Word of Wisdom and LDS Hypocrisy

coffeeThe title of this page is self-explanatory, and on a personal note, a bit cathartic! I’m an organization freak, and the disarray of the blog and site right now is driving me nuts! Forgive my neurotic behavior (please!), and just bookmark this page as a go-to info portal for all things pertaining to the LDS Word of Wisdom.

Our questions and concern about this subject stem from comments church leaders have made, their mandates, and the hypocrisy we see in the very public behavior of top-notch leaders of the Church. Over all, this isn’t a matter of whether or not someone cooks with wine, or even if they have a so-called ‘forbidden’ cup of tea (Matthew 15:17-20). Our questions and concern for the Mormons are as follows:

1.Those who encumber themselves with the church’s edicts without being free in Christ.

Romans 6:16 ‘Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?’

2.Those who wag their fingers at members while turning a blind eye at their own sin.

Romans 1:32 ‘Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.’

3.Those who’ve become too trusting of their leaders’ designs instead of checking it out for themselves.

2 Timothy 3:7 ‘Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth’.

The first thing we’re going to look at is an official statement on the Word of Wisdom.

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.” – Bruce R. McConkie

The next thing to consider is timing. What was going on at the time Joe Smith came up with this revelation?

Without being redundant, I’m providing a link to our article on Brigham Young’s distilleries where we explored the birth of the 1826 Temperance Movement in New England, which is where Smith lived at the time.

The other item of note comes from remarks Brigham Young made when he wrote about the birth of the Wow during the time Smith was holding classes for the ‘School of the Prophets’.

Looking at historical facts, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Smith incorporated the latest fad into his shiny new gospel of Mormonism to come up with another way to control people.

While the Mormons today may not be intimately acquainted with all the references listed here, the issue is that at one time, they have been. These ordinances and mandates that have been passed down over time became part of the Mormon psyche, and this is the issue.

Chronological Events in Mormon History


Birth of 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 

As noted in our article Brigham Young’s Distilleries, the temperance movement was making its rounds and had become very popular in the town of Mentor, bordering the area where Smith lived at the time.

Twenty-six days before Smith received his revelation the Temperance Movement held a large conference in Mentor.

November 1833

Neighbor Testifies Smith is a Noted Drunk

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


February 12, 1834

Charges of Joseph being 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 20, 1834

No member worthy to hold office if they break WoW

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.” – Joseph Smith


June 6, 1835

Milo Hays kicked out for violating WoW

Kirtland High Council Minute Book, p. 57; “Elder Aaron Smith preferred a charge against Elder Milo Hays, for not obeying the word of wisdom and for covenant breaking. Both charges were amply sustained by testimony, and the council unanimously decided that said Hays be excluded from this church. Council adjourned.”

August 19, 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.”

Less than five months after they ‘reproved’ Brother Babbitt and just six months after they gave Milo Hays the boot for not following the WoW, Smith reports in History of the Church they all had a good time enjoying the ‘fruit of the vine’.


January 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 20, 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.”


May 28, 1837

No fellowship with those who violate WoW

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.”

No official member of Church neglecting WoW can hold office

Essentials in Church History, page 169; “One question considered was as follows: ‘Whether disobedience to the word of wisdom was a transgression sufficient to deprive an official member from holding office in the Church, after having it sufficiently taught him?’ After a free and full discussion Joseph Smith, who presided, gave his decision as follows: ‘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 or obey it.’ This decision was confirmed by unanimous vote.”

We’re wondering how Smith justified this mandate. Looking at his own volatile history, it’s difficult at best, to take him seriously.


March 10, 1838

Ex-communication of David Whitmer & others for violating WoW

Essentials in Church History, pp. 173 – 174; “…David Whitmer was likewise charged with improper conduct and neglect of duty, and with the violation of the word of wisdom, in the persistent use of tea, coffee and tobacco, and the Church had gone on record by vote that they would not sustain any officer who indulged in such things. Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten were sustained as presiding officers in Missouri, until the coming of Presidents Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. The three accused men persisted in showing contempt for the decision of these conferences of the Church, in which action they were joined by Oliver and Marcellus F. Cowdery; therefore they were cited to appear before the high council, March 10, 1838, and William W. Phelps and John Whitmer were excommunicated. Marcellus F. Cowdery was disfellowshiped and the case of David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery was held over for future investigation.” – Joseph Fielding Smith

Note: in the online version (link provided above), citation used here can be found on pp. 208-209.

