Come Follow Me: D&C 89-92
Most Latter-day Saints know the early history of the Word of Wisdom. Meetings in an upstairs room in the Newell K. Whitney store in Kirtland, Ohio, tended to leave the room filled with cigarette smoke in the air and tobacco chew stains on the floor. Emma Smith was disgusted with it all, and asked Joseph what he was going to do about it.
At the same time, the nation was beginning to go through a period of health cleansing: concerns over alcohol and tobacco, as well as coffee and tea, were spreading throughout many areas. Joseph prayed about it and received the Word of Wisdom.
Originally, it was not a commandment. Brigham Young would present it to the members to become a commandment about 20 years after the revelation was first given. It would become a part of the temple recommend questions, and a measure of a person’s worthiness. Along with tithing, it represents a bare minimum of obedience
Joseph Smith clarified that “hot drinks” specifically related to coffee and black tea.
Medically, we’ve definitely found that alcohol and tobacco are bad for us. However, science takes a different view on coffee and tea. On these issues, we learn to trust the Lord to guide us.
There are many points in the Word of Wisdom that have divided members, on how to interpret different portions. Most members focus only on the above ills: alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee. But it speaks of other things, and doesn’t speak of many things we deal with today.
For years, I was taught that drinking caffeinated sodas was against the Word of Wisdom. I was counseled once by a bishop to abstain from them. Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggested that one could not drink caffeinated sodas and live the law of consecration. Others didn’t see that as the issue, as caffeine was also found in chocolate and other foods which were allowed by members to use. Finally, during the 2012 presidential campaigns and Mitt Romney drinking Diet Coke, the Church’s First Presidency came out to say that drinking caffeinated sodas did not break the Word of Wisdom.
I’m grateful for that decision, because I love Dr Pepper and Cherry Coke. Still, I drink it infrequently, because I know too much caffeine isn’t good for me.
Others focus on the issue of eating too much meat. The WoW tells us to use it only in times of winter and hunger. Yet, today, many maintain their health by eating a high protein, low carb diet. The WoW also doesn’t specifically discuss drugs, refined sugar and flour, or fast foods.
That’s the problem with making and following some commandments. The Jews continue their dietary laws written by Moses. Such helped them to stay healthy in a time of no refrigeration. Pork was risky to eat, because of trichinosis. Shell fish could easily get someone sick, as it quickly spoiled. Today’s understanding of food, sanitation, cleaning and cooking and preserving foods, makes many of these same items safe to eat today.
We may be seeing the same thing in regards to the Word of Wisdom, today. 200 years ago, it was common for people to not eat much meat, except in times of want. We don’t have the problem today in much of the world. We have refrigeration and freezing, dehydrating of meats, and many other ways to safely preserve meats for longer periods of time. Note that the WoW states that meat is okay in time of winter. Is that because there is less grain available, or because meat can be preserved better in the colder weather? This is something the individual will have to determine for him/herself.
It may be that the Lord wants each individual to establish his/her own Word of Wisdom, a personal code of health, that will allow us to find the best way to keep our personal bodies healthy. After all, some people are allergic to some foods, while those with heart issues or diabetes, etc., may have special dietary needs. Each of us must determine what will be of most worth to our personal physical health.
In doing so, we will gain the promises given in the WoW, including health in the navel, and secret treasures of wisdom. I believe those treasures include having God help us be healthier, as we prayerfully seek to develop our own personal health code.
We are first taught that Joseph was the oracle to whom we should listen. This gift of Prophet would be passed to others, who could not treat lightly the oracles/teachings/ordinances of the gospel. Later, in 1844 after Joseph’s death, many would come and claim the leadership of the Church. This would include Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, William Law, etc. However, only Brigham Young and the Twelve focused on key oracles, especially the temple endowment. Many of these treated the Nauvoo Temple lightly, and had not received the endowment. Only the Twelve were focused on finishing the temple and getting the Saints endowed. To this day, of the many Nauvoo Restoration sects of Mormonism, only the Utah Church continues the endowment and sealings of families. (If I missed a group, let me know and I’ll correct this).
“For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (vs 11)
In 1833, when this revelation was given, only a few hundred people were Latter-day Saints. A handful of men were sent out on missions, only to areas in the United States and eastern Canada. There was no railroad, telegraph, or any technology as we have today. Now, we have tens of thousands of missionaries in most of the world. For those areas where missionaries cannot go, many of those people can learn of the gospel online, as hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints share their testimonies to the world on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and a host of other social media. The Church also has a big presence online, in dozens of languages, videos of the Bible and Book of Mormon, and so much more. Then, who knows how much work the Lord is doing himself, sending angels and miracles to prepare the hearts of many people in many lands?
