Welcome to Tween Talk for Latter-day Saints! This week’s episode Tween Talk 5 is about the Word of Wisdom.
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Tween Talk 5 Transcript
Have you ever wondered if caffeine is against the Word of Wisdom? Or what about herbal tea, or chocolate?
This week we’re going to talk about the Word of Wisdom, since that’s the example we used last week to talk about the differences between doctrine, principles, and application.
Doctrine is the deep stuff that never changes. We are children of God. The Plan of Salvation. These answer the “Why?” about the gospel.
Principles are the commandments that God gives us. Tithing, the law of chastity are some examples. They answer the “What?” as in, “What am I supposed to do?” Principles can change throughout history. The children of Israel had clean and unclean foods, and we have the Word of Wisdom.
Then there are applications. These answer the “how” of the gospel, and this is what we can decide on our own and how we choose to be valiant.
So let’s use this pattern to talk about the Word of Wisdom. I know you’re eager for answers to questions like if caffeine is okay, but before we can answer those questions, we need to talk about the basics.
So, why do we need to have the Word of Wisdom?
In Genesis 1:27 we learn that God created our bodies. Now, we talked a bit about the creation before, right? God didn’t just wave His hand or a magic wand and poof our bodies came into existence.
He knows biology! He knows physics and science! So He created our bodies molecule by molecule. The processes that convert food to energy, that send signals through our nerves, that make our muscles move, that uses blood and oxygen and the immune system.
Our bodies are incredibly complex pieces of machinery. If just one little thing gets out of whack, it can through things way off.
The flu and COVID are just one teeny, tiny virus. Cancer begins as just one little microscopic cell. My Crohn’s disease is one little tweak in my immune system.
Also, our bodies aren’t just machines. They house our spirits.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
When our physical body gets off-balance, it can affect our spirit.
And how can we make right choices and follow our blueprints if we can’t hear the guidance of the Holy Ghost because our bodies feel too crummy?
You know how it feels when you get sick. It’s almost impossible to focus on anything except how crummy you feel.
So that’s the first reason WHY we should follow the Word of Wisdom. God made our bodies, and He knows how to keep us in balance so we can best hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
The second reason is to avoid losing our agency due to addiction.
Whether it’s drugs or something else (which we’ll talk about in a bit), an addiction is a BIG problem.
Remember how we’re here to prove ourselves trustworthy?
We’re trying to take the right paths on our blueprints. To make the right choices.
But an addiction to something, when your body HAS to have it, it can actually block you from making those choices.
President Body K. Packer said, “Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human will and nullify moral agency.”
2 Nephi 26:22 talks about Satan and says that “he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.”
Do you know what a flaxen cord is? Think about a very thin piece of thread, like the kind you sew with. If you don’t know what that is, think about a strand of hair.
How easy is it to take a strand of hair and break it?
If you’re not sure, go ahead and try it with an individual piece of your own hair.
Pretty flimsy, right?
So fine and thin, that if there is one hair wrapped around your neck like a leash, could you break away to freedom?
Yep, you could.
BUT what if you take that strand and braid it together with a few other strands. Is it a little stronger?
Now try taking an entire fistful of your hair. Try to break it the way you did the single strand.
Were you able to do it?
And THAT is how addiction and Satan will get you to give up your agency.
You see, when you do something addicting, Satan puts a leash around your neck. It’s super thin, a flaxen cord. But the more you do it, he adds another strand to that leash, until soon it is a super strong cord that you can’t break.
And then Satan gets to take you down the pathway on your blueprint that HE chooses. You’ve given up your agency entirely.
Can you get away?
Yes, with Christ’s help, you can.
But it’s hard. It’s so, so hard, and unfortunately, most people fail.
So what’s the answer?
Don’t even do it in the first place.
If you don’t have a flaxen cord around your neck, then it won’t ever be able to turn into a thick cord.
So those are the reasons WHY we should follow the Word of Wisdom. God made our bodies. Your body is a machine. Your SPIRIT is what should be in control of your body.
And God, who made your body, knows how you should take care of it so you can (1) hear the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and (2) keep your agency.
So He tells prophets in each dispensation HOW to take care of our bodies. This is the principles. In our day, it’s the Word of Wisdom, but in previous dispensations, there were other principles.
That’s why Christ drank wine. That’s why the Law of Moses said that pork was unclean and shouldn’t be eaten.
We don’t always exactly know the EXACT SCIENTIFIC reason for each dispensation. I’m sure there are theories out there, like wine in Christ’s time wasn’t as strong or addicting as wine is today, or that pork back then had diseases that pork doesn’t have today. (Ever heard of thing called salmonella?)
And honestly, we shouldn’t worry about what the principles were in other times because they don’t apply to us!
We should always follow the current, living prophet in our dispensation. After all, the world changes a lot, right?
