Eat Meat Sparingly – and Drink Diet Soda Sparingly, Too

While reading a recent issue of Diabetes Forecast (background reading related to one of my favorite projects at work), I found an interesting story about a recent study linking diet soda to metabolic syndrome, a disorder related to the tragedy of diabetes. It’s not clear if the diet soda is somehow causing the damage, or if those who drink diet soda have other bad behaviors or bad genes that increase the odds of metabolic trouble. But if I were you, I’d ask some serious questions about all the chemicals you dump in your body with gallons of diet soda (or regular soda, for that matter) and consider taking up water.

The research also points to heavy meat consumption as being a contributing factor. The Word of Wisdom encourages us to eat meat sparingly. Maybe the next update will also include similar language about diet soda.

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times’ version of the story, “Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda“:

Researchers have found a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome — the collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and elevated blood pressure.

The scientists gathered dietary information on more than 9,500 men and women ages 45 to 64 and tracked their health for nine years.

Over all, a Western dietary pattern — high intakes of refined grains, fried foods and red meat — was associated with an 18 percent increased risk for metabolic syndrome, while a “prudent” diet dominated by fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry correlated with neither an increased nor a decreased risk.

But the one-third who ate the most fried food increased their risk by 25 percent compared with the one-third who ate the least, and surprisingly, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who drank one can of diet soda a day compared with those who drank none.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

41 thoughts on “Eat Meat Sparingly – and Drink Diet Soda Sparingly, Too

  1. Well, nobody’s gonna quibble if somebody has a can of diet coke every now and then, but it has always angered me how much meat that LDS Mormons consume.

    A quick story from about 10 years ago: my then-wife and I were out to dinner with a married couple from our ward. I ordered a diet coke to drink and the husband of the other couple looked at me in horror like I was just shooting up heroin. After the waiter left, the husband said “Brother XXX, do you feel worthy going to the temple?” I replied “yes, I do.”. The waiter came and took our orders and he ordered the largest steak on the menu, “with extra sour cream and butter”. I did not say a word, but gave him a bit of the stink-eye. I think he got the message because he said “yes, sparingly, I know”.

  2. Thanks for the post, Jeff. I think it’s really important for us to take care of what we put in our bodies. Eating seems to be one of the passions that we Mormons have the most trouble with controlling… but I do think that exercise is an important and often neglected tool to keep the body healthy as well. It may not be requisite for the Celestial kingdom, but I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a few sit-ups.

  3. Isn’t the term “sparingly” very clearly defined?
    12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
    13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, *only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine*.
    14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
    15 And these hath God made for the use of man *only in times of famine and excess of hunger*.

    I know that the LDS Church gets around the “barley for mild drinks” (i.e. beer) by saying that it means barley tea, a drink, oddly enough, favored in Japan and Korea but not in Utah.

    How do Mormons get around not being vegetarians nine months out of the year?

  4. Maybe the cold/winter thing had to do with hygiene and lack of refrigeration back then.

    I think I need a little animal protein each day. I’ve tried 100% vegetarian, and it doesn’t work for me. I try to eat at least 1 serving of meat per day, and at most 2. And it is usually lean chicken breast or very lean beef, or tuna. I usually wait for the sales: $2.00/pound for boneless skinless chicken breast, and $2.20/pound for boneless round steak. I trim off the fat, grind them, and freeze them in single serving sized bags. And use them for chicken-burgers or hamburgers, or ground chicken or ground beef recipes.

    I saw a T-shirt on the internet that said:

    (tasty tasty murder)

  5. Fortunately I’ve been close to Vegetarian for years, and never drank much soda. I’m a water girl! No fast food. Bleck!

    But yeah, when I found out about the WoW I was disappointed to see how much meat LDS folks eat. I try not to judge, but it’s hard not to notice that hardly anyone in my Ward keeps the WoW. Kinda sad.

    The only vice I had prior to joining the Church was coffee. I loved coffee! But the moment I decided to be baptized I quit. And my stomach ulcer cleared up!

    Is it a sin that I still inhale deeeeeeeply when walking past the fresh ground coffee in the grocery store?

  6. Bookslinger – I’ve always had a weakness for pork, although I rarely, rarely eat it. But I wanted to make a T-shirt with a little pig running away and a butcher knife in the corner with the caption, ‘If pigs don’t want to be eaten, they really need to stop tasting so good!’

    Anon of 8:04 – I think it was seasonal based on the growing season of grains, etc. But I do agree with what you say.

    The simple fact is, humans aren’t perfect and many members have a weakness where this is concerned. I wish they realized not only that it would improve their health, but also that it reflects poorly on the Church. But our Church also is extremely pro-agency. Meaning they don’t force anyone to do anything, it’s always a matter of individual prayer to know the priciple is a true one and to follow it willingly.

