., she has no desire to have a temple recommend, etc.), then the Bishop should let her be”), but your way of setting it up above troubles me. If someone who just happens not to have a deep spiritual conviction of the truth and necessity of the revelations of Joseph Smith as interpreted by the current leadership of church starts drinking tea (and likes it!) while living in a tea-drinking, non-Mormon culture, is it really the case that the only reason she would have done so is a desire to “highlight her lack of commitment to the church”? Couldn’t it also be that it genuinely didn’t occur to her to be an issue? Or that, in the midst of the myriad motivations and preferences that she–like all of us, as human beings–constantly negotiate amongst, fitting in her host family and partaking of life in India (and. in time, enjoying her morning routine) came out on top? I appreciate your observation that the specific interpretation of the Word of Wisdom in this case is an “arbitrary rule”; it’s worth considering that, to the extent that we bring people’s motivations into our assessment of their actions, a lot of the stuff all of us do is the result of fairly arbitrary processes as well.

  21. p, you might want to dial down your righteous indignation. Where did Villate say that the prize at the end was a heavenly reward? That’s your uncharitable reading. I took her to mean the temple recommend was the prize at the end.

    ‘And to even imply that the institutional church or most of its membership possess a rudimentary environmental conscience is ridiculous.’

    Apart from being uber-judgmental, doesn’t this comment indicate why the WoW may in fact be about obedience? Perhaps as a membership we aren’t as aware as we should be of the environmental impact of farming tea, coffee, alcohol, cocaine, beef, etc. Nevertheless, by being obedient to a principle without fully understanding why we offer an alternative solution to the environmental damage, and perhaps food shortages, caused by these farming practices.

  22. Rhetoric of the WoW as “health code” attempts to ground the reason for adherence in reason instead of revelation, much as poor apologetics for polygamy attempted to ground it in reason (i.e. “more women than men”). Reason is much more acceptable to our secular and non-LDS friends and colleagues, but it wrongly implies that the WoW is a justification of whatever science deems healthy.
    I haven’t written up my thoughts on this, but Julie’s come close.

  23. John Mansfield says:

    With tea drinking way down at #63, what’s the highest-ranked matter that the bishop should not “make into a thing”? The lowest-ranked that he should?

  24. Russell, all of the things you mention are thoughts I had, but I was already feeling self-conscious about the length of my answer. In the big scheme of things, I suppose that the WoW is a rather trivial set of rules. I’m pretty sure the weight we members of the Church give it is disproportionate to its actual importance in the eyes of the Lord. Then again, maybe not. p, I appreciate your righteous indignation – I was going for a dispassionate tone, but I guess it didn’t come across that way. It frustrates me that it is so difficult to communicate tone in the written word. Ack, the awkwardness of my hands! Anyway, it’s interesting that you would mention Elder Bednar’s story about the earrings. It troubled me greatly when I first heard it, in part because I was pricked in my heart as I recognized myself in the rebellious actions of the girl in THAT story while simultaneously feeling that it trivialized the faith indeed! Obedience may or may not be “the first law of heaven,” but it does tend to be a signal. The post (was the question written by the woman herself? I am confused about that – it looks like some of you know her personally, since you added details?) specifically mentions that the young woman is “not deeply committed to the church” though she was raised in it and respects it and wants to be part of the faith community. That indicates to me that she is looking for a way to belong and yet signal that she doesn’t “really” belong. Like getting a tattoo or a second set of pierced earrings, drinking tea is a relatively harmless way to distance herself from the more straight-arrow members of her ward. I can only guess at her reasons for wanting to do this, but based on that statement about her commitment level, it’s pretty easy to figure out that at least part of it is a desire to be different or at least appear different. I highly doubt that is the only reason, however. My own reasons for doing some of the “distancing” things I did as a younger woman (and still do now) were complex, at least in my own mind, and I’m sure hers are as well. The point I am trying to make is that she is sending specific signals with her tea drinking, particularly if she engages in it knowing the response she is likely to get from the Mormon culture. The answer part of the post addressed this very insightfully, I thought. I would add that not only should she be aware of those signals (which she seems to be) but she should also be aware of why she is sending them (this is where the rationalization/justification come in, and I mean to use those words in a neutral sense).

