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
ALEXANDER: From Principle to Requirement I 85 unresolved, and evidence indicates that while the First Presidency has taken no official stand on the use of cola drinks, some members urge abstinence.26 In addition, some scientists and health food faddists insisted that the Word of Wisdom included much more than the church leadership generally supported. In 1930, for instance, John A. Widtsoe published a tract entitled The Word of Wisdom which interdicted the use of refined flour and foods and "all drinks containing substances that are unnaturally stimulating." On November 23, 1930, James W. Fitches and Don C. Wood called on President Grant and asked permission to use Widtsoe's tract and to get the First Presidency to invest in their "Nature Way" health food company. Grant refused, saying that many points in Widtsoe's pamphlet and in their campaign "might be criticized because the actual teachings in the Word of Wisdom would hardly justify the conclusions drawn."27 In the latter case, it seems probable that scientific evidence on the harmful effects of certain types of food and food additives played an influential role in the attempt to broaden the coverage of the Word of Wisdom. By the same token, similar scientific evidence also seems to have played an important role in the developing insistence that members abstain from tea, coffee, tobacco and liquor. What role did revelation play in the matter? It is clear that Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given as a revelation to Joseph Smith. Advice that the members of the Church adhere to the Word of Wisdom was also undoubtedly given under inspiration. There is, however, no known contemporary evidence of which I am aware that a separate new revelation changed the Word of Wisdom from a "principle with promise" to "a commandment" necessary for full participation in all the blessings of church membership. One author on the subject has argued that the vote in 1880 sustaining the Doctrine and Covenants as binding on church membership was equivalent to a vote making the Word of Wisdom a commandment. If, however, the members were voting on the words contained in the book, what they did was to agree that the Word of Wisdom was "a principle with promise" not a commandment.28 It is obvious that the Twelve and First Presidency prayerfully considered the conclusion that the Word of Wisdom ought to be a binding commandment for church members. Nevertheless, the main problem in interpreting the influence of revelation in these deliberations is the absence of references to revelations or even spiritual confirmation of specific positions in the diaries of those who participated in the meetings. The only references are statements or reminiscences of statements by previous authorities. It is much easier, therefore, to find references to previous statements than to see the presence of new, specific revelation. The inclusion of coffee and tea and the exclusion of cocoa, for instance, from the prohibited substances can probably be attributed to statements of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and Brigham Young rather than to specific revelations.29 Other influences are much easier to document. Elder Grant's diary reveals the influence of Evangelical Protestant sentiment in his attitudes toward