The Iron Rod Podcast
The Iron Rod Podcast
Iron Rod 025 - The Word of Wisdom

Perhaps one of the most iconic practices of modern Mormonism is the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. Failure to adhere to the current interpretation is grounds for disciplinary action and considered a sign a spiritual weakness. Yet is wasn’t always so. Not only does the modern interpretation conflict with the original interpretation during the life of Joseph Smith, it also conflicts with other scriptures. This week’s episode discusses what the scriptures say, and what happened historically to go from a word of wisdom given not by commandment or by constraint, to an absolute requirement for coming unto Christ through baptism.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Matthew 15:17-20
Leviticus 10:8-11
Deuteronomy 14:26
Judges 9:13
Psalm 104:14-15
Isaiah 5:11
Proverbs 23:20
Ephesians 5:18
1 Peter 4:3
Colossians 2:16-20
Romans 14:13-21
1 Timothy 3:8
1 Timothy 5:23
Luke 7:33-34
Joel 1:5
Acts 3:13-15
Matthew 9:17
D&C 89
D&C 27:2-4
1 Corinthians 11:20-22
History of the Church 2:369, 2:378, 5:8; 2:406, 4:330; 7:101
Journal of Discourses 8:361, 16:238, 9:35,

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17 comments on “Iron Rod 025 – The Word of Wisdom

  1. You folks are such charioteers. I love the bantering and how the scriptures are used to present your different thought processes or concepts. You mentioned about the church patriarch and that the church no longer has one. There is a fascinating story behind the last person who held that office, if it is true. I had mentioned to some people in a discussion that Joseph Smith Jr. was given a revelation in selling the rights to the BoM with a set of conditions. Now that caused a look of disbelief. In my book just give me the historical facts as close to the source as possible. I can then compare them with the standard works aka the scriptures and then testing them through meditation or prayer. I can then make up my own mind as to the validity of the concepts being presented.

  2. Ranae May 27, 2019

    I would be interested to hear your opinions on what your ideas would mean for an active LDS family who understands the Word of Wisdom the way you described it, but have never lived contrary to what the church teaches. In my experience I have observed that “leaving the church” for many people means the addition of a pot of coffee to their kitchen, and a visible change in dress standards. However, for those who remain and have no particular reason to rebel against church traditions, there are some practical questions that arise. For example, would continued compliance to the current interpretation of the Word of Wisdom indicate we are agreeing to the “yoke” of church tradition when Christ’s word has already set us free, thus submitting to another master? Or the perceived hypocrisy with living one standard at home when your children are taught a different standard at church?

    Maybe it means having real conversations about the topics of healthy living, or not freaking out when or if your child makes different choices about their bodies than you prefer (ei. tattoos, social drinking, etc.) and then learning from experience? Any additional thoughts?

    • Everyone’s situation is different, so each person is going to have to figure out what works in their situation. But here are a few thoughts:

      Once you realize you aren’t prohibited from using coffee or alcohol, it doesn’t mean you are commanded to use them. You can still choose not to partake. If you abstain because you fear the wrath of God or Salt Lake City, then you are under a yoke. If you abstain because you don’t like the taste or just don’t care to partake, you are exercising your free will.

      If you are publicly claiming to not drink coffee or alcohol, but privately doing so, that would be hypocrisy. But if you aren’t making such public claims, and someone judges you a hypocrite, they’re the one with the problem…you are still following the Word of Wisdom as written in the canonized scriptures regardless of what “they” say it means today.

      1 Corinthians 8 also has good advice. Paul is talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols, but conceptually it still applies:
      8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
      9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.
      13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

      Opening a bottle of beer at the ward picnic is not going to help anyone. In situations like those, it’s best to just do what everyone else is doing to avoid creating unnecessary problems. Paul changed his behavior depending on which group of people he was with. It wasn’t hypocrisy, it was compassion.

      1 Corinthians 9:19-23
      For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

      • Ranae May 27, 2019

        I guess my problem stems more from the difficulty when young children are taught “truths” in church at very young ages. When my 5 year old comes home from church and tells me that he learned that people who are not sealed in the temple have to stand in line outside of heaven and can’t get in until they are sealed in the temple, I am left with the choices of telling him that 1)what he learns in church is wrong, 2) ignoring it and hoping he somehow learns correct principles as he is old enough to discern right from wrong, or 3) stop taking my kids to church so they don’t have to un-learn whatever they happen to pick up there. I have no problem having in- depth discussions about controversial topics with my teens when they show curiosity and interest in them, but nuances of “its not wrong, but don’t do it around people who think it is” is beyond the grasp of my little ones who ought not to be offended. That’s kind of the basis behind my question about what we choose to do at home adding to the learning environment of our families. Is it wrong to drink tea or other things if it would offend our own children who have been told it is against the commandments?

        • Ranae:
          Your questions are valid and difficult when it relates to teaching our children. Fortunately, I am in a situation where all of my three boys are adults and I can have meaningful discussions with them around what I believe to be the true doctrine and what they had been taught in church for many years. Unfortunately, the scales did not start to fall from my eyes until 5 years ago. I think the safest path is to make sure that your children are rooted in the doctrine of Christ, so that they will have that anchor when they discover the many false precepts of men that pervade Mormonism. The Word of God along with the HG is the only anchor that will hold.
          Regarding, how you choose to implement your understanding of the Word of Wisdom, I would advocate WISDOM in that process so as not to offend. Some members of my extended family know that I occasionally drink, others don’t. I don’t flaunt it or even bring it up especially when it comes to my nieces and nephews. I’m sure as you follow the Spirit you will be guided as you seek to navigate these challenges.