Vaping didn’t exist before. Soda pop, candy, Twinkies – things like that didn’t exist. And coffee and tea were really different even in Joseph Smith’s day, let alone hundreds and thousands of years ago!
You know, I think we should talk about following the prophet next week. Let’s table this discussion and get back to the principle of WHAT is the Word of Wisdom.
Most of you know the history of the Word of Wisdom – Emma Smith was cleaning the Hall of the Prophets, which was disgusting with spit from chewing tobacco. She asked Joseph about it, who prayed and received D&C 89.
We’re not going to read that section. There’s just not enough time in this podcast, so I strongly encourage you to read it on your own. Instead, I’m going to highlight some key points.
We often think of the Word of Wisdom as a big long list of things we can’t do. But it’s SO much more than that! There are actually three parts: things that are good for our bodies, things that are bad for our bodies, and then the blessings that come from being obedient.
First, let’s start with things that are GOOD for our bodies. Fruits, vegetables, and wholesome herbs should be used with prudence and thanksgiving. Meat is good, but to be used sparingly. Grains, such as wheat, rice, and oats are said by the Lord to be the staff of life.
Okay, so now the things that are harmful: alcoholic drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks.
Then at the end of D&C 89, the Lord promises us blessings, including health, wisdom, knowledge, and protection.
So this is the principle – the WHAT is the Word of Wisdom. Just this section!
I know what you’re thinking.
“Now wait a minute, Sister Thomas. There’s nothing in here about drugs or tea or caffeine!”
This is where applications come into play. And this is where we desperately need prophets.
Sometimes, the principles are a bit vague, and large groups of the Church aren’t sure how to apply the concepts. Hot drinks, for example – what does that mean? Hot chocolate? Tea? Coffee? What if it’s decaf coffee? What if I warm up milk because I can’t sleep at night?!
When this happens, the prophets will come out with official statements that tell members of the Church how make applications.
In the case of the Word of Wisdom, hot drinks means tea and coffee. This includes any kind of drink made with a coffee bean (whether caffeinated or decaf, hot or cold), and drinks made with tea leaves.
This means herbal tea, like made from orange leaves or something, are fine.
Another application is that tobacco includes smoking or chewing, AND vaping is also included in this, even if there is no nicotine.
And yet another application is not to use drugs. This includes MISusing prescription drugs given by a doctor.
So some of these applications are pretty specific, right?
That happens because people start trying to see what they can get away with,
For example, the prophets said that tobacco and smoking are bad. So when vaping was invented, lots and lots of members of the Church, especially teenagers, said it was okay because it didn’t have the problems cigarettes did.
Because this line of thinking was SO common, the prophet and apostles came out with an official statement in the New Era on how the Lord wanted this principle to be applied.
I’m not going to get into the why vaping is bad, or arguing about why decaf coffee shouldn’t be a problem based on science.
Because at the end of the day, I trust the prophet more than I trust any kind of logic from the world.
AND I want to be VALIANT.
Remember how that’s the difference between the Celestial Kingdom and the Terrestrial Kingdom?
Members of the Church go to the Terrestrial Kingdom if they are not valiant, and if they are blinded by the craftiness of men.
That includes the logic of scientists over the word of the prophet.
It’s about proving ourselves trustworthy.
So we shouldn’t be asking, “How bad can I be?” Or in other words, “What can I get away with?”
It should be about being VALIANT.
If the prophet says vaping is bad, then don’t do it.
If the Church says not to drink anything made with tea leaves, then don’t do it.
It’s that simple.
Don’t let any type of logic try to convince you otherwise.
Alright, now that we’ve got that settled, lets talk about applications of the Word of Wisdom that the prophets have NOT spoken clearly on.
One of the most common things that members of the Church disagree about is whether or not drinks with caffeine are okay. Pepsi or Mountain Dew or energy drinks.
Well, other than a statement President Hinckley gave in an interview on David Letterman in the 90s, the Church hasn’t officially said much about caffeine.
People will argue that if caffeinated drinks aren’t okay, then chocolate shouldn’t be okay either because it has caffeine.
Can you see me rolling my eyes a little bit?
Let’s go back to the DOCTRINE of the Word of Wisdom. Remember the two reasons WHY we have it?
One – to take care of our bodies so we can follow the right path and hear the Holy Ghost
Two – to avoid addiction so we don’t lose our agency.
Because caffeinated drinks are not specifically warned against anywhere on the Church’s website that I can find, then it’s going to be an individual thing.
Remember – you can get inspiration for what’s best for YOUR body and it can be DIFFERENT than someone else’s, and you are BOTH RIGHT for YOU.
I personally don’t drink caffeinated drinks. Not only does the carbonation upset my Crohn’s, but caffeine gives me a raging migraine.
So for me, caffeine violates the Word of Wisdom.
Now, I know some people who drink a Mountain Dew or Pepsi or energy drink every single day because they are tired and say they need the energy to get things done.