  25. rameumptom says:

    As a bishop, I would not make a big deal out of it, but would explain that one day we would love to have the girl go with everyone else to the temple, when she’s ready to replace her tea with something else. Personally, I think that Dr Pepper is a good alternative for almost everything, and is on the okay list with Diet Pepsi, according to my sources in Mitt Romney’s family Of course, there are other herbal teas she could use.

  26. “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint …”

    The phenomenon of a 400 lb carnivore who proudly avoids “hot drinks” and successfully leaves the bishop’s office with a temple recommend is all you need to know about the current condition of the LDS Church. We are steadily becoming the Church of Straining at Gnats While Swallowing Camels. (If you are a college-educated non-member in the United States today your perception of Mormons likely has as it’s most salient aspects homophobia, the Republican Party, and the coffee/tea thing.) What accounts for our inflexibility in the face of irrational dogma and practice, and our inability and unwillingness to assimilate new information? A geriatric leadership for one thing. A intellectually lazy, acquiescent membership for another. And, of course, the automatic assumption that challenging a stagnant status quo is heresy EVEN IF WHAT WE ARE DOING MAKES NO SENSE! I firmly believe that if you love the Church and expect it to function as it was intended to function you’ve got to SAY SOMETHING when irrationality is perpetuated. Irrationality never was godliness.

  27. Really? In what way, other than an arbitrary list of banned and allowed substances, is black tea worse than Dr. Pepper?

    The bishop (or his counselor) can and should ask you if you’re keeping the WoW. And then leave it at that. I don’t suffer bishops who want to delve into every detail. That’s what my relationship with my Savior is for.

  28. I thought I was the only one who had concluded that the Word of Wisdom had as much to do with the longterm health of the planet and of other people as it did the health of individual Mormons. I think if we obey all of it (e.g., foods in season=don’t buy foods grown far away with a large carbon footprint) we will, as issues of land and water use become more and more contentious, be in a position of demonstrating how to live well and abundantly without tying our contentment to far-off substances or those whose production takes a greater toll on the earth. I think it will, if lived fully, eventually be a missionary tool in ways we haven’t yet considered because it will speak to our religion’s concern not primarily for the health of the individual (though we are concerned about that), but for the health of all–much like a fast and the attendant fast offering. And the reward to those who take it seriously and treat it as a test of obedience is that they will eventually see that they have not just demonstrated faith and obtained some health benefits, but have (inadvertently) been pioneers in living more gently, even in the midst of great abundance. This is hard stuff, though. I’m perfect at avoidance of tea, coffee, smokes, etc., and pretty good at the meat sparingly thing, but I don’t want to give up my pineapple and chocolate!

    But all that rambling didn’t answer the question of the OP. I think her choice should be treated as less of a sin than many other things–certainly it would be wrong to ostracize her for such a thing–and I dislike that many in Mormon culture have assigned great weight to this commandment when they simultaneously believe it exists primarily to serve their own individual physical well-being. I would have less of a problem with assigning it great spiritual weight if we understood it as being even more a recipe for promoting the physical health of all, even those not obeying it. Or talked more about the “wisdom” and “treasures of knowledge” parts. Or just leaving it at “it’s a test of obedience.”

  29. We all know the standard range of answers. Most of them have been given in the comments.
    – Which culture should you be trying to be a part of more, the Church or the World?
    – Yes, it is a suggestion in the D&C, but has since been made a commandment
    – It’s not so bad as X (other parts of the WoW through killing babies)
    – They’re just out-of-touch rules(/church/leaders) anyway
    – How bad can I be?
    – the Bishop is too busy with bigger stuff, so why bring it up at all?
    – the -real- reason we have this rule/law/etc is because of this, so it doesn’t apply now

    any others I missed? Is there anything new?

  30. I think my least favorite criticism of church leaders and their ability to do their work is that they are old. It strikes me as intellectually lazy. Also, if I spoke up at church every time something wasn’t–as I perceived it–rational, I would leave church hoarse every week, ruin my worship experience and, I suspect, everyone else’s as well.

  31. There are positive and negative aspects of the WoW–things that we are told to use, things we are told to not use, and things we are to use with prudence. For example, things we are told to use are herbs and grains. Barley is even said to be used for mild drinks (beer). Meat is to be used sparingly. Tobacco, strong drinks (distilled liquor), and hot drinks (tea and coffee) are not to be used at all. Therefore, if you believe Joseph was giving a Word of Wisdom from the Lord, you can use your brain and section 89 to guide you into healthier living, but still recognize that God has blacklisted certain things.

