What To Make of the Word of Wisdom

I usually go to Gospel Essentials rather than Gospel Doctrine just because the way reading through the scriptures is typically done in most wards doesn’t excite me much. (There’s the usual assumption that no one read the reading assignment. Ever in their life. Then there’s the idea that everyone needs help figuring out what you should have figured out by doing the reading assignment.) Gospel Essentials is just more interesting to me.

Today we covered the Word of Wisdom though. I have some questions and I thought I’d throw them out to everyone.

Why?

So far as I can tell there is absolutely no justification given for why we abstain from coffee, tea or alcohol. The closest we get is verse 4 where we are told that it us “in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” While it’s hard not to look at big tobacco when reading that it’s also hard to apply that to the modern use of coffee, tea or alcohol in moderation.

My sense is that verse 3 gives us a clue when it talks about “the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.” That is I think a lot of what is said is due to the recognition that a minority of people have trouble with the “moderation” bit. Science says that low doses of alcohol are actually beneficial. But how many drinkers drink in such moderation? The specter of college binge drinking and drunk drivers immediately raises itself.

Pure Wine

I’m not sure what to make of this. Without going and looking up what it meant in contemporary sources (yeah, I’m lazy today) my guess is that at one time wine was doctored. I know that was often true in England in the 19th century. Yet I also know that the brethren in their private sacrament service used wine into the beginning of the 20th century. Further, while wine is lower in alcohol than many spirits it’s hardly without. (Typically it is 12% alcohol) Also people tend to take hard alcohol in shots while drink wine in larger glasses. Which tends to balance the actual alcohol consumption out somewhat.

I do know it wasn’t grape juice either in early LDS sacrament and probably not the scriptures.

Caffeine

I kept my mouth shut during most of this. But a few people did raise the caffeine issue. I’ll just say that I see no evidence that the reason we are told to avoid coffee or tea is caffeine. Yes people who drink a ton can get a very mild addiction. No it’s not much of an addiction. (Sorry, even if you get a headache a few tylenol will solve it – appealing to how bad the addiction is just seems unbelievable to me) I do think the carbonation and sugar in pop is far more harmful than the caffeine. But of course judging by everyone’s waist lines in Utah the “don’t eat so many carbohydrate” suggestion isn’t taking. And I think there’s far more justification to ban fast food from your life than diet Coke. But that’s me.

The recent Ensign article on sports drinks came up. I agree with a lot of it. (Including the weight gain – I have a suspicion that my weight gain after having kids came in part from lots of diet Coke to try and have some energy and alertness after chronic sleep deprivation) And if you’re trying to be fit simple carbohydrates and the carbonation of pop is bad. I’m less inclined to attack caffeine simply because I think a solid weight loss regiment ought to involve a combination of aspirin, caffeine and so forth. But that’s assuming you are eating carefully and exercising regularly and heavily. If not then it’s almost certainly hurting.

A few brought up the “is there caffeine in chocolate” issue. Lots of chocolate makers, including Amano chocolate, discuss that. Basically you need 1 pound of milk chocolate (and perhaps 1/4 pound of dark) to equal one cup of coffee.

Herbs

Utah has a lot of “health food advocates.” There are a ton of those sorts of companies around and at least several are less than honest. In Canada they finally got so frustrated with supposed natural supplements and herbs that they have started regulating them like drugs. Why? Well they just aren’t all safe. They have different interactions with drugs and with each others yet the people who sell them aren’t willing to do studies to find out what those consequences are. Further quality control is rather lax at some places. The doses listed on the label aren’t always what you get. (Sometimes you get more, usually less)

What gets my gripe are people based upon anecdotal evidence who push herbs or the like as cure alls. What it reminds me of are the snake oil salesmen of the 19th century who seem like a perfect example of the conspiring men of verse 4.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not attacking herbs. I just think that there is at least as much danger there as there is help. Further far too many people treat it as almost a pseudo-religion – especially in Utah. It becomes a false priesthood to many people. To almost scary levels.

Needless to say that my comments there didn’t go over that well. But it truly strikes me as odd to get a little fixated on caffeine while swallowing the camel of the health food industry and its claims. Remember that verse 12 says that they are to be used “with prudence.”

