Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Word of Wisdom

Ah, the Word of Wisdom. One of the best known set of rules in the Mormon church. But, I'd say, one of the least understood.

Every good mormon -- and even non-mormons -- know that they're not supposed to drink alcohol, coffee, tea, or smoke tobacco. The especially good ones extend this command to include anything with caffeine.

But... what does this commandment actually say?

Here it is in full. Then my breakdown. Yippee!

THE
DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833. HC 1: 327–329. As a consequence of the early brethren using tobacco in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Wisdom, was the result. The first three verses were originally written as an inspired introduction and description by the Prophet.

1–9, Use of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks proscribed; 10–17, Herbs, fruits, flesh, and grain are ordained for the use of man and of animals; 18–21, Obedience to gospel law, including the Word of Wisdom, brings temporal and spiritual blessings.

1 A aWord OF Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—
2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the aword of wisdom, showing forth the order and bwill of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—
3 Given for a principle with apromise, adapted to the capacity of the bweak and the weakest of all csaints, who are or can be called saints.
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of aevils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have cwarned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—
5 That inasmuch as any man adrinketh bwine 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.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, apure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again, astrong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8 And again, tobacco is not for the abody, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.
12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.
14 All agrain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the afood of man; as also the bfruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
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.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, ashall receive bhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the adestroying angel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

Okay, here we go:

1 A aWord OF Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—
2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the aword of wisdom, showing forth the order and bwill of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—
3 Given for a principle with apromise, adapted to the capacity of the bweak and the weakest of all csaints, who are or can be called saints.
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of aevils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have cwarned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—

This is just an introduction. Blah, blah, God makes promises, thus saith.

5 That inasmuch as any man adrinketh bwine 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.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, apure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

Okay, so only drink wine during church for the sacrament. Check. And the wine you do drink, you need to make it yourself. Check. Well... so now they just drink water for the sacrament instead of wine. But okay, I still see the rule not to drink wine.

7 And, again, astrong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

No liquor, either. Check. At least, don't drink the vodka... it's just to wash yourself with! Anyone out there bathe in "strong drinks?" Hm...

Moving on.

8 And again, tobacco is not for the abody, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

No tobacco. Check.

Hot drinks? What exactly does this mean? This is where they get the rule "no coffee or tea." Okay, sure, those can both be served hot. Or cold. What about apple cider? Hot chocolate? Hot buttered rum? Oh, wait, that's a strong drink, I suppose (wink, wink). I'm not sure why they picked coffee and tea to fall under "hot drinks," but not the others.

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.

Herbs, eh? Now we're talking! Okay, but seriously, eat herbs and fruits that are in season. Check. I'll have to ask my family out in Utah why they're picking up strawberries from the grocery store in January. I'd say they're probably not in season in the winter, in Utah. Maybe there's an exception for shipping from Latin America... I'll keep my eye out for that.

12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.

Only eat meat in the winter or during famine. Hmmm, I don't remember hearing that in church. Or, at home, when we had our meat'n'potatoes every night for dinner. I wonder if any mormons choose to follow this. Makes me curious... "hot drinks" means no coffee or tea, but meat "only in times of winter" means meat whenever you want. Interesting...

14 All agrain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
16 All grain is good for the afood of man; as also the bfruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

Okay, grain is the staff of life. Check. Reminder in 15 that meat is just to be eaten during famine. Back to grain. Eat grain and fruit. I'm assuming that fruit "in the ground" would include vegetables. Sounds good to me! I like grain, fruit, and veggies!

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.

My FAVORITE verse. Okay, wheat, corn, blah blah. Wait, what's this? Barley for mild drinks? Hmm... back up in 7 they told us no "strong drinks." But mild drinks made from barley are a-ok. As any non-mormon can assure you, the other name for "mild drinks made from barley" would be "beer."

So, the Word of Wisdom seems to be giving the okay for beer. Is there any other mild drink made from barley that you see mormons (or anyone else, for that matter) drinking?

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, ashall receive bhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.

These verses I always found fun. If I listen to this, I'll have marrow in my bones and I'll be able to run and run and run without getting tired. Super.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the adestroying angel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

The final verse. God will save you. Amen.

So, let's review.

Good to have:
  • homemade wine (for the sacrament)
  • herbs and fruit (in season)
  • meat (during winter and famine)
  • grain, fruits, vegetables
  • beer
Bad to have:
  • non-homemade wine
  • strong drinks (except for washing)
  • hot drinks
  • tobacco
  • herbs and fruit (not in season)
  • meat (unless it's winter or famine)
Not included on this list:
  • caffeine (including coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, energy drinks, ginseng, etc.)
It seems to me that the Mormon church is cherry picking their rules. I'd like to see one of them come out and say, "Stop eating so much meat!!" Because that's actually in their rules!

And the beer part... good times.

4 comments:

Erin said...

Beer crosses the lines to strong drink, in the sense that there are more mild malted barley beverages out there. I know plenty of Mormons who drink "non-alcoholic" beer, and as a missionary we drank
Malta drinks from time to time.

Mormon's have so few vices available that we tend to be "food-oholics." Fruits out of season and meats when it's not winter is a mild rebellion, but I believe we'd be healthier as a people if we lived the law more strictly. Here's to Orthodox Mormonism!

Michelle said...

Ah, I must respectfully disagree. As is stated on the article you linked, "Albani Breweries Ltd claims on their website to have been the first brewery to create non-alcoholic malt beverages in 1859." Since D&C 89 was written in 1833, he could not have been referring to non-alcoholic malt beverages, since they did not yet exist.

Anyway, when you look at the alcohol content of beer versus liquor, you can see clearly that beer would NOT cross the line into the "strong drink" category.


Types of alcoholic beverages
(Beverage Source)
Alcohol content (percentage)

Brandy (Fruit juices) 40 - 50 %
Whisky (Cereal grains) 40 - 55 %
Rum (Molasses/sugarcane) 40 - 55 %

Wines (Port, Sherry, Grapes (also
Champagne, etc) other fruits) 10 - 22 %

Beer (Cereals) 4 - 8 %

Well anyway, my point is not to convince Mormon people to drink beer. (Although I think you might find it to be quite delightful! :-) ) But, I do think that's what he was referring to!

GreenishBlue said...

I think it's pretty unequivocal that "mild drinks made from barley" = "beer." We can try to put a contemporary spin on what it could have meant, but to anyone in 1833, LDS or not alike, there is no doubt that they would have understood this to mean beer.

Keep in mind that Joseph Smith himself had a bar in his house, so it's pretty clear that the modern LDS proscription against alcohol was far from as strict as it became.

I remember the meat proposition being a frustrating one as I was beginning to leave the church. I recall having it explained to me that this passage didn't really apply anymore because of the glorious time of abundance we live in. I kept thinking "What? That's the OPPOSITE of what it says." It was an early lesson in the fact that people often pick and choose, that they use their religion to justify whatever they would do anyway.

Anonymous said...

In Carthage Jail, Smith drank wine
Before the jailor came in, his boy brought in some water, and said the guard wanted some wine. Joseph gave Dr. Richards two dollars to give the guard; but the guard said one was enough, and would take no more.The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail soon after the jailor went out. Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as brother and the Doctor, and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out.� (History of the Church, Vol. 6, page 616)

"Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing,; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us.... I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the prison guards." (John Taylor, in History of the Church, Vol. 7, page 101)

just sayin'
-G