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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 14
Response to claims made in "Chapter 14: The Word of Wisdom"
|Chapter 13: Communion and Baptism||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101, a work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
|Chapter 15: The Temple|
Response to claims made in Mormonism 101, "Chapter 14: The Word of Wisdom"
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- Response to claim: 202 - “Important Mormon leaders” broke the Word of Wisdom themselves
- Response to claim: 202 - The authors claim that if the Word of Wisdom “was such an important teaching,” why wasn’t it made a “command” until 1851 by Brigham Young?
- Response to claim: 202 - Latter-day Saints now use water instead of wine for the Sacrament
- Response to claim: 203 - While most Mormons say caffeine is their reason not to drink coffee and tea, an article in the Salt Lake Tribune states that 90 percent of adults in North America consume caffeine on a regular basis through other product
- Response to claim: 203 - “The admonition to eat little meat is largely ignored, as are some other points of the revelation”
- Response to claim: 204 - The authors take Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to task for their apparent non-compliance with the precepts of the Word of Wisdom
- Response to claim: 205-206 - The authors claim that Brigham Young reported in 1873 that a store in Utah “was doing a great business in tea, coffee and tobacco”
- Response to claim: 206 - Despite Joseph's claims that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation, there were in that time, temperance societies that also advocated the abolition of alcohol
The chapter is little more than a rehash of an essay that appeared in Chapter 20 of the Tanners' anti-Mormon opus ’’Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?’’. It would seem that the authors essentially edited the Tanner's work to make it shorter then simply stuck their names on it. Their footnotes give the Tanner's no credit for their work whatsoever.
Response to claim: 202 - “Important Mormon leaders” broke the Word of Wisdom themselves
The authors claim that “few (if any) Mormons try to keep the Word of Wisdom as it was said to be given to Smith in 1833," and that “important Mormon leaders” broke the Word of Wisdom themselves.
The mistake: The authors fail to note that the implementation of the Word of Wisdom changed over the years.The facts: The Word of Wisdom was not enforced as rigidly in the early days of the Church as it is today.
Question: Has the implementation and enforcement of the Word of Wisdom changed over time?
Early Latter-day Saints were not under the same requirements for the Word of Wisdom as today's Saints are
Observance of the Word of Wisdom has changed over time, due to on-going revelation from modern-day prophets, who put greater emphasis on certain elements of the revelation originally given to Joseph Smith. Early Latter-day Saints were not under the same requirements as today's Saints are. Latter-Day Saints believe that the Lord reveals his will to men "line upon line, precept upon precept," (Isaiah 28:10-13 and others) and that revelation continues as circumstances change.
"Strong drink" was initially interpreted as hard liquor, and did not include beer or lightly fermented wine
The text of the Word of Wisdom forbids "strong drink" (D&C 89:5, 7), which was initially interpreted as distilled beverages (hard liquor). Beer, unfermented or lightly fermented wine, and cider were considered "mild drinks" (D&C 89:17) and therefore acceptable (note that verse 17 specifically permits "barley...for mild drinks"). The complete prohibition of alcoholic drinks of any kind only became part of the Word of Wisdom following the temperance movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant supported the movement and Grant made complete abstention from alcohol in any form a requirement for a temple recommend in the early 1920s.
Consider also that drinking water in Joseph Smith's day (or during Biblical times) was a gamble because water purity was always questionable; a little alcohol in a beverage ensured that it was free of viruses and bacteria. The development of germ theory in the late 19th century lead to chemical treatments to ensure a safe supply of public drinking water. A strict ban of all alcohol in Joseph Smith's time would have been a death sentence for many Latter-day Saints—especially during the 1832–1833 cholera pandemic, which spread its disease by water.
