October 2nd, 2016

Why Does My Church Oppose Medical Marijuana?


In February I found myself in a private meeting with the infamous “home teachers”—the somewhat pejorative nickname given to the two lobbyists employed by the LDS Church to influence politics in Utah.

The meeting was in the office of Senator Madsen, who was sponsoring the medical marijuana bill that Libertas Institute was helping with and supporting. The senator and I sat together with these two church representatives who informed us that they had just come from the office of the senate president, conveying to him their opposition to our bill. (Their going straight to leadership is a common tactic to help ensure the church’s will is carried out in Utah government; they visited the House Speaker as well.)

As you might imagine, the meeting was rather tense. We had clearly anticipated that the LDS Church would not support the legislation, but were hopeful that they would remain neutral rather than opposing it. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

So I took advantage of the opportunity to inquire why they opposed the bill—one that would clearly help thousands of people in Utah, and which was more tightly regulated than any other state, where the Church had not weighed in on, let alone opposed, any other program.

No answer was provided—only that they were following orders and delivering the message. Noting that “we’re not science experts on this,” the lobbyists said that two apostles, who are physicians (Elders Nelson and Renlund), believe that “the science isn’t settled” and that the other leaders felt that the bill was “too broad, too loose, too much.”

When Senator Madsen asked who had presented what material that led to the decision, one of the lobbyists replied that “the church has attorneys who evaluate these things.”

I asked if there would be an opportunity for us to address an apostle or another leader to present the scientific evidence in favor of medicinal cannabis use, and we were flatly and immediately told no.

When I inquired as to whether the Church was opposing the bill because it allowed for cannabis that contained THC, they affirmatively replied that that was “a significant part” of the reason for their opposition. So Senator Madsen asked if the Church opposes members being prescribed Marinol, an FDA-approved synthetic substance that is 100% THC. Awkward silence ensued; the lobbyists had no response. Finally, they suggested that going through the “FDA process” is what made the latter okay, while other forms of cannabis would be frowned upon by the Church for circumventing the FDA.

Quick tangent: Church scripture holds that anything “more or less” than the Constitution “cometh of evil.” There is no constitutional clause that justifies and authorizes the existence of the FDA, let alone one that allows the federal government to prohibit the use of any substance for medical reasons that has not received the blessing of this federal agency. You can draw your own conclusions, then, as to church leaders deferring to the unconstitutional (and therefore evil?) FDA.

After some tense conversation, I slowed things down a bit by addressing the home teachers directly. Here’s what I said, verbatim:

It’s tough because we’ve put a lot of work into this bill. We feel it is more tightly controlled than in any other state where church members are able to use cannabis.

This opposition could, as you well know, kill the bill. Just yesterday, there was a Mormon mother in Oregon who had been giving cannabis to her daughter who has a malfunctioning pituitary gland. She had to return to Utah, where she lived. Somebody reported on her that she was using it for her daughter who has thrived under a regimen of cannabis under a doctor’s approval in Oregon. And DCFS showed up at her door yesterday. She’s now under investigation. [She fled the state that same day to avoid having her daughter taken from her.]

For my part—and I’m sorry to get a little emotional—I know hundreds of people who are in this predicament. This bill would help them. It would be very tightly controlled. But the bill stands a good chance of dying with the church’s opposition, and these people are going to continue to face the criminal justice system. I think that’s wrong.

My remarks were not addressed; they provided no response, other than nodding their heads when I noted that the Church’s opposition would likely kill the bill.

I also noted that “every other organization that has opposed the bill has walked us through it saying ‘here’s what you can do to address our concerns,’ and we’ve been very forthright in doing all of that.” But for the previous ten minutes, the Church’s representatives had been unwilling to address specific questions or provide any detail that would remove their opposition to the bill. “What can we do?” I implored one final time, wondering what amendments would alleviate the Church’s concerns.

“We can try to give you more, certainly,” we were told. “We can circle back.” The meeting ended.

After some phone tag, that “circling back” happened roughly one week later. We were told on that phone call, quite simply, that they had nothing more to give us. The conversation was over.

While our meeting left me quite frustrated, I felt more sadness than anything. Thousands of Utahns would be threatened with fines and jail time for using a plant to improve their lives—to become a functioning mother or father to their children, a productive member of society, and a person with increased quality of life.

And the emissaries sent to represent my own Church were unapologetic and indifferent to the plight of these church members. It was very sad for me.

Many people have wanted to know what happened in this meeting; I have been asked many times since the legislative session by friends and strangers for more detail. I had planned, without much strong feeling on the matter, to not disclose detail publicly. The reason I have changed my mind is the recent publication of purported “leaks” from a disaffected church employee. I’ve not paid these revelations much attention, as the summaries I read indicated that they are rather benign, and merely reveal a large organization managing things prudently. Good.

But one of the very recent items caught my attention: a video of an area committee meeting for western states in November, 2010, involving many of the apostles and other general and regional leaders.

The subject? Marijuana.

The presentation provided by Elder Gerrit Gong is an update on how legislatures and voters in several states had decided on questions relating to marijuana in the months and years prior to the 2010 meeting.

Noting that not all arguments raised in the debate over marijuana merit response, Elder Gong advised the brethren that some arguments “gained credibility” because they were not challenged. As an example, Elder Gong cited the “far-fetched argument” that “unlike alcohol, no deaths are directly attributable to marijuana use.” On occasion, he said, “some of these things need to be refuted.”

Elder Gong addressed the shifting public perception of marijuana legalization, showing that polling has changed drastically over time, leading to steady, increased support. He remarked that “we sometimes focus on the high intensity battle, but we also have to make sure that we win the long term war”—presumably referring to the “war” of maintaining the criminalization of marijuana, which has had horrendous consequences, filling prisons, forcibly removing children from families, empowering drug cartels, and imposing significant costs on taxpayers without any viable return.

