Temperance Movement and The Word of Wisdom

December 26, 2008
By

For almost two centuries the Word of Wisdom is solid proven evidence to many members that the Church is true.

Jeff Lindsay [The Word of Wisdom] outlines principles of healthy living that go far beyond the scientific knowledge of the 1800s and much of this century…The 1833 dietary guidelines sound much like the recommended “food pyramid” produced by federally-funded research in the past decade.

For me and perhaps many of you it has been one of those solid concepts that when you feel rickety about some of the doctrine you can always count on the solid foundations of the word of wisdom.

What I never was taught though that before the word of wisdom there was the Temperance Movement.

Temperance Movement

In 1826 Marcus Morton had founded the American Temperance Society June, 1830, the Millenial Harbinger quoted in full, and with the hearty personal endorsement of Alexander Campbell, an article from the Philadelphia “Journal of Health,” The above in turn was quoting a widely circulated book, “The Simplicity of Health,” which article most strongly condemned the use of alcohol, tobacco, the eating intemperately of meats.

Fascinating Facts on the Word of Wisdom/ Temperance Movement (The last one being the most fascinating of them all)

The church today interprets hot drinks to mean tea and coffee, although there is evidence that in the early history of the church all hot drinks were forbidden.

Word of Wisdom is by Lester Bush (physician). He shows how, contrary to recent assertions, the Word of Wisdom was actually what “medical science” in the 1820s and 1830s preached. Bush claims that the Word of Wisdom would have been far more useful (and prophetic) to the 19th Century Mormons had it included instructions to use only clean water and to adequately dispose of waste. In fact, “hot drinks” and some alcoholic beverages may have saved the lives of many 19th Century Mormons had they drank them instead of the unsanitary water in Nauvoo, along the plains, and in Utah.

Although church leaders stress some portions of Joseph Smith’s Word of Wisdom, other portions are almost completely ignored. Mormon writer John J. Stewart observed: “The admonition to eat little meat is largely ignored, as are some other points of the revelation”

Temperance Societies were organized in great numbers during the early thirties, six thousand being formed in one year

The Temperance Society succeeded in eliminating a distillery in Kirtland on February 1, 1833, just twenty-seven days before the Latter-day Saint revelation counseling abstinence was announced, and that the distillery at Mentor, near Kirtland, was also closed at the same time (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1959, pp.39-40).

On October 6, 1830, the Kirtland Temperance Society was organized with two hundred thirty nine members. Among its members were listed a George Smith, several Morleys, a Wells, a Coe, and a Lyman. names all associated with the history of Mormonism

A few years before the Word of Wisdom, Robert Owen had abolished the use of ardent spirits in his community at New Harmony.

Whitney R. Cross points out that “the temperance movement … began much earlier… During the 1830′s it attained national scope. … Further, if alcohol was evil because it frustrated the Lord’s design for the human body, other drugs like tea, coffee, and tobacco must be equally wrong … Josiah Bissell…. had even before the 1831 revival ‘got beyond Temperance to the Cold Water Society—no tea, coffee or any other slops.’ “

Joseph tested the saints to make sure their testimonies were of his religion and not of him as a personable leader. Amasa Lyman of the first Presidency related Joseph Smith trying the faith of the saints many times by his peculiarities. At one time he had preached a powerful sermon on the word of wisdom and immediately thereafter he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar. http://patriot.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/document.phpCISOROOT=/MTGM&CISOPTR=3327&CISOSHOW=3264

Questions

Do you have a problem with the temperance movement being, so to speak, the forefather to the word of wisdom?

If the Word of Wisdom was derived from the Temperance movement does that make it feel a little less inspired to you?

If the Word of Wisdom was derived from the Temperance Movement why don’t we show it in the manuals?

Can you still count on the solid foundations of the word of wisdom or does the Temperance Movement make it feel rickety?

Does it really matter where the word of wisdom came from – it’s a net positive if you live it?

http://ldslivingmagazine.com/articles/show/934

57 Responses to Temperance Movement and The Word of Wisdom

  1. Jeremy Jensen
    December 26, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    “If the Word of Wisdom was derived from the Temperance Movement why don’t we show it in the manuals?”

    Because it wasn’t derived from the Temperance Movement. It was derived by God.

    • Brian
      February 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      No, they don’t show it because it was derived of a con-artist (possibly schizophrenic) name Joseph Smith and then used as “prophetic evidence” in order to gain a larger following. A organization worth billions that runs itself like a corporation is not going to advertise the fact that the Word of Wisdom is not in fact prophetic at all but a mere copy of a preexisting health movement. But hey as long as it makes you feel like you got something as grand as the meaning of life figured out (and that’s a huge reason people like organized religion) then keep believing this was derived of a so called “god” who’s ONLY true church is the one you go to and believe in and no others could possible be true because you have your “evidence” right here with the WoW. The sooner we can get past the notion that there is a god who gives a crap about what you consume or watch, and needs a organized religion in order to do anything, the sooner we can start loving everything about this world. 

      Side Note: When making a claim as profound as “Because it wasn’t derived from the Temperance Movement. It was derived by God.” please supply evidence for such a claim otherwise it has no foundation.    

      • Jonny
        July 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm

         Brian, do you actually believe Smith may have been schizophrenic? Have you ever known anyone who suffers from this horrible mental illness? If he was schizophrenic he never would have gotten as far as he did. Whether or not you belive he was called of God, your hypothesis is ignorant. Go Read the DSM-IV TR or visit a psych ward.

  2. James
    December 26, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Jeremy I think its getting more common knowledge that Joseph Smith use the Mason ceremony to create the Temple Ceremony see FAIR yet its not taught in the manuals.

    Would there be the problem if he used the knowledge he had from the Temperance Movement to develop the word of wisdom and it still come from God.

    Isn’t it possible that God could have placed Joseph Smith at that time and place in order to receive the Word of Wisdom and the knowledge of the Temperance Movement helped with that development.

    Let me get to the crux of my issue here. Everybody wants to know, ‘Okay Greg, did the temple ritual come from Freemasonry?’ And I’m going to answer that with a qualified yes. (Everybody inhale!)
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2005_Latter-day_Saints_and_Freemasonry.html

  3. Phouchg
    December 26, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    The word of wisdom wasn’t even strictly adhered to by the prophet. Apparently there was tobacco and wine use even at the Carthage Jail.

    But the Word of Wisdom is useful when you need to judge another church member.

  4. December 26, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Personally, none of this necessarily would lessen the impact of the Word of Wisdom. But then again, this is coming from someone who doesn’t take it on account of inspiration, but practicality and culture.

    I would warn more about using “physical” proofs for the church like the Word of Wisdom — it’s like that one Times and Seasons article (there were actually a few, but I’m too lazy to link them)…what would happen if it were found that tea or alcohol or something prohibited by the Word of Wisdom is actually quite healthy for us (or healthy in moderation, whereas the WoW says: none)? Clinging to “physical” or “scientific” proofs could leave people in a bind later on.

    Really, the lesson of the WoW is about obedience and faith. Any physical health benefits are purely coincidental and bonus.

    If you don’t have the faith and don’t feel anything out of obeying, then that’s another thing, but I don’t think the dealbreaker should be finding out that it was based on popular early nineteenth century diet rather than futuristic insight.

  5. Russell
    December 26, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I am wildly skeptical of charges that Joseph Smith just decided to rip off a contemporary movement and call it his own. The people surrounding him were not cultural vacuums…for me to believe that Joseph somehow convinced them that his idea was new and revolutionary while the temperance women were shouting on the street corners defies credibility. So if there was some cultural absorption going on, it was a conscious part of the theology-making. We can’t assume a totalitarian model for Joseph Smith (the view that dominated Soviet studies until the late 60s/70s)–that everyone was just Joseph’s dupe. It will almost lead us off the trail of the power that Mormonism had. To just view it as a conglommorate of cultural movements has a way of dehumanizing our subjects in question–no real agency, no ability to navigate the cultural currents that were surrounding them.