    In the case of this girl, she can make whatever choices she wants and still be welcomed into the ward with open arms. As far as a recommend goes, compliance to the Word of Wisdom is part of the temple questions, and to be in compliance with it, certain things are not to be consumed. While a deep commitment to the church is not required to be a part of it by any means, temple ordinances and admittance do require a deeper commitment and should be postponed until the person is ready for it.

  32. “WoW is a HEALTH guideline, not a metric of obedience.”

    “Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?” is a temple recommend question, so whatever is has been historically it certainly is a metric of obedience now. The two things are inextricably (even if inexplicably) linked by those who we sustain for being responsible for such things (another recommend question).

    Why would the rules for admittance to the temple be any sillier than what goes on in the temple?

  33. Martin, if you eat piles of meat every day and weigh 400 lbs, then the WoW is neither a health guideline (you are not healthy at 400 lbs for oh so many reasons) nor a metric of obedience (“And it is pleasing unto me that they [meats] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.]”

    So the correct answer to “Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?” if you eat piles of meat each day and/or are morbidly obese is a resounding NO! Ergo you are disqualified from Temple attendance. That the WoW is selectively interpreted by the authorities and even more selectively enforced in recommend interviews is part of the point I am making: It is irrational and good neither for the welfare of the institution nor for the individual. Why is this such a radical concept?

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    That the WoW is selectively interpreted by the authorities and even more selectively enforced in recommend interviews

    Ah, if only you were an “authority” and could correct those foolish ones, right?

  35. Meat comparisons usually presume that Americans in JS’ day consumed less meat than Americans do today, and read the WoW in light of that assumption, moving in a quasi-vegetarian direction.
    However, the assumption doesn’t hold. They ate significantly more meat than we do today, on average. (Not at home, don’t have my references.)

  36. Yeah, I’m just a member with a brain. Apparently that counts for nothing. Multiply that by 15,082,028 and you’ve either got a whole lot of nothing or a terrible waste of brain power in a church desperately in need of same.

  37. I’m surprised that someone so proud of their brain power is struggling to comprehend that they’re not winning anyone over to their viewpoint because of the obnoxious manner in which they’re trying to smash home the point. Beams and motes and all that. But if you think it’s working for you, you crack on.

  38. “That the WoW is selectively interpreted by the authorities and even more selectively enforced”

    Of course. No matter where you draw a line, there’s always reasons to move it around or not to have it at all. It’s as unreasonable as picking age 8 for kids to get baptized, picking 10% for tithing, and many other things.

  39. I’m always surprised at the number of rationalizations and TRUE interpretations there are for the WoW. Then again, given Paul’s experiences with the 7 branches of the Church this shouldn’t surprise me at all.

  40. I think it’s kind of interesting that this thread has revolved almost entirely around either 1) the Word of Wisdom and its interpretations (both currently and over history) and its place in the administration of the church, or 2) the young woman. What about the bishop himself? I’m kind of curious about how we should think about his dilemma here. On the one hand, he’s a judge in Israel and all that, with obligations to the order of the church in terms of temple recommends and such. But on the other hand, he’s also a pastor who obviously wants to keep people involved and active and feeling accepted in the ward, because if you don’t, you’ll lose them. Is it impossible to imagine that this bishop might really struggle over how to deal with such a small, yet undeniably specific, violation?

    A possibly irrelevant–or possibly not?–aside. In our ward building, three wards meet: two family wards, and one YSA ward. For years, the stake has required all the units sharing buildings to rotate their meeting times: 9am, 11am, 1pm, etc., from year to year. And for as long as I’ve lived here, the bishop of the YSA ward, whomever it may be, has regularly and fervently gone to the mat with the stake presidency, insisting that there is no possible way the YSA ward will ever meet at 9am. Just not happening–the young adults won’t attend, they won’t like it, I can’t as a shepherd of these young people in good conscience allow it, etc. Each and every time. And it works: the family wards bounce back-and-forth between 9am and 1pm, while the YSA 11am slot remains sacrosanct.

    Meeting times are a totally different animal from the WoW, of course. And yet, as much as I’d like my family to get that 11am slot every few years, the fact is I really admire these bishops: they’ve made a judgment call as to their flocks, and they’re pushing to make being an active Mormon easier for them. So think about it that way: if you have a bishop who has an active if not deeply committed young lady who is drinking tea but also not sleeping around in his office, might he not be tempted to try to keep things, well, as accommodating for her as possible? Maybe?