The presentation notes that the Church “generally defines” the Word of Wisdom “to include tea, coffee, alcohol, and illegal drugs.” This is consistent not only with the conventional interpretation of that revelation, but also the Official Handbook which states, under the section titled “Word of Wisdom” (my emphasis added):

The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.

Members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs. Nor should members use harmful or habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician.

Of course, nothing in Doctrine and Covenants 89 (the section from which we derive the Word of Wisdom) states anything about hinging God’s law of health upon the ever-changing majoritarian votes of legislative bodies or ballot initiatives. A product being classified as “legal” or “illegal” through democratic action does not change its material composition or the beneficial qualities it may provide to our bodies.

Indeed, Elder Gong himself noted that church members should be “clearly reminded that popular classification of a substance, as legal or illegal, is not what determines obedience to the Word of Wisdom.” Unfortunately, he was using the inverse of the argument—that the legalization of marijuana does not mean its use allows one to still be in compliance with the Word of Wisdom. The flip side, of course, is that one is not necessarily violating it merely because some politicians decades previous decided to prohibit the use of cannabis.

It bears repeating: the Word of Wisdom contains no language that suggests that God frowns upon a person for consuming a substance that has been banned by a government. The “illegal substances” benchmark is one of modern creation, and without any scriptural (or, I think, logical) support.

If anything, one can quite reasonably argue that the use of cannabis is not only not banned by the Word of Wisdom, but that it is in fact explicitly condoned. Rather than handbook codification of conventional interpretation, here’s what the text actually states (again with my emphasis):

And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man

Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

Those who have researched the components of the cannabis plant, and their supplement to the endocannabinoid system within our bodies, are, like me, in awe at the wonderful properties this wholesome herb can provide. I praise God that he has “ordained” it for the use of man, as I have seen it substantially benefit and improve the lives of many of my friends and family.

Parenthetically, one could argue that the “spirit” of the Word of Wisdom centers more around abstention from addictive substances, encouraging us to be masters of our bodies and not become subject to the “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” (D&C 89:4). And yet, just this weekend in his conference address, President Dieter Uchtdorf admitted to heavy consumption of “many liters of a diet soda that shall remain nameless,” to much laughter from the worldwide audience. Obedient Latter-day Saints may abstain from alcohol, but many are heavily addicted to Diet Coke and other drinks, which govern their lives and alter their behavior and mood. Yet these remain in good standing with the Church and are of no apparent concern. These sweetened drinks are, after all, a legal substance.

And then there’s prescription drugs, including opioid painkillers that lead to the deaths of 24 Utahns on average each month. These are legal, and not a single bishop has initiated disciplinary proceedings for their use. Hundreds of thousands of Utahns are handed legal narcotics—packaged versions of street drugs—with the blessing of their doctor, and apparently church leadership. This heavy reliance upon actual drugs leads to stories like this:

Maline Hairup was a devout Mormon. No alcohol, no coffee. She didn’t smoke. Until the day she died, she had never used illegal drugs. Yet she was an addict for most of her adult life.

Methinks we’re missing the mark.

Elder Packer, in the discussion on marijuana, shared a story of a single-toothed individual using meth who has a “wasted life,” though it was unclear what it had to do with the subject at hand. Elder L. Tom Perry lamented the apparent inconsistency of emphasizing “getting rid of tobacco” while also “start[ing] a project to increase marijuana,” though it was unclear to what project he was referring.

Elder Russell M. Nelson noted that he had been at a conference in Colorado where the first question asked during a Q&A session was about medical marijuana—perhaps unsurprising, given the legal activity in that state on the subject at the time. It was noted that the person was told that “the church has no position” on medical marijuana and that the Bishop “would counsel with the individual and teach him about the Word of Wisdom” using the scriptures and the handbook.

Unfortunately, many cannabis-using members of the Church have reported differing approaches their bishops have taken—some instructing them that its use is inconsistent with church doctrine and that the person would therefore not be worthy of admittance to the church’s temples. It is unclear if bishops have been given any uniform instruction on the matter since 2010, given the drastically changing political landscape on the issue of medical marijuana. Otherwise, sincere Saints using cannabis are subject to so-called “leadership roulette” whereby some bishops say it’s okay, and others say it’s not, using differing interpretations of the same doctrine.

I find my church’s opposition to the beneficial and medical use of cannabis to be troubling. Given decades of prohibitionist propaganda, it is not surprising to see church leaders maintain that position and resist any change to it. And having worked on this policy for several years, I completely understand how some people come from this background and are slow to adapt to new research, new stories, and new attitudes.

But I find it worrisome that the well-intentioned policy positions of these leaders are inherently presumed to be sanctioned by and given of God, when I fail to find any evidence of such—and when they themselves do not make the claim. Unfortunately, as the “home teachers” have carried the message to Capitol Hill, they consistently conveyed that their opposition to Senator Madsen’s medical cannabis bill was upon instructions “from the very top,” insinuating that the prophet of God, and therefore God himself (in the minds of many faithful church members), had directed the bill be killed.

I believe the Word of Wisdom explicitly allows for the beneficial use of cannabis, and that criminalization of this product not only denies law-abiding citizens its wonderful properties, but necessarily brings along a whole host of collateral consequences readily evident to anybody who has surveyed the damage caused by the so-called “war on drugs.” I find nothing in our faith’s doctrine that suggests this plant be made illegal, and ample societal evidences to suggest that it should not be.

I come at this from a different perspective than some. I am not hostile to the LDS Church, nor am I an unbeliever. I am a committed Mormon and love our theology. It is rich, inspiring, and wonderful. I am a firm believer and committed (though quite imperfect) disciple of Christ.

