The Word of Wisdom has to be one of the most poorly understood, misapplied parts of LDS scripture. Realizing this was actually one of the first things I began to question as a devout member of the church, as I saw how totally off-course most Mormons were when it came to living it, and how little the brethren did to correct the problem.
The first problem with the Word of Wisdom and LDS application of it stems from verse 2, which states that the Word of Wisdom should “…be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom”.
Not by way of commandment, eh? That’s interesting, because I seem to remember “Do you follow the Word of Wisdom?” being a temple recommend question. I also remember the Word of Wisdom constantly being referred to as a commandment in every church setting I can think of.
I perused LDS.org to see how the correlated church navigates the whole “not by commandment or constraint” thing. I found that they leave out that part in most resources. For example, in the manual, the Word of Wisdom is quoted almost in its entirety, minus the part where God specifically said it shouldn’t be a commandment. Though space is not an issue in this web-based manual, the first two verses of the Word of Wisdom are conveniently omitted in favor of ellipses. Fascinating. Where’s the new revelation, guys?
The next issue with the Word of Wisdom comes in verse 5, which says 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.”
Well, this is awkward, because Joseph Smith himself drank wine up until his death, and we certainly don’t use wine for the sacrament anymore. Wine, according to multiple sources, was the reason things were a bit cray cray at the Kirtland Temple dedication. People had been fasting for a decent amount of time, and an empty stomach + wine = an interesting cocktail.
“It was reported…that they consumed a barrel of wine and other liquors at the dedication of the Temple, enabling some of them to see angels, have visions, prophesy and dream dreams.” (Pioneer and Personal Reminisces, pg 26)
“On the 6th of April, 1836, the ministerial authorities, about five hundred in number, entered that house at sunrise, and remained fasting until next morning, sun-rise, in order to receive an endowment, but utterly failed in their endeavor! It was more an endowment with wine than power from God.” (McLellin to Dear Mary, 3- August 1872; cited in Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey (editors), The William E. McLellin Papers 1854-1880 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2007), p. 512.)
Church members today might be getting it right by avoiding wine, but earlier church leaders and members apparently didn’t!
Verse 9 says, “hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” A face-value interpretation of this would have Mormons avoiding hot chocolate and Pero, but thankfully, those revelation-rich modern day prophets have clarified that God only meant tea and coffee. Well, maybe. We haven’t seen any revelations, but that’s kind of the general word on the street. Never mind that coffee, tea, and green tea are all known to have positive health benefits ranging from weight management to reduced risk of cancer—no, if you’re a faithful Latter-day Saint, you’ll opt for a calorie- and sugar-laden hot chocolate instead, to please God. Yummy! Oh, and don’t drink iced tea. It’s not like, IN the Word of Wisdom, but we’re PRETTY sure that when God says “hot drinks” he expects us to realize that he also means “iced tea”.
Verses 12 and 13 bring me to the clickbait title of this post.
“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 famine.”
The Word of Wisdom kicked off in 1833, when GMO crops weren’t a thing and people didn’t know a whole lot about nutrition. God tells the saints that it pleases him when meat is used only in winter, cold, or times of famine—aka, when it is necessary for them to eat meat because there aren’t a lot of other options. From this, we can reasonably deduce that God prefers it when his people don’t eat meat unless they need to because it’s 1833 and every freaking crop field is frozen over.
In 2015, we are never in times of winter, famine, or cold, food-wise. We have globalized food production, and humans can live comfortably on a vegetarian, even vegan diet. But even casting this logic aside, almost every Mormon in existence enjoys bbq ribs and hamburgers countless times every summer. I wonder what God makes of that.
In case you need FURTHER proof that Mormons, if they’re genuinely concerned with “what God wants”, should be vegetarian almost always, here’s the rest of what the big man has to say about it:
“All grain 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;
And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.”
Seems pretty clear. Have fun getting slain by the destroying angel at your next potluck, Mormons.
Shouldn’t Mormons be Vegetarians? by Jana Reiss (I love her. This is a fantastic article that does a better job than I did at discussing Mormonism and vegetarianism.)