    I think too that sometimes people have many weaknesses and it’s hard for them to change them all at once, so they work on what they can and just keep trucking forward.

  7. *off topic*

    “But our Church also is extremely pro-agency. Meaning they don’t force anyone to do anything…”

    I wish members would take that to heart when they vote, instead of automatically voting for the person with the “R” next to there name. The U.S. is fast approaching socialism where agency is not so kindly looked upon, and both parties are culprits.

  8. Perhaps since a lot of the scriptures are directed at our day a lot of the Word of Wisdom can deal with the Atkins and low carb high protein craze we have experienced in the past decade. As well as the low low fat diets of the 80’s and 90’s. The human body needs protein, carbs, and fats, just always the right types and in moderation. Most people assume all fat is bad, however EFA’s are essential (perhaps that is why they are called essential fatty acids???) Where as partially hydrogenated oils and hydrogenated oils, (which are basically trans fats that we are hearing so much about) are definitely not essential. Along the same lines not all carbs are bad for you. Whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, etc are wonderful for the body. Refined carbohydrates such as you find in most packaged, prepared, or fast foods, such as white sugars, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup, are not.
    Lean protein such as chicken or tuna is generally best for you, but there are nutrients to be found in red meats as well. It is all about using these items sparingly and moderately. But Satan doesn’t care if you are a glutton or a pharisee (living the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law, as well as judging others for how they choose to live)… he just doesn’t want you to be moderate and level headed… too far over either side of moderation and he wins because you have basically lost control of yourself, either your physical appetite, or your spirituality. Anything can damage the body if taken to the extreme. We all know lack of water can cause dehydration and consequently death, but over hydration can lead to an imbalance in your blood sodium levels which can cause death as well. Generally we are told to stay away from too much sodium, however in this instance water has become the enemy and salt the hero. If we cut everything from our diet but whole grains and lean protein and essential fatty acids our diet could get boring… sometimes meat is tasty tasty murder, and if we were to never eat these things Heavenly Father would come right out and say it, but instead the Word of Wisdom says what we should predominantly eat and what should be USED sparingly. I personally believe that most of these things were made for our enjoyment… but only in moderation. But that is just my personal opinion.

  9. About the *only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine*.

    From what I have read that comma wasn’t there in the original. It was a later addition. But really verse thirteen is ambiguous.

    That aside I was told that it is left up to the individual to interpret these. I, for myself, do not think that we are to be vegetarian 9 months of the year, I do think that vegetables should be the largest part of our meal (like 3-4 times bigger then the meat portion), but I don’t practice that yet. I don’t mind veges or salad and the body does require all these food groups to provide the right nutrients.

    My 2 cents

  10. Just wanted to pick on the jab about “barley for mild drinks”. People seem to forget about the unsanitary state of water prior to refrigeration, water processing, and additives like chlorine.

    In 1606, when the Virginia Company set out on its five-month journey with passengers to Jamestown, the daily ration per person was a gallon of beer. It had a much lower alcohol content that today’s beer, but there was enough to kill any organisms that could make one sick.

    Check out

    Water conditions were not too much better by the 1830s. Personally, I don’t think it was a loophole for getting drunk.

    If we enter into a period in the future where drinkable water is scarce, “barley for mild drinks” may be a necessary part of our diet.

    Regarding meats and overall health, I would encourage everyone to try to cut back on meat consumption and find some type of exercise regiment. Maybe we can extend the lifespan of LDS members from 10 years more than the general population to 15. 🙂

  11. opydI posted the third comment and just want to thank everyone for their thoughtful input.

    I believe that the WoW is open to a wide range of interpretations at all levels. I think the key to it all, as others have said, is moderation and not becoming extreme on any one thing.

    I try to live a vegetarian lifestyle but like bookslinger, I need more protein because I work out and walk 3-5 miles a day.

    I also include regular and green tea in my diet in moderation because of the antioxidants. A cup of tea is very nice in the morning and I try to have a cup of green tea in the afternoon. Again, I use common sense and moderation in this. I don’t drink it hot, but let it cool down until it’s lukewarm.

    Also, I disagree with most other Saints in that I do drink beer but again in moderation. I find a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer on a hot day to be very refreshing. But I will only have one. I have NEVER been drunk in my life and never will be!

    Do I feel like a bad person or a hypocrite? Not at all. I passed my latest physical with flying colors. I maintain a current temple recommend also.

    Human beings have an almost uncontrollable desire to take things to extremes and I believe that includes the extreme use of meat, alcohol in this context. But so far, I can say that I can “walk and not faint” and if it were not for my knee I’d be running again!

  12. I understand the comments regarding mderation and the historical perspectives offered here and find these comments to be interesting and informative.

