A Word to the Wise

This past Sunday I accompanied a musical number in sacrament meeting and taught a lesson on the word of wisdom in elders’ quorum.

For my lesson, I divided the chalkboard into columns of Acts and Motivations.  We began with the central act of our theology, Christ’s atonement, and found that its motivation was love.  Then a discussion of the two great commandments to love God and each other, and how these two principles inform not only the substance of all other commandments (WHAT to do), but the motivation behind them (WHY we do them).

We then looked to the word of wisdom specifically—what acts it proscribes and recommends—and discussed why it is loving advice from Heavenly Parents, how obeying it shows love to those who gave us the gift of bodies and to the people around us who would be greatly affected by use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.

In the spirit of “proving contraries,” we looked at Jesus’ statement that things that go into a person do not defile, but things that come out of a person do defile.  My suggestion was that this is consistent with the word of wisdom because the Pharisees were using the dietary laws as a sword rather than a shield.  This led to the concept that the word of wisdom should be used for our own temporal and spiritual well-being but should not be used to judge other people.  Others elders resolved the seeming incongruity with the idea that taking alcohol or drugs into the body in fact affects what comes out.

Finally, we talked about what to do if we find ourselves on the wrong side of the word of wisdom.  I shared that in my years away from the church, I developed a drug addiction which led me to 12-step recovery.  Others in the quorum emphasized that everyone is welcome at church, even (and perhaps especially) people who are struggling with word of wisdom problems.

I have much more of a testimony of the word of wisdom after teaching this lesson.  I have even *gasp* given up coffee.  But not green tea.  Baby steps.

5 comments on “A Word to the Wise

  1. wewingtonheet
    October 24, 2012

    HI, just a thought here. Why did you give up coffee if the WoW does not mention coffee nor was coffee considered bad or against the WoW up until prohibition times (1920’s)? The early members and leaders alike drank coffee, and proscribed coffee when the Saints crossed the plains. I firmly believe in the idea of moderation in all things (trying to live that myself), the WoW as a guideline and not a commandment, and most importantly the Spirit of the Law and not the Letter.

    I guess I do not see a difference between green tea and coffee in any way other than one can be considered herbal and the other not. But then, coffee beans are the seed of an herb that is constituted for man. Again all things in moderation. I enjoy coffee and many other herbal drinks. I do not drink them hot because it frankly hurts my mouth and throat and the WoW as revealed to JS states hot drinks. I have a lot of problems with energy level, depression, sleep apnea, seeming narcolepsy etc and I have chosen herbs and such as a remedy to modern drug therapies that have very unwanted side effects.

    Anyway, forgive me if I sound judgemental, I do not wish to come across that way. I have seen and read too many differing opinions and I sense you have done much searching as well so I was curious as to why you came give up coffee other than it was a personal choice and not due to current interpretation of the WoW.

    Anyway, thanks for your words and I wish you the best on your journey!


    • EdwardJ
      October 25, 2012


      First of all, thanks for being the very first person to post a comment on my blog! I can’t tell you how excited that makes me.

      My feeling is that I really cannot tell someone else what is right for them. It sounds like you’ve been very thoughtful about word of wisdom issues in your life.

      Drinking coffee is probably not terrible for a person, especially in light of recent research showing numerous positive health effects. I see it as a cultural signifier that I’m Mormon, and something it will not cost me much personally to give up.

      There are certain spiritual concepts near and dear to my heart that I will not abandon to fit in to the church, but drinking coffee is not one of those things.

      • wewingtonheet
        October 25, 2012

        You are welcome! I think we all need to supportive of each other as best we can. I would not be here on your blog commenting if I wasn’t searching and learning for myself. I have my own faith crises to deal with but I am not afraid to look and find.

        I am a little jealous that you stuck with your music career for a while. I went to NYC for musical theater and vocal performance work and I got very jaded with the lifestyle quickly and I was scared that I would never be able to turn it around if I didn’t get out. Oh well, I miss it sometimes. I don’t sing near as much as I used to.

        Anyway, thanks for getting back.


  2. Joe
    October 6, 2013

    I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I was in D.C. at the time as an intern, and I really enjoyed this lesson. It ended up being one of my favorite lessons on the Word of Wisdom that I have ever had. Good to see that you are still around.

    • EdwardJ
      October 6, 2013

      Thanks, Joe! I’m in Salt Lake Coty now, so look me up some time.

      I’m glad you like it. 🙂

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