But I also believe that leaders of the church, though definitely well intentioned, are not always conduits of revelation; their decisions and beliefs are not, in every single case, a reflection of God’s will. So I am comfortable in my belief while still providing for the leaders of my church taking incorrect positions—even ones that harm many Utahns through maintaining criminalization of cannabis.

Hopefully the near future will be one in which church leaders will be open to considering new evidence, hearing from members directly and positively impacted by the use of cannabis. There are many. And they don’t deserve to be punished for using wholesome herbs ordained by God to help them.

With or without the Church’s support, Utah’s law will soon be altered to provide for the legal, medicinal use of cannabis. Of that I am certain. It’s the right thing to do.

56 Responses to “Why Does My Church Oppose Medical Marijuana?”

  1. Nathan Frodsham
    October 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    Just because they opposed that bill does not mean they opposed medical cannabis. You should have titled the article “why my church opposed the medical marijuana legislation I supported in my state”. The church supports medical cannabis and it’s use among its members in locations across the globe. They don’t have to support all legislative efforts to be considered supportive of medical cannabis.

  2. Connor
    October 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    The church supports medical cannabis and it’s use among its members in locations across the globe.

    Nathan, can you point to a statement that backs your concern? Failing to oppose does not mean support, by the way.

    Just because they opposed that bill does not mean they opposed medical cannabis.

    It was made clear to us in the meeting that the opposition was largely due to THC, an inherent portion of cannabis—and a component that provides much relief to many people. Without THC, you don’t really have medical cannabis. So yes, they opposed medical cannabis—and took no position on the other bill, which was the “hemp” extract without THC content.

  3. Ben Petersen
    October 2, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    I recently asked this question to Elder Renlund in person. He gave a somewhat satisfactory reply. He noted that Marijuana has many possible medicinal uses but that the Utah Medical Association had opposed its legalization and they had chosen to stick with the recommendation. The tone and context of his response led me to believe that the issue was one of serious discussion but the brethren had not reached a unanimous consensus.

  4. Melissa
    October 2, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    I’m concerned about a couple of things….

    1. Why is the church getting involved in politics on a selective basis. One of the missions of the church is to help the poor/needy yet they said nothing about the Medicaid expansion bill that could have done so. Instead they fought against the medical marijuana bill that could have helped people. My husband contacted church headquarters and asked about the contradiction of no statement/involvement about the Medicaid bill and the complete opposite regarding the marijuana bill. Noone could give him an answer other than they were doing as they were told. As they were told? When did we stop having a mind of our own and only do as we were told? Wasn’t that the plan that was rejected in heaven?

    2. Why do politicians allow them to have such influence? Why do members follow so blindly?

    I commend you Connor for speaking out. I also do not believe that everything that happens is inspired from on high

  5. Autumn Betts
    October 2, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

    While I attended BYU, my roommates and I started making hot chocolate every day. To the point of always having a pot of hot water on. We were addicted. Our bishop brought us on to discuss and we’re directed to take gospel essential classes and we’re on “probation”.
    I have asked several stake presidents when in a recommend interview if my drinking of diet coke was against the words of wisdom, and everyone has said that if I can go days without it, not addicted, that I was ok. Yes, many people (mostly women?) Drink Dr. Pepper but their bishop should be making sure they are not addicted, cause if they can’t go a day…….

  6. Robert Clayson
    October 2, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    Nathan Frodsham, given that they aren’t able or willing to articulate what their concern is, and that they’re opposing a strictly medical marijuana bill, it’s a pretty safe assumption.

  7. antodav
    October 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    Since 1890, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been deathly afraid of running afoul of the federal government of the United States. I believe that the Church’s position on this issue has nothing to do with the supposed negative health effects of marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, or with its alleged inconsistency with the Word of Wisdom (though there are obviously many Mormons, including in Church leadership, who seem to be decades behind where the science presently stands on this issue). I believe that at its root the issue is about protecting members of the Church—and the Church itself—from facing prosecution or reprisals from the Federal government if one day it decides to crack down on medicinal marijuana users, even in states where it has been legalized. There were several Republican candidates for president last year, most notably Chris Christie (a likely choice for Attorney General if Donald Trump is elected president) who indicated that they would not respect the laws of states like Colorado where medicinal marijuana is legal and would instead prosecute cannabis users under federal law. Until federal law changes I think that the opinion of the Brethren is unlikely to change as well.

    It is important to note that while the Brethren are inspired when it comes to doctrinal matters, political issues are another matter entirely. Regrettably the Church has supported many political causes that are more in line with the agenda of Evangelical Protestants than with our own doctrine (Proposition 8 is another bad example of this). Our doctrine teaches free agency, as well as the Constitutional principles described in this article and the Word of Wisdom that Connor, I believe, correctly interprets here. It is clear to me that someone is feeding the Brethren bad information that they are using to advance this agenda. I hope that at some point they will decide to pray for a better, more correct understanding of this issue and others like them.

  8. Chris Spag
    October 2, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    You simply have to recognize that the apostles are all elderly white men who were fully adults during the conservative crack down on marijuana (and other drugs) through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, they don’t really have any frame of reference to see marijuana as materially different than those other drugs, they’ve always been against marijuana as part of their hyper conservative philosophy, and especially now being directly inspired by God for some time it is a bridge too far to accept it all of a sudden in their advanced age.

  9. Lyle Nielsen
    October 2, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    It is obvious Church leadership opposition is founded on propaganda and appeals to principalities and powers other than the Lord or those permitted by the Constitution. Go get your bill passed and do the sick and afflicted a solid even if others wont.

  10. jenn peterson
    October 2, 2016 at 6:31 pm #

    If the church chooses to stick their nose in political and state affairs it should pay taxes.