Meat

This wasn’t that controversial in our class. It has been in past wards. I think there are two things to keep in mind. First in the 19th century food preservation was pretty iffy at best. There was nothing like a refrigerator. That said I think it undeniable that Americans (including me) eat way, way too much fatty red meat. I actually went vegetarian for about six months just out of curiosity. I quit because it’s just too hard to do as a practical matter and plus I really like hamburgers. But I did feel much better. I’m thinking of trying something like that again. Seriously, cutting out pop and seriously reducing my meat consumption is something I can really acknowledge does improve your health. It’s just really hard to do when you’re always on the run and fast food for all its health issues is often your only chance to eat.

Likewise fresh vegetables really, really are under consumed and significantly increasing the percentage in your diet is a good thing.

The Destroying Angel

I really don’t know what to make of verse 4 combined with the destroy angel in verse 21. The allusion isn’t to some dietary law that would be justified by science. (And as I mentioned science seems to suggest that alcohol, coffee, and tea in moderation are actually good for you) Rather the allusion appears to me to be to the children of Israel being asked to do the silly illogical act of putting blood on the upper door post of your house so the destroying angel would pass by your house. (See Exodus 12 especially verse 13)

If I’m reading the allusion right (and clearly most don’t agree with me here) then we shouldn’t assume there is some 1-1 corollary between our health and what we are asked to do. Further the chapter lays a lot of emphasis on conspiracy theories as much as it does general health. I tend to find the all too common tendency of Mormons to assume it’s all justified by health to be unfortunate. It makes it easy for some to excuse themselves from the commandments or even leave the faith over it. Rather it is a trial of faith. Don’t look for scientific justification for D&C 89, even though some aspects certainly have some. Rather consider it as something you were asked to do. (And let’s be honest, asked seriously only around the 1930′s)

37 thoughts on “What To Make of the Word of Wisdom

  1. I think it’s great that your class is thinking hard about the actual reasons behind the Word of Wisdom. I’ve written some thoughts at BCC on this as well.

    One main effect of the Word of Wisdom (aside from purpose/reason, which might well coincide with the effect but not necessarily so) is the de facto forced social exclusion/separation that the Word of Wisdom causes us to experience in most cultures from the commonly accepted means and modes of social interaction and acceptance.

    As to purpose, my thoughts paralleled yours in your “Why?” section:

    I have also come to believe that the modern interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, which has transformed it from advice given “not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom” to an absolute commandment for practicing Latter-day Saints, must locate the actual reason for it in D&C 89:4 after all (by virtue of this shift in interpretation/implementation) and, since the “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” are not described in more detail so as to identify what they actually are, the actual reason must necessarily remain a mystery.

    Another question is whether WoW violations are to be considered malum in se or malum prohibitum. Obviously, the modern Church treats them as if they were malum in se considering their elevation to a temple recommend litmus test. But we never fail to get the odd Sunday School lesson in which people suggest that the wine spoken of in the Bible was really unfermented grape juice etc. I think it’s pretty clear that before the introduction of the Word of Wisdom, drinking alchohol responsibly and using other stimulants was not considered actual sin.

  2. Clark, I’ve done a lot of pondering on this issue, spent a lot of time discussing with converts, etc. At the end of the day, I came to the same conclusion you did, which is that it is simply a trial of faith. The Lord wants to know whether or not you can keep your word once you promise to do something, and you need to have this trial of faith for your own development. Yes, I think there is something good about us being peculiar people, and I think this is something good in general about not drinking and not smoking, but how do you explain not having one coffee in the morning but being able to drink Diet Coke (probably a lot LESS healthy than coffee)? The only rational explanation for the entire package is that it is a trial of faith.

  3. I agree that the WofW is but a test of faith, and yet another tool we may use to conquer the appetites of the flesh. When we boil most of life’s challenges down to bare-bones, they seem to be a struggle between what our spirit wants as opposed to what our body wants; the classic the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

    I think that we may extend the principles taught in the WofW to other aspects of our life. Our outside influences, whether they be dietary or not, should always be used in moderation. I believe that this principle extends to such things as being addicted to television, or even things not listed in the WofW, like ice cream. In my opinion, this principle extends to anything that has the effect of controlling your life over the desires of the spirit.

    By the way, I totally understand how you feel about the typical Gospel Doctrine class. How come is it that the Bishop in all of my Wards seems to choose the most inept teachers (who don’t want to be there in the first place) to struggle through a lesson they admittedly are severely underqualified to teach?

  4. Jeremy, good comment. In my current ward I’ve lucked out and our gospel doctrine teacher is excellent, but that very often is not the case. I have concluded that sometimes it is more important for the teacher than those who are taught.