    I was wondering if the currently defined proscriptions in the WoW on alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful drugs offer more than heath benefits but also allow us an opportunity to be perfect in obedience to a commandment and receive blessings as a result of that obedience. I tend to folow this mindset, despite the fact that recent medical research indicates that 1 glass of red wine a day is good (but not required) for heart health, as well as any benefits attributed to tea, coffee, tobacco (if there are any) or even medical marijuana.

    Just wondering what other thoughts are out there on the value of simple obedience as opposed to the health benefits that naturally follow WoW counsel.

    -A Mississippi Saint

  13. mssaint – Obedience wins the day.

    The way I look at it is this; Is anything worth the risk? Why anyone would disobey even a little bit on purpose is beyond me. Some folks seem to want to get as close to the line as possible without going over.

    Anon 12:14 – I have no intention of voting for an R this year. And I’d never vote for a D because of all the issues the Church has spoken out about, the Ds are on the wrong side of every single one of them.

    But to me, the Rs are the new Ds and I’m done with them. I hope Jeff won’t get upset at a little political talk.

    Anon 8:23 – Not to make a big deal here, but aren’t you simply trying to justify your use of tea by saying you don’t drink it hot?

    So we can drink a large coffee as long as it’s cold?

    To me that’s breaking the letter and the spirit of the law. But, that’s only my opinion.

  14. “Anon 8:23 – Not to make a big deal here, but aren’t you simply trying to justify your use of tea by saying you don’t drink it hot?

    So we can drink a large coffee as long as it’s cold?

    To me that’s breaking the letter and the spirit of the law. But, that’s only my opinion.”

    I guess we could make the same argument that eating meat other than in times of winter or famine is breaking the spirit and letter also.

    I see it as simply be moderate.

  15. Is drinking a coffee-flavored drink that is completely artificially flavored and contains NO coffee whatsoever against the WoW?

    And did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? 😉

  16. Several random thoughts/responses:

    Re: green tea. It seems like every few years there’s a big craze about some natural herb. People go hog-wild with it and put it in everything to treat every malady, and later we find out the hard way that there are unwanted side effects. I know the last two or three turned out that way, though I can only remember phen-phen by name. I wonder how long green tea has left…

    Re: using meat sparingly. According to a PBS documentary on the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-6), each member of the party ate 20-25 *pounds* of meat a day. We may be bad with meat today, but perhaps there’s been some progress? Disclaimer: we’ve become pseudo-vegetarian in my family lately — meat once a day at most, usually 2-3x per week — and it’s been great.

    Re: alcohol in moderation. I’m not at all sure alcohol — in moderation — has a negative impact on the body. The mind is a whole ‘nother matter though. My wife hates going to my school’s fancy dinners because she can see our friends’ personalities change before they finish even one beer. This includes folks who have never been and never plan to be drunk. When you factor in alcoholism and the ‘evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men’ alcohol starts to look pretty bad for ‘the weak and the weakest’ the Word of Wisdom is ‘adapted to.’ It’s also interesting that, in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon, nearly every story where alcohol factors into the plot has Bad Things happen to those who were drinking (young Daniel, Noah in his tent, Laban, Lamanite armies, etc.)

    Re: I’d ask some serious questions about all the chemicals you dump in your body. My wife has acid reflux, and all the worst triggers are food additives. Unfortunately the FDA doesn’t require most of those to be listed on food labels so food manufacturers dump them into our food in vast quantities (especially sulfer-containing preservatives). Next time you open a can of fruit (peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, cheap brands of pineapple), see if you can catch the slight whiff of sulfer that comes off right when you take off the lid. We’ve been in Europe for a couple of weeks now and we noticed that her reflux has completely gone away because none of that crap goes into the food here. The EU is pretty strict about listing *everything* that goes into the food and nobody wants to eat something that has a bunch of scary E*** chemical codes listed near the top of the ingredients list!

    Re: interpreting the Word of Wisdom. I black list everything the Lord’s prophets explicitly finger as bad, and further to avoid or carefully limit any food or drink that seems designed to foster gluttony and addiction. This includes fast food, candy, desserts, soda, etc. Oh, and any weight-loss diet that goes against the Word of Wisdom food group hierarchy — grains followed by fruits/veggies followed by meat — instantly loses all credibility.

  17. In March of 2005 I went Vegan for health reasons, being told that it would clear up my health problems (predominantly diabetes). I was also jogging on a mini-trampoline an hour each day. After 6 months and no improvement I could see, I retreated to being a vegetarian and eating mozzarella cheese and occasionally salmon. In July of 2007 I had triple bypass surgery: One artery was 98% clogged, another was 95%, and the third was about 80%. Ten years before that surgery, when I had a heart attack, my arteries were all clear. After thinking about it, in March of 2008 I quit being vegetarian, since for the 60+ years before I stopped eating meat, my arteries had been clear; so, that led me to believe that eating no meat had something to do with my arteries clogging. Nothing else had changed, except that I was exercising more–could the extra exercise have clogged my arteries?

