Growing up LDS I was taught that the word of Wisdom is God’s law and a commandment that is not to be taken lightly. Church Literature is chalk full of stories about people living the word of wisdom when offered booze, drugs, smokes etc… Alcohol was especially frowned upon, even in the smallest degree. I was taught that any amount of alcohol was a violation of this great and sacred commandment. But is this really a commandment from God, and Is alcohol truly prohibited by the LDS churches own scriptures?
The word of Wisdom is a health law that was proclaimed by Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS movement. The idea behind the word of wisdom is about healthy living. Much of it is good advice that if followed would provide good health and Long life. The word of Wisdom has become adopted within the LDS faith as a commandment of God. Those who do not follow or obey the Word of Wisdom are denied membership in the church if they are not already members (and possibly losing their membership depending on the seriousness of it if they are members). Temple access is denied to those that do not follow this Law as proclaimed in the word of Wisdom and as a result according to LDS church doctrine this can lead to not obtaining eternal salvation and not being with your family in the eternities. Like many other assumed commandments that are not in reality commandments this kind of thought and behavior control mentality for myself is problematic. This is why I wish to tackle this topic in the hopes of helping others understand this “doctrine” in a more effective light. This is not about promoting unhealthy habits or activities, but promoting understanding of a subject that has been adopted as doctrine despite the scriptures statements on its status of doctrine itself.
The word of Wisdom first off, is not a commandment at all. Thus it is not sinful to not obey it’s precepts in any fashion. It is nothing more than recommend council for a healthy lifestyle. This is not just a matter of personal opinion but in fact it is declared by doctrine in the scriptures. Declared even by God if you believe that he is the one that made the declaration via Joseph Smith. This is what the Word of Wisdom actually says in Doctrine and Covenants section 89
verse 2: To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—
I think that makes it pretty clear don’t you? The scriptures themselves make it clear that this “doctrine” is in fact not a commandment at all. The Doctrine and Covenants state that this is to be done without constraint or command. This is virtually the only “revelation” in all of the scriptures where we are told God is specifically stating that it is not a commandment at all. No where else in scriptures do we read that what is about to be said is not commandment, which tells me this is an exception to the general rule that when God speaks it is commandment. This is quite significant and important to understand. If God’s words are his commandments we should then trust God when he states as per LDS scriptures that this revelation is not a commandment. That is if you believe that this was in fact a revelation from God. This is Followed up in verse 3 with the reasoning behind this non commandment.
3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.
So there we have it, the Word of Wisdom is not a commandment but rather a principle with a promise. This is straight from the scriptures. So the question then is, Why are people denied access to LDS church claimed blessings if they do not live the word of wisdom, something that is not a commandment of God and thus cannot be something that prevents entrance to heaven if disregarded? The church has a long history of taking suggestions, and good advice, or ideological principles and creating them as doctrines that are in fact not doctrine or commandments at all. This is one of those cases and when considering ones religious life, it is important to understand that this Word of Wisdom is not a commandment at all. When this is accepted as a commandment, even though the Doctrine and Covenants clearly state otherwise, it becomes the doctrines of men, mingled with scripture. Something that Joseph Smith claimed God told him was the problem with other churches.
Joseph Smith History verse 19
“they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
There are however, certain aspects of the Word of Wisdom that are taken quite seriously, most notably the generally accepted prohibition on alcohol which is in fact not prohibited at all in the word of wisdom. While abstaining from alcohol may be good, it is not acting against the Word of Wisdom to do so. In fact there is more than one reference in section 89 regarding the use of alcoholic drinks and how they are to be used, they are not prohibited at all.
First reference can be found in verse 5
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
This verse clearly states an acceptable time for the consumption of wine. It is to be used in the sacraments of the church, something that is not done at this time but rather water is used. In fact according to this section of the doctrine and covenants wine is to be used in the sacraments not water, and yet it is still not used. This goes against the doctrine the church accepts as stated in the Doctrine and Covenants. Considering this seriousness this is taken with in the LDS church, why does the church refused to follow this direction of using wine in the sacramental services?
Second reference is in verse 6
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
The Word of Wisdom states that we should make our own wine to be used in such services. We are told what kind of wine to use. If we are to believe that God has given this word of wisdom then we are to accept that God himself is stating that we are to make our own alcohol and use it for sacrament services! If we are to believe that God gave this word of wisdom, then he is telling us to drink alcohol at church!!
Third reference verse 17
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
This reference regarding alcoholic drinks is honestly the one that is most interesting. This states that barley is for mild drinks, but it does not stop there. It goes on to add “as also other grain.” Barley is a key ingredient for many beers and whisky, as are other grains. The word of Wisdom is actually telling us that we can use grains to make mild drinks. These drinks contain alcohol. If we are to believe that this is of God then it is clear that God is not only NOT prohibiting beers and other grain based alcoholic drinks but he is telling us that these grains can be and are for the use of such drinks! The word of wisdom recommends that we drink beer, it does not prohibit beer or alcohol at all. The only limitations to alcoholic drinks is found in verse 7
7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
This states that strong drinks are not for the belly. Essentially we are told that there is nothing wrong with drinking, so long as it is not to excess and there is not a heavy amount of alcohol content within the drink itself. Beer, whisky and other mild drinks made from grains are acceptable.
The LDS church does not accept that one can drink alcohol and not be sinning, however its own scriptures not only declare that alcohol is perfectly acceptable but that we should even be drinking it as part of sacramental services. Rather than following their own advice as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book that is accepted as scriptures, the LDS church dictates to its members what it can and cannot drink and eat. Along with that, one will be punished or disciplined for failing to uphold a standard that is not a commandment at all and falsely interpreted or preached with exaggerations and UN-substantiated and false claims of prohibition on alcoholic beverages. It is clear that the word of wisdom is nothing more than good advice on how to live a healthy lifestyle. If the word of wisdom is not a commandment as the document states quite clearly, then one should not be punished, harassed or disciplined for having the occasional drink, or order of wine at dinner. Christ himself drank wine (miracle of the water to wine for example).
If you really stopped to think about this for a moment you would begin to understand insanity of the control mechanism in place here. If one were to eat nothing but fast food, junk and crap all day every day as part of their lifestyle while never getting any exercise but rather sitting in front of the T.V. or computer all day doing nothing, leading to obesity and other health related problems such as diabetes, cancers etc… the church would not discipline or punish someone for doing so, however if a person who gets regular exercise, eats a healthy balanced diet, and ends the day in the comfort of his or her home with a cold beer each night, he would be disciplined by the church while the glutton non alcohol drinking lazy person would be accepted as worthy of God. Think about that for a minute? Does that make sense to you?
When a church or organization takes it upon themselves to deny privileges and administer discipline for actions that are not in violation of the very Doctrine and Scriptures they claim to be using, this amounts to attempted control of behavior and manipulation for the purpose of psychological control over the individual. There is nothing wrong with alcohol and there is nothing wrong with consuming alcohol within reason and moderation. This is not just a personal opinion but declared Doctrine of the LDS church of which I was born and raised in and validated by the very scriptures they claim to use.
And that is the Gospel According to Andrew