  5. There are millions of saints who would otherwise be alcoholics of not for the proscription against alcohol. Something like 10% of the population is pre-disposed for alcoholism. WoW has “saved” 10% of the WoW-obeying Mormons from being alcoholics.

  6. Also, the Ensign article about sports drinks points to some severe side-effects that come from all sources of caffeine. The effects are long-term, especially the osteoporosis, heart damage, and brain alterations in terms of ADHD. After long term caffeine consumption, neither of those is cured by cessation of caffeien consumption.

  7. Another question is whether WoW violations are to be considered malum in se or malum prohibitum.

    For us non-lawyers what does that mean?

    Also, the Ensign article about sports drinks points to some severe side-effects that come from all sources of caffeine.

    Yeah, but I thought they kind of exaggerated those risks. At least from my reading. At a minimum they didn’t contextualize them well.

    You’re point about alcoholism is good and was partially what I was getting at with my appeal to verse 3. I think a lot of things we do are to make life easier for the weak. I know some get upset at this – especially “appearances” issues. But I actually think this is very defensible if we are to live in an equitable society. It’s hard to justify this in our nation but in a freely chosen community like Zion I think it’s quite defensible. I think one could make the same claim about violent video games, shows etc.

    Jeremy, I think it’s much harder to teach when you’re reading scriptures. I think topic based lessons are simply much easier to teach. I kind of wish we’d move from general scripture reading lessons in Sunday School to a topical based approach. I recognize the problems of that (most people don’t read their scriptures). But frankly most people don’t do the reading for Sunday School as is. And treating Sunday School as just a way to get a superficial idea of what’s in the scriptures is problematic. I’d like something like Gospel Essentials only done at a more advanced level. I think that would be helpful for both teachers and students.

  8. @Clark Goble

    Malum in se–bad simply because it is bad.

    Malum prohibitum–bad because it it prohibited.

    I suppose the easiest distinction is in criminal law. Murder is bad simply because of the nature of the act. Speeding is wrong not because of the nature of the act (thank heavens!) but because of a line that the legislature has chosen to draw (and can change).

  9. Clark, I will make one of the most controversial statements on this thread: I think red meat is good for me and for many other people (many of whom are not getting enough protein).

    I run 25-30 miles a week and go to the gym regularly. Yet I was always sick. I would get colds, alergies, flus all the time. About a year and a half ago I decided to look at my diet and track what I was eating. The big thing missing in my diet: protein. Since then, I have concentrated on eating at least 100 grams of protein a day and keeping my fat under 60 grams a day. This means writing everything down and analyzing what I eat.

    The results? I’ve lost 15 pounds and haven’t gotten sick since I started the diet. My body fat is WAY down, from about 28 percent to about 18 percent. The biggest change was eating more red meat (and fish and chicken and protein bars).

    I do believe in moderation — I still probably eat a steak maybe once every two weeks. I’ll have a hamburger about once every two weeks. Most of my protein is from lean chicken and fish and protein bars. I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat steak every day (the fat alone is not a good thing).

    But I simply don’t buy the argument that says red meat is always bad. My experience has been just the opposite.

  10. I’ll bet that it is a bone of contention between the natural law theorists and everyone else over which is which.

    My view of the WoW is that the general principle which we ought be following is to live healthily. Which entails maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep (but not more), being industrious, eating healthily and so forth. Unfortunately what tends to happen is that people fixate on a few aspects and ignore the principle. i.e. grossly overweight people with candy addictions who are judgmental towards the diet coke drinker.

    While I like how the WoW does distinguish us culturally (and I think is part of the wisdom by the Lord inspiring it to be treated as a recommend question) I also don’t like how it leads many Mormons to be far too judgmental of others who don’t follow the WoW. So you end up with the surreal Pharisaical tendency of people who don’t exactly live the gospel being judgmental over something like the WoW. The WoW is important but no where near as important as teaching your children well, loving your spouse properly, being charitable, etc.

