Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Word of Wisdom

Disclaimer: Here comes another long, controversial post. I honestly don't want to offend anyone. This is just something I've been thinking about a lot lately and I can't seem to move on to a different topic in my mind until I write this one. This is, of course, my personal opinion and If you don't want to read about how I don't think the Word of Wisdom is from God, please feel free to stop reading right now. Thanks. :)

If you are unfamiliar with the Word of Wisdom, here is a link to the scripture we get it from. This is kind of a confusing scripture and has been interpreted many ways, but nowadays we just say "Don't drink coffee, tea or alcohol, smoke, or do drugs." If you do any of these things, it will keep you out of the temple, and therefore out of the highest level of heaven where you are allowed to be with your family forever.

(Update: Here is what has to say about the Word of Wisdom and here is what has to say, note the commenters saying things like, "Mormons don't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol because we believe that these things are harmful to our bodies." Most of them call this a health code. Also, they have no problem putting coffee and tea in the same category as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.)

I have always been taught and understood that this is a "health code" for the members of the LDS church. Though, when I brought this up on facebook, I did have one person say that it's not really for our health, but it's more of a way to show obedience to God. Ok, I guess that's fine and I shouldn't complain about it not making people more healthy if that's the case, and it really is from God.

But I don't think it is from God.

This law started out as a guideline and it came about because Emma Smith, Joseph Smith's first wife, complained about cleaning up tobacco spit and things like that after the Brethren had their meetings. I can't say I blame her. Blech! It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith drank coffee (which he accused Emma of poisoning at one point), and it is known, from John Taylor's account, that he shared a bottle of wine with his companions in jail before he was shot.

Pete and I started to question the Word of Wisdom a couple years ago when we figured out that wheat is actually not very good for you, and that's one of the things is says to eat. Actually a lot of the things  it says are different then what we say now. Anyway, we rationalized that away and put that on our metaphorical shelves with everything else and tried not to think of it too much until our shelves broke.

(Edit: Someone commented yesterday that wheat is actually not bad for you. This is the first time I've heard this in years! Maybe I've just been living in a "wheat is bad for you" bubble? Anyway, I wanted to throw in here that the jury is still out on whether wheat is good for you or not, but I'm thinking of refined white flour which seems to be the most common way it is consumed in the US. And I also don't think it should be the staff of life as they say. I used to rationalize, "well, the word of wisdom didn't have to say to only eat whole wheat flour because they didn't have refined flour or processed foods back then, and sugar was really scarce so they didn't even need to mention that." Yeah, but this is supposed to be from God. Why didn't he know about these things and about how sick it would make people? And even if he didn't know back then, why haven't they updated it now that they do know?)

Coffee Is Good For You?

After giving myself permission to question the church, I found a study where they say that "moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer's or delay its onset."  I know they're not saying it's a sure thing, but that fact that there's a chance to reduce your risk for this terrible disease is an amazing thing! I don't know about you, but I will do anything I can to avoid or even delay getting Alzheimer's! Frankly, I'm horrified that the church is basically denying all their faithful members access to this protection, and it's not only from Alzheimer's, but also Parkinson's disease, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Caffeine is a drug and, like everything, coffee should be used in moderation. If you have side effects from drinking it, then it is not for you. Some people get jittery when they drink it, and I know some people just can't stand the taste of it. That's fine, it's totally up to you if they want to drink it or not. I had one person say that if they could figure out what part of coffee reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and put it into a pill, then they would take that. I don't believe in this. I think it's important to eat things in their whole form as much as possible, and caffeine can actually be lethal in its concentrated form. So I will stick to just drinking coffee, which people have been doing for hundreds of years.

Can You Drink and Not Be Addicted?

My whole life I was a very strict observer of the Word of Wisdom. I was always so proud of the fact that I had never even tasted any alcohol or coffee and that I didn't have that dependence on it that so many people have. We are pretty much taught that if you have one drink, you will become addicted so you are more "free" if you don't even try it.

The first time I really drank coffee around believers was when I was in Ireland. I explained to them that coffee made me feel better, and that I just liked it, and one of them stated, "So, you're addicted." I did not argue, but that totally does not mean I'm addicted, plus that was not a very nice thing to say.

Wikipedia describes addiction as "the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors."

I have not noticed any adverse consequences to drinking coffee, or I wouldn't drink it. And I'm pretty sure I'm not drinking it because of a neurological impairment. I am totally fine if I don't drink coffee. I don't need it to function, and I have not noticed any withdrawal symptoms when I don't drink it. I drink it because I feel like it is actually good for me.

I would also like to add that I was pretty much shocked to see that most adults outside the church drink coffee and alcohol and that most people are just normal people and they're not all alcoholics! I have talked to people still in the church and they think that if you have one drink, you will get drunk, and if you ever get drunk, you are an alcoholic. This is one of the many myths I believed to be true my whole life.

Silly Rabbit, Coffee is for Grown-Ups!

