“In what ways was the Word of Wisdom far ahead of its time?”

Answer: It wasn’t. The Word of Wisdom was not ahead of its time in any way whatsoever. Of course, longtime readers of the Bloggernacle already knew this (given prior discussions of the topic here and at T&S). But I’m actually not interested in revisiting this issue in excruciating historical detail. Instead, I want to point out something I learned in Church today, that came as a bit of a shock: It turns out that the title of this post is — rather than being the query of a jaded blogger, waiting to pounce on the ignorance of his co-religionists — the first "suggestion for study and discussion" at the end of Chapter 11 in the David O. McKay manual.

I found this rather surprising. Maybe it shouldn’t have been, but I’ve always assumed the writers of Church manuals bend over backwards to avoid raising “controversial” issues. And surely the claim that the Word of Wisdom was “far ahead of its time” qualifies. To put things more starkly: I am aware of no other teaching, belief or claim with such broad-based currency among modern Mormons that is as demonstrably false as this one is. Can anyone else think of one?

For those unfamiliar with this matter, let me briefly summarize things: Many members of the Church are fond of claiming that the Word of Wisdom was some sort of health anachronism in the early 19th Century. This claim can be articulated in a number of different ways. Perhaps the most common is to say that Joseph Smith gave us the Word of Wisdom at a time when modern medicine/science had no explanation for why various prohibited substances (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) were “bad” for us. The clear conclusion to be reached (sometimes implied, sometimes stated directly) is that early 19th Century American health practitioners would have been bewildered by Mormon health claims at the time, but now — 175 years later — we Mormons have been vindicated, as modern scientific authority has finally caught up with the Prophet’s prescient truth claims. True objective evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic powers, apparently.

But this is all patent nonsense. Early 19th Century health reformers all over the country were teaching the exact same things the Word of Wisdom teaches, and most particularly in New England. Even if one doesn’t want to use this fact as a springboard for naturalistic theories on the origins of Smith’s revelation, the fact is still there. The claim that early 19th Century medicine had no scientific explanation for the dangers of alcohol and tobacco is true only in the most technical, narrow and meaningless sense. Since there was no such thing as a “scientific explanation” of most subjects in the modern sense, of course such “explanations” didn’t exist. But Smith didn’t provide a modern, scientific explanation either. So the relevant inquiry (assuming one is interested in demonstrating Smith’s "prophetic" skills) would be to show that Smith was teaching something unusual or non-obvious to others around him that we now know to be true by independent means. Yet the Word of Wisdom reads as a codified version of the conventional health wisdom of its day. So Joseph’s giving us the Word of Wisdom clearly does not meet this standard.

In my experience, those confronted with this fact for the first time react in a number of ways. Some become dogmatic and hide behind pious pronouncements in support of their prior understandings. Others become merely disconcerted, given the clear importance (if not centrality) of this claim to their image of Joseph Smith and his prophetic abilities. Still others try to wiggle out of the claim, redefining the nature of what they are saying, so as to inoculate the claim from the indisputable historical evidence that refutes it. But these redefinitions, inevitably, render the claim completely uninteresting. If all that Church members were really trying to say was that [insert watered-down truth claim here], then there’s no reason why anyone would bother to make it. It would cease to be significant or novel in any way, and we’d all stop saying it.

Having said all this, let me return to the question I think is raised by the “suggested question” in the manual. It is often said that Church classes are not the time or place to raise controversial issues or raise the hackles of the faithful who attend Church to be spiritually nourished. And the manual’s injunction not to utilize sources outside of the approved materials, whatever else its merits or purpose, is surely designed to minimize the chance of Church classes getting out of control. But what should one do when the manual literally invites the class to discuss an issue like this? Does one pretend to be uninformed on the issue, for the sake of not ruffling feathers? Can one legitimately and honestly discuss the issue without fear of being inappropriate or causing problems? (In case you were wondering — Yes, the claim came up in both the Elders Quorum lesson and Gospel Doctrine class today — No, I didn’t say anything).

Finally, was it naive of me to be surprised this question was in the manual in the first place? The question strikes me as a real “hot potato” that Church curriculum writers would want to avoid, but maybe I’m forgetting that “hot” issues in the Bloggernacle aren’t even necessarily on the radar at CES. In other words, maybe this is only a troubling issue for boring Mormon historians, Sunstone groupies and various Mormon blog geeks.


  1. Aaron Brown says:

    So much for my linking to Chapter 11 of the manual. Why in the world can’t I do it. So frustrating. That’s it. I’m going inactive. :)

    Also, Steve, please fix the margins for me since, as usual, I seem completely unable to function without your guidance. (I swear I’m about to hurl this stupid computer out the window.)

    Aaron B

  2. Church curriculum materials seem to be written by people who feel it is their right, even their duty, to rewrite history whenever necessary to put the Church and its claims in a good light. There’s really not much you can do about that problem as long as honest history takes a backseat to faithful history in official circles.

    As to the 19th-century connection, my admittedly heterodox understanding is that modern Mormon dietary laws have little to do with either D&C 89 or the 19th century. The push for strict adherence dates to the early 20th-century campaign for prohibition. It was politics and bad social effects, not health concerns, that motivated LDS leaders to make the WoW a central tenet of LDS practice. Which is not to say those concerns were illegitimate — after the LDS experience in the 19th century, making political friends was particularly important for the LDS community.

  3. That struck me when it came up in both Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society today, Aaron.

    I did, in fact, raise the point that the WoW was not exactly groundbreaking for it’s time, but my comment was somewhat lost in the gist of the Sunday School lesson (“If we’re obedient and act on blind faith, not trying to understand the commandments that God gives, we’ll get more blessings.” — no, I’m not exaggerating, the teacher actually said this) and I didn’t make a big issue out of it.

  4. Our Gospel Esentials teacher said pretty much the same thing as Arwyn’s teacher. According to him, we are supposed to follow the rules, not ask questions, otherwise, blessings will be not be forthcoming.
    This is something that has bothered me. Why the prohibition, historically, against the drinking of tea and coffee? As a person of Asian descent, in our communities, drinking of tea is an important part of our culture. And when people like me join our Church, it always causes problems, becasue, in a sense, family members are hurt and feel insulted, becasue it seems that the said Asian convert is turning his/her back on their own family and culture. And , I really havent seen any evidence that says that coffee and tea consumption cause the kind of health problems, or social problems that result from smoking or drinking alcohol.

  5. The much-worried-about flip side of the issue is also somewhat of interest. The Word of Wisdom is of course not anachronistic in a 19th-century context. However, “ahead of its time” also implies that it matches quite well with modern medical understandings, which is beginning to be untrue.

    Red wine, for example, is apparently excluded in Joseph Smith’s Word of Wisdom revelation (although beer is not). Yet moderate consumption of red wine now appears to have some health benefits. Likewise, green tea is evidently a great source of antioxidants.

    This doesn’t make the Word of Wisdom <>, because the WoW, for faithful believers, was never about medical outcomes in the first place. It’s just about obedience. But the manual question does raise the issue at both ends of the historical process.

  6. Aaron said:

    rather than being the query of a jaded blogger, waiting to pounce on the ignorance of his co-religionists

    This is the sort of thing that gets the “intellectuals” in hot water. Presentation and tone is everything, especially in the 2D world of the internet. People who think they know everything and go around telling everyone else they are ignoramuses get the response they deserve. Anyone self-conscious enough to realize what they are doing is anti-social is smart enough to couch things in terms that are not pompous and condescending.

    Anyway, the Word of Wisdom was ahead of its time. If one can get past the Sunstone and Dialogue articles which attempt to cut Smith down to our size, and actually sit down and read the text yourself, one would note before the prohibitions there is a warning, in v. 4, which says:

    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

    There is the social context of this revelation, there is the reason for its existence. That is why this revelation was ahead of its time. Smith wasnt plagiarizing other health afficionados of his time in an effort to prove he was a Prophet. The Lord was warning His people of what was to come, for their own benefit.

    What are the top three most abused drugs in American society? Alcohol, nicotene, caffeine. Why are they so heavily and persistently abused? Marketing. What is it all about? Money.

    The Lord, and Smith, nailed this one on the head.

  7. All I can say is get your food storage ready — the end of the world is night when AB has two posts IN A ROW!!

  8. Nate Oman says:

    Aaron: FWIW, I did raise this issue in a very, very muted way in Elders Quorum yesterday, stating that I have always thought that the health rationale for the WofW was secondary to its community building powers and the spiritual promises contained in section 89 (I am always interested in hidden treasures of knowledge). This, of course, led naturally into a discussion of the destroying angel, the link of the Word of Wisdom to the passover, and the sacrament. We ended with one brother — a Jewish convert — explaining in great detail that the only thing that really bothers him about the Church is that we don’t use wine for the sacrament, since, he insists, under Jewish law water was the drink of slaves and inappropriate for a religious ritual. Good times.

    “Church curriculum materials seem to be written by people who feel it is their right, even their duty, to rewrite history whenever necessary to put the Church and its claims in a good light. There’s really not much you can do about that problem as long as honest history takes a backseat to faithful history in official circles.”

    Dave: While I think that there is some truth to this, I think that you are overestimating the influence of the impulse to whitewash, and underestimating the influence of simple ignorance.

  9. I would like to say that it wasn’t ahead of its time, but not because of what 19th century health reformers were saying in New England. Rather it wasn’t ahead of its time because the Word of Wisdom says nothing of the heath effects of the condemned substances.

  10. Nate: ..underestimating the influence of simple ignorance.

    Very much agreed.

  11. I taught the Sunday School lesson yesterday (as a substitute). I did not ask whether the Word of Wisdom was ahead of its time. Instead, I noted that we often point to developments and time lines with respect to family history/genealogy being related to the return of Elijah. I asked whether it was possible that God was sending inspiration on health subjects to other groups at the same time he revealed the Word of Wisdom to Joseph Smith. Had some interesting discussion regarding other religious traditions and temperance movements.

  12. We seem to have pretty low predictive power where scientific issues are concerned. Are our expectations that it should be otherwise misplaced? Or is it otherwise and my statement is premature?

  13. The particular phrasing of the question may be simplistic and historically uninformed, but I think Aaron is a bit too vehement in dismissing the sentiment [a blogger being vehement — unprecendented!!:)]. Even if some others were expressing the same views in 1833, few other groups were as consistently diligent in trying to actually practice prohibitions on tobacco and cafeinated drinks as the Mormons. Even if it took a hundred years to finally fully take hold, I think that we can say that the Mormon people were ahead of the larger society in broadly practicing health recommendations only later supported by general medical concensus.

    I also agree with Kurt in comment #6 — even if the specific health recommendations were not unique to Joseph in 1833, the predictions that they would be blocked by the “evils and designs” of men does look prescient in light of the conduct of the tobacco companies as disclosed only in the last two decades.

    I do think that focusing on recent medical support for some of the counsel in the WoW (as the referenced questions does) in some ways detracts from the import of what is, in the end, still a revelation from God even if it does share some substance with the views of some of Joseph’s contemporaries. The last verses of Sec. 89 makes it clear that the WoW is about more than physical health. Verse 21 espcially ties the revelation to God’s covenant with ancient Israel. It is telling that in giving the Mosaic dietary laws
    God always states that the purpose is to make Israel a holy people, set apart to Him (see Exodus 22:31, Leviticus 11:44-45, Deuteronomy 14:21). The WoW has certainly performed this function for God’s modern Israel as well.