March 17, 1838

Don’t be too particular about WoW

History of the Church 3:95; “Caution as to the Word of Wisdom. After advising the camp not to be too particular in regard to the Word of Wisdom and advised them to have the assistance of the High Council in carrying the plan into execution, and giving other advice about organizing the camp, President Hyrum Smith retired.

The Constitution being read again, about forty who did not belong to the quorum of Seventies came forward and subscribed their names to it, making in all about eighty. The meeting was then adjourned to Tuesday, March 20th, at 1 p. m.”

April 6, 1838

Bread and wine administered for sacrament

History of the Church 3:14; “The bread and wine were administered and ninety-five infants were blessed.”

April 8, 1838

Joseph Smith remarks WoW should be observed

History of the Church 3:15; “President Joseph Smith, Jun., made a few remarks on the Word of Wisdom, giving the reason of its coming forth, saying it should be observed.”

April 13, 1838

David Whitmer ex-communicated from church for violating WoW

History of the Church 3:18; “April 13.—The following charges were preferred against David Whitmer, before the High Council at Far West, in council assembled.

First—For not observing the Word of Wisdom…”


April 17, 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.”


Tavern at Nauvoo House

Mormon Enigma, p. 179; “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.” – Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery


January 20, 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.”

March 7, 1843

The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, edited by Scott H. Faulring, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1989, pg. 443; “Reconed with Theodore, who enquired what was wisdom concerning a brewery in this place?”

March 10, 1843

The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, edited by Scott H. Faulring, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1989, pg. 329; “Joseph decided that he had no objection to having a brewery put up by Theodore Turley.”

March 11, 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.”

Joseph drinking tea with Jenetta Richards

April 3, 1843

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.”

June 27, 1843

Joseph encourages people to break WoW

Millennial Star, Vol. 21, No. 18, April 30, 1859, p. 283; “It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whisky that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom. “I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done, and gave them a couple of dollars, with directions to replenish the bottle to stimulate them in the fatigues of their sleepless journey.”

When this was reprinted in the History of the Church 5:450 the twenty-three italicized words were deleted without any indication. See today’s version forHistory of the Church 5:450 to compare –

“It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whisky that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom….

I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done. Peter W. Conover gave me the following relation…”

Joseph deemed himself the only personal legally allowed to sell alcohol.

December 12, 1843

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.”


January 29, 1844

Joseph drinks a morning toast to Captain White

History of the Church 6:188-189; “January 29, 1844 – Capt[ain] White of Quincy was at the Mansion last night and this morning drank a toast *** “May Nauvoo become the empire seat of Government!””” (emphasis mine)

Also see The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, edited by Scott H. Faulring, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1989, p. 443

Joseph rewrites the history books of drinking tea

Info below is edited version of History of the Church 6:424

“…At 1 P.M., called to see Sister Richards, who was sick. I administered to her the laying on of hands, when she felt better…” – May 31, 1844

Original History of Tea Drinking

“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.’”

June 1, 1844

More retro-engineering historical records

Joseph Smith drinks beer at Moessers

Millennial Star Vol. 23, No. 45, November 9, 1861, p. 720; “…Drank a glass of beer at Moessers…”

Info above which was first printed in the Millennial Star, was edited out of original History of the Church 6:424. Today, History of the Church 6:424 reads –

“Saturday, June 1.—At home. Some gentle showers.

At one, P.M., I rode out with Dr. Richards and Orrin P. Rockwell. Called on Davis at the boat. Paid Manhard $90. Met George J. Adams, and paid him $50. Then went to John P. Greene’s, and paid him and another brother $200. Called at William Clayton’s, while Dr. Richards and Orrin P. Rockwell called at the doctor’s new house. Returned home at 4:30 P.M.”

You can retrieve this info from ‘The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, edited by Scott H. Faulring, p. 486. Also be sure to see ‘On This Day in Mormon History’who offers the same info, as well as further insight on the Church’s editing habits:

June 1, 1844 – ‘Drank a glass of beer at Moissers,’ reads an entry in Joseph Smith’s manuscript diary in reference to Frederick G. Moesser’s “grog shop,” which Joseph had condemned in a sermon on Aug 12, 1843. When the manuscript history is published as HISTORY OF THE CHURCH this sentence is omitted without indication.”

