Joseph Smith’s Problem with the Word of Wisdom

28 October

wine-History of the Church 2:35; “No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office after having the word of wisdom properly taught him; and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with and obey it. The High Council of the Church then voted unanimously to accept this decision.” – February 20, 1834

History of the Church 2:482; “Action in Relation to the Word of Wisdom. Resolved unanimously, that we will not fellowship any ordained member who will not, or does not, observe the Word of Wisdom according to its literal reading.” – May 28, 1837

Colossians 2:16-17; “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”

Mark 7:15; “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.”

As you can see in LDS canon, the Church is unflinching in their stance on foods and drinks that don’t comply with their standards.One thing they were addressing at the time of this resolution was booze because the push for a temperance society was all the rage at the time. The other issue? Joe’s friends liked to chew tobacco and spit on Emma’s floors so Joe asked God and received a revelation on the matter.

Ironically, the person that had the biggest problem with keeping the Word of Wisdom was the founder and revelator who came up with the idea. Let’s take a look at some historical facts that reveal Smith’s behavior and his non-compliance. 

Our objective is to think about Smith’s behavior and what he said was a commandment from God. There are a lot of discrepancies in this one subject matter in Mormonism so it’s worthy of our time to really look at what God may have said and compare it with the actions of those delivering God’s commandments. 

If they’re not obeying what God said we have to wonder… 

Did God really say this? 

1833

Neighbor Testifies of Smith’s Behavior

Mormonism Unvailed, p 250; “Manchester, Ontario Co., N. Y. Nov. M, 1833.

Being called upon to give a statement of the character of the family of Joseph Smith, Sen.’ As far as I know, I can state that I became acquainted with them in 1820, and knew them until 1831, when they left this neighborhood.

Joseph Smith, Sen. was a noted drunkard and most of the family followed his example, and Joseph, Jr. especially, who was very much addicted to intemperance. In short, not one of the family had the least claims to respectability. Even since he professed to be inspired of the Lord to translate the Book of Mormon, he one day while at work in my. father’s field, got quite drunk on a composition of cider, molasses and water. Finding his legs to refuse their office he leaned upon the ‘fence and hung for sometime ; at length recovering again, he fell to scuffling with one of the workmen, who tore his shirt nearly off from him. His wife who was at our house on a visit, appeared very much grieved at his conduct, and to protect his back from the rays of the sun, and conceal his nakedness, threw her shawl over his shoulders and in that plight escorted the Prophet home. As an evidence of his piety and devotion, when intoxicated, he frequently made his religion the topic of conversation! ! BARTON STAFFORD.” – E.D. Howe

1834

Joseph drunk while translating BoM –

History of the Church 2:26; “The council proceeded to investigate certain charges presented by Elder Rigdon against Martin Harris; one was, that he told A. C. Russell, Esq., that Joseph drank too much liquor when he was translating the Book of Mormon; and that he wrestled with many men and threw them; and that he (Harris) exalted himself above Joseph, in that he said, “Brother Joseph knew not the contents of the Book of Mormon, until it was translated, but that he himself knew all about it before it was translated.”

Brother Harris did not tell Esq. Russell that Brother Joseph drank too much liquor while translating the Book of Mormon, but this thing occurred previous to the translating of the Book; he confessed that his mind was darkened, and that he had said many things inadvertently, calculated to wound the feelings of his brethren, and promised to do better. The council forgave him, with much good advice.” – February 12, 1834

1835

Babbitt Followed Joe’s Example to Drink

History of the Church 2:252; “Minutes of the High Council of Kirtland—Trial of Almon W. Babbitt.

On the 19th, a charge was preferred before a council of the Presidency, against Elder Almon W. Babbitt, for not keeping the Word of Wisdom…Elder J. B. Smith testified that Elder Babbitt…was not keeping the Word of Wisdom.

