In the text of the Word of Wisdom it says that it is specifically “not by way of commandment.” Which tells me that though it’s a good idea to follow the Word of Wisdom, the Lord does not require it. After all, He’s never shown any resistance to giving commandments in the past. Why then does the church now require one to follow something that the Lord took the time to specifically state was not a commandment?
Members of the Lord’s church have often been set apart by standards they are expected to follow both for their betterment and for no other reason than to mark them as His devoted and faithful. There is a difference between standards such as these and “commandments”. Commandments are those things which the Lord requires of ALL His people- even those not of the church. They are simple, straight forward, and easily identified as such.
However, the Lord has said it is “not meet” for Him to command us in all things. He wants us to recognize and follow the good counsel and advice he gives us through the mouths of His servants, the prophets. Those who wish to be baptised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must be willing to listen to and obey the prophets- which includes such things as the Law of Chastity, paying our tithing, and the Word of Wisdom, even though these things are not commandments. Doing so sets us apart as His faithful and will result in an overabundance of temporal and spiritual blessings.
Recognizing the benefits of following this advice, Brigham Young asked the saints to commit themselves to live by it in 1851, but it didn’t become a requirement for temple recommends until 1921. This commitment is a part of our covenant with the Lord, that we will do as He asks of us and in return He will bless us. Remember, that when God speaks whether “by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).