    Now as far as whether there was indeed a direct relationship between the WoW and temperance, we need to be crystal clear about what “medical opinion” of the day indicates. Not only did it prohibit alcohol, it also made prescriptions against things such as mustard, pepper, and even cold water. Medical wisdom also allowed for now-known-to-be harmful practices such as leech-based bloodletting. It is as remarkable to me what the WoW did not address as what it did. All of this goes without the utterly split decisions regarding the merits of tobacco, which was *hardly* condemned to the same degree as alcohol.

    Finally, I personally do not think we can even trace the WoW to scientific realities. Elder Maxwell has spoken concerning “tactical morality”–morality that does not exist for its basis in empirical reality but rather in relation the culture in which it exists. According to this, we do not abstain from coffee because it’s *so* much worse than 2 gallons of Sprite. Rather, we do it so we can have the rather awkward situation of placing ourselves in contradistinction to broader society (which drinks coffee in plenitude). Of course, this presumes that the Prophet knows what kinds of “tactical cues” are necessary for modern society.

    Basically, if you’re looking for an explanation of the WoW, I would look elsewhere than the simplistic comparison with temperance.

  6. December 26, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Adventists begin their adherence to a similar health code at the same time. I don’t know if they claim revelation as the reason of if it just seemed like a prudent thing to do given the medical knowlege then. It’s stood them in good stead as they’re one of the healthiest groups and fastest growing (about 20 million world wide) churches.

  7. James
    December 26, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    “I am wildly skeptical of charges that Joseph Smith just decided to rip off a contemporary movement and call it his own. The people surrounding him were not cultural vacuums…for me to believe that Joseph somehow convinced them that his idea was new and revolutionary while the temperance women were shouting on the street corners defies credibility.”

    Russel we don’t seem to have a problem anymore agreeing that the Temple Ceremony came from the Masons excepth the word rip off we would say qualified yes. LDS Living article seems to show strong connections as well with the temperance movement. http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2005_Latter-day_Saints_and_Freemasonry.html

    “we need to be crystal clear about what “t things such as mustard, pepper, and even cold water.” Even in our day many doctors have warned against spicy food being dangerous and blamed it for ulcers and other gastric ills. English Mustard will blow your head off. I would imagine back then it was pretty strong.

  8. James
    December 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Russell hope you don’t take this as criticism just curious were you ever an apologist? “We need to be crystal clear” “I am wildly skeptical” “Basically” “defies credibility” “rip off” and Finally. These emotive phrases can be taken by some to be convesation killers and seem pretty harsh some what like a heavy parental style. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel scared to leave a reply. No offence intended :)

  9. Russell
    December 26, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Fair enough. So let me be “crystal clear” ;) that I just have a firm stance on issues relating to the Church’s relationship to other cultural movements. And either to my blessing or my condemnation (depending on one’s perspective), that tone will come through in my answers. And if I object to certain approaches to the topic (viewing the temperance movement as a monocausal source for the WoW, for example), it’s because I’ve seen that the result (intended or unintended) is the portrayal of the Word of Wisdom in naturalistic terms. As a *relatively* conservative believer, that view is not acceptable to me on even intellectual terms.

    My point is that in the case of the WoW (which was instituted for very different reasons than the Church’s involvement with Masonry–which, incidentally, offers a fascinating way to examine the methods of revelation in the modern Church), we simply cannot draw too close of a relationship between temperance and the WoW…not a linear one at least. The most we can say is that the issue was much discussed in his day and was a topic of public discourse. After all, what solid evidence is there to suggest that fellow believers bought into the WoW because of a largely secular movement like temperance?

    And I have a difficult time associating the health risks of mustard/pepper/cold water with smoking or alcohol in frequency or severity. Even using the ole’ “prove the WoW correct through science method”–old-fashioned though the method may be–I can’t say that any studies have correlated death/disease with mustard like it has with smoking or alcohol.

    At any rate, I find Elder Maxwell’s “tactical morality” model to be compelling. Check it out at lds.org. Fascinating stuff.

  10. James
    December 26, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    GB Smith

    For more than 125 years, Seventh-day Adventists have practiced the vegetarian dietary lifestyle because of their belief in the holistic nature of people. Whatever is done in eating or drinking is believed to honour and glorify God. The use of any food or substance that has been demonstrated as harmful is a dishonour to God, shows lack of respect for the body, and is a disservice to humankind.

    h_fruitThe recommended lacto-ovo vegetarian diet includes:

    * generous use of fresh fruits
    * vegetables
    * whole-grain breads and cereal
    * legumes
    * nuts, low-fat milk and low fat milk products
    * it is suggested that dairy products should be unripened and eggs should be used sparingly
    * Adventists advocate the avoidance of meat, fish and fowl (especially beef, shellfish and pork) and coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco products .

    Has Any Research Been Done?

    In the 1960s, Loma Linda University, in cooperation with the National Cancer Institute, began to study the health of Seventh-day Adventists. Later, in the 1970′s and ’80′s, data on the Adventist lifestyle was collected and analysed under contract with the National Institute of Health and the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. View the Adventist Health Study.

    Adventists, in general, have 50% less risk of heart disease, certain types of cancers, strokes, and diabetes. Recent data suggests that vegetarian men under 40 can expect to live 8.9 years longer and women 7.5 years longer than the general population. More specifically, Adventist vegetarian men live 3.6 years longer than Adventists who eat meat.

    h_orangeHow Can I Apply This to My Life?

    Researchers believe this added length of life and quality of health is due in general to a healthier lifestyle, particularly the dietary intake of more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as the avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee and meat. Current evidence demonstrates that the closer a person follows the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, the lower the risk of the major diseases of the western countries. Likewise, the more lax a person is in the implementation of the recommended dietary and lifestyle changes, the higher the risk.
    http://adventist.org.au/services/health/living_healthy/nutrition_advice/eating_for_health

  11. Holden Caulfield
    December 26, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    #3.-”The word of wisdom wasn’t even strictly adhered to by the prophet.”

    This made me think of an 1836 entry in the Prophet’s journal…….”We then took some refreshment and our hearts were made glad with the fruit of the vine. This is according to pattern Set by our Saviour himself and we feel disposed to patronize all the institutions of heaven.”

    When I first read this years ago, I imagined him hiccuping as he dictated it…….It also made me wonder what in the world he meant by “all the institutions of heaven”…..

  12. Michael
    December 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Very interesting. Thank you for the history lesson. One story that you left out was that the WoW came after Emma complained about the tobacco juice running through the floor boards from the School of the Prophets into their living area.

    So, I always assumed that the revelation came from a nagging wife, not God. But, you’ve opened my eyes to other possibilities. Thanks.

  13. December 27, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Re 12: Michael, I remember when I learned that tidbit in a Sunday School lesson. I was SO excited that day; I thought we were getting into really deep stuff there.

    It felt so dangerous it had to be cool!

  14. James
    December 27, 2008 at 2:58 am

    12 Michael, Andrew- just in case you couldn’t find it.

    The first school of the prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph’s kitchen…. When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom, and spit all over the room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobacco would then be taken. Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor, made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p.158).

  15. James
    December 27, 2008 at 3:07 am

    11 Holden Caulfield

    Holden I think it took awhile even into about 1870 until it was realy adhered to.

    Since Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders did not observe the Word of Wisdom, members of the church became confused over the matter. George A. Smith related: “… a certain family, … arrived in Kirtland, and the Prophet asked them to stop with him … Sister Emma, in the mean time, asked the old lady if she would have a cup of tea … or a cup of coffee. This whole family apostatized because they were invited to take a cup of tea or coffee, after the Word of Wisdom was given” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p.214).

