Question: Since the Word of Wisdom teaches us to abstain from alcohol, why did Paul encourage Timothy to drink wine for the stomach?

Table of Contents

Question: Since the Word of Wisdom teaches us to abstain from alcohol, why did Paul encourage Timothy to drink wine for the stomach?

The Word of Wisdom was given to modern saints as protection against "the designs of conspiring men in the last days"

In Timothy's day, water was often not safe to drink. (Historically, it is interesting that the temperance movement opposing alcohol only took off in the United States once relatively clean water supplies were available to most people—prior to that, alcohol mixed with water was a necessary way of keeping water drinkable.[1]

The Word of Wisdom was given to modern saints as protection against "the designs of conspiring men in the last days." Certainly we don't have to look far to see such conspiracy against the health of customers at work today in tobacco companies or street drug dealers.

This shows why modern revelation is so important—what was dangerous for us in the modern age (cigarette manufacturers, illicit drugs, alcohol marketing, etc.) may need different advice from God than that given 2000 years ago where dying from dysentery transmitted by contaminated water was a far bigger risk than dying of cirrhosis or stomach cancer.

Paul isn't any less an apostle because he expressed a false idea about the benefits of alcohol on stomach problems

A related question which Christian critics ought to ask themselves might be, "Since we know now that alcohol—including wine—can cause gastritis, ulcers, or stomach bleeding why did Paul (a prophet!) tell Timothy to use it?"

Latter-day Saints will be untroubled that a prophet and apostle (such as Paul) could have had a a false, though popular, opinion about scientific matters. Paul isn't any less an apostle because he expressed a false idea about the benefits of alcohol on stomach problems.

Yet, many sectarian critics of the Church are quick to point fingers at Joseph Smith or Brigham Young for 19th century ideas which they expressed.

Notes

  1. Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses (New York, Walker Publishing Co., 2005), 38, 82, 98-101, 104, 108-109, 135. Note too the positive role played by coffee (made from boiled water, and so more healthy) and tea (also often boiled, and tea itself has anti-microbial properties) in earlier times when urban water sources were often of poor quality (see pp. 135, 179).