  41. p,

    I think it’s been at least somewhat demonstrated that the meat thing is subjective, by the very nature of the revelation. It is not blacklisted like tea is. Also, there is no weight requirement in the WoW, nor is it a guarantee of personal fitness, so denying someone a temple recommend for that is an invalid argument. However, I too think that the WoW is disproportionately taught, and our version of it today is almost nothing like Section 89. There is something to be said about that.


    I think my post above somewhat addresses the way a bishop should view the situation. It’s strange that this is even really a dilemma. If I want to attend a YSA ward and be a part of it, then tea drinking should absolutely not hinder that. There is no requirement to obey this part of the WoW as it involves worship, fellowship, and participation in a ward. If I have a desire to enter the temple, however, the bishop will ask questions set forth by the Brethren in order to obtain a recommend. It is not his decision, at that point, but hers. The requirements should be taught and he should offer counsel and assistance if it is her desire to attend the temple.

    If the question simply is “should the bishop make a big deal about this and pressure to change through a rigorous and constant series bishop’s interviews,” then no, that should not happen. The temple is different.

  42. ” . . . sleeping around in his office . . .”
    Ok, this one has got to rank in the high teens, at least.

  43. Clark Goble says:

    I always wondered how people view those Green Tea weight loss pills or drops. Or mocha ice cream.

  44. Russell,

    I don’t really see that there’s an issue for the Bishop. Now there are some out there who would make an issue of it as far as whether Angela needs to change her ways in order to be a faithful saint. And the varying degrees with which he will it approach likely depends on the fervor of the Bishop’s own experiences with what it means to follow the letter of the law.

    But the Bishop’s role is that of a shepherd working to strengthen and protect his flock and bring in the lost sheep. Is Angela really lost? No. She may not even be close to straying, it may be that she just enjoys her tea. But does her drinking of tea represent a potential stumbling block for her and for other well meaning members? Absolutely.

    The Bishop might also help her realize that greater blessings can come from obedience to the Lord’s commandments. But that kind of persuasion comes more through gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned as he and other Ward members envelop her and help her feel a very real part of the Ward’s faith community. A spoonful of sugar will certainly go much further in converting Angela than any kind of condemnation.

    However, if Angela expresses a desire to enter the temple, then the rules and doctrine are fairly black and white and she would be given gentle counsel, encouragement, and maybe even strategies for quitting her habit if it really is more than just a cultural expression for her.

  45. James: Yeah, bad on me. Disclosure: I”m an exercise physiologist and I deal with (giant) Mormons and their horrific flesh/butter/milk/ice cream/pop/sodium-heavy diets all the time. My patience is thin and wearing ever thinner, love & work with them though I do.Thus the attitude. Also: There are certain people, including Diet Coke-addicted Mormons, to whom I will recommend green tea for it’s wide variety of therapeutic properties, including metabolic and anti-cancer. Depending on Bishop, this will disqualify them for a recommend but may well enhance their health – indeed, save their lives if they have a proclivity to malignancies. (Coffee has the same properties regarding prostate & colon cancers.) So I see the results of WoW lunacy up close and personal. I will repeat: It is irrational. We need an update. Even uninspired little ‘ol me understands this, so what’s the hold up? Last word we got from the “Newsroom” was that caffeine wasn’t part of WoW. They can do better than that. It is not wrong to expect more.

  46. it's a series of tubes says:

    It is irrational.

    So is believing that an “angel” spoke to a young man and told him about “gold plates”.

    As for your counseling people to start drinking green tea, Matthew 5:19 comes to mind.

  47. “I deal with (giant) Mormons and their horrific flesh/butter/milk/ice cream/pop/sodium-heavy diets all the time.”

    Charged and convicted. That pretty much sums up my daily intake.

  48. Uninspired orthodoxy, Tubes. This is not a virtue. I run into the same thing with those aforementioned giant Mormons who believe with all their hearts that they will “run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” if only they don’t smoke, drink and avoid hot drinks. The bishop supports this misconception when he issues them a temple recommend. Not a word ever about “All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—” and all the implications of that.