  11. To make this thread even more controversial, I would like to stir things up by saying that I do not believe caffeine to be as dangerous and “bad for you” as many people believe. Please see this article:

    http://www.afic.org/MYTHS%20and%20FACTS%20about%20Caffeine.htm

    Personally, I use caffeine for specific needs — to stay awake in the afternoon when I have a boring meeting or to stay awake on a long drive so I don’t crash and kill my family. I find the diuretic effects of caffeine extremely annoying, especially because I spend a lot of time on airplanes and it is a pain to have to get up and go to the bathroom all the time. In addition, most pop is really bad for you (although I love the taste of Coke, I have had to cut back severely). My suggestion to people who need caffeine for a specific need: take an Excedrin, which has 65 mg of caffeine, which is more than enough to help you make it through that boring meeting and does not break the Word of Wisdom.

  12. Geoff, did you try protein mixes? I find that’s a better source of protein myself. I’m anything but athletic at the moment. But I used to be very athletic before having kids. And I found meat just wasn’t sufficient to get my protein needs. A protein shake first thing in the morning will really help you lose weight, curb your appetite, and make you healthy.

    I do think folks fixate on meat too much. While I’m thinking of going partially vegetarian please note that I’d not advocate going without protein in the least. While I think the high protein diets may turn out to have negative side effects, raising protein levels in moderation is wise. One problem is that not everyone who raises protein levels does it in a wise manner. Eating lots of greasy hamburgers or burritos, for example, is going to have negative effects on your arteries.

    That said I’m being a bit of a hypocrite since I do eat way too much meat and fast food at the moment and have the body to show for it. My larger point is just that health wise those things vastly swamp the health effects of the parts of the WoW people focus in on.

  13. Yeah, I had a few mixes, and they are even better in that you can put bananas and blueberries in there and make something extremely healthy. My problem is that I am always on the go (I’m writing this from a hotel in New Jersey), so I find myself packing protein bars with me for snacks (so I don’t eat a high-fat Snickers bar, for example).

    People need to watch their saturated fats — I try to keep mine below about 15-20 grams a day.

  14. Clark, I think most intelligent people can agree that the 350-pound Mormon guy eating hamburgers every day, addicted to sugar and cinnamon buns, doesn’t have much reason to be judgmental of the 100-pound Mormon woman who drinks two Diet Cokes a day and is otherwise healthy. But I’m sure a lot of that goes on. People sometimes don’t have basic common sense.

  15. Hey!

    I weigh over 200 lbs, and I don’t have that much fat. Of course, I lift weights (and I use protein powders and follow the Zone diet, which is high[er] protein diet [NOT low carb like some say - it's more like moderate carb] and do CrossFit 5 – 6 days a week, so -)

    Well, I find the focus on weight rather silly (as I always do). According to BMI charts, I’m morbidly obese (my ideal weight is what I weighed in 7th grade, apparently). But, according to body fat charts, I’m “athletic.”

    And frankly, I see fat people, but I don’t see them everywhere and all the time. I also see plenty of fit people as well. But I’m not in Utah, so I don’t know how it is there.

    Actually, I’m more offended by the idea skinny=healthy. There are plenty of “skinny fat” people out there – the BMI says they’re at the ideal weight, yet they have no muscle mass to speak of and if their body fat was taken, they’d be considered obese.

    Some studies have shown that people in the “overweight” category are actually healthier than those in the ideal weight category.

    The emphasis should be on living a healthy lifestyle, not on how much you weigh. Too many people loose muscle during diets and then think they are somehow healthy because they’ve “lost weight.”

    rant over.

  16. Hey Ivan, I think most people have come around to the idea that the BMI charts are silly. I mean, by that standard Arnold Swartzenegger during his bodybuilding days was morbidly obese. (He’s a fat head now, but that’s another story).

    Anyway, I don’t get into arguments with anybody who is more than 200 pounds of mostly muscle, and I don’t think Clark does either.

  17. Something that has helped answer alot of questions I had about the Word of Wisdom is an article by Clyde Ford in the Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 24, issue 2, Fall 1998

    http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/jmh&CISOPTR=13251&CISOSHOW=13129

    In it Ford argues that the WoW was initially 3 separate revelations addressed to 3 different audiences, and have been confusingly lumped together into one section of D&C. This explanation accounts for much of the ambiguity in the section. I highly recommend it.

    James

  18. Ivan, that 210 bit was more a slam on me by me. I was a very lean and muscular 170 until I got married a few years ago. I’ve set a commitment to fix that this month. (Getting my New Year’s Resolution started early) I agree that skinny = healthy is pretty pernicious as well. However let’s be honest. Look at your typical ward. How many skinny people are there over 25?