          • Similar to Searcher, my kids were in their teens when I started to wake up, so it has been easier. When my kids were young I had already been having to teach them that everything they learned at church wasn’t necessarily correct, so that laid the groundwork. But that was usually about cultural issues, not core doctrinal issues.

            Perhaps some of our listeners have experience with younger children they can share.

          • Alison May 28, 2019

            I have teens and younger kids too. My 8-year-old daughter attended an LDS private school for two years and I think the only thing she retained was ” you can’t live with Jesus if you drink beer or coffee” Unfortunately, we live in Texas where coffee and beer are ordered more often than soda or water, so I was very aware of her constant disapproval of these drinks but never said much because of her age. However, this last year when I started drinking coffee openly in front of the kids I knew that I was going to finally have to address the elephant in the room.
            I told her that different churches have different suggestions on how their members should live and that they were just that, “suggestions” not commandments. We talked about finding God’s commandments in the scriptures and trusting in his word. I didn’t go much deeper than that, shes only 8. Not sure if that helps with a 5-year-old. All I can really say is having my eyes opened makes parenting little ones in the church so much harder. It’s nice to know there are other moms out there like me!!!

  3. Anthony May 31, 2019

    “Teaching for commandments the doctrines of men”… I recommend that every listener of this podcast read the book by that title written by Rob Smith.

    • Jessi H Jun 3, 2019

      I agree. That was the book that opened my eyes to the corruption of the modern corporate church and introduced me to Rock Waterman’s blog, where I read Watcher’s comments and then his blog. Nearly three years later, here I am. ?

  4. Thank you for the podcast, I love listening every week and really appreciate the effort you guys put in to do these podcasts and the effort to point people to the scriptures.

    I’ve been pondering a lot on this subject and I agree with what you both feel the scriptures teach on the matter. If I had the appropriate opportunity to share some of these scriptures and points with friends/family, I feel a counter-point that would inevitably be brought up is, “well, in biblical times their ‘word of wisdom’ was different from ours and we eat things that were forbidden for them. So, it must mean then that the prophet is inspired because the Lord is changing it for our day and what we need. When the scriptures that talk about wine, meat, etc in the Bible it must therefore not apply to us because their law of health was different.” Now, my rebut would be similar to what you guys constantly say. What do the scriptures actually say? But, I’m curious if any of you guys have any thoughts about this! Thanks!

    Also, I’ve seen comments in online forums of people going to great lengths to explain D&C 89:17 that they have heard of these people in this remote tribe in such and such country who make a barley drink that doesn’t have alcohol so that must be the kind of drinks the scripture is referring to! I can’t help but laugh at how obvious/unfortunate it is when we’re trying so hard to jump over the stumbling blocks from the false traditions and fall on our face! Pretty sure the Lord meant beer people haha.

    (p.s. I’m not trying to make light of other people struggling to understand! I’m in the same place as all of us trying to figure out the truth!)

    • JJ:
      Thanks for your comments. I personally don’t understand why we can’t just believe the Word of God that is plain and precious. Instead we have the philosophy and reasoning of men to justify a particular position. I feel safe when a doctrine is taught consistently in the Scriptures. Unfortunately, many Church members are too lazy to search. It’s too easy to just believe what is being taught over the pulpit. Hosea 4:6 comes to mind:

      6 ¶ My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

  5. Smokin’ Jun 10, 2019

    I’ve heard it said at church many times that if you partake of tobacco or alcohol it will prevent the Spirit from communing with you. However, that seems to put limitations on the abilities and power of the Godhead. I will not ascribe to any notions or doctrine of men that puts limits on the power of God. I believe that if He wants to communicate with someone, He is not about to let a cigarette or a beer get in His way. It’s an awkward doctrine to say the least! Joseph and other early church leaders partook of now forbidden substances, yet they received revelation. Later, when the same substances were forbidden, revelation slowed down then stopped. According to what the church teaches, shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    • Searcher Jun 10, 2019

      Very astute observation, Smokin’. Especially for someone who by definition has “lost the Spirit”.

  6. D&C says Jesus will drink wine with us when he returns with the lees still in it. Lees is a byproduct of making alcohol.

    lees is from the fermenting process.

    D&C 58:8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;

    D&C 27:5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;

  7. Thirsty Sep 23, 2019

    Interesting topic. I remember reading Rock Waterman’s blog and how he espoused beer drinking even though he didn’t like it because the scriptures said we could.
    Food for thought…
    The charge of “not observing the Word of Wisdom” was one of five leveled against David Whitmer on April 13, 1838, which led to his excommunication (H.C. 3:18). And on August 19, 1835, Almon W. Babbitt was brought before the church’s high council on the charge of “not keeping the Word of Wisdom”. Babbitt stated “that he had taken the liberty to break the Word of Wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith, Jun., and others (H.C. 2:252).
    Also, but I can’t find the reference, John Widtsoe as a stake president I think experimented with marijuana for a few weeks. He was experimenting with the effects of the her on the mind.

  8. thorough presentation on the WoW. Similar to this podcast.