Swiggle Room: Why the Word of Wisdom is Due for an Update

Controversometer Red Mike Thayer

Shoulder Devil Coffee Mike Thayer

In September of 2017, Brigham Young University’s half-century long caffeine prohibition officially ended. Provo can now look to a future devoid of campus police raids busting up underground Sodastream caffeination rings. Ever since moving away from my home state of Utah a decade ago, I have often found myself engaged in discussions with non-LDS folk about the strange things that Mormons do, or don’t do as the case may be. Nine times out of ten the conversation revolves around the ever-controversial topic of our avoidance of coffee, tea, and alcohol.  

I can be sly about the fact that I wear sacred undergarments or don’t go shopping on Sunday, but if you work in any kind of office without a cup of coffee or frequent any non-Utah County social scene without a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, you’re going to stick out like a nun in a house of ill repute. A few years back, one of my friends from India looked at me with wide, astonished eyes and declared that he had never in his entire life met any adult that had never once had alcohol.

And, in some respects, that’s kind of what we’re going for. We are to be a “peculiar people”, a people set apart from the habits and vices that plague mankind, an example to the world of a congregation dedicated to keeping the commandments of God, irrespective of the current social pressures or norms. That’s the theory, at least. A theory that falls apart like the walls of Jericho when we confuse being arbitrary for being peculiar. Allow me to explain.

Us Mormons abide by what we call the “Word of Wisdom,” a divine law of health rooted in a revelation to early Church leaders back in the 1830’s. Today we are asked to eat properly and avoid addictive substances including, but not limited to, tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea and illegal drugs. Critics of the Word of Wisdom might point out that the modern-day direction seems to cherry pick a bit from the original revelation which asks, for example, that members eat meat sparingly and only in times of winter, cold, or famine. I have yet to meet a Mormon that follows this and I’ve never met a single Mormon leader that cared. There might be some dude out there that does, but I haven’t exactly seen the BYU message boards all abuzz with talk of the return of Ruby River Steakhouse’s much-anticipated “Winter and Famine” promotion.

Even a brief study of the history of the Word of Wisdom reveals that its interpretation, application, enforcement, and adherence have all changed drastically since it was first issued in 1833. With no changes of note in the last century, however, the variability of the Word of Wisdom is something most church members not only don’t think about, but don’t really even consider a possibility. What we’re left with is a commandment in limbo, something that is neither adherent to its scriptural origins nor updated for practical direction in the modern day.

Nothing elucidates this point better than the prevalence and popularity of places like Swig and Sodalicioius. For those not in the know, these establishments thrive in the heart of Utah County and are basically trendy, drive-thru stores that make their mark by selling sodas jazzed up with additional flavoring, thereby proving the Fructosian Law of Stacking by showing that adding liquid sugar to liquid sugar produces a synergistic sugary flavor effect. For those that like their sugar in solid form, they also sell giant cookies. When I explained the existence of these establishments to my Australian atheist friend (or “Australatheist” friend) he gave me that ol’ “please tell me you realize how ridiculous this is” look that atheists are always giving us religious folk. I don’t always agree with the cynicism behind that stare, but sometimes (like this time) I gave my “wadda ya gonna do” smile in return.

One must realize what we look like when we shun coffee and tea like they were liquid Ebola, but have zero compunction about ordering a 64oz Wild Mango Mountain Dew with accompanying face-sized sugar cookie in a drive-thru. The world does not look at us as peculiar; they look at us as arbitrary, and they’d be right…and if you’re Mormon that should worry you.    

If I were to take my Aussie friend to Utah, decline a coffee at McDonald’s on the grounds (pun intended) that it is prohibited for divine health reasons, only to then make my way to Sodalicious for my cookie frisbee and cask of raspberry Dr Pepper, how well do you think my testimony about living said divine law of health is going to go down? Not as well as that big pink-frosting sugar cookie, I can promise you that, because those cookies are AMAZING. It should go down poorly. Poorly as those funeral potatoes that gave half my family food poisoning at my wedding reception…or was it my grandpa’s funeral luncheon? Regardless, it should go down very poorly.

I have alluded to this point in prior posts, but at the heart of my beloved Mormon culture is the dangerous tendency to mistake arbitrariness for peculiarity. The former is a powerless shell of the latter. If you had someone obeying D&C 89 verbatim, that person would be peculiar. Ol’ Brother Jeremiah Stewartson over there bottling wine of his own make, washing his body with strong drink, only eating seasonal fruit, and never consuming a beverage on the hot side of 90F. That guy is a conversation starter. You might think he’s a bit screwy, but you can at least respect him, because he’s rooted directly in a set of guidelines he claims as sacrosanct. That’s peculiar and there’s power behind that. To what end, I don’t know, but there’s power there.

That’s not what we have with current Word of Wisdom observance. The vast majority of my fellow Mormons don’t drink iced tea because they obey a commandment that prohibits the consumption of tea because it prohibits the consumption of hot drinks like coffee, but would allow you to drink a hot chocolate spiked with an energy drink *brain explodes*. We’ve been reduced to arguing over whether the Lord’s people should have coffee and rum flavored candies, whether I can put vanilla extract in cookies because of the alcohol, or whether herbal tea is actually tea. It makes absolutely no sense, and not in the kind of way that some commandments are just “not for us to understand”. It doesn’t make sense because it’s an abject arbitrary mess.

