I Shall Not, I’m Mormon

tencommandmentsLocated at the LDS Church website is a short video and comment about The Ten Commandments given by God to Israel through the Prophet Moses. Often it seems that those who don’t know Mormons, and some who do, have this idea that the faith has too many rules and regulations. Most importantly that somehow the religion is different from all the others in the approach to ethics and commandments. Some have said there are over 100 commandments that Mormons must follow. There is some truth to these opinions because the Western World has changed over the years. What is expected of people today is far less than what was taught before the social revolutions back a generation. Yet, understanding the required behaviors for a believing Mormon isn’t that hard.

The first recognition is that Mormons are not Eastern Quakers or Catholic Nuns and Monks. It is taught that a person should live in the world, but not of the world. That means participating in life; going to work, getting married, going to school, raising children, etc. Life is not about a cloistered existence. That leaves a lot of room for what a Mormon can do in this world. As one blog noted about living the standards of the faith, ” “There may be lots of rules and guidelines but these aren’t rocket science. Its simple things like get enough sleep, wear appropriate clothing. If you ask me…. Being Mormon is easy. The world is hard!”

What are the Mormon standards they are asked to live with as a believer? It starts with a basic list that can be found in the Bible of all places. In the book of Exodus Chapter 20 the list includes:

. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

2. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Exodus 20:4).

3. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

4. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

5. “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12).

6. “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

8. “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16).

10. “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17).

At the very least this list is the most basic of guidelines to be followed. In case any of the above was missed in the first reading, these 10 Commandments are found in Mosiah 13, where the question is asked why those who teach it don’t follow them?

There are another set of ethical standards that are said to be harder to follow, but no less familiar to those who know the Bible. They can be find in the sermon on the mount or sermon on the plain, depending on what version is used. It is standards of behavior outlined by the mortal Jesus to a gathered multitude. Instead of only outward behavior, the sermons focus in on becoming a better person by controlling thoughts and feelings along with actions.

Over the years guidance has been given from the leadership of the LDS Church to members. Some of this can best be explored in For the Strength of Youth amphlets. A few unusual suggestions might be “Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.” Still other unusual suggestions could include, “When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you,” and “Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings.” It must be emphasized that the above doesn’t automatically assume a sin has been committed (pornography might be the exception), much as trying to avoid them.

Biblical Prophets and Apostles have been just as concerned with strict avoidance of sin. Paul’s letters are filled with advice, suggestions, and commandments that sound like a laundry list of do and don’t. From 1 Corinthians chapter 6 is the admonition:

7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

There are also directives about best clothing choices, such as 1 Timothy 2: 9-10, for believers:

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Jesus does break down the commandments into two basic components Of “love the Lord thy God,” and “love thy neighbour as thyself.” Those who are fulfilling the spirit of the Commandments or Law must have these as the basis for behavior. Following the Lord is built on Faith and Repentance.

Probably what singles out Mormons more than anything, besides dressing standards sometimes, is the health standards known as Word of Wisdom. At the minimum we are commanded not to drink alcohol and coffee, smoke, or do drugs. Technically, none of these are considered sins although they will keep a person out of sacred Mormon Temples. That is not a light restriction to be sure and can stop spiritual growth. However, a person who does these things won’t be considered worthy of damnation just for doing them. It is a lot more complicated than an if/then eternal perspective. Too many times Mormons forget this fact and make improper judgments. Even so, our bodies are to be treated as temples of God.

Ultimately, it isn’t about “I can’t, I’m Mormon”, but following the 10 Commandments, Jesus’ Sermons, and avoiding the sins as described in Scriptures. It is about not following after every trend of the world. It is about making a choice based on faith. Those who think Mormonism is strict must honestly come to the conclusion that what is taught in the Bible is no longer respected. There really is nothing new, only the old spelled out in new ways. Mormons are different only in so far as the social moral compass has been forgotten or regressed.