    Thus, I would also not be as critical of those who follow the WoW out of “blind faith” as Arwyn in comment #3. By prohibiting at least one substance commonly used in social interactions in virtually every culture, the WoW requires Latter-day Saints to outwardly acknowledge and profess their covenant relationship with God in everyday activities, and in that simple act then remember all of the other more ‘spiritual’ covenants they have made. The health benefits are just a bonus.

  14. I taught the Elder’s lesson yesterday. The thing that I found interesting was how well Pres. McKay’s comments dovetailed with the lesson I last taught in Elder’s Quorum (Lesson 9, Overcoming Temptation). In particular, the last section of the lesson discusses this.

  15. Also, please forgive my wayward apostrophes. I must have been drunk when I typed that.

  16. Kurt,
    That verse is really interesting in that it gives us the reason for the revelation. I just wrote about this last night here.

    Chris Williams (Outer Boroughs) in my ward yesterday made that exact same point, that the health rationale is secondary to the community-building powers. Hmmmm, there must be something to that (unless you wrote a post about that a while ago and he’s just plagiarizing you…)


  17. Would we be considered ahead of our time if as a people, we obeyed the Word of Wisdom? Even if it was old news, how many other Christian religions had a law like that, and gave it importance, and had a by-and-large majority of members obeying it?

  18. Rusty:

    Maybe Nate got the idea from me. Ever think of that, huh? Huh?

  19. I always get nervious when people try to emphasize the ‘science’ behind the word of wisdom. If we get too excited about how science is confirming that these things are good for us, then doing things which are good for us becomes the whole purpose of the revelation. This is when we start saying that exercise is also part of the WoW as well as good sleep, things which aren’t even hinted at in sec. 89

    What happens when science says that 1 glass of wine a day is good for us? Does the WoW say that we should follow? What about is there are other drugs in common food which is far worse for us than caffeine? Do we not eat them either?

    But wait, science has said this! So does science confirm or contradict the WoW? Given the complexity of this question, I think saying that it was ahead of it’s time is premature to say the least.

  20. My understanding is that Seventh Day Adventists have, and abide by, similar health prescriptions, as well as being vegetarian or near vegetarian. I also understand that their life expectancies are as long or longer than LDS life expectancies.

    “SDA’s believe the human body to be a temple of God and, hence, observe practices that modern science has proven to be healthy. Much of their practices have their foundations in the writings of Ellen White, who was remarkably beyond her contemporaries in the area of nutrition and preventive medicine. A professor of nutrition at Cornell University, Clive McCay, PhD, wrote, “in spite of the fact that the works of Mrs. White were written long before the advent of modern scientific nutrition, no better over-all guide is available today.” 59 SDA’s practice abstinence from smoking, alcohol, drugs, and a large proportion practice vegetarianism. More generally, they believe in creating a lifestyle that is health-giving 60.” http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/sevn.html

  21. RoastedTomatoes, the health benefits of red wine can be obtained from drinking unfermented red or purple grape juice. No wine necessary. There are plenty of naturally occuring anti-oxidants available in products other than green tea, bluberries are loaded as are various fish oils. Any other “evidence” that the WofW is contradicted by modern medical understanding? The idea the consumption of beer was permitted after the WofW is not substantiated. It was no more permitted as a “mild drink” made from barley than was anything else fermented. I find it interesting the history mavens havent noted this.

    Kim Siever, expecting the Lord to reveal some kind of specific health-related details in the WofW is unreasonable, especially considering the state of the medical art at the time. How is the Lord going to explain the anti-microbial properties of alcohol to people who have no idea what bacteria or viruses are? Louis Pasteur post-dated the WofW. Or the cancer-causing effects of smoking? How do you explain cancer to people who thought a mosquito borne parasite that was plaguing the land was caused by stinky air? The medical arts were rudimentary, so the Lord’s comments on the health effects were equally blunt statements like “not good for man” and “not for the body”.

    annegb, while the Seventh Day Adventists don’t require it to be a member of their congregation, they very definitely encourage something quite close to the WofW, with vegetarianism included. JWs apparently discourage excessive use of alcohol, but its use is not prohibited.

    Rusty, saw your post after I made mine, otherwise would have linked you.

    Nate Oman and J.Stapley, the Church isnt around to forward an intellectual ascent, its there to help people change their lives and lead a more godly walk. While whitewashing history does nothing to promote a godly walk, casting aspersions of ignorance on people who dont read Sunstone and Dialog articles on the history of the WofW similarly does nothing. Keeping the WofW does promote a godly walk, and that is what the Church is trying to get people to do.

  22. a random John says:

    A recent frustration of mine is that we talk about Section 89 all the time, but Sec 89 is NOT the WoW as we currently live it. What we live as the WoW is different enough from the text of 89 that it is hard to say that Section 89 is what we live, and hard to make statements about Section 89 being “ahead of its time” since we don’t have experience living that.

  23. Aaron Brown says:

    random John,

    I think you raise an excellent point. I’ve actually thought about teaching a lesson where I ask people what the WofW says, in practice, without looking at the text for guidance, and then ask people to read the text, with an eye for the 19th Century meanings, and take note of the differences. There would be a lot to talk about in a lesson like this.

    Alas, I’ve now moved to a new ward, where I have no calling, and thus no audience to subject to my pedagogical machinations.

    Aaron B

  24. Mark B. says:


    I just wondered how you distinguished an intellectual ascent from a non-intellectual one. I suspect that it could be calculated by adding the IQ of each of the climbers, dividing by their number and then somehow factoring in the length of the rope and the number of pitons, screws, nuts and other hardware left behind when the ascent is completed.

    Your suggestion that Nate or J. were casting aspersions on people who are ignorant about the history of the Word of Wisdom shows that you haven’t read enough of either of them to understand them and that you haven’t yet come to understand that ignorant isn’t necessarily pejorative.

    It is ahistorical to suggest that the Word of Wisdom was understood in the 19th century as a prohibition on the use of coffee, tea, tobacco or alcohol. (I’ll leave opium and its derivatives to you–I must confess I am ignorant of any evidence of their use by church members in good standing.) When Brigham Young smoked a peace pipe with the Indians, what do you suppose was in the pipe? Lettuce? When a gallon of whiskey was accepted as payment by one church member for labor performed for another, what do you suppose he did with the booze? Washed himself?

    I agree that the keeping of the Word of Wisdom does promote a godly walk, for those of us who have covenanted to keep it. In the 19th century Church, the Word of Wisdom was understood differently, and the use those saints made of substances that are now prohibited was not a breach of their covenant.

    This does raise the question whether the overeating of meat (and I can hear Peter Luger’s Steakhouse calling), overeating generally, not eating enough vegetables, etc. etc. detracts from our attempts to walk the godly walk.

  25. mj pritchett says:

    If it was ignorance (which I would prefer to an intentional whitewash), what does that say about those that prepared the manual? These are paid professionals after all (not highly paid, but paid just the same).

    Who drafted the question? Who reviewed it? The bottom line is that we don’t know–and that is an intentional part of the church publication process. The questions would be different if the writers and editors’ names were on the book.

    My guess (and this is necessarily just speculation) is that the original writer of the question probably was ignorant, and that among the reviewers there may have been those that were also ignorant, those that were careless, those that knew better and didn’t want to challenge original writer, and maybe even one or two who thought, well, these are only questions, not answers, let’s leave the question in and hope someone speaks up in quorum meeting or relief society and answers: “It wasn’t.”

    The church is never going to publish a book debunking the myths from prior manuals. The best we can hope for is that through the discussion process good information will drive out the bad.

    I think Nate and Chris’s approach is the right thing to do: say something intelligent and uplifting that reflects the true state of the historical record as you understand it.

  26. So, Kurt, what IS a mild drink made from barley? (please don’t say postum, or its ‘ancestors’)

  27. For the record, though Nate Oman and I married into the same extended family, we really don’t know each other, so there is only one conclusion that can be drawn here: great minds think alike.


  28. dannyboy says:

    I still maintain that teh supposed ill-effects of caffein consumption, done by drinking tea or coffee is vastly overstated in our Church. If that was the case, a lot of people in no-LDS cultures would showing evidence of problems casued bu long-term tea and coffee consumption. And the secular, non-LDS world and activists would be crying up a storm about why tea and coffee ought to be strictly controlled like tobacco products and alchol are at bothe the state and federal level. The CDC would be issuing papers o n the risks to public health etc.
    BTW, a friedn who is a Uthan, and a direct descendent of Brigham Young tells me that his families journals from the days of the handcart companies clearly indicate that Saints then were issued coffee as part of their rations.

  29. Kurt,

    “The idea the consumption of beer was permitted after the WofW is not substantiated.”

    Fine, let’s have it your way, just for fun. Beer was not allowed after the WoW. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith continued to drink his barley brewed beers years after it’s reception. He didn’t try to hide it and even wrote about it in his diary. Now did Joseph not understand his own revelation and go out and sin on numerous occasions, or could it be your interpretation which is wrong?

  30. hear, hear Danny Boy!

  31. An amazingly important subject. Thanks a bunch. ;-)

  32. Is that the pipes I hear calling?

  33. Well, the question was the church ahead of its time. Were we ahead of those other religions (Seventh Day Adventist, and JW)? Maybe Joseph Smith wasn’t ahead of science, but he seems to be in religious issues.

    Although, you know, I do crave a nice glass of red wine at times. With spaghetti.

  34. Here is how the Word of Wisdom was far ahead of its time:

    Although it was revealed in the 1830s and largely ignored until the 20th century (even Brigham Young chewed tobacco when he was prophet and dannyboy is correct to point out that pioneers received coffee rations when crossing the plains), when polygamy was a dead issue and Mormons were beginning to assimilate into the larger American culture, the Word of Wisdom gave Heber J. Grant something that he could draw upon to turn into a commandment and thereby set apart Mormons once again as a peculiar people.

    So there you have it: Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom as a revelation so that 100 years later another prophet could institute it as a commandment. Talk about foresight—this practically proves that Joseph was inspired!

  35. It’s true — the WoW really did do the trick to make us freaky once polygamy had gone its way. Better focus on WoW as a public peculiarity than the temple ceremony, I guess…

  36. I concur with DKL and Steve here. Having said that — I think the WoW as now constituted will be binding on us living today. I think that God honors the rules set by his current leaders (the topic I have been tinkering with lately at my blog).

  37. I agree, Geoff. Whether or not it was a commandment then, it is now, and we’re stuck with it.

    I mostly wanted to show how Aaron Brown’s claim (at the start of his post) that the Word of Wisdom was not ahead of its time “in any way whatsoever” is demonstrably false.