Tobacco, coffee and tea were not initially prohibited, but instead their use was discouraged
The same sort of "ramping up" of requirements occurred with regard to tobacco, coffee and tea. While use of these items was often discouraged by Church leaders, enforcement was usually light and confined to people who were severe abusers. For example, Brigham Young made the following remarks in April 1870 General Conference:
On Sunday, after meeting, going through the gallery which had been occupied by those claiming, no doubt, to be gentlemen, and perhaps, brethren, you might have supposed that cattle had been standing around there and dropping their nuisances. Here and there were great quids of tobacco, and places a foot or two feet square smeared with tobacco juice. I wish the door-keepers, when, in the future, they observe any persons besmearing the seats and floor in this way to request them to leave the house; and, if they refuse and will not stop spitting about and besmearing their neighbors, just take them and lead them out carefully and kindly. It is an imposition for those claiming to be gentlemen to spit tobacco juice for ladies to draw their clothes through and besmear them, or to leave their dirt in the house. We request all addicted to this practice, to omit it while in this house. Elders of Israel, if you must chew tobacco, omit it while in meeting, and when you leave, you can take a double portion, if you wish to. 
Kate Holbrook: The Word of Wisdom: Development and Practice
The authors claim that if the Word of Wisdom “was such an important teaching,” why wasn’t it made a “command” until 1851 by Brigham Young?
The authors quote the introduction to Section 89 thusly:
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833. HC 1: 327–329. As a consequence of the early brethren using tobacco in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Wisdom, was the result.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Church News, 20 May 1989, 10.
The mistake: The authors fail to quote the whole introduction. The final sentence of the introduction is omitted. It reads: "The first three verses were originally written as an inspired introduction and description by the Prophet." In other words, the first three verses of this revelation were not a part of the original revelation. They were added in 1835 when the revelation was added to the Doctrine and Covenants. The first three verses are:
A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion— To be sent 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— 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. (D&C 89:1–3)
Rather than quoting the first three verses in their entirety, the authors instead write:
The facts: One must ask why the authors find this so strange when the second verse of the revelation clearly says that it was not a commandment.
According to D&C 89:3, the Word of Wisdom is "a principle with [a] promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak." This did not become a "command" for eighteen years, until President Brigham Young proposed it in 1851. If this was such an important teaching, it seems strange that it was not a command from God when this revelation was first given.
In answer to the author's query regarding how strange it was that this "important teaching" was not delivered as a command at first, the answer was right in front of them. It was not considered a command at first because the Lord specifically dictated otherwise. That being the case, the historical record clearly shows that the early Saints interpreted the revelation in light of this verse and also in light of another revelation that the Prophet had received earlier.(D&C 59:
We should also to draw attention to the author's omission of not only the majority of verse three but also the complete text of verse four. The omissions are highly suspect because in both cases they omit the Lord's explanation of the reason for the revelation. The third verse says the purpose of the revelation was to show the "will of God in the temporal salvation" of the Saints. The fact is that obedience to the principles of the Word of Wisdom actually did lead to the temporal salvation of the Church. The forth verse continues:
Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation. (D&C 89:4
The authors therefore chose to ignore two of the most important verses in the revelation. These are the two verses that essentially validate the prophetic nature of the revelation and the man who received it. Both of these verses contain prophecies and both of these prophecies have vividly come to pass.
- For a detailed response, see: Word of Wisdom and Word of Wisdom/Temporal salvation of the early Saints
Response to claim: 202 - Latter-day Saints now use water instead of wine for the Sacrament
The authors note that the Word of Wisdom makes an exception that the use of wine is permitted in order “to offer up your sacraments,” yet Latter-day Saints now use water instead of wine for the Sacrament.
Question: Why do Mormons use water instead of wine for their sacrament services?
Latter-day Saints understand and accept the symbolism of wine, as used by the Savior at the Last Supper and in communion services among other Christian churches
Latter-day Saints understand and accept the symbolism of wine, as used by the Savior at the Last Supper and in communion services among other Christian churches. The color of wine closely matches that of blood, and is an apt symbol for the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the redemption of the human race.
The Latter-day Saint use of water in its sacramental services stems from scriptural authorization given in 1830, followed by an institutional change in the early 20th century.
Four months after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (then called The Church of Christ) was established, Joseph Smith received the following divine manifestation:
Early in the month of August , Newel Knight and his wife paid us a visit, at my place at Harmony, Penn[sylvania]; and as neither his wife nor mine had been as yet confirmed, and it was proposed that we should confirm them, and partake together of the sacrament, before he and his wife should leave us.— In order to prepare for this; I set out to go to procure some wine for the occasion, but had gone but <only> a short distance when I was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation; the first paragraph of which was written at this time, and the remainder in the September following.
Revelation given at Harmony Penn, August 1830.
