Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts on the Word of Wisdom

Over at The Narrow Gate, C.J. has an interesting post about the Word of Wisdom. She asks, among other things, what people think of cooking with alcohol or serving alcohol to guests. I started to leave a comment, but my comment was longer than the original post, so I decided to bring it over here instead.

I don't cook with alcohol. My aunt is an alcoholic, and I saw the devastation it brought on her life and the lives of those around her. I decided when I was 5 years old, before I ever heard of the Word of Wisdom, that I would never touch the stuff. (There's enough evidence that there's some genetic component to alcoholism that I don't want to even chance it with cooking. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't all cook out.) That said, I don't have an opinion on whether it would be a violation of the word of wisdom to cook with it. (I know members who do, and members who don't.) I can see good arguments either way. On the one hand, D&C 89:7 says "strong drinks are not for the belly," with the exception of homemade wine for use in the Sacrament. On the other hand, strong drink isn't defined. Does it refer to all alcohol, or only a specific type? I'm not sure; I've never needed to find out.

I also don't serve alcohol, for the same reasons that I don't cook with it. I don't think LDS hosts should feel expected to serve alcohol to guests. After all, if I go to the home of a Jewish friend, I don't expect to be served pork. I don't think it would be wrong to serve alcohol to non-LDS guests, however. I don't see the Word of Wisdom as a universal commandment (after all, Jesus drank wine). I see it, rather, as a community marker that God has commanded for His people in this dispensation. People who have not made those covenants aren't bound by the Word of Wisdom.



C.J. said...

Well said, as always :-)

The Word of Wisdom is always interesting, because it's one of those areas where, I think, some of us tend to lose the forest for the trees. Dumping someone because they drink soda would be a perfect example! At what point does personal observance trend over toward judgmentalism? Sooner than some of us think...

Peter R. said...

Heh. I've always thought of the Word of Wisdom as a particularly poorly written statute. Thus the many interpretations.

These sorts of discussions remind me of Paul's discussion about eating meat from idol sacrifices in 1 Corinthians 8. The gist of it is do what you feel good doing, unless it's going to be a issue for other people. I am not personally comfortable serving alcohol to others, especially in my own home. I worked as a waiter in a private club during high school, and serving alcohol was most of what I did after 10 pm. And yeah, I saw a lot of the ugly side of alcoholism. I eventually decided that I wasn't comfortable serving people what I myself would not consume, and took a position elsewhere. But I agree with your interpretation of the Word of Wisdom that my approach isn't mandated.