June 27, 1844

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 someone below called him two or three times, and he went down.”

June 27, 1844

Wine at Carthage jail to settle nerves

History of the Church 7:101; “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.” – Reported by John Taylor

June 27, 1844

Joseph Smith orders tobacco for Mr. Richards to settle nerves

Millennial Star, Vol. 24, No. 30, July 26, 1862, p.471; “…Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, ‘Brother Markham,… go and get the Doctor a pipe and some tobacco to settle his stomach,’ and Markham went out for them. When he had got the pipe and tobacco, and was returning to jail…”

The info above has been changed in History of the Church 6:614 which now says –

History of the Church 6:614; “Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, ‘Brother Markham,… go and get the doctor something he needs to settle his stomach,’ and Markham went out for medicine. When he had got the remedies desired, and was returning to jail…”

Why has the Church gone out of its way to make it look like Smith ordered medicine for Richards when in fact, it was tobacco?

No one is going to use tobacco for an upset stomach. Tobacco would only exacerbate the problem, unless of course, you’re used to it.

Another display of the Church’s hypocrisy from the Nauvoo era is found in the diaries of Abraham Cannon.

Joseph Smith rode through Nauvoo smoking a cigar

Joseph Smith as an Administrator,” Gary Dean Guthrie, Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1969, p. 161; “Joseph tested the Saints to make sure their testimonies were of his religion and not of him as a personable leader Amasa Lyman, of the First Presidency, related:

‘Joseph Smith tried the faith of the Saints many times by his peculiarities. At one time, he had preached a powerful sermon on the Word of Wisdom, and immediately thereafter, he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar. Some of the brethren were tried as was Abraham of old.’ Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Vol. XIX, October 1895 entry.”


May 11, 1845

Bread & wine used at Sacrament

“[Apostle Wilford Woodruff Journal] …Met in the Afternoon. I blessed the bread & wine & it was administered to the Saints after which the time was taking up by the Brethren & sisters in bearing testimony of the work of God, & the Power of God rested upon the Congregation untill it melted us into tear This is the Conference that Br Kimball speaks of in his Journal…. (1)

1 – Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: 1833-1898 Typescript, Volumes 1-9, Edited by Scott G. Kenney, Signature Books 1993, http://amzn.to/newmormonstudies

May 30, 1845

Woodruff drinks tea at Brother Caines

May 30, 1845
“[Apostle Wilford Woodruff Journal] …After returning to the city I took tea at Br Caines & attended council with the officers of the Liverpool Branch & had a good time. Distance 10 m. (1)

1 – Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: 1833-1898 Typescript, Volumes 1-9, Edited by Scott G. Kenney, Signature Books 1993, http://amzn.to/newmormonstudies

July 1, 1845

Hosea Stout: as much beer, wine and cakes as we could eat and drink…

On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, p. 50; “Tuesday. This day there was a grand concert for the police at the Masonic Hall; it commenced at ten o’clock. Myself and wife and L. [Lucretia] Fisher went. We had also the twelve and other authorities with us, and was also provided with as much beer, wine, the cakes and etc. as we could eat and drink. We had a very entertaining time; all was peace, good feelings, and brotherly love, no discord or contention among us. It lasted until about six o’clock p.m. When we dismissed I came home. [July] 2, Wednesday. This morning G. W. Langley came to my house and we went to the Hall and round on the flat till two and then met the Lodge and police. I then went to to see Sister Sabin who was sick nigh unto death. From thence to Allen Weeks’ and there entered into the [blank] and came home about daylight in the morning.”

September 27, 1845

Brigham is ‘master of his passions’

Hosea Stout’s Diary, On The Mormon Frontier, vol. 1, p. 75; “I [Brigham Young] want every man to know his place…Leave off your whiskey; I am and ever intend to be the master of my passions and not the subject thereof, so you must be master of your passions and not be the slave of passions, in themselves so degrading and entirely debasing. Some may say I am in the habits of taking snuff and tea, yet I am no slave to these passions and can leave these off if they make my brother affronted.”


