Word of Wisdom Development

The development of the Word of Wisdom as LDS Doctrine is certainly interesting from my perspective.

I recall learning about Emma's complaint of tobacco smoke and chewing tobacco that prompted the Word of Wisdom revelation. While reading "Mormon Enigma; Emma Hale Smith", by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery I learned some additional information.

Here is an extract from the book (page 47):

  • Thus Emma, faced almost daily with "having to clean so filthy a floor" as was left by the men chewing tobacco, spoke to Joseph about the matter. David Whitmer's account supports Brigham Young's description. "Some of the men were excessive chewers of the filthy weed, and their disgusting slobbering and spitting cursed Mrs. Smith ... to make the ironical remark that 'It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a sin, and commanding its suppression.'" Emma had support among the women...
I think we are probably all familiar with the above account. But the following passage was a surprise to me.
  • Whitmer further reports, "The matter was taken up and joked about one of the brethren suggested that the revelation should also provide for a total abstinence from tea and coffee drinking, intending this as a counter dig at the sisters." Joseph made the issue the subject of prayer, and the "Word of Wisdom" was a result.
[A discussion of the events of this period is found in Paul H. Peterson, "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom" (Master's thesis). The quotations from David Whitmer are from the Des Moines Daily News, 16 October 1886, p. 20]

I am surprised to learn that the part of the Word of Wisdom dealing with coffee and tea may have very well been a counter attack on Emma and the other sisters that were against the men's heavy tobacco smoking and drinking.

What I also find very interesting about the development of the Word of Wisdom is that both Emma and Joseph Smith did not obey it. Emma drank tea on occasion, while Joseph Smith drank alcohol. Joseph Smith went to the extreme of owning a liquour license in Nauvoo so he can sell or distribute alcohol to anyone he wished.



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