We can have a 400 lbs dude on Xanax pull up to the temple with a box of Krispy Kremes on the back of his Rascal brand scooter and he’s somehow living the Lord’s Divine Law of Health, but a marathon runner who likes his latte and regulates anxiety with a glass of wine in the evening is barred from the House of the Lord. I just don’t see the Almighty sitting up there telling Mr. 400lbs “Ah yes, well played.” We shouldn’t excuse ourselves from confronting these inconsistencies just because we think ourselves peculiar. That moral license needs to be revoked.

Let me pause here, because I can already see the straw man being raised in my image. “So you’re saying that people who are overweight and on medication shouldn’t be temple worthy? Is THAT what you’re saying?!” That is not what I am saying. I’m merely pointing out that I find it odd that one of the strict standards we use to determine a person’s religious devotion is a divine law of health that doesn’t really seem to challenge its adherents to live all that healthily, or at least turns a blind eye to obvious unhealthy practices while stringently punishing others that are relatively benign. LDS.org states “When people purposefully take anything harmful into their bodies, they are not living in harmony with the Word of Wisdom”, but from what I recall I’ve never seen a paper shredder next to the drive-thru exit at any of the Utah County McDonald’s with the sign “Insert Recommends Here”. If it ain’t enforced, then to quote the estimable Captain Barbosa “it’s more what you call a guideline than actual rules.”

Another rebuttal already reaches my ears: “It doesn’t need to make sense. The Lord just wants to see if we’ll be obedient.” Then have us adhere to D&C 89 as written and see if we’ll be as devout as ol’ Brother Jeremiah Stewartson. Or maybe let’s slap on D&C 139 to talk about why we can ignore half the stuff in D&C 89 and clarify the other half we have to obey. “But we don’t need to be commanded in all things, Mike!” I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Commenter. How about we talk about that coffee and tea again?

Look, there was obviously some effort made to update the original revelation to what we have now. This is not one of those immutable declarations from on high with no precedent of change. This commandment has evolved drastically since its inception. I merely think we’re due for the next stage in that evolution. The world has changed a tad in the last hundred years. There are energy drinks and Snapple and pharmaceuticals that range from Oxycontin to something for restless leg syndrome. Updated and relevant revelation should be our hallmark. Roll the sucker back to the spirit of the law. Eat healthy and in moderation, avoid illegal and addictive substances, exercise. “But those things are already part of the Word of Wisdom!” No. They’re not. Not like you think they are, at least (see Captain Barbosa above).

“Oh, so what are you saying, that we shouldn’t even drink soda?!  You’re one of THOSE Mormons!” Look, I am wearing a Dr. Pepper t-shirt as I am writing this article, no joke. I have a custom built “soda flavor station” in my basement. I wish many years of profitable business for the drink and cookie slinging businesses of Utah County (again, have you TRIED those cookies?!). I am not one of THOSE Mormons and I am not proposing some boycott on sugar or serving wine in sacrament meeting (you know how many church shirts that would ruin?!). What I am saying is that Utah/Mormon culture is a strange and incestuous thing. Our moral and social mores are outgrowths from spiritual laws, hedges to those spiritual laws, and loop holes in those hedges and spiritual laws. Many of them are well-intentioned but are born in an echo chamber that shrouds the Wasatch Front. After years and years of proliferation they end up being…well, kind of ridiculous.

We think that the world doesn’t understand us because we are “set apart” and “peculiar”, when in reality the raised eyebrows come from our philosophical inconsistencies and arbitrary application of principles. Going back to the spirit of the law nips a lot of this in the bud. You drink two Big Gulps of Diet Coke a day? Yeeeaaahhh, you might wanna get some help with that. You have an occasional glass of wine? Right this way, brother. “It doesn’t have to make sense, Mike.” Yeah, I know, but it can, and it should, and there’s nothing stopping it, and it’d be nice if it did.

I’m proud to be peculiar. I love the Gospel dearly. I’m proud to pay tithing, live the Law of Chastity, wear temple garments, and feign a smile when you tell me your twins’ name are Tronxston and Traeleigh. These might be strange things, but they are not arbitrary things (all but that latter). In it’s current form, I’m not sure I can say the same for the Word of Wisdom. I ain’t gonna die in a ditch over this. My intent isn’t to march on the Conference Center with a Starbucks flag cape and a wine decanter megaphone. If nothing ever changes, I’ll continue to keep my basement soda fridge fully stocked and scofflaw my seasonal meat consumption. I’m just tired of justifying my Dr. Pepper intake and thought a silly blog post might get the ball rolling in the right direction. It certainly helped with my distaste for Instagram fashionistas.

Please remember to share and subscribe down below so you never miss a moment. Thanks for reading.


Please find below The Word of Wisdom Spectrum. I’ve always felt like you could tell a lot about a particular Mormon by the choices he/she makes when it comes to the Word of the Wisdom.  Consult the spectrum below and take the poll to let the world know what kind of Mormon you are!

WoW Spectrum Thayer

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to Swiggle Room: Why the Word of Wisdom is Due for an Update

  1. Andy says:

    It’s a conversation worth having for sure. Plus some of these lines having me laughing out loud.

  2. Don says:

    I actually read the blessing at the end of Sec 89 as a commandment, rather than a blessing, even though I don’t think it is exactly meant that way. Ye shall run and not be weary and walk and not faint. If you aren’t able to physically get around, it makes it hard to be on the Lord’s errand. If you’re addicted to something, you should cast it out.

    • Don says:

      I think maybe the addiction part is the most important. Some things are more obviously addictive than others (tobacco). You can read this into the opening verses where it says it is for the weakest of saints, i.e., those prone to addiction. Maybe the temple recommend question shouldn’t be whether you live the WoW but if you are addicted to anything.