    There are many programs to improve health, each of which helps some, makes others worse off, and doesn’t have any effect on the rest. Being vegetarian helps some people immensely, but for others–like me–it can be disastrous.

    Metabolic Typing says that one size doesn’t fit all in health, and that what’s good for one isn’t necessarily good for everyone else. It proposes that there are three categories we fit into: Vegetarian dominant, protein dominant, and a mixture of these two types, with variations within each of the categories.

    Vegetarianism worked in the Garden of Eden, but since then there have been many changes in how people have lived over the centuries, and we’re typed according to our ancestry, and many other factors in our lives. It’s also possible to change from one category to another.

    The common factor in all three categories is to cut out consuming all kinds of junk, which is what the Word of Wisdom teaches.

  18. Anon @ 8:23 –

    Human beings have an almost uncontrollable desire to take things to extremes…

    The responses to your support that, at least.

    …allow us an opportunity to be perfect in obedience to a commandment and receive blessings as a result of that obedience.


    Obedience wins the day.

    Righteousness and obedience are not synonymous. If the LDS toed the line with every misinterpretation that’s been handed down about the Word of Wisdom, we might still be living in the dark days of national alcohol prohibition.

  19. Ryan,

    You are right on the money about health fads in the U.S.

    When it comes to green tea, Lipton puts out a terrible product in a bottle that is an example of trying to cash in. Their “green tea” is nothing more than corn syrup, water, food coloring and a spot of tea. Junk!

    I go for it because it has a long term record:

    “In May 2006, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine weighed in on the issue with a review article that looked at more than 100 studies on the health benefits of green tea. They pointed to what they called an “Asian paradox,” which refers to lower rates of heart disease and cancer in Asia despite high rates of cigarette smoking. They theorized that the 1.2 liters of green tea that is consumed by many Asians each day provides high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants. These compounds may work in several ways to improve cardiovascular health, including preventing blood platelets from sticking together (This anticoagulant effect is the reason doctors warn surgical patients to avoid green tea prior to procedures that rely on a patient’s clotting ability) and improving cholesterol levels, said the researchers, whose study appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Specifically, green tea may prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type), which, in turn, can reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries, the researchers wrote.”

    Of course it isn’t a magic bullet for health. I don’t think anything, including the WoW, is.

    Alcohol consumption can be a terrible thing for some people. They just can’t deal with it. I have the same problem with chocolate but you don’t get a D.U.I. from eating a large Hershey bar. The other extreme, prohibition, gave us Al Capone so that’s just as bad.

    I can’t speak for other people. I just know what I like and what works for me.

    To me the WoW is just what the Lord says it is: not a commandment, but a principle with a promise. That the Prophet Joseph Smith didn’t follow it to the letter says a lot to me about what part it should play in my life.

    I think the MAJOR problem we have today is that it is more and more acceptable to be overweight. Being obese will do as much or more damage to you as drinking a pint of gin a day I feel.

  20. In Protestantism we have whole sections of Christians and thinkers who believe that various things can be decided on according to conscience or personal interpretation of the Scriptures. Much like a couple of comments on here have either alluded to that belief or have said it outright- that the WoW can be “interpreted” by the individual several ways.

    Sorry. That simply isn’t true and nor is it faithful to your LDS testimony of the need for a prophet or a restoration of the Church!

    Personal interpretation of the Scriptures is tied in with Protestant doctrines of the priesthood of all believers and the private study of the Bible and theology. Mormonism, although obviously encouraging the free flow of ideas and opinions in many ways, does not (I think) allow for “private interpretation” of the WoW or any other Mormon Scripture in the sense that we can introduce subjective theological conclusions from the text.

    When you read the WoW most Mormons will tell you that it is “inspired” and written as a revelation from God. How on this earth do you suppose therefore to have the authority to decide for yourself- outside of the author’s original intent for the text- what it means for you in some subjective way?

    If the WoW says only eat meat sparingly, then people, you should simply only eat meat sparingly.

    What do you think?

  21. Anon: At 9:36 AM, August 24, 2008.

    Re: authoritative versus personal interpretation of the Word-of-Wisdom.

    Maybe this will address your question. LDS are given “minimum compliance standards” by the prophet. In a nutshell, these minimums are included in the requirements for a temple-recommend.

    Beyond that, saints may then choose on their own how to interpret those items in the WoW that are not part of the temple-recommend requirements. IE, how often to eat meat, what grains and vegetables to eat, in what proportions, and other dietary choices.

    The authoritative temple-recommend parts of the WoW are laid out pretty clear and communicated out through leadership down to the bishop level, as he is the “gate keeper” doing the first level temple-recommend interview, with a member of the Stake Presidency doing a second interview.

    These “authoritative interpretations” are: no coffee, no tea (except herbal tea which isn’t really a “tea”), no alcohol, no tobacco in any form, no illicit drugs.