  11. John
    October 2, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    Ben Petersen,

    What are you taking about? The UMA supported one of the two medical marijuana bills in the last session.

    Claiming that they are simply opposed is counter factual.

  12. Jake Jacobsen
    October 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    That is very unfortunate, and confusing, that Church leaders would be opposed to this. I have a relative who used cannabis legally as part of a successful treatment for her cancer. Her stake president told her that it wasn’t even an issue with regards to her temple worthiness. I have another relative with another medical condition who lives in Utah and has to resort to using legal opiates to control her pain because cannabis is illegal there. Making it so that to be a member of the Church in good standing people have to use opiates when cannabis provides a less harmful and less addictive alternative seems directly opposite to the principle of the word of wisdom.

  13. Timothy Malan
    October 2, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    The male leadership in the Church are fine lads but often off the beam. I know that they mean well but at times get lost in the wilderness. Like you I hope that they pray more earnestly concerning marijuana and the other misgivings of the Word of Wisdom as a “commandment” from God. Excellently thought out and written. Thank you Connor.

  14. Leisy
    October 2, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

    Thank you for speaking out and sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate and echo them.

  15. Trip
    October 2, 2016 at 10:42 pm #

    “If the church chooses to stick their nose in political and state affairs it should pay taxes.”

    You mean that tithe payers should pay more taxes… cuz that’s where the money comes from.

    No one should pay taxes. Giving more money to the state isn’t going to solve anything or give any authority to the Church’s position on this or any other political issue.

  16. Chel
    October 3, 2016 at 7:17 am #

    They also support vaccine initiatives. I would love a conversation about why they support that.

  17. Phil P
    October 3, 2016 at 7:50 am #

    The Quorum of the Twelve don’t make a decision until they are unanimous. Until they achieve unanimity they will stay with the status quo. Although it may be slower to decide than we like as they work toward unanimity, I think it is dangerous to make assumptions about why they do certain things.

  18. Something
    October 3, 2016 at 8:23 am #

    I think your best chance for a positive response from church leadership is to demonstrate the value of cannabis to FAMILIES and push this aspect hard. For all intents and purposes, the majority of church leaders will put the value of conventional family before any other doctrinal issue. From recent statements I’m pretty sure that some believe the family is even more important than Jesus Christ.

    Consider the fact that the only “liberal” agenda the church officially supports is loosening immigration, and that it is expressly because current immigration law breaks up families.

    I’m sure you’ve already done some of this, but I think I would collect and document stories of people’s families being saved by the drug, then use these stories to generate media to distribute and maybe deliver directly to church leaders (videos, radio shows, white papers, OpEds, etc.)

  19. Ben
    October 3, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    On what revalitory basis do you know that this is a “wholesome” herb? I would suggest that the fact that it is a plant doesn’t make it wholesome. Tobacco is also a plant. You have no authority to decide what is a wholesome herb for the church. Those who hold the keys do have that authority.

  20. Chase
    October 3, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    After a devoted life of servitude to ‘The Church’ I finally realized it is an organization led by humans making stuff up to the best of their ability to retain power and influence over others. Eventually social pressures overwhelm the previous generation’s ‘leadership’ and the doctrine magically changes to meet the new societal pressure when the cost of opposing the pressure outweighs the cost of making the change.

    Why does the Mormon church influence politics so much in Utah some ask? The Mormon church IS politics incarnate. Stepping out of that toxic sphere of influence really opened by eyes to life outside of the politics of Mormonism; the hypocrites in high places cause so much damage in the guise of doing ‘good’.

    In politics people give up their liberties to a governing body that promises to protect the masses from what the masses fear. That death grip of fear is what keeps citizens sheep and churchgoers blind profit centers. Choose out of the politics of religion and you’ll be surprised at how much closer to God you will get.

  21. Karen
    October 3, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    Ben, tobacco is ordained for use when used appropriately. It is the best way to worm your livestock. It is fantastic for slrakns, bruises, bee stings and other topical uses. I am never without it in my house. I don’t smoke it or chew it. Smoking is a terrible delivery system for any drug..so is injecticting toxins but that is sanctioned. Cannabis has helped ao any people. I wish it was legal where I live so I could use it for pain relief..Alas my options are opiods, which are extrely addictive and destructive. I choose to just live in pain and only take meds when I can no linger handle the chronic pain and I simpley need a break or I need to function at a higher physical level. Microdosing cannabis had major benefits! When you have an autistic child who cannot walk or talk and that changes with microdosing MJ..all I can day is wow! It is helping autiaic kids thrive in places where it is legal. Funny one of the causes of autism remains legal but one of the great helps for it does not.

  22. Joseph M
    October 3, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    As some one living in Colorado one of the things that we observe is the proliferation of Marijuana Dispensaries. They are as common as fast food restaurants or liquor stores, and combined with the tendency to package delivery in things like chocolate, or suckers and sell it like artisianal teas, even before recreational pot was made legal, really does damage to the image as a “medicinal”.

    No my wife’s uncle (not a member) uses it to treat pain from a sever back injury so I acknowledge that it does have medicinal use. But the amount of money that this single product brings in and the other ways its treated are not like any other medicine that I know of. I think that it’s classification as a schedule I drug is way off base but would be much happier if it was more thoroughly researched and treated more like an actual medicine.

  23. Collin Parrish
    October 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    The Word of Wisdom only has one commandment in it: That it’s not to be commanded nor constrained.

    It’s just given as a blessing and a promise.

    To me the truly ironic thing is that the Lord told the saints that alcohol was for the washing of the body – years before the concept of antiseptics was discovered. If the saints had focused on that instead of the parts that would let them judge each other the LDS could have been at the forefront of medical scientific discovery. Thousands upon thousands of lives could have been saved.
    But no, we’d rather just try to focus on not drinking coffee, which isn’t even in the word of wisdom. And don’t even think about drinking those mild barley drinks despite all the immense health benefits and approval from God!

