Question: How is the Word of Wisdom observed in the modern Church?

Table of Contents

Question: How is the Word of Wisdom observed in the modern Church?

In more recent times, apostles and prophets have added the use of illegal drugs and misuse of prescription medications to the list of prohibitions

In more recent times, apostles and prophets have added the use of illegal drugs and misuse of prescription medications to the list of prohibitions. [1] The term "hot drinks" is currently officially applied to tea and coffee. [2] Since coffee and tea both contain the stimulant caffeine, a question that sometimes is asked is whether or not the Word of Wisdom prohibits cola drinks. There is no specific prohibition on cola drinks, and this issue is left to an individual's own discretion.

The Word of Wisdom is a fulfillment of prophecy

The Word of Wisdom states that it is given in part because of the "evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" (DC 89:4). Modern developments have vindicated this prophetic warning.

The Word of Wisdom is a principle of obedience and unity

Furthermore, the Word of Wisdom is a principle of unity, according to Brigham Young:

So we see that almost the very first teachings the first Elders of this Church received were as to what to eat, what to drink, and how to order their natural lives, that they might be united temporally as well as spiritually. This is the great purpose which God has in view in sending to the world, by His servants, the gospel of life and salvation. It will teach us how to deal, how to act in all things, and how to live with each other to become one in the Lord. [3]

Throughout history God’s covenant people have frequently had indicators, or identity markers, which have separated them from the rest of the world

Outward signs are often used to single out God’s covenant people. Such signs have included:

circumcision (Gen. 17:2–14), the Sabbath day (Ex. 31:12–17), endogamy or prohibitions on marriage outside the group (Ezra 10:3), greetings (D&C 88:131-133), and dietary proscriptions, such as the food taboos of Leviticus or the latter-day health code of the Word of Wisdom. [4]

Adherence to the Word of Wisdom is often a mark of a committed Latter-day Saint and is an outward sign of their separation from the world and their participation in the fellowship of God’s covenant people. Non-observance or observance of the Word of Wisdom often reflects one’s commitment (or lack thereof) to their covenants with God as well as a possible indicator as to how one might approach other commandments.

One author noted this tendency when he recalled:

the general perception among young men when I went to high school was that if a girl smoked, she was also more likely to engage in premarital sex. While this was certainly not true in all instances, I know that from the bragging of some misguided boys, the precept was generally accurate. Likewise, those who congregate to consume alcohol, whether at frat parties or bars, are more likely to engage in immoral, illegal, or in general non-typical LDS behavior, than the Church member who doesn’t drink or join others at the bar or party. Many high-school counselors are keenly aware, for instance, that those kids who frequently skip school are more likely to get involved in alcohol, drugs, shop-lifting, and teen pregnancy, and they are more likely not to graduate. It’s a type of group mind-set and approach to life. As the saying goes, “It’s hard to wrestle with pigs, without getting dirty.” The Word of Wisdom helps keep our spiritual and physical bodies unspotted from the filth around us. [5]

Notes

  1. Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Scourge of Illicit Drugs," Ensign (November 1989), 48. off-site; James E. Faust, "The Enemy Within," Ensign (November 2000), 44. off-site
  2. See, for example, Robert L. Simpson, Conference Report (April 1963), 53.;Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report (April 1963), 107. Early statements available in John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word Of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1937), 28 and Roy W. Doxey, The Word of Wisdom Today (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1975),10–13.
  3. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 12:157-158. (italics added)
  4. Wouter Van Beek, "Covenants," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:333.
  5. Mike Ash, FAIR e-mail list, 3 September 2006 (cited with permission).