    Because of the fact that Joseph Smith did not keep the Word of Wisdom, Almon W. Babbitt felt that he had a right to break it. On August 19, 1835, Mr. Babbitt was brought to trial, one of the charges being “that he was not keeping the Word of Wisdom.” In his own defense Babbitt “said that he had taken the liberty to break the Word of Wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith Jun., and others, but acknowledged that it was wrong …” (History of the Church, vol. 2, p.252).

  16. Holden Caulfield
    December 27, 2008 at 10:41 am

    12-Babbitt“said that he had taken the liberty to break the Word of Wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith Jun., and others, but acknowledged that it was wrong …”

    I wonder what we learn from this. Babbitt “knew it was wrong” but the prophet didn’t?

  17. hawkgrrrl
    December 27, 2008 at 11:16 am

    I agree with phouchg that the WoW is mostly useful at judging other church members – it’s an outward manifestation of who is “in” and who is “out” based on observance. I can’t think of a single person for whom the divine origin of the WoW is the basis of their faith. Rather the reverse–they believe what they believe, then they attempt to come up with proofs that the WoW is of divine origin. But it can’t really be proven either way how much it was a product of its time and how much it was just good common sense (and common courtesy). If we had been told to do something really peculiar that ended up having a health benefit, that would be easier to prove. The problem is that life doesn’t usually work that way. The best course of action often follows common sense, too.

  18. Russell Stevenson
    December 27, 2008 at 11:26 am

    As far as the Babbit case (ha, I feel like I’m in a legal history seminar–Babbit just has that definitive feel to it), we know from his journals that in other cases, Joseph Smith himself was pleading on behalf of the defendants for mercy. It would be reasonable to suppose that others felt a need to defend Joseph more than Joseph himself felt a need to defend himself. I might place actions, then, on a decent-hearted, but ultimately zealous high council.

    Just a thought.

  19. December 27, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    haha, we must all be on the same wavelength. I’ve bee working on a post dealing with the same issue at my blog. Once I saw this I decided to just post it. Please know I’m hardly stealing ideas :)

    I find it extremely interesting to look at everything with a historical perspective. It lends a new appreciation and understanding to the things we used to “know.” It wasn’t until recently that I learned of the temperance movement and other “clean living” standards spoken of in the early 19th century.

    I always thought and was taught Joseph Smith was ahead of his time regarding some of these things. I mean this in the best way – I know it was revelation, but I mean by way of the revelation being so new as to astound those who, I believed, thought drinking and smoking to be perfectly fine if not healthy thankyouverymuch. It appears not to be so.

  20. Russell Stevenson
    December 27, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Lisa:

    I would disagree with you on one point; I don’t find JS to be ahead of his time in what was prohibited but what he left out (as noted above). Why didn’t we hear nonsense about mesmerism, phrenology, cold water, and spicy food? JS was ahead of his time, but for reasons that most LDS have not even considered. For this reason, I also agree that historical research is helpful, esp. Lester Bush’s article on the topic as cited above. But the foreward-looking elements of the WoW remain, even if it turns our paradigm on its head in the process.

  21. James
    December 27, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Lisa interesting thought for your post on tobacco.

    The Wayne Sentinel—a newspaper printed in the neighborhood where Joseph Smith grew up— published these statements concerning tobacco three years before Joseph Smith gave the Word of Wisdom:

    “It is really surprising that a single individual could be found, who, after experiencing the distressing sensations al-most invariably produced by the first use of tobacco, would be willing to risk their recurrence a second time: … Tobacco is, in fact, an absolute poison …” (Wayne Sentinel, November 6, 1829).

  22. Russell Stevenson
    December 27, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I would wonder at how seriously Joseph would take talk in the news seriously. The Smith family was a family of outcasts, marginalized by mainstream religion. And if they’re anything like the outcasts I know, they take great pride in how much they dismiss the mainstream press. My friends think of them as liberal latte-sippers; it wouldn’t surprise me if Joseph held similar disdain.

    Re: temperance, both JS and JS Sr. drank in their day…why would JS have felt a need to turn his back a past activity that he felt to be acceptable at the time? Why would he just accept what he some high-strung member of middle-class America was spouting at him? AFter all, these were the same types who had brushed off his earlier visions. The WoW simply does not strike me as being within JS’s character.

  23. December 27, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    There are very few if any distinctive “Mormon” doctrines or practices which are as inextricably linked at the hip to Joseph Smith’s immediate world and pervasive culture than the Word of Wisdom. Many Latter-day Saints have some awareness of this, but from lack of extensive data, they often couch their comments on that subject in quite cautious, relative language. Yet virtually every element of D&C 89 had dramatically striking correlations to issues and concepts which were being published and preached intensively at the time (I’m weak on the tobacco for sick cattle thing, but give me a little more time on that one).

    Even the chronology is interesting. Beginning in 1832, various American temperance societies began to organize a first-time, major temperance (anti-drinking) rally to be held on the same day nationwide in every village and town throughout the United States. It was publicized well in advance, and observed from the most humble hamlets to Washington D.C. “Shall we, whose souls are lighted,” asked Lewis Cass,

    With wisdom from on high,
    Shall we, to men benighted
    The lamp of life deny? [quoting "From Greenland's Icy Mountains"]

    “Our Government,” declared Cass, “. . . would soon become as desolate as the monuments of departed freedom . . . of the old world, if it were not guarded by the virtue and intelligence of the American people and their representatives. All, therefore, are interested in the great cause of public morals . . .”

    There stood the Secretary of War of the United States, in the hall of the House of Representatives on the Sunday evening before the nationwide rally, virtually preaching, “. . . with the less reluctance, even in this hall of legislation, because the evils of intemperance, against which we are called to bear our testimony, and in the suppression of which our co-operation is demanded, have passed, like the blast of the desert, over this fair land.” —Proceedings and Speeches at a Meeting for the Promotion of the Cause of Temperance, in the United States, Held at the Capitol, in Washington City, February 24, 1833. (Washington: Printed by Way and Gideon, 1833), 3-4.

    Notices of this event were circulated months in advance by the tens of thousands in temperance publications throughout the nation, even up and down the Mississippi Valley, carefully scheduling Tuesday, February 26, 1833 for the simultaneous observances. It was surely the greatest anti-drinking event of the nineteenth century. On Wednesday, February 27, 1833, Joseph Smith dictated the Word of Wisdom.

    “. . . Let every friend of temperance,” urged a major Albany publication, “—let every lover of his country, and of man—let every parent—let every child—let every christian in these United States turn his attention to the TWENTY-SIXTH OF FEBRUARY, 1833, and make it a day worthy to be recorded on the brightest page of history; a day which in point of importance to future generations, may be enrolled with that which gave us FREEDOM.” —Temperance Recorder. Devoted Exclusively to the Cause of Temperance, Published monthly, by the Executive Committee of the New-York State Temperance Society. Vol. I, issue 10 (for December 4, 1832), p. 79.

  24. Russell Stevenson
    December 28, 2008 at 10:40 am

    I really think we’re seeing the WoW in monochromatic terms. One line, just one line says “strong drinks are not for the belly.” And yet b/c of that one line, we see this sprawling revelation as the product of such a one-issue affair? JS was going well beyond the issue of the day. Had he merely wanted to capture the anti-temperance ferment, why did he risk his credibility by prescribing an entire code of health? In spite of the smattering of warnings about tobacco, if Joseph wanted to keep his followers, why alienate them with such dogmatism? (even BY shook his head in wonder at the WoW).

    The tobacco restriction would have seemed like a health nut’s prescription in our day, and based on JS’s past behavior, he hardly was a health nut.

