Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wine and the Church

Doctrine and Covenants 89, the famous Word of Wisdom. It's something that, to my understanding, began as encouragement and ended up as a temple interview question. As a new member, I honestly thought "caffeine" was mentioned here. When I finally looked for myself a few things surprised me besides the fact that caffeine is not mentioned (at least not specifically).

Before I get into any more, here's one verse I find especially interesting:

"Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints" (v3, emphasis added).

Now here's what it does mention regarding drinks:

1. If any man drinks wine or strong drink, "behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before Him." (v.5, emphasis added)

2. That wine used for our sacraments should be "pure wine of the grape of the vine, of [our] own make" (v.6)

2. Strong drinks are not for the belly, but for washing your bodies. (v.7)

3. Hot drinks are not for the body or belly (later clarified in context to mean tea or coffee. hm) (v.9)

5. Verse 17 is also interesting: "...and barley for all useful animals and for mild drinks, as also other grain."

So let's look at alcoholic consumption. First we have the verse that states that this revelation is adapted to the weak or weakest of saints. Perhaps we all could be considered that. It goes on later to mention that wine (though according to verse 6 it should be pure and of our own make) is okay for offering up our Sacraments. Verse 17 states that grains such as barley are good for "mild drinks." I'm not very well versed in drinks which use barley, but isn't that beer?

Back to the wine. Moroni 5:2 sets the sacramental prayer for the wine. We all know Jesus turned water into wine.

1 Timothy 5:23 states "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities."

It struck me as I looked at that scripture how I had a little mark beside it. I wonder what I was thinking when I did that.

The truth is, all scripture - Bible to BoM to D&C - all contradicts itself when it comes to alcoholic drinks, wine specifically. From what I can tell, the biggest problem is when people allow themselves to become drunk with wine. It's all about context, and sometimes I don't think we have all the context necessary for full understanding of some scripture. That's why I find history and research so interesting - why I'm having such a fun time writing this today.

I think in the end we don't want to allow for even the chance, correct? The understanding is "Don't even give yourself a chance to like it because you'll definitely become a drunk."


How many of us don't use recipes that call for wine - either because we know that while the cooking process does eliminate most of the alcohol, it doesn't eliminate all; or is it because we don't want to be seen buying the stuff? Avoid the appearance of evil, after all. I almost went manic on my husband when he came home with a small, cheap, plastic bottle of vodka so he could make homemade coconut extract (before you freak out too, smell your pure vanilla extract if you have any). I didn't want the vodka in my house. I didn't want him making anything with it. I couldn't believe he'd bought the stuff. The horror!

I just have to wonder. If we can pick and choose to eat lots of meat and nutritionally defunct white rice and bread (which, by the way, I'm a huge fan of) as long as we don't smoke or drink, than we still follow the WoW...? We all know smoking is horrifying to your health. Coffee, tea, and wine have been found to have nutritional benefits though - in moderation, of course. On the other hand, drinking and smoking is relatively easy to avoid and it's wallet-friendly. Eating whole grains can be a matter of acquired taste as well as expensive and and decent fruits can likewise get expensive (unless you have a garden).

I understand we need to be as healthy as we can be. We shouldn't allow ourselves to become fill our bodies up with toxins that only hurt us, inviting diseases like diabetes and heart related problems due to obesity or our diet. This body, we know, is eternal and we know we need to prove ourselves worthy of it. We know addictions will come with us into the next life - we also know that in the resurrection our bodies will be "perfected."

I also want to look at Section 27, received in August 1830, with this verse we know well: "For behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory...Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies. Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father's kingdom is built up on the earth." (Verses 2, 3-4)

Section 89 was received in February 1833.

Dates are always interesting. But both verses say the same thing: don't drink wine of your enemies (who are our enemies today? surely not the waitress at Applebee's or your local Italian place, right?). If you're going to make it, know where it's coming from. It appears to me from reading the historical explanation of the section that Joseph could have been on his way to procure wine from people who wanted to hurt him. The commandment was made to ensure this wouldn't happen. Historical context versus modern context could mean everything. Back then "hot drinks" meant coffee and tea. Today we're allowed herbal teas and hot chocolate - both hot, but in context not WoW forbidden.

I imagine the use of water over wine also become a matter of economy: water is much cheaper than wine. The idea that it doesn't matter what we use also leaves room for us to use wine "of our own make" and allows for fun stories of times when a group of Saints used brownies instead of bread.

So will a glass of wine with dinner really harm us?

I understand I'm really flirting with the line with this question here, but it has been on my mind. Yes, consumption of alcohol is hardly necessary to live a happy, fulfilled life. That's been my conviction through the years, even though my pre-baptism experiences tell me I hate the taste of most coffee and also dislike the taste of alcohol and know my tolerance to be rather low. I also know alcoholism runs in my family, as do addictions of many sorts.

For example, I have to be careful when taking certain prescriptions I have. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and I have to take some potentially addictive pills. Do I still take them? Yes. Have I created a network of support to ensure close family knows I'm taking them so I have less of a chance of becoming addicted? Yes. I take them because I function better while on them. If I don't take them, I tend to suffer from extremely low temper, head-splitting migraines, and inability to sleep.

Though the American Heart Association strongly discourages drinking (if you do, do so in strict moderation, they warn), there are some studies that suggest red wine aids the heart and perhaps even in lowering cholesterol levels. Their primary concern seems to be that of the Church: that in starting, you're tempting a whole host of problems and temptations. After all, you can't become an alcoholic without ever partaking of even a sip of alcohol, right?