  24. Cory
    October 3, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    The church has a right to weigh in on every issue. “Political” concerns are moral concerns. All laws originate from some moral framework, whether the author of the law is theistic, deistic, or atheistic. Law is force and, usually, the absence of law is also force on any group opposing the positive right. That aside, there are many herbs and plants that are used, but not useful and beneficial to man. Clearly the status of marijuana for medical uses is up for debate. I don’t believe marijuana is as benign a substance as many seem to want to believe it to be. There are many consequences to long-term marijuana use and also consequences to society. I recognize that we are not talking about full legalization. But that could follow, especially considering the Obama administration’s DOJ message that they will not prosecute a law on their books (except when they want to in order to elevate a gun charge.) The societal costs in Colorado have far exceeded the increased revenue from the drug. Caution is in order when looking at this change. I commend the church for exercising it.

  25. Shawn Lorenzo York
    October 3, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    “The church says the earth is flat but I know it is round. For I have seen its shadow on the moon. And I have more faith in the shadow than I do the church.” — Magellan

    Excellent article.

  26. Joe Bright
    October 3, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

    This is well-written, Connor. It is difficult to cover every possible explanation. To a large extent we are left guessing and I admit that I am perplexed as to the reasoning behind this. I can only say that I am content to accept that it is not over.

    There truly is no compromise to liberty that is not tyranny.

    We have been left to choose and we must be left to choose.

    My heart tells me that, in all rightfullness, the “constitutional” government in Washington, that is and has been inherently unconstitutional in its activities and increasingly so since its inception, has no lawful authority over substances with which I choose to heal myself or that I choose to abuse.

    There must come a divide between lawfulness and tyranny.

  27. Beau Burk
    October 4, 2016 at 12:19 am #

    Vaccinations contain many harmful substances and have done great wide spread damage to the children of this nation and yet the Church insists and supports vaccination. I see major hypocrisy here.

  28. Phil P
    October 4, 2016 at 7:24 am #


    Yes, vaccinations have incalculable damage. If it wasn’t for the smallpox vaccination and the eradication of smallpox millions more people would have died and they and their offspring would be not contributing to the destruction of the planet through global warming.

    Utah’s marijuana bill should have a rider that bans the use of any medical procedure that prolongs life to prevent the destruction of Gaia. That way Darwinian selection would destroy any who would destroy the planet. Worshippers of death would then unite behind the bill and ensure that it passes over objections of the Mormon church.

  29. Nancy
    October 4, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    I’m so glad I no longer allowe a bunch of bigoted old men tell me what I can or cannot eat and drink. Tea and coffee have been consumed for millennia without ill effects. And THC is much safer than opioids . The Mormons health code that forbids these things and says nothing about the appalling amounts of sugar most people consume these days is worthless.

  30. Matt
    October 4, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    What really interests me about all this and forgive me if this diverges from the main topic but if the leaders aren’t always inspired by God then how do the flood gates of questioning the whole thing not burst open for you? After my mission they certainly did for me. How do you question the leadership this hard yet still hold on to the Mormon faith. Questioning them means questioning God. When they speak, it’s scripture. This seems fundamental to the LDS church. Modern revelation is key. So are they or are they not inspired of God? If they aren’t ALWAYS inspired are they only privy to spiritual matters? And politics is out of bounds for God? This and many more questions come to me and it seems like such an odd conundrum. I feel similarly about woman who want the priesthood. They too are questioning the top leaders but still holding on to their religion. Maybe I’m throwing out the baby with the bath water but for me the baby keeps getting harder and harder to find. Apologies if any of this came off as offensive. I really am just interested in people’s relationship with their religion and the different paths we seem to take when confronted with the same info.

  31. Michael
    October 5, 2016 at 7:58 am #

    A great write-up, Connor. I agree with your thinking and appreciate the insights you presented.

    And, to Matt (the last commenter): You aren’t the only person who feels that way and I certainly took no offense to your comments.

  32. GSO
    October 9, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    Unfortunately, we have a culture of “getting high” that that is very pernicious. For every terminally ill cancer patient there are ten people with phantom back pains.

    Abuse and even overuse of prescription drugs is tragic and increasingly rampant. It destroys lives. I agree that many of the painkillers people end up getting hooked on are far more toxic in their effect to the person’s body.

    But marijuana is toxic to society. If we had an adult culture, I’d be less opposed. At it is, we don’t need more people in our society throwing away their lives by the hundreds because a very small few could benefit.

    At a bare minimum it would be prudent to wait at least one generation and see how the states handle this. We should not rush into it. I realize that’s hard for people to hear that want change now, but our society is to quick to assume it knows all the consequences.

    We now have several states to watch. If they can develop healthy attitudes towards its medical use and the people are productive, the youth aren’t corrupted then I’ll happily agree with you in fifty years.

    The handful who would otherwise benefit from a change in the law now don’t offer up enough compelling reason to change the law now rather than wait and see how culture develops. Colorado and CA are a mixed bag already. No rush.

  33. Brandon
    October 9, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

    @GSO What evidence do you have that it is toxic to society. I agree that the drug war is toxic and a complete tragedy, but Cannabis is an amazing plant. I know many people that use cannabis and all of them are happy, productive members of society with jobs and families and great senses of humor. I have legally used medical cannabis (in California) and have found it has greatly enhanced my quality of life.