    Thanks for that reference James! I tried to find it but couldn’t. It’s a great article. It’s been way too long since I read it last. (I’d forgotten about the different revelation theory, for instance) Too bad the scan is so bad. (Part of the right of each page is cut off)

  19. Clark, I had never noticed the “pure” in the phrase “pure wine.” Maybe it has something to do with watering it down, or mixing grapes with other fruits? It’s hard to see how that pertains to the rest of the section though….

    I posted my notes on this Gospel Essentials lesson last year. In the thread, Joe argues that we should consider the revelation in the context of the building of the temple—which, in our day, extends to entrance into the temple. The revelation may really be pointless if not in a temple context.

    I also ponder in my notes what “capacity of the weak” means. To quote: “It is possible that God wanted to reveal something less specific, but knew that the weak members would miss the point, so he included more detail and restriction for their benefit (i.e. a well-behaved dog is allowed to run in the yard, but an untrained animal is always kept on a leash).” On the other hand, God may have had something far more restrictive in mind (e.g., kosher laws—yikes!!) but backed off for sake of “the weak.”

  20. Clark -
    “Look at your typical ward. How many skinny people are there over 25?”

    The wards I’ve been in must not be very typical. In my current ward, we’re either all grad students (and that puts nearly us all of us in the 25 – 35 range) and mostly skinny, or nearly dead retirees, most of whom are rather skinny. There aren’t many obese people in my childhood ward in Alaska either (and of course, there was my BYU ward, but we were all under 25).

    Like I said, I’m not in Utah, so I have no idea what it’s like there, but in Texas and Alaska, I’m just not seeing the loads of fat people.

  21. On another note, I recall a health and wellness class I took at Ricks, where the professor started discussing the evils of alcohol, and I brought up the studies that showed moderate wine consumption was actually healthy. My point was going to be similar to some of the points Clark made above, but the teacher instead yelled at me and held me up as an example of someone who has been deceived by Satan, and he declared that God would be vindicated and wine would be shown to be evil for you. He then told me (in front of the class) I needed to get right with the gospel or I would be in danger of God’s wrath for ignoring the prophet. Or something like that.

    I decided to just sit in the back and not make any comments in class the rest of the semester. Actually got a A, but that’s because the grade was based on multiple choice tests and a mile run, not class discussion.

  22. I think it will depend upon the demographics of the wards you’re in. Interestingly despite my comments Utah – especially Utah county – is typically rated rather highly for health. And not just due to the abstinence from typical WoW “don’ts.” For instance I remember reading that there are more gyms per capita here than anywhere else in the country. And they typically are all pretty crowded!

    That said I think a lot of us find ourselves a tad overwhelmed when kids hit… I used to work out two hours a day and then do a couple of laps of the Y trail every day. Not any more…

  23. Obedience brings blessings. That is all there is to it.

    I have an inner awareness that although I have never consumed alcohol that I could not endure the consumption of alcohol in moderation. I am very grateful for the Word of Wisdom.

  24. Geoff B.–For many years I believed that everyone would do best on the Garden of Eden diet–eating only fruits, nuts and vegetables. In March of 2005 I became a Vegan, because I’d been told it would cure my diabetes in 2 weeks; six months later nothing had changed, except that I’d lost 25-30 pounds. So I pulled back to vegetarian, with mozzarella cheese (that was all I’d really missed) and occasionally salmon. I had done well on both types of eating, felt well, had lots of energy, didn’t get sick, etc. I had also been jogging on a mini-tramp in my house, since the mid-eighties. I’d begun at 23 minutes 5 days a week and increased that to 35 minutes after my heart attack in 1997; then when I went Vegan, I increased it to one hour per day every day, with very few exceptions.

    In July of 2007, I had triple bypass surgery (my arteries were 98%, 95% and 80% blocked). I’d eaten no red meat, or animal fats, or the rest of what is said to clog the arteries, for more than 28 months. When I’d had my heart attack in July of 1997, my arteries were all clear, so eating meat the first 54 years of my life hadn’t clogged them. That really puzzled me and after wondering about it for several months, in March of 2008, I began eating meat again.

    I now believe that people are of at least three different basic food types when it comes to dietary needs: Those who are protein-based (animal and other sources), those who are carbohydrate-based (fruits and vegetables), and those who are a combination of both. There are probably variations within each type, kind of like the three degrees of glory–except that one group is not necessarily better than another.