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God and your redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful. For behold I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat, or what you shall drink, when ye partake of the sacrament if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory; remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins: wherefore a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine, neither strong drink of your enemies: wherefore you shall partake of none, except it is made new among you, yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
2 Behold this is wisdom in me: wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth.
The Lord's revelation that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins" (D&C 27:1-2) gave the Saints permission to substitute any emblems for the original bread and wine, if circumstances warranted.
Beginning in 1902 President Smith began institutional reforms to require greater adherence to the Word of Wisdom
Joseph Smith's revelation of The Word of Wisdom allows for wine to be used for the sacrament: "Inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make." (D&C 89:5-6, emphasis added.)
Latter-day Saints continued to use wine in their sacramental services throughout the 19th century. During this same time the Word of Wisdom was not enforced as rigorously as it is today, and social drinking of wine and other alcoholic beverages was not uncommon among Latter-day Saints (although leaders often counseled against it).
Various American temperance movements since the mid-18th century had called for a ban on the sale and use of alcohol. The third wave of this movement began in 1893 and culminated with national prohibition in 1919. Among the supporters of complete abstinence were LDS Church Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. Beginning in 1902 President Smith began institutional reforms to require greater adherence to the Word of Wisdom. "In keeping with the change in emphasis, the First Presidency and Twelve substituted water for wine in the sacrament in their temple meetings, apparently beginning July 5, 1906." Local Latter-day Saint congregations followed suit soon after, a practice that remains to this day.
Some early Christians used both water and wine in the sacrament
It is noteworthy that some early Christians used both water and wine in the sacrament. Justin Martyr (ca. 140 A.D.) recorded:
On Sunday we hold a meeting in one place for all who live in the cities or the country nearby. The teachings of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time is available. When the reader has finished, the president gives a talk urging and inviting us to imitate all these good examples. We then all stand together and send up our prayers. As noted before, bread, wine and water is brought forth after our prayer. The president also sends up prayers and thanksgivings. The people unitedly give their consent by saying, "Amen." The administration takes place, and each one receives what has been blessed with gratefulness. The deacons also administer to those not present... We all choose Sunday for our communal gathering because it is the first day, on which God created the universe by transforming the darkness and the basic elements, and because Jesus Christ—our Redeeming Savior—rose from the dead on the same day.
This practice was also mentioned by Pope Julius I (A.D. 337) in a decree which stated: "But if necessary let the cluster be pressed into the cup and water mingled with it." This practice of mixing wine and water may be related to the fact that both blood and water were shed on the cross. John recorded that, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34). John later recorded that, "there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one" (1 Jn. 5:8). In like manner baptism by water was also related by Paul to Christ's death (Romans 6:3-5).
Samuele Bacchiocchi, a non-Mormon scholar, has observed that
An investigation... of such Jewish Christian sects as the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, the Elkesaites, and the Encratites, might provide considerable support for abstinence from fermented wine in the Apostolic Church. The fact that some of these sects went to the extreme of rejecting altogether both fermented and unfermented wine using only water, even in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, suggests the existence of a prevailing concern for abstinence in the Apostolic Church.
It also suggests that early Christians understood that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or drink when [partaking] of the sacrament" (D&C 27:1-2).
Later developments in Christianity: Some Christians felt it was permissible to modify the observance of the sacrament even without direction from the Lord
Catholics at a much later period also substituted the Eucharist for the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, believing that it would literally be turned into the flesh and blood of the Lord.
Although the latter practice was introduced during a period of what the LDS understand to be the apostasy from the fulness of gospel doctrine and authority, it nonetheless shows that some Christians felt it was permissible to modify the observance of the sacrament even without direction from the Lord.
The LDS sacrament service is observed often and within the guidelines given by the Lord as prescribed in LDS scriptures (See John 6:53-54; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30; Moroni 4-5:; D&C 20:75-79; 27:1-4). Early Christian practices are useful illustrations of the fact that LDS practice is not foreign to Christianity generally, but the LDS rely on scripture and the teachings of modern prophets for their forms of worship.