  25. hawkgrrrl
    December 28, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    It would be pretty easy to justify certain things given what D&C 89 actually says: iced tea and iced coffee should be okay. Beer was not lumped in with “hard liquor” in those days–it was considered a mild drink by contrast to whatever they were cooking up in the still. But you could dismiss the whole thing based on D&C since it says “not by way of commandment.” The only very valuable thing about considering it as part of JS’s day is to determine what he was trying to accomplish. IMO, it was his search for enlightenment by freeing the mind and body through one’s diet and exercise, not specifically creating a health code.

  26. December 28, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    First of all, have you even read section 89 of the D&C? I clearly states that it is not a commandment!

    Secondly, why would god forbid the use of alcohol and then instruct the saints to make their own wine for the sacrament?

    Thirdly, the WOW was not enforced by the LDS church until about the 1950′s or 60′s. Joseph Smith drank and Brigham Young even built breweries in SLC.

    Now if these guys were true prophets, why did they break the WOW and why did the church not enforce it for over 100 years?

  27. December 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    411 – We all know your point in your last question. You don’t believe they were prophets. Fair enough. In a black and white world I’m sure we would all be forced to accept your logic or deny history, correct?

    Fwiw, as far as I am aware, the WoW began to be more strictly enforced in the church 20-30 years earlier than you suggest.

  28. DavidH
    December 28, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I suppose the Word of Wisdom is separable from the cultural influences of the day in the same way as the Church’s opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment is separable from the influences of those that opposed the Equal Rights Amendment before the Church did. In other words, I do not think they are separable.

    Just as there were questions and arguments to be made relating to alcohol and tobacco in the early 1800s (and to the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1960s and 1970s), the appointed Church leader(s) through inspiration decided which position to take.

    I do think that many members of the Church think incorrectly that the ideas of the Word of Wisdom came “out of the blue” (apart from any encouragement from Emma with respect to keeping the room clean).

    And, of course, much of the current significance (and signifying nature) of the Word of Wisdom is attributable to its firm “enforcement” (e.g., as an essentially nonnegotiable requirement to attend the temple or advance in the priesthood) which really began during Heber J. Grant’s administration.

  29. hawkgrrrl
    December 28, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    411 and others’ comments go to the heart of what a prophet is. Is it someone who predicts the future like a psychic, someone who lives outside of time with no connection to his or her day or social customs, someone who speaks for God infallibly without any human failings such as prejudice or misunderstanding? Well, good luck finding anyone like that. You won’t find someone like that aside from Jesus (at least based on the currently accepted canon of the Bible), no matter how hard you search. If you can’t stomach the foibles of human prophets, I’m sure you’re not alone. But prophetic infallibility is not a tenet of my faith.

  30. Holden Caulfield
    December 28, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    29-hawkgrrl—”prophetic infallibility is not a tenet of my faith”

    As one who struggles with faith, but does continue the struggle, it doesn’t seem to me we are discussing anything near infallibility. There seems to me so much in the polygamy/word of wisdom discussions as they relate to the life of the Prophet that at times defies even common sense. I realize that our vision of the past is clouded, at best. Still, even for the faithful, there are many unanswered questions.

    What I hope for in a prophet is a watchmen on the tower that can see “afar off”. If they don’t do that, I don’t see why we use the word prophet. “Really good man” would seem to suffice.

    As an aside, I don’t comment much on this website, but come here quite often to see ideas that are different from mine. I have a gay son and honestly have become a casualty of the prop 8 battle. I come hear looking for help with my questions and doubts, not to quibble intellectually. I appreciate your many comments, hawkgrrrl, and often find them helpful.

  31. December 28, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    #29. hawk… I truly believe Jesus had no prejudices of course, but as for him not being influenced by the social customs of the day? There’s an argument there. He had to address the issues of the day, of course, and there’s even evidence that Christ was heavily influenced by Essene thought… just an observation.

  32. James
    December 29, 2008 at 9:25 am

    29 411 and others’ comments go to the heart of what a prophet is. Is it someone who predicts the future like a psychic, someone who lives outside of time with no connection to his or her day or social customs, someone who speaks for God infallibly without any human failings such as prejudice or misunderstanding? Well, good luck finding anyone like that. You won’t find someone like that aside from Jesus (at least based on the currently accepted canon of the Bible), no matter how hard you search. If you can’t stomach the foibles of human prophets, I’m sure you’re not alone. But prophetic infallibility is not a tenet of my faith.

    I agree with this – but what it sounds like your saying to me is they can get it wrong and maybe even get it wrong on something big like denying generations and their off spring the priesthood, that is if you agree that could be possibly a mistake.

    If our prophets are hit and miss with revelation how does that make us any different from any other religion?

  33. hawkgrrrl
    December 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    James – “If our prophets are hit and miss with revelation how does that make us any different from any other religion?” A thoughtful question. I think the difference is the manner in which we try, and in some cases, the extent to which we try. For example, if you think there is no more revelation, you go about it all very differently, relying solely on the written words that precede you, getting tripped up in the problems of Biblical infallibility. If you believe that there is revelation, but only to prophets or leaders (no personal revelation), then you allow others to act as your intermediary with God (what is the difference between that and praying to Saints?)

    Arthur – I was thinking of Jesus’ referring to the Canaanite woman as a dog (it is not meet to give the children’s food to the dogs) as a possible cultural prejudice. However, another consideration is that some of the apocryphal books cast Jesus in a totally different light, his actions not universally above reproach. I suppose that’s why they are apocryphal. They do make for good storytelling, though.

    Holden C – “What I hope for in a prophet is a watchmen on the tower that can see “afar off”. If they don’t do that, I don’t see why we use the word prophet. “Really good man” would seem to suffice.” Even if a prophet is just that – a really good person who has lived a solidly good life and warns others to do likewise, that good life does provide some sort of vision. Maybe that’s enough.

  34. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 29, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    “For almost two centuries the Word of Wisdom is solid proven evidence to many members that the Church is true.”

    For 100 years or so, descendents of my ancestors have been virtually free from emphysema and lung cancer, which could be construed as proof that adhering to the WoW brings the promised “health in the navel”. Being able to run and not be weary at age 70 or higher is a “great treasure” that I have witnessed. I live in an area and treat generations of smokers who suffer ills that could have been easily avoided.

    The temperance movement doesn’t make the WoW feel rickety any more than other restoration era movements that preceded the further light provided by JS. By attaching the WoW to a precept of religion, the degree of commitment to living it was greatly enhanced. Where are the 6000 temperance societies now? Are any of them still in existence? Are there any other modern religious denominations that have strict health codes aside from the LDS and SDAs? I think its interesting to read the information in #10. I would glad give up 3 years of my life in order to be able to consume meat!

    It’s interesting that the word “vegetable” is NOT in the Word of Wisdom, but the passage “Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof” could be interpreted as “vegetables and fruit.” This definition of herb from a bible dictionary shows this more clearly:

    Herb

    (1.) Heb. ‘eseb, any green plant; herbage (Gen. 1:11, 12, 29, 30; 2:5; 3:18, etc.); comprehending vegetables and all green herbage (Amos 7:1, 2). (2.) _Yarak_, green; any green thing; foliage of trees (2 Kings 19:26; Ps. 37:2); a plant; herb (Deut. 11:10). (3.) _Or_, meaning “light” In Isa. 26:19 it means “green herbs;” in 2 Kings 4:39 probably the fruit of some plant. (4.) _Merorim_, plural, “bitter herbs,” eaten by the Israelites at the Passover (Ex. 12:8; Num. 9:11). They were bitter plants of various sorts, and referred symbolically to the oppression in Egypt.
    Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary

    This makes me smile thinking of LDS oriented businesses that promote naturopathic treatments because they are “herbal”.

  35. James
    December 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    34 Rigel

    Are there any other modern religious denominations that have strict health codes aside from the LDS and SDAs?