    We have a wonderful tool in WoW, one that we currently under-use, misuse, don’t use and obviously don’t understand. One that could use a little updating. This is not heresy. This is not rocket science. This should not be controversial. This should be open to free discussion without the impugning of motives or underhanded charges of apostasy.

  49. J. Stapley says:

    On the Word of Wisdom, see the intro here. Summary: there are many Words of Wisdom, and they are not the same. People need to get over that.

  50. p,

    Nobody is saying that matters of weight and unhealthy lifestyles should be addressed and changed. And I even agreed with you that our focus today is very disproportionate when compared to the actual revelation. But here are two points:
    1. Tea and coffee was blacklisted in the Word of Wisdom revelation. As far as a recommend goes, this is explicit. The grains and other things you mentioned are implicit. There is a difference you are ignoring.
    2. You can accomplish weight loss without tea and coffee.

  51. it's a series of tubes says:

    This should be open to free discussion without the impugning of motives

    J. Stapley and others have addressed most of your points, but the fact remains – the WoW, as further interpreted by modern prophets, has a few “bright line” shalt nots: coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco. If you counsel others to cross those bright lines, your motives are fair game.

    Ironically, I (and likely many others here) generally agree with the broader points you have made – but your repeated “I get it; and anyone else who doesn’t get it is a moron; and in particular my lard-*** fellow Saints who don’t get it are morons” tone is counterproductive.

  52. I would really, really hate to see bishops making inquiries into people’s (my) eating habits. I also dislike linking weight with virtue. Fewer rules, not more.

  53. I don’t see why we have to channel all health-related dictums through the WoW. It’s somewhat like our problematic attempts to channel all masculinity through priesthood.

  54. Yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis, is a hot drink served in South America. Missionaries in Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina are familiar with this beverage and many have imbibed. So far as I am aware, it does not “violate” the WoW even though in addition to caffeine it contains two additional xanthines, which are theobromine and theophylline. If brewed properly it is potent in ways coffee/tea simply are not. Street legal. Just sayin’

    Such a timid culture. Was I really pushing the envelope here? And yes, Tubes, I DO get it because that’s what I … do (see “exercise physiology” above). I see the damage done among a group of people who are supposed to know better. Look around and ask yourself how well Section 89 and official interpretations thereof are working in YOUR ward. My guess: Not at all. Substituting one vice for another does not constitute spiritual progress. We can do better. That’s my point. My only point.

    You have been disappointing interlocutors. I expected a bit more (daring?) from the brain trust at BCC, good hell. You act like I’m suggesting child sacrifice when I’m simply responding to Matthew’s teaser on … Tea!!! Nonetheless, watch the refined carbs, eliminate most meat, eggs, dairy, and remember “All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—” Get off your fat ass once in a while. Walking is all it takes. Walking will help you lose weight. It also makes you smarter.

  55. Sweeping generalities are just that, he said in sweeping, general terms.

  56. 1) I believe we do a disservice to the revelation when we look at it absent of its historical context. I think we need to look at what the health issues were in Joseph Smith’s day to appreciate some of the nuance. I don’t like calling it a “health code” because code connotes a regimen like a tax code, a strictly codified set of rules. To see the difference, think about how we apply the word of wisdom in a nation whose staple grain (like rice) is not even mentioned in the revelation.

    2) I am an advocate for allowing the interviewee to thoughtfully answer the temple recommend interview questions themselves. I’ve never had a bishop probe into the way I calculate my tithing, nor has a bishop ever asked me specifics about how I adhere to the word of wisdom, wear the garment of the holy priesthood, or sustain the prophet. And I appreciate that. I’m there to make a declaration before a common judge in Israel about my worthiness to enter the house of the Lord. And I’m pretty sure the temple recommend questions are supposed to be asked verbatim (though it appears adherence to this principle varies in practice).

    3) I really dislike attempts to create a hierarchy of commandments. I think the message in the parable of the pharisee and the publican is that our willingness to humble ourselves before God and seek his grace is the key driver in drawing on the atoning power for our salvation. Our weaknesses and the sins that so easily beset us are individualized based on a variety of factors including our genetic makeup, our social upbringing, the example of our parents, the nature of our support group, our integration into the community of saints, etc.

