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
I was doing some reading about the Word of Wisdom and came upon something interesting. Before I get to my main point, I feel the need to give a little back story.
Now, after I graduated high School, I went to live with a former bishop of mine whose family had moved to Seattle. It was a chance to get away from Texas for a while and hopefully point my life in the right direction. While living up there, I was asked to speak at a fireside where different topics were being addressed. My topic was the WoW. In preparation, I asked Bishop for some insight on the subject. He asked me one question…”Is the WoW a commandment?” I thought about it for a second then I replied, “Yes”. He opened to section 89 and had me read the passage I quoted above. I was surprised to see that it says in very clear language, “not by commandment or constraint”. He explained to me how the revelation came about and that it was, at the time, a suggestion to the brethren. He left it at that and let me formulate my own opinions about it. I decided to ask his question to the group of youth there and they answered just like I had. I explained to them the same thing as best I could and then got into the traditional aspects of the revelation.
Over the years since, I have thought about that experience a lot. I could feel at the time how uncomfortable the leaders in the room felt when I told them that it was not a commandment. No one spoke to me about it but I always ask myself if I was right in saying that. After all, in the church today, you are asked very specific questions regarding the WoW and you must follow it to be considered a “member in good standing”.
Now, back to my current reading on the topic. I was again asking myself if I was right in teaching that so I began to read in Mormon Doctrine to see what McConkie had to say about it. I found what I expected. He states that it was not originally a commandment but was made one by Brigham Young. I then stumbled upon a quote by Joseph Smith made on April 7, 1838. The quote reads:
“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.” (Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith p117)
The reason this quote struck me is because I read an account from History of the Church where, even up to the night before he was killed, Joseph Smith did not obey the WoW. The following account is from the night before his murder at Carthage Jail.
"The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail…Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as also Brother Taylor…" (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 616)
At the time, the use of wine as part of the Sacrament was generally accepted but this was not the use here as confirmed by john Taylor.
"Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent to revive us." (History of the Church, vol. 7, p. 101)
Based on this account as well as others, and the quote by Joseph Smith in 1838, he himself should not have been worthy to hold the calling and office of Prophet.
This is just another example of the hypocrisy of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. I find it odd that in “worthiness interviews”, the only aspect of the WoW spoken of is abstaining from coffee, tea, and tobacco. They completely ignore the revelation that speaks of the good and healthy foods to eat and put no importance in being healthy as a requirement of worthiness. They choose to only follow/require the part of the revelation they want to enforce and the rest is just an afterthought in the last 2 minutes a Sunday school lesson. I have found that this is a typical practice of the church. They change their own doctrine to suit their needs at the time or to rationalize a behavior and then change it back at their convenience, acting as if nothing ever happened.