If they don’t get their caffeine, they are grumpy, irritable, and unproductive.
I would say that’s an addiction that they have. If they don’t get it, they can’t function. It’s controlling them.
Okay, I want to be VERY VERY VERY clear about something here.
Having to take prescription medication to help you function is NOT the same thing as being addicted to something.
If you have depression, or ADHD, or Crohn’s, or anything like that, and you need medication to help your body function the way that it is supposed to, THAT IS OKAY.
An anti-depressant to help you stabilize your mood, or medication for ADHD so you can focus is NOT the same thing as relying on caffeine to wake up and have energy for the day.
With the case of doctor-prescribed medication and treatments, it is because your IMPERFECT body is doing something (or not doing something) that a perfect body should do.
When a medical doctor, who is trained to understand how bodies work, gives you a diagnosis and a prescription to help your body do better, that is very different than an addiction or self-medication.
Are we on the same page about that?
So let’s get back to our example about caffeinated drinks.
This principle about something controlling your behavior works for ALL foods.
In fact, as I’m doing this podcast, the Spirit is telling me that I may need to reevaluate how I use chocolate!
I tend to stress-eat, and that is usually with m&ms or chocolate chips. If I have a day where I try to not eat chocolate, I’m cranky and irritable.
Does that sound like I’m treating my body the way it should?
Remember, the doctrine?
It’s about keeping your body healthy so you can hear the Holy Ghost, and to avoid addiction so you can keep your agency.
So whether it’s chocolate or soda or hey, even celery or apples, if it’s something you HAVE to have and ONLY that, then it’s probably an ADDICTION, not a one-time enjoyment.
So if you have a question about if something is against the Word of Wisdom or not, go back to the doctrine and principles.
First, ask if the prophet has already given specific direction for that thing. If you’re not sure, ask your parents or your bishop, or go on the Church’s website.
Or you can ask me! Just shoot me an email or use the contact form on savingtalents.com/podcasts.
I can look into it for you and get back to you, along with WHERE I found the answers (like a link to the statement from the prophet or something).
So if the prophet or apostles haven’t given clear direction about that thing, then it’s an application to find out for yourself.
This is when you go back to the doctrine.
Is it good for your body? Is it addicting? Is it controlling your behavior? Does it prevent you from feeling the Spirit?
If you’re still not sure, then the next step is to pray about it.
Heavenly Father will help direct you on this. Every single time.
Because each body is different. I have Crohn’s disease, and raw fruits and vegetables are painful for me. Meats like chicken and hamburger are safe foods for me.
I have a sister whose family doesn’t eat meat almost at all, because their family feels healthier and happier when they don’t.
Are either of us breaking the Word of Wisdom?
My sister and her husband have stewardship over their bodies (and their young children’s diets). They can receive revelation for themselves on what’s best for their unique bodies.
They can’t tell me how to apply the Word of Wisdom, and I can’t tell them.
So if you decide that caffeine is a violation of the Word of Wisdom for you, then you’re right! It’s against the Word of Wisdom for YOU!
And if someone else drinks a Pepsi now and then, are they breaking the Word of Wisdom?
That’s not for you to decide.
Does that make sense?
So some applications are for EVERYONE. Like vaping. And the applications that are for everyone can ONLY come from the prophet and apostles.
Now, if you are addicted to caffeine, is that going to keep you from the temple?
Nope, it’s not.
But remember, it’s not about doing the bare minimum, right?
We want to be VALIANT.
So just because something won’t keep you from the temple doesn’t mean that it won’t keep you from the Celestial Kingdom.
Because it’s about proving yourself trustworthy to God.
It’s about showing that you are willing to do everything you can to be like HIM, and not your OWN desires.
It’s about bringing yourself in line with what He wants for you, not what you want for yourself.
So when it comes to applying the Word of Wisdom, a lot of it is individual. And it’s about doing taking care of the unique and imperfect body that Heavenly Father has created for you.
That means following the prophet’s direction for application.
That means avoiding addiction and keeping your body healthy so your mind can be clear.
That means taking medications if needed and as prescribed by a medical professional.
And the blessings promised at the end of the D&C 89 are so awesome.
Go read them.
But remember, not all blessings come in this lifetime.
For example, I follow the Word of Wisdom, as best as I can, but I still have Crohn’s disease.
BUT I know that I will have all the energy I need to do the LORD’S work and mission for me.
That may be different than what I think I should be doing, but if I do what I can to obey, my body won’t fail me when He asks me to do something He needs me to do.
I trust those promises.
And I know that one day, we will ALL be gifted with perfected, resurrected bodies.
Isn’t that a wonderful promise?
So do your best to be valiant in keeping the Word of Wisdom. Don’t ask what CAN I get away with, but ask, how can I BEST follow this commandment?
And follow the prophet’s direction.
We’ll talk more about following the prophet next week.
I’ll see y’all then!