    The above has been pretty well communicated to the membership.

    Less-well communicated is whether “green tea” is allowed or disallowed. (And by “allowed/disallowed” I’m referring to whether it allows or whether it disqualifies one for a temple-recommend.)

    I was unsure of the “green tea” part myself for many years. The only local authority I’ve heard from is the local mission president, when missionaries asked him because an investigator asked if he had to give up green tea. That mission president said that green tea is against the WoW.

    The only difference between green tea and the kind of tea that is against the WoW (“black tea”) is that black tea is fermented, and green tea is not fermented. Both come from the same plant.

    If the plant producing black tea needs to be avoided, then we would logically also have to avoid green tea since it’s the same plant.

    Also of question is whether or not coffee flavoring is “kosher” for Mormons. And does it matter if it’s natural coffee flavoring or artificial coffee flavoring? I have not read or heard an authoritative answer to that, but plenty of speculation and personal interpretation by members.

    As someone jokingly pointed out that they inhale deeply near the fresh ground coffee at the store (I’ve done the same when smelling good coffee), I wonder if we are “lusting in our heart” and thereby committing the “thought-sin”, as when we lust in a sexual manner.

    If we commit the sin of adultery in our heart when we lust sexually, do we commit the sin of breaking the WoW in our heart when we lust after coffee?

    As I’ve strugged to control my thoughts and desires, I try to keep in mind that it’s not a sin to be tempted. However, at the moment of temptation, we have the choice of turning our mind away from it, or of focusing and dwelling on it.

    Now continuing on authoritative versus personal interpretations and standards:

    I think it’s the focusing and dwelling (on sin or temptation to sin) that grieves the Spirit. And one of my beliefs is that anything that grieves the Spirit is a sin, at least for that person.

    Then as we learn more and more principles and laws of God’s Kingdom (which are in effect the rules/laws of the nature and existence of eternal beings), we increase our own person set of “things” we need to obey in order to keep the Spirit with us. I don’t think God expects us to obey principles we haven’t been taught and have no idea of.

    IE, he who sins against the greater light is under the greater condemnation. Therefore, logically: he who sins against lesser (or no) light is under lesser (or no) condemnation.

    Therefore, God (and the Holy Spirit) expect more of those who know more.

    Then how do church leaders guide a church of people who are at different levels of learning and understanding?

    That’s were personal interpretation and decision-making comes in. Each person should be seeking more knowledge and to live according to that knowledge, and not coast along at the “minimum compliance” level, which in effect is just a least common denominator.

    And, those who have learned more should not look down their noses at those who haven’t learned as much.

    This goes beyond WoW things, and can be applied to all principles, doctrines, commandments, etc.

    How many widows and fatherless does one have to visit and comfort? And how often? How about that cheek-smiting business: Do you have to let people smite your spouse and children too? Is it just your cheek, or do you have to let them kick you and/or punch you in the nose, too?

    How many naked people does one have to clothe? How many hungry people does one have to feed? Is writing a check good enough? Do you have to give money to the sign-holders at the street intersections, or can you donate to a reputable soup-kitchen and homeless shelter? Can we donate outside of the LDS church, or should all our charity contributions be done within the church? Is 100% home-teaching really required, or can one do 50% one month, and the other half in the alternating months?

    All those things need judgement and wisdom. Which is how the Lord said to do things anyway.

  22. I just want to say thank you to Bookslinger for putting it as succinctly as he did. Normally I don’t post anonymously but this time I feel I must simply because of what I’m going to say.

    As Bookslinger noted the parts of the word of wisdom necessary to be kept for temple worthiness are clear. NO, not moderate amounts but NO amount of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea (herbal excluded).

    If you have beer in moderation then you are either lying to your bishop or your bishop a very clear standard set by the first presidency.

    I don’t mean to be so harsh but the quasi spiritualist discussion that has gone on in the comments of this subject have offended me and what I believe and recognize as the spirit deeply.

    I wasn’t even going to weigh in after Bookslinger’s post but still felt strongly the need to emphasize what he was saying so here you have it.

    For those of you prideful in your practice of the Wow to the letter congrats and repent. Your attitudes and even “disappointment” towards those you’re feel aren’t keeping it to your standard are a sin and are not righteous judgment.

    To those of you using the historical text rather then the modernly revealed context to justify your sin repent, you are wresting the scriptures to your own damnation, and your judgments of those righteously judging you are unjust.

    This is the first time I have become truly sickened by some of the comments on this blog, and it is the same spirit I have felt when I here someone teach a “doctrine” that I know to be false. (ie Blacks spirits were less righteous in the previous life).

    Some things are open to personal interpretation yes, but some aren’t. And those who judge people based on their personal interpretation will be condemned just as readily as those who justify there sins by taking a text out of it’s defined context.