Elder Babbitt said that he had taken the liberty to break the Word of Wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith, Jun., and others, but acknowledged that it was wrong; that he had taught the Book of Mormon and Commandments as he had thought to be wisdom, and for the good of the cause…

The council reproved Elder Babbitt, and instructed him to observe the Word of Wisdom… Warren Parrish, Clerk.” – August 19, 1835

1836

Hearts Made Glad with Fruit of the Vine

History of the Church 2:369; “Returned home and spent the afternoon. Towards evening President Cowdery returned from Columbus, the capital of the State. I could spend but little time with him, being under obligation to attend at Mrs. Wilcox’s, to join Mr. John Webb and Mrs. Catherine Wilcox in matrimony: also Mr. Thomas Carrico and Miss Elizabeth Baker, at the same place; all of which I performed in the customary manner in the midst of a large assembly. We then partook of some refreshments, and our hearts were made glad with the fruit of the vine. This is according to the pattern set by our Savior Himself, and we feel disposed to patronize all the institutions of heaven.” – January 1836

Partaking of the Bounty of the Earth

History of the Church 2:378; “Elders Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, and Warren Parrish, then presented the Presidency with three servers of glasses filled with wine, to bless. 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 bosom, and the countenances of old and young seemed to bloom alike with cheerfulness and smiles of youth; and an entire unison of feeling seemed to pervade the congregation, and indeed I doubt whether the pages of history can boast of a more splendid and innocent wedding and feast than this, for it was conducted after the order of heaven, which has a time for all things; and this being a time of rejoicing, we heartily embraced it and conducted ourselves accordingly. Took leave of the company and returned home.” – January 20, 1836

1840

Twelve Blessed and Drank Bottle of Wine

History of the Church 4:120; “April 17.—This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before. Held a Council at her house in the evening, and ordained Peter Melling, Patriarch.” – April 17, 1840

1842

Tavern at Nauvoo House

The Saints Herald, January 22, 1935, p 101; “About 1842, a new and larger house was built for us…. Father proceeded to build an extensive addition running out from the south wing to the east…. At any rate, it seemed spacious then, and a sign was put out giving it the dignified name of ‘The Nauvoo Mansion,’ … Mother was to be installed as landlady, and soon made a trip to Saint Louis…. When she returned Mother found installed in the keeping‑room of the hotel ‑ that is to say, the main room where the guests assembled and where they were received upon arrival — a bar, with counter, shelves, bottles, glasses, and other paraphernalia customary for a fully‑equipped tavern bar, and Porter Rockwell in charge as tender. She was very much surprised and disturbed over this arrangement, but said nothing for a while… she asked me where Father was. I told her he was in the front room… Then she told me to go and tell him she wished to see him. I obeyed, and returned with him to the hall where Mother awaited him. ‘Joseph,’ she asked, ‘for the spiritual head of a religious body to be keeping a hotel in which is a room fitted out as a liquor‑selling establishment.’ He reminded her that all taverns had their bars at which liquor was sold or dispensed. Mother’s reply came emphatically clear, though uttered quietly: ‘Well, Joseph, … I will take my children and go across to the old house and stay there, for I will not have them raised up under such conditions as this arrangement imposes on us, nor have them mingle with the kind of men who frequent such a place. You are at liberty to make your choice; either that bar goes out the house, or we will!’ It did not take Father long to make that choice, for he replied immediately, ‘Very well, Emma; I will have it removed at once’ — and he did.” – Joseph Smith III

1843

Joe’s False Prophecy; Smith & Hyde will drink wine in Israel

Joseph Smith Journal, December 1842 – June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842 – 10 March 1843, p 144; “Elder Hyde told of the excellent white wine he drank in the east. Joseph prophcid in the name of the Lo[r]d – that he would drink wine with him in that country.” –  January 20, 1843

Joe’s Tea with Breakfast

Joseph Smith Journal, Book 2, 10 March 1843 – 14 July 1843, pp 2-3; “Joseph said he had tea with his breakfast. His wife asked him if [it] was good. He said if it was a little stronger he should like it better, when Mother Granger remarked, “it is so strong and good I should think it would answer Both for drink and food.” – March 11, 1843

Drank Wine with Jenetta Richards

History of the Church 5:380; “Wednesday, 3.—Called at the office and drank a glass of wine with Sister Jenetta Richards, made by her mother in England, and reviewed a portion of the conference minutes.” – April 3, 1843

Ordinance Gives Okay on Sale of Liquor  

History of the Church 6:111; “Ordinance on the Personal Sale of Liquors.