Latter-day Saints emphatically affirm our reliance on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins
Latter-day Saints emphatically affirm our reliance on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins as attested to in the Bible (Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Jn 1:7;Revelation 7:14) and modern scripture (1 Nephi 12:10; Mosiah 3:7,11; 4:2; Alma 5:21,27; 21:9;24:13; 34:36; Helaman 27:19; Ether 13:10; Moroni 4:1;5:2; 10:33; D&C 20:40; 27:2; 76:69; Moses 6:62).
Even the sacrament prayer given at the beginning of the administration of the water affirms the symbolism of the atoning blood. It states in part: "... bless and sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them..." (D&C 20:79).
Response to claim: 203 - While most Mormons say caffeine is their reason not to drink coffee and tea, an article in the Salt Lake Tribune states that 90 percent of adults in North America consume caffeine on a regular basis through other product
The authors note that,
While most Mormons say caffeine is their reason not to drink coffee and tea, an article in the Salt Lake Tribune states that 90 percent of adults in North America consume caffeine on a regular basis through other products.
- Salt Lake Tribune, 18 August 1991, p. A2.
The mistake: That 90 percent of adult in North America consume caffeine on a regular basis is totally irrelevant. It does not address the percentage of Mormons who consume caffeine on a regular basis, neither does it describe what some of these other sources may be. *Many common headache medications contain the drug because it enhances the effectiveness of the pain killing properties of the medicine.The facts: Anyone taking this medication could be classified as partaking caffeine, however the Mormons have always recognized that the "abuse" of certain drugs is different that using those drugs for legitimate medical reasons. Without further information or clarification, therefore, the "90 percent" figure is totally useless.
LDS Newsroom: "Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine"
LDS Newsroom, Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right (29 August 2012):
Finally, another small correction: Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.
Question: If Mormons don't drink coffee and tea because it contains caffeine, then why do they consume other products which contain caffeine?
While avoiding caffeine is a legitimate reason for avoiding coffee and tea, it is not the only reason nor is it necessarily the reason the Lord had in mind in giving the revelation
It is claimed that "most Mormons" feel that coffee and tea are prohibited because they contain caffeine. However, it is irrelevant what "most Mormons" claim as their reason for avoiding coffee and tea. The Word of Wisdom itself gives no indication of the reasons these substances are to be avoided—it only states that they should be. While avoiding caffeine is a legitimate reason for avoiding coffee and tea, it is not the only reason nor is it necessarily the reason the Lord had in mind in giving the revelation.
A study printed in the International Journal of Cancer recently reported these startling findings: Drinking very hot beverages appears to raise the risk of esophageal cancer by as much as four times. The researchers analyzed results from five studies involving nearly three thousand people. The study found that hot beverages did increase the cancer risk. The study provided evidence of a link between esophageal cancer induced by the consumption of very hot drinks. Another report by Swiss researchers found that a component in coffee (chlorogenic acid) actually destroyed much of the body's thiamin after one quart of coffee was consumed in three hours. Other reported effects of drinking coffee are more controversial and have yet to be firmly proven. At any rate, it is clear that just because "most Mormons" avoid coffee and tea due to concerns about caffeine, the presence of the stimulant is not the only reason the Lord may have invoked a prohibition against these substances.
Response to claim: 203 - “The admonition to eat little meat is largely ignored, as are some other points of the revelation”
”Mormon writer John J. Stewart” is claimed to “admit” that “The admonition to eat little meat is largely ignored, as are some other points of the revelation.”
- John Stewart, Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, 90.
Question: Do Mormons who do not eat meat "sparingly" violate the Word of Wisdom?
Just as past members struggled as individuals and a group to keep some parts of the Word of Wisdom, it is arguable that some members today likewise struggle
As with the former members, the Lord is merciful and has not yet created a "standard" for meat consumption—each member and his or her conscience settles the matter with him or herself.
With respect to the question of why we do some things (tend to eat lots of meat) but not others (don't drink tea), the reason for that likely has much to do with the concept of following the counsel of living prophets. The current Church Handbook says "hot drinks" means tea and coffee, and it forbids the use of illegal drugs, even though neither "tea" nor illegal drugs are explicitly mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. Like other scriptures, we rely on guidance from living prophets to help us to know how Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 should be applied in our time. With respect to eating meat sparingly, that remains a "word of wisdom," but, unlike refraining from tea, is not mentioned in the current Handbook and has not been publicly mentioned by any General Authorities for many years.