    How could this be? Adam and Eve started out as vegetarians in the Garden of Eden–maybe even Vegans. Mankind changed (evolved?) over the centuries, and has become accustomed to various diets because of where, and how, they lived, along with many other factors, so that now one size doesn’t fit everyone. We all have different needs to be fulfilled in order to be healthy. This explains why certain foods or diets make some people healthy, while others get sick, and still others don’t seem to be affected much either way.

  25. Dan, interesting story. I guess I would have to agree with you, based on my own experience. Personally, I think people on a vegan diet (and I have tried it for short period of time myself) are not getting enough protein, unless they are eating protein shakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which I doubt anybody does.

  26. Dan, I don’t think it’s fair to compare Adam and Eve to us today. Adam and Eve were DIRECT offspring of our heavenly parents. Many believe that the reason they lived so long (and those of several generations later) was because they retained a “celestial metabolism.”

    On a related note, while in the Garden, did they have a physical need to eat at all? According to Brigham Yound and Joseph Fielding Smith, they had Spirit coursing through their veins until the Fall, when blood was finally introduced into their system.

    On yet another related note, JST Gen tells us that no meat was eaten until after the Flood. People before that time lived several centuries. Was it because they didn’t eat meat? Although I have my theories, I don’t claim to have this answer.

    I do, however, agree with you that different body types digest and absorb the same foods differently. Vegetarianism may be right for some, but not for others. Thank goodness it’s not right for me, ’cause I sure do love a good prime rib every once in a while.

  27. Sorry to digress from the conversation about vegans and vegetarians, but when it comes to the Word of Wisdom, I can only think of one profound experience that changed forever the way I look at the Word of Wisdom.

    During my mission, I was assigned to train a new missionary, a greenie as they called it, a nice guy from Idaho. One starry night, we were walking home after finishing a discussion about the Word of Wisdom to a family.
    Elder Nice Guy started to talk: “you know Elder, we were taught at the MTC that whenever we talk about the Word of Wisdom, we shouldn’t be putting on a doctor’s coat.” He added: “First of all, it’s a commandment, not a doctor’s advice.”

    I was stunned by what he said. Whenever I had taught the Word of Wisdom, it was always with grim references about caffeine, nicotine, stimulants and all that medical drivel. His remarks made me think about the Word of Wisdom in a really different light. And it changed the way I looked at the Word of Wisdom.

    The Word of Wisdom, first and foremost, is a spiritual thing. We observe it not necessarily because of what we feel or think is wrong about the substances found in coffee or cigarettes, but because it is a commandment.

  28. Handel, I think that’s the most important thing to keep in mind when looking at the Word of Wisdom. Unfortunately there are far too few who do. Although to be fair there are reasons in the text for why people expect it to all be about predicting health. And I do think it’s a commandment to be healthful which is something I think most Mormons could do better on. (Myself included)

    Jeremy, the vegetarianism of pre-Noahites is pretty interesting to me as well. I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

    Dan, great comments. One thing I’ve noticed is that many vegetarians and vegans tend to eat pretty fatty food as well. (At least in my experience) Also Vegans who avoid butter often end up using lots of margarine which is filled with trans fats. While butter’s not exactly healthy it is much healthier than many alternatives.

  29. The WofW as a requirement is apostasy. It’s our circumcision 2000 years after such bogus barriers to Christ were dropped. Then there’s the issue of which WofW? Section 89 has fallen into obscurity, likely because it allows beer. The WofW we’re asked about in interviews is HJG’s four don’ts, not section 89. I’ll add that Atkins gave me a twenty something body again (I’m 50). My blood pressure is low, etc. IMHO, Atkins should have received a Nobel Prize in medicine. So obviously, I think the eat meat sparingly thing is unhealthy hooey for people in modern sedentary jobs.

    I say return to the original intent of the WofW, something to be preached as a good practice, not a requirement.

  30. Sorry, I have to digress to caffeine again. I heard a recent study that showed about 50% of the population does not have the correct enzyme to properly metabolize caffeine. Apparently this has some detrimental effect on the body. Has anyone else heard about this, and can anyone confirm the veracity of the study? Thanks.

  31. Steve, I’d read the linked to article on the history of the Word of Wisdom before saying too much. In any case I think most assume that HJG’s actions were inspired, whether you do or don’t.

    With regards to Atkins, I think most agree a higher protein diet is good. The question is more about what kind of protein and how much.