      • Gertrude Strapoon says:

        coffee has ruined countless lives. It’s addictive, and costly. I am offended that you call it beningn. Our family has been torn apart by the evil vices of coffee. Clearly you don’t believe in modern day revelation because coffee is far worse (for your spirit) than a sugary drink, no matter what the size. Shame on you for misleading the saints with this post. I would advise you all to heed to my words and not follow the antichrist named mike Thayer!

        • J says:

          now that’s funny talk

        • Jamal says:

          Woah, that was harsh. The dude is just sharing his opinion. I see no harm in this. Certainly, you’re not required to agree with what was said….but yikes.

        • Jenny says:

          Sister, do you consider coffee or people’s rigid, black and white thinking errors more damaging? In my experience it’s the rigidity of our thinking that tears families apart, not caffeine.

        • Maharshalalhashbaz says:

          I suspect your attitude towards family members drinking coffee is the thing that tore it apart.

          Also, your name sounds like strapon

        • Silvia Gray says:

          “BWAHAHAHAHAHA Oh wait, Your serious??”

        • Mike McKnight says:

          This is the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever read. Coffee does not ruin lives. If it has, it is definitely because of your attitude towards it. The “I’m 100% right and if you don’t agree with me, you’re a terrible person” attitude. The attitude that pushes people away from the church. You seriously just called him an antichrist for posting a valid blog? Just because something is “expensive” doesn’t mean it is bad. In fact it is usually the opposite. If you want to eat natural, unprocessed foods, you’re gonna spend more money. I’m embarrassed by your arrogance.

        • Steve says:

          Well played Strap-on… well played . I lost a good friend to the evils of green tea. Some people are just too far gone.

        • Jared King says:

          Take your medicine…I am sure that something far more sinister than coffee “destroyed your family.” If you really maintain “coffee ruined your family,” I would imagine that the real culprit (underlying your convenient scapegoat beverage) was the incubation and weaponizing of judgmental attitudes and guilt in a loveless household.

      • Anonymous says:

        If only we had apostles and prophets today who speak to God so we could get clarity on this matter!…..

  3. Matt says:

    So I have often wondered – isn’t beer made from Barley? To me it’s a mild drink. I don’t drink beer, but the verse always made me wonder. Then I learned that the saints actually had beer and it was a common drink until the 1920s. v17 “barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain”.

    • Dallas Price says:

      The primary difference being between fermented beverages and distilled. The paintings would be much different if all of the bottles of wine were switched out for Vodka and Whiskey. lol

    • John says:

      Exactly. If “strong drink” meant “all alcohol” there would be no reason to distinguish wine from strong drink. Principles are based on doctrine and commandments are based on principles. Principles never change, commandments do. In the words of Elder Lynn G. Robbins: “Its a shame when we have to be given commandments because that’s a sign that we cannot be led by principle.” The principle has always been to avoid drunkenness, yet we’ve evolved into questioning whether or not its appropriate to drink kefir. Is there any spiritual harm in having a beer after dinner in the privacy of your own home?..probably not. Its not the beer that’s the problem its the 12 pack. Yes the early saints had breweries, If you had a little too much to drink in the 1800’s the horse could probably get you home but nowadays it wouldn’t look to good if the Stake President got a DUI, hence the prohibition. It all goes back to mans inability to be led by principle. D&C 27 seems to imply we will be using wine for the sacrament during the millennium.

  4. Brad says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Every general conference I’m sure that someone is going to say something this topic, but it never happens. I with they would. I think if most were honest with themselves, they would admit that they are not in harmony with the spirit of the law, but that doesn’t seem to change behavior. I think we need it spelled out a little clearer. At least I think that would help me. If the prophet came out and said that the Lord has commanded us to cut out sugar, I would do it. And then I would drop 40 pounds in a month. And my wife would be all over me. And I would live happily ever after.

    • Brad says:

      PS, if tomorrow’s special announcement/press conference is an update to the WOW, my head might actually explode. And then Mike can claim the gift of prophecy and start his own offshoot and live in a commune with his followers.

  5. Dani says:

    I like to say that Swig and Sodalicious are the Mormon/UT County Starbucks (Starbuckses?): Roll through the drivethru for your daily overpriced and fancified caffeine fix.

    And ditto to it all. Our current observation of the word of wisdom makes very little sense. And thank you for being funny.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I do have a couple of concerns with the WoW that I won’t go deep into at this point. But yes, the main qualm I have with WoW is that it very blatantly says in the beginning that the word is to be given “not by commandment or constraint”, and yet, we use it now as a gate to enter into the highest ranks of Mormonism. Meaning I cannot inherit the highest level of the celestial kingdom, if I drink a cup of coffee a day because I will be unworthy of a temple recommend. However, I see Fatty McFat Butt barely getting their little apron to squeeze around their barrel of a stomach. THEY clearly aren’t following the “Word” (which was never intended to be a commandment in the first place) and their bishop gleefully signed their recommend.

    So I guess you could say that I don’t have very many problems with living a conservatively clean lifestyle and consuming things that don’t kill you very often. My main concern is that the church is misrepresenting the advice of their earlier prophets and strong arming the “Word” into a law/bar for celestial glory. 🙂 Great stuff Mikey. Keeping my name anonymous here so as to not raise any red flags within my tribe.

  7. Steve says:

    I think there are at least three possible reasons that the WoW (and other doctrines) is not internally consistent. 1) It was NOT a product of divine revelation and was, instead, an imperfect idea generated by imperfect people. 2) It WAS a product of divine revelation and we, lacking eternal perspective, are simply misunderstanding it or have changed it. 3) It WAS a product of divine revelation and God made it ridiculous on purpose to test our faith (à la Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Issac).