29 thoughts on “I Shall Not, I’m Mormon

  1. Recently weight loss due to illness meant I had to discard or donate virtually all my clothing. While attending the temple I noticed that satan is a real ‘clothes horse’ and the more holy an individual, the fewer outfits they wear. It made me feel concern with the number of cothing purchases I made. Then my son pointed out that we are commanded to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, which applies to ourselves as well ; ).
    I love the framework the Gospel provides. The rules provided range from commandments, of which there are a vital few, to guidelines, of which there are many. In Acts, even after it had been established that converts need not follow the law of male circumcision, Paul decided that Timotheus should be circumcised in order to avoid offending the Jews. It is up to us to discern which guidelines are important for us to follow. This is an area where the Spirit guides. We should never confuse commandments with beneficial but non binding suggestions.

  2. The problem is that some see the commandments as the minimal of doing what is right, or the sermons are used as a way to circumvent them (by ignoring the Spirit they represent). The irony is that Jesus complained that rules were broken in the name of rules so that Pharisees could make excuses for sin. It had nothing to do with what rules are better than others, but why we make the choices that we do.

  3. There are rules that must be observed in order to receive ordinances ranging from baptism to Temple participation. When I make out a donation slip there are several choices presented. Tithing is the only one that holds commandment status. The amount is not optional, except by some who could be engaging in a certain amount of sophistry. Fast offering is an indefinite amount which at most is defined as ‘generous’, and the other suggested possibilities are undefined as to amount. I perceive this as a type of other areas where rules exist. For example, chastity is a commandment and not negotiable. Modesty is

  4. Oops, modesty is not so much negotiable as it is dependent on culture and perception. Sociability and friendliness can only be suggested, not defined.

  5. “Technically, none of these are considered sins although they will keep a person out of sacred Mormon Temples. That is not a light restriction to be sure and can stop spiritual growth. However, a person who does these things won’t be considered worthy of damnation just for doing them.”

    This is (in my opinion) incorrect. Any unrepentant sin (and the referenced behaviors are sin) will keep one out of the Celestial Kingdom. For example, people who are not willing to abide by the Word of Wisdom will not be in the Celestial Kingdom – because they either will not have received temple covenants, or they will not have lived them. The same goes for anything else implied by the Temple Recommend questions.

    Now given that the above is my opinion I’m *extremely* curious as to the basis for your opinion that the referenced behaviors are NOT “technically sin”. Citation or reasoning please.

    With respect to the idea that we don’t have significantly more, or new, commandments I guess it comes down to perspective. I would guess that many young men in the Church and many converts would beg to differ.

  6. I was questioned last week by a co-worker who thought it was a commandment for Mormons to avoid caffeine. I explained it was coffee and tea (and tobacco and illicit drugs and alcohol) that are the substances understood to be avoided. However, I mentioned that some go beyond the word and avoid anything like unto those things. And some are raised in families where the additional restrictions have been lived and never examined.

    In all these things, I like to consider the Lord’s prayer (a bit updated to overcome language drift, and based on the form found in 3 Nephi):

    Our Father who art in Heaven,

    Holy be Thy name.

    Thy will (not mine) be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

    Forgive me my shortcomings, as I forgive those who do not fulfill obligations to me.

    Keep me from temptation. Deliver me from evil.

    Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

  7. JSH: “I’m *extremely* curious as to the basis for your opinion that the referenced behaviors are NOT “technically sin”. Citation or reasoning please.”

    I’m not jettboy, but he might be referring to something like this from Elder Dallin H. Oaks (October 1993 General Conference):
    “This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited.”

  8. John,

    “This is (in my opinion) incorrect. Any unrepentant sin (and the referenced behaviors are sin) will keep one out of the Celestial Kingdom. For example, people who are not willing to abide by the Word of Wisdom will not be in the Celestial Kingdom – because they either will not have received temple covenants, or they will not have lived them.”

