Guest Post: “For the Weak and Weakest of All Saints”–The Word of Wisdom in the Time of COVID-19

by Aimee Hickman

While most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints practice the Word of Wisdom as a law of health which offers “temporal and spiritual blessings” to the body, it was also delivered as revelation for the collective well-being of the body of the Saints. Recorded in Doctrine & Covenants Section 89, it declares itself in service to the “temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” 

As health benefits associated with following many aspects of the Word of Wisdom have been scientifically verified in the 187 years since it was written, it seems we have focused more on individual blessings of those who adhere to its guidance and less on how our collective actions bless the “weak and weakest of all saints.” Yet the Word of Wisdom tells us  from the outset that it  is written as a communal “greeting—not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days.” This is not a document designed to simply prove individual worthiness or protect one’s health, but to strengthen the entire body of Christ, and protect its most vulnerable members. As a global pandemic encircles our planet, remembering that the Word of Wisdom was delivered not simply for individual salvation but for the collective “temporal salvation of all the saints in the last days” seems especially prescient—and urgent.

With this understanding, the demonstration in my hometown of Provo, Utah this week of a maskless crowd cramming into  a Utah County Commission Meeting and demanding their right to breathe potentially COVID-19-infected air in schools and other public buildings by not wearing a mask, is an affront to the most foundational principles of the Word of Wisdom. When Utah County Commissioner, Bill Lee (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints according to his bio on the Utah County government website), threw red meat to the crowd by declaring, “I don’t like government mandates” as he removed the mask he was wearing, he chose partisan jargon over community commitment among a group of many avowed Saints. For all the times I have heard Church members cite modern scientific findings as evidence of the Word of Wisdom’s inspired teachings, it is disappointing and appalling to see so many of them now disregard scientific research that proves wearing a mask is currently the most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of a virus which is especially lethal to the most vulnerable members of our society. How, when we read the Word of Wisdom’s promise to benefit “the weakest of all saints” do we not also hear, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me?” (Matthew 25:40)

Refusing to wear a mask and flaunting an unwillingness to protect oneself or others from a virus which has taken the lives of over half a million people world-wide and continues to ravage the most vulnerable, is not only a betrayal of the Word of Wisdom, but makes a mockery of it. “For the weak and weakest of all the saints,” wear the darn mask!

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19 Responses

  1. acw says:

    What an elegant analogy. Thank you and amen!

  2. Libby says:

    Wearing a mask is absolutely in line with the WoW, especially as it affects the weakest among us. Brava, Aimee!

  3. Chiaroscuro says:

    great application of WOW

  4. meems says:

    I am so glad you wrote this. For a long while, I also had been thinking of “for the weakest among us.” However, you said it 1000 times more eloquently than I could have. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this. This is the heart of the word of wisdom.

    • That’s so kind of you to say, Meems. Thank you! So many aspects of the communitarian vision of the early Saints seem to have been lost in the last century. This pandemic has made that shift especially clear.

  5. Steve says:

    Very well put. Here is what one the leader’s of that event claimed, according to KSL:

    Denna Robertson, one of the rally organizers, said she’s “absolutely” comfortable sending children back to school without masks. She said wearing masks is not a public health issue because she believes COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab.

    “Coronavirus is man-made. It’s a weaponized virus,” Robertson said.

    She accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates of being part of creating the virus to usher in “a new world order” by reducing the world population to 5 million people.

    • It astonishes me that people will continue to trust impossible conspiracy theories over people who have made their life’s-work serving the public good (i.e. doctors, researchers, heath care workers). This woman’s thinking is a literal danger to our community.

    • Em says:

      It’s quite a jump from “Man-made in a lab” to “not lethal.” I mean surely she is familiar with every evil scientist the film industry has ever given us? Why even HAVE a lab if you’re not going to make lethal ways to afflict humankind?

      Also if Fauci and Gates are evil overlords they sure dress and present themselves in pretty average ways. Where are the futuristic jumpsuits and henchmen in matching sinister outfits?