    I like that you included the WoW spectrum. I think which of these three reasons a person would agree with has a lot to do with where they fall on the Mormon spectrum. In fact, http://www.mormonspectrum.org/ is a very informative website that address the diversity of belief within Mormonism very well.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking articles, Mike. Keep them coming.

  8. BFarnsworth says:

    Take heed brethren lest the LORD shall smite thee. Twist the words of the prophets all you want, but in the end, if your following the modern day prophet your on the LORD’s side. Don’t drink coffee or consume alcohol or other addictive drugs as commanded. And as for me and my house, we shall serve the LORD.

    • Rebecca says:

      I agree, BFarnsworth. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.” President Monson said, “When God speaks [through His Prophet] and a man obeys, that man will always be right.” Let’s not seek to educate God.

    • Derrick says:

      Hey BFarnsworth, take it easy. No need to call down fire from heaven, we haven’t reached the point of Soddom and Gomorrah yet.

    • Grace Brown says:

      You seem like a really cool and interesting person. Let’s hang out sometime? Not.

    • Kevin Tew says:

      Taken from Mormon Think.
      BFarnsworth. maybe you need to do some more reading on the subject.

      The WOW in general has some things we admire and agree with. In general, people are healthier following its advice. But the way in which it came about does not seem so miraculous. Everything given in the WOW was published years before by early 19th century medical practitioners and advocated by many temperance societies. Also, the church has covered up the fact that in the 1800s, the highest-ranking members of the church frequently violated the WOW including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Also, never discussed is how the church produced and sold alcohol for decades after the WOW was given. The WOW may have evolved into something almost divine but the origins and early practices of it seem to indicate that it perhaps came from man and not really from Deity.

  9. Judy says:

    I appreciate this well written and well thought out article. However, I strongly disagree. Caffeine, in high dosages like coffee, has been shown to lead to cocaine addiction when consumed before adulthood. See reference:


    Unfortunately, I have seen this from experience, my cousin was an avid coffee drinker as a teenager. It wasn’t long before the slippery slope she was on lead her careening off a cliff into cocaine and other dangerous drugs. Yes, sugar can be bad for you, but it’s no gateway drug like caffeine.

    • Justine says:

      Studies have also shown that sugar is as addictive as cocaine. look it up.

    • chad says:

      You cannot be serious? How many people in the world today drink coffee? 300 million? 1 billion? What percentage of those become addicted to cocaine? I’d make an estimate that it’s less than 1/100th of a percent.

    • ConvertGirl says:

      Ummm… I’m so sorry that your family had to experience watching a loved one suffer with addiction. But I would argue that enough people consume caffeine and NEVER slide a slope to illegal drugsthat we can safely say caffeine is not causative of cocaine addiction. However, I will concede that a tendency to disobey or rebel against authority might be causative of future troubles. A Mormon kid who deliberately defies his parents objection to Mountain Dew might deliberately defy other rules too.

    • Becca Smith says:

      How many people drink coffee their whole lives and never touch caffeine? Broaden your horizons. This is such a close-minded and absurd world view.

  10. Colleen Dick says:

    It seems that you may have left out a category. The people who laugh at cultural absurdities and do their best to honor the spirit of the WOW. As a nutritionist, I hate soda pop. It has no redeeming value. Tea and Coffee are actually better for you. There are conspiring men all over the place and we should be smart enough to avoid them.

  11. Ryan says:

    I’m going to take a somewhat contrary opinion. First, it reads like a sports news article. It’s meant to be provocative, but this is not intended to provide any meaningful health discussion. I believe the author has no advanced nutrition or medical training. Along similar lines, I can’t give import to an blog when the author believes that it could be good public health policy to “regulate anxiety with a glass of wine in the evening” colloquially known as “self-medicating”. Doctrine and Covenants 89: 3 states the law was “given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” So if we follow the this advice, it’s adapted for the weakest saints. I interpret that as any who may have a predilection for alcohol addiction would be protected if this wisdom was followed. As medical professionals know, treating addiction is complex and requires behavioral therapy, learning coping skills, spiritual healing, and in some cases medication. This must be applied in a wise manner. Wisdom is at the center of this revelation and discussion and in Doctrine and Covenants 89:2, “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom.” So if there is wisdom (medical science) showing harm, in eating high sugar/fat foods then we should follow it. After all, it is not written explicitly in the word of wisdom and may be intended for the stronger saints. But sugar/fat consumption and lack of exercise can’t be compared to the behavior altering consequences of alcohol.

  12. L’habit ne fait pas le moine says:

    Great article! It’s nice seeing more of your writing! You touched on a lot of points pertaining to how the Word of Wisdom tends to send out mixed messages. How are alcohol and coffee bad and energy drinks are to be discouraged (the December 2008 issue of the Ensign wrote an article about how energy drinks have drug-like effects), but drinking multiple big gulps of caffeinated soda on a daily basis and is okay?

    I agree with Don who said that addiction – and avoiding it – is the most important part of the Word of Wisdom. But for church leaders to avoid speaking about addictions to caffeinated soda, food, and so many other things that aren’t even diet related (but I’m sure that is a blog post for another day) while railing relentlessly about alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks? It doesn’t add up.

    And I’m not saying that people **don’t** get addicted to alcohol, coffee, or energy drinks. Some people certainly do, and it’s had disastrous effects… this is why the advertisements for these beverages advise people to “drink responsibly.” Should you have a predisposition for addiction, for alcoholism, whatever, be your own agent and know the risks. Painting a scarlet letter on those who partake of these beverages responsibly and know how to limit themselves is unfair.