    Connor, I haven’t posted here in years, but I check in every now and again and I love when you do a post like this. I’m impressed by your writing and thinking skills and am proud of you for what you are doing. It interests me that after all these years we have taken very similar paths ideologically and still ended up in very different places. As some other posters mentioned, I respect your devotion to faith but struggle to understand how you justify your support for the church on issues like these and others. Now that you have gone through this personally on an issue that is important to you, it seems clear to me there is a lack of inspiration or dare I say revelation coming from the leadership of the church on this and many other issues.

    To me this attitude from the church leadership confirms what many of us have concluded – the church is led by normal men, who happened to have been very good at moving up the corporate (church) ladder. They manage they church very practically, as you mentioned, which is fine. But on the issues that matter, they almost always seem to be reactive rather than proactive. That was one of the biggest problems I had with my faith was the seeming lack of revelation in a world in desperate need of some inspiration.

    But the church stuff aside, I really wish they would back off their position if only because the government has no business telling people what plants they can or can’t use. I am a free man, with the right to determine what is best for me. I don’t need a government or a church telling me or anyone else what I can or can’t consume. Just like the Mormons wanted freedom to practice their religion the way they wanted in the 1800’s, I want freedom to live my life the way I believe is best. I don’t believe that using Cannabis (for medical reasons or otherwise) infringes on the rights of my fellow citizens in any way.

  34. L. Brown
    October 13, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    I find it interesting that President Monson gave a talk on the W of W in the October Priesthood Session. It seemed really general in the way that he shared his feelings in our obedience to the W of W. The most specific thing I could gather was from the story that he shared of the man who was climbing up the rope 40 feet below the deck. Pres Monson’s comment that he simply trusted in the Lord to carry him through seemed……so….convenient. I hate to say that…..but I really feel that way.

    I mean what about all those other members who are faithful but who suffer and yet there are means to alleviate their suffering. Why not? Why not allow members to use such means? It doesn’t make sense to me. Does it take any more faith to go to a doctor and receive care than it does to say a prayer and ask God to heal us?

    I just feel like the message was just something we’ve heard before. In light of what Connor has shared with us I find it difficult for me to really make a clear cut decision when the Prophet simply says trust in the Lord to take care of things.

    It might be a lack of faith…..but there are people out there who need serious help……and if the means are there I don’t understand how that would violate sacred covenants with God. I don’t know if that makes sense.

    I just worry if I really sustain my leaders when I think this way……will it lead me to the place I want to be?…..just thinking out loud. And maybe I’m just making a mountain out of an ant hill.

    Any insights would be appreciated.

  35. #istandwithourleaders
    October 14, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    Awesome discussion points. Let’s sustain our brethren wholeheartedly and trust that, in due time, more will be said if that’s what Heavenly Father desires. You’re walking on a slippery slope when you begin to question these brethren in a way that reflects a disrespect for the office e that God has called them to. I stand by our Prophets, Seers, and Revelators and so should you my brother.

  36. Deon du Plessis
    October 15, 2016 at 4:14 am #

    Use herbs wisely. Start putting something together. Smoking is not or should not be part of the equation, but there is so many other uses

  37. Dylan
    October 15, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    Connor, as always, your remarks are well-thought out, persuasive, and well-intentioned. I appreciate your honest efforts to vocalize such concerns, especially since it seems you always are doing so out of a dedication to the masses. But I hope you consider the potential effects your words have, not only for the good but for the bad. My concern is how quickly you assume to know how the Brethrens’ discussions are taking place.

    Perhaps you are 100% correct in how informed (or uninformed) the church leaders may be. Perhaps you are correct in assessing what forces are influencing their decision-making. But you simply can’t know any of that with certainty. They are given the charge to guide us, and while they obviously are not perfect, their divine call also places them in a position to see things we cannot see ourselves. So please keep in mind that some readers, who have their own varying levels of testimony and understanding of the Church and Gospel, look to you with a respected reverence and trust. So to speak with a supposed authority (whether intellectually or informationally or otherwise) over church leaders who, many believe, are indeed called of God puts them in a state of confusion without much effort on your part to address these effects.

    Whether you mean to or not, I believe your words here may place some people in a state of confusion about the Church and its leaders and revelation as a whole. I would never presume so much as to try to tell you how to do your job or what to say. Information is power, and I believe in people like you taking the time and making the sacrifices you surely make to bless the lives of others with reason and education on such high and mighty topics, such as liberty and agency. But I ask that you consider those who may not be as “committed” as you. They look to you and trust your words. So I assure you that your words here leave some with doubt. Granted, I firmly believe we should all be placed in positions that make us think and reaffirm our beliefs through trials of faith and honest questioning. However, may I suggest that if you write on topics and endeavors that tread so closely to an edge of doubt that many will fall over, that you do so with more fairness to the leaders of this Church, so those who may fall over that edge of doubt will know how to work themselves out of such a position. Regardless of differences in political and social perspectives that we all are blessed to work through individually and collectively for an always improving understanding, these men are called of God, and we ought to be encouraging more trust in them at a time when the world continues to change. They see things we cannot. I ask that you please acknowledge this side of the situation as well. As you’ve stated in Latter-day Liberty (a delightful book I’ve cherished reading), “Agency cannot exist without the knowledge required to make an informed decision” (22).

    Perhaps this is becoming rather long-winded. All I ask is that if you openly discuss such delicate topics, that you do so responsibly. Thank you for all that you do.

  38. Sean Johnson
    October 15, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    I’ve recently been asking myself “Whose plan was it to control people and whose plan was to give us free will? If that’s true why is the church leadership trying to control our choices? on a plant god designed…”

    I’m struggling to find an answer myself.

  39. Dewey Fisher
    October 15, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    I had cancer and spoke to my Bishop about this. The church does not oppose medical marijuana. Nice try, whiner.

  40. Scott
    October 15, 2016 at 5:02 pm #

    The leaders of the Church have come out in opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana because God is a whole lot smarter than those who are its proponents. Plain and simple.

