I know that a lot of people look at Mormons and their lifestyle and the seemingly rigid standards and think that we are chained down by these guidelines or are somehow missing out on things in life. I don't think that could be further from the truth. And I can speak from experience on this.
Although I grew up in the church I rebelled as a teenager and turned away from many of it's teachings. I started to smoke, drink, and become sexually active. As I continued my downward spiral I was consumed with depression, suicidal thoughts, and extremes in my moods and thinking. It took years to undo many of the habits I picked up and I still carry many scars from the choices I made back then.
I think about how differently things could have been for me if I had just understood the teachings of the church and the true freedom they aim to give us. I was looking for freedom in things that could never give it to me. If I had known how much alchohol affected my thinking and how addictive cigarettes were, would I have been so eager to use them to "escape?" In reality I wasn't escaping anything. I was just adding links to the chains of addiction, sin and depression that kept me from even trying to reach for my full potential.
As I look around at how common it is now to smoke, drink coffee, tea and alchohol and to disregard God's teachings on chastity I am saddened by the amount of pain I see. Most people haven't been taught about the effects these things have on their spirits as well as their bodies. They often don't even see the chains that are binding them until they've broken free of them. It's amazing to hear someone's account of how they didn't know what life was like without these substances until they gave them up. And not once have I heard someone say that their life was really better because of any of these things.
As I hear stories of people's addictions and the havoc it wreaks in their lives I keep coming back to the popular phrase "What Would Jesus Do?"
Think about it. Could you picture Jesus sitting down and smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer? Or how about hanging out at a bar and drinking shots? Would Jesus have needed a cup of coffee to get Himself moving in the morning? I can't even imagine the Savior of the mankind putting things into His body that would leave His mind or body open to addiction. His entire mission on this earth was to free us from the chains of sin. He lived a life that was pure and clean. He had to. He couldn't let Himself become subject to anything but God because that would have opened the door to sin.
I think it works the same way for us. Although we are "just human" we are still taught to follow Jesus' example and I think that includes the way He treated His body. As I have left behind cigarettes and alchohol and have turned my life around I have found more peace and joy than I thought possible. I have clearer thinking and am able to make much better decisions. I don't have to worry about headaches or grouchiness in the morning if I don't get a shot of caffeine right away. I'm careful to not use anything that would create a habit that I can't quit at a moment's notice. I am in control of my body, not outside substances.
My point in all of this is that the "Mormon" lifestyle isn't strict or restricting. It's a way of living that protects us from the bad effects and addictive behaviors of harmful substances. It helps us become more like Christ as we learn to deny ourselves of those things that are popular or easy in favor of things that will be of a more eternal benefit to us.
So What Would Jesus Do? Are we wrong for wanting to keep our bodies and lives as pure as possible? Or are we just deluded robots who unthinkingly follow the rigid standards of a "strange" religion? I'll let you be the judge of that. But from my own personal experience I'll take the Mormon way of life over the popular way any day of the week. I'm living proof that it changes lives for the better.
I know there could be some controversy about what I say because Jesus was known to drink wine and I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all the answers to that. I do know that in our society drinking wine often leads to drinking stronger beverages and to making poor choices. There are also a lot of people that struggle with knowing when they've had enough. It's a much bigger danger to us today than I think it was back in Jesus' time. So I don't have any problems knowing that Jesus drank wine but we've been counseled not to. I'd rather err on the side of caution than open myself up to the possibility of addiction and lose my freedom to choose what's right.