  13. David says:

    Not to mention the bulk of text from d&c 89 is for implementing a plant based diet. Which seventh day adventists actually do and average over 100years of age.

  14. John Doe says:

    Yet another rant from someone who desperately wants to be told it’s OK to drink coffee (or whatever else they have a problem with other than Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity, which are usually the two big ones for most people). They long for the day that they can…eat, drink, and be merry without guilt. Guess what, no one is stopping you if you have a problem getting by without it or think it’s OK for a drop or two, but please keep your ‘wines’ to yourself instead of stepping on other people’s deep convictions and beliefs and trying to convince others that their beliefs are outdated. Just go drink your coffee and be done with it, no one else will care if you do, get over it. It’s also humorous to me that you lump everything together as if it’s all the same thing, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, all the same stuff. Where did you get your medical science degree at anyway? Yes, sugar can be very bad for you in large doses, causing many health issues, but is also necessary in small doses for most people. The amount of caffeine in Cola drink is under 71mg whereas there is more than 4 times that in a Starbucks 20 oz (over 400mg). That’s a big difference. I won’t even bother getting into the obvious problems in our society caused by alcohol and tobacco, that you seem to reason is not too big of a deal as long as you only have 1 glass a day or on occasion. Ask any of your alcoholic friends how they became an alcoholic, then ask them if they wished they could ‘quit’ being an alcoholic…I think you see my point! If you are wise, you will carefully consider the Word of wisdom, if you are not, don’t worry about it; eat, drink whatever you want, but remember what you were told today.

    Best of luck, and what I mean is, it will only be with any ‘luck’ you wont have any liver, kidney, or lung diseases.

    • Anonymous says:

      your response stands out to me as the least loving or Christlike. I share this because I think you might benefit from hearing how you show up in the world. I know you know how to share love and I want to remind you to choose your better angels.

    • Jason Doe says:

      John Doe,
      When’s the last time you checked to see how many things your “addicted” to. Go a month without eating any sugar and then cast that first stone. Just because you are addicted to others things that aren’t named in WoW doesn’t mean you get to judge so harshly.

      • John Doe says:

        Jason Doe, that was partly my point, your body needs sugar “in moderation” to survive, does it need alcohol to survive? Nope.
        Tobacco? Nope. Nicotine? Nope. Caffeine? still Nope. Are any of those substances needed in the least little bit for man to survive? Nope. The Word of Wisdom doesn’t warn against sugar (unless it’s unhealthy amounts), nor is sugar and soda the only source of obesity. Priesthood leaders in the Church are not Physicians and are not there to tell members they are eating too much sugar which is making them fat, many people have medical issues causing them to gain weight that has nothing to do with sugar, so you can see why sugar and sodas have nothing to do with the Word of Wisdom other than if you consume unhealthy amounts (of anything for that matter). Alcohol and tobacco rightfully so come with many warnings that most people overlook for the side effects they get from them, I don’t know many people that love the taste of strong alcoholic drinks but they love how it makes them feel (they drink it to get drunk, which is an altered state of their mind, and they wake up in a stupor not remembering what they did, but they like that…someone can tell them that’s not good for them but they’ll just get upset about it, kind of like those that object to the Word of Wisdom will get).

        Not intending to be ‘judgy’ either, in fact, I’ve found, it’s usually those that mention the word ‘judge’ that are the ones most judging. I simply stated that if he (or anyone else) has an issue with it, do what you want, go get a drink if you want, no ones stopping you, but you don’t need to make light of it or condemn it for what you ‘think’ is better, right? Those that take holding a recommend a serious thing will stick to those values even if something else is tempting to do. I respect that tremendously in all people regardless of religious beliefs, but if I was a Jehovah’s Witness but professed that I love and should be able to celebrate holidays than am I really a Jehovah’s Witness?

        • chad says:

          John Doe, you perpetuate many uninformed positions in the above statement. Meat is not required by the body. How many Temple recommend holders would have no struggle giving up meat? Many people love the taste of beer and strong alcohol. Few people drink to the point that they black out. It is indeed rare for someone to consume that amount of alcohol. You speak of myths you have been told as if you know them to be true. Alcohol is not entirely bad for you, in moderation as you point out. Most people do not become alcoholics. That doesn’t mean you should consume alcohol, just be clear and correct about the hazards and do not perpetuate stereotypes that are not based in truth. It is offensive for an LDS person to be associated with Warren Jeffs by uneducated people. It is also offensive for someone who consumes coffee or alcohol on rare occasions to be likened to a black out drunk alcoholic.

          • John Doe says:

            Oh Chad, please don’t overwhelm us with too many facts, that’s just too much! You are disrespecting those who suffer from alcoholism and diminishing the side effects of it on society. “Few people drink to the point that they black out… It is rare for someone to consume that amount of alcohol”, I didn’t say a word about ‘blacking out’, how much alcohol do you think it takes to be ‘drunk?” I know, or have worked with, PLENTY of people dealing with alcoholism that would argue all those points, go look at the statistics, they speak for themselves. Ninety percent of alcoholic drinks consumed by teenagers are binge drinks. Alcoholism is a disease, one that is 100% avoidable, so why do so many Americans suffer from it (over 8 million)? NOT because it is healthy! No, because it’s so addictive. Why are so many relationships and families destroyed by the effects of alcohol??? When was the last time you heard about a family being destroyed by meat? Or when did you last hear about someone eating too much meat and then getting into a car and crashing into another family and killing them all? Why would you even compare the two? I am not perpetuating any stereotypes, have you ever had someone in your family been hit by a drunk driver before? I have, and you know what, maybe you are right, he was blacked out at the wheel.

