The Word of Wisdom
On February 27, 1833, Joseph Smith gave the revelation known as the "Word of Wisdom" which appears as section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this revelation we read:
1. A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion —
2. To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days —
3. Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.
5. That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
7. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8. And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9. And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
12. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13. And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. (Doctrine and Covenants, 89).
Notice that the Word of Wisdom forbids the use of hot drinks, strong drinks, and tobacco. The Mormon church today interprets hot drinks to mean tea and coffee, although there is evidence that in the early history of the church all hot drinks were forbidden.
Although some portions of Joseph Smith's Word of Wisdom are stressed by the Mormon leaders, other portions are almost completely ignored. Mormon writer John J. Stewart observed: "The admonition to eat little meat is largely ignored, as are some other points of the revelation" (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, p. 90).
Origin of the Revelation
Brigham Young left us an interesting account concerning conditions that led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom:
The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph's kitchen.... 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 (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 158).
It has been suggested that the temperance movement led to Joseph Smith's "Word of Wisdom." Leonard J. Arrington, who has since become church historian, provides this enlightening information:
In recent years a number of scholars have contended that the revelation is an outgrowth of the temperance movement of the early nineteenth century. According to Dean D. McBrien .... the Word of Wisdom was a remarkable distillation of the prevailing thought of frontier America in the early 1830's. Each provision in the revelation, he claimed, pertained to an item which had formed the basis of widespread popular agitation in the early 1830's:
"A survey of the situation existing at Kirtland when the revelation came forth is a sufficient explanation for it. The temperance wave had for some time been engulfing the West.... In 1826 Marcus Morton had founded the American Temperance Society.... In June, 1830, the Millenial Harbinger quoted ... an article from the Philadelphia 'Journal of Health,'... which article most strongly condemned the use of alcohol, tobacco, the eating intemperately of meats.... Temperance Societies were organized in great numbers during the early thirties, six thousand being formed in one year... On October 6, 1830, the Kirtland Temperance Society was organized with two hundred thirty nine members.... This society at Kirtland was a most active one.... it revolutionized the social customs of the neighborhood."
McBrien then goes ahead to point out that the Temperance Society succeeded in eliminating a distillery in Kirtland on February 1, 1833, just twenty-seven days before the Latter-day Saint revelation counseling abstinence was announced, and that the distillery at Mentor, near Kirtland, was also closed at the same time (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp. 39-40).
In his book The Burned-Over District, pages 211-12, Whitney R. Cross points out that "the temperance movement ... began much earlier... During the 1830's it attained national scope. ... Further, if alcohol was evil because it frustrated the Lord's design for the human body, other drugs like tea, coffee, and tobacco must be equally wrong ... Josiah Bissell.... had even before the 1831 revival 'got beyond Temperance to the Cold Water Society—no tea, coffee or any other slops.' "
The Word of Wisdom is considered to be one of the most important revelations in the Mormon church. A Mormon who continues to break the Word of Wisdom is considered to be weak in the faith. Breaking the Word of Wisdom is considered a sin which can bar a person from the Temple. Joseph Fielding Smith claimed that the habit of drinking tea can "bar" a person from the "celestial kingdom of God":
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 (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 16).
Mormon writer John J. Stewart claims that Joseph Smith "carefully observed the Word of Wisdom, and insisted upon its
observance by other men in high Church positions ..." (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, p. 90). Mr. Stewart also states that "no one can hold high office in the Church, on even the stake or ward level, nor participate in temple work, who is a known user of tea, coffee, liquor or tobacco."
Although most members of the church feel that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, "carefully observed the Word of Wisdom," research reveals just the opposite. In fact, Joseph Smith, the man who introduced the temple ceremony into the Mormon church, would not be able to go through the Temple if he were living today because of his frequent use of alcoholic beverages.
Dr. Hugh Nibley wants to know where the evidence is that Joseph Smith drank. We would answer by saying that this evidence is found throughout Smith's own History of the Church. For example, under the date of May 2, 1843, the following statement is recorded in Joseph Smith's History: "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" (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 380).
The following entries were made for January, 1836:
We then partook of some refreshments, and our hearts were made glad with the fruit of the vine (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 369).
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 ... (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 378).
Joseph continued to disobey the Word of Wisdom until the day of his death. The History of the Church records the following incident in Carthage jail:... "The guard wanted some wine. Joseph gave Dr. Richards two dollars to give the guard; ... The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; ... Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as brother Taylor and the doctor, and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out" (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 616).