      If Fauci were an evil scientist at the very least he would constantly wear a lab coat and carry around a foaming beaker full of green liquid.

      So I’ll wear the mask.

    • Mary says:

      If Fauci and Gates invented the virus to usher in a new world order, they would be discouraging people from wearing masks, social distancing, staying home. Just sayin’.

  6. Heather says:

    Aimee I’ve been sharing your insights all weekend. It’s brilliant.

  7. Risa says:

    Excellent post Aimee. Relating mask wearing to the WoW just makes so much sense.

  8. meri says:

    I agree!. That meeting made national news. We live 2000 miles away and saw it. Apparently the one conducting the meeting agrees, as he canceled it.
    I went on Line and read the Deseret news at the same time. While people in Utah county were protesting because they wanted no masks, those in the Salt Lake district t were protesting digital only. They were glad to go with masks. My sis has sine told me SL district has since changed plans.
    Relatives in Utah say they are glad to go back
    with masks.

    It is interesting that the Utah area presidency has asked members to wear masks. Do those in utah County meeting who are members only support their leaders they agree with? Isn’t refusing to support your church leaders grounds for denying temple recommends?

    • Em says:

      You’d think so. But I’ve seen various forms of mental gymnastics to explain why they don’t need to follow it. Area authorities aren’t as legit as the prophet. If the Prophet said it then it would be a rule. Or the Area Authorities were asked to say it by health authorities, and therefore it isn’t a real revelation or commandment. If it weren’t deadly it would be sort of funny, as a feminist, to see so many orthodox people who have wagged their fingers at my cultural divergences suddenly saying “well THAT part isn’t inspired or directed at me.” Really? Because last week you replied to my facebook posts with links to talks about if you fail to follow and sustain church leaders you’ll be damned. Look who is a heretic now! Except…dying.

  9. Elise says:

    Do you all believe in the Book of Mormon or not? It prophesies that in the last days there will be secret combinations that will take over this country. Ezra T. Benson prophesied of a communistic conspiracy that is taking over this country…the USA. There is organized evil in this world. Has always been that way. Opposition in all things. Light and dark. We somehow think that in this modern age there can be no hidden agenda of wickedness in high places. No hidden slavery? No clamoring for control and fear and stripping you of your liberties? There can be Hitlers of the world and and a couple of world wars of control and carnage, but no organized darkness in this world that is ruled by Satan? The Word of Wisdom even warns of conspiring men and women in the last days.

    • Libby says:

      The evil conspiracies happening right under our noses? Unidentified federal agents–the current president’s private militia–arresting peaceful protesters in Portland. Politicians railing against a free press. A president working to delegitimize a national election.

    • Mary says:

      Something having an even greater possibility of stripping us of our liberties than wearing a mask is not wearing a mask. I’m guessing you don’t think Coronavirus isn’t that serious. That’s it’s just a cold. I do disagree with you. I don’t believe that all the nations and medical professionals all over the world would tank their economies and over-run their hospitals just to perpetrate a hoax. I do believe it is a serious as Fauci says.

      With that in mind and the possibility of many people dying. That will significantly reduce our numbers. I understand you may consider that an acceptable loss, considering only those who are weak the ones who are dying, except there are many who were previously strong who are dying, as well. There are many who were previously strong who are getting Coronavirus who now have lingering conditions that will render them immune compromised when we get a second wave–yet, the first one hasn’t even ended.

      Allow the current situation to continue as it is for the next couple of years, our numbers will be so depleted and weakened, our economy so trashed and everyone so discouraged and ready to start anarchy between opposing sides for simply raising an eyebrow incorrectly, that any enemies our country might have will have a very easy time coming in and taking over.

      We are making ourselves an easy target for other countries by not taking this pandemic seriously. You want to protect us? Do a better job of handling this pandemic than every other country. Get our economy and society back better and faster than anyone else.

  10. Mary says:

    Well said and thank you. My only caveat is as an immune compromised individual, I am tired of being referred to as weak or vulnerable. Messaging matters. I have strength that people don’t recognize, because they concentrate on my physical condition.

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