Why Latter-day Saints Closely Adhere to the Word of Wisdom

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Why the Latter-day Saints closely adhere to the Word of Wisdom In her paper “In the Presence of the Past: Continuity and Change in Twentieth-Century Mormonism,” Jan Shipps argues that the strict adherence to the word of wisdom present in the Church today began its evolution after the 1890 manifesto and lasted “possibly all the way through the ecclesiastical administration […] of [President] Heber J. Grant” (Shipps 5). Shipps claims that “[…] close adherence to the Word of Wisdom and careful compliance with a clearly articulated behavioral code, have long been effected so that Latter-day Saints are constantly reminded of their chosen status” (Shipps 12). Surely the word of wisdom (among other things) sets Latter-day Saints apart from the world, but it is no-where close to being the reason why the Church’s enforcement became more stringent. The truth is that the Lord introduced the principle for the very reasons he stated in the revelation, and the more stringent enforcement was a natural and planned step, as members were given time to be taught the principle and to comply with it. In addition, the exhortations from Church leaders to live the principle have been consistent ever since the Saints established t Continue...


Almost without exception, members who had developed an addiction contrary to the Word of Wisdom did not come to Church. Certainly this has been a major contributor to the progressive adherence to the revelation. Only about 20-30 of eligible young men serve missions (another trademark behavior). In order to establish these points, the following questions must be answered: Why did the Word of Wisdom come about "not by commandment or constraint (DC 89:2) Why weren't many Church members (including some leaders) living in accordance with the principle in 1880, if it became a commandment in 1851 How is observance of the Word of Wisdom different in the Church today and why If maintaining a chosen identity wasn't the central reason for the importance placed on the Word of Wisdom, what was It is important for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to understand the answers to these questions and especially to have knowledge of the real reasons why the Word of Wisdom is so important, if they are to faithfully live this principle in times of weakness and temptation. The doctrines as taught in the scriptures and the specific reasons the Lord mentioned in section 89 constitute why such importance is placed on observing the Word of Wisdom. hemselves in the "tops of the mountains. This initial introduction allowed church members time to be taught the "import of the revelation and "to adjust to the principles contained therein (Packer; Benson). Why did many members of the Church still not live the word of wisdom, when its importance had been made clear When considering this question, we must remember that virtually every adult member of the Church in 1850 was a convert. Certainly this "law of Moses approach of spelling out the law and underscoring its importance has had a significant influence on some members, but I believe the culture and upbringing of Latter-day saints has been more influential in leading to the differences that a time-traveler would observe by visiting an 1880 sacrament meeting. Let us say that, for whatever reason, John believed that the Church's emphasis on strict adherence to the Word of Wisdom was merely to "remind him of his chosen status (Shipps 12). While it is true that individuals can and do choose to live a radically different lifestyle than what they have been exposed to when young, the effects of upbringing on a population in general can still be staggering. By overlooking the factors of upbringing, culture, resistance to change, and the key reasons why the Word of Wisdom was given, Shipps has failed to recognize when the increasing adherence began and the central reasons why. President Young stated that some had joined the Church "because they know it is true and think it will shield them in their iniquity (Journal of Discourses 6:69-70). (Journal of Discourses 3:19) The powerful chemical and psychological addiction that these forbidden substances could exert was not easily overcome. But these reasons in the shadow of those aforementioned are merely side-effect blessings of the principle, which do not represent the core doctrines upon which the principle was and is based.