    “Skaught” I think you are referring to the study relating heart attacks to caffeine. I’ll quote from the New Scientist article I linked to:

    People with a genetic makeup that causes them to metabolise caffeine more slowly have a 36% greater risk of heart attack if they drink two to three cups of coffee a day than people with the same gene who drink one cup or less a day, according to a new study. And if they drink more than four cups, this risk rises to 64%.

    [...]

    On the other hand, individuals who metabolised caffeine quickly and consumed two to three cups of coffee a day had a 22% reduction in the risk of heart attack compared with those with the same genetic makeup who consumed just one cup or less each day.

    [...]

    In the late 1990s researchers discovered that humans carry variants of the gene for an enzyme that breaks down caffeine in the body. People who carry two copies of the CYP1A2*1A gene may break down caffeine up to four times faster than those carrying the CYP1A2*1F gene, according to El-Sohemy.

    He and his colleagues analysed the DNA of more than 2000 patients along with an equal number of healthy people matched for age, sex and area of residence.

    Their retrospective study showed that two to three cups of coffee per day caused a 36% rise in risk of heart attack among people who carried the CYP1A2*1F gene – and drinking four or more cups a day caused a 64% increase in the same group. Increased levels of circulating caffeine may block adenosine’s action, causing blood vessels to constrict, subsequently triggering a heart attack, says El-Sohemy.

    About 55% of those involved in the study carried the gene for slow caffeine metabolism.

    People who were homozygous for CYP1A2*1A – meaning they carried two copies of gene for fast caffeine-metabolism – actually reduced their risk of heart attack by drinking coffee. Among these volunteers, two to three cups of coffee caused a 22% decrease in heart attack risk. Drinking more than four cups of coffee only nominally reduced their chances of a heart attack.

    This is the first time that scientists have done a systematic analysis of how genes can influence the effect of coffee on heart attack risk. The study is part of a larger trend in which scientists have untangled how genes make some diets and habits more beneficial or addictive for some people than for others.

    Few people know whether they carry the CYP1A2*1F gene or not. But El-Sohemy stresses that having just one cup a day does not appear to have any adverse health effects. “It’s too premature to change dietary requirements,” he says, adding that follow-up studies are necessary.

  32. Note that percentage of 55% was of the population of the study. But the study was not representative of the larger population. So be careful about saying 55% of the population.

  33. Clark,

    I’m well versed in the history of the WofW but will certainly review the article. And I fully acknowledge my view is held by few LDS but here’s where I’m coming from:

    Beyond just the common sense of WofW enforcement being a bogus barrier to Christ and way outside the scope of the mission of the church or the intent of Sect. 89, my high skepticism regarding the WofW as a requirement is largely a result of GAs and local leaders in my youth repeated telling or ignorantly repeating the bold faced lie that the 4 don’ts as a requirement started w/ BY when the perpetrators of that lie knew damn well it was HJG who made the four don’ts change, which had little to do with section 89 and should have been another D&C section or otherwise canonized as a separate “revelation”. For the record, it was before my post mission fall from grace at BYU that I learned the real history; so after that it’s like the old saying, fool me once…………. Fortunately that BY as enforcer of 4 don’ts nonsense isn’t repeated by GAs today (although still sometimes repeated by ignorant local yokels). But today we’re stuck with enforcement of a “revelation” that no one even bothered to canonize. I can only assume it’s because today’s leaders are smart enough not to restrict the path of a future church Pres who may wish to return to the original intent of section 89. Apostle SLR rejected HJG’s change at the time, so I stand in good company. Given the celestial kingdom is going to have far more former smokers and drinkers than observant LDS, I find the emphasis we put on this nonsense is beyond belief. Fortunately for me, I don’t carry the burden of GAs who have to face Jesus and explain why they kept someone from His church in this life for something so silly.

    Oh, be careful about protein sources. Too much soy can handicap a boy where it counts.

  34. Thank you for all your ideas and comments regarding the Word of Wisdom. I am a recent convert. I found myself concurring with a lot of the comments regarding the overall health benefits of the restrictions. I also understand some people can’t do anything in moderation and they need total restrictions. More importantly, I found myself agreeing with the comment about the spiritual reasons for the Word of Wisdom. Finally, I don’t think it should be a restriction in the total sense. Those who don’t want to follow it will not do so anyway. There may also be medical reasons why one cannot follow the Word of Wisdom. For example, Coffee is actually good for Asthma. Additionally, in my heart I don’t think that will prevent one from entering the pearly gates.

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