  38. Mark B, I am not trying to differentiate between non-intellectual and intellectual ascent. My point is the gospel is about what you are doing, not what you are academically knowing. Being aware of the minutiae of the the history of the WofW, or any other point of ancient or modern revelation, isnt a requirement. Living it is, and thats what the Church’s responsability is, to get the members to live it, not get a PhD in History. And, yes, I am well aware of the ignominious history of the early church’s inability to observe the WofW. That doesnt change anything, and it doesnt excuse any individual from observing it. I am a vegetarian, so flailing me with meat isnt going to work. Besides, meat consumption is not among the explicit prohibitions.

    mj pritchet, what exactly is “the true state of the historical record as you understand it”? The historical record can be distorted just like statistics. Take a look at the posts in this thread where people cite the transgressions of the early saint’s inability to observe the WofW. Not one person has pointed out the historical fact that the early Church leaders, especially Young and then Grant, frequently hammered on the saints to get them observe the WofW. Oh, OK, well, that doesnt fit the model of excusing my sins with the sins of others, so we’ll omit those historical details. I havent seen much out of Nate or Chris that does anything to address the gap in historical understanding. All I have see thus far is complaining and labeling of “ignorant”, which implies they arent “ignorant”, only those not as educated as them.

    XON, OK, go ahead and build your logical argument that all barley-derived drinks consumed by colonial americans were necessarily fermented. While youre at it, talk about apple cider too, and the whitewashed history of Johnny Appleseed.

    dannyboy, some of the early saints commited fornications and adultery, so obviously, the way we observe the Law of Chastity today isnt historically accurate and there was more lattitude back then so we should be allowed greater lattitude. It is well documented that the provisions lists for handcart companies included coffee, annecdotal evidence from direct descendants of Young is not required.

    Jeffery G, it is well documented, take a look at History of the Church, that Smith occasionally imbibed drinks that contained alcohol. Nothing new there. How does that justify breaking the WofW? If Smith did X sin, does that mean you can do X sin? If Moses sinned X sin, can all Jews sin X sin? This is what it boils down to, people looking to excuse themselves. This isnt about getting the history right in order to be abstemious, its about seeing how far you can bend the rules and what you can get away with.

    David King Landrith, nothing like omitting lots of historical facts, that I am confidant you are well aware of, in order to make your point. The WofW was strictly imposed on the GAs very early, the trickle down was made broader and broader until Grant forced it to be universal. The push on the membership by the leadership in the interim was persistent, there was no gap between Smith’s receipt and Grant’s enforcement as your comment suggests. It was not “largely ignored”. And it certainly wasnt selected as something just to make us different. Your supposition, like Aaron’s, is demonstrably false.

  39. Can I ask a historical question? When I was looking at early- and mid-nineteenth century temperance movements, I noticed that they mostly focused on alcohol, sometimes on tobacco, but I never found any specific reference to “hot drinks” of any kind. Does anyone have any specific historical reference to temperance movements advocating a prohibition of hot drinks? Additionally, if we explain the WoW in terms of temperance movements, what do we do with the stuff about grains and meat?

  40. Kurt, you have an interesting outlook on these issues. Might I suggest that you look up Aaron Cox over at Banner of Heaven. The two of you should go bowling.

  41. Steve (FSF) says:

    I’ll be just as blunt. You’re position is that of the traditional church apologist, besides being arrogant and faulty. Are you related to BKP or BRM? I gag every time some leader repeats the official BS explanation of the WofW becoming a requirement; it’s total rubbish. At the time it became a requirement, citing some past event of Brigham Young once challenging the people present at a conference to pledge to live the WofW as the time it became a commandment was completely bogus and intellectually dishonest. We’ve turned what was clearly meant to be a good practice and made it an arbitrary barrier to entry into the Kingdom. That was not the original intent and it’s stupid and dishonest to argue otherwise. It’s become our circumcision, you know that thing Paul had to reformed in the ancient church. We need a modern Paul to do the same w/ the WofW. Moreover, we’ve only arbitrarily chosen to enforce certain parts of the WofW and treat other parts as good practice. What about the encouraged use of mild drinks made from barley and other grains, aka beer? Kurt, I want my beer.

    On the lighter side, Charles Didier said missionaries cannot turn down a kirsch-drenched cake, but cannot ask for seconds, and cannot enjoy it. I like his interpretation of the WofW.

  42. Mark B. says:

    Why, if the strict observance of the Word of Wisdom was not required of the saints in the 19th century, was their failure to observe it as we do “ignominious”? It’s like calling the saints practice of plural marriage ignominious, because plural marriage is prohibited today.

    I think that the more serious problem with your post, Kurt, is that you confuse a desire to know the history of the Word of Wisdom with a search for justification for bending the rules and getting away with whatever one can. You seriously misread the posters here if you think that’s their motivation.

    Besides, how can anyone take you seriously if you still can’t figure out the difference between “assent” and “ascent”?

  43. John Mansfield says:

    For completeness, it should also be remembered that the High Council in Missouri disciplined members for lack of observance of the Word of Wisdom. I think that was one charge against Oliver Cowdery, for instance. Joseph Smith said the High Council was being overzealous. I won’t be able to look up the relevant material on this until next week (Vacation starts today!), but there are no doubt many of you who already know the events I am referring to and can fill out any needed facts.

  44. Kurt wrote: I havent seen much out of Nate or Chris that does anything to address the gap in historical understanding. All I have see thus far is complaining and labeling of “ignorant”, which implies they arent “ignorant”, only those not as educated as them.

    Please, don’t drag me into your rant or put words in my mouth. You are atributing to me an attitude I do not have and a position I did not take.

    But that said, I will add an “amen” to what Mark B. wrote. You have confused a desire to understand the WoW as it has been practiced over time with a desire to violate it today. One does not follow from the other. And since we believe in work for the dead, I’ll be presumptuous and say that all of the departed saints who lived the Word of Wisdom as they understood it and as it was taught to them don’t appreicate the aspersions you’ve cast their way.

  45. taylor, I have never seen anything, or read anything, to suggest there was any kind of temperance movement aimed at “hot drinks”.

    David King Landrith, you have an interesting way of changing the subject and resorting to ad hominems when you are shown to be in error. Lets keep on topic shall we? I dont bowl.

    Steve (FSF), if you had bothered to read my comments on D&C 89 you would see that I do not forward any of the standard apologist positions you attribute to me. Save your righteous indignation for a situation that fits. If you want a beer, then go and freakin drink one and then lie to you Bishop at the next Temple Recommend interview. Sheesh. I do not see how your desire to drink beer has any bearing on history. ANyone who has spent any time talking to me at all knows that I am not a McConkie head. And if you bothered to even read the posts in the threads you and I have both participated in, you would see plainly that I am not a standard Church apologist. Take the endowment ceremony thread on MStar for example.

    Mark B, forgive me for being cynical, but I have rarely met people who are genuinely interested in the bare naked truth of history, without any agenda motivating them. Take Steve (FSF) as a prime example. How am I misreading people’s motives when you have people sitting here saying they want their beer and wine? Faulting me for typos? Come on.

    Chris Williams, dont fault me. It was mj pritchet who put you together with Nate. I assumed there was some offline conversation she was privy to. Again, I am cynical and believe people have motives underlying their actions. If you and Mark are so interested in exposing to light the truth of history, then how about the two of you collaborate on a comprehensive post that outlines the historical timeline of LDS Church leadership statement and actions pertaining to the WofW. I’ve already started one, albeit incomplete, in my comments on D&C 89, why dont you take it from there and use your motivation as fuel to finish the job? I am sure DKL/AT will lend a hand.

  46. Kurt,

    Typos are one thing. Ignoring I just wondered how you distinguished an intellectual ascent from a non-intellectual one. I suspect that it could be calculated by adding the IQ of each of the climbers, dividing by their number and then somehow factoring in the length of the rope and the number of pitons, screws, nuts and other hardware left behind when the ascent is completed.(from comment #24) is quite another. It suggests that you’re not reading very carefully.

  47. Kurt: you have an interesting way of changing the subject and resorting to ad hominems when you are shown to be in error. Lets keep on topic shall we? I dont bowl.

    Wrong on all counts, Kurt. First: You didn’t show anyone to be in error. Your one stop apology shop is trying to sell us a bill of goods. Second: I didn’t resort to ad hominems. I was merely playing matchmaker. Third: You do, in fact, bowl. And frankly, I find that your willingness to lie about this little piece of biographical information to be disturbing. (Well, OK. I’m just kidding about the bowling…)

  48. Kurt: Again, I am cynical and believe people have motives underlying their actions.


    If you and Mark are so interested in exposing to light the truth of history, then how about the two of you collaborate on a comprehensive post that outlines the historical timeline of LDS Church leadership statement and actions pertaining to the WofW.

    So the options here for Mark and me are to 1) collaborate on a comprehensive post on the history of the WoW or 2) keep quiet?

    Besides, Mark’s a busy guy. ;)

  49. HL Rogers says:

    I do not understand the need by some to assert that the WoW has remained essentially unchanged from when it was given in section 89 until today–in fact doing so to the extent of claiming that J. Smith was a sinful prophet for imbibing the occassional drink now and again. I guess better to have a sinning prophet than a prophetic and revelatory change. However, if we believe that continuing revelation is a cornerstone to our religion why would we have any problem with the continued revelatory changes to the WoW. It is my understanding that the claim that the Wow was always taught as a complete ban on alcohol to be “demonstrably false”. For one, as I understand it, the 12 used wine in their thursday sacrament meetings until the early 1900s, Lorenzo Snow pushed the limitation on meat far more than the element of alcohol consumption (encouraging young men to head out to salt air for the occassional drink). True, Pres. Grant enforced the liquor ban but he was a well known beer drinker in his early days. It seems to me the best explanation from the historical evidence and a belief in the revelatory truth of the WoW is the belief that through revelation the Lord has taken the WoW from what it was to what it is today (A clearly delineated prohibition on drinking alcohol, coffee, and of smoking–along with a weaker plea to eat and live healthy). Why it should be of anymore than passing historical curiosity of what the WoW was is beyond me. The important point is what the prophets today say that it is.

  50. “the Lord’s comments on the health effects were equally blunt statements like ‘not good for man’ and ‘not for the body'”

    Tell me then why in verse 16 of D&C 89 it says “all grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground”.

    Why would the Lord specify some things to be good for our consumption, yet of the things we presume to be bad for our health, He does not say a single one of them is not for our consumption?

    The closest He comes is in verse five when He states that it is not good to drink wine or strong drink. Yet why it is not good is unclear. Is it not good for our health? Does it give us a bad image? Some other reason?

  51. Steve (FSF) says:

    Wow. You really need to lighten up bro. “I want my beer” was a joke. You also need to read the WofW. Since the temple recommend question is “do you follow the WofW” (although they mean do you avoid coffee, tea, booze and tobacco, that’s not what’s asked.), I could drink beer in moderation and honestly reply that, yes, I follow the WofW.

    HL Rogers,
    I respect your point, but I think the GA’s are just locked into the WofW as we know it because of past errors (apostate drift to be blunt). And it’s just too low on the totem pole for a modern Paul to emerge and reform the church on this. It’s ironic that orthodoxy always leads apostasy by locking in inevitable mistakes and not allowing periodic reform to clean up the occasional mess.

  52. HL Rogers says:

    Steve(FSF), your point about the apostate drift away from the WoW seems predicated on strict adherence to section 89. Yet I don’t see any reason why we need to be wed or even should be wed to section 89 in such a strict way.

