My son is a 2nd year medical student with a young family and is active in the Church. He is beginning to buy the philosophy that moderation in all things is okay when it comes to the Word of Wisdom. He is being influenced by some of the doctors he associates with and looks up to. How do I explain to him the importance of obedience in all things? He is struggling with how he will raise his children and how strict he will be with them.
Thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear about your son. It is always difficult and heartbreaking when a loved one uses their agency to make decisions that lead away from Heavenly Father. Fortunately, as a mother, there are things you may say to at least encourage your son to step back and reconsider the views he is adopting. Before talking with your son, I would definitely prepare through prayer, fasting, and perhaps a visit to the temple, to get in just the right spirit and to have just the right words. Then, as your son is active in the Church, perhaps a touch of boldness (as the Spirit directs) will go a long way! Below are some ideas for what you may wish to say to your son.
In 2003, Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve gave a speech at BYU called “The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character.” In the speech, Elder Packer said,
“We have accepted the Word of Wisdom in the Church standards that we will not change. You are not going to go on a mission unless you observe it. You are not going to go to the temple for the more sacred ordinances unless you observe it. That is no tea or coffee or liquor or tobacco or whatever else is covered by it.”
President Packer did not say that using these things in moderation is OK. He was pretty clear about using no tea, coffee, liquor, or tobacco.
Let’s think about what this means. I am particularly struck by the sentence, “You are not going to go to the temple . . . unless you observe [the word of wisdom].” In 2016, Elder J. Devn Cornish of the Seventy gave a talk called “Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It?” The subject of the talk is what the standard is for entering into the Celestial Kingdom. Cornish states that “If you will really try and will not rationalize or rebel – you positively are going to be ‘good enough'”. However, Cornish states that “‘Really trying’ means we keep at it as we fully come up to the Lord’s standard, which is clearly defined in the questions we are asked in order to get a temple recommend.” If living worthy of entering the temple is a marker that one is worthy of entering the Celestial Kingdom, and if breaking the Word of Wisdom means we are not living worthily to enter the temple, there is a strong implication that breaking the word of wisdom could threaten our exaltation!
Your son is active in the Church and likely knows all about the Word of Wisdom. Perhaps he just needs a reminder that breaking the Word of Wisdom is some particularly serious business! If the spirit directs, perhaps you can remind your son that he is doing so well by being active and following the Church, and he should not let a few cups of coffee (or whatever he is having problems with) threaten to derail all of his hard work – his eternal marriage, his exaltation, and his future. It just isn’t worth it.