    I believe this attaches too much importance to the thou-shalt-nots, and misses the simple definition of requirements in D&C 76. Since, even at the moment of death, no one will likely be sinless. Valiance in the testimony of Christ could be accomplished even while never mastering nagging weaknesses we know are wrong but we have not eradicated by the time death calls. To say the a person who worked the last thirty years of their lives to remain sober and was valiant in the testimony of Christ but in a moment of depression prior to death took a drink would not attain celestial glory does not comport with D&C 134 either.

    I think lack of valiance in the testimony of Christ will do more to restrict entry than the nots, meaning there may be many who adhere to the law of nots and still fall short because they were not valiant in their testimonies of Christ, while some who slipped up on some of the nots but were valiant will receive their “buffeting” and still be admitted.

  9. I consider the Word of Wisdom more of a temporary transgression than a sin. For me a sin is an act that is in open rebellion to both the ethics and commandments of God. Under this it might be true that the WofW can be made into a sin. But the acts themselves are not because they are only in force for those under the Covenant; and that temporarily as the original revelation was a step up from advice. I sometimes think we put too much emphasis on the WofW as evidence of poor moral character when other things are of more importance.

  10. jettboy (and others) thanks for the response(s). I think we have a slight difference of opinion on what constitutes sin (and that’s fine, I doubt there is a “codified” definition anywhere we can reference).

    I tend to think of sin as doing (or not doing) something one is either not supposed to do (or do respectively) according to either what has been revealed to Church leaders i.e., stated standards/commandments – or not acting as the Spirit prompts/directs you to do.

    I did not state anything about “death” per se – I certainly agree we are judged on the totality of our lives and choices – particularly our intent, but there are scriptures that clearly state we need to be clean of the stain of all sin *by the time* we get to the judgement bar (if we hope to enter into the presence of Heavenly Father in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom). I think (again my opinion) that means living (in the flesh and/or Spirit according to our opportunities – 1 Peter: 3) a temple worthy existence.

  11. While we’re on the whole “what’s allowed and what’s not” thing, can someone define for me precisely what is meant by “tea” when we say “coffee and tea” are prohibited. Here in Korea and Japan we have literally dozens of different kinds of tea but, while I have heard much speculation, I have yet to see anything definitive. It seems quite arbitrary to me. For centuries my ancestors drank tea as a way of ensuring that the water that was being drunk had been boiled and was, therefore, safe.

  12. Minjae, anything coming from the tea plant. Black tea, white tea, green tea is the tea that would have been used historically in the us at the time of the revelation. Herbal teas were never abstained from, and soup can essentially be viewed as chicken tea. There are some weird Mormons today who insist on abstaining from herbal teas, but as long as your not adding sugar, they are quite healthy, and no official source has ever included them. From a non doctrinal standpoint, teas contain caffeine, but more importantly tannic acid and other compounds which are anti nutrients. They are also found in acorns, which is why native Americans and Koreans soak the acorns before making food out of them.

  13. laserguy, these arguments are part of speculation that I have heard and seen for a long time now. For me, there is nothing new in anything you provided. I tire of people bringing up caffeine as it is one thing the church has repeatedly said is NOT part of the word of wisdom (yes, I realize that you said “non doctrinal”).

    Additionally, Geoff B., I don’t consider anything on about.com to have any standing with regard to the official teachings and doctrine of the church.

    Kent G. Budge, I agree with you that “seeking to conform more closely to what God would like of me” is the way to go but here in the Far East, tea is ubiquitous and a great deal of it is NOT tea from the tea plant. Mindless “seeking to conform more closely to what God would like of me” can lead to setting up of hedges about the law that can become stumbling blocks. There are parts of the Word of Wisdom that seem very random and arbitrary and I don’t want to have to offend people needlessly when I turn down the tea they are offering me as a refreshment. I know it is a fairly mundane issue for those of you in the U.S. but it is not an insignificant issue everywhere.