  15. Ausin says:

    i think its time we update the law of chastity.

  16. Jennifer says:

    So many good points here. I’ve been wondering the same for awhile as well.

  17. Liz says:

    I actually laughedout loud at this and agree full heartedly!!

  18. Andy says:

    I enjoyed the article and many of the responses. Sparking a debate such as this is good for the soul. I agree on some points made. Such as if we abstain from coffee( is decaf ok?) and tea. But drink iced tea??? Or have 120-180 oz of Mt. Dew a day are we really worthy of that recommend? Is that the spirit of the law??? I converted to the Gospel at the age of 20. I had only tasted coffe on two occasions in my life up to that point. And both times were when I was experiencing extreme cold and it was in my mind a survival effortt. I just didn’t like coffee. But I did drink real black tea, not the herbal crap. And good old Coca Cola and Mt.Dew. Gave that all up for the Gospel. Good trade. But a year later I found myself in South America serving a mission, and many times the water was not safe to drink. Honest! So I drank Coca Cola glad that I would not be facing another case of Mountazuma’s Revenge because I drank something with the local water in it. I think it’s a great thing to see if people will obey an idea just to show that yes they will. Notice I didn’t use the term “Commandment”?
    And in the same note, do we over eat and not exercise and feel good about the principle? And no I am not what could be called a skinny person. Nor am I obease. But it does take discipline to not over eat on a holiday or at Chuck a Rama. I eat what I take and often only have 1 plate for dinner. But it’s a dinner I enjoyed, not inhaled plate after plate.
    I have never tasted an energy drink. Not a Red Bull, Monster or whatever you call them. I enjoyed the ability to taste what I put into my body.
    Now due to a Traumatic Brain Injury, I am either unable to taste most food. Or what tastes good and normal to you. Taste like dog crap to me. And yes this is a travesty of justice on an epic scale. But I still get hungry and eventually will eat.

  19. Mormon Guy says:

    I do wish I could enjoy a beer with my buds, a glass of wine on Thanksgiving, or a flute of champagne to bring in the New Year. Who gives a shit?

  20. Becky says:

    I don’t think it needs updated it all based on how I read the language of the intro…

    “not by commandment or constraint…”

    “Given for a principle with promise….”,

    “have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom…”

    In my mind I paraphrase the intro as the Lord saying “Hey, if you want to be healthy, here is how…” and he leaves it at that. I know non LDS who live this better than I do except for occasional alcoholic drink. All in all they are living much healthier than I. I think it was linked to the temple recommend with some of the most unhealthy areas because saints weren’t taking it serious at all (like know I suppose). That being said it is up to the individual to exercise agency over their health and assume the consequences for it in how their body works… On that note, oh how I miss my migraine inducing, anxiety causing, sleep depriving, heart palpating, intestine stimulating Caffeine (No sarcasm). It faithfully carried me through many a late night study session, long drive, and grumpy mom afternoon (and one botched epidural ouch! imagine head imploded!). Now I have to find other coping mechanism that doesn’t taste as fizzy and delicious, but I have been migraine free for 6 months! Maybe I should look into the rest if what old Bro Jerimiah is doing. Maybe.. Baby Steps.

  21. J says:

    the blue shirts on the spectrum! …

  22. Mareva gardner says:

    I look at it this way and this is how I’ve interpreted it for my own conscience and obedience…people need food to survive and sugar is part of that. Sometimes it’s hard to intake the stuff in regular food and not have it affect me negatively in some way. Therefore to forbid it, would not be a principle suggested for the weakest. One does not need coffee, tea, alcohol, recreational drugs or tobacoo in order to survive. There is no need for anyone to ever put any of that in their mouth to survive, unlike food. Certainly, our bodies would be better off if we were perfectly able to eat correctly at all times, but that is unrealistic in an imperfect world. But it is not unrealistic to abstain from those other things that are not needed to survive. That is why my interpretation tells me that people that struggle with food are different than people who struggle with substances. I, personally, drink mostly water, but Occasionally drink a Diet Pepsi or crystal light if I want flavor in my beveridge. This is not the same thing as coffee, tea, energy drinks and alcohol, but it is none of my business how others choose to interpret it and I will not be telling anyone whether they are or are not worthy. They are allowed to their interpretation just as I am and we are are all on different places on the path. What matters is that we are progressing on the path, not where we are on the path. The WOW helps us to do that and that’s what’s important.

  23. Cvyen says:

    Next time you call everyone out for being hypocrites, try not to end your article stating that you’re going to continue participating in said hypocrisies that are so “ironic and hypocritical”.

  24. Sam says:

    Give heed to the word of the LORD. Go to the temple. Pay your tithes. This is why we are here. The LORD has given us a way, a lighthouse to weather the storm, and the word of wisdom is in the fuel tank for that flame to burn bright. If you take out the fuel, then there is no lighthouse, and our ships will come crashing to the shore. Obey the word, and fill the fuel tank of our lighthouse. Mike Thayer, please don’t mock sacred things.