    Our theology on continuing revelation has brought about changes in many canonical teachings. Would you also assert that using water instead of wine is apostate, that the changes in the temple ceremony are apostate (and not just modern changes but changes from temple ceremonies in OT times to how they were restored by JS),how about changes in the setup of stakes and wards or changes in church government from presiding elders, to a prophet, to a propeht with counselors, to co-presients, to a quorum of the 12 with changing responsibilities and authority(all being much different now than how it is discussed in the D&C).

    It seems that while we put a lot of emphasis on cannonical teachings (and rightly so) they are not stand alone doctrines but instead open to further revelation.

  53. Kurt,
    You missed the point of my comment way back in 29, although I must say it came as no surprise. My point isn’t “Joseph Smith sinned after it was given, so in order to face him face let’s admit that it wasn’t a commandment.” My point was that “Joseph didn’t consider it a sin at all, so you are really claiming to interpret the revelation better than the actual person who received the revelation.”

  54. Can we get back to the inital discussion please?

    I taught the Gospel Doctrine lesson last week and spent an lot of time researching this topic. I ended up with a weaker testmony of the WoW, and many unanswered questions. I think my lesson must have been somewhat unsatisfying . . .

    Perhaps some of you smart people can shed some light on my questions.

    1. If our HF wanted this to be a commandment why didn’t it start out that way? Since when do we have doctrines that evolve over time as the WoW has?

    2. Why do members of the church inflate the importantce of the WoW in the context of our theology?

    3. Why is it part of the temple recommend interview? The doctrine itself says it is for our “temporal salvation” only. (BTW, it there any person in the whole church that can honesly answer “yes” to that question?– I doubt it.)

    4. Why doesn’t our living prophet give us an update, or at least some clarification on what is and is not OK? Thats why we have prophets! Is it left vague on purpose?

    One person in our class stated that she believed the WoW was essentially an “obedience test” and not much more. I don’t beleive that my HF gives me commandments without a purpose.

    Perhaps I should be the one writing those questions for the manual. Perhaps not.

  55. Mark B., yes, I am either not reading carefully, or I am ignoring your tongue-in-cheek comment. One or the either. Your choice.

    David King Landrith, um, yes, Arturo, I did show your baised presentation in comment 34 to be factually incorrect by presenting substantive data contradicting your position. Your failure to address the data and pretending it doesnt exist does not qualify as a substantive rebuttal. And, yes, you are resorting to ad hominems when you address my person, rather than the subject. Thats what “ad hominem” means. You dont have to directly insult my person to be guilty of “ad hominem” arguments. But, alas, it seems likely you are being deliberately obtuse in an effort to make sport of me. How cheeky for such a clever philosopher as you. Thanks for retracting that little fib about the bowling, I would hate people to think I sport a mullet.

    Chris, no, I am not asking you to be quiet. I am asking you to back up your assertion that you, and ostensibly Mark and the other participants here, have a genuine interest in the bare historical facts. I realize you, and others, are busy. I am a patient cynic. You suggested one point of view, I suggested another. There is evidence supporting mine, and no evidence supporting yours. It seems unlikely any evidence supporting your view point will be forthcoming from SFSF or DKL/AT, so you will probably have to generate it yourself, or tacitly admit there is merit to my cynical POV.

    HL Rogers, ah, but there is the rub. For people who are willing to keep the WofW, then its simply a matter of following the living prophets. For people like SFSF, its a matter of the prophets being ignorant of the facts and needing to be brought into line.

    Kim Siever OK, I see what youre driving at. The general context of the revelation is physical and spiritual health, per v. 18-21. The Lord doesnt explicitly say “dont drink wine because its bad for your health”, however, He does say “If you do all these things you will have good health”. By inference it is plain the prohibitions deal with things that would jeopardize the benefits detailed in v. 18-21.

    Steve (FSF), I need to lighten up? Sure. You go around making rediculous accusations that are more science fiction than reality, and I need to lighten up. Got it. How can it be “honest” when you know precisely what the question means, and you answer disingenuously?

    Jeffery G, I did not miss your point, I addressed the underlying motivation people have for attempting to fault Smith’s personal actions. How can you infer Smith’s interpretation of a revelation any better than anyone else? You cannot, so whats the point? There is none. Speculating endlessly about possibilities does nothing to come to a conclusion. Are you going to next point out that Smith Sr. brewed and drank his own birch beer? So what? Can we infer from that that Smith Jr. would never account sin to his beloved father? So then Smith must not have viewed it as a sin, since he did it himself and/or permitted his father to do it? Nonsense. Aside from that, it is pretty easy to discern why people want to question Smith’s actions, so they can excuse their own, which contradict what modern prophets say on the subject. But, hey, what difference does that make, right? Thats what I commented on. Did you miss that point? Sorry I had to waste the time and electrons to spell it out, but based on our previous exchanges I thought you would remeber that I am not interested in playing endless questions with you.

    1) Because of the reasons spelled out in v. 3. What would have happened to the Church if there had been mass excomminications as a result of a full-stop enforcement?

    2) Dietary codes have always been a part of religion, from day one. Why should now be any different? The Lord expects us to be deliberate about what we put in our mouth, and we are to take meaning away from that, cf. Dt. 8:3.

    3) The reason it is there is because people have difficulty, and have historically had difficulty, observing it. If it wasnt a problem, it wouldnt be there. Just like when the whole abuse thing was added. If no guys abused their wife/kids then it wouldnt be there. It is not there only for our temporal salvation only, see v. 19 and note v. 20 is a direct quotation of Isa. 40:31, which clearly is a spiritual reference, not a physical one.

    4) They do give us updates, which is why Church policy prohibits drugs as well. But, I suppose if you ask SFSF, he could snort methamphetamine and say he was honestly observing the WofW because its doesnt say anything about cocaine/meth/oxycontin/whatever.

  56. Kurt, you really do need to lighten up.

  57. Greg Call says:

    Porter: On your question 2 — back in the prehistoric era of the bloggernacle, I posted on why we “fetishize” the WoW, and there were several interesting comments. The discussion touches on some of your other points as well.

    Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke

  58. Mark B. says:

    I’ll take door number 3.

  59. Steve (FSF) says:

    An epiphany, you’re not getting enough.

    BTW, I don’t need an extrapolation of the WofW to avoid recreation drugs. If good common sense wasn’t sufficient, the recreational drugs are prohibited under other scriptures calling the drunkard to repentance.

    Chill, and good luck with your woman.

  60. Kurt,

    “I did not miss your point, I addressed the underlying motivation people have for attempting to fault Smith’s personal actions.”

    This only shows that you are not getting the point. I’m not faulting anyone. I’m only pointing out that you are implicitly faulting him if anyone is.

    “How can you infer Smith’s interpretation of a revelation any better than anyone else?”

    By his actions. He drank on occasion and in public. He made no attempt to hide, nor was he ever criticized for it. Not only did Smith not think it a sin, nobody appears to have thought it was. Also, doesn’t your statement work against you are well? By your own logic, how can you be sure that drinking beer WAS a sin? I’ll give you your own answer: “You cannot, so whats the point? There is none. Speculating endlessly about possibilities does nothing to come to a conclusion.”

    I would also be curious to know what your interpretation of there being tabacco spittoons in the SLC temple. To say that it was decoration it a little outrageous don’t you think?

    I have no clue why you are bringing JS sr. into the discussion, so I won’t respond to that.

    “Aside from that, it is pretty easy to discern why people want to question Smith’s actions, so they can excuse their own, which contradict what modern prophets say on the subject.”

    I hate to break it to you, but I am one of the few that has never had a sip of beer in my life, yet I strongly disagree with the traditional interpretation of the WoW. Nor do I ever want to try beer. Maybe it’s not so obvious after all.

    “But, hey, what difference does that make, right? Thats what I commented on. Did you miss that point? Sorry I had to waste the time and electrons to spell it out, but based on our previous exchanges I thought you would remeber that I am not interested in playing endless questions with you.”

    I had to leave that in for good measure.

  61. Oh Kurt… I just don’t think I care enough. Your cynicism isn’t a big enough concern for me that I feel compelled to justify to you, someone I’ve never met, my interest in the historical evolution of the Word of Wisdom. Maybe someday, but not today, especially since others far more capable and learned than me in Mormon history have already done a lot of work on this particular question.

    You’ll probably think this is a cop out. Can you see my shoulders shrugging?

    You know, sometimes people just like history because it’s interesting.

  62. Porter,

    My post today was on the subject of temporary commandments/rules (like the WoW as we currently live it) and why they are probably binding on us in earth and in heaven despite their non-eternal nature… You may find some interesting comments there as well.

  63. Kurt, I can’t resist, I guess…

    You wrote: You suggested one point of view, I suggested another. There is evidence supporting mine, and no evidence supporting yours.

    What’s the point of view that I have offered without evidence? I’ve put forward an “amen” here and there, but the substance of my contribution to this discussion is a refernce to a comment I made in Church on Sunday that the Word of Wisdom serves as an important community building tool. You need evidence for that?

    Also, I’m wondering what you think the motivation is here for those who disagree with you. Do you think we’re all planning to meet for Happy Hour later today and we need some moral justification?

    Finally, I recommend for your reading the 1972 Master’s Thesis of Paul H. Peterson, now Chair of the Dept. of Church History and Doctrine, BYU College of Religious Education. It’s an extensive look at the history and evolution of the Word of Wisdom.

    Some highlights:

    Large numbers of Americans belonged to temperance movements at the time the WoW was received:

    Peterson p. 8
    The creation of the American Temperance Society in 1826 marked the beginning of organized temperance groups, and inaugurated a movement which had far-reaching consequences. Almost immediately hundreds of state and local auxiliaries sprang into existence, and within a year after the organization of the American Temperance Society, 222 local groups had been formed in sixteen states. By 1831, state organizations had been established in all but five states, and 2,200 local societies had been organized with a membership approximated 170,000. Two years later the number of local organizations had increased to 5,000 with a total membership of 1,250,000. [Roughly 10% of the U.S. Population]

    The temperance movement was known to the Latter-day Saints:

    Peterson p. 12-13
    Newspapers helped to spread temperance reform by publishing long articles and providing editorial comment on the movement. The Painesville Telegraph, a Gaeuga County publication that was probably read by many of the Saints, proved no exception, as it frequently issued warnings against intemperance. In November of 1832, the Telegraph noted that several leading citizens were indifferent to the movement because it was associated with sectarianism and urged all individuals, sects, and groups to unite in the temperance cause.

    Temperance agitation was apparently strong in the Mormon settlements of Kirtland and Mentor. On October 6, 1830, the Kirtland Temperance Society was organized. … The Kirtland distillery which had existed since 1819 was closed for want of patronage by February 1, 1833, approximately four weeks before Smith announced the revelation [of the Word of Wisdom].

    Peterson p. 14
    Certainly, while the Mormon Prophet was in all likelihood not associated with any temperance organization, it seems highly improbable that he would not have been sensitive to the prevailing public sentiment.

