Word of Wisdom

Word of Wisdom

:"For the Pentecostal usage of this term, see Word of wisdom."

The "Word of Wisdom" is the common name of a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, [In the edition published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=Section 89. In the edition published by the Community of Christ, it is [http://www.centerplace.org/hs/dc/rdc-086.htm section 86] . In older editions which are used by some other Latter Day Saint denominations, it is section 81.] a book that consists of what many churches within the Latter Day Saint movement consider to be revelations from God. It is also the nickname of the code of health based on this scripture. The health code is practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), where compliance to its prohibitions is a prerequisite for baptism or entry into the church's temples. Other factions within the Latter Day Saint movement may interpret the health code differently.


According to Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, the Word of Wisdom was received in 1833 as a revelation from God. After Smith's death, Brigham Young stated that the revelation was given in response to problems encountered while conducting meetings in the Smith family home:

"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 [Joseph Smith] 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." [Brigham Young, "Journal of Discourses", [http://patriot.lib.byu.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/JournalOfDiscourses3&CISOPTR=9838&filename=110504_183925_ep158_Va_M230_J82_v12.pdf vol. 12, p. 158] .]

Word of Wisdom revelation

The revelation contains four parts:
#an introduction;sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=1|range=-4.]
#a list of substances that should not be ingested, including wine, strong drink, tobacco and "hot drinks"; [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=5|range=-9.]
#a list of foods that should be used, some with certain limitations; [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=10|range=-17.] and
#a divine promise to those who follow the guidelines.sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=18|range=-21]


The introduction and explanation as presented by Smith is:

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— To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days— Given for a principle with a promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation—


Among the substances which the revelation indicates should not be ingested, the first is "wine or strong drink", which the revelation says should not be drunk. [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=5] (An exception is allowed for the use of "pure wine" as part of the sacrament ordinance, [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=5|range=-6] though the LDS Church today uses water in place of wine.) The revelation also advises against the consumption of tobaccosourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=8] and "hot drinks". [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=9]


The Word of Wisdom revelation also suggests proper uses for certain substances. While "strong drinks" are not to be ingested, they are appropriate when used "for the washing of your bodies"; [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=7] likewise, while human ingestion of tobacco is forbidden, tobacco is said to be "an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgement and skill."

The list of foods and substances which the revelation encourages the use of includes "wholesome herbs [and] every fruit in the season thereof" [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=10|range=-11] and "that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground". [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=16] It also prescribes the use of "all grain", which is described as "the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field".sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=14] Barley and other grains are recommended for use in making "mild drinks".sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=17] The flesh of "beasts and of the fowls of the air" may be used "sparingly" and "with thanksgiving", [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=12] and ideally only in winter, cold weather, or during famine.sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=13] Flesh of wild animals is to be eaten only in times of famine or "excess of hunger". [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=14|range=-15]

Divine promise

The Word of Wisdom states that it comprises a "principle with promise".sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=3] The promise given to those who followed the advice of the word of wisdom is as follows:

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.

Application by Joseph Smith, Jr.

Originally, abiding by the recommendations and prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom was not considered mandatory: it explicitly declares itself to be "not by commandment or constraint". In February 1834, however, Joseph Smith, Jr. proposed a resolution before the high council of the church that stated, "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."Joseph Fielding Smith (ed.) (1938). "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book) p. 117, n. 9.] This resolution was accepted unanimously by the council.

In 1842, Smith's brother Hyrum, who was the Assistant President of the Church and its presiding patriarch, provided an interpretation of the Word of Wisdom's proscription of "hot drinks":

And again "hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;" there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee. [Hyrum Smith, [http://patriot.lib.byu.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/NCMP1820-1846&CISOPTR=9862&filename=4954.pdf "The Word of Wisdom"] , "Times and Seasons", 1842-06-01, vol. 3, p. 800.]

According to a book written by Joel H. Johnson in 1881, Joseph Smith shared Hyrum's interpretation:

I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said "hot drinks" in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom .... Tea and coffee ... are what the Lord meant when He said "hot drinks." [In Joel H. Johnson (1881). "Voice from the Moutains" (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office) p. 12; cited in Church Educational System (2001). [http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/dc-in/manualindex.asp "Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324 and 325] " (Salt Lake City: LDS Church) p. 209.]

" [N] ot observing the Word of Wisdom" was one of five charges leveled against David Whitmer on April 13, 1838, which led to his excommunication. ["History of the Church", vol. 3, p. 18.] Nevertheless, contemporary records indicate that Joseph Smith, Jr. was not, himself, a strict observer. Smith is recorded at various times as drinking tea, ["Diary of Joseph Smith", March 11, 1843entry] beer, ["Millennial Star", vol. 23, no. 45 [http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/MStar&CISOPTR=22187&filename=22188.pdf p. 720] (1861-11-09).] , wine, ["History of the Church", vol. 2, pp. 369, 378, January 1836; "History of the Church", vol. 5, p. 380, May 2 1843; "History of the Church", vol. 6, p. 616; "History of the Church", vol. 7, p. 101.] and smoking tobacco. [Gary Dean Guthrie, [http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/u?/MTGM,3264 "Joseph Smith As An Administrator"] , M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1969, [http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/MTGM&CISOPTR=3264&filename=3265.pdf p. 161] .]

Interpretation by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Emphasized by Brigham Young

After Smith's death, several factions emerged from the Latter Day Saint movement. The largest of these groups, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), was led by Brigham Young. At a general conference of the church held on September 9, 1851, Young called on the attendees to "leave off the use of" items mentioned in the Word of Wisdom:

"The Patriarch [John Smith] again rose to speak on the Word of Wisdom, and urging on the brethren to leave off using tobacco, &c.

President Young rose to put the motion and called on all the sisters who will leave off the use of tea, coffee, &c., to manifest it by raising the right hand; seconded and carried.

And then put the following motion; calling on all the boys who were under ninety years of age who would covenant to leave off the use of tobacco, whisky, and all things mentioned in the Word of Wisdom, to manifest it in the same manner, which was carried unanimously."

The Patriarch then said, may the Lord bless you and help you to keep all your covenants. Amen.

President Young amongst other things said he knew the goodness of the people, and the Lord bears with our weakness; we must serve the Lord, and those who go with me will keep the Word of Wisdom, and if the High Priests, the Seventies, the Elders, and others will not serve the Lord, we will sever them from the Church. I will draw the line, and know who is for the Lord and who is not, and those who will not keep the Word of Wisdom, I will cut off from the Church; I throw out a challenge to all men and women.

[ [http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/MStar&CISOPTR=37435&filename=37436.pdf "Minutes of the General Conference"] , Tuesday, Sep. 9, 1851, afternoon session; "Millennial Star", 1852-02-01, vol. 13, p. 35. ]


The Word of Wisdom states that meat should not be eaten, except "in times of winter, or of cold, or famine". From 1898 to 1901, church president Lorenzo Snow repeatedly emphasized the importance of eating meat sparingly, teaching that church members should refrain from eating meat except in case of dire necessity, and should be seen in light of Joseph Smith's teaching that animals have spirits. Apostle George Teasdale taught the same thing, and held that eating pork was a more serious breach of the Word of Wisdom than drinking tea or coffee. Compliance with this injunction has never been made mandatory. When Joseph F. