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
The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement
THE WORD OF WISDOM: FROM PRINCIPLE TO REQUIREMENT Thomas G. Alexander The status of the Word of Wisdom at the turn of the century is evident from contemporary sources. At a meeting on May 5,1898, the First Presidency and Twelve discussed the Word of Wisdom. One member read from the twelfth volume of the Journal of Discourses a statement by Brigham Young that seemed to support the notion that the Word of Wisdom was a commandment of God. Lorenzo Snow, then President of the Council of the Twelve agreed, saying that he believed the Word of Wisdom was a commandment and that it should be carried out to the letter. In doing so, he said, members should be taught to refrain from eating meat except in dire necessity, because Joseph Smith had taught that animals have spirits. Wilford Woodruff, then President of the Church, said he looked upon the Word of Wisdom as a commandment and that all members should observe it, but for the present, no definite action should be taken except that the members should be taught to refrain from meat. The minutes of the meeting record that "President Woodruff said he regarded the Word of Wisdom in its entirety as given of the Lord for the Latter-day Saints to observe, but he did not think that Bishops should withhold recommends from persons who did not adhere strictly to it."1 Though it is clear that some church leaders, like Heber J. Grant and Joseph F. Smith, insisted upon complete abstinence from tea, coffee, liquor and tobacco, all General Authorities were not in agreement on all aspects of the Word of Wisdom. During a discussion in 1900 after he became President of the Church, Lorenzo Snow again emphasized the centrality of not eating meat, a point rarely emphasized by others, and in 1901, John Henry Smith and Brigham Young, Jr., of the Twelve both thought that the Church ought not interdict beer, or at least not Danish beer. Other apostles, like Anthon H. Lund and Matthias F. Cowley also enjoyed Danish beer and currant wine. Charles W. Penrose occasionally served wine. Emmeline B. Wells, then a Thomas G. Alexander is professor of history and director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University. The author thanks the Historical Department of the Church for a fellowship which helped support the research for this article. 78