Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Law

I was in a class on Sunday where the teacher was talking about obedience and the line between following the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.

We started out by listing a few items that were obviously letter of the law things. Thou shalt not kill was put there, although it was pointed out that for Nephi, there was a bit of an exception made. We listed several more items, and the last item mentioned just as we were about to move onto another topic was the Word of Wisdom.

This is the one the teacher was looking for. The obvious letter of the law part to the Word of Wisdom is the no coffee, tea, drugs, tobacco, and alcohol component. But the question is where eating meat only in times of famine or the other "be healthy" components of this law fit in. Of course, if you ask Gramps, he'll say that D&C 89 is being misinterpreted, and that a rogue comma renders verse 13 exactly the opposite of its original intent. I don't want to get into that issue too deeply. We eat meat without having our temple recommends taken away.

The teacher's point again, though, was that we need to get away from having a line drawn between the spirit and letter of the law. We just need to be obedient. Our stake president recently gave a talk where he urged us to use the spirit of the law to make ourselves more obedient, not to creep over the line into the letter of the law portion of obedience. That is, you don't use the spirit of the law to justify breaking the letter of the law a little bit, as long as you had the right intent.

The spirit of the law should make us more obedient. That is, we should be avoiding food with lots of fat, sugary soft drinks, caffeine, and anything else that is obviously bad for us, while exercising more. As we were discussing the Word of Wisdom, I mentioned something about how it says we should "run and not be weary and walk and not faint". A large brother in the class countered that that statement is a blessing, not a commandment. I didn't want to get into an argument with an overweight member of the class about whether he was breaking the Word of Wisdom, so I just backed off.

The more I think about it, though, I don't see the difference between this being a commandment versus a blessing. The Lord commands us to avoid bad food, eat good food, and be obedient to the commandments. If we do that, we'll be healthy, gain knowledge, and run and not be weary. You can take the word "run" either literally or figuratively, but either way, again, it's the same. The Lord wants us to eat good food, exercise, gain knowledge, and otherwise be well prepared to carry out his work here on this earth.

I'm sorry, but if you're morbidly obese, I believe you're breaking the commandments. You cannot run and not be weary; you can barely walk without stopping for a breather. You cannot go visit the sick, because you are the sick. You cannot go on a mission if your BMI is over 37. You cannot go on many Scouting high adventure activities if your BMI is over 30. The Lord will not bless you to be able to run if you have not done the things that make that physically possible.

The Word of Wisdom here is just an example of one law, so I don't mean to harp on it too much. The principle of obedience applies to any law.

It was brought up in class that there are certain things that will keep you from getting a temple recommend, where many other things may not. You can also get into Elder Oaks' explanation of the difference between disobeying a law that is simply a legal prohibition versus one that is an inherent wrong. But again, drawing the line at what will keep you out of the temple or breaking laws like speeding that are only legal prohibitions and not inherent laws of nature, are not in line with the spirit of the law and will prevent you from being an effective servant of the Lord.

By fully committing oneself physically, spiritually, and otherwise, we will be more blessed and available to do the Lord's work better than someone who just does the bare minimum.

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