Joseph Fielding Smith made the following statement with regard to eating meat:
While it is ordained that the flesh of animals is for man's food, yet this should be used sparingly. The wording of this revelation is perfectly clear in relation to this subject, but we do not always heed it. 
Thus, each member is encouraged to do better, but as in Joseph Smith's day we ought not to attack or dictate to others. If the Lord is displeased with us individually, he can make his will known by revelation. If He is displeased with the Church as a whole, prophetic authority will give the necessary correction.
The Word of Wisdom was enforced differently in the 19th century than today. It was not the strict test of fellowships that it is for the modern member. Members and leaders struggled with its application, and leaders of the Church were clear that while the Lord expected perfect adherence to the Word of Wisdom as an ideal, he was also patient and understanding of everyone—leader and member—who struggled to alter their habits.
In our day, the Word of Wisdom applies in ways in which it did not for Joseph Smith's era—the modern Word of Wisdom forbids a great many other illegal street drugs that received little attention in the 19th century.
The authors take Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to task for their apparent non-compliance with the precepts of the Word of Wisdom. They point to several events as "proof" of their accusations. Among these accusations are:
- Joseph Smith said that he, Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson and Warren Parrish occasionally drank wine
- The fact that Joseph Smith attempted to run a tavern from his home
- An story alleging that Smith counseled a man to get drunk else he die
- The fact that the Church-owned cooperative store in Utah sold tea, coffee and tobacco
- A quote from Brigham Young rebuking the elders for spitting tobacco but refusing to qualify it as a sin
- History of the Church 2:369, 378.
- Life of Oliver B. Huntington, typed copy at the University of Utah.
The mistake: The third item is based only a third party allegation and is completely hearsay. There is no evidence that Joseph said such a thing or that the man who was thus counseled actually died.
The reasonable question is not, "did early Mormon leaders obey the Word of Wisdom as it is understood today." The reasonable question is, "did early Mormon leaders obey the Word of Wisdom as they understood it in their day?" The answer to that question is a resounding yes.The facts: Early Mormon leaders didn't follow the teachings of the Word of Wisdom as strictly as do modern members of the faith. How were Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other leaders able to indulge themselves, in public, using substances forbidden by the Word of Wisdom, without any apparent criticism from the members, if the understanding of the Word of Wisdom in that time was that of complete abstinence as it is today? The answer is quite simple: early Mormons and their leaders did not interpret the Word of Wisdom in the same way as it now interpreted.
The authors undermine their own premise when they quote the Encyclopedia of Mormonism to the effect that John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant promoted adherence to the Word of Wisdom as a precondition for entering the temple. If these three men (all of who eventually became Prophets of the Church) were promoting this point of view, it must be understood that this was not the prevailing point of view at that time. Nevertheless, the suggestion was never made by these men that non-adherence to the precepts of the revelation was recognized at that time as being grounds for losing temple privileges. Therefore, charges of hypocrisy against early Church leaders are misguided and false because the authors hold Smith and Young to a standard that did not exist in their day.
- For a detailed response, see: Word of Wisdom/Joseph Smith used tea, Word of Wisdom/Joseph Smith sold liquor in Nauvoo, Word of Wisdom/Brigham Young and tobacco, and Word of Wisdom/Brigham Young's whiskey distillery
The authors claim that Brigham Young reported in 1873 that a store in Utah “was doing a great business in tea, coffee and tobacco.” Brigham “rebuked LDS men for chewing tobacco in the semiannual conference and spitting it on the floor but came short of calling their habit ‘sin’.” Brigham states that the Saint “spend considerably more” on tobacco than before, and that they should raise their own tobacco or quit using it.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseThe falsehood: The authors mistakenly attribute to Brigham Young a 1873 talk on the Word of Wisdom given by George A. Smith. The authors fail to note what Smith actually said in the main text, and only clarify it in an endnote over 100 pages later. Note the full context of the quote:
The facts: The authors add the detail about killing ticks on sheep and Smith's rebuke (which they mistakenly call Young's rebuke) in an endnote on page 304. Thus, the authors demonstrate both shoddy research by attributing the statements to Brigham Young, and a deceptive presentation of the information by presenting only part of the quote out of context in Chapter 14 while clarifying the context only in the endnote.