    Buddhism • Refrain from meat, vegetarian diet is desirable • Moderation in all foods • Fasting required of monks • Natural foods of the earth are considered most pure • Monks avoid all solid food after noon

    Eastern Orthodox Christianity • Restrictions on Meat and Fish • Fasting Selectively • Observance of Holy Days includes fasting and restrictions to increase spiritual progress

    Hinduism • Beef prohibited • All other meat and fish restricted or avoided • Alcohol avoided • Numerous fasting days • Cow is sacred and can’t be eaten, but products of the “sacred” cow are pure and desirable • Fasting promotes spiritual growth

    Islam • Pork and certain birds prohibited • Alcohol prohibited • Coffee/tea/stimulants avoided • Fasting from all food and drink during specific periods • Eating is for good health • Failure to eat correctly minimizes spiritual awareness • Fasting has a cleansing effect of evil elements

    Judaism • Pork and shellfish prohibited • Meat and dairy at same meal prohibited • Leavened food restricted • Fasting practiced • Land animals that do not have cloven hooves and that do not chew their cud are forbidden as unclean (e.g., hare, pig, camel) • Kosher process is based upon the Torah

    Mormonism • Alcohol and beverages containing caffeine prohibited • Moderation in all foods • Fasting practiced • Caffeine is addictive and leads to poor physical and emotional health • Fasting is the discipline of self-control and honoring to God

    Protestants • Few restrictions of food or fasting observations • Moderation in eating, drinking, and exercise is promoted • God made all animal and natural products for humans’ enjoyment • Gluttony and drunkenness are sins to be controlled

    Rastafarianism • Meat and fish restricted • Vegetarian diets only, with salts, preservatives, and condiments prohibited • Herbal drinks permitted; alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks prohibited • Marijuana used extensively for religious and medicinal purposes • Pigs and shellfish are scavengers and are unclean • Foods grown with chemicals are unnatural and prohibited • Biblical texts support use of herbs (marijuana and other herbs)

    Roman Catholicism • Meat restricted on certain days • Fasting practiced • Restrictions are consistent with specified days of the church year

    Seventh-day Adventist • Pork prohibited and meat and fish avoided • Vegetarian diet is encouraged • Alcohol, coffee, and tea prohibited • Diet satisfies practice to “honor and glorify God”

  36. Bruce Nielson
    December 29, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    “Do you have a problem with the temperance movement being, so to speak, the forefather to the word of wisdom?”

    No. I’ve always assumed the thought to ask God about alcohol and tabacco didn’t come out of thin air. It makes perfect sense that the early Church leaders would want to ask God if the temperance movement has any true sanction from God or not.

    “If the Word of Wisdom was derived from the Temperance movement does that make it feel a little less inspired to you?”

    No. See above. This is consistent with the Mormon idea that God normally waits for you to ask before giving a revelation. It just makes sense that people would wonder if alcohol was consistent with spiritual life or not.

    “If the Word of Wisdom was derived from the Temperance Movement why don’t we show it in the manuals?”

    LOL. You guys have impossible expectations of Church manuals and manual writers. I hope you’re never in the position of being held to your own standards. You expect them to anticipate every possible future objection anyone might raise or they are assumed to be hiding something.

    Incidentally, can you please point me to a Church manual that makes a claim similar to your quote from Jeff Lindsey? I am not sure I’ve ever actually see an official source make that claim. I don’t know. They probably did 50 years ago. But you probably won’t find more than a casual mention nowadays that science has born out the harmfulness of alcohol and tobacco far beyond our wildest expectations. That is certainly true. But the idea that these ideas weren’t already around and debated aren’t true.

    “Can you still count on the solid foundations of the word of wisdom or does the Temperance Movement make it feel rickety?”

    This question is based on a lot of assumptions about the word of wisdom’s purpose that I don’t share with you.

    “Does it really matter where the word of wisdom came from – it’s a net positive if you live it?”

    IMO, the WoW really didn’t matter as much back then as it does today, at least as far as alcohol goes. They didn’t have to worry about drunk drivers, beer commercials, teen parties away from parents (due to cars existing), etc.

    James, this discussion is very interesting, but I think I have to disagree with you that the Word of Wisdom is a direct decedent of the temperance movement. They are only distant cousins.

    You are starting with the assumption that the modern interpretation of the Word of Wisdom is the same as the 19th century Mormon view. But there is overwhelming evidence this isn’t the case.

    Modernly we live the word of wisdom in part as a distinctive Mormon practice that separates Mormons from non-Mormons. This is similar in concept to orthodox Jews not eating pork or wearing beards or locks of hair. This form of the Word of Wisdom didn’t come about until after polygamy ended in the early 20th century. (About 1910 according to Flake.)

    To 19th century Mormons, the Word of Wisdom was much more casual and thus very little like the temperance movement of it’s time. (The word of wisdom was more comparable to planting a garden or having a year supply is today.) More to the point, the 19th century Mormons were NOT teetotalers like the temperance movement advocated. So the main source of similarity that you are emphasizing didn’t even exist at the time.

    Since the Word of Wisdom does not become true teetotaling until as late as the early 20th century, by then the temperance movement was forgotten. So that means that the main similarity between the modern WoW and the temperance movement is really just a coincidence.

    This is also why it would make no sense at all for the manual writers, assuming they were historians that had studied this subject as thoroughly as your sources, to make a point of including a reference to the temperance movement. But of course they aren’t historians and frankly couldn’t possibly have know about the temperance movement in the first place to have mentioned it in the manual.

  37. James
    December 30, 2008 at 5:58 am

    Bruce 36

    “LOL. You guys have impossible expectations of Church manuals and manual writers.

    Its getting to be pretty common knowledge among the church now that Joseph Smith was married to more than just Emma. Is it silly to think that maybe one day the manuals could be ammended. If not its making 13 million members do the emperors new clothing thing!!

    This is also why it would make no sense at all for the manual writers, assuming they were historians that had studied this subject as thoroughly as your sources, to make a point of including a reference to the temperance movement. But of course they aren’t historians and frankly couldn’t possibly have know about the temperance movement in the first place to have mentioned it in the manual.

    Shouldn’t the Historians and CES have an input – it would certainly stop so much innoculation. Which I think is starting to wear people down.

  38. Rigel Hawthorne
    December 30, 2008 at 11:42 am

    It may be common knowledge among the church that JS was married to more than just Emma, but I only just learned from this website recently that there are no genetic matches to link children from the plural wives to JS. One day this may change and the implications regarding how we view Nauvoo era plural marriage could change again. So what exactly can we be innoculated against? Historians and CES experts would interpret history with different opinions just as Bruce and James have done. Nothing wrong with that, but it points to why the introduction is placed in our current manual explaining that “this book deals with teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith that have application to our day.”

  39. James
    December 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Rigel I guess its not those who are up on the issues of polygamy that need to be innoculated but its those who are learning the Gospel and have access to Google in my opinion need to be informed.

    I would imagine now CES and Historians agree with FAIR review on Sacred Lonliness at a minimum Joseph Smith was a polygamist. It also might be important to those ancestors of those who married Joseph Smith not to have their names blotted out of History.

  40. Bruce Nielson
    January 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

    James,

    I know this thread is long dead, but I think we should talk about this further. Perhaps off line. (You can contact me by clicking on my profile.)

    Here is the problem, James, NOMS (like yourself I assume from your writtings) tend to offer a lot of problems but very few solutions. They tend to offer a lot of generalities, but few specifics. I see this in this conversation. For example, you said:

    “Its getting to be pretty common knowledge among the church now that Joseph Smith was married to more than just Emma. Is it silly to think that maybe one day the manuals could be amended.”

    But the current Joseph Smith manual does say he is a polygamist. Were you aware of this? If so, please explain what you mean further so that I can understand you.