  14. Bookslinger, that was intentional as the last paragraph implied.

    MInJae Lee, that is exactly why I don’t believe breaking the WofW is a sin compared to other aspects of the Gospel, health issues aside. The Early Church in the Bible had similar arguments about eating meat prepared for idol worship. The answer from the authorities at that time (Acts 15: 29) was to abstain from eating so that, “If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” Paul later said in 1 Corinth. 8: 4-13 that there really wasn’t anything wrong with eating the meat made by idols, but it was still best to avoid them altogether to keep from offending others of the faith. To put it into modern terms; if one is uncomfortable interpreting the meaning of tea, it might be best to at least outside of social non-Mormon situations avoid tea of any kind.

  15. Hi minjae. Forgive my lack of formalities, but I think whether you the tire of facts or argument IS irrevelant. My statements were not speculation, they are facts. Caffeine is a atimulant drug that negatively affects the nervous system, as is tannic acid. The word of wisdom also doesn’t forbid jumping in front of a moving bus, but the principles of the word of wisdom are eternal, and applicable to each individual who choose to intelligently and rationally apply those principles. I also think you should read the article that Geoff posted, as a number of those link to the ensign. Most faithful saints, the intended audience of this blog, do find the ensign as assn important explanation of church teaching. But as I, and the about.com article point out, Is not that God doesn’t like the word tea, so if you know that it doesn’t contain the tea leaf, then why do you even effort about it?

  16. Minjae, I would encourage you to pray and seek your own revelation. I have spent a lot of time in Asia, and I know that tea is constantly served there. When I am in HK, the host of the dinner will urgently pressure me to drink tea, and sometimes it appears rude not to. So I understand your dilemma. God also understands your dilemma. Take it to the Lord in prayer and work out your own solution. You also may want to consult with your bishop and get guidance. Good luck!

  17. Jettboy,
    I think you are right in that some of us put too much emphasis on W of W or other more tangible or measurable sins. It is pretty easy for us to know if we are or are not taking those things into our bodies. It’s a pretty clear line (for the most part).
    I was talking with someone recently about how not obeying the W of W or not paying one’s tithing can keep us out of the temple, but other things that could be considered more morally damaging do not. I believe that often our judgments of others and ourselves can be more morally damaging than many of our “do nots”. However, how does one measure our quantify one’s “judging”? That being said, I don’t believe any of us should use that as an excuse to keep ourselves from the temple. And however you would like to classify W of W, there are great blessings that come from obedience and vice versa.
    Minjae brings up some interesting points about tea, coming from a non Western society. While the w of w isn’t likely to change, perhaps some clarification or discussion for those who have additional challenge would be helpful. All being said, I do have a strong testimony in the blessings of obedience- even when I don’t understand or completely agree. Perhaps in some of those instances, I have felt the Spirit more strongly and have had greater blessings.

  18. laserguy: “My statements were not speculation, they are facts. Caffeine is a atimulant drug that negatively affects the nervous system, as is tannic acid. ”

    Please stop using the word “facts” – you keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.

    I really, really don’t like bad arguments in favor of the WoW, and yours is one of them.

    Tannins, for example, don’t affect the nervous system. They inhibit protein digestion (they also have some anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties, giving them some health benefits). Most non-citrus fruit contains tannins, so unless you want to declare cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, and apple juice against the WoW, you need to realize tannins are likely not the reason for the ban.

    The WoW is a commandment, and that’s all I really need to know. Most speculations (and that’s what they are, speculations, not facts) on “why” fall short.

