Monday, October 29, 2012

A "word of wisdom" from & for the Mormons

One bizarre teachings of Mormonism is the so-called "Word of Wisdom" which was a revelation that Joseph Smith received and recorded in the Doctrine & Covenants, section #89. This is considered inspired Scripture to Mormons, and all good Mormons today follow the "Word of Wisdom". The heart of the text is as follows:
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation

5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, 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. 6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies. 8 And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill. 9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— 11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
This "divine revelation" is the reason why Mormons don't drink alcohol, coffee, or smoke tobacco. This is the extent of what most good Mormons know and are encouraged to follow in regards to this Word of Wisodom. But the person who reads the entire section (particularly the parts I highlighted in red) will see that there is more to the Word of Wisdom than what most Mormons care to follow - despite the fact God is allegedly giving these commands.

Notice how the text plainly says only those fruits and herbs in season should be used, meaning all canned fruits and packaged herbs are technically forbidden. And the same is true for meats, which in this case man is commanded to use "sparingly," namely only in times of winter or famine. What Mormons do you know of who follow this teaching? I don't know of a single one, nor have I ever heard them write or speak on these 'forgotten' parts of the Word of Wisdom.

To add to this confusion, Mormons have said caffeine is included in these prohibitions, yet I see nothing in these prohibitions indicating that. While "hot drinks" most likely does refer to coffee, I don't see why this also wouldn't exclude hot tea, hot milk, hot cider, etc, nor would it exclude 'cold drinks' with caffeine like sodas. Another interesting oddity is that in verse 17b it says "mild drinks" that are grain based are allowed, which logically would allow some mildly alcoholic beers, yet Mormons shun these as any other alcohol. There doesn't seem to be any objective standard to judge this.

As a tangential note to all this, despite the fact the Word of Wisdom clearly says wine can be used for the Communion service (v5b), the LDS have officially abandoned even this, and now exclusively use water instead of wine for their worship service. Note what the LDS site that welcomes seekers even says: "We partake of the sacrament (communion), which consists of prepared bread and water, blessed and passed to members of the congregation by priesthood holders." This is because another of Smith's revelations in 1830 (Doctrine & Covenants, section 27) states God doesn't care what elements one uses for Communion, what matters is the heart and intent when partaking. This means one can use anything from pizza and milk to cookies and water. This only feeds into the Mormon 'fear' of alcohol, again despite the fact Smith officially taught it was ok.

So the question is, are the Mormons really being wise about their own teaching? Does the Wisdom of God include picking and choosing what commands and advice to obey or ignore? I would say the answer to both of those questions is "No". This is aside from the fact the Bible nowhere forbids these things or puts such restrictions, aside from the commands to avoid gluttony and drunkenness. That Mormons would even put this kind of teaching forward as something necessary to be saved or be a good person in God's sight is more foolishness than wisdom.

P.S. This post has nothing to do with the health benefits of avoiding tobacco or alcohol, but rather whether such words really came from God and whether Mormons are actually obeying God's commands.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Obama's Protestantism

In the last post, I looked at Romney's Mormonism, specifically why a candidate's religion does matter, and why Romney's religion should trouble people. In this post I'm going to focus on Obama's Protestantism. I am not doing this to 'be fair' to both sides, but rather to use Obama's religion as an object lesson on why the last post is so true. What most people don't realize, and what I didn't realize myself until recently, is that Obama's Protestantism explains nearly everything about how Obama has governed these last four years. While most people think that he's secretly a Muslim, that claim doesn't explain or shed light on his policies nearly as good as his publicly professed Protestantism does.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Romney's Mormonism

If there is one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree upon, it's that a candidate's religion doesn't really matter. While Republicans commentators like to scare people by associating Obama with Islam and Democrat commentators like to mock Romney by pointing out Mormon oddities, these commentators do not do this for the noble purpose of seeking the Truth, but rather the ignoble purpose of smearing the opponent. The main reason Republicans hate Obama because he's a Democrat, and the main reason Democrats hate Romney because he's a Republican. In reality, the majority of citizens don't care about what religion anyone chooses to espouse. But Natural Law and Divine Revelation both teach us that religion is at the very heart of our humanity, and thus is a chief concern for every man. This is because what one believes will always impact how one lives their life, both in public and in private. For this reason, Romeny's Mormonism should be one of the decisive issues of this debate.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are all men "under the Law"? (Exposing another fatal flaw in Calvinism)

Calvinists teach that all mankind is under a "covenant of works," where eternal life is promised to those who keep the law of God perfectly. But this leads to a problem. If all mankind is "under the law," then why does St Paul speak as if only some are "under the law" and warn others not to put themselves "under the law"? This post will expose a very serious and fatal equivocation that is at the root of Calvinist theology.

Consider these passages from the Epistle to the Galatians:
  • But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal 4:4-5)
  • Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? (Gal 4:21)
  • I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (Gal 5:3)
It should be pretty obvious that the "law" here has to mean the same thing in each passage (since it's the same context). Whatever this "law" is, it is clear that not everyone is "under" it, meaning bound to observe it. If this "law" is the 'covenant of works' which all men are born into, then this contradicts the Calvinist notion that all men are under the "covenant of works," since it is clear by these texts not all men are "under the law". The only acceptable answer here is that the "law" is none other than the Mosaic Law, which not all men are under, and one only becomes obliged to obey it if one is circumcised (e.g. Jesus only became "under the law" at His circumcision).

The ramifications for realizing this are huge: Since the "law" Paul is opposing cannot be the "covenant of works," it logically follows that Paul's warning about getting circumcised and putting oneself "under the law" could not have been a matter of people thinking they could 'work their way to heaven'. So the Calvinist is in a bind: either equivocate by equating "law" and "covenant of works" and thus claim not everyone is under the "covenant of works," or else admit "law" is the Mosaic Law and thus deny keeping the Mosaic Law has any bearing on salvation (since that's the task of the "covenant of works")