Over at By Common Consent, there’s a new Q&A series leading off with the question “is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom?”
Mostly, the commenters have debated over various definitions of what exactly constitutes a “hot drink”, which the word of wisdom prohibits. Others argue that any obviously unhealthy thing is against the WoW, like High Fructose Corn Syrup. All-in-all, one very important facet of this law hasn’t received much attention.
Dietary laws are not peculiar to this generation; the Law of Moses forbade the eating of certain foods, such as pork. In time, the Lord removed this law as the gospel was taken to the gentile nations. Did the nutritive and chemical properties fo pork magically change around 40 A.D.? Obviously not. Did the Lord stop caring about the health of His children? No way!
Thus, the question we need to ask is, “why did the Lord forbid certain foods at some times and not others?” The only answer that sits right with me is that the purpose of dietary restrictions is not health-related, but rather a cultural tool.
In ancient times, the Jews were known, in large part, because of their dietary restrictions. This marked them as a different sort of people and kept them, in some ways, culturally divided from others. Is it possible that this is the same purpose in the Lord’s restricting certain foods among Latter-day Saints?
In light of this idea, passing on the Jamocha shake is a simple decision. True, it may not be exactly the same as drinking coffee outright, but to the outside world, would they see any real difference? Probably not. So, in order to maintain this aspect of Mormon identity, it’s probably better not to add to, or take away from, the Word of Wisdom.