The Mayo Clinic recognizes that as well - but studies still suggest red wine in particular is rather heart healthy. There is always that caveat to be extra careful though, much like I must be with some of my prescriptions.

Of course, evidence could be found for either side - and this is where it gets sketchy. But can you discount scripture such as that found in 1 Timothy? I do. There is a scripture or two in 1 Timothy chapter 2 regarding women and the church that I cannot stand and will discount. We all do it at some point. We are all hypocrites.

For me the end comes again down to your intentions (your heart), and any prayer or communication you have with God. With anything. This isnt so much a matter between me and the Church as it is a matter between me and God. The Church can help me, can back me up and help me when I am feeling weak. It can help me find avenues closer to God, but it is not the end all be all. That is God. Even prophets can fail. I am an individual with a uniqueness God only knows - while the prophets can speak for us all on some issues, with others perhaps not. That is why we must not judge others but instead give them the benefit of the doubt. We don't know everything. While men may fail, God never will.

Forgive a weird ending to a topical post, but that is where my thoughts are at the moment. I'd love to hear yours.


Grégoire said...

The word of wisdom is one of the few aspects of Mormonism I have always genuinely admired.

I don't adhere to it for ethical or health reasons. Jews don't pay double for a kosher chicken which isn't any tastier than another brand, either. It's just a link to the past. A tradition.

Anyway, it can be fun to sit at a bar, drinking club soda, watching with amusement as the chuckleheads who invited you become progressively more ridiculous. It has a certain entertainment value, admittedly cheap, but worthy all the same.

Amanda said...

We never stopped using wine, beer, or vodka in our cooking when we were Mormon here. We knew people who did, but it didn't bother us. Being seen buying the stuff was a little weird, but we actually had many RS talks about how we shouldn't misconstrue what we see from people at the grocery store.

Anyway, regarding mild drinks - we actually asked what this meant, because like you, it seemed to mean "beer." I don't know if this is true, but one of our super-mormon members in our branch said that this was soaking grains overnight in water, to be drunk the next day for cleaning out your digestive system. He said this was common practice when he was a kid (he was near his 70s or 80s, I believe). This seemed really odd to me, and no one else had ever heard of it, but apparently, he and his wife practiced this often. So take it as you will.

I've often wondered if ice tea counts as a "hot drink" since it obviously is prohibited as being tea. Also, there are many Mormons that won't use herbal tea, either. Then again, the missionaries I originally heard from when I was 15 told me the reason for not drinking tea was because of the tannens. They never even mentioned the WoW.

I never worried about the WoW very much. I don't like alcohol, tea, coffee, or smoking, so it wasn't like I was giving up anything.

illogically logical said...

When it comes to Red Wine being healthy for your heart, it is no more healthy than excercise. Actually it's not as healthy as exercise. Usually when a doctor encourages you to drink a glass of Red Wine for your heart it's becuase you're old and can't get the benefits of exercise.

My husband and I like to cook with Wine. It really adds a lot to recipes. I also have a killer bread recipe that calls for a 24 oz. can of Beer. It's probably the most wickedly delicious bread in the world.

That being said, I strictly follow the word of wisdom otherwise. There were times in my life when I didn't, and the result wasn't too pleasent. I think the church should put more emphasis on diet. They should encourage us to eat more whole grains and whole foods. We will naturally be able to be able to reach higher spiritual levels if our bodies are healthier.

I suffer from a few auto-immune diseases, and battled depression for many years. I healed myself by changing my diet and am a totally different, much happier person now.

Lisa said...

Yeah, I know. These are just thoughts running through my head; thoughts that will probably die in time, but I need to explore the subject a bit. It is interesting.

Amanda: Huh, that's interesting. Sounds gross too :P It wouldn't surprise me if that's the case, though. The context behind the WoW is rather interesting.

And I do think iced tea is considered part of the WoW which is...weird, really. I think it's supposed to be something in the tea - but *shrug*

Illogical: Yeah, I caught that on the AHA website that exercise and even aspirin have similar benefits. Nobody's made an official stance yet on any health benefits either as far as I can tell. Just found it interesting.

Especially since I've some cholesterol problems (apparently. still need to bug my doctor about this) and family history of heart disease, WHILE finding it difficult to exercise...yeah. Trust me, I've tried, and I'll keep trying. With my family's schedule and young, young children, yeah. Anyway. I'm hardly looking for excuses, though it may seem otherwise. I am looking into ironies inherent in how members interpret the WoW though :)

Chris and Annalee Waddell said...

I like that you said that this (as any) issue is ultimately between you and God. We have the scriptures, prophets, and (hopefully) the Holy Ghost to counsel us. We study, we pray, we choose. We gain wisdom through choice and experience. Do what you will. Hopefully members won't use said resources as ammunition to judge others but rather choose wisely for themselves.

Kengo Biddles said...

I have no problem cooking with wine. I had a bishop tell me that it was okay to cook with spirits, in his opinion, as long as you weren't using them to get a buzz.

I have no problem with drinking de-alcoholized wine and beer; it's got the same alcohol content as the grape juice that was sold in the tetra-paks in the grocery store in France and tastes insanely better than icky Concord Grape Juice. (bleck!)

At the same time, I do believe in not drinking alcohol -- and as for the benefits of red-wine drinking, you can get just as much help by eating some dark chocolate (100g), according to a similar story.