Word of Wisdom

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The Word of Wisdom is a commandment followed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The commandment mentions substances that are not to be consumed, as well as other basic tenants of living a healthy life. The full text of the Word of Wisdom can be found in Doctrine and Covenants, section 89.[1]

Contents

History

The Word of Wisdom was written by Joseph Smith, Jr., on February 27, 1833, in response to a question by his wife, Emma. Joseph had instituted a school for training leaders of the Church, known as the School of the Prophets, which was holding its meetings in a small room over Joseph's kitchen. According to Brigham Young,

The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry.[2]

Originally, as stated in the text itself, the Word of Wisdom was not held to be a commandment. However, in February 1834, Joseph Smith proposed a resolution, which was subsequently unanimously accepted, "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."[3] The Word of Wisdom has henceforth been considered a commandment, and adherence to its precepts is necessary for anyone seeking baptism or admittance into the temple.

Commandment

The Word of Wisdom specifically prohibits the consumption of the following substances:

  • Wine and other strong drinks (alcohol); a provision was left in this section which allowed members of the Church to produce their own "pure wine" for use in the Sacrament, but water is now invariably used throughout the Church.
  • Tobacco
  • Hot drinks (later interpreted to mean tea and coffee)

Additionally, the Word of Wisdom promotes the use of wholesome herbs, fruits, the flesh of beasts and fowls (sparingly), and grains. In return for compliance with the precepts given in the commandment, blessings such as health, wisdom, knowledge, and strength are promised.

Other prohibited substances

Although not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom, some people have taken to abstaining from caffeine due to its connection with tea and coffee. The Church has no official position on the consumption of caffeine, although Church leaders have regularly exhorted members to avoid all addicting substances. It should be noted that members who drink decaffeinated tea or coffee are still considered to be in violation of the Word of Wisdom.

References

  1. Doctrine and Covenants 89
  2. Journal of Discourses 12:158
  3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 117.
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