    The temperance movement was concerned about more than just alcohol:

    Peterson p. 14-15
    The physiological health reform movement was another product of nineteenth century religious fervor. This movement was characterized by a preoccupation with the effects of various substances upon the human body. Sylvester Graham, former agent of the Pennsylvania Temperance Society, was a significant force in this crusade. Graham recommended abstinence from “distilled spirits, wine, beer, cider, tobacco, opium, coffee, tea, pepper, mustard, and every other kind of artificial stimulants and narcotics. Graham was not the only one to condemn the use of alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee. There is evidence that medical opinion supported some of his views. A contemporary medical journal, The Journal of Health, condemned the use of these four items and also advised against excessive meat eating.

    Joseph was not a strict WoW observer:

    Peterson p. 25
    Joseph Smith and other prisoners drank liquor and whiskey in the Liberty Jail [1839] in token of friendship, while references to wine-drinking are commonplace. Excessive drinking, however, was not tolerated, and some Mormons were threatened with loss of membership for failure to curb drunkenness.

    The journal of Joseph Smith reveals many instances where Joseph and other Church leaders drank wine and a tolerant attitude towards the consumption of this beverage is particularly noticeable. After a wedding feast in January, 1836, Joseph wrote: “We then partook of some refreshments, and our hearts were made glad with the fruit of the vine.” A week later, at the marriage of John Boynton, Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, and Warren Parrish presented the Presidency with three servers of glasses filled with wine, to bless. Joseph recorded his reaction as follows:

    “And it fell to my lot to attend to this duty, which I cheerfully discharged. It was then passed round in order; then the cake in the same order; and suffice it to say, our hearts were made glad while partaking of the bounty of earth which was presented until we had taken our fill; and joy filled every bosum …

    In May, 1843, the Prophet drank a glass of wine with Sister Jenetta Richards. Despite the injunction contained in the revelation discouraging the drinking of wine, (except for sacramental purposes) the casual nature of the allusions to this bevereage suggest that many Church Authorities did not consider moderate wine drinking in the same category as the use of strong drinks.

    Peterson p. 36-38
    Through the years, there have been extremes in evaluating Joseph Smith’s faithfulness regarding Word of Wisdom observance. Many writers have declared that Joseph was not only a non-observer but a flagrant drunkard. John C. Bennett said the Mormon Prophet got “gloriously drunk occasionally,” while Governor Thomas Ford stated that “at times he drank like a sailor.” Henry Caswall accused Joseph of operating a brewery at Nauvoo and mentioned that he was often seen drunk. Most of these authors make no pretensions at objectivity and in truth the majority seem to have an axe to grind. At the other extreme, William Clayton, Smith’s personal secretary, claimed in 1842 that the Prophet did not use intoxicating drinks or tobacco. Such a statement appears to be an exaggeration for it was observed earlier in the chapter that Joseph drank liquor in the Liberty jail and had few qualms about drinking wine. Likewise, shortly before his death the Prophet requested wine to drink. John Taylor described this incident as follows:

    “It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing: our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us … I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the guards. We all of us felt unusually dull and languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits.”

    Peterson p. 38
    In conclusion, it appears clear that Joseph Smith never interpreted the revelation as demanding total abstinence, but stressed moderation and self-control. His opposition to intemperance is evidenced by earlier statements which referred to intemperance as a “monster” and “the bane of humanity.” The Prophet almost never used tobacco, although it is recorded that once at Nauvoo he tried the faith of the Saints by smoking a cigar after having preached a discourse on the Word of Wisdom. He had no objections to using tobacco for medicinal purposes. With regard to wine and “strong drink” possibly the most accurate index to the Prophet’s position was expressed by Benjamin F. Johnson, who personally knew Joseph: “As a companion, socially, he was highly endowed; was kind, generous, mirth loving, and at times even convivial. He was partial to a well supplied table and he did not always refuse the wine that maketh the heart glad.”

    Brigham Young also had a liberal attitude toward WoW observance:

    Peterson p. 42-43
    Brigham Young, successor to Joseph Smith as Mormon Prophet and President, never chose to make obedience to the Word of Wisdom a test of fellowship in the Church. As Nels Anderson has observed:

    “For him the test of a man’s faith was his integrity to an assignment given by the church. Could a man take a company of Saints to a dessert and hold them to the task of building a community: then it didn’t matter much to Brother Brigham if he was a user of whiskey and tobacco. Those Word of Wisdom virtues were precious to him but secondary.”

  64. I personally think that we like to fetishize the WoW basically out of a sense of self-righteousness. It’s a commandment that isn’t all that hard to keep, so most of us do keep it. It’s also so counter intuitive that nobody outside of our church cares to keep it. Therefore, they are not as righteous as we are in the church as here is proof. The same can be said for our over-emphasis on the law of chastity. If anything separates us from the Godless it’s in these two counterintuitive commandments, therefore we exaggerate them beyond what is justified.

  65. Yeebrah says:

    If I can throw another WoW phrase into play, I’d like to add 89:3

    “Given for a principle with a promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”

    I’ve always understood this to mean that the revelation was especially for those of us with the compulsive personalities, or otherwise lack of self-control that could potentially lead us into trouble, into the hands of the ‘conspiring men’, into addiction – or proverbially putting ‘another’ god before the LORD. Rather than tell church members ‘if you can’t handle it, don’t do it’, a general warning was given to ALL members, which later evolved into the WoW as proscribed today. Is that forward thinking and ahead of its time? Yes. Original? No. Prophetic? Of course.

    Subsequently, I have always felt frustration when hearing other members judge Mormons and non-Mormons alike who do use alcohol, tobacco, etc. – I am not aware of scripture that specifically designates alcohol and/or tobacco as inherently EVIL substances, only the warnings about their abuse.

  66. I’ve always leaned towards Yeebrah’s interpretation of verse 3. Because some people might end up as addicts, everyone agrees to abstain entirely. You can’t get addicted if you never try it.

  67. Steve (FSF) says:

    HL Rogers,
    To clarify, the apostate drift I refer to is taking what was meant to be a good practice and making it a barrier to entry into the Kingdom, in effect, a modern LDS circumcision. That, in my opinion, is the past mistake the present GA’s are locked into. Under present orthodoxy, things like this only get reformed when there’s a crisis. Look how long it took to fix BY’s Mark of Cain BS. That’s what I meant by the irony that orthodoxy always leads apostasy by locking in inevitable mistakes and not allowing periodic (non-crisis) reform to clean up the occasional mess.

    I know you probably disagree, and I respect that.

  68. Kurt, since my attempt to mate you with your kindred spirit Aaron Cox was in no way an attempt to answer or address your arguments, it cannot possibly be an ad hominem. It is, at worst, a tangent.

    You, on the other hand, dismiss Dialogue and Sunstone out of hand, advancing what amounts to basically an ad hominem attack on scholarly assessments of the Word of Wisdom. Given your intransigence on this issue, it will probably do very little good to direct you to the Autumn 1981 edition of Dialogue (14:3), the non-fiction portion of which was almost entirely given over to the discussion of the Word of Wisdom. Thomas Alexander’s article, for example, states (p 78-79):

    The minutes of the meeting record that “President Woodruff said he regarded the Word of Wisdom in its entirety as a given of the Lord for the Latter-day Saints to observe, but he did not think that Bishops should withhold recommends from persons who did not adhere strictly to it.”

    Though it is clear that some church leaders, like Heber J. Grant and Joseph F. Smith, insisted upon complete abstinence from tea, coffee, liquor and all tobacco, all General Authorities were not in agreement on all aspects of the Word of Wisdom. During a discussion in 1900 after he became President of the Church, Lorenzo Snow again emphasized the centrality of not eating meat, a point rarely emphasized by others, and in 1901, John Henry Smith and Brigham Young, Jr., of the Twelve both thought that the Church ought not interdict beer, or at least not Danish beer. Other apostles, like Anthon H. Lund and Matthias F. Cowley also enjoyed Danish beer and currant Wine. Charles W. Penrose actually served wine. Emmeline B. Wells, then a member of the presidency and later president of the Relief Society, drank on occasional cup of coffee, and George Albert Smith took brandy for medicinal reasons. Apostle George Teasdale, agreeing with President Woodruff, thought that no one ought to be kept from working in the Sunday School because he drank tea and that eating pork was a more serious breach than drinking tea or coffee.

    The evidence shows a diffuse pattern both in observing and teaching the Word of Wisdom in 1900.…

    I’ll let you read the rest of it. Before Heber J. Grant made abstention from tobacco, coffea, tea, and alcohol a temple recommend requirement, the Word of Wisdom never had a status greater than the current status of the commandment to keep a year supply of food. Indeed, the Utah LDS church and its offshoots are to my knowledge the only churches founded by Joseph Smith that accord the Word of Wisdom mandatory commandment status.

    I still await your “substantive data” that “contradicted [my] position.” As it is, I consider your position to be utterly ludicrous. You have sensed that I am making sport of you, but it is you who are [insert snarky comment here].

    I’m quite heartened to learn that you take me to be “such a clever philosopher.” Since I studied philosophy as an undergraduate student, I have no marketable skills at all. But because I never continued my studies into graduate school, I have no philosophy skills at all. Hence, I consider myself a positivist. Even so, I take some consolation in having made a fan out of you.

  69. “Before Heber J. Grant made abstention from tobacco, coffea, tea, and alcohol a temple recommend requirement, the Word of Wisdom never had a status greater than the current status of the commandment to keep a year supply of food.”

    I like that.

  70. Indeed, the Utah LDS church and its offshoots are to my knowledge the only churches founded by Joseph Smith that accord the Word of Wisdom mandatory commandment status.

    And not even all of the offshoots of the Utah Church accord it this status. The FLDS of Hilldale-Colorado City do not follow the WoW with anywhere near the strictness that we LDS do.

  71. anon, a mouse says:

    I agree with post 64. Many Mormons who grow up keeping the Word of Wisdom, or for whom it’s easy to do so, look down on those who have this “habit”. They also have misconceptions about coffee drinkers, social drinkers, etc. It becomes an “us against them” thing.

    Likewise, many married members look at single members as inveterate pervs or sinners-waiting-to-happen, hence the hue and cry over marriage and paranoia over grown adults keeping the Law of Chastity.

  72. Steve Evans, you tolerate the kind of rubbish that SFSF posts, and you tell me to lighten up? OK, this is your sandbox, so whenever you feel like it, just ban me and get it over with.

    Jeffery Gillam, if you cannot see the parallels between the Smith Sr. reference, which is precisely the kind of inference you are attempting to make, then this really is pointless. You think that by presenting any logical possibility, that you have present a persuasive argument. You havent. Thats the point with Smith’s father. Just because he didnt censure his father doesnt mean he didnt think it wasnt a sin. Just because he did something himself, doesnt mean he didnt think he shouldnt have done it, or that it is necessarily representative of his exegetical take on a particular passage of Scripture. It is obvious that Smith knew that wine and fermented spirits was at the very least discourage, and yet he occasionally partook of those. So, how do you come up with a logical leap that his brewing and comsuming of said beer must have necessitated an interpretation on the WofW that beer was AOK? Its a non-sequiter. We’re obviously talking past each other, so I will not bother anymore.

    Chris Williams, boy for someone feigning apathy, you need to work on the follow through. Glad to see you care about history enough to post something to defend yourself. Now all you have to do is turn back time and discourage SFSF from posting.