We do not know how often Joseph Smith used tobacco, but we do know that at one time "he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar" ("Joseph Smith As An Administrator," M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1969, p. 161).
As we have already shown, Mormon leaders have made three important changes concerning the Word of Wisdom in Joseph Smith's History of the Church.
In one instance, Joseph Smith asked "Brother Markam" to get "a pipe and some tobacco" for Apostle Willard Richards. These words have been replaced with the word "medicine" in recent printings of the History of the Church.
At another time Joseph Smith related that he gave some of the "brethren" a "couple of dollars, with directions to replenish" their supply of "whisky." In modern editions of the History of the Church, twenty-three words have been deleted from this reference to cover up the fact that Joseph Smith encouraged the "brethren" to disobey the Word of Wisdom.
In the third instance, Joseph Smith frankly admitted that he "drank a glass of beer at Moessers." These words have been omitted in recent printings of the History of the Church. [See page 32 of Changing World]
The reader may remember that there were two interesting entries in Joseph Smith's diary that were omitted when the History of the Church was compiled. In the first instance (March 11, 1843) Joseph Smith told of having "tea with his breakfast." When his wife asked him how he liked it, he replied that "if it was a little stronger he should like it better." In the second reference "Joseph prophesied in the name of the Lord that he would drink wine" with Orson Hyde "in the east" (Joseph Smith Diary, January 20, 1843).
Mormon apologist F. L. Stewart tries to defend Joseph Smith's practice of drinking wine: "The 'Word of Wisdom' actually states that wine should be taken 'only in assembling yourselves together, to offer up your sacraments before him.'... Since both weddings and baptisms were considered to be sacraments, Joseph was not breaching this revelation when he drank wine at weddings ..." (Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, p. 55). Mrs. Stewart goes on to point out that "this custom is no longer practiced at baptism and weddings, and water is now used in the place of wine for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper."
Mrs. Stewart's attempt to explain away Joseph Smith's disregard for the Word of Wisdom cannot be taken seriously. Joseph Smith's "glass of wine" with Jenetta Richards had nothing to do with a "sacrament," nor can his "beer at Moessers" be explained in this manner. When Joseph Smith and his friends drank wine in the jail at Carthage, it was certainly not taken as a sacrament. John Taylor made this point very clear in the History
of the Church: "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 believe we all drank of the wine..." (History of the Church, vol. 7, p. 101).
It is interesting to note that Apostle John Taylor continued to use alcoholic beverages after Joseph Smith's death. Hosea Stout recorded the following in his diary on 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 ..." (On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout; vol. 1, p. 259).
All of the early Mormon apostles seem to have used alcoholic beverages after the Word of Wisdom was given. This account of an incident in 1840 is found in Joseph Smith's History of the Church, (vol. 4, p. 120): "April 17.— This day the twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before." Under the date of July 1, 1845, Hosea Stout recorded in his diary: "This day there was a grand concert ... we had also the 12 and other authorities with us, and was also provided with as much beer, wine, cakes &c as we could eat and drink" (On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary Of Hosea Stout, vol. 1, p. 50).
Since Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders did not observe the Word of Wisdom, members of the church became confused over the matter. George A. Smith related:"... a certain family, ... arrived in Kirtland, and the Prophet asked them to stop with him ... Sister Emma, in the mean time, asked the old lady if she would have a cup of tea ... 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" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 214).
Because of the fact that Joseph Smith did not keep the Word of Wisdom, Almon W. Babbitt felt that he had a right to break it. On August 19, 1835, Mr. Babbitt was brought to trial, one of the charges being "that he was not keeping the Word of Wisdom." In his own defense 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 ..." (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 252).
Joseph Smith's Bar
In Nauvoo Joseph Smith sold liquor. The following ordinance
relating to this matter was passed in 1843, Joseph Smith being mayor of Nauvoo at the time:
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. (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 111).
Joseph Smith's own son related the following:
About 1842, a new and larger house was built for us ... 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,... "Joseph," she asked, "What is the meaning of that bar in this house? ... How does it look," 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 upon 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 of the house, or we will!"
It did not take Father long to make the choice, for he replied immediately, "Very well, Emma; I will have it removed at once"—and he did (The Saints' Herald, January 22, 1935, p. 110).
Oliver Boardman Huntington recorded the following incident in his journal:
Robert Thompson was a faithful just clerk for Joseph Smith the Prophet in Nauvoo and had been in his office steady near or quite 2 years. Joseph said to brother Thompson one day. "Robert I want you to go and get on a buss [bust?] go and get drunk and have a good spree, If you don't you will die."
Robert did not do it. He was very pious exemplary man and never guilty of such an impropriety as he thought that to be. In less than 2 weeks he was dead and buried (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, typed copy at Utah State Historical Society, vol. 2, p. 166).
Brigham Young's Distillery
Brigham Young spoke a great deal about the Word of Wisdom, but he seemed to have a difficult struggle applying it to his own life. According to Hosea Stout's diary (On The Mormon Frontier, vol. 1, p. 75). Brigham Young declared on September 27, 1845: "... I am and ever intend to be the Master of my passions ... some may say that 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...." In 1854 Brigham Young drank coffee on a regular basis (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 408). On April 7, 1867, Brigham Young acknowledged in the Tabernacle that he had chewed tobacco for many years: "... 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" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 404).
On the way to Utah, Brigham Young counseled the Mormons to "make beer as a drink" (John D. Lee, p. 116). Historian Hurbert Howe Bancroft says that "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" (History of Utah, p. 540, footnote 44).
Stanley P. Hirshon writes:
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 (The Lion of the Lord, p. 285).
On June 7, 1863, Brigham Young acknowledged publicly that he had built a distillery:
"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" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 206).
Hubert Howe Bancroft records: "Peter K. Dotson,... came to Salt Lake City in 1851, and was first employed by Brigham as manager of a distillery, afterwards becoming express and mail agent" (History of Utah, p. 573, footnote 2). Josiah F. Gibbs provided further information concerning Brigham Young's distillery:
During forty years the Mormon prophets absolutely controlled the city council and police force of Salt Lake....
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....
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.
(Lights and Shadows of Mormonism, 1909, pp. 248-49).
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 $846.97 per year...
"An examination of the official records of the United States shows that from 1862, when the tax on distilled spirits was first levied, until the coming of the Union Pacific railroad in 1869, which was the beginning of the Gentile era in Utah, thirty-seven distilleries existed in this Territory.... These facts, taken from public records, dispose of the charge that the Gentiles invaded a temperance community" (The Salt Lake Tribune, July 14, 1908).
According to John D. Lee, Brigham Young kept a large supply of liquor. Under the date of May 14 [15th], 1867, Lee recorded in his journal: "About 5 PM. Prest. B. Young & suite arrived ... On the following day I went to see him ... He had a decanter of splendid wine brought in of his own make & said, I want to treat Bro. Lee to as Good an article, I think, as can be bought in Dixie. The wine indeed was a Superiour article. He said that he had some 300 gallons & treated about 2000$ worth of liquers yearly & continued that we [he] wish[e]d that some one 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." (A Mormon Chronicle, The Diaries of John D. Lee, vol. 2, pp. 71-72).
Leonard J. Arrington, now church historian, observed concerning the Word of Wisdom:
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 (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp. 43-44).
Dr. Arrington quotes Brigham Young as saying:
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 (Ibid., p. 45).
In his sermons Brigham Young occasionally discussed the idea of Mormons producing their own tea, coffee, tobacco and whiskey:
You know that we all profess to believe the "Word of Wisdom." There has been a great deal said about it.... We as Latter-day Saints, care but little about tobacco: but as "Mormons" we use a great deal.... 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.... go to and make a business of raising tobacco and stop sending money out of the territory for that article.... We annually expend only $60,000 to break the "Word of Wisdom," and we can save the money and still break it, if we will break it (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 35).
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.... 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 (Ibid., vol. 11, pp. 113-14).
Brigham Young also recommended that the Mormons make wine. Angus M. Woodbury stated: "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;..." (The Mormon United Order in Utah, p. 9).
Leonard J. Arrington informs us that Brigham Young wanted most of the wine to be sold to the gentiles:
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 (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp. 46-47).
In his book Desert Saints (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966. Copyright © 1942, 1966 by The University of Chicago. Quotations used by permission.), Nels Anderson discusses the problems resulting from the church's involvement in making wine:
Wine-making was another Mormon enterprise that came to the same end as the cotton, iron, and silk missions. The St. George Tithing Office reported on March, 1887, a supply of 6,610 gallons of wine, valued at 50 cents per gallon.... The tithing office at St. George received wine of many grades. It met the problem by setting up standards. The tithing clerk issued these instructions on September 20, 1879:
"In order to obtain a more uniform grade of wine than we are able to obtain by mixing together the tithes of small pressings in the hands of sundry individuals; it is suggested that those having but small quantities of grapes to make up into wine, deliver their tithes in grapes at this office...."
Thus the church found itself the chief single producer of wine in
the Dixie area.... Because the tithing offices held the largest amount of wine for the market at any time, it was in a position to name the price. Church interest is evidenced in a letter sent by the St. George Tithing Office August 12, 1880. This letter was a bill sent to the managers in charge of building the Manti Temple, to whom had been sent a quantity of wine—4 barrels, or 158 gallons. It was not sold, but tithing credit was asked as follows: $187.50 for the wine; $20.00 for the barrels; for hauling the wine to Manti, $16.00; total $233.50. This was given in pay to the builders of the temple.
In 1889 Edward H. Snow, clerk of the St. George Tithing Office, wrote the presiding bishop at Salt Lake City regarding wine: "Our sales during the year do not amount to half of what we are obliged to make up from the grapes that are brought in.... We have made at this office alone over 600 gallons this year. We cannot refuse the grapes or the wine, and I see no way to get rid of it." Snow wanted the presiding bishop to take the surplus. Later the tithing office sent men with loads of wine to the northern settlements, where they traded Dixie's liquid wealth for wheat and flour or took it to the mining camps....
Dixie brethren did not follow Brother Brigham's counsel. They drank so much of the wine that by 1890 drunkenness was a worry to the church leaders. The tithing office discontinued accepting wine for tithes and abandoned its own presses (pp. 373-74).
Since the St. George Tithing Office, as a practical measure, had originally joined with the farmers in making wine, the church authorities were much embarrassed in pushing their drive against wine-drinkers. About 1887 the tithing office discontinued making wine. The passing of Silver Reef as a market left the producers with quantities of wine on hand. The tithing office managed, as well as it could, to get rid of the more than six thousand gallons on hand.
From the moral angle, church leaders were forced to recognize that their people could not be makers of liquor without being drinkers of it, too. There were too many drinkers of wine and too few moderate drinkers among them (p. 436).
Wine and Visions
One anti-Mormon writer claimed that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon were drunk at the time they received their vision concerning the plates. We have been unable to find any evidence to support this accusation. There is, however, evidence to show that wine was used to excess in the Kirtland Temple at the very time the Mormons were claiming to receive important revelations. William Harris made this report in 1841:
In the evening, they met for the endowment. The fast was then broken by eating light wheat bread, and drinking as much wine as they saw proper. Smith knew well how to infuse the spirit which they expected to receive; so he encouraged the brethren to drink freely, telling them that the wine was consecrated, and would not make them drunk ... they began to prophecy, pronouncing blessings upon their friends, and curses upon their enemies. If I should be so unhappy as to go to the regions of the damned, I never expect to hear language more awful, or more becoming the infernal pit, than was uttered that night (Mormonism Portrayed, pp. 31-32).
Charles L. Walker, a faithful Mormon, recorded the following in his diary:
Sun., Nov. 21,1880.... Bro. Milo Andress ... Spoke of blessings and power of God manifested in the Kirtland Temple. Said he once asked the Prophet who [why?] he (Milo) did not feel that power that was spoken of as the power which was felt on the day of Pentecost? ... when we had fasted for 24 hours and partaken of the Lord's supper, namely a piece of bread as big as your double fist and half a pint of wine in the temple, I was there and saw the Holy Ghost descend upon the heads of those present like cloven tongues of fire ("Diary of Charles L. Walker," 1855-1902, excerpts typed, 1969, p. 35).
The statement by Mormon Apostle George A. Smith would also lead a person to believe that wine was used to excess: "... after the people had fasted all day, they sent out and got wine and bread.... they ate and drank.... some of the High Counsel of Missouri stepped into the stand, and, as righteous Noah did when he awoke from his wine, commenced to curse their enemies (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 216).
In a statement dated February 27, 1885, Mrs. Alfred Morley charged: "I have heard many Mormons who attended the dedication, or endowment of the Temple, say that very many became drunk.... The Mormon leaders would stand up to prophesy and were so drunk they said they could not get it out, and would call for another drink. Over a barrel of liquor was used at the service" (Naked Truths About Mormonism, Oakland, Calif., April, 1888, p. 2). Isaac Aldrich said that his brother "Hazen Aldrich, who was president of the Seventies, told me when the Temple was dedicated a barrel of wine was used and they had a drunken 'pow-wow' " (Ibid., p. 3). Stephen H. Hart said that a Mormon by the name of McWhithey told him that "they passed the wine in pails several times to the audience, and each person drank as much as he chose from a cup. He said it was mixed liquor, and he believed the Mormon leaders intended to get the
audience under the influence of the mixed liquor, so they would believe it was the Lord's doings.... When the liquor was repassed Mr. McWhithey told them he had endowment enough..." (Ibid. , p. 3).
The reader will remember that David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, called the endowment "a trumped up yarn" and said that "there was no visitation" (The Des Moines Daily News, October 16, 1886). William E. McLellin, who had served as an Apostle in the Mormon church, commented: "As to the endowment in Kirtland, I state positively, it was no endowment from God. Not only myself was not endowed, but no other man of the five hundred who was present — except it was with wine" (True Latter-Day Saints' Herald, XIX, 437, as cited in Hearts Made Glad, p. 137).
The fact that the Mormons fasted for some time and then drank an excessive amount of wine probably led many of them to curse their enemies and to believe they had seen visions.
LaMar Petersen has detailed the problems relating to the Kirtland Temple and the Word of Wisdom in his book, Hearts Made Glad—The Charges of Intemperance Against Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet.
Orson Pratt once quipped: "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" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, p. 104).
We have shown that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, did not keep the Word of Wisdom, yet, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that a member of the church could not hold an office unless he observed it: "... 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" (Essentials in Church History, p. 169).
It is certainly perplexing that Joseph Smith could break the Word of Wisdom and yet retain his position as president of the church. The thing that makes this especially strange is that when a member of the church did not observe the Word of Wisdom, this was sometimes used against him if he was tried for his fellowship. Leonard J. Arrington stated: "Moreover, when a council at Far West tried a high church official (David Whitmer) for his fellowship, the first of the five charges against
him was that he did not observe the Word of Wisdom" (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, p. 40). As we have already shown, when Almon W. Babbitt was charged with not observing the Word of Wisdom, his only defense was that he "had taken the liberty to break the Word of Wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith, Jun., and others." We have also shown that after Joseph Smith's death, Brigham Young and other church leaders did not observe the Word of Wisdom.
Heber C. Kimball, who was a member of the First Presidency, once claimed that "virtuous Saints,... will not sell whiskey, and stick up grogeries, and establish distilleries" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 161). This statement seems very strange when we learn that Joseph Smith sold whiskey in Nauvoo, and that Brigham Young built a distillery and sold alcoholic beverages in Utah. Even the Mormon-owned Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (now known as ZCMI) sold the items forbidden in the Word of Wisdom. On October 7, 1873, George A. Smith, a member of the First Presidency, admitted: "We are doing a great business in tea, coffee, and tobacco in the Cooperative Store" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 238).
In 1908 the Salt Lake Tribune accused the Mormon leaders of trying to monopolize the liquor business in Utah: "... the Mormon priesthood ... resisted to the utmost the establishment of liquor houses by Gentiles here for a good while, not because they were liquor houses, but because the Gentiles were getting the trade.... This fierce effort to retain the liquor traffic here as a monopoly of the church was quite in accord with the present status of affairs here where the church is running the biggest liquor business in the State, through its Z.C.M.I. drug store and also through the big liquor business done by Apostle Smoot in his drug store at Provo" (Salt Lake Tribune, July 14, 1908).
Although the Word of Wisdom contains some good precepts, it is obviously a product of the thinking of Joseph Smith's time. Alcoholic beverages were condemned by the temperance movement years before Joseph Smith gave his "revelation." Although Smith was correct in stating that tobacco is harmful, we do not feel that this proves his "revelation" is divinely inspired. The Wayne Sentinel—a newspaper printed in the neighborhood where Joseph Smith grew up—published these statements concerning tobacco three years before Joseph Smith gave the Word of Wisdom:
"It is really surprising that a single individual could be found, who, after experiencing the distressing sensations almost
invariably produced by the first use of tobacco, would be willing to risk their recurrence a second time: ... Tobacco is, in fact, an absolute poison ..." (Wayne Sentinel, November 6, 1829).
While Mormons presently make much of abstinence from tobacco and alcoholic beverages, little is said about the Word of Wisdom cautioning against the use of meat except "in times of winter, or of cold or famine." With the exception of tea and coffee, "hot drinks" are freely used.