  41. Rosalie Beard
    October 19, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    When you have put so much effort into something you see only as an honest and good plan, it is difficult to not have others, especially those who are spiritual leaders, agree with you. Only a higher power knows the whole picture. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. And He loves each one of us more than we can know. To me the real issue here is whether or not we have enough love and faith in His spokesmen to be humble, teachable, and patient.

  42. Dale Young
    October 28, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Although the Word of Wisdom is written in English, the native language of most of the Brethren, they still do not understand it. It clearly tells us that it should not be a commandment, and yet it has been promoted to be the chief commandment of the modern Church.

    The prohibition against Coffee, Tea, Tobacco and Alcohol didn’t really start until the 1920s when Prohibition kicked in. Prior to that, people actually took the W of W at face value. During prohibition the President of the Church inserted his own opinion as doctrine and we’ve been stuck with it ever since. There was no “revelation” that changed the words of the 89th section. Shake off the cobwebs and read the words! Today we ignore their clear and plain meaning and teach for doctrine the commandments of men.

    As a church, we have followed the same playbook that Satan has used to destroy the Church throughout history; Although we have our official scriptures, we actually run the Church from the collection of semi-secret handbooks (see above quotes), which are invoked and take precedence. This is exactly the same process that lead the Jews to follow rabbinical teachings over scripture. We abandon the principles of the Gospel and follow blind guides instead.

    This whole entry is a clear demonstration of the blindness and inconsistencies of these guides. That you, an independent and thinking person, still choose to follow them reveals much. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” If the Messiah came among us today incognito, would you leave your nets to follow him or stick with these timid leaders of a corporate church, who can’t see the fulfillment of scripture all around them and haven’t delivered an actual prophetic statement for over 100 years? They do not have the spirit of prophecy, which is why they do not see the influence of the Gadianton’s among us, cannot warn us to avoid their entrapments and actually promote the deep state through their media outlets.

    Many revelations, such as Ezek 34, indicate that in the last days the Shepherds of Israel will have gone astray. I have yet to find a scripture, modern or otherwise, that tells a different story. The closest I have found is that the Aaronic priesthood will remain until He comes, which is not the same thing.

    My advice is to prepare for the imminent advent of the Messiah, who, as at the Meridian of Time, will come among us and will be rejected by those who should be His friends. You won’t recognize him if your only source for truth is the 15 and their lackeys.

  43. Kelly W.
    November 2, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Medical Cannabis is only one small part of the equation. I want Cannabis decriminalized so that we can grow hemp in this country again. We are stupid to outlaw the whole Cannabis family just so the pharmaceutical industry can make mega-profits. I want to be able to sustainably raise hemp for fiber, filters, ethanol, rope, plastics, etc. etc. The medical uses would follow quickly, leaving any “recreational” use in the same category as any other drug misuse and abuse. The Church could simply then say they are against the misuse and abuse of Cannabis.

  44. JH
    November 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    Connor, I am not sure that the US constitution is a good measure for a Christian for what is good or evil, as You referenced D&C 98. Which is fine I suppose as long as you recognize that the United states is NOT founded on Christianity.

    ‘The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.’
    Treaty of Tripoli 1797

    This was signed by John Adams.

  45. Larry Mulcock
    November 25, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    In my mind, scriptures and the Church are tools to lead us to Christ, but they are not Christ. They are tools to help each of us put our feet on the path to find our own way to Christ. As a wise person once said to me, “We are born alone, we die alone , and we are judge alone.” We are each on our own lonely quest, but, if we are fortunate, we find others along the way who also are seeking truth.
    But truth is a moving target. “The more I learn, the less I know”, or, in other words, “The more I learn, the more I know I don’t know.” Thus, I am forced live by faith, my own faith, my evolving faith. Staying on the trail of truth is what faith is about. Faith is a process, not an event. My favorite Life is Good tee shirt say, “Not all who wander are lost.” We often learn more about a thing by learning what it is not. We can deepen our underdatanding of the US Constitution by studying the Communist Manifesto.
    I have chosen to deal with my ignorance within the context of the LDS Church rather than defecting. By saying that, I make no judgement of anyone who has done otherwise. I have not ignored my not-knowing, but I have learned to that it is OK not to know and to not judge myself or anyone else for not knowing. All knowing is not yet within my grasp.
    But faith is not faith unless it drives you to action, which brings us to the specific topic at had. Here are two relevant observations.
    1. The use of government to force behavior is socialism, by what ever name you call it. We defend the notion that all rights and powers are inalienably vest in the People, not in a single person, an elite, intellectual or wealthy body of people or an organization. Bottom up, not top down.
    To retain our freedoms, however, we must perform the responsibilities tied to those rights and powers. If we don’t, the system falls short. If we delegate our reponsibilities to government, we also give up the rights and move ever closer to socialism. One of our responsibilities is to behave with regard and respect toward our fellow equals. If we fail to to do that, the system is weakened and we by degrees move down that slippery slope toward socialism. So, to the extent the Church tries to control our behavior through whatever methods, it moves away from agency toward a theocracy, which is another name of socialism.
    2. Each person’s behavior affects everyone else. We do not live in isolation. If someone drives a car impaired by alcohol or canibus, they have increased their risk of harming others. So, for our common good, we ought to choose our behaviors balancing our own self interest with that of the common good.
    The FDA is not an auxiliary of the Church nor a conduit from God. It is an agency of a socialist government that, under the guise of protecting the People, is also protecting the cash flow of the medical profession and big pharma. The same indictment may applies to State governments as well. We must honor the Rule of Law to avoid caos, but we must be relentless in grooming the law.
    Like it or not, that is where we are. Life will always be messy. But be grateful for messy. We are in a better place than any other people in the history of the world.
    Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom, is eternal vigilance.” So, the answer, to me, is to keep on keeping on. We must vigilantly fight the fights. We must vigilantly push back encroachments on our powers from whatever source. But we must also be vigilant in fulfilling those responsibilities that allow us to retain our rights and powers. In our affulence, it is so easy to be come a drifter. Drifting has brought us to where we are, so far from the founding principles.
    Fortunately, the Church does not hold sway over our right to own property and the economic rewards of our labor as a socialist governmnet does. So, we have a much broader latitude for our behavior within the Church than we have in our country where the Rule of Law carries forced penalties. Of course, the Church is not without its levers, but we must also remember that the Church is not our enemy and does so much good in the world, our world.
    Let us be grateful that we can disagree, hopefully civilly, and that we have avenues to pursue change, difficult as they may be sometimes. Our colonial ancestors had to fight the fight. We hope that our fights do not become violent, even though violence has been purpetrated on some of our “disobedienct” fellow citizens in spite of their Constitutional and God-given rights. Sometimes we are caught between our inalienable rights and the Rule of Law.
    Paul said in Romans, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” He didn’t say to back down or give up the fight, just don’t become like them.