  25. KW says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, and I’m quite entertained by the comments. (I hope you feel sufficiently called to repentance and validated) I sympathize with your “wadda ya gonna do” response toward your atheistic friend’s incredulity. For what it’s worth, it’s seems ironic to me to concern ourselves with appearing arbitrary to groups of people that preach arbitrariness. Take atheism for example, without a higher power we are simply guided by what seems right or appropriate- often determined by herd instinct, survival, or social indoctrination, the definition of arbitrary law. Every ideological and political group have multiple standards that are inconsistent or make no sense. We are not unique in this sense. I also hesitate to agree that just because a commandment is ambiguous, and following that commandment takes many forms means that it is arbitrary. (Now I am going to use a tactic perfected by my mother in inflicting guilt, hopefully I do it as well as her…) When you become a parent of billions of children across thousands of cultures and have to command them all to follow the same standards to enter your house and make covenants with you, let me know how you decide to handle your law of health. Other than that (and your confident and culturally biased view of what is and isn’t healthy), I liked your article!

  26. Anon says:

    I’ve often had this discussion with my young adult children. They see things very differently. Like how you can’t get a recommend for drinking coffee, or being immoral. I read an article someone had researched on the wow. She said that the term “hot” back in the 1800’s referred to a burning, more like what alcohol would do. I don’t get the tea and coffee, but the rest make sense. But if it is a health code about the harmful things we put into our body, shouldn’t we look at Botox, saline or other implants, diet pills, etc…? We forbid tats but the fake stuff in our bodies that aren’t seen are ok? Just another topic for you to discuss!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a dilemma to consider depending on where you are on the spectrum. Energy drinks have alot of caffeine that aren’t great and there have been health complications and even a few deaths due to energy drinks, but I found a V8 Energy drink with green tea extract, so a natural plant based caffeine instead of synthetic caffeine found in energy drinks. The V8 has servings of fruits and vegetables, no sugar and 80 mg of caffeine vs around 120 mg in an energy drink. Yet, we have been told green tea is against the Word of Wisdom. The V8 obviously is healthier than an energy drink but has “green tea extract”. Thoughts?

    • Ryan says:

      The issue with green tea isn’t caffeine. It’s tea. And that’s what has been clarified for us. But I would agree that an energy drink is worse.

      I think the big issue here is the balance between allowing us to govern ourselves and giving us guidance. If they say, “the words of wisdom now includes eating sugar in moderation” everyone would feel that that is so nit picky and impossible and wouldn’t like getting a new commandment.
      On the contrary if they said, “tea and coffee are now at your discretion” it gives the impression that you can loosen up on all the commandments which is a hard feeling to shake.

      In an ideal world, everything would be defined for us, but it isn’t and it never will be. I think ideally we would be like Brother Jeremiah and follow the commandment the way it’s been explained to us. And also live it with the help of then clarifications regarding hot drinks and addictive substances. Ideally this could be added to. But again, it is our responsibility to understand the doctrine and live it.

      But yes, a warning against other harmful substances would be nice to get rid of some arbitrarity. Is that a word?

  28. chad says:

    The 800lb gorilla in the room, in UT at least is Opioids. These are the most addictive drug on the planet. Many people take them when a lesser medicine would allow them normal activity. Many opioid addicts are active LDS members, many active LDS members take opioids when they are not required. In both cases, these people can be honest about their drug use with their bishops and still obtain a temple recommend. This is directly against the W.O.W. How many people have been given morphine at the hospital? There is no caveat in the W.O.W. about pain or surgery. So anyone claiming to follow to the letter of the law had better hope they don’t blow a knee out, ever. I vividly remember stories of JS refusing whiskey for an operation on his leg. How many of us would go to that length?

  29. Hi daughter is an aspiring author! Found your article on the word of wisdom and I was laughing so hard I just need to find yourself! Thank you for your honesty, point of you, and great writing!

  30. Ken says:

    I think they need to revisit the Word of Wisdom and clarify many things due to recent changes in laws, culture and technology.
    Growing up I was taught that we were not to use tobacco and illegal drugs which is something that I have no problems with. But now I live in Washington state where marijuana is legal, does that mean that is is OK to use since it is not illegal? Also, what about vaping, does it fall into the same realm as tobacco? I’m not planning to use either of these, but I can imagine that there are some people that are following the letter of the law and think that these are OK. It would be nice to get a modern update on what is ok and what is not.

  31. Michelle Rodriguez says:

    This post is genius and hilarious. Well said, all of it. I’ve been arguing with keto diet going (member) friends for years (a primary diet of meat just feels wrong) and this so accurately depicts my perspective. Veggies? All day! Meat-based diet? Probably not going to turn out well.

  32. Jack says:

    I enjoyed this article and the responses. It’s hard to tell who all is trolling or dead serious in their hostility towards the author’s thoughts. I for one believe that the Word of Wisdom will be done away with as a requirement for baptism and temple recommend. I was even talking to my dad about such a prospect (a man who joined The Church in part because it forbade alcohol) and we both agreed that if the Word of Wisdom was done away with we definitely wouldn’t smoke or chew, most likely wouldn’t drink coffee, but we would both figured we’d have a weekly glass of wine.

  33. Laura says:

    This was a great article and had me agreeing and laughing thru much of it. This whole topic is well past due! I think the words coffee and tea could have easily been stated as such in the WoW. Because hot drinks was referred to as coffee and tea by past general authorities any prophet in this day and age is afraid to clarify and make any changes. It’s really too bad because scientific studies for the past many years have proven coffee and tea to help prevent many diseases and to actually be a healthy habit. Because coffee/tea is forbidden church members will often find their caffeine fix in other places that are definitely not healthy. A few things in the WoW have changed since it was given in the 1800’s. As an example, grains have changed quite a bit in the last several years and aren’t good for human consumption (i.e. gluten issues, etc.). A WoW update and clarification would be welcome.