    Don’t bother responding I’m not going to debate the issue further if your offended well, “The wicked take the truth to be hard.” That is all I have to say.

    Anon082408 to separate me from those keeping anonymous to protect their identities because of their sins.

  23. Real quick on the whole “green tea” discussion: For those who drink green tea and feel it is okay, I’d like to see you justify that to a very dedicated and active Japanese saint. Green tea isn’t just something that some people drink in Japan, it is cultural. EVERYONE drinks it! It is something very difficult for investigators to give up and it requires a lot of faith to do so. But the members are all the more stronger for not drinking it.

    The word of wisdom is unique, I think, in the commandments because there IS so much room for interpretation. The best way I heard it explained is that there are some things that the WoW explicitly says we should not do and there are some things it explicitly says we SHOULD do. After that, we need to use our best judgment, counsel with the Lord on what we PERSONALLY should do, and follow the guidance of the Spirit. There are definite blessings of keeping the word of wisdom and we could ALL probably benefit more from those blessings by striving to follow the guidance of the Spirit better (myself included).

  24. I think this is a great conversation so far! I wish that we could have conversations like this in my ward during gospel doctrine class.

    I am sorry if I have offended anyone with my liberal interpretation of the WoW. This is how I came to understand it as well as all of the doctrines of the Restored Gospel-

    Years ago I went inactive partly because I didn’t know what I should believe in the church. One guy would quote Elder so and so and another guy would quote some long dead leader on this subject or that. It was very confusing for me so I just quit.

    A very wise home teacher began coming to see me told me that most of what I heard were nothing more than the opinions of well meaning men but NOT scripture. “Stick with the scriptures and you won’t go wrong” he said.

    So that’s what I do now. I follow what is in the scriptures and use them to measure what is taught to me in church on Sunday and what is taught in General Conference. I follow the WoW in the same way. I do not drink wine or liquor and I believe that this discussion will help me to stop eating meat except “in time of winter”. I will continue to drink green and black tea as well as an occasional beer. I’m sorry if this doesn’t fit in the the LDS cultural norm of 2008 but there are worse things that a person can do.

    I think in following the WoW we should, as with all things, seek the Spirit. As I have prayed about it, the impression comes to mind and it is very clear- “not by commandment or constraint”.

  25. Thanks for the replies to my comment- which probably seemed rather more “religious” than originally intended!

    I guess that as well as a modern spiritual prophet some people also accept that medicine itself has become a kind of guiding light. The prevailing medical wisdom of the world at times outweighs the wisdom of God and the principles He gives; and this medical wisdom becomes our prophet. Watch this as fads enter the fray- “green tea” or “Japanese salt” or being vegetarian (something which is hinted at in the New Testament in the context of “forbidding to eat meats” as a sign of the latter days).

    If the WoW has more brevity about it and can be interpreted in a lighter manner as some here have taught me, then that is fine. If that is a “contextual” wisdom- i.e. good for the early days of the LDS but not so much for now- then perhaps an official statement to that effect would be helpful?

    We don’t have a WoW in Protestantism. Yet I was always taught that good diet based on God’s precepts within the Bible (grains, herbs, fruits, certain fish and poultry, some meat) is the Biblical way to go. Peripheral and to some extent modern food issues- coffee, tea, sodas etc- are left to the believer’s conscience in that the wisdom we can take from Biblical precepts on food and eating, alongside medical wisdom and common sense, often lead to sound conclusions about how much (if any) of these things to consume.

    I wonder why the LDS (genuine question) therefore needed a “Word of Wisdom” on food issues when the Bible could have been used in a similar way for the earlier Mormon saints? What is the point of calling this a new revelation if God had clearly already dealt with these issues thousands of years before in precept and principle? And why this revelation that is not commandment but principle when (again) this had already been revealed in times past?

    I’m not (yet) a Mormon, but it seems to me that this section of the Mormon Scriptures is becoming a little redundant because the prophet of medicine and personal thought are prevailing ahead of it.

    Perhaps it was always meant that way 😉

  26. Anon:

    Good questions, all. I assume that you are sincere in your questions…MANY, MANY bloggers put on a veneer of being the “honest investigator” when in fact they are looking to undermine people’s faith.

    One answer to your question relates to the nature of the prophetic role and, oddly, the Fundamentalist movement. How often was it that Jesus or Peter quoted scripture previously given? Wasn’t Peter being redundant…they had the Septuagint before them! Micah quoted VERBATIM from Isaiah. Does that make Micah irrelevant?

    The Fundamentalist movement, however, has changed the relationship of readers to “the word.” The word now only exists in print…anyone who quotes from it is deriving its authority from the page, not from above. So in some ways, your questions are more about the importance/role of prophets than they are about redundancy.