  19. Ivan wolfe, perhaps you misunderstood what I wrote. I was not saying that it is a fact that the reason the wow excludes tea was because of tannins. Iam starting it is a possible reason. I am , however,saying it Is a fact that caffeine and tannins have negative effects on the body. Perhaps, before you declare that there is no effect, you should do a Google search, instead of relying on your Own limited resources. For instance, this paper indicated that there is surely an effect on the nervous system induced by tannins. “Widespread release of peptides in the central nervous system: quantitation of tannic acid-captured exocytoses.”. Finally, I don’t think anyone should ever drink any juice. The residual levels of tannins from the whole foods is much smaller than the concentrated levels found in a juice, which are in turn much lower than the levels extracted by boiling hot water.

  20. Geoff B. – I have already settled the matter in my own mind and heart and I completely comfortable with it. Some members of the church get quite excited about the issue and don’t mind letting me know how wrong I am.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  21. When Jesus was asked about the most important laws of God, we get a succinct summary (Matthew 22:36-40). Love God; love others. This was the summary of all the rules in the Scriptures and the admonitions of the prophets. We see this in the 10 Commandments: the first 4 commandments refer to how we demonstrate love and respect to God, and next 6 commandments indicate how we demonstarte respect and love for others. Like-wise the Sermon on the Mount is an extended message telling us we must not be like the Pharisees in their self-righteousness, but to be like Christ. We must seek true righteousness where our rewards are eternal rather than transitory.
    Sometimes I think we misunderstand that the laws are surprisingly few in number, but the explanations on how to keep these few laws can require a little more space to explain.

  22. Well, laserguy, I’m not sure what you mean by my “limited resources” – but we can play “dueling studies” if you really want:
    “Tannins and human health: a review.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1998 Aug;38(6):421-64.
    “Tannins have also been reported to exert other physiological effects, such as to accelerate blood clotting, reduce blood pressure, decrease the serum lipid level . . .”

    Or here:
    “Tannins: An Antinutrient with Positive Effect to Manage Diabetes” Research Journal of Recent Sciences. Vol. 1(12), 70-73, December (2012)

    “Tannins are potential antioxidants. They have been considered to be cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic, among others. Tannins enhance glucose uptake and inhibit adipogenesis, thus being potential drugs for the treatment of NIDDM. Tannins can improve the pathological oxidative state of a diabetic situation . . ”

    But doing dueling studies is not really the point (and I could easily find studies on the health benefits of caffeine if I wanted to), and this topic is a bit of threadjack from jettboy’s original point.

    You’re being condescending and declaring certainty where none really exists. The only solid reason we are given for the WoW is the designs of corrupt men in the last days; if you want to expand your own personal WoW in those ways, feel free. But please don’t preach as if you’ve figured out the key to it all.

    Personally, I don’t drink soda and consider it much worse than coffee or tea for health, but it’s not against the WoW (at least as far as temple worthiness is concerned). I think the WoW is way more than just a health law – it’s a social one as well (among other things).

  23. Minjae, it doesn’t matter what other member of the Church say (except for your bishop, your stake president and your spouse). If you are comfortable, that is all that matters.

  24. Geoff B., not to worry for me, I don’t care a fig for what other Mormons say or think about me, I have had many opportunities to be offended for many different reasons but I know no other source for salvation (and my personal experiences have convinced me that this church and gospel are THE source) so leaving is simply not an option.

    However, it would be nice to have some clarification that was authoritative to stop all the silly speculation that turns into settled doctrine in some people’s minds. It was so satisfying when the Church Public Affairs Office issued the statement in August of 2012 saying, “Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices does not mention the use of caffeine.” At that point it was very easy to say to those whose firm testimony held that caffeine was forbidden by the WoW (despite the fact that hot cocoa is an extremely popular refreshment at winter-time church sponsored activities in Utah) that their “solid doctrine” was nothing more than supposition/speculation and was incorrect – with the authority of the official PAO of the church, . Now if I am offered a Coke in a business meeting (or even if I choose to have one on a hot afternoon in my yard) no one needs to get their panties in a bunch due to concern over the state of my eternal soul and my wife does not have to be embarrassed at my supposed backsliding.

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