    4) I’ve felt that one of the functions / blessings of the word of wisdom (that hasn’t been explored here) is to identify us as part of the same community. Some people like to poke at seemingly irrational features of BYU’s dress and grooming standards in the same manner some would critique our application of the principles of the word of wisdom. I think the intent is similar. Each are designed to keep us “apart from the world” in some way. I think this was a key message from the story of Daniel and his friends and the king’s meat. It’s as if Daniel is saying, “We’re Israelites living in Babylon. We won’t eat what Babylonian’s eat. We eat what Israelites eat. We will never fully assimilate with you even though we are scattered among you.” Such actions help us maintain a sense of identity and make us recognizable to “outsiders”.

    For me this last point goes back to “Am I willing to humble myself before God and his servants–mortal and imperfect as those servants may be–even when that behavior may seem less rational or popular than I would like?”

  57. Doug Hudson says:

    To those complaining about the no-tea restriction: Have y’all read the previous set of requirements for God’s chosen people? There are something like 650 rules that the Jews are supposed to follow!

    Be grateful that He simplified things!

  58. An interesting perspective from that historical article Aaron just posted.

    “American temperance reformers succeeded in the 1830s in no small part by identifying a substitute for alcohol: coffee. In the eighteenth century, coffee was considered a luxury item, and British-manufactured tea was much preferred. After the Revolution, tea drinking came to be seen as unpatriotic and largely fell out of favor. The way was open for a rival stimulant to emerge. In 1830, reformers persuaded the U.S. Congress to remove the import duty on coffee. The strategy worked. Coffee fell to 10 cents a pound, making a cup of coffee the same price as a cup of whiskey, marking whiskey’s decline. By 1833, coffee had entered “largely into the daily consumption of almost every family, rich and poor.” The Baltimore American called it “among the necessaries of life.”17 Although coffee enjoyed wide approval by the mid-1830s, including within the medical community, a few radical reformers such as Sylvester Graham and William A. Alcott preached against the use of any stimulants whatsoever, including coffee and tea.18

    The Word of Wisdom rejected the idea of a substitute for alcohol.”

  59. Whoa whoa whoa, people. The post isn’t about me, much as I wish I could pass for a YSA. Somehow “p” started using my name as the person referenced. “As for whether Angela “understands and accepts that if she doesn’t play by the rules, however arbitrary those rules are, she can’t expect to get the prize at the end” – well, that’s just revolting. She’ll miss her heavenly reward because of … Tea?” I do eat coffee ice cream, and have even had green tea ice cream in Japan (I preferred the black sesame ice cream), but the OP isn’t about me. I mean, maybe the person the OP references is also named Angela, but I don’t know how “p” drew that conclusion.

    Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  60. p mistakenly used “Angela” instead of “Amanda” for one or more of the following reasons: 1) he’s hopelessly confused (this would be his rather more orthodox wife’s opinion); 2) Angela of BCC fame is a rock star and is ever-present in his mind in a Lady Gaga kind of way; 3) he had one too many yerba mates – that’s right, the beverage with THEOBROMINE, THEOPHYLINE, CAFFEINE that’s still WoW legal –


    (Aforementioned wife has now kindly instructed p to shut the hell up & sign off so you’ll not be hearing more from the likes of him.)

    (ps – watch those carbs. MUCH less meat & dairy. MUCH more grains & fruit. Walk. Drink mate if you can’t drink green tea. The devil’s curse for more than two sodas per week. If you could see what I see every day! Live long and prosper. Amen)

  61. Angela C says:

    p: Agreeable.

  62. Like copies of the Deseret Alphabet? Angela, have I told you lately that I love you, in a rock-star, ever-present, Lady Gaga kind of way? :)

    Aaron and Samuel, I don’t know if this helps, but coffee was extremely popular in England before the Revolution, as any basic perusal of period sources from the time, say, of the Jacobite Rebellions would discover. So while drinking tea might have been considered “unpatriotic,” it’s far more likely that it was also considered more expensive due to the British monopoly on the tea trade, while America soon developed its own deals with coffee growers. Historical myths grow like popcorn on the apricot tree. Among those myths is the one that the WoW has always totally forbidden alcohol and its Dingbat Corollary, that the Savior himself never drank alcohol but that it was always grape juice.

    Personally, were I Amanda’s bishop (which is about as likely as my suddenly becoming Amanda), I’d lay off. The only time I’d need to be specific would be if I interviewed her for a recommend, so in those initial chats, while I might ask her if she had interest in joining the ward members on our temple excursions, I certainly wouldn’t press her if she said “no.” All things in good time.

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