June 3, 1847 –

John Taylor’s Jug of Whiskey

On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout; vol. 1, p. 259; “…June 3, 1847: “While I was explaining this Prests O. Hyde, P. P. Pratt and John Taylor also came in…. Says I. ‘I hope you will all conform to the rules of the police then.’ ‘Certainly’ says Taylor ‘Bring on the jug’ says I at which they were presented with a large jug of whiskey…. they all paid due respect to the jug …”


Following in the Footsteps of Joseph…

One of the first laws passed in the newly formed territory of Utah was the Organic Act which went into effect in September 1850 prohibiting the manufacturing of spirits. This isn’t to say they couldn’t ship the intoxicants into the territory, rather, no one was legally allowed to operate a distillery without the express permission of the governor, who just so happened to be none other than Brigham Young.  Theodore Schroeder, The American Historical Magazine, Vol. 3, pg 248. 

It should also be noted Brigham owned not just one, but several distilleries throughout Utah, and even sent one of his competitors, who was also LDS, on a mission.  Just like Joseph Smith sent men out on missions so he could marry their wives, Brigham did the same thing with a member of the Church in what can only be seen as coveting another man’s property.

After closing Howard’s business, and while out on his mission, Young took it upon himself to open it back up and run it under the auspices of a Mormon owned store ZCMI. Tell it All, pp. 501-502. 

One historian noted:

“The first bar-room in S. L. City, and the only one for years, was in the Salt Lake House, owned by President Young and Feramorz Little. It was opened for the accommodation of travellers, whose requirements would be supplied by some one, and it was thought by the brethren that they had better control the trade than have outsiders do so.” – Hurbert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, p. 540, footnote 44

You can read stories about the saucy streets of early Salt Lake City in books likeBrigham Young and His Mormon Empire, pg 315 and other written reports disclosing the secrets of Salt Lake’s sordid past with prostitution and whiskey, all of which Brigham personally profited from.  Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City used to be called Whiskey Street, and the reason why is because the entire street was made up of saloons, distilleries, houses of prostitution, and boarding houses for overnight visitors passing through the area.

For images of old SLC, click on the following links –

Downtown SLC, Wikipedia  Mapping Salt Lake City

At the same time Young preached abstinence from the wicked evils of the world, he also told members they could donate money they would’ve spent on tea or booze to the Church. At one sermon he told members starving Europeans were waiting to come to America, but couldn’t afford to, so if they donated money they’d be saving people from starvation instead of disobeying the WoW.

The truth is that Brigham was pocketing monies made from the distilleries and prostitution houses.

Because he was “trustee in trust”, he had an open ended account to borrow money at whim or write it off as expenses paid for services rendered as prophet.

Estimates of Brigham’s worth at the time of his death range anywhere from $600K to $1.6 million depending on whom you read and believe. According to the 1870 Census, Young declared the worth of his personal property as $102,000, and real estate valued at $1,010,600. The Lion of the Lord by Stanley Hirshson, Knopf Pub., 1969, pg 247 and Utah History to Go.



A manager of Brigham’s distillery appointed US Marshal for Utah

History of Utah, p. 573; “Peter K. Dotson, a native of Virginia, came to Salt Lake City in 1851, and was first employed by Brigham as manager of a distillery, afterward becoming express and mail agent. In 1855 he was appointed U. S. marshal for Utah, and in 1857 proceeded to Washington, returning with the army during that year. Dotson’s Doings, MS.” – Hurbert Howe Bancroft


November 26, 1854

True LDS will not sell whiskey

Journal of Discourses 2:161; “The whole world have got to see and feel the armies of heaven, and when they come they will come with order, and when they are commanded to act there will be no running away, and there will be no traitors in that army, but it will be composed of virtuous Saints, who are clothed with the power of God, and have the integrity of heavenly beings. They will not sell whiskey, and stick up grogeries, and establish distilleries, and engage in various other operations to pollute this people among whom they have enlisted, even under the banners of Christ.” – Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City, November 26, 1854



March 18, 1855

Emma’s offer of tea causes apostasy

Journal of Discourses 2:214; “I know persons who apostatized because they supposed they had reasons; for instance, a certain family, after having travelled a long journey, arrived in Kirtland, and the prophet asked them to stop with him until they could find a place. Sister Emma, in the mean time, asked the old lady if she would have a cup of tea to refresh her after the fatigues of the journey, or a cup of coffee. This whole family apostatized because they were invited to take a cup of tea or coffee, after the Word of Wisdom was given.” – George A. Smith, Salt Lake City, March 18, 1855

March 18, 2855

Drunk church leaders curse enemies at Kirtland Temple Dedication

Journal of Discourses 2:216; “Now I will illustrate this still further. The Lord did actually reveal one principle to us there, and that one principle was apparently so simple, and so foolish in their eyes, that a great many apostatized over it, because it was so contrary to their notions and views. It was this, after the people had fasted all day, they sent out and got wine and bread, and blessed them, and distributed them to the multitude, that is, to the whole assembly of the brethren, and they ate and drank, and prophesied, and bore testimony, and continued so to do until some of the High Council of Missouri stepped into the stand, and, as righteous Noah did when he awoke from his wine, commenced to curse their enemies. You never felt such a shock go through any house or company in the world as went through that. There was almost a rebellion because men would get up and curse their enemies; although they could remember well that it is written that Noah cursed his own grandson, and that God recognized that curse to such an extent that, at this day, millions of his posterity are consigned to perpetual servitude.” – George A. Smith, Salt Lake City, March 18, 1855


Utah dominates liquor trade

The Lion of the Lord, p. 285; In Utah the church dominated the liquor trade. In 1856 Caleb Green freighted six tons of tobacco, rum, whiskey, brandy, tea, and coffee across the plains for Young, and two years later The New York Times reported that the “principal drinking-saloon and gambling-room are in Salt Lake House, a building under the control of the Church and the immediate superintendency of Heber C. Kimball.” …Young tried his best to rid himself of rival brewers.” – Stanley P. Hirshon

September 1856

Brigham owned the only bar in SLC

History of Utah, p. 540; “…the first bar-room in S.L. City, and the only one for years, was in the Salt Lake House, owned by President Young and Feramorz Little…” – Hurbert Howe Bancroft


October 1859

Cutting off those who get drunk

Journal of Discourses 7:338; “As I have already requested, I now again request the authorities of this Church in their various localities to sever from this society those who will not cease getting drunk.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, October 8, 1859


Brigham gives instructions on how to bottle booze

The Mormon United Order in Utah, p.9; “A circular was sent out to the various orders of the stake by Brigham Young and George A. Smith suggesting policies of operation. In brief, it suggested that fruit be canned or dried fit for any market; that wine be made at [a] few places under expert direction for exportation;…” – Angus M. Woodbury

Saintly spending habits of $60k yearly for tobacco

April 1861

Journal of Discourses 9:35-36; “You know that we all profess to believe the “Word of Wisdom.” There has been a great deal said about it, more in former than in latter years. We, as Latter-day Saints, care but little about tobacco; but, as “Mormons,” we use a vast quantity of it. As Saints, we use but little; as “Mormons,” we use a great deal. How much do you suppose goes annually from this Territory, and has for ten or twelve years past, in gold and silver, to supply the people with tobacco? I will say $60,000. Brother William H. Hooper, our Delegate in Congress, came here in 1849, and during about eight years he was selling goods his sales for tobacco alone amounted to over $28,000 a year. At the same time there were other stores that sold their share and drew their share of the money expended yearly, besides what has been brought in by the keg and by the half keg. The traders and passing emigration have sold tons of tobacco, besides what is sold here regularly. I say that $60,000 annually is the smallest figure I can estimate the sales at. Tobacco can be raised here as well as it can be raised in any other place. It wants attention and care. If we use it, let us raise it here. I recommend for some man to go to raising tobacco. One man, who came here last fall, is going to do so; and if he is diligent, he will raise quite a quantity. I want to see some man go to and make a business of raising tobacco and stop sending money out of the Territory for that article.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, April 7, 1861

Report on Brigham controlling sales and profits of alcohol

July 2, 1861

Manufacturing hard liquor, profits going to City Treasury

Lights and Shadows of Mormonism, 1909, pp, 248-249; “…Instead, however, of bringing their unappealable dictum to bear on the side of temperance and decent morals, the Prophet Brigham became a distiller of whiskey and other intoxicants, and high priests were the wholesale and retail distributors….

The evidence in support of the foregoing allegations is clipped from data compiled from the city records by gentlemen living in Salt Lake City and used by them in public speeches…

On July 2, 1861, the special committee, to whom was referred the subject of the manufacture and sale of liquor, presented a report reading as follows:

“To the Honorable Mayor of Salt Lake City: —

“Your committee, to whom was referred the subject of the manufacture and sale of spirituous liquor, would report that they visited several distilleries in and near the city and would respectfully recommend that the City Council purchase or rent the distillery erected by Brigham Young near the Mouth of Parley’s canyon, and put the same in immediate operation, employing such persons as shall be deemed necessary to manufacture a sufficient quantity to answer the public demand; controlling the sale of the same, and that the profits accruing therefrom be paid into the City Treasury.


Alderman Clinton,

Alderman Sheets,

Councilman Felt”


April & May 1863

Brigham suggests growing tea & coffee

Journal of Discourses 10:226; “I know of no better climate and soil than are here for the successful culture of tobacco. Instead of buying it in a foreign market and importing it over a thousand miles, why not raise it in our own country or do without it? …

Tea is in great demand in Utah, and anything under that name sells readily at an extravagant price…. Tea can be produced in this Territory in sufficient quantities for home consumption, and if we raise it ourselves we know that we have the pure article. If we do not raise it, I would suggest that we do without it.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, April & May 1863

June 7, 1863

Brigham Young admits to building distillery
Journal of Discourses 10:206; “When there was no whisky to be had here, and we needed it for rational purposes, I built a house to make it in. When the distillery was almost completed and in good working order, an army was heard of in our vicinity and I shut up the works I did not make a gallon of whisky at my works, because it came here in great quantities, more than was needed. I could have made thousands of dollars from my still, which has ever since been as dead property. Have others followed my example in this? They have not, but there was a whisky shop established here and another there. Some have even told me that they would starve if they did not make whisky. I said to them, make it then, and be damned, for they will be damned anyhow. Am not I able to make whisky? Yes; there stands the still and the still-house to this day, which I have never used and from which I might make thousands of dollars. Have I made whisky and sold it in what some call whisky street? No. Had I done so how many would have hailed me with, “You are a good man, brother Brigham, and you are the right man to lead Israel; thank God for such a man: he keeps a whiskey shop, drinks liquor, trades with our enemies and hugs them to his heart as long as there is any money in their pockets, and takes them to his house and introduces them to his wives and daughters; what a blessed man brother Brigham is.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, June 7, 1863


June & July 1865

Growing coffee beans and tea

Journal of Discourses 11:113-114; “I do not think that another community can be found anywhere more capable of taking care of themselves than are the Latter-day Saints. It is true that we do not raise our own tobacco: we might raise it if we would. We do not raise our tea; but we might raise it if we would, for tea-raising, this is as good a country as China; and the coffee bean can be raised a short distance south of us. …[discussion of silk production]… We can sustain ourselves; and as for such so-called luxuries as tea, coffee, tobacco and whiskey, we can produce them or do without them.” – Brigham Young, Juab and San Pete Counties, June & July 1865


April 1867

Brigham Young’s ‘bad habits’

Journal of Discourses 12:29; “…it is not my privilege to drink liquor, neither is it my privilege to eat tobacco. Well, bro. Brigham, have you not done it? Yes, for many years, but I ceased its habitual practice. I used it for toothache; now I am free from that pain, and my mouth is never stained with tobacco. It is not my privilege to drink liquor nor strong tea and coffee although I am naturally a great lover of tea. Brethren and sisters, it is not our privilege to indulge in these things, but it is our right and privilege to set an example worthy of imitation.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, April 7, 1867

Root beer and cider can lead to drinking

The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, p. 226; “Ciders and Root Beers. Cider and home-made root beers may be harmless if taken when freshly made but if allowed to ferment at all they contain alcohol (which gives the tang) and are just as harmful to the body as though they were not home-made. Every fermented drink contains alcohol and it has been definitely shown that any degree of alcohol is injurious to the brain and nerves as well as being forbidden by the “word and will of the Lord”.