    “I would imagine now CES and Historians agree with FAIR review on Sacred Lonliness at a minimum Joseph Smith was a polygamist. It also might be important to those ancestors of those who married Joseph Smith not to have their names blotted out of History.”

    Ah, maybe this explains what you meant? Since currently there are no known descendants of Joseph Smith, except through Emma, (though there may be ones we don’t currently know about) I am going to assume you were aware of that and that what you mean is that you think it’s unfair that the Church doesn’t talk very much about Joseph Smith’s other wives.

    It seems to me that this is possibly a valid concern. The problem is that so little is know about these other marriages – so little that it’s hard to discuss it without basically having a lot of un-provable opinions. Also, I’m not sure that non-history books like manuals have a duty to bring up every possible issue. (See below for my example.)

    Consider, for example, that it’s pretty common to talk about how Joseph was married to Eliza Snow. I hear about that in Church all the time. Do you? But as it turns out, Eliza Snow is by far the most outspoken “other marriage” to Joseph Smith. We know tons about her and her marriage. The same is not true of other marriages. We are even sure which marriages were actual marriages and which were just sealings. We aren’t even sure which were before Joseph’s death and which were after in some cases.

    Of those that we know to be married to Joseph, several didn’t say anything about it at all. That is to say, we only know due to some other piece of documentation, not because they actually left any record. (For example, we have a case in a court in a testimony.) Some left a single affidavit, but that’s it.

    I would personally like to see some of the ones we definitely know about, like Lucy Walker (my favorite, and she left a small history on the subject), mentioned and discussed. So I can’t disagree with you on that. But then again, I guess I can’t really blame the Church for not including it in a manual. Just which manual would you include it in? In the Book of Mormon manual? Of course not. In the New Testament manual? Nope. Well the D&C manual, of course, right? But where? Which section does Lucy Walker come into play on? How would you work it in? Do you set aside a lesson on “other wives of Joseph Smith”? What is the devotional purpose of this lesson? How is it meant to build up the spiritual lives of a people that no longer practice polygamy and are being encouraged to stay away from it?

    These are the types of questions that go through a manual writer’s head.

    And then there is the issue that these manuals are old and the material we currently know about Joseph’s other wives is relatively new. Of course it was always available in the sources, but until some historian put it together into a history, a lot of it just wasn’t known to the 1960’s manual writers. So really this should only be seen as an issue with recent manuals, not the full history of manual writing.

    So while I think there is room of improvement, I just don’t see this as the simple thing you are trying to make it out to be.

    And I’d like for you to not just complain about it, but actually try to make a suggestion about how it could be improved and stick your neck out and see how hard it is to make a suggestion that everyone can agree upon.

    “Shouldn’t the Historians and CES have an input – it would certainly stop so much innoculation. Which I think is starting to wear people down.”

    Well, of course they do nowadays. Whether you believe the manuals “are good history” or not will largely depend on your expectations for them. If you think of them as history books, then we should rightly expect them to mention all possible problems and consider them, at least to debunk them (in the writer’s view.) If we consider them religious and devotional material then we do not expect that of them. We merely expect them to not say something that is provably false.

    After all this time on Mormon Matters interacting with people who claim the manuals are false, I have yet to come across even a single example of them actually saying something false. Now don’t get me wrong, manual writers are human. They make mistakes. I’m not claiming they’ve never said anything false. My only point here is that it’s rare enough that after talking to many NOMs, not a single example has been advanced so far. That’s means it’s pretty rare such mistakes are made.

    It seems to me that the real issue NOMs have with the manual isn’t that the manual say something false. It’s that it doesn’t mention something they consider pertinent.

    But now we get into a really hairy problem. What if I’m writing the manual and I know of some “fact,” say that the temperance movement predates the WoW, and I don’t consider it even slightly pertinent as per my explanation above?

    Of course I’m not going to mention it. And I’d be right to. It is a devotional material, not a history book (not that I don’t think history books don’t often turn out to be essentially devotional material, but that’s a different matter). I honestly see little or no connection between the temperance movement and the WoW. Yes, it might have inspired the original question about if alcohol is appropriate or not. But even that I have no documentary evidence for. So the right thing is for me to not mention it at all.

    A long drawn out discussion in a devotional book – non history – is not appropriate and counter productive to the very purpose of the book. Furthermore, you are assuming it’s even possible for me to foresee that you are going to have a concern over as possible connection. Truth is, I can’t foresee that. Since I can’t forsee it, I can’t even include it for the sake of inoculating you. But the truth is, even if I had forseen it, I still feel it would be inappropriate to include in a devotional book like a manual. I do not believe a lesson manual is an appropriate place to hold such a discussion.

    Now on the other hand, I completely understand why it would be inappropriate for the manual to make a wild claim that the health problems of alcohol were unforeseen in the 19th century and thus this is proof that the WoW is wisdom beyond what 19th century people could possible have thought up on there own. If this is your concern, then I understand and I agree.

    However, as of yet you haven’t shown a single example of this concern. You’ve only quoted an apologist that said something to that affect. Do you see my concern? You are quoting an apologist advancing a position of his own (even if it’s common within the Church to say it) but then you are claiming the manual is the source of the problem.

    Again, I don’t really disagree with what you are saying except for the part about the manual being the source of the problem.

    And now that I’m at it, is it really a problem to say something as basic as “the Word of Wisdom said not to drink alchol and take tabacco and now there is overwhelming evidence of health problems with those”? Isn’t that a completely true statement?

    Isn’t the real issue you are objecting to that Jeff Lindsey seems to insinuate (but doesn’t actually claim) that it was unforseeable when clearly most people back then knew that alchol might have bad or addictive qualities back then? (Though they had no idea how bad.)

    Let me use another example. Sherlock Holmes is famous for taking cocaine. The excuse is that no one knew it was so bad back then. Of course, that is true. Yet Watson actually tells him in the story not to take it because it’s bad for him. How do we explain this seeming discrepancy? It’s simple, really. People suspected it was bad for you, but didn’t yet know for sure.

    The word of wisdom is the same. It didn’t take the temparance movement to let Joseph know that alchol might be bad. Common sense suggested it might be, at least in large quantities or for some people.

    But no one knew how bad, or if it was only bad for some people, etc. The WoW thus set a stanard that it should be avoided, but not by commandment. From a certain point of view, none of this is really shocking. Joseph continued to occaisional drink alchol for the rest of this life, as did all Mormons back then. It wasn’t a commandment back then to never drink it, so that’s not inconsistent with section 89 at the time. So they weren’t like the temperance movement much at all, really.

    Yet somehow this went on to become a fairly complete commandment and ended up being rather prophetic in the end, didn’t it? Even you have to admit that.

    I believe the manual has every right to draw that end result exactly as it appears. I do not feel they have some duty to create the narrative you are creating that ‘well, everyone knew back then’ which is, to be frank, only partially true at best. In fact, I personally feel that narrative, while not entirely false, is very questionable.

  41. James
    January 5, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    http://mormonmatters.org/podcast/MormonMatters-012.mp3

    Bruce wow!! Thanks for the reply and I will try to get around soon to going through your notes. In the mean time have a listen to this if you haven’t already heard it.

    One of the speakers above brings up how many times some of the issues you have brought up have been brought up in church magazines. Which I have unfortunately like so many other members have not read. As you are probably aware many don’t know most of the issues you highlighted. Two close friend of mine have recently left the church over polygamy. One had been a bishop twice! Obviously that wasn’t his only issue it started it off.

    I think its fair to say that because we are always involved in these issues our view is tainted and we assume most of the other members may be up on the issues. But one thread recently thought that as many as 90% of the church still didn’t know that Joseph Smith was a polygamist.

    I was aware from a friend who had an Institute class that they were not adhering to the word of wisdom for many years after they had come into Utah. But many still believe because Joseph Smith never had a drink as a boy when they operated on his leg that he had a premonition about the word of wisdom and never would let alcohol touch his lips.