    David King Landrith, since you obviously hold this person in contempt and are attempting to equate me with him, your defense of your actions are feeble at best. ANd please do explain how you can make ad hominem attacks on things arent people? Sheesh. How is a direct link to 20-30 pages of historical references that contradict your argument “ludicrous”? Sticking your head in the sand and pretending all the GAs all the way through told people to observe the WofW doesnt change anything. The only thing that changes was how vigorously it was enforced, they never stopped trying to get people to observe it, like you suggest. Your assertions are patently false that it was a non-issue before Grant as incoming FT missionaries were required to observe the WofW strictly starting around 1913. If you had bothered to read the historical material that I provided you the link to, you would see numerous references showing your position is “ludicrous”. Oh, and I am such a big fan of your sophistry.

    Jefferey Gillam you like it? Too bad its not true.

  73. dannyboy says:

    Kurt – your arguing here makes me wish that I never end up in a Ward with you. You seem to be much like the leaders of the FLDS and other such LDS offshoots. I get the feeling that you consider folks like me who do not take the position of total and absolute obedience tobe some kind of a pervert that needs to be excommunicate. Dude, you gotta realise that we are living in 21st century America, not in 18th century Utah, where dissent wasnt allowed.
    Like someone else posted earlier, I do think that the WOW as it stands today, is nothing more than a cultural artefice, that people adhere to so as to maintain our seperate Mormon identity. And as a means to ensure obedience. Hence the question is asked when one goes in for the Temple recommend interview.
    BTW, doesnt the WOW also say that we are to eat food in moderation and take care of our health, and imply that we ougght to work out, and stay fit in order too? But, as I look around i n my Ward, a good 90% of the men and women over the age of 40 are obese, and everyweek or so, we hear about another Brother or Sister who suffered a heart attack or some other other condition following from living a totally unhealthy lifestyle. Sure they dont drink coffee, tea or any alcoholic beverages, but, hey, what’s 2 large Dominoes pizzas at a sitting, eh? pizzas are not mentioned in Section 89, so the sin of gluttony and excess is ok, right, Kurt?

  74. “you tolerate the kind of rubbish that SFSF posts, and you tell me to lighten up?”

    yep. Steve FSF is crazy, IMHO, but he doesn’t have a bug up his bum the way you seem to. This is just a discussion man — take it easy. Why would I ban you? For getting uppity?

  75. mj pritchett says:

    Forgive me if this is a threadjack, but I’ve wondered if the current push against p0rnography, though triggered primarily by the new technology of the internet, plays somewhat the same role in today’s chuch as the push to enforce the word of wisdom did in Heber J. Grant’s day (see comment #34 above).

  76. Is anybody else curious as to why Kurt is so willing to swap insults with pretty much anybody but me? What gives? He certainly doesn’t seem to hesitate much in going to visit the Angry Mormon or have extended back-and-forths here. Why as I being singled out? Would it help if I tried harder to make fun of you like everybody else? Should I change my name? What gives?

    Anyway, my point in not addressing your JS. sr. material was because, once again, I’m not accusing anybody of sin, you are. I don’t care whether JS jr. called out his father on any sin at all. This entire train of thought is completely irrelevant to what I saying. What I was saying was better articulated in the extended quote that Chris posted. Maybe if you address that content instead of talking about us in your posts we would get some where.

    I REPEAT, don’t talk about us or our styles of writing. Address the issue, specifically the quote that Chris provided.

  77. a random John says:


    It is obvious that Smith knew that wine and fermented spirits was at the very least discourage, and yet he occasionally partook of those. So, how do you come up with a logical leap that his brewing and comsuming of said beer must have necessitated an interpretation on the WofW that beer was AOK?

    Is it your claim that the text of Section 89 forbids drinking all forms of alcoholic beverage? Or that it merely discourages it?

    I have never drank, and have no desire to do so, but I don’t see how Section 89 forbids it. To assert that the interpretation and enforcement of Section 89 haven’t changed over time seems to require not reading it.

    Our current WoW has its origin in Section 89 but it is obvious that it has become something else. This is fine with me. It would also be fine with me if the GBH has a revelation and the situation changes tomorrow.

  78. Kurt, your 20 to 30 pages of “data” mostly takes things out of context. It’s also correct on several issues. For example, your polemic against the tobacco industry is wildly exxagerated. You could scour through conference talks over the past 50 years to show the topics that people addressed (including such things as organic evolution, feminism, and unnecessary truths). That doesn’t make them mandatory for worthiness or even the celestial Kingdom. Just the same you’re a lunatic and a riot all packaged up into one non-mullet wearing, bowling-ball hating bloggernacle guy! Keep up the good work. I’ll read as long as you comment.

  79. Steve (FSF) says:

    My comments are rubbish? I’m crazy?

    Now that hurts.

    Well, I may be inarticulate and insane, but thanks to the increased libido which I attribute in part to the WofW, I’m extremely happy. If life is like a poker game, I wouldn’t trade the cards I’ve got.

  80. Nate Oman says:

    Wow! I am sure that Kurt’s buckshot attacks on everyone have done wonders for BCC’s traffic. Fess up, Steve. You have paid Kurt to make all of these attacks haven’t you? I thought so.

    Way, way, way, way, way back in the distant past, Kurt took me to task for suggesting that ignorance of historical facts rather than some sort of ideological urge to supress history may be a better explanation for many of the historical inaccuracies one sees in Church curriculum. According to Kurt this betrayed my misunderstanding of the true nature of the Godly life, which is unrelated to reading articles on Sunstone and Dialogue.

    To which I reply, slow down partner. First, I have gone out of my way to say all sorts of gratuitously and unfairly mean and critical things about Sunstone and Dialogue in the past. In part this was out of a perfectly innocent desire to bait John H. and Kristing Haglund, but I also, as it happens, have a number of axes of my own to grind against those publications. As it happens, all things considered, I agree with Kurt that Church curriculum is not primarily about teaching history. On the other hand, to the extent that we are going to use history to illustrate those things that ARE being taught, it makes sense — to me at least — to use accurate rather than inaccurate history. On the other hand, the folks who write church curriculum are busy, and the materials are produced by a committee, which means that I suspect that more often than not the final product results from random group dynamics (“It isn’t worth fighting brother so-and-so on this won.”) rather than the more sinister agendas imputed to correlation by Dave and his ilk. I think that such conspiracy theories tend to wildly over-estimate the competence of what is, after all, a large (and therefore) inefficient bureacracy. In other words, my ignorance comment was a defense of the Church rather than a criticism of it. (OK, so there was a little criticism ;->)

    It is worth remembering, however, that the Church doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough to accomplish its purposes. Prophets don’t have to be perfectly inspired, only inspired enough.

  81. Steve FSF, I figured the crazy thing was actually a compliment.

  82. Mark B. says:

    And to think that we’re wasting time on this issue when we could be discussing Michael Jackson!!

  83. Nate, I guess I should say a word in defense of me and my ilk. First, I wouldn’t object to the notion that a fair amount of historical misstatement in LDS curriculum material stems from ignorance rather than malice. Second, I don’t think I’ve ever argued for a vast anti-historical conspiracy, just that some semi-official LDS feel comfortable with selective omission or creative fact-finding on those occasions when it is particularly convenient. Third, ignorance of history is not really a good excuse given the extent to which LDS faith claims and doctrine rest on historical events and narrative. Leaders and curriculum people ought to recognize that getting the historical facts right matters for the material they are producing.

    I should add that I have noticed that LDS authors of GA speeches and Conference talks have been much more careful the last few years in using footnotes to carefully cite sources for quotes and claims. I think it is Paul Dunn’s legacy to the Church.

  84. Do you think we’re all planning to meet for Happy Hour later today and we need some moral justification?

    Oooh! Oooh! Can I come?

    If you’re looking to break the WofW, I recommend Bailey’s and Coffee. It’s two…two…two sins in one!

  85. Third, ignorance of history is not really a good excuse given the extent to which LDS faith claims and doctrine rest on historical events and narrative.

    What? Where were you while I was getting all pissy saying a similar thing yesterday over at the historicity thread Dave? ;-)

  86. dannyboy, whatever character you have imagined up for me is about as accurate as SFSF’s straw man BRM BKP zombie. There is a big difference between explicit prohibitions and plain admonitions. It took a long time to enforce the explicit prohibitions, how long will it take for the Church to encourage people to observe the admonitions? I can count the number of mormon vegetarians I have met on one hand, that doesnt change what D&C 89 says.

    Jeffery Gillam if you want to trade insults, then all you have to do is draw first blood, and I will be happy to oblige. Jeffery, I am not addressing the accusation of sin, I am addressing your attempt to create logical arguments by inference. Which inferences are weak. The Smith Sr. case has nothing to do with sinning, it has to do with whether or not someone committed act X and what Smith Jr. said about it. You are trying, by inference, to conclude that Smith approved of beer consumption because he never explicitly commented on it and did it himself. I drew a parallel to that by drawing a similar inference that he must have also approved of the consumption of birch beer since he didnt explicitly comment on it or overtly prevent his father from doing so. Is that clear enough? Your attempts to license beer consumption in Smith’s mind are feeble attempts, because it is plain he also occasionally partook of wine and “hard drinks” after the WofW. And, thus, since the WofW explicitly prohibits those two things, you cannot therefore conclude, by inference, that Smith’s attitude towards beer was something different. Does that make sense? You are using inference and the ambiguity of the term “mild drinks” to attempt to discern the mind of a man, and it doesnt work because the other evidence shows your inference to be fauty. Got it? If thats not plain enough for you, let me know. I am addressing the issue. Youre the one bringing up irrelevant material in an attempt to impugn my character. If you want to duke it out, take the first swing. My tiger style will defeat your crane style.

    a random John, yes, interpretation and application of the WofW has changed over time. Nobody is saying it hasnt.

    David King Landrith, your rediculous ad hominems aside, I find it entertaining that you are now side-stepping the issue of being proven entirely incorrect in your supposition. The various historical references you seek to dismiss with a wave of your acontenxtual hand prove unquivocally that there was no lapse in WofW interest (e.g., FP statements telling Church local leaders to step down if they are not strictly observing the WofW, prohibiting FT missionaries from serving if they are not strictly observing the WofW, and prohibiting mission presidents from issuing temple recommends to inobservant missionaries) prior to Grant. Both you and that Dialogue article are flat wrong. Keep up the hubris. I’ll keep reading you too, someone has to pull the rug out from under your sophistry. And, thanks for making it so fun and easy. Cheerio.

    Nate, buckshot attacks? Hey, if you have some buckshot in your kiester, be relieved to know that I switched over from lead to steel years ago. The leaps you make in the position I allegedly attribute to you over a cascade of posts are not entirely correct. I also believe history should be used to illuminate the meaning of the Sciptures, which is why I include as much relevant historical material as possible into my comments on them. FWIW, I think a lot of the CES material stinks too, but thats irrelevant. In the end its the teacher’s responsability to stand up and present, not the CES’s. You can hand some people a silk purse and they will make a sow’s ear out of it, and you can also do the reverse with some people. Its the teacher’s responsability to make a good presentation. There is plenty of good material available to them, complete canned lessons plans, if they dont use it thats their fault.

    Ann, you can make it a trifecta if you have a dip in while drinking.

