Problems with

Mormon Revelations.

The Word of Wisdom - Whose Wisdom?

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On February 27, 1833, Joseph Smith claimed to have received a revelation concerning diet. This revelation, known as "The Word of Wisdom", is recorded in the Mormon Scripture, Doctrine and Covenants, as Sec. 89.

The importance of this revelation, to Mormons, cannot be overstated. When applying for a temple recommend a Mormon is asked if they keep the Word of Wisdom, if they don't - let's say they drink coffee and are honest and admit to their sin (for that's what it's considered to be), they will not be given a temple recommend and are therefore barred from the highest heaven in Mormon theology.

Today the LDS Church use this revelation to forbid tea; coffee; alcohol; cola drinks and the use of tobacco, but what does the "revelation" actually say, and against what background did Joseph Smith receive it?

The Revelation.

Forbids the use of wine or strong drink, except home made wine when assembled for the sacrament; strong drink is to be used to wash our bodies and tobacco should be used for treating sick cattle.

Verse nine is the part which forbids hot drinks, and that is what it says - hot drinks! Tea and coffee are not mentioned.

Verses twelve and thirteen are interesting, they forbid the eating of meat, with these exceptions: It should be used only sparingly, and even then ... Only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

This part of God's revelation seems to be ignored by the Church leadership and most Mormons.

The Origin.

Brigham Young, the second Mormon prophet, and David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, gave similar explanations as to why this revelation was given.
Meetings were held in a room at Joseph Smith's house, Emma Smith, the wife of the prophet, was disgusted with the men slobbering and spitting due to their smoking and chewing tobacco, she said it would be a good thing if a revelation could be had, forbidding its use, this matter was talked and joked about - in order to counter this, some of the men suggested that the revelation should also forbid tea and coffee.
Right on cue the Lord gave the very revelation they were talking about!

The Historical setting.

Over the years Mormons have defended this revelation. Their argument goes something like this:
In Joseph Smith's day the harmful effects of tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco were unknown, yet these are the things the revelation prevents us using, therefore, it must be from God.

This argument does not stand up when we look at the historical setting.

In 1826 the American Temperance Society was founded.

In June 1830 the Millenial Harbinger quoted in full, an article from the Philadelphia 'Journal of Health' which condemned the use of alcohol, tobacco and the eating of too much meat.

On October 6, 1830, the Kirtland Temperance Society was organized with 239 members.

On February 1, 1833, this Society succeeded in having a distillery in Kirtland closed, the distillery at near-by Mentor closed at the same time. (see: BYU Studies, Winter, 1959, pp. 39-40)

In 1831 Josiah Bissell formed the 'Cold Water Society' which condemned "tea, coffee or any other slops." (The Burned Over District, New York, 1965, pp. 211-212.)

So you see, all the elements of Joseph's 'revelation' were contentious at that time.

Notice that his revelation was given at Kirtland, the very place where a distillery had been forced to close just 27 days earlier.

Joseph's Example.

Mormon writers have insisted that Joseph Smith kept the Word of Wisdom. For example:
"the Prophet himself carefully observed the Word of Wisdom, and insisted upon its observation by other men in high Church positions....." (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet. John J. Stewart, p 90)
Does the evidence support this view? No! It doesn't, Joseph recorded:

(May 1843) "Wednesday 3, - Called at the office and drank a glass of wine with Sister Jenetta Richards, ... (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 380)

(Jan. 1836) "We then partook of some refreshments, and our hearts were made glad with the fruit of the vine." (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 369)

Joseph admitted drinking beer (at Moessers), he is also known to have smoked cigars and drank tea (he liked it very strong, according to his aunt,) and all this after he had given his so-called 'revelation' - the Word of Wisdom.

Modern editions of History of the Church have been altered so as to remove phrases such as : "drank a glass of beer at Moessers."

To finish, let me quote one change to the historical record. Joseph Smith wrote in the Mormon Newspaper, Millennial Star:

"It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whisky that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom. "I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done, and gave them a couple of dollars, with directions to replenish the bottle to stimulate them in the fatigues of their sleepless journey." (Millennial Star, Vol. 21, page 283)

When this was reprinted in the History of the Church, it read:

"It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whisky that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom. "I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done." (History of the Church, Vol. 5, page 450)

The Bible says.

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Matthew 15:11.

Jesus explained that food and drink are taken by mouth and pass through the body's system, but what we say comes from the heart. It is the things we say which condemns us, not the things we eat or drink. What matters is our words, not our works.

Jim Cowen
Good Tidings Ministry.