    My own father had a severe drinking problem- I don’t think I would of cared what influenced him not to drink whether it initiated from the temperance movement or if it came from the word of wisdom – its a principal that has proven to have health benefits. I have had freinds who have tried drinking moderately, a glass of wine a day. It always seems to more than that. It seems like the Italians are the only country who seem to have mastered moderation.

    As were becoming more open honest and candid as a church – I think its possible instead of having to plough through all the articles in an Ensign to find the obscure facts of our history that the will be more to the front of our teaching. Will possibly show Joseph Smith with a black hat along side the Urim and Thumim. That might sound far fetched now but as a majority of the members know that they all won’t want to do an Emperors New Clothing thing.

    “Here is the problem, James, NOMS (like yourself I assume from your writings) tend to offer a lot of problems but very few solutions.”

    I agree with that hopefully its thought provoking!

  42. Bruce Nielson
    January 5, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    “I think its fair to say that because we are always involved in these issues our view is tainted and we assume most of the other members may be up on the issues.”

    James, to me this is a completely different issues. To you they seem to be one and the same. I’m not sure what to make of that.

    To me, the fact that the vast majority of members are unaware of many issues IS a real problem. As you pointed out, it’s not that the information isn’t available, has been available, and is still available — even from pro Mormon and official Church sources. To me the issues is that the average person simply can’t take the time to educate themselves on everything they probably should.

    Let me be very clear about this. I am aware of no Church, organization or belief system that does not suffer from this very same problem in large quantities. Do you believe Evangelicals are highly aware of, say, the potential problems of OT prophecies about Christ that they take for granted but actually have better interpretations? How aware are NOMs of the impossibility of what they ask? More to the point how many of them have really thought through the morality of bring up an unsolvable problem and then insinuating that a group of people is being deceitful or else the problem wouldn’t exist? I see this as a real moral problem that exists within the NOM belief system.

    I can completely understand why something like polygamy bothers people. It bothers me too. I don’t feel bad about a former bishop leaving the Church over it, to be perfectly honest. That’s his choice and I have no issue with it. That’s a moral choice he needs to make for himself. It’s between him and the Lord. I do not judge him.

    But I DO have an issue with claiming that the reason he left the Church was because the LDS Church didn’t do enough to educate him first. (Not that you claimed that directly, but I believe you might have been insinuating it and certainly similar claims have been made by others) First of all, it’s probably not true. One has to choose how they feel about an issue like polygamy and one of the two viable possible outcomes is to not believe God would ever do such a thing (or not believe in God at all, I suppose, though there is a contradiction there. But that’s for another time.)

    And the fact that some people think Joseph Smith wasn’t a polygamist, besides just plain blowing my mind since I never believed that even when I was a tiny kid, really isn’t ultimately something that the Church can fix if people aren’t going to, you know, actually look into it and read the really basic stuff already around.

    Yes, you could theoretically have the LDS church make a big list of false views LDS people hold and then have a lesson once a year where you go through and set everyone straight.

    “We found some of you think Joseph Smith wasn’t a polygamist? Although we’ve always taught that he was, we want to make it perfectly clear that he was.”

    But of course even doing this won’t solve the problem. Most of the members will miss that lesson (Hey, we’re only 40% activity and that’s defined as coming once per quarter, isn’t it? Oh, and by the way, that’s REALLY good compared to most other religions.)

    Short of shucking all our doctrines out the window and teaching these things every week over and over again instead of teaching the gospel, there is no solution to the problem you are raising that I can see other then to keep trying to try a bit harder. Unless we decide it’s as important to make sure members know Joseph Smith is a polygamist as it is to teach about the gospel – thus we repeat it over an over — we aren’t going to ever be using our full resources to solve this problem and thus we’ll always be open to criticism from people that are looking to criticize.

    Seen in this light, your complaint isn’t “the Church is hiding something” it’s merely “the church should do more than they currently do.” Fine. Fair enough. Now all were doing is arguing over how much is enough with the realization that it’s never enough.

    James, please understand. I’m not saying you are wrong here, only that you are being unfair in how you are approaching it. The LDS church is becoming more and more aware of alternative sources of Church history. They’ve relied solely on the official church account (History of the Church) for far too long. (not that there is anything wrong with giving it precedent to other sources.) They are actively working on the Joseph Smith Papers now and getting that published and there is obviously a huge push going on to address the very issue you area raising. It’s been happening for years now and is going to continue to happen.

    But I can’t agree with you that the fact that the issues exists proves, well, anything. I think it proves only that people don’t know very much and when they hear something they don’t know, they have a bad tendency to not take responsibility for it and blame others for their lack of knowledge. They want to be spoon fed a body of knowledge that a lifetime of research couldn’t get to all of.

    You know, I just had this happen. I told everyone in a lesson that the reason the D&C is called the doctrine and covenants is because originally it had two sections: Doctrine (Lectures on Faith) and Covenants (revelations.) They kept the name even after they removed the “doctrine” section. One guy got mad at me and said “no, the revelations are full of doctrine!”

    The issue wasn’t that I was wrong. It was that I had said something that he hadn’t heard and it bothered him merely because it was new. I’m not sure what to do about this other than to move things slowly forward and risk the occasional dissenter like this man. If people are going to get bent out of shape over finding out that the name of a book of scripture isn’t what they thought it was, dang right we can’t just willy nilly start bring up huge controversies that have no solution just to make sure people are “aware” of “possible concerns.” This is so far outside the purpose of the three hour block that it’s silly.

    Again, this isn’t uniquely a “Mormon problem.” I honestly feel like the whole of the NOM community suffers from similar problems and are currently in denial over it. (As explained above.) I think this will change with time. There is still so much bitterness in the NOM and DAMU community over, in some cases, problems that aren’t the LDS church’s fault but are their own fault. There really is a lack of personal responsibility in many cases.

    I think as people start to point out the immorality of this, that the NOM community is going to slowly but surely change, even as the LDS community does. I suppose I really do see this as the same problem, but in reverse. As much as I’d like the NOM community to be more educated about how one sided they often are, and how much unnecessary harm they often do (though they do a lot of good too – a lot of good), it’s unrealistic that it’s going to happen quickly or that the cause of it is deceit or intentional bad behavior. The cause is that they are human and that it’s impossible to always get your facts straight or think things through from every possible angle.

    Sorry to harp on this so much. I hope it’s obvious that this is the sole issue I bring up on Mormon Matters, just in various different ways. Just doing my tiny part of trying to be part of the solution rather than complain about the problem.

    By the way, the fact that I’m harping on one aspect of your post makes it sound like I’m against all of it. Actually, I was really glad to see you bring up the temperance movement and to address the issue of “don’t we sometimes make claims that go too far about revelations like the Word of Wisdom.” I can completely agree with all of that. I just can’t agree with the idea that somehow you can easily work this into a manual somewhere and the problem would have been solved. (Along with all other potential problems.) :)

  43. hawkgrrrl
    January 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    James – “many don’t know most of the issues you highlighted” I think that’s the crux of the problem. Bruce & you seem to be in agreement as to the problem, but not necessarily the solution. So, what is the solution? A separate manual for teachers than for the class? Teachers who are simply better prepared? With a lay clergy and teachers chosen from the rank & file, the simple fact is that some are not going to know what the heck they are talking about, and to Bruce’s point, how much time should be spent on obscure topics (like polygamy) that are essentially irrelevant to how I can today be a better follower of Christ. I am encouraged, though, by sites like Feast Upon the Word blog that do a much more in-depth presentation on the lessons, and we’ve done some of that discussion here as well. I think it’s valuable for those who seek an understanding of the weirdness of the past (without aiming for self-justification). But, whose job is it? I think it’s the responsibility of the teacher to know the subject matter thoroughly. But I also know that not all teachers will go to the trouble.

