Michelle Quist: We’re losing something in our own blind obedience to rules and regulations

(Lee Davidson|Salt Lake Tribune) A billboard promoting Proposition 2 by quoting the LDS Word of Wisdom appears on the 600 South off ramp of I-15 on Thursday, Sept. 20. It lacked disclosure about who paid for it.

It was hard to choose today’s column topic. For example, I could write on the Tuesday story about Utah once again being the worst state in the nation for women’s equality. We come in at No. 50, behind Idaho at No. 49 – and it wasn’t even close!

But, unfortunately, there’s nothing new in this report. We don’t have enough women in business or government leadership in this state. And we aren’t improving.

Or, I could write on the recent story about our Attorney General’s Office and Department of Public Safety wanting to use a real-time artificial intelligence surveillance program that some legislative leaders described as “Big Brother.”

Let me repeat that – the program will use 24/7 surveillance. Um, Fourth Amendment anyone? Yes, the supporters say it will be anonymous – until it’s not. Supporters say they only want to use it for AMBER alert scenarios and traffic emergencies. Until they want it for more.

It’s like State Farm’s Drivewise application that literally tracks where you are at all times. I recently told them this is an egregious privacy breach and the representative responded that they would never share the information with anyone. Until they do.

Or … I could talk about the fact that this week is the first week of school in Salt Lake City schools and I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I have five schools this year and only my oldest drives. But that seems like a definite First World problem.

So, I guess I’ll talk about the recent announcement The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made about its Word of Wisdom — the health code its members follow as directed by scripture and continuing revelation.

Recently, the church published an explainer in a youth magazine that clarified that the Word of Wisdom includes prohibitions on vaping, recreational marijuana and coffee and green tea-infused drinks. When members questioned whether the direction published in a youth magazine was policy, the church published an official statement with the same information from the newsroom.

The changes even made The Washington Post.

The Word of Wisdom was originally a suggestion regarding healthy living. Its impetus was a revelation spurred by Emma Smith’s annoyance and disgust with chewing tobacco spittle all over her floor.

It wasn’t until the 1920s, and the temperance movement, that the health code became a qualifying prerequisite for temple attendance.

But we’re losing something in our own blind obedience. When we start to list specific prohibited items, by default it opens the doors to other unhealthy options. It downplays the ability of members to make these decisions on their own. And it forgets the message of teaching principles and governing ourselves.

The church’s inclination to clear up inconsistencies usually only causes more in a text that is already confusing. For example, what does “hot drinks” mean? Coffee and tea, but not other hot drinks? So, is it the caffeine in them? Revelation has said no. So … just coffee and tea then – but the tea leaf, not herbal teas.

Because herbs, as we know, are good. But we should eat meat sparingly. Few of us do. Grains are good. Don’t tell that to keto-dieters. Fruit is good. Don’t tell that to those on high-protein diets.

Barley is useful for mild drinks, according to scripture. Don’t tell anyone that.

Textually, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense when compared to our actual practices.

Also, what about energy drinks? Our excessive consumption of sugar in general? What about abusing prescription drugs like Adderall or opioids? What about yerba mate? (South American missionaries – don’t @ me.)

Also lost in the proscriptive message of the recent announcement is the fact that the church has officially stated that taking medical marijuana is OK. That’s a huge announcement!

More importantly, a focus on rules and regulations bypasses an emphasis on the promised blessings associated with living the word of wisdom – health, wisdom, energy and protection from the destroying angel. (That seems like a big one.)

I’m just glad I can still drink hot chocolate. It helps me run and not be weary, walk and not be faint. I’ll be sure to drink it warm, just in case.

Michelle Quist

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.