  46. Iimx
    February 12, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

    Every philosophy is protected under the constitution.

  47. Greg S
    February 19, 2017 at 7:08 am #

    The commandment to Love your neighbor can’t possibly allow you to assault, kidnap, rob, cage or kill a neighbor who uses an herb God created, to improve or benefit their life as they see fit.

  48. iimx
    April 15, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    Apparently, the command does allow a church to exclude people who use ‘an herb god created’ from certain rituals. Potentially that person could also be excluded from church rosters as official members. I always find it strange, and off that this is seen as ‘freedom’. I suppose one has the ‘freedom’ to partake or not but to pass judgement and exclude others for any number of things….freedom?

  49. Amanda
    June 4, 2017 at 5:44 pm #

    I believe this over reach in authority from Bishops and the Church has lead to wide spread sin and pain that reaches far beyond anyone’s stewardship given to them by God.
    These policies breed persecution, which will cause a lot more forms of addictions in families and communities. I’ve seen Mormons fire employees because they found out they drank coffee.
    That is one example, and there are hundreds more, though they all vary by circumstance. This is wickedness that is inspired through control, and tattle tale policies. It’s madness, but everyone seems to think it’s just “civilized” and necessary.
    I had spent months in turmoil over this issue, praying for answers, I don’t smoke marijuana, and have no plans too, but I know it is a clean form of medicine that can far better treat many ailments that modern medicine cannot, or if it does, causes great harm to the body in the process that can be avoided if treated by marijuana.
    My mother deals with chronic migraines and arthritis. She has kept the word of wisdom her whole life, and is open to marijuana but has been shut down by the church for this help, so her kidneys continue to swell from FDA approved medication.
    She knows they do not have this stewardship, and it is hypocritical, but she fears and persecution from Church Members and the law, enforced by the Church.

    Even the discrimination against coffee while everyone cracks diet cokes all day confused me as a convert.
    Coffee was something I gave up, and I felt vulnerable to the discrimination and hypocrisy of it.
    One sacrament meeting when I had decided not to approach my bishop over the issue, the lord opened up Timothy chapter 4 for me. A book in the bible I had never before read. I felt the fire of truth, and then spoke to my bishop that same day who agreed, and believed that these things should be between me and God.
    I implore anyone who is dealing with the same internal struggle, to pray for their answer. Your answer may be as different as your question than mine, but God will always answer.
    Please remember this. If you are searching for these answers it’s because you are searching for whats right, and walk to walk right before the Lord. Those looking to condemn you over these questions are searching for fault in another, and are not given that stewardship by God, and you can bet, that they are a hypocrite when it comes to the word of wisdom as defined by the church. Every last one.

  50. Aaron
    July 9, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

    For this and many other reasons the Lord has organised the upcoming conference in Boise, Idaho on September 2-3. visit http://www.covenantofchristconference.com for more details!

  51. Esteban
    December 31, 2017 at 1:50 am #

    Melissa, I agree with Connor and more. I think we need to restore the point of view of the Founders, leave adult citizens alone to consume whatever they want. By the way, as the failed War on Drugs proves, they’re going to do it anyway no matter how many hundreds of billions of dollars the government wastes trying to stop them.

    But you’re a Democrat. I can tell. And that I cannot abide.

  52. Matthew Jonas
    February 11, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

    So, Connor, since I’ve noticed that you didn’t post anything ever since October 2016, I just want to ask you a little something: How do you think has America been doing under President Trump?

  53. Tyler
    October 4, 2018 at 12:37 pm #

    It is very sad to me that so many Latter-Day Saints in power try to force satan’s plan on everyone.

  54. Jake T
    October 30, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

    Part of Satan’s plan was to remove agency right? Who’s agenda is the church following by removing agency from others? Read that again.
    Seriously consider it.

    The church has the right to teach and guide its followers. It does not have the right to bar the state from having its own agency to choose for themselves.

  55. Hollie
    February 3, 2021 at 11:07 pm #

    Marijuana causes sleep problems among other things. It is wise of the church leaders and all people to seek further information before legalizing any use of Marajuana.
    It is wrong for people to claim that the church is trying to control people or the state. the big teachings/ emphasis lately is personal revelation and personal choice. the church doesn’t get a vote. the people do. so get over trying to say that the church takes away agency. The church is supposed to offer guidance and that is what it did.

  56. Linda Brown
    January 9, 2022 at 1:28 pm #

    This was a really great article. I find the subject fascinating and especially since here in Fresno, California we had a mission president who has made millions in the cannabis industry. Explain that to me please?

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