Section 1. Be it ordained by the City Council of Nauvoo, that the Mayor of the city be and is hereby authorized to sell or give spirits of any quantity as he in his wisdom shall judge to be for the health and comfort, or convenience of such travelers or other persons as shall visit his house from time to time.

Passed December 12, 1843.

Joseph Smith, Mayor.

Willard Richards, Recorder.”

1844

Edited History of Tea Drinking

History of the Church 6:424; “At 1 pm, called to see Sister Richards, who was sick. I administered to her laying on of hands, when she felt better.” – Friday, May 31, 1844

Before the Church edited a good portion of the History of the Church, it used to say;

They obviously removed the ‘raspberry tea’ episode. It used to say;

“Friday, May 31, 1844 – “1 PM, called to see Sister Richards who was very sick. Laid on hands. Directed some Raspberry tea and she was better.”

Drinking Wine, Smoking Pipes at Carthage Jail

History of the Church 6:616; “Before the jailor came in, his boy brought in some water, and said the guard wanted some wine. Joseph gave Dr. Richards two dollars to give the guard; but the guard said one was enough, and would take no more. The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail soon after the jailor went out. Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as also Brother Taylor and the doctor, and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out. When at the top of the stairs some one below called him two or three times, and he went down.” – June 27, 1844

Drinking Wine to Lift Spirits

History of the Church 7:101; “Wine Obtained…Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. 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 think it was Captain Jones who went after it, but they would not suffer him to return. I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the prison guards. We all of us felt unusually dull and languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits. In consonance with those feelings I sang a song, that had lately been introduced into Nauvoo, entitled, ‘A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief’, etc.” – June 27, 1844

Other Info

Drinking at Huskings

Saint’s Herald, v. 28, no. 11, June 1881, p. 163; “Did young Joe drink? Everybody drank them times…. They would have it at huskings, and in the harvest field, and places of gathering; the Smiths did not drink more than others.” – Ezra Pierce

Smith’s WoW Prophecy & Emma’s Tea

Des Moines Daily News, October 16, 1886, p. 20; “Some of the men were excessive chewers of the filthy weed, and their disgusting slobbering and spitting cause Mrs. [Emma] Smith… to make the ironical remark that ‘It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a sin, and commanding its suppression’…. The matter was taken up and joked about, one of the brethren suggested that the revelation should also provide for a total abstinence from tea and coffee drinking, intending this as a counter dig at the sisters.” – David Whitmer 

Definition of WoW

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg 1584; “Word of Wisdom is the common title for a revelation that counsels Latter-day Saints on maintaining good health and is published as Doctrine and Covenants: section 89. The practice of abstaining from all forms of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea, which may outwardly distinguish active Latter-day Saints more than any other practice, derives from this revelation.”

Testimony of Smith’s Intoxication

Mormon Portraits, p 20; “Levi Lewis: “Know Smith to be a liar. Saw him intoxicated at three different times while pretending to translate the Book of Mormon.”” –  Dr. W. Wyl

Joseph Smith, the Funny Drunk

Mormon Portraits, p 22; “Mrs. Sarah Pratt: “A good deal of whiskey was consumed in Nauvoo. Joe himself was often drunk. I have seen him in this state at different times. One evening one of the brethren brought Joseph to my home. He could not walk and had to be led by a helpful brother. The prophet asked me to make some strong coffee, which I did. He drank five cups, and when he felt that he could walk a little better, he went home. He dared not come before Emma in this state. Joseph was no habitual drunkard, but he used to get on sprees. When drunk he used to be ‘awfully funny.’ He sometimes went to bed with his boots on.”” –  Dr. W. Wyl

Good Cheap Whiskey & Joe Sleeping in a Ditch

Mormon Portraits, p 22; “C. G. Webb: “Whisky, good whisky, was then 25 cents a gallon. No wonder that Joseph sometimes went to bed with his boots on, or that he slept, as he sometimes did, in a ditch. He was a right jolly prophet. No sanctimonious humbug about him.”” – Dr. W. Wyl

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