  87. dannyboy says:

    Kurt – you must be one angry po-mo!!!While, I adhere to the WOW since I have to be internally consistent if I am to be a faithful member, I still hold that the WOW is nothing but a means to make us different from the larger society, and more importantly, a means to ensure total obedience. And it does work with a lot of people. A lot of LDS folks I know ( they kind who assume that this blog and T&S are rabidly “anti-Mormon” screeds) have so bought into the reigning Mormon orthodoxy, so much so that they have become militant know-nothings. A 62 year old dumbass I met at Church last sunday , had never heard of D-day and Iwo Jima. Becasue, this very ‘faithful” brother has taken things too far – he, like a lot of others are ofthe opinion that reading anything other than the Book of Mormon and the D&C and the PGP is wrong. The Bible is anti-mormon according to folks like him!!!!!

  88. Steve (FSF) says:

    You are extreme on this. BKP and BRM are/were extreme on stuff like this. Ergo, Kurt = BKP and BRM. Get it now?

    Obviously you haven’t gotten lucky since yesterday, and I can give you some pointers in that department too if you want.

  89. dannyboy “po-mo”? Post modern? Um, not sure what that is intended to mean. I am a deconstructionist, but I do not make camp with post-modernists, in the academic sense anyway. Am I angry? I dont think so, havent ever put my fist through a wall or literally kicked anyones head in. But, when punks come around looking for a scrap, lets get it on. My view of the WofW is obviously different from yours. The Bible is certainly not anti-mormon, and people who think it is havent spent much time with it. I would venture to guess they havent spent much time in their Triple Combination either. There is no shortage of “dumbass[es]”, as you put it, in and out of the Church, and on all sides of orthodoxy. Orthodoxy doesnt breed it, it only shelters it. Cliques on non-orthodoxy also shelter it. People tend to pick a view a priori, then look for data to fit that pre-concieved view, and congregate with like-minded individuals. Its just natural human behavior. Its the same with the WofW, or anything else. Look at the posts in this thread. People have decided what their views are irrespective of easily-established historical facts, and then they go and find data to support those views, and then they go ballistic when you point out to them they are ignoring the easily-established historical facts. The most important thing to remember in all of this is that all that really matters is the person’s walk. If a person espouses estoteric doctrine X and you hate esoteric doctrine X, it doesnt make him bad. He is only bad if he does evil, not if he believes wierd/different/controversial things. If youre keeping the WofW, for whatever reason, then thats a good thing. We may disagree on the reasons why, but thats really irrelevant when the rubber meets the road.

    Steve (FSF), wow, now there is some powerful logic. I suppose I can also be equated with Extreme Doritos, skateboarders, and overclocking geeks using the same logic. Your definition of “extreme” is self-serving as you would label anyone who actually keeps or encourages others to keep the WofW as being “extreme”. So, I am in good company. Now, in reality, an “extreme” position would be someone who insists the admonitions be enforced the same as the prohibitions. But, nobody here has done that. May the Lord bless you with impotence as persistent as your juvenile insanity. And, thanks for keeping up the self-depricating nonsense, it just makes it all that much easier for people to discern the contents of your head.

  90. Which brings to mind the words of Tennyson:

    Ring out wild bells, and let him die.

  91. “He does say “If you do all these things you will have good health”. By inference it is plain the prohibitions deal with things that would jeopardize the benefits detailed in v. 18-21.”

    Kurt, what He actually says is “all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments“. It’s not just obedience to the Word of Wisdom on which those blessings are predicated, yet when was the last time you heard someone say we should pay our tithing for the health benefits.

  92. Kurt,

    Okay. I agree with you that using JS sr. combined with JS jr. not chastizing him wouldn’t be very presuasive. Putting that example aside (for good I hope) I think you are trivializing JS jr.’s use of beer. He was very casual about it and never even tried to justify it or confess it as a sin. Usually when he did something scandelous in open public he either stated that it was a test of some sort or he openly confessed his sin in partaking. In this case he did neither.

    I’m also waiting to hear your interpretation of the spittoons in the SLC temple all the way til the turn of the century. This doesn’t say anything about the use of beer directly, and I know that you admit that the WoW has been interpreted differently over the years, but this does say something about the WoW in general, namely that it wasn’t very strict.

    We can also take the example of BH Roberts who struggled with alcoholism all his life. Now his behavior certainly wasn’t acceptable to either the leadership or himself (which is why I’m not to thrilled about bringing up his sins), but he DID become a G.A. and one or the greatest minds the church has ever produced.

    Now if we combine the over all laxity of the commandment, the acceptance in the revelation of “mild drinks made from barley” which would have obviously been interpreted as beer in somebody in those days, and Joseph’s extraordinarily casual use of beer through out his life, I don’t think it illogical at all to say that beer was originally allowed in the WoW. While I can understand if this doesn’t convince somebody (actually, I really can’t), I have seen no arguments to the contrary at all.

  93. Kim Siever, well, my reading on that passage you quoted wouldnt be quite so broad as yours. I would read the “these things” to be narrowing things down to the health-related commandments encapsulated within D&C 89, and not a broad-brushed inclusion of all the commandments as you appear to read it.

    Jeffrey Giliam, I dont intend to trivialize his use of beer. I just dont find it persuasive in the light of his other uses of alcohol containing beverages, which he knew to be prohibited, and never apologized for either. I dont care about spitoons in the Temple, their intended use was obvious, to keep tobacco spittle off the Temple floor. OK, so what are we to infer from that? How about that the people who were tasked with keeping the place clean realized that some slobs would spit anywhere? Young repeatedly yelled at members in the Tabernacle who showed up for General Conference and spat on the floors. He told them to swallow it or get out and spit. So what do we infer from that? Young was tacitly approving the chewing of tobacco? Nope, not by a long shot. Its simply addressing the reality of the situation. What is the point of the Roberts example, that even GAs can have shortcomings? So what? Roberts was tortured by it and struggled with it. He wasnt unapolagetic. The overall laxity of the commandment was because the people couldnt live it, so it was adapted to the weakest of them, as it says so itself. What, you want Smith to excommunicate 99% of the Church in 1833? Theres a recipe for success. You cannot understand why Smith’s similar imbibing of explicitly prohibited drinks doesnt undermine your inferential argument? You cannot logically understand it, or you cannot practically understand it? No, forget it. Either way, it doesnt matter. I dont need to present an argument to the contrary if I can undermine yours, which I have.

  94. Kim Siever, well, my reading on that passage you quoted wouldnt be quite so broad as yours. I would read the “these things” to be narrowing things down to the health-related commandments encapsulated within D&C 89, and not a broad-brushed inclusion of all the commandments as you appear to read it.

    Interesting. The text of that section is explicit that dietary guidelines are not commandments.

  95. Steve (FSF) says:

    Yeah, my brain is between my legs, but at least I’m using it. You’ve got a bone to pick w/ almost every commenter, and you’re most unpleasant about it. Doesn’t that tell you my epiphany might just be correct? Trust me on this, it helps. It helps a lot.

  96. Kurt,
    Forgive me for butting in, but I am at a serious loss to understand your point in all of your posts. The more I read you, the more confused I become. From what I can tell, you concede all of the historical arguments that the general populace of the church and many General Authorities have not followed the WoW in the 19th century. Yet you disagree with the inference that the 19th c. examples indicate that the WoW has not always held the same cultural/doctrinal importance in the Church as it has since the early 20th century. Is this correct? If so, your argument makes no sense to me. Please explain what you are trying to say in a concise paragraph so that I can understand.

  97. I’d like to stop this from continuing as The Kurt Show. Please, everyone, quit your bickering.

  98. Dear brothers and sisters of the thread —

    I would just like to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am and how much I appreciate the special collection of historical quotes which Brother Kurt put together and can be linked at the end of comment #38. I used them in teaching the WoW lesson in Gospel Doctrine last Sunday and it was just so very special and faith promoting to see how the prophets seers and leaders of the Church always kept exhorting the members of the Church to follow the Word of Wisdom even while the Church members and leaders were spitting tobacco juice on the floors of the Tabernacle and coming to the Temple with clothes reeking of tobacco smoke and Brigham Young complained that he couldn’t find a single Bishop in Salt Lake who fully followed the Word of Wisdom. I just think it’s like so special that although it took a hundred years that the Saints eventually came to follow the Word of Wisdom after like I’m sure so much struggle and fasting and prayer. You know like sometimes we need a little Law of Moses type commandment to help us prepare to live the higher law, like we have tithing instead of the law of consecration, and it’s just so special that like the current things of which we do not partake under the Word of Wisdom have all kinds of neat health benefits besides reminding us that we are members of the Lord’s Church always.

    Oh, and I would like to say one more thing and I really hope you guys will all like understand it in the spirit in which I mean it, which is like I really love you all so much! That is that like I would also really appreciate if everyone here could have a sweeter spirit about all of this. Then maybe you all could like have all of your comments ignored like mine was (#13) so like we could then all get back to really important stuff like LDS dating and breast-feeding!

  99. LOL Jim, LOL.

  100. I’d like to stop this from continuing as The Kurt Show. Please, everyone, quit your bickering.

    Can I borrow your Kurt when you’re done Steve? The guy is just contentious enough to be a sure-fire 100-comment-generator. Every blog needs one.

  101. Justin H says:

    Yeah, Steve, I know I’ve been coming back regularly to this thread (which has been pretty well played out for years) just to see what insanity Kurt’s going to rant about next.

    JWL, like ROTFL.

  102. J. Stapley, allow me to emend my statement to “health-related statements encapsulated within D&C 89”, which doesnt alter the meansing, but eliminates the semantical problem.

    Taylor, the WofW has been under attack by the “liberal” factions within Mormondom for a long time. These attacks include the premise forwarded at the start of this thread, as well as the premises forwarded by DKL and JG. The “liberals” would like to undermine D&C 89 because then they can bash the ignorant orthodoxy and Church leadership (which you saw in this thread), excuse themselves from keeping the WofW (which you saw in this thread), insinuate Smith wasnt inspired (which you saw implied in this thread, although nobody had the chutzpah to say flat out), and generally fault our predecessors for their failures over it (which you saw in this thread). Thats really what all of this fighting has been about.

    So, what is my position? Smith was inspired when he received D&C 89, the failures of our predecessors have no impact on its applicability to us now, and the historical polemics over minutiae are irrelevant to its efficacy.

    JWL, I am so like flattered to have like been a teensy little part of making your gospel doctrine class like all that much more spiritually edifying. Sorry I ignored you. Had you accused me of being bombastic and self-righteous, I would have given you more attention. Which is wrong, I admit it.

    Geoff J, smarting from having your position (No. 36) shown to be in error and your champion (DKL) whipped, you resort to personal attacks to get even. What repartee. Maybe you can generate more traffic on your blog by posting things of greater interest. Just a suggestion. I am afraid there isnt much there to draw me in. Sorry. Try not to cry.

    Justin H, nothing like wading into the end of a thread to cast aspersions and contribute nothing substantive. Since you are an expert on the subject, having followed it for lo these many years, please do contact me privately to show me exactly where the insanity in my logical arguments are. Oh, and, do let me guess at what your position is on the WofW.

  103. Steve (FSF) says:

    Are you actually arguing that the WofW was originally intended to be a barrier to entry into the Kingdom as it is present church practice? I’m not asking about any shifts in policy that church leaders are entitled to do. I’m asking about the original intent. No need to reply if that’s your position.

