Latter-day Saint Life

I Live the Word of Wisdom Differently Than You, and Why That's a Good Thing


The Word of Wisdom can be a tricky topic of conversation, partly because it encompasses so much while still remaining incredibly vague. While prophets have helped clarify certain common questions about the Word of Wisdom among Mormons—such as the fact that "hot drinks" refers to tea and coffee—much is left up to personal interpretation. And as a result, that leaves plenty of room for disagreements or differences between Mormons.

And I think that was entirely by divine design.

Why We All Live the Word of Wisdom Differently

When Joseph Smith received this revelation on February 27, 1833, many of the things we debate or nitpick over concerning the Word of Wisdom today simply weren't in existence during that time. It would have been completely unrealistic and confusing for Heavenly Father to reveal all the substances that will ever be in existence that Mormons should or shouldn't eat or drink.

► You may also like: How Our View of the Word of Wisdom Has Changed from 1833 to Now

But more importantly than practicality, the truth is that micromanaging is not how God operates. Since our pre-existence, our Heavenly Father designed and our Savior fought for a plan that protected our agency and our potential for eternal progression. Creating moral, thinking beings, let alone creating potential gods and goddesses requires so much more than giving us a checklist of everything we should and shouldn't do.

Instead, true growth requires study, it requires judgment, it requires faith, it requires action, and it requires choice, all things God cannot compel us to do.

One of the most compelling and unique aspects of our Church is how it balances counsel from prophets with personal revelation. None of us need to wait for others to spoon-feed us every teaching or doctrine, nor does God want that for us. Instead, He has provided a way for us to study, pray, and seek to know truths for ourselves—including truths found in the Word of Wisdom.

This not only allows us to learn more deeply and more fully God's eternal wonders and mysteries, it also allows the gospel to be tailored perfectly to our lives. Not everyone is born with the same body. We all have different allergies, different cravings, and different addictions we might struggle with. The Word of Wisdom provides a perfect outline that can protect us from potential heartbreak or addictions, but ultimately it is up to us to decide how we will treat and what we will feed our bodies.

There are no prescribed serving sizes or calorie counters in the Word of Wisdom because Heavenly Father hopes we will use our agency to find a balance that works best for our body.

Interesting aside: Nowhere in the Word of Wisdom does it say "All things in moderation."  I've heard that quoted as scripture many a time, and while it is good advice, I'm sorry to say it's not Word of Wisdom scripture.

► You may also like: The Four-Word Phrase Mormons Always Say (But Don't Really Believe)

Why We Need to Stop Judgment About How Others Live the Word of Wisdom

Allergies, size, body type, medical problems, predispositions toward different addictions, body image—these are just a few reasons it would be impossible for Heavenly Father to prescribe one celestial diet for everyone in the world. For some of my friends, a small dose of caffeine is a miracle cure for migraines. For others, caffeine can become more of an addictive substance their body is dependent on to properly function.

Often when Latter-day Saints receive personal promptings, they become excited and want to share all their life-altering insights. While this is a wonderful thing, in sharing our own personal revelations from Heavenly Father, we must understand that that prompting was meant for and applies to us. Someone else, because they live in a very different body and in different situations, might receive a very different prompting. And that's okay. In fact, that's more than okay. That's the miracle of how our Church functions.

From fruits and herbs to addictive substances, the Word of Wisdom is jam packed with great counsel and advice. But sometimes, it can be a lot to take in at once. Thank goodness the Lord gives us the Atonement to rely upon and second, third, and even infinite chances to try and master those areas we might be struggling with. And with those struggles comes growth, strength, and a better understanding of our divine nature.

Unlike so many other religious groups, Latter-day Saints understand that our bodies are so much more than mortal cages or corrupted matter that limits us and acts as a challenge we merely have to deal with here on earth. We know our bodies are eternal. We understand our bodies are sacred. We believe our bodies are temples.

But so much of what we see and read today is designed to make us unhappy in our own bodies. The gospel provides a perfect antidote to that negativity, and the Word of Wisdom provides the path for us to find peace with and in our own bodies. Learning how to care for our physical body not only teaches us about the body we will have in the eternities, it also gives us spiritual strength as we care for this incredible blessing God has given to us. And that is an incredibly rich and personal journey we all should take—one that lies between you and Heavenly Father and your Savior.

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