Maybe it’s because I’m so full. Because I just ate the entire pantry full of Trader Joe’s delicacy: chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered PEANUT BUTTER pretzels, and THEN, after all that, cut the chocolate with a few macaroons. So this food journal entry, I’m cataloging it because I think it might be the reason I’m about to say what I’m saying and my normal, hungry, full of denial, green eating self can’t be held culpable. Anyway, here goes.
But before I say that I have to tell you this: I was on a flight two months ago, from Oakland to Salt Lake City, and just as I was settling my toddler into the seeming empty seat beside me, a pretty blond woman rushed down the aisle, with her blown dry hair and carry-on baggage ribbons of wake behind her, and claimed the seat. She was really apologetic about taking up some of the space I obviously required for four children and all their various electronic accoutrement, and I was taken aback by her heartfelt kindness—I don’t usually get a lot of compassion on these types of flights. And so, this woman and I, we really started talking. It was the proverbial set-up that you think will happen to you on every flight into or out of Utah, when you suddenly find yourself knee-deep in a conversation with a really open-minded inquisitor of Mormonism.
Of course, I only tell you of this quick association and the accompanying candor of the conversation to display for you the gristle of it—the chewy part I choked on. After talking about an hour, the woman wanted to talk about our “health code” and asked why, if we were so concerned with our health, were we allowed to get so much plastic surgery? She was moving to Salt Lake City from the Bay and in her frequent travels to and from insisted that she hadn’t ever seen as much plastic surgery (or plastic surgery advertising) as she had here. And I said I didn’t know. I choked because I agreed with her.
Which brings me back to my moment of standing at the open pantry doors, fingertips touched by the whisper of chocolaty over-eating. Why are certain very specific things covered in the Word of Wisdom, and why are whole catalogs of gluttony and weakness omitted? It’s not that I question the inspiration of Section 89 given so remarkably in a small upstairs chamber in a bishop’s store in Kirtland, it’s just that I wonder about its modern day relevancy. In other words, does it need an update? Or are we just too literal with some of its teachings and blind to the possible spirit of it? Why is coffee bad when the mass addiction to sucking on straws that poke from ridiculous jugs of Diet Coke isn’t? Or why does it make sense to do a carte blanche shrug on energy drinks, supplemental stimulants, over-eating, obesity, abused prescription medication, or that whole part of the WoW that seems to clearly delineate an almost vegetarian lifestyle? I don’t think it does make sense, and so I think that’s why we insist that the Word of Wisdom isn’t really about health at all, it’s about faith and obedience.
And sacrifice. Sacrifice? Would we include that in the mix? The problem for me is that the sacrifices seem very specific for people who have certain weaknesses. For many of us, coffee and alcohol aren’t tempting at all, and so the WoW is a simple culturalism to keep and condone. But we’re fat. Or we really love meat. Or we’re pill-poppers. Or we’re vain, and have inflated our chests to the size of prize-winning Thanksgiving turkeys.
There are some who have never questioned anything with religion and to do so in their minds or to discuss possibility with another is equal to sin. I am not one of those people. I believe if something is true, it remains true whether I talk about it or not, and that sometimes to understand, I sort it out in my mind until I feel something in my heart. And so, I don’t mean to ruffle the feathers of a clearly sacred commandment or the good of us who uphold it, I only want to know why the relevancy of the WoW seems misconstrued, and why, if we have the agency to choose so much for ourselves, are just a few things in life so demonized?