    Also, don’t overestimate how “familiar” these principles were to the LDS or to Christianity. Many Bible believers drank wine, smoked tobacco.

    Finally, I would question personally how related personal health is to the rationale for the W o W. This is a minority view, but let’s face it…drinking two gallons of soda every day will not keep you out of the temple, but it’s probably worse for you than a glass of wine a month. I believe that the W o W (and I have sound theoretical grounding for this from Elder Neal A. Maxwell) is given in large part for what can be termed, “tactical morality,” being different just so we can be different and have the awkward experience of explaining our beliefs to others. And if you’re looking for every belief to be scientifically justifiable with facts/statistics, you might want to revisit your belief in a man coming down from heaven who taught the shedding of his blood would remove sin.

    From a scientific standpoint, that’s nothing more than a fairy tale.

  27. Just one comment on this line
    “but it seems to me that this section of the Mormon Scriptures is becoming a little redundant because the prophet of medicine and personal thought are prevailing ahead of it.”

    Russ may have covered this. I think our Heavenly Father and His Son always deal in redundancy. They rehash things constantly through the scriptures and through their mouthpieces.

  28. …it is the same spirit I have felt when I here someone teach a “doctrine” that I know to be false. (ie Blacks spirits were less righteous in the previous life).

    So, past Presidents have taught false doctrine? Is it up to you to tell us which Presidents’ statements are to be assumed true, and which false? Or is it just that the living President is always correct, no matter what? Just looking for some clarity here.

  29. No- genuine questions, and very good answers. Thank you very much. It’s nice (I think) to trade ideas and concepts and look at these things openly and honestly, though I can understand that at times paranoia sets in and makes you wonder if the contributor is genuine!

    I am in fact investigating the LDS Church with a view to joining. I am reading very widely and helping my family adjust to the idea that I may be on my way to converting- which as I am sure you can appreciate is in some ways a heart rending situation (I mean that in the best possible way). We will lose friends and some family members won’t understand; I happen to think investigating includes building a strong enough testimony that what we are about to accept is true to build a defence against what may come when we make an announcement to friends and family!

    Perhaps it would be helpful if I got myself a blogger account and stopped asking questions and contributing “anonymously”!

    Take care all!!

  30. RWW: Living prophets trump the dead ones.

    The Bible is full of “that was then, this is now” situations, both within each Testament, and especially crossing from the Old to the New Testament.

    So if you believe in the Bible, wherein, over time, God gave further light and knowledge, new information, higher laws, etc., then you shouldn’t have a problem with modern prophets delivering further light and knowledge, new information, and higher laws.

    One hang-up people have is the Sabbath being the 7th day or the first day. I had a long discussion with a 7th Day Adventist. He couldn’t accept that the Apostles changed the Christian Sabbath observance from the 7th day to the 1st day of the week.

    After all, Moses specifically said the SEVENTH day was to be a PERPETUAL Sabbath. And apparently, the 7th Day Adventists don’t believe that the Apostles changed it. They believe it was incorrectly changed later on.

    So if the Apostles did change it to the 1st day of the week, they contradicted Moses. In that case either the Apostles were wrong to change it, or Moses was wrong in saying it was perpetual.

    I think Acts gives enough clues that the Apostles changed it, but some (especially the 7th Day Adventists) think it was incorrectly changed after the Apostles’ time.

    “Having all things in common” was another early Christian doctrine that seems to have been abandoned.

    Also Paul’s thing in 1st Corinthians about women keeping silent in church has been abandoned by most churches.

    Well, things change.

    So the pattern of the need for prophets, and what they do, and how they operate has already been set.

    Prophets confirm those doctrines and policies that are carried forward and applicable to us, and reveal new information as God sees fit.

  31. RWW:

    That’s, in part, the genius of the gospel to me. It requires the same kind of diligence and searching that is required to understand the scriptures. When finding out the truest (and frankly, the most relevant) doctrines, there is a filtering process. We obviously shouldn’t value the feast of the passover in the same way we value the Resurrection. The feast helps us understand the Atonement in new ways, but we needn’t trouble ourselves over why we don’t keep it (after all, it was commanded to be a practice FOREVER in the O.T.).

    One can know what are the core doctrines by seeing what is consistently taught “through process of time.”
    Example: The Journal of Discourses, for example, are hardly indicative…most members didn’t even hear those discourses! Occasionally, a discourse would be in Deseret News, but most of the discourses were kept to the publications of George Watt for the purposes of making a few dollars. Even if recorded accurately, how can we possibly view these words in the same way as the modern sermons that are scoured over in preparation for worldwide circulation?

  32. RWW:

    Ummm…. I sense a set-up coming.

    Are you asking if the living prophet/president is infallible? If that’s what you mean, then no. LDS prophets/presidents don’t claim infallibility. But they do claim authority to direct the affairs of the church, and communicate that which has been revealed for our day.