I say, brethren and sisters, let us observe the Word of Wisdom. We are doing a great business in the tea, coffee and tobacco in the Co-operative Store. When we first established it we thought we would not sell tobacco at all; but pretty soon the Superintendent asked the Directors if he might not bring in some poor kind of tobacco to kill the ticks on the sheep. It was very soon discovered that unless they sold tobacco, so many Latter-day Saints used it, that a successful opposition could be run against them on the tobacco trade alone, and they had to commence it, I believe, under the plea that it was brought on to kill the ticks on sheep. Shame on such Latter-day Saints, so far as tobacco is concerned.
Question: Did Brigham Young violate the Word of Wisdom by using snuff, tobacco, and tea?
Brigham indicated that his use of tobacco was medicinal
The Word of Wisdom was not enforced as rigorously, or with the same requirements, in Brigham Young's day. Many speakers emphasized the Lord's patience in this matter, as applied to both leaders and members. The Word of Wisdom was not the strict test of fellowships that it is for the modern member.
But, some of the events with which the critics wish to shock the modern member probably have nothing to do with the Word of Wisdom at all. They are concerned about medical practice, not the social or recreational use of substances. The critics' tactics are akin to pointing out slyly that President Kimball used morphine—while not mentioning the fact that the morphine was prescribed for cancer pain by a physician. The choices made by the nineteenth century saints and leaders should be seen in their historical context, not ours.
Critics count on "presentism"—they hope readers will judge historical figures by the standards of our day, instead of their day.
Some forbidden substances were seen as having a medicinal use
Critics also fail to point out that the fact that some forbidden substances were seen as having a medicinal use, for which the Saints were free to use them. Brigham indicated that this was the case with his tobacco use:
It is our right and privilege to live so that we may attain to this, so that we may sanctify our hearts before the Lord, and sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, but it is not my privilege to drink liquor, neither is it my privilege to eat tobacco. Well, bro. Brigham, have you not done it? Yes, for many years, but I ceased its habitual practice. I used it for toothache; now I am free from that pain, and my mouth is never stained with tobacco. It is not my privilege to drink liquor nor strong tea and coffee although I am naturally a great lover of tea. Brethren and sisters, it is not our privilege to indulge in these things, but it is our right and privilege to set an example worthy of imitation. 
Strange as it seems, tobacco was seen as a medication for some conditions in Brigham's time. (To learn more about medical beliefs and the Word of Wisdom substances, see here.)
Response to claim: 206 - Despite Joseph's claims that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation, there were in that time, temperance societies that also advocated the abolition of alcohol
The final nail in Joseph Smith's coffin, according to the authors, is the fact that, despite Joseph's claims that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation, there were in that time, temperance societies that also advocated the abolition of alcohol. The authors also quote a newspaper article that appeared in the Wayne Sentinel, published in the area where Joseph was reared, that called tobacco "an absolute poison." They conclude their brief review with this conclusion: "It is extremely possible that Smith picked up his ideas from these other sources."
- BYU Studies (Winter 1959): 39-40.
- ’’Wayne Sentinel’’, 6 November 1829.
The mistake: In fact, this movement successfully engineered the closing of a distillery in Kirtland, just a few weeks before Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom. The authors are correct in stating that the temperance movement of the day was instrumental in raising awareness to the evils of alcohol. They are also correct in stating that several of these groups also held disparaging views of tobacco. However, what they do not tell us is that many of these groups also held some rather unorthodox beliefs.The facts: For example, other health reform campaigns of Joseph's day did recommend abstinence from tobacco, coffee and tea, but some of these same health reformers also recommended abstinence from pepper, mustard, white bread, salt, ultimately all condiments, and even sex. Many members of the medical community in that day also believed in varying degrees of "stimulation associated with such items … mustard, pepper, and other spices."
Interestingly enough, none of these elements are found in the Word of Wisdom. In other words, the authors would have us believe that Joseph Smith fashioned the Word of Wisdom using the prevailing theories and ideas on nutrition and health of his day. They would also have us believe that as he was plagiarizing these ideas from these various resources, he somehow managed to avoid including even a single bit of the "quackery" that was prevalent in his day. The Word of Wisdom makes no references to bloodletting, leeches, sexual abstinence or any other practice that, by modern standards, would be considered medieval.
