Friday, June 4, 2010

A Deeper Look at the Word of Wisdom as Merciful Meekness

I'm not sure if there is a way for someone who is "physiologically weak" and susceptible to addictive substances to transcend that particular weakness and "become strong" - in the sense that they could indulge and NOT become addicted. I'm not aware of any research that shows such an ability. In fact, the heart of AA is the conscious recognition that the alcoholic, in fact, is still an alcoholic - is still weak - even if he never drinks again. Therefore, the strong giving up something of very minor consequence for them to provide critical assistance to others who will need it until the day they die is something that exemplifies the heart of the Gospel, imo.

Phrased another way, there is ONLY one way that there can be full fellowship of the Saints in this particular discussion - and that is abstinence for all. Think about it, focusing on alcohol:

If alcohol was present at Church functions, those who need to avoid it in order to remain free from their addictive tendencies simply could not afford to attend. Any non-drinking alcoholics among the membership would be excluded from those activities - and for what? It would be for nothing but "my right to drink" - placing that right to drink above the potential harm to others either by exposure to the alcohol or the removal of full fellowship with the Saints. In the hierarchy of abominations, putting my own desire to have a beer or a glass of wine over another's need to avoid it is the height of selfishness.

There is an argument to be made for "private indulgence" vs. "public abstinence". That is a compelling distinction, but, if anything, it only highlights the classification of those who "can handle it" and those who are "weak". Furthermore, it encourages those who are weak to try to live a double life - drinkers in private but abstainers in public. Ask anyone who has lived with a drinking, private alcoholic about how they feel about that situation, and perhaps 100% will tell you it's worse than a public alcoholic - since it gives that person the facade of public respectability, which makes it harder for those who regularly are hurt by the private alcoholism to seek and get help.

The difference here is that I don't see this as principally "legalism". I see it principally as "merciful meekness". It is merciful, because it is a decision to not risk potential harm to another when that harm is in one's power to cause; it is meekness, because it is rooted in kindly generosity - which means giving something to someone else out of kindness and concern that need not be given.

Some people speak of "the weak becoming strong", but they never consider that the real challenge might just be to those who are naturally strong where addictive substances are concerned BUT weak in compassion and self-sacrifice. Which is more important to develop in order to become more Christ-like: the ability to drink responsibly or the ability to serve others through an active expression of self-sacrifice - even if that self-sacrifice is by giving up something (alcohol) that is a tiny little thing in the grand scheme of things?


Anonymous said...

The best justification for the WoW that i have come across.I will use this as the basis for teaching this principal to my adolescent,and it has become a foundational principal in my gospel understanding.The very opposite of legalism and blind obedience,an act of mercy and compassion.Thankyou.

Shelly Rayedeane said...

Terrific post. Thank you for the insight.

Skip H. said...


Best of the New Year to you. I wonder if the scope of your blog might include the intersection of nutritional science and Joseph Smith's Word of Wisdom revelation. This interface has not been adequately discussed and I imagine a synergy where the two combined, with a nod to traditional diets, can offer a better guide to the ancient question, "What to eat?"

The Word of Wisdom is my current interest, learning how it can guide eating in the modern food environment. I have started a blog to support, it is noncommercial, informative, and invites discussion.

The idea here is that simplifying life can have a connection to a return to traditional diets, assisted by best available science. All this under each person's interpretation of the "spirit" of the WoW.

The address is

Any help you can give would be appreciated. I would be happy to provide a guest post also.

Best to you,
Skip H.

Papa D said...

Skip, send a post to the e-mail address at the bottom of the blog's main page. I'll take a look at it and let you know if I feel like it belongs here.