  33. RWW:

    Before I answer that question, I think it fair to ask how on earth you derived that from the answer I gave…no worries, I know how rhetorical sparring goes…

    Typical response (and perhaps your response): “I’m just trying to get a straight answer” *mumblings about how Mormons are shifty characters*

    My response: address the arguments actually proposed instead of being an offender for a word

  34. Sorry, Russ., I wasn’t referring to your comments at all, and I should have made that clearer.

    My original objection was to a commenter who decried personal judgment of the statements of the leadership immediately before making such a judgment him/herself.

    It seems that the argument was then taken up by Bookslinger, who has stated that we must live the “minimum compliance standards” given by the recent Presidents and that “living prophets trump the dead ones,” but later conceded that the President is fallible (although maybe not in the direction of the Church, if I understand correctly).

    I think I’m starting to refine the questions in my head. Is it only the directions of the Prophet that we should assume are correct, and maybe not so much the doctrine? (Clearly, past Presidents have taught some false doctrines here and there, if we are to believe more recent ones.) Or are we to assume that the current doctrine is true until a future President disagrees? I think you’ve made it pretty clear that if two Presidents disagree on something, even if it’s doctrinal (i.e. an eternal truth), the most recent of the two is the correct one. Is this how it works?

    The way it works for me is that I know Joseph Smith was divinely inspired and therefore I give his teachings a lot of credence, unless something indicates otherwise. Same with Brigham Young. If a more recent teaching contradicts or steps beyond theirs, I have to weigh them equally (unless, of course, the more recent teaching is internally inconsistent, which is sometimes the case) before consulting the Source. Things really would be easier if the truth of a statement could be determined by how recently it was given, though.

  35. There were a couple of things I’ve been wanting to say about the original post:

    But if I were you, I’d ask some serious questions about all the chemicals you dump in your body with gallons of diet soda…

    I have to believe that more than anything, it’s the caffeine in the diet soda that’s causing the problem. Caffeine and sugar are both devastating and highly addictive chemicals, in my opinion much more dangerous than some illegal drugs.

  36. RWW:

    No worries, brother. It’s all good.

    As far as my views on when two prophets differ, I don’t think my comments can be at all read to indicate that we just accept the latter, carte blanche. “Through process of time” means, in some ways, suspending both belief and disbelief. In particular, it means that we suspend rationales for revelations…I’ve heard some good advice with some terrible reasoning. Additionally, we must also qualify prophetic teachings as to whether it contradicts the standard works. President Lee said that if ANY man contradicted the standard works, we could dismiss it as his own opinion (and he made a point to include the living prophet in that calculation).

    So therefore, I tend to think that learning what the prophet has to say is actually not that simple of a process. It takes checking, counterchecking…finding agreement, disagreement…recognizing that ultimately, the Mormon church is the vessel for the everlasting gospel and that our knowledge of God’s character has been given to us through that institution. I also find that we must view the Quorum of the Twelve as a collective body of revelators, not a bunch of individual prophets.

    Finally, I find it helpful to think of prophets who largely teach HOW to think and not WHAT to think. That’s rather speculative however. Given that I’ve seldom been told that if I don’t think such-and-such, I’m an unfaithful member…well, I take solace in that.

  37. I'm amazed by the comments. People, read D&C 89 – it's pretty cut an dry:

    1. Avoid alcoholic drinks.
    2. Avoid tobacco.
    3. Avoid hot drinks.
    4. All wholesome herbs are good.
    5. Fruit and vegetables are good.
    6. Meat should be used sparingly. Preferably only used in times of famine or winter. (to sustain our lives during hard times)
    7. Grains are the staff of life.

    8. Modern prophets have further clarified "hot drinks" to include specifically Coffee, Tea and caffeinated products (Pepsi for example).

    It's pretty black and white if you ask me. All I know is that I've lost 97 lbs living the WoW and have never felt better in my life – emotionally as well as physically. There are blessings to be had by being obedient to these teachings.

  38. I love my church, even though I don’t attend, I know I should. I was making a decision today to choose a vegetarian diet and have spent the day researching. I came across your blog which I fully intend to bookmark. I knew there was a reason and a right reason and this blog gave it to me. Thank you for this blog, and for promoting the mandate of a church I know offers nothing but good to its members.

  39. Dear Jim,
    I am so far down the list, I wonder if this will get read by you? A friend of mine who lives in our ward was very ill last year, including odd sores on her body, no energy, just a mess. They finally identified the problem after much time had passed. She was being poisoned by the aspartame in the diet coke she drank several times a day. She stopped drinking it immediately, it took time to get better (3 months). Now she will tell anyone willing to listen that aspartame can poison your body. She cannot even have a tiny tiny mint if it contains any aspartame. Plus, getting off the caffeine has also hugely impacted her health for the better. A word of wisdom: do not partake of anything harmful…..

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