I have often wondered how the order of heaven will differ from the order of the Church here on Earth. It seems to mostly be an exercise in futility; there is almost no way to prove one’s conclusions. And musings about the “higher law” (as defined below) would seem to fit nicely into this category. However, I’m not above wasting a little time on such things if they interest or amuse me, especially while I’m at Church.
The concept of the higher law as I understand it is that we here in mortality do not live the highest laws given by God, not even the highest laws we could be expected to live here on earth. For instance, tithing is expressly taught to be the lesser law to the law of consecration. Section 89 in the D&C where the Word of Wisdom is expounded contains words that could be understood as placing this law in the same category.
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. (vs. 3)
If this law is adapted to the weak and the weakest of all who can be called saints then it is almost certainly not the highest law. Speculation about what a higher or the highest law is may not yield the truth but it could, or at least could come close.
Today’s explicitly taught Word of Wisdom has been somewhat adapted from D&C 89. The primary focus is on what is forbidden; namely alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, illicit drugs. Drugs were added for obvious reasons while the others derive directly from the section’s verses. But much is contained by way of “dos” in the section that don’t make it into the applied model today such as the exhortation for man to eat wheat in favor of the other grains. It has been adapted, but it is still likely to be a lesser law. So what is the higher law in this instance?
I’ve heard some speculate that the higher law could be vegetarianism or even veganism. Such arguments do not hold water with me in light of D&C 49:18-19 that explicitly states that whoever forbids the eating of meat is not ordained of God since it was expressly placed on earth for our benefit and use. Be this as it may, Section 89’s injunction to eat meat sparingly and especially only in times of cold, winter, or famine can get confusing. They don’t quite directly contradict, but they come close. So what is the principle that behind these two commands? I believe that it is moderation.
Another example from the Word of Wisdom that potentially proves this point is the law concerning alcohol. Section 89 strictly forbids the consumption of wine and “hard drinks.” Wine is explicitly permitted for use in the sacrament, though it should be of the members own making and not fermented (or at least not very). Hard drinks are meant to be any drink with high alcohol content. Mild barley drinks are commended, a term taken by some to mean beer (one can always hope).
Yet these injunctions for and against constitute a lesser law. It is doubtful to me that many, if any, illicit drugs would ever be permissible in the higher law of nutrition. You never know though, there are many cultures that give place to controlled use of such substances to induce visions from the gods and other spiritual experiences. Perhaps even this cannot be entirely discarded. We just don’t know.
Not every issue is as severe as the drugs one. And many seem much more relevant and current. My favorite one is the issue of caffeinated beverages. Coffee and tea aside (for being expressly excluded), the debate rages as to whether one partake in things like Coke, Mountain Dew, and Dr. Pepper (my fave). I’ve been through the stages of not caring, caring so much that I would not drink anything with caffeine, to my current stance. I applied the concept of moderation to my caffeine intake. I’d say I have a bottle/can or two a week at most. Sometimes none. I never take caffeine for the purpose of waking up or trying to stay awake (though no judgments on these issues is rendered here). I don’t think that these are in keeping with the moderation principle though others argue that it might be why God has given the world cocoa beans and is appropriate in moderation. I particularly think that the principle of moderation makes good sense when discussing meat consumption.
The truth is, I like applying the principle of moderation to all aspects of my life. While there are things that are required of the Saints that are below this law (tea?! what’s wrong with tea?!), I live those lesser laws because we are held to them. I look forward particularly to the permissible use of wine, especially in sacrament meetings.
The last thing I want to bring up in connection with this discussion is an interesting implication about the concepts of moderation and higher law; that is the probability of apparent inequalities created if this law is lived by each person. For example, if a person cannot control their coffee consumption then the moderate level for them to consume is none. This could look unfair when many others are able to control themselves and therefore able to drink at least some. If the use of any substances that we consider illicit is permissible then the gap could be even greater.
However, I believe that these things are fair and equal. Everyone lives by the same law, a law that says that each person takes in what he or she is able to handle. The differences from person to person do not create inequality, the application of the law is still equal. The concept that everyone must live, eat, drink, etc identically is flawed. In the same way that God does not grant all gifts and blessings to all people, the appropriate application of his highest laws are not painted with a broad stroke, so to speak. Unique individual applications for unique individuals.