  34. Laura says:

    I wanted to add to my original thought …. when non-members see LDS people drinking unhealthy caffeinated drinks, but they know coffee/tea are forbidden in our religion….that really makes us look like fools!! Especially since studies have shown coffee/tea to actually be healthy and many people are aware of those findings/studies. We as members can’t explain that situation to non-members and can’t really explain it to our own membership. So many reasons why the WoW needs an update!

  35. Laura says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if members of the church were known by non-members for their belief in Jesus Christ and for being good Christians instead of being known as the religion that bans tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco. If a non-member finds out you’re LDS, the first thing they think of is the fact that you can’t drink or partake of coffee, tea, alcohol or tobacco. There is clear evidence that tobacco is damaging to one’s health but not tea/coffee/or alcohol in moderation. Let us be known for our love of living a Christlike life and not for abstaining from these substances some of which are known to be healthy.

  36. Gertrude Strapoon says:

    The Prophet has spoken regarding the word of Wisdom! As I have been persecuted for my stance on coffee and tea tearing families apart, the new clarification from our prophets have validated me. Coffee and tea can be used as a mood altering substance if used inappropriately and can certain cause a rift in even the strongest of relationships. No one talks about this.

    Shame on all of you who spend money on the brews of the adversary and keep places like Starbucks confident that they can keep building locations in Utah county! Such establishments exist to further the agenda of Lucifer, as we have been taught, by revelation, through our holy prophets. He wants us to be addicted. He wants us to be unhappy. This is the OPPOSITE of what Heavenly Father wants.

    Shame on all of you who use the “health food store loophole” and buy things with green tea and green coffee extract in them for “weight loss”. Can you not see what deception tactic Satan is using here? He’s using clever deceptive marketing to make you addicts! Remember that wonderful gift we have call free agency? Ya, no more of that once you’re an addict!

    Brothers and Sister please open your eyes!

  37. Amanda says:

    Where do I even begin, Gertrude‍♀️

  38. Jack says:

    This is one of my favorite blog posts on the internet. I quite enjoy reading the responses here. I especially liked the remark by Laura about the reputation of our church being “the people that don’t drink coffee” rather than “the people that are trying to be like Jesus” to paraphrase. I remember when I first moved out of Utah in 2011 a friend of mine was asking me about “Mormonism” and he honestly thought we were just a group of people that decided to live our lives in a certain way and not drinking of coffee or alcohol was merely part of that. He was actually kind of disappointed to find out we believed in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he himself being an atheist. So what people think of us is just all over the place. I guess the best we can really do is try to love one another. (I’m glad about the emphasis on not using the M-word to describe the Church for this very reason.)

    In light of the Church’s recent clarification on e-sigs and whatnot it’s unlikely the Word of Wisdom will change anytime soon, but I would hope that people would at least read into the idea of avoiding addictive substances and use better judgement in that regard. For some, “addictive substances”, could mean sugary drinks and foods, or eating too much in general, etc. There is a spirit of law that should be followed as well.

    My guess is that if you walk and faint, and run and are weary, even if avoiding certain substances, you might need to question how well you are actually keeping the word of wisdom.

  39. Laura says:

    There is still much confusion among members over the fact that caffeine isn’t the problem. I was told while growing up that that’s why you shouldn’t consume coffee/tea. My parents who are in their 80’s still think that drinking a Diet Coke or anything with caffeine in it is a sin. And by the way, the church does cherry pick which parts of the WoW they require you to obey (and ask during a temple recommend interview) and totally ignore the other parts….why is that? Many members say that we don’t have a logical explanation for adhering to the no coffee/tea/alcohol rule except that it’s an obedience test. Well, I think there are many obedience tests for members….wearing garments day/night, attending church meetings regularly, holding callings, etc. I think it’s just an excuse to control you and make you follow something that doesn’t even make sense! How many ways do we need to be tested? The church really needs to come out and clarify the WoW in a way that addresses all of these issues. Bring it up in a General Conference so that EVERYONE is informed. And get up-to-date on the science that’s been out there for years on the health benefits of some of these substances.

  40. Bill says:

    I hope people wake up some day and realize that the WOW was not inspired by anything other than Joseph Smith trying to come up with new doctrine to keep the people engaged. That’s why he gave it as a suggestion and not a commandment. If the WOW was really inspired by God, it would have banned sugar. Sugar consumption is the single most damaging food and is the source of most dietary problems not only in Mormon culture but throughout the world. It permeates everything — every potluck, function, outing, etc. If you want to live healthy, stop eating sugar including almost all processed foods as most of it includes added sugar. If you don’t believe me, walk in to church on Sunday and ask yourself how many people in attendance can walk and not be weary or run and not faint. I’m sure most of those people are “living” the church’s version of the WOW. That should be evidence enough that the WOW is a failed doctrine.

  41. Angela says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post and all the comments. Haha Gertrude up there would probably call me a heathen for my coffee struggles.

    I would so love for the WoW to be updated. I’m a convert to the church of 6 years and I am dependent on caffeine (switched from coffee to yerba mate). I was a barista at a 3rd wave coffee shop and heavily into the culture and science of roasting and brewing coffee. I loved it. Left it all for the church and I have no regrets! However, I still struggle with coffee cravings and give in sometimes. It gives me so much grief because I desire to continue to be temple-worthy and to be worthy to enter into God’s presence again.
    I’m so healthy in other ways–eat pretty healthy, exercise 5-6 days a week, sleep well. Coffee is the constant thorn in my side. I’m working towards lessening my caffeine addiction. It’s hard!

  42. E says:

    I just want to thank you for posting this. These are honestly my exact thoughts and when I sometimes tell people them, they think I’m crazy for question the WoW.. it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one!!

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *