Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Dialogue: Vol 14 No 3
Did the Word of Wisdom Become a Commandment in 1851?
DID THE WORD OF WISDOM BECOME A COMMANDMENT IN 1851 ? Robert J. McCue Joseph Fielding Smith, Apostle and Church Historian, once published an answer to an inquiry about when the Word of Wisdom became a commandment. His response, widely accepted as definitive both then and subsequently, was included in his popular Answers to Gospel Questions: September 9, 1851, President Brigham Young stated that the members of the Church had had sufficient time to be taught the import of this revelation, and that henceforth it was to be considered a divine commandment. This was first put before the male members of the congregation and then before the women and by unanimous vote accepted.1 Even a casual reading of nineteenth-century diaries and sermons suggests, however, that Smith's perception was not always the accepted view of his predecessors. This article will examine some of these nineteenth-century sources to see if this paradox can be resolved. As first published, the actual text of the Word of Wisdom contained no explicit guidance on the question of its application. Originally beginning with what is now the fourth verse, the revelation simply stated that the Church had been "warned . . . and [IJ forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation." Those who remembered "to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments," were to be blessed with health and "great treasures of knowledge."2 The publication committee which assembled the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 added an italicized introduction to this revelation (as they did to a number of others) informing members that this instruction was "sent greeting; not by commandment, or constraint, but by revelation and the word of Robert J. McCue received his Ph.D. from Brigham Young University and is an assistant professor of history at the University of Victoria at Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. 66