Word of Wisdom

Chapter 19 of the Teachings of President George Albert Smith, a manual being studied this year in the LDS Church, deals with the Word of Wisdom.  This is the famous Mormon restriction against the use of coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco.  It is found in section 89 of Doctrine and Covenants, one of their scriptures.  Although that section talks about “hot drinks” later prophets interpreted that as coffee and tea.

The Word of Wisdom holds a prominent place in Mormonism.  Not only does it affect every Mormon’s daily life, but keeping it is also one of the criteria for becoming worthy to enter the temple.

There are three things that I have observed about their keeping it.  One is that many struggle to keep it.  It is not uncommon to hear someone having a “Word of Wisdom problem”.  The second thing is that many ignore the rest of what is said in section 89 especially the command to eat meat sparingly.  Here are the pertinent verses from section 89.

“Yea, flesh also of beasts 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 sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or of famine.” (12,13)

The third thing is how many Mormons are now calling the Word of Wisdom good advice but something that is not binding on them.  They make that claim even though church manuals, like the one mentioned above, consistently describe it as a law and talk about how obeying it will bring not just earthly blessings but spiritual ones as well.  In spite of all this, however, the Word of Wisdom continues to be important in Mormonism.

That is in keeping with Mormonism’s emphasis.  It emphasizes commands rather than promises.  It focuses people on what they are to do, rather than on what God has done for them.  In the Old Testament, God did give the Israelites many dietary laws.  But, as Paul makes clear in Galatians, that was because God was treating them as small children.  Since Christ’s coming, God now treats us as mature children.  One thing that means is that all those dietary laws are no longer in effect.  Paul made that clear in Colossians 2:16-17.  “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”

The true word of wisdom is the stupendous news of what God has done for us.  It focuses on Christ’s perfect obedience – obedience that he offered God in our behalf – obedience that is credited to our account through faith.  It focuses on Christ’s sacrifice for us – the sacrifice that made us worthy to enter his presence.  Being worthy has nothing to do with what we take into our mouths.  Being worthy has everything to do with what is in our hearts.  Being worthy is all about despairing of our own works and trusting completely in Jesus’ works for us.  That, my friends, is the true word of wisdom.


5 Responses to “Word of Wisdom”

  1. 1 Martha Golden
    October 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Well said, Mark.

  2. 2 Echo
    October 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Mathew 15:11 “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’

  3. 3 Shirley Upright
    October 25, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Love your blogs. Keep up the good work.

  4. 4 Kent
    October 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    It is absurd that if someone drinks a cup of coffee a day, has one beer or a glass of wine with his or her dinner that this person would never get to be in the presence of Heavenly Father because the Mormon bishops would deem this person as not being temple worthy and unable to participate in the Mormon temple.

    May I remind you that by today’s standards Joseph Smith wasn’t temple worthy and although Mormons cut him some slack because the Word of Wisdom really wasn’t stressed during his lifetime, if it wasn’t stressed, then why not because if it is part of God’s law shouldn’t everyone be held to the same standard?

    Again, this isn’t from some so called anti Mormon source as it is directly from the Mormon Church’s own History of the Church. that shows that not only did Smith drink wine the night before he died, he very likely smoked tobacco and he also had a license to sell alchohol from his house.

    “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 also Brother Taylor and the doctor, and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out. When at the top of the stairs some one below called him two or three times, and he went down.” (History of the Church, Volume 6, Chapter 34, Page 616]


    Also, Joseph Smith had a license to sell alchohol from his house

    “Ordinance on the Personal Sale of Liquors.
    Section 1. Be it ordained by the City Council of Nauvoo, that the Mayor of the city be and is hereby authorized to sell or give spirits of any quantity as he in his wisdom shall judge to be for the health and comfort, or convenience of such travelers or other persons as shall visit his house from time to time.
    Passed December 12, 1843.

    Joseph Smith, Mayor.

    Willard Richards, Recorder.” (History of the Church Volume 6, Chapter 5, Page 111)


    Real eternal life complete faith in who Jesus Christ is and what He alone did to save us, sinners who can never ever save ourselves, by His dying on the cross and rising again on the third day and it is not about what we do such as keeping the Word of Wisdom.

    In closing again:



  5. November 2, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Excellent, Mark. Keep ’em coming.

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October 2012

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