Friday, November 30, 2012

I Wish the Word of Wisdom Was Not a Requirement of Baptism

I'm on record in multiple places saying I wish the Word of Wisdom was not a requirement of baptism and membership, especially since it's such a huge cultural issue in many places and because I believe everyone ought to have the same "grace period" the early saints had when it was given initially - and also because we (correctly, in my opinion) don't excommunicate members for not living the Word of Wisdom. If we allow members to remain members as they struggle with the Word of Wisdom, we shouldn't deny others membership for the exact same struggles.

Addictions are brutally hard for many to reject, and I think that is lost for some people who are from ancestry where church membership has not forced them to confront the addictions addressed in the Word of Wisdom. They get it intellectually, but they don't really understand.

I feel strongly about that, even as I have no problem with Word of Wisdom compliance being part of the temple recommend interview.


Unknown said...

I have never heard of someone expressing that opinion, but I do find it to be an intriguing one. However, for many, the overcoming of addictions for baptism is one of the greatest testimony builders they have.

Papa D said...

I understand that, Ben, and I truly don't want to take that away from anyone - but I also know of SO many people who would join if not for an addiction that would not keep them from being a member if they had been born in the Church or developed the habit after baptism. If it's good for members like me (a lifelong member), I want it to be good for those not like me (who have to face an addiction to convert).

Frankly, I know enough about my own tendencies to wonder if I would have any Word of Wisdom issues if I hadn't been born in the Church and if I would have been able to overcome them in order to be baptized. Honestly, I'm not confident I could do it.

ji said...

Maybe you're imagining something like:

- Baptism is available for all who confess and repent of their sins and want to be numbered with the saints.

- Receiving and advancement in the priesthood requires a higher commitment.

- Adherence to the Word of Wisdom is expected before being invited to participate in temple ordinances.

Perhaps it is like tithing -- one isn't expected to live the law of tithing until after being baptized.

Sam said...

I have to respectfully disagree. For many of my converts, Word of Wisdom adherence is one of the main concrete ways they could build their faith prior to baptism.

I could of course go on at length about my converts who gave up 5 cups of coffee a day -- an experience that bolstered their faith and utterly amazed their 19yo daughter.

Of course, there are probably others who didn't get baptized due to the WoW requirement, but I am not there are enough (who would stick around and keep working out the WoW stuff) to make the tradeoff worth it.

What you propose is probably a more viable policy where the church is well-established than where it is just getting started (I served in India) and there will be less pressure within the church to change after baptism.

Papa D said...

Yes, ji, that's exactly what I am envisioning.

Sam, you know how much I respect and admire you, and I understand completely what you said in your comment - but I agree with the Word of Wisdom being part of temple attendance, and temple attendance is supposed to be a target even before baptism, so I don't see the people you describe acting any differently than they did when preparing to be baptized if following the Word of Wisdom is a target for them regardless. It's the people who want badly to join the Church but can't overcome an addiction prior to being baptized about whom I'm concerned - and, ironically, wouldn't it be safe to say that the gift of the Holy Ghost should help them in that attempt, especially if they don't feel like horrible sinners as they strive to prepare to attend the temple?

ji said...

Your thought is a good one. The requirements for baptism should be minimal -- it is an open invitation to all who will come forward -- they can have the faith-promoting experiences of giving up their addictions after baptism. This thought is worthy of further discussion.

I knew a bishop once who asked a man to obey the word of wisdom for a whole week so that he could be ordained a priest. He did it for all the right reasons.

Sam said...

Ray, the respect is mutual :)

Re: the Holy Ghost, perhaps so Ray. Re: the temple, that is another reason why I believe this policy would work better in the US. In India, the temple was a significantly more distant possibility (it's in Hong Kong and costs around a year's earnings to travel there). And if missionaries lost interest in visiting these now-recent-converts, members would be unlikely to pick up the slack.

But I'm thinking about the question in a different way now: "Whether the addict is a member returning to activity or an investigator, the most important thing is for members to make them a fellowcitizen with the saints so they are motivated to continue their stuggle."

Patty said...

I hadn't given this much thought, but now that you bring it up... I totally agree with how ji stated it. It seems hypocritical that someone born into or previously baptized into the church can quit following the word of wisdom and not be kept out but those who weren't lucky enough to have found the church before they started their habit/addiction/etc. are excluded from membership and all its benefits (the main one being the gift of the Holy Ghost.)

I have wondered why adherence to only part of the word of wisdom is greatly emphasized while the diet part of it is completely ignored. Is it better to avoid smoking, alchohol, coffee and tea but gorge yourself on unhealthy foods to the point of creating just as serious health problems as the banned substances? And if that's the case, aren't people who eat healthy but otherwise disregard the word of wisdom on kind of the same level?

Papa D said...

Patty, I also have considered the difference between what is enforced as command and kept strictly in the realm of counsel. I understand that it would be brutally hard to enforce the other aspects of the Word of Wisdom, and I don't want measures like Body Mass Index or actual weight and meat consumption to be used in any baptism or temple recommend interview (since they are so subjective and would lead to even more Pharisaical applications than already exist), but it's impossible to ignore the overall health issues if we consider the overall question objectively.

I am fine with the discrepancy between what is enforced and what is not enforced, when all is said and done. I just wish adherence could be a temple recommend requirement and not a baptism requirement.