    “It seems like the Italians are the only country who seem to have mastered moderation.” In drinking if in nothing else . . .

  44. Bruce Nielson
    January 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Hawk, you are so much more concise then me. ;)

  45. hawkgrrrl
    January 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    “I think it’s the responsibility of the teacher to know the subject matter thoroughly.” I should add that most teachers would consider it the responsbility of the class members (so many complain that no one has read the lesson ahead of time, etc.). That’s not really my perspective, but I think many teachers would say that. To some extent it’s like saying “buyer beware” if you look at it in a “whole church” context, but then the point of going to church is not to wallow in the past but to invite all to come to Christ.

  46. James
    January 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Hawkgrrrl and Bruce

    “But, whose job is it? I think it’s the responsibility of the teacher to know the subject matter thoroughly. But I also know that not all teachers will go to the trouble.”

    Its difficult to decide who’s responsibility it is to gain the knowledge. Maybe you two have known it for years and I have only known about it for this last year and a half. Who’s ever at fault its hard to say. Im involved in another Mormon blogg where most of them who are very well educated and most of the historical problems have just come to them the last couple of years and their average age I would say is 38 or above. Even John D in one of his mormon stories podcasts was taken back when he found out that Emma wasn’t only Joseph Smiths wife.

    I think the church is doing what is exactly right and are educating us through Richard Bushman listen to this please and The Mormons which actually got fairly good press from the church and more and more openness. I think they must know many are frustrated. http://mormonmatters.org/podcast/MormonMatters-012.mp3

    I think many would like it to be lead though from the top not just being leaked out in different ways. Have a read below of what the prophet of the RLDS church wrote

    While I was much more than casually aware of church history previously, since becoming president of the church I have engaged in an extensive study of our story. I have explored books and articles from a wide spectrum of scholars, authors, and publishers, ranging from the faithful to the skeptical and in between. Truth has nothing to fear from scrutiny.

    During recent decades there has been a mounting wave of added information as religious historians have gained access to more source material and have written with increasing frankness about various topics. Also, in the past few years, the media spotlight—including several high-profile television series—has been turned on to Latter Day Saint history because of the Mitt Romney campaign for the U.S. Presidency and the disturbing activities of LDS fundamentalist groups.

    Because of my exploration of various credible works, and probing discussions with historians, some of my previously held notions have been challenged and adjusted in the face of additional knowledge. The “apologetic” approach to church history—presenting our story in as favorable a light as possible—is not sufficient for the journey ahead. That approach does not evidence the integrity that must be fundamental to our witness and ministry.

  47. Bruce Nielson
    January 7, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    James,

    I think no one is arguing with the general broad brush you keep falling back to. It’s only when you try to get specific that the problems arise and that is why I staying in the specifics with a real problem and asking you for your suggested solution to see if you can come up with one.

    I (and hawk too, but she can speak for herself) have already acknowledge the point you are making. At a broad level, the Chuch is actively working on improving their historical education and need to do more. They need to reference more sources than just History of the Church. They need to bring up facts like Joseph being a polygamist — they already do — more often where appropriate.

    What I am asking you is to acknowledge (or tell me why you disagree) with my point. You have done neither as of yet.

    You presented a fairly specific example: working the temperance movement into a manual — presumably the D&C manual.

    You also have not responded to the fact that I said I thought you were insinuating possible deceit on the Church’s part for it not being the manual. (Something you never said, so I may just be reading in and would like feedback from you on. It’s one thing to think the church is “covering this up” and another to think they are “behind.” It is unclear what you believe and you seem to be in the “cover up” category.)

    But the main problem I see, James, is the specific way you worded it: “If the Word of Wisdom was derived from the Temperance Movement why don’t we show it in the manuals?”

    It’s the word “derived” that is the problem here. For the church to put into a manual that the WoW was “derived” from the Temperance Movement is to draw a conclusion that is actually open to interpretation and, essentially, make it official Church doctrine from that point forward. This is not a small problem to your suggestion, and I’d like to see you put some thought into this and address it one way or the other.

  48. James
    January 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    A very untimely quote but interest from Richard Bushmans book Rough Stone Rolling

    “Outside influences (temperance movements the opinions of physicians etc.) likely helped the Word of Wisdom along. Today it may be claimed that the Word of Wisdom preceded medical knowledge regarding the substances mentioned therein. Some scholars have argued otherwise. For example, in the 1830s temperance societies flourished, including one near Kirtland, helping to shut down a distillery. In New York, a society spearheaded by Sylvester Graham of “graham cracker” fame, spoke out against tobacco, alcohol, tea, coffee and harmful substances. It is very likely Joseph would have been familiar with the movements. Other influences included common physician opinions on temperance in eating habits, etc.”

  49. James
    January 16, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Finally, what’s a post about the Word of Wisdom without a J. Golden Kimball anecdote?

    Uncle Golden’s struggles with the Word of Wisdom sometimes forced him into ironic circumstances. On one occasion, he was asked to go to Cache Valley where the stake president had decided to call all the Melchizedek priesthood holders together for the purpose of emphasizing the importance of the Word of Wisdom. Uncle Golden didn’t realize this was going to be the theme until he got there. As a matter of fact, he didn’t know what he was to speak about until the stake president announced it in introducing Uncle Golden: ‘J. Golden Kimball will now speak to us on the subject of the Word of Wisdom.’

    Uncle Golden didn’t know what to say. He stood at the pulpit for a long time waiting for some inspiration; he didn’t want to be a hypocrite and he knew he had problems with this principle. So finally he looked at the audience and said, ‘I’d like to know how many of you brethren have never had a puff on a cigarette in all your life. Would you please stand?’

    Well, Uncle Golden related later that much to his amazement most of the brethren in that audience stood. He looked at them for a long time and then said, ‘Now, all of you that are standing, I want to know how many of you have never had a taste of whiskey in all your life. If you have, sit down.’

    Again, to Uncle Golden’s amazement, only a few of the brethren sat down. The rest of them stood there proudly looking at him and then there was a long silence. I guess Uncle Golden thought they looked a little too self-righteous, because his next comment was, ‘Well, brethren, you don’t know what the hell you’ve missed’ (J. Golden Nuggets, More Words Of Wisdom By James N. Kimball, Sunstone 10:3/41 [Mar. 1985]).

  50. Hawkgrrrl
    January 17, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Bruce – “They need to bring up facts like Joseph being a polygamist — they already do — more often where appropriate.” Yes, like the recent lesson #20 in the JS RS manual. Or better still, don’t create fluff lessons about supposed love letters between Joseph & Emma. Valentine’s Day is a Catholic holiday. I promise, we’ll never miss it if lessons like this are simply not written.

    James – that is my all time favorite J. Golden Kimball story! I would be really disappointed to find out that the historical J. Golden Kimball doesn’t live up to his reputation because he’s always good for a laugh.

  51. James
    February 24, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Joseph Smith clarified to the Saints that the hot drinks spoken of in the Word of Wisdom included tea and coffee.

    BYU Studies Journal, volume 46, no. 4: A Chronology of the Life of Joseph Smith
    about Jul 10, 1833 Kirtland, Ohio.

  52. Holden Caulfield
    February 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    The introduction of the JS manual says “This manual does not discuss plural marriage.” I guess they figure that covers their obligation for truthfulness. Don’t talk about it, just say you aren’t going to talk about it. Difficult issue dealt with.

  53. James
    February 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    52 Holden

    Good point!!! If they ever come up with a question refer them to FARM where they will loose the will!!

  54. November 2, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I have numerous problems with my browser Video On Line on your web site. The chimpanzees are in the system :).

  55. Thayne Andersen
    January 23, 2012 at 3:55 am

    You might get more information about this topic from my own blog today: 
    http://www.skepticalthayne.com/?p=1601

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