“And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.”And this shall be your business and mission in all your lives….” (vs 15-16)
With home centered Church, we need to set in order our homes. Part of this requirement is to “study and learn,” and be “acquainted with all good books” and languages, etc. We are to learn. We cannot be saved in ignorance. What we learn here will go with us into the next life. Besides family, it is the only thing that goes with us into the hereafter. Our mission is to bring order to the things around us, and to learn important things.
But in studying, don’t skimp. As Alexander Pope noted:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”
Ignorance makes for a dangerous world. Knowledge brings us closer to God. A little knowledge leads to superstitions and wrong beliefs/conclusions. Most people can play chopsticks, but only those who study music religiously can play Chopin. There is so much to learn, and so little time in our lives to learn it. We cannot go back in time and begin to learn, we can only start today. Whether it is music, art, history, science, math, or many other important fields, we should seek after that knowledge and drink deeply from it.
Joseph was completing the translation of the Old Testament. At this point, he wanted to know whether to translate the Apocrypha, a section of writings found in the Catholic Bible that filled the time period between Malachi and the New Testament.
Included are several stories, including the Maccabees, which discuss events during the rebellion of the Jews against the Hellenistic outsiders. King Antiochus IV, a Seleucid emperor, hated the Jewish religion. He placed a statue of Zeus within the temple and sacrificed pigs on the altar, desecrating the holy site. According to the books of Maccabees, he tortured Jews who would not eat pork nor renounce their belief in Jehovah.
Another story, that of Tobit, tells of Tobit being on an epic journey, assisted by the archangel Raphael.
When Joseph asked about these books, the Lord explained that there was much good in them, but also the interpolation of men – something he found to be true in some of the books of the Bible he corrected. However, in this instance, the Lord told him not to review and correct the Apocrypha, because anyone filled with the Spirit would get much out of them as they are.
Today, we view the Apocrypha as inspiring and of worth, but not canonized scripture. We can include with the Apocrypha, hundreds of other ancient texts that have been found since Joseph Smith’s time. These would include the non-Bible books found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library, and many early Jewish and Christian texts that can help illuminate our understanding of early Judaism and Christianity.
The entire section states:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord, I give unto the united order, organized agreeable to the commandment previously given, a revelation and commandment concerning my servant Frederick G. Williams, that ye shall receive him into the order. What I say unto one I say unto all.
“And again, I say unto you my servant Frederick G. Williams, you shall be a lively member in this order; and inasmuch as you are faithful in keeping all former commandments you shall be blessed forever. Amen.” (vs 1-2)
While we do not practice the United Firm/Order today, we do enter into the Law of Consecration in the temple endowment. It is a special order we enter, that of the endowed, those seeking to live a celestial law, those who seek a world where there are no poor, all are equal, and no division into classes or peoples (see 4 Nephi). It is where there is no need for government welfare, because the saints seek after their neighbor’s needs and wants (D&C 82).
We are to be “lively” members of this order, the endowed living the Law of Consecration. So, how do we actively live the Law of Consecration?
We dedicate time, talents and our wealth to building up God’s kingdom. We reach out to family, our next door neighbors, our co-workers, etc. We not only pay a full tithe, but a generous fast. If paying a generous fast is not enough, then we seek good charitable organizations to also donate money and time.
We seek to build Zion. We dedicate our time, not to share funny cat videos on Youtube, but to share the gospel on social media. We spend our spare time learning new and valuable things, developing skills, and sharing those talents with others.
For example, I’ve spent decades studying the gospel intensely. I spend time discussing it with those I see as scholars. I’ve read the Book of Mormon over 75 times, and the other scriptures many times, also. I’ve written this blog for over a decade, focusing much of it on Gospel Doctrine lessons, requiring me to do extra study on the various events and topics brought up in the gospel. I don’t know everything, and so still must study more – but I do know many things, which hopefully benefit those who read my blog.
Some study music, improving their control over voice or instrument. others study economics, biology, astronomy, math, construction, engineering, history,family care, literature, and so many other fields that can benefit us, our families and society. Each of these skills are necessary for building a Zion people, to lift people out of poverty, and create a world of peace.
This doesn’t necessarily require going to college for a degree.We should spend a life in learning and developing talents, which we can then use to serve God and beautify the earth. Whether it is learning to cook for you family, improve your work opportunities, teach your kids the new math, or help a neighbor fix up her home, any new learning can help us be able to bless ourselves, our families, and Zion.