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!