The thing about coffee is that I can now have a treat - something comforting and warm - without the guilt. Because I don't put sugar in my coffee, just a little half and half, it is very low calorie and does not spike my blood sugar. I have also noticed that, since I've been drinking coffee, my cravings for sweet things have gone way down! I feel like I have more of an adult pallet now, and don't enjoy super sweet things nearly as much as I used to. I think this is an amazing side effect!

Being a member of the LDS church is like being stuck at a perpetual kid's table where you are never able to graduate to the grown-up table and start drinking coffee instead of hot chocolate, wine instead of juice and beer instead of soda. It seems like as you move to those other things, you also grow out of your childish taste for the really sweet things. As we get older, our bodies can no longer process the same amounts of sugar as when we were young. Or, I should say, our pancreas are getting sick and tired of processing all the sugar! I don't think it could be a bad thing to move away from the sugary drinks and foods when this is happening. (Not that I think kids should eat a lot of sugar either, but they really can "get away with it" easier.)

One thing I've noticed is how common it is for adults in the LDS church to drink hot chocolate. I haven't been on the outside long, but I don't think most adults drink hot chocolate very often. Do they? Please correct me if I'm wrong. (Edit: appartuntly they do in Switzerland, and I bet it is amazing there!) The thing about it is that they are ordering it at breakfast because they think it is better for them than coffee. And they will feel all smug as they sip it and watch people drink their coffee, thinking they made the better choice. The funny thing is that the coffee drinkers are probably thinking the same thing about them. Hot chocolate is NOT a substitute for coffee, and it is NOT better for you. Maybe if it was made with straight cocoa beans it would be, but usually there is so much sugar in that stuff! I'm not saying there should be no place for hot chocolate, it is delicious. But if you're drinking it because you think it is the better choice, you may want to rethink that. Drink water instead. If you're drinking it as a treat, please ignore me. I actually had some really delicious hot chocolate in Dublin.

This goes for soda as well. Though most members of the church would never drink coffee, most of them are totally ok with drinking Coke or other caffeinated soft drinks which don't interfere with your temple recommend. This makes me so sad. I view soda as one of the worst things you can put into your body. It is so bad for you, guys! But the church has no problem with you drinking that. Just don't drink coffee which is all natural, helpful to your body, has very few calories and no sugar unless you add it yourself.

A glass of wine every night is actually good for you too. I haven't seen any research showing that a bowl of ice cream or a candy bar every night is good for you, though. Let me know if you have...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't like dessert! I'm just saying my desire for it has gone down a noticeable amount this past year, and that it's nice to have other kinds of treats other than just sugary ones.

Coffee and Training

Drinking coffee before my workouts in the morning has been really nice. First of all, it's just a nice thing to wake up to. It makes me feel more excited to do my workout, or clean the kitchen, or whatever I need to do. It helps get me hydrated, and I usually drink a glass of water with it. If I drink it an hour or so before I run, it will get things moving for me. I used to always need a bathroom break a mile or two into my run. But now, I can usually get that all taken care of before I leave. This might be my favorite thing about coffee!

Runner's World recently put out an article entitled Eight Reasons to Sip on Coffee. They mention some of same things as me, and their list of great things coffee does also includes:

  1. Power Performance
  2. Boost Antioxidants
  3. Improve Mood
  4. Lower Heart-Disease Risk
  5. Dodge Diabetes
  6. Enhance Brain Function
  7. Protect Your Liver
  8. Relieve Stress

What are your experiences with coffee, tea and alcohol with your training. I'd love to hear all your pros and cons and what works for you.

More Experiences

Finally, I'm just so happy that I can now take my salon up on their offer for a cup of coffee when I'm in there. They have good coffee, and it just makes me feel that much more pampered. :)

My life overall may not be better or worse because of changing my "Word of Wisdom," and I may not be a better or worse person, but I do feel like I have been able to experience more things and connect with more people along with being less judgmental. I also feel like it will make me more healthy and strong so that I really can run and not be weary.

For me, leaving the church was like taking my goggles off after a hard swim set and they're all fogged up. When I take them off, I'm amazed at how clear everything is.

The world outside the church is not the scary place I always thought it was. Yes there is a lot of bad stuff out there, but overall the world is amazing and beautiful and the people are too! I've realized that people are people, and that coffee, tea and alcohol are just drinks. They are not bad or good and do not make the people who drink them bad or good. They are just drinks. Adults are, in fact, capable of making their own decisions about what they want to eat or drink or wear or do, or whatever! Of course, we can only make decisions based on what we know so it's really good to always continue learning as much as we can about everything in this wonderful world of ours!

So, what does my Word of Wisdom look like now?

Something like this (I do my best with this, but if I break one of my rules, I still get to go to heaven.):

  • Avoid highly processed foods.
  • No soda. Period.
  • No smoking. I love my lungs!
  • Eat grains in moderation, mostly whole grains.
  • Eat processed sugar in very small amounts.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Drink 2-4 cups of coffee a day.
  • Drink unsweetened tea (update via commenter's suggestion)
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible.
  • Make sure meat and eggs are grass fed, free range, or wild caught as much as possible. (There's an amazing Elk burger at Cafe Niche here in Salt Lake!)
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week.
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
What is your World of Wisdom? What would you add or take away from my list?