    PS — There’s an extremely hot gal at my work who recently dumped her bf. I can try and set you up if you want.

  104. I think we need to refocus the WoW as a dietary code. Wouldn’t it be nice (aesthetically and for health reasons) if Mormons were known as a peculiar people for keeping themselves at a healthy, normal weight, instead of stuffing themselves to death along with the rest of the U.S. population? Maybe we could have include a weigh-in at the temple recommend interviews.

  105. Kurt, you got your wish per your comment 72.

  106. Justin H says:

    Ah, Kurt. You certainly don’t disappoint! Who knew that all this time we just had to watch out for the liberals!!!

    Guess away, my friend. Guess away. (And since you think that finding amusement in crankish behavior correlates directly with WoW observance, I’m sure you’ll be spot on!) :-)

  107. Justin, please don’t speak ill of the banned.

  108. You banned him? See, I would have thought that constantly telling a guy that he needs to get laid is little more ban-worthy than vigorously (and somewhat obnoxiously) defending your opinion. I guess he just fell on the wrong side of the fence.

  109. Cut a little too close to the bone that one did.

    Nothing like protecting your own, eh, Steve?

    Its your sandbox, Steve. But letting cats come and crap in it and then banning the one who points out your sandbox is full of crap isnt the way to keep people coming to play in your sandbox. It only encourages more cats to come and crap in it.


  110. Justin H says:

    Sorry Steve. I started the post, then got called away, and didn’t see that he’d been banned until after I posted.

    And FWIW, I’m with Rick.

  111. [chanting] un-ban Kurt. un-ban Kurt. un-ban Kurt. . .

  112. What happens when someone is banned? Is there an official public “banning” ceremony? Sort of like when a military officer gets his medals ripped off his uniform for unbecoming behavior, or when a police officer has to turn in his badge?

    Or is the banning process like a Church disciplinary council? Can you be “disfellowshipped” as well as banned/excommunicated? Maybe disfellowshipping on the blogs can be where everyone officially ignores your comments.

    What kind of due process protections are available for the alleged offenders? Are they entitled to representation? Trial by a jury of their peers?

  113. You should all consider yourselves warned. Too much blogging can turn a mildly cynical grizzled veteran of the Upper West Side into a Valley Girl!

    And we will bite our tongue about the difference between emending and amending. I’m afraid that the ubiquitous (and iniquitous) schwa of American pronunciation has conquered after all.

  114. I’m really hoping that Steve put a black cloth on his head as he posted #105. It makes the pronouncing of the death penalty so much more dramatic.

  115. To all the Kurt fans: sorry. I don’t like personal attacks, and although there have been plenty from all sides on this thread, Kurt has been crossing the line from obnoxious to hurtful. That’s not the environment we’re trying to have here, even though we like (and encourage!) lively debate. There’s no need to be insulting, no matter how right you may be.

    The substance of Kurt’s comments has been insightful and at times very positive, and I’d invite him to return if we can all learn to play a little nicer. He’s free to email me about this.


    the fascist admin

  116. D. Fletcher says:

    So much sturm und drung over a cup of coffee! I have always believed the WoW to be simply a way of labeling and protecting the flock. Dietary laws have been in place at least since Abraham, nothing new there. The interesting thing about this particular revelation, is that in some ways, its healthful measures are being disproved.

  117. Steve (FSF) says:

    “…………constantly telling a guy that he needs to get laid…….”

    Wow, that was blunt. I’m more into hints.

  118. Was this really the same Kurt that appeared in the following times and seasons thread? It’s hard to believe, he seemed so much less contentious a few weeks ago. It’s a shame, he had some good things to contribute.


  119. If you go back to his first comment on this thread you will notice that he wasn’t very angry then either. He only seems to get “that way” when somebody disagrees with a statement he says. Then he starts making accusations like these:

    “The “liberals” would like to undermine D&C 89 because then they can bash the ignorant orthodoxy and Church leadership (which you saw in this thread), excuse themselves from keeping the WofW (which you saw in this thread), insinuate Smith wasnt inspired (which you saw implied in this thread, although nobody had the chutzpah to say flat out), and generally fault our predecessors for their failures over it (which you saw in this thread).”

    I don’t think that anybody really did any of these things, but hey, he thinks that he beat down any opposition which challenged him:

    “Geoff J, smarting from having your position (No. 36) shown to be in error and your champion (DKL) whipped, you resort to personal attacks to get even.”

    Refusing to acknowledge or accept your oppositions sound logic and persuasive evidence can hardly be considered “whipping” anybody.

  120. Mr. Jeffrey,

    It is poor sport to slag someone who cannot defend themselves. Especially when what you are saying is not borne out by the facts. Kurt disagreed politely with several people in this thread. He reacted badly when attacked. You make it sound like he attacked anyone who disagreed with him. Even a casual review of the thread shows this is not the case.

    You can spar with him over your personal argument if you like. It is plain you and he have some personal history between the two of you, and that is affecting you. However, the historical references presented by Kurt do hamstring the Dialogue article quoted by David King Landry. The facts stand apart from your opinion of them. You are grinding an axe over this one my boy.

  121. Point granted. Sorry about that Kurt.

  122. well, in light of all the comment Kurt made, from his original comment to the comments he made in response to people who dared to not accept his ideas, I think Kurt needs to (1) grow up, and 920 learn that this is the USA not castro’s Cuba and that in this country, one has the right to have differing opinions on various issues related to the Church. being a member in good standing in our Chrch does not mean we have to give up the use of our intellect. And, no, Kurt, many of us refuse to believe that your interpretation of Church history and Church culture is the only was to view things.

  123. well, in light of all the comment Kurt made, from his original comment to the comments he made in response to people who dared to not accept his ideas, I think Kurt needs to (1) grow up, and (2) learn that this is the USA not castro’s Cuba and that in this country, one has the right to have differing opinions on various issues related to the Church. being a member in good standing in our Chrch does not mean we have to give up the use of our intellect. And, no, Kurt, many of us refuse to believe that your interpretation of Church history and Church culture is the only was to view things.

  124. evans, if you only banned kurt and you didn’t ban the others who were in on this sh*tstorm, then you should be ashamed of yourself.

  125. Aaron Brown says:


    Are you any relation of Jack Nonymous or Jill Nonymous? The Nonymouses and I go way back. Say hello to them for me next time you see them, will you?

    Incidently, we don’t say sh*tstorm around here. We say shi*storm, or s*itstorm. Always replace consonants with asterisks, never vowels. It’s one of the BCC rules of the road, the violation of which is punishable by public flogging.

    Aaron B

  126. I just have to say, *hitstorms are the reason I read the ‘nacle blogs. This is the best one since Mormon Lactivists last week. And I have faith we’ll see an even better one somewhere next week.

  127. But that *hitstorm was nothing like this one. I did not see any personal insults, just a lot of lactivating.

  128. Eric, to some it is given to cause *hitstorms, and to others it is given to have faith that future ones will soon occur.

    And you anonymous coward in No. 124: do you think the words of someone hiding their name and spoofing their IP address hold any weight? This isn’t a suggestion box — if you don’t publicly stand by your words, then don’t waste our time.

  129. Seth Rogers says:

    Even if Kurt was overreacting, Steve (FSF)’s commentary on Kurt needing to “get some” was neither helpful, appreciated, or really all that funny.

    Putting that all behind … Personally, I’d predict that the dietary portions of the WoW are eventually going to be emphasized more and more as the church moves on. I don’t know that they’ll ever make it into the temple recommend interview.

    At present, full compliance with the WoW seems to be one of those things we nervously laugh about and dismiss with jokes in Elders Quorum. Sorta like Sunday football viewing. It will be interesting to see where this doctrine goes in the future.

    In my opinion, the absolute ban on alcohol and tobacco is an entirely appropriate modern church response. To some people, it’s no big deal. They associate alcohol with partying, good taste, or simply dealing with life in general. I associate it with drunken manslaughter on the highways, spousal abuse, ruined careers, and compulsive enslavement. I also consider drinking too much at social gatherings rude and dishonest behavior.

    Some people say that a glass of wine or two won’t hurt anything. I’ll buy that. My grandmother (not LDS) never had a problem with alcoholism. She’d go to a couple social engagements each month and nurse a single glass of wine during the gathering. Then she’d never touch the stuff afterwards. It didn’t have a hold on her.

    But obviously it has a hold on lots of other people. Some people are just wired for addiction apparently.

    Which one are you?

    As for me, I think I’m probably in the “wired for addiction” camp and intend to stay as far away from the WoW no-nos as possible. But even if I wasn’t, I’d feel happy to join in solidarity with my more compulsive brethren and abstain.

    To do otherwise would, for me, be rather selfish, probably self-destructive, and certainly contrary to the instructions of LIVING prophets.

    Once we’re all perfected, I suppose these things will be rather trivial and irrelevant.

    For now, I’m glad these prohibitions exist.

  130. I adhere to the WOW and have no desire to partake of alcohol, tobacco, tea or coffee.

    However, I do feel that there is a problem with how some members of the church view others who do indulge. We (as a church, culture, society, etc.) have come to judge people who are “good” and people who are “bad” based on this principle. As a result we often hear in testimony meeting: “My neighbor is such a good person, if only they didn’t smoke..”, “On my mission we had an eternal investigator that really felt the spirit, but unfortunately they couldn’t stop drinking/smoking..”.

    This in my mind is tragic, as it is clear that in the past partaking of these substances were no apparent barrier to revelation or spirituality, and yet now are a barrier to baptism, the Temple, and entry into the Kingdom. To me this is contrary to Christ’s qualifications of offering only a “broken heart and a contrite spirit”.

    I am easily convinced that these substances are “unclean” in a temporal sense, however, I do not believe that partaking in them is in and of itself “sinful” in a spiritual sense. Church history proves as much.

    I am unaware of any small print on the Ten Commandments that said “These principles are going to be pretty tough to ease into, so only adhere to them half assed for the next 100 years, and then they will kick in for real”. Other revelations that were received in the early church were implemented immediately (polygamy, law of consecration, tithing, etc.), why not this one?

    I believe that the WOW should be taken as it was written: not by way of commandment or constraint, but a principle with a promise. Barring entry into the Kingdom by failing to follow the principle goes far beyond its original intent in my opinion. There are millions of “good” people in the world who would join the church and be fine upstanding members and leaders if not for the WOW litmus test.

    I would suggest that you would find few if any coffee/tea/alcohol drinkers in the Temple these days. But you would find thousands and millions of coke/pepsi drinkers. And the Celestial kingdom will be populated with billions of WOW breakers who had their work done for them in the Temple. To bar entry into the Kingdom while these same people are here in this earthly life seems preposterous to me.

  131. Steve (FSF) says:

    Amen. Couldn’t have said it better.

    To all who were offended by my lay diagnosis of the root cause of Kurt’s aggressive temperament, while I’d put money on it, I can see how some might be offended, and I should have stopped a lot sooner. Sorry.

  132. a random John says:


    Very interesting analysis. Which is the more difficult law, the WoW or polygamy? If the difficulty is the reason for the delay in enforcement then I agree that there is a problem here.

%d bloggers like this: