History of Word of Wisdom



Master’s Thesis by Paul H. Peterson, BYU

Nearly all classes of people were given to drinking [in the early 19th century], ministers not excepted. p. 10

James Finley: “A house could not be raised, a field of wheat cut down, nor could there be a log rolling, a husking, a quilting, a wedding, or a funeral without the aid of alcohol.” P. 10

October 6, 1830: Kirtland Temperance Society organized and by February 1833, the Kirtland Distillery closed for want of patronage, approximately one month before Word of Wisdom revelation. p. 13

“Joseph Smith and other prisoners drank liquor and whiskey in the Liberty Jail in token of friendship.” P. 25

The Quorum of the Seventy “covenanted to keep the Word of Wisdom” in 1837. P. 28

“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.’” P. 37-38

“It would appear that some Mormons had been influenced by the fanaticism that characterized sermons of some of the radical temperance reformers, and tended to be intolerant of those with professed Word of Wisdom weaknesses. The Prophet [Joseph], recognizing that the revelation must be seen in perspective with other matters and doctrines…urged them to be slow to judge or condemn others…reproving the speaker as Pharisaical and hypocritical.” P. 40

“In 1845…a list of desirable supplies to be taken by each family [to cross the plains to Salt Lake Valley] printed in the Nauvoo Neighbor included one pound each of tea and coffee and one gallon of alcohol…Abraham O. Smoot…recalled that the ‘camp-fire habits’ of the pioneers included the partaking of tea and coffee and the use of tobacco.’” P. 43

“In December 1850, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, and other Church leaders met in Young’s ‘upper room’ to pray. Here they concluded to ‘renew the Word of Wisdom.’” P. 44

“Observations made by four non-Mormons who traveled through Utah Territory in the 1850’s suggest that Mormons were considerably more moderate in the use of alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee, than was contemporary society.” P. 47

As apostles, Wilford Woodruff and Joseph Fielding Smith both “said that at a General Conference meeting held on September 9, 1851, Word of Wisdom observance was made obligatory upon Church members.” This was followed by a letter sent out by the First Presidency. But history does not bear it out. P. 51-52

According to witnesses, “Brigham Young himself did not strictly live the Word of Wisdom until the early 1860’s.” P. 53

“Overcoming tobacco and liquor habits was no easy thing for many Mormons, and the various difficulties and problems they encountered as they sought to overcome their undesirable habits are vividly reflected in the minutes of meetings held for the Schools of the Prophets…A typical meeting [in the late 1860’s] included among other things, a reminder of the rule necessitating Word of Wisdom observance, types of confessions and/or of rationalizations for infractions, and pious resolves.” P. 63

Wine was made by the Saints in St. George at Brigham Young’s request in the early 1860’s, mainly to be exported. Tithing could be paid in wine “and by 1887 the tithing office at St. George had over 6,000 gallons of wine on hand.” By 1900, the Church leaders decided this enterprise had been a bad idea and counseled members to dig up their vineyards. P. 64-65

In 1874, the First Presidency was still counseling Saints to grow tobacco for chewing, as well as for medicine for cattle, so they wouldn’t have to buy it from others.

Emily Dow Partridge Young written in 1877: “Do we as a people…accept [the Word of Wisdom] as the word of God unto us…Could we find fifty Latter-day Saints in the Territory who abstain from tea, coffee, whiskey and tobacco or considers that it is worthwhile to even give it a thought? Is it not high time to wake up and open our eyes and look about us. If the Lord had no purpose in giving the Word of Wisdom, why did he take the trouble to give it?” P. 66

President John Taylor received a revelation on October 13, 1882 designating the Word of Wisdom as a commandment, along with other things. This time the Quorum of the Twelve pledged to follow the example of the First Presidency and observe the Word of Wisdom in a meeting, after concluding that “we have all more or less been negligent upon that point.” P. 70-72

1883: “Considerable has been said of late—and especially during this conference—concerning the Word of Wisdom. We confess to a feeling almost akin to shame at hearing this urged upon the Priesthood at this late date. Have we not had experience enough in the benefits which flow from the observance of these wise counsels of the Lord to observe these simple laws of health?” George Q. Cannon. P. 73

1884: President Taylor said that all officers of the church were obliged to keep the Word of Wisdom. P. 76

Zeal was interrupted by persecution of polygamy.

First Presidency, 1886: “most inconsistent [for temple goers and officiators] to carry in the smell of whiskey and tobacco.” P. 77

1894: President Woodruff said leaders should resign if they cannot live the Word of Wisdom. “There may be things contrary to the Word of Wisdom that we indulge in and that we think we cannot live without; if we cannot, let us die.” P. 77 He followed this with a personal call to John Smith, the Patriarch of the Church: “If he cannot put away his tobacco and smoking, he better resign. If he thinks those things are of greater value than the Holy Spirit, Brother John Smith you better resign and we will get some one who will keep the commandments of the Lord.” P. 78

1898, meeting of First Presidency and Apostles in the temple: “President L. Snow read the revelation on the Word of Wisdom and drew special attention to that part which relates to the use of meats, which he considered as [important] as that which relates to the use of liquors and hot drinks. He also referred to the revelation which says that he [that] forbids the use of meat is not of God. He went on to state the President Taylor had expressed the view that some of the brethren talked too strongly against the drinking of tea and coffee. Brother Snow said he was convinced that the killing of animals when unnecessary was wrong and sinful, and that it was not right to neglect one part of the Word of Wisdom and be too strenuous in regard to the other parts.” P. 79

1894 President Grant expressed extreme discouragement in General Conference about how often he preached the Word of Wisdom and how so few people were following it. P. 91-92

President Grant continually pressed the Word of Wisdom upon the Saints. In October 1935 General Conference he read the Word of Wisdom and said, “It may be that it will be the 53rd time in the past 53 years [that I read it]. He said that people who were keeping the Word of Wisdom would not object to hearing it again. P. 97-98

May 1936-February 1940: The “Word of Wisdom Review” was a regular feature in the Improvement Era.

February 1941-March 1952: The “No Liquor Tobacco” section was a regular feature which “informed readers of contemporary scientific developments which substantiated the Mormon position on tobacco and liquor [and] provided testimonials from noted individuals who felt abstinence contributed to their success as athletes, pilots, scholars, etc.” P. 99


Letting Go of Your Dream

Agatha Christie had a dream to be a prima donna or a concert pianist and put a lifetime of effort into it, only to realize she did not have the talent required. Losing this dream, she found another–writing fiction–and became the most published novelist in history, according to Guinness World Records, estimated to have sold 4 billion books, having written 69 novels and 19 plays. Her works were published between 1920 and 1976, equating to around three publications every two years. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world’s most-widely published books, behind only Shakespeare’s works and the Bible. According to Index Translationum, she remains the most-translated individual author – having been translated into at least 103 languages. And Then There Were None is Christie’s best-selling novel, with 100 million sales to date, making it the world’s best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End on 25 November 1952 and as of May 2017 is still running after more than 25,000 performances

“It is wonderful to have a dream, as long as you do not hold onto it too tightly.” –Agatha Christie, Autobiography

“When I was 13, I had a goal to become the prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera,” Johnson said. “I really bought into the whole ‘you can accomplish anything that you put your mind to.’ That’s the world’s philosophy of self-empowerment, right? The thing that I loved about it was that it made me feel autonomous and almost on a mission because by the power of my mind, if I focused intently enough, I could accomplish it.”

After 23 years of study and performance, the mother of four who is now in her late 30s, sat down at her piano for several hours of vocal study when she was suddenly overcome with a very clear message that crushed her lifelong dreams in an instant. She knew then, in no uncertain terms, that she would not ever be the prima donna.

“I was devastated. All the years of scaffolding just started to fall and crush inside of me, and I didn’t have the strength to prop it back up,” she said. “I knew it was true and I was devastated.”

Johnson said it was as if she was overtaken in the hour or so that followed, when she firmly closed the lid to her piano, went to the art store and purchased a block of clay and a sculpting tool. Four hours later, she said there was a portrait bust of a little girl on her kitchen table.

“The weird thing about music and singing is you put all of this work into it but you can’t touch it. It goes somewhere out in the universe, but you can’t touch it. It is gone. It is created from inside your body, but then it is gone — I needed something tactile,” she said. “And what really came to me, it was like the finger of God, just like in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel depiction, it felt like He touched my heart and said it is now time you develop the talent you didn’t know you had and then I just started sculpting one thing after another. I was absolutely taken.”   –Angela Johnson, sculptor of “The Light of the World” at Thanksgiving Point in Utah, quoted in Amy Macavinta, “Beauty and Holiness: LDS Artists Share Talents at Inaugural SOMA Exposition,” Herald Journal, May 18, 2017 (http://news.hjnews.com/cache_magazine/beauty-and-holiness-lds-artists-share-talents-at-inaugural-soma/article_61613e63-27a6-5572-bc50-9b626509f878.html)

“[My Institute teacher, Jerry Wilson’s] daughter, Wendy, had a baby last August who turned out to be severely handicapped. They haven’t figured it all out yet, but it looks kind of like there may be cerebral palsy among other things. Recently when she had him at the doctor’s, the doctor shared a parable with her about giving birth to a handicapped child. She said that it’s like you have planned a trip to Italy and you are so excited to be going to such a wonderful place with so much art and music and so many wonderful things to see and do. You get a guide book and you learn a few phrases in Italian. You plan which museums you will see and which places you will visit. You buy your tickets and you get on the plane and fly over the Atlantic. When the plane lands, the stewardess announces that you have arrived in Holland! You think there must be some mistake–you were supposed to go to Italy! But, no, she says, you are really in Holland and there is no changing it. So you get off the plane, knowing nothing about Holland. Your nice Italian phrases are no good at all. It’s very disorienting and upsetting. But if you eventually accept the idea that you are to be in Holland, then you may start to notice that even though Holland does not have “The David” statue, or Venetian boats, it does have windmills and tulips and even an artist or two of its own. The trick is to stop worrying about Italy and enjoy being in Holland. (My Journal, Jan. 21, 2000, ironically 1 week before we found out we were expecting a surprise baby.)


A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

“For pomp is a tenacious force. And a wily one too.

“How humbly it bows its head as the emperor is dragged down the steps and tossed in the street. But then, having quietly bided its time, while helping the newly appointed leader on with his jacket, it compliments his appearance and suggests the wearing of a medal or two. Or, having served him at a formal dinner, it wonders aloud if a taller chair might not have been more fitting for a man with such responsibilities. The soldiers of the common man may toss the banners of the old regime on the victory pyre, but soon enough trumpets will blare and pomp will take its place at the side of the throne, having once again secured its dominion over history and kings.” –p. 60

The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Oscar Wilde

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Lord Henry, p. 2

“None of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.” P. 8

“Never trust a woman who wears mauve, whatever her age may be.” Lord Henry, p . 100

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” P. 100

“Society…is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating. It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals, and, in its opinion, the highest respectability is of much less value than the possession of a good chef.” P. 139

“Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.” Dorian Gray, p. 139

Defending the Faith

When Stake President Al Burns was a teenager in Texas, his family joined the church. He went to a huge high school with 2,500 students, of which only 5 were Latter-day Saints. His English teacher’s husband was the famous pastor of a huge Baptist congregation. She incorporated her religious views into the classroom frequently. A few weeks after Al joined the church, while the class was taking a test and everyone was silent, she said, looking directly at Al, “The Mormon church is a cult. It’s members are not Christians, and Joseph Smith was not a prophet.”

Al asked if he could come to the front and address the class. She agreed. On the way he prayed for help, since there were no other Mormons in his class to help him. He told how the missionaries had taught his family and that it had an powerful effect upon them. He bore his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

A popular athlete in the back of the class, Robby Briscoe, raised his hand and said his cousins were Mormons and they were the best Christians he knew. Another girl raised her hand and said her friend’s family were Mormons and they were definitely Christians. A third person raised her hand and said she learned everything that she knew about Jesus Christ from her grandmother, who was a Mormon.

In the end, it was obvious that the teacher wished she had not said anything at all.

On Wings of Faith

Notes from the book, On Wings of Faith, by Frederick W. Babbel, the story of apostle Ezra Taft Benson’s 1946 post-war relief trip to Europe.

Miracle of multiplying of mission funds

Brother Olaf Sonsteby, acting mission president in Oslo during the war, buried the mission funds to hide them from the Nazis. When he dug them up, there were 37,000 crowns more than he buried. p. 19

Elder Benson’s sermon in Karlsruhe, Germany to the starving saints

“I support none nor condemn any for what has happened. God will be the judge…

“As I look into your tear-stained eyes and see many of you virtually in rags and at death’s door, yet with a smile upon your cracked lips and the light of love and understanding shining in your eyes, I know that you have been true to your covenants, that you have been clean, that you have not permitted hatred and bitterness to fill your hearts. You–many of you–are some of the Lord’s choicest witnesses of the fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“…And almost without except you have been loyal to your country even while abhoring those principles manifest in your government which were completely out of harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ…

“Any man or woman who has a testimony of this work has no fear for the future. Come what may, they will look up and forward. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ in this world. We have it and through us it can be given to others to bless them.” p. 37-39

Denazification: “While in Germany, President Benson instructed our leaders to compile the names and addresses of all mission district and branch officers and teachers and submit these lists to the denazification courts. This was done. In all the investigations which followed, not a single one of these people was considered to be guilty of punishable crimes–a remarkable record!” p. 53

Original story of the refugee woman with the spoon p. 41-42

Baptismal service in ice water, and potato peel sacrament, p. 49

Church records found in Rothenburg and Rathsfeld and salt mines, p. 58

Bomb not going off in mission home yard during strafing while sisters prayed in the basement, p. 51

Elder Benson’s sermon to the Berlin saints in the Russian Sector

“When a nation follows unrighteous leaders, the righteous must suffer with the wicked.” p. 61

Promise of a temple in Europe, p. 62

K-Ration Quartet, p. 73


Love Your Enemies. Dutch saints sent their potato harvest to Germany p. 76-77

Singing with angels: Conference in Herne, p. 115-116

Lightning strike on plane en route to Warsaw, p. 135

Warsaw Ghetto, p. 144-146

German members forced out of Zelbak, East Prussia, now becoming Poland

Severe retribution had been reaped upon those of German descent, they were shot, raped, and stolen from.

The saints hid their chickens ingeniously in containers buried in the lake.

“Most of our members in this small community owned their own lands and homes. The lands had been turned over to the Polish people coming into this territory. The homes would subsequently be confiscated as soon as their German occupants could be repatriated–all without any compensation…

“…The two remaining [Priesthood leaders] had succeeded marvelously in keeping the spirit of unity and love among the saints. Their faith and devotion was a testimony to me of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a person’s life.” p. 150-153

Desperate for cigarettes, p. 157-158

Totals: 92 railway carloads of welfare supplies (2,000 tons). Individual family-to-family parcels from America with tens of thousands of food and clothing items. Contributed to the local child-care and feeding programs in several countries.  Brought in Swiss army barracks for refugees from Poland.

Translating a joke, p. 174

Claiming blessings:

Healing of pregnant sister who was bleeding, p. 160

3-year-old deaf-mute boy who could not be healed because of parents’ hatred, p. 160-161

Lack of receptiveness from sister with cancer, p. 161

Miracle of tuberculosis healing “claimed” by Elder Babbel, p. 184-185

Covenant Daughters of God


Young Women Lesson for July 2016

Sister Jean A. Stevens said, in October 2014 General Conference, “My mother lived a rich life, full of happiness, joy, love, and service. Her love of the Savior was reflected in the way she lived her life. She had a remarkable connection to heaven and a gift and capacity to love and bless everyone around her.”

Isn’t that the kind of life we would all like to live: “Full of happiness, joy, love, and service?” That sounds like an easy life! And isn’t that the kind of woman we would all like to be: Having “a remarkable connection to heaven and a gift and capacity to love and bless everyone around her?”

How did this woman become this way? She must have had a fairytale life, with a wonderful wedding, and all the things in life to make it comfortable and enjoyable, right?

(Have girls read aloud the story from paragraphs 9-12, 15-16, and then read this quote: “In all the seasons of her life, Mother was strengthened and blessed by her love of the Lord and by the covenants she faithfully made and kept.”

Was her life perfect? Did everything work out just as she had planned? And yet, did she live happily ever after? Then covenants must be awfully powerful, if they can bring happiness, joy and love into our lives despite heartbreak, war and loneliness.


President Eyring told us, “You were tutored by [Heavenly Father] before you came into this life. He helped you understand and accept that you would have trials, tests, and opportunities perfectly chosen just for you. You learned that our Father had a plan of happiness to get you safely through those trials and that you would help bring others safely through theirs. This plan is marked by covenants with God.” (April 2014 Conference)

So the plan of happiness follows a pathway of covenants.

Let’s draw a picture of happiness. This is our real-life fairytale.

[Draw a stick figure princess in the lower center of the chalkboard. Have each girl copy what you draw onto her own piece of paper for a do-it-yourself handout that will keep them engaged and help them learn kinesthetically.]

This is the princess. That would be you. We all live in a dark world with evil and sorrow, but there are stars to guide us, points of light from the heavens. And we each carry a light, the light of Christ, to light our path.

[Draw a scepter in her hand with a star on the end.]

[Draw a path from the stick figure to the lower center of the picture.]

This is the strait and narrow path. It is strait (not “straight”) which means it is restricted. We don’t get to choose your own path or how to walk it; we follow exactly as it is designed. This path is the Gospel Path, and our part to play in the gospel is basically the 4th Article of Faith. We exercise faith, repent, get baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We are allowed to enter into the kingdom of God on the earth (the church). We take upon ourselves Christ’s name and become members of his family, with the possibility of inheriting what he has. We act in his name, in other words we do what he would do if he were here. We promise to keep the commandments, to bear each other’s burdens, and to stand as witnesses of God. (Mosiah 18:8-11)

[Write BAPTISMAL COVENANT on the path.]

So where does this path lead? Well, a kingdom has to have a castle, right?

[Draw a temple outline.]

In fact, it is the House of God. By entering into the temple and making covenants in which we are initiated, endowed with power, and sealed together as families, we join the covenant that God made with Abraham and become members of the House of Israel. Abraham is now our ancestor and we belong to his family (Read Bible Dictionary, Abraham, Covenant of, paragraphs 2-3.) The terrestrial world is symbolized by the moon, and we enjoy the greater light that the moon has as it reflects the light of the sun into the dark world.

[Draw a moon by the temple.]

Keeping our temple covenants helps us become a terrestrial society: good people trying to help each other become better. As children of Abraham, we are obligated to “bless all nations of the earth” through the Priesthood (the power of that runs His church), and “gather Israel,” or seek, teach and invite others to join the House of Israel in this life and vicariously through family history and temple work.

[Write HOUSE OF ISRAEL (ABRAHAM) on the temple.]

Before Abraham’s time, Heavenly Father made a covenant with his ancestor and the symbol of that covenant is the rainbow.

[Draw a rainbow over the temple.]

I know you are thinking that the rainbow covenant was made with Noah after the flood when promised God wouldn’t flood the earth again, but that was just a renewal. The original covenant is found in the Joseph Smith Translation appendix and not many people look there so not many are aware of it. It is also mentioned in D&C 76. Enoch led an city entrenched in wickedness, and he taught them through Priesthood power so well over a long period of time, that they became too holy for this earth and the City of Enoch was taken up to heaven. Let’s read the covenant made with Enoch. (JST Gen. 9:21-25.)

When the people on earth have created a Zion society by “embracing the truth” (which we do when we are baptized) and by looking upward, the City of Enoch will come down from heaven and join Zion on earth. We look upward when we keep our temple covenants. All the symbolism in the structure and the interior of the temple pulls our eyes upward, just as the ceremony pulls our perspective heavenward, and the covenants will fit us for a Zion society, where everyone is equal and there are no rich or poor.

Article of Faith 10 relates to both Enoch’s and Abraham’s covenants: “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the ten tribes, that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be established upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally on the earth; and that the earth will be renewed and receive it’s paradisiacal glory.” In fact, the temple connects heaven and earth even before the final days. Angels minister to us, miracles happen, prayers are answered every day as we keep the covenants we have made. The heaven we create on earth, Zion, will eventually be joined by the City of Enoch and become the real Heaven.

[Write ZION COVENANT (ENOCH) on it. Under it, write “Create Zion.”]

The first covenant of all was made with Adam and Eve when they left the Garden of Eden.

[Draw a sun above the rainbow.]

We came to this earth by “falling” from heaven. We were separated from God, and we were no longer pure and holy because this world is full of sin and error. But this was necessary to gain the knowledge and experience needed to become like God so He allowed the Fall to happen, and then provided a Savior for us. Jesus Christ would “fit us for heaven” as the Christmas carol says, through His Atonement, which would free us from our sins through repentance, and the sins of others against us through forgiveness, and make us holier and better than we could be on our own, so that we could become Celestial beings and enjoy Eternal Life, or God’s Life, ourselves. (Read 3 Nephi 27:13-14.)

All of these covenants are only possible because of Christ’s atonement, His part in the Gospel covenant. Article of Faith 3 says, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”


Each of these covenants is part of the New & Everlasting Covenant of the Gospel (Elder Marcus B. Nash, December 2015 Ensign), and the whole thing operates by love: God’s love for us, and our love for him and for our brothers and sisters on earth.

[Draw a heart around the entire picture. Write NEW & EVERLASTING COVENANT above the heart.]

God’s love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoso believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Our love: The statement that love is the sum of all the commandments is found in every book of scripture. (Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30-31; D&C 59:5-6; Moro. 10:32) I like the way it is stated in Romans 13:8-9 “…He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law…if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Keeping the New and Everlasting Covenant does not just bring us happiness in the next life; it makes us happy here, because the most joyful experience in the world is to feel and share God’s love.

As Elder Nash said, “For all who abide the terms of the new and everlasting covenant, the reward is joy and peace in this world and eternal life in the next.”

Paul wrote to the Romans, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Read Romans 8:35-39) As long as we have the love of Christ, we will have happiness, despite times of trial.

Everything that happens outside our power will be a blessing to us, even things we might term as “bad.” As Paul taught, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

So the great news of the gospel is that a life of happiness does not depend on everything working out the way we plan, and no bad things happening, and being able to follow all our dreams and hopes, and having enough money to buy what we want, and getting the exact number of children we want, and never having a crime committed against us, and having perfect health and beauty, and any other things that we don’t have control over. It does not depend on WHAT HAPPENS TO US. It depends on something we have total control over: THE KEEPING OF OUR COVENANTS to love God and our fellow human beings!

Now we can see how Sister Stevens’ mother lived a life filled with “happiness, joy, love and service,” despite missing out on some of her fondest dreams and enduring great periods of loneliness and trial at what should have been the most pleasant time of her life. There is no permanent disappointment or sorrow on the covenant path.

It is the love of God and for God and others that brings us the greatest joy, the greatest happiness and the greatest peace in this life.

[Share a personal experience about any of these covenants that will help you testify that the keeping of covenants brings joy.]