It must be recognized that the Word of Wisdom does not represent the first time that the Lord has seen fit to reveal commandments regarding His people's dietary practices. Anciently, the Lord revealed a dietary code to Moses that was incorporated into the Mosaic Law. Like the Word of Wisdom, the ancient dietary law was first spiritual and only secondarily a health law. This principle has been overlooked in far too many discourses on the Word of Wisdom.
- Deseret News (11 May 1870): 160; reprinted in Brigham Young, "Fortieth Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Millennial Star 32 no. 22 (31 May 1870), 346. See discussion of the history in Robert J. McCue, "Did the Word of Wisdom Become a Commandment in 1851?," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 no. 3 (Autumn 1981), 66–77. off-site
- History, circa June 1839–circa 1841 (Draft 2): 51–52 (cf. History of the Church 1:106–07). The shorter version of this revelation—now canonized as D&C 27:1-5—was first recorded in the early 1830s in Revelation Book 1: 35–36, then published in 1833 in The Evening and the Morning Star 1/10 (March 1833) and in The Book of Commandments as chapter XXVIII (p. 60). It was combined with another revelation and published in a longer version in 1835 as Doctrine and Covenants chapter L (pp. 179–81) and in an expanded reprint of Evening and Morning Star 1/10 (March 1833; reprinted May 1836): 155. The longer (1835) version is now D&C 27.
- In 1861 Brigham Young sent 309 Mormon families to settle in Utah's "Dixie" region, where they would produce, among other crops, wine for the sacrament. (Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 [Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1958]: 216.) President Young remarked publicly that he "anticipate[d] the day when we can have the privilege of using, at our sacraments pure wine, produced within our borders." ("Remarks by President Brigham Young, Tabernacle, G[reat].S[alt].L[ake]. City, June 4, 1864," The Deseret News 13/39 (22 June 1864): 302. off-site link.) By the 1870s Church vineyards were producing "as much as 3,000 gallons per year," however, "by the turn of the [20th] century, most of the vines had been pulled on the advice of church authorities…" (Great Basin Kingdom, 222).
- See "Temperance movement in the United States." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 January 2016. off-site link
- Thomas G. Alexander, "The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14/3 (autumn 1981): 79. off-site PDF
- Justin Martyr, "First Apology," in ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)?:65–67. ANF ToC off-site This volume; cited by Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 231. ISBN 0937892068.
- Gratian, De Consecratione, Pars III, Dist. 2, c. 7, as cited by Leon C. Field, Oinos: A Discussion of the Bible Wine Question (New York, 1883), 91, and Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible : A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 109–110. ISBN 1930987072.
- Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible : A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 181. ISBN 1930987072.
- See Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 241. GL direct link or James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of our Fathers (T A N Books & Publishers, 1980), 235–250. ISBN 0895551586.
- This wiki article was originally based upon Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004),131–133. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786. It has been subsequently edited by FairMormon Answers wiki editors.
- LDS Newsroom, Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right (29 August 2012)
- International Journal of Cancer, 88 (15 November 2000): 658–664.
- International Journal of Vitamin and Nutritional Research 46 (1976).
- An example of this is a study by Dr. Hershel Jick of Boston University Medical School. He found that drinking one to five cups of coffee per day raises the risk of heart attack by as much as 60 percent and drinking more than six cups per day raises the risk by 120 percent. However, other studies have failed to find a connection between heart attack and coffee intake. Other ongoing studies indicate a possible connection between coffee intake and bladder cancer. Coffee has also been tentatively linked to a rise in blood fats, increased adrenal activity, and blood cholesterol and heart action irregularity. Nevertheless, these studies are not conclusive and as such, cannot be authoritatively cited as evidence against coffee drinking. There are, however, other health concerns regarding the excessive or inappropriate use of caffeine. See: Thomas J. Boud, MD, "The Energy Drink Epidemic," Ensign (December 2008), 48–52.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 148.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 12:29.
- Paul H. Peterson, "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom," Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972, 14–15.
- Lester E. Bush, Jr., "The Word of Wisdom in Early Nineteenth Century Perspective," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 no. 3 (Autumn 1981), 52.
- Bush, 49; Nissenbaum, 86–104.