Missing the point


"I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down."
-Joseph Smith

Today, while sitting at the FLIF table, I had opportunity, twice, to bear witness of the Word of Wisdom. At least, that's how the more religious would see it. I felt myself just explaining it. Both times involved library school colleagues. One asking if I ate chocolate, what with the caffeine, and the other one was just getting to know me, asked if I was Mormon, then said "I don't really know much about Mormonism. Is that word? Well, no coffee, right?"

So, I got to explain my intepretation of the Word of Wisdom, or at least, the part that doesn't require me to go off about the early Utah economy or the use of wine in the Q12 sacrament meeting until the 1900s, my frustration that the about half of the revelation (mostly about grains and not eating meat) is simply ignored, und so weiter. The crux, though, was that the Word of Wisdom has nothing, not even the slightest, to do with caffeine. The reason we don't drink coffee and tea is because that's the way Heavenly Father likes it, as it were.

I get frustrated when I hear the WoW defended or rationalized with the caffeine argument, or the damage caused by alcohol, etc. In fact, I don't really see the WoW as a health code, actually. I mean, sure, the ideas do relate to bodily health and part of the promise is that very health, but it's really more about obeidience than anything. If you rely on it being strictly for health reasons, you get into trouble. Most pressingly, different scientific discoveries can wreck havoc. Such as finding that a single glass of wine may be beneficial to health. Science is helpful and necessary for some people in understanding parts of the commandment, but not for me.

I think it belittles God and the nature of section 89 to ground it in such naturalistic elements. It suggest that, as mortals, are at the point to understand God. I take great comfort, paradoxically, in not understanding. I like the notion that God is our Father and, like earthly fathers, He tells us what to do and we should obey, not because we understand everything but because we think he's got our best interests in mind. He's not always rational, according to our standards, but he's consistent in His sphere. I find it perfectly acceptable to say, "the Word of Wisdom helps us avoid the problems of addiction", because that's true. But it may or may not be the underlying message. Personally, the message I see has more to do with briddling passions and making the body compliant with the spirit.

Also, focusing on the health aspect really misses the greater blessing and the reason for the name of the revelation. Not only will it bring health to our navels, but we will find "wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" if we live it. I think this means God wants us to look at this law as moving beyond the temporal.

I like basic Mormon conversations that stay at this level. I get to be a good representative of my people without explaining in detail how I feel about continuing revelation, divine authority, and fidelty to leaders. I guess this probably makes me one of the weakest of those who can be called saints, doesn't it?


Petra said...

Unit cohesion, baby. That's what it's all about. (That and the hokey-pokey. And, um, God and obedience and all that.)

Anonymous said...

In your darkest hours, may you take solace in the following catechism: Am I one of the weakest of those called saints? Yes. Am I stronger than Ryan? Also yes. Does this mean much of anything?

(Note: It's important that you not ask, much less answer, this last question in the catechism.)

alea said...

ryan-I just learned something very interesting about asking children questions. Apparently, if asked the same question over a number of weeks, children will simply answer it in the affirmative AND make up complex stories about it (the example was "have you ever gotten your finger caught in a mouse trap?").

So, the Catholics are on to something.

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