  1. Coming from a family of alcoholics I would say this post is really naive and sad. Caffeine is a stimulant, alcohol impairs, period. You can also find a "study " on the internet to back up whatever you want to believe.

    1. Thank you for illustrating my point. What part of this post is naive and sad? I mentioned alcohol and I mentioned that people can drink alcohol and not be an alcoholic. That does not mean that I am saying everyone should drink and that I endorse alcoholism, and I'm not even saying alcoholism isn't a thing. I know it is. Here is the wikipedia page:

      Alcoholism is a terrible desease and I'm sorry that you have a family of alcoholics. I hope they have been able to find help. With that in your family history, it would totally make sense for you not to drink, but it doesn't mean that people who do drink are bad. It is their decission. THAT was my point.

      Also, I know caffeine is a stimulant. I even mentioned that I know it's a drug and should be used in moderation. But caffiene is not ALL coffee is. If you don't believe the studies I found, then that's totally up to you. I would still love to see a study that says sugar is good for you.

  2. Just because someone drinks alcohol doesn't make them an alcoholic. An alcoholic is someone who is addicted to and cannot function without alcohol. Most people can have the occasional drink without becoming addicted to it.

    Caffeine is indeed a stimulant, but I don't know why you think that automatically makes it bad. ???

    Yes, you can find a study for just about anything, but many, many studies have consistently shown that coffee is good for you. Once multiple studies/experiments have shown something to be true you don't get to have a differing opinion on it since it has been established as a fact. Coffee is good for you, whether you would like to live in reality and accept that is up to you.

  3. I agree with everything you said regarding the Word of Wisdom and coffee. The interesting thing is that they have isolated the component of coffee that aids with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's...its caffeine. There are many other elements of coffee other than caffeine that help with diabetes, colon health, liver health, etc. One thing that I have on my Word of Wisdom that you don't is unsweetened ice tea. Tea is the healthiest drink on the planet. There is nothing bad about it. It even has less caffeine than Soda if you are trying to avoid caffeine. Bottom line is that no one obeys the Word of Wisdom. Everyone eats meat in the summer and times of plenty (unless you are a vegetarian). I have recieved personal revelation (the only kind that counts) that I should do what is healthy for my body, and that includes coffee and tea.

    1. Good point about the tea! It's crazy that this is another example of a healthy drink you could be looked down on by people for drinking, even as they're drinking soda. I will add it to my list, thanks!

      As I understood it, the component to help delay Alzheimer's was dependent on the caffeine, but also only found in coffee. So you couldn't get the same benefits drinking Coke or Mt. Dew or something. Right? I haven't seen where I read that again, though, so I could be wrong.

  4. Dear Tatum Walker,
    Just as Colleen has found a study to back up her opinions so have you used a study to back up yours. I find it interesting that you are accusing Colleen of the same things you are guilty of. What makes the study you subscribe to more valid than the one Colleen supports? Each is of equal validity.
    Stop being so judgmental and embrace the fact that people will make different decisions that are just as valid for them as those you make for yourself. Two people can look at the exact same information and arrive at completely opposite conclusions. Which one is right? They both are equally right.

  5. I read a book named "Potatoes not Prozac" written originally as a doctorate thesis studying Alcoholism, but ended up with a study on how eating a balanced diet and controlling sugar in-take can help decrease alcoholism.

    It was something that seriously made me reconsider the Word of Wisdom, because the church always offers very sugary treats at the end of events, and yet was supposed to have a "health guide". That led to more research on what was scientifically healthy.

  6. I love your word of wisdom. Your post is neither naive or sad. Ignore the obedience police. They aren't really capable of thinking much further than "I just do what I am told to do". Policy and culture are not "doctrine" no matter how much they become ingrained into a religious body. Very good article! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Yes, you are wrong. LOTS of adults outside of the LDS church drink hot chocolate. There is a famous cafe right here in downtown Zurich that is filled, every morning, with adults drinking their fancy hot chocolate and eating a croissant for breakfast.

  8. Yes, actually, you are wrong. LOTS of adults outside the LDS church drink hot chocolate. In fact, there is a famous cafe here in downtown Zurich that is filled, every morning, with adults drinking their hot chocolate and eating a croissant for breakfast.

    1. Thanks, Amy. Good to know. I bet they have good hot chocolate there!

  9. I consider myself a fairly typical mormon and I don't think I've ever really noticed, much less felt smug, about what I was ordering at Denny's compared to the the table next to us. It's like what we tell our kids when they won't stop tattling. "The only person you need to be worrying about is you."

    1. That is great, Sun, and I think that is a really good moto to live by! I also thought of myself as a very typical Mormon, and I am always very aware of what is going on around me and what people around me are doing. Yes I always notice when people were drinking coffee, and I yes I would think that I had made a better choice than them because hot chocolate will not keep you out of heaven. I'm not saying this was cool of me by any means, but unfortuantly I don't think I'm the only one who thought this.

      It is hard to say exactly what a typical Mormon is, though, and it was unfair of me to group all Momon's together and say they all do something because that is never the case with any group. I apologize for that.