Many a confirmed drunkard and derelict traces his passion for the “deadly drink” to the so-called harmless root beers or hard ciders prepared by father and mother in his childhood’s home. Since there are so many really harmless as well as delicious drinks one wonders why otherwise good parents will put temptation in the way of themselves and loved ones. It may be true that a person doesn’t get “dead” drunk on lightly fermented root beer or soft cider; but who knows when the taste for liquor which, a sleeping giant within, may be aroused. Besides, if son or daughter is given fermented root beer or cider by mother at home, why not take the “doctored” punch from sweetheart or friend at the party? The risk is so great that here the part of wisdom is to shun the very semblance of a taste for alcohol.” – John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe

May 14 [15th], 1867

Brigham Young selling wine @ $5 a gallon

A Mormon Chronicle, The Diaries of John D. Lee, vol. 2, pp. 71-72; “About 5 PM. Prest. B. Young & suite arrived … On the following day I went to see him … He had a decanter of splendid wine brought in of his own make & said, I want to treat Bro. Lee to as Good an article, I think, as can be bought in Dixie. The wine indeed was a Superiour article. He said that he had some 300 gallons & treated about 2000$ worth of liquers yearly & continued that we [he] wish[e]d that someone would take his wine at 5$ per gallon & sell it, where upon Pres. D. H. Wells said that he would take 200 gals. at 6$ a gallon &c.”.


July 1873

Church-owned ZCMI sells tobacco to treat sheep

Journal of Discourses 16:238; “I say, brethren and sisters, let us observe the Word of Wisdom. We are doing a great business in the tea, coffee and tobacco in the Cooperative Store. When we first established it we thought we would not sell tobacco at all; but pretty soon the Superintendent asked the Directors if he might not bring in some poor kind of tobacco to kill the ticks on the sheep. It was very soon discovered that unless they sold tobacco, so many Latter-day Saints used it, that a successful opposition could be run against them on the tobacco trade alone, and they had to commence it, I believe, under the plea that it was brought on to kill the ticks on sheep. Shame on such Latter-day Saints, so far as tobacco is concerned.” – George A. Smith, Salt Lake City, July 10, 1873


June 1874

LDS don’t believe their own revelations

Journal of Discourses 17:104; “How are the world to know you are sincere in your belief, if you have a revelation which you profess to believe in, and yet give no heed to it. I do not wonder that the world say that the Latter-day Saints do not believe their own revelations. Why? Because we do not practice them.” – Orson Pratt, Salt Lake City, June 14, 1874


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


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

Gallon of Whiskey 25¢ & 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

Smith drank at military operations

Mormon Portraits, p 22; “Mrs. J.: ‘Joseph used to preach: ‘Brethren and sisters, I got drunk last week and fell in the ditch. I suppose you have heard of it. I am awfully sorry, but I felt very good.’ He used to get drunk on military occasions, after the parades of the Nauvoo Legion.” – Dr. W. Wyl


Brigham spent on average $846 a year for personal consumption of alcohol

On July 26, 1890, Judge Orlando W. Powers gave a speech in which he charged:

It will please you to know that notwithstanding the fact that the city had gone into the whisky business on its own hook, on August 19, 1862, it granted Brigham Young a license to distill peaches into brandy. August 11, 1865, Mr. Young and George Q. Cannon addressed the Council on the liquor question. Mr. Young said:

“This community needs vinegar and will require spirituous liquor for washing and for health, and it will be right and proper for the city to continue its sale as it has done and make a profit.

… Brigham Young kept an open account on the city books, and this account shows that from 1862 to 1872 there were 235 different charges for liquor purchased by him amounting in the aggregate to $9316.66, or an average of $846.97 per year…

To grasp how much money this was for those living in 1862, we used an onlineinflation calculator. Today $846 amounts to $19,247.63. That’s how much Brigham spent per year on average just for his personal alcohol consumption.

Judge Orlando Powers was an appointed Utah State Supreme Court Judge and son of Rev. Josiah W. Powers. He was a highly successful attorney and well known throughout the US.

See Granite Monthly: A New Hampshire Magazine, Vol. 47-48.


Wine for sacrament and profit

Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp. 46-47; “The attempts of the latter-day Saints in southern Utah and elsewhere to make wine are all illustrative of the dominating philosophy of economic self-sufficiency. One function of these enterprises, of course, was to provide wine for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper…. Wine was used in the sacrament of the church as late as 1897. A more important function of winemaking, however, was to provide much-needed income for the poverty-striken pioneers in Utah’s Dixie. The intention was to sell most of the wine in mining communities in southern Utah and Nevada. Brigham Young instructed as follows: “First, by lightly pressing make a white wine. Then give a heavier pressing and make a colored wine. Then barrel up this wine, and if my counsel is taken, this wine will not be drunk here, but will be exported, and thus increase the fund.” More of the Dixie wine was consumed in the Mormon settlements than church officials had hoped, however, and the enterprise was discontinued before 1900.” – Leonard J. Arrington

June 9, 1897

Wilford Woodruff Journal

Brandy sling and coffee helps Mormon prophet sleep

“I was quite restless all night. Felt chilly. Took a little Brandy sling and a cup of coffee and slept some before daylight and until 9 am…”


April 1898

Church owned ZCMI sells tobacco and alcohol

Conference Report, April 1898, page 11; “Some of our pretended pious people, a few years ago, were shocked and horrified by seeing the symbol of the All-Seeing Eye and the words ‘Holiness to the Lord’ in gilt letters over the front of Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution. Especially was this the case with some of our brethren when they found these letters over the drug department of Z.C.M.I. Why was it? Why some of these pious (?)

Mormons found that Z.C.M.I. under the symbol of the all-seeing eye and the sacred words, ‘Holiness to the Lord,’ sold tea and coffee, and tobacco, and other things possibly that Latter-day Saints ought not to use; and at the drug store, Z.C.M.I. kept liquors of various kinds for medicinal purposes. It was terribly shocking to some of the Latter-day Saints that under these holy words liquor should be kept for sale.

Has it injured me, in any sense of the word, because Z.C.M.I. drug store kept liquor for sale? Has it made me a drunkard? Have I been under the necessity of guzzling liquid poison? Have I made myself a sot because liquor was kept for sale by Z.C.M.I.? I am not the worse for it, thank the Lord. And who else is? No one, except those pious Mormons (?) who in open day or under the cover of night would go into the drug store and buy liquor to drink…. Those who were the most horrified at seeing the All-Seeing Eye and ‘Holiness to the Lord’ over the front door of Z.C.M.I., I will guarantee are the ones that have bought the most tea and coffee, tobacco and whiskey there….

It does not matter to me how much tea and coffee Z.C.M.I. sells, so long as I do not buy it. If I do not drink it am I not all right? And if the poor creature that wants it can get it there, that ought to satisfy him. If he could not get it there, he would not patronize Z.C.M.I. at all, but would go somewhere else to deal.” – Joseph F. Smith, Prophet


Debunking false rumors of Gentiles bringing in alcohol

The Salt Lake Tribune, July 14, 1908; “An examination of the official records of the United States shows that from 1862, when the tax on distilled spirits was first levied, until the coming of the Union Pacific railroad in 1869, which was the beginning of the Gentile era in Utah, thirty-seven distilleries existed in this Territory…. These facts, taken from public records, dispose of the charge that the Gentiles invaded a temperance community…”


That cup of tea..

Doctrines of Salvation 2:16; “SALVATION AND A CUP OF TEA…. my brethren, if you drink coffee or tea, or take tobacco are you letting a cup of tea or a little tobacco stand in the road and bar you from the celestial kingdom of God, where you might otherwise have received a fulness of glory? … There is not anything that is little in this world in the aggregate. One cup of tea, then it is another cup of tea and another cup of tea, and when you get them all together, they are not so little.” – Joseph Fielding Smith


The economy and the Word of Wisdom

An Economic Interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp.43-44; “The strong and increased emphasis on the Word of Wisdom which characterized the official Mormon attitude throughout the remainder of the century appears to have begun in 1867….

The explanation for these rules and the widespread resolves to obey the Word of Wisdom seems to lie in the conditions of the Mormon economy … it was necessary for the Latter-day Saints to develop and maintain a self-sufficient economy in their Rocky Mountain retreat…. There must be no waste of liquid assets on imported consumers’ goods…. Saints who used their cash to purchase imported Bull Durham, Battle-Axe plugs, tea, coffee, and similar “wasteful” (because not productive) products were taking an action which was opposed to the economic interests of the territory. In view of this situation, President Young came to be unalterably opposed to the expenditure of money by the Saints on imported tea, coffee, and tobacco. It was consistent with the economics of the time that he should have had no great objection to tobacco chewing if the tobacco was grown locally. It was also consistent that he should have successfully developed a locally-produced “Mormon” tea to take the place of the imported article.” – Leonard J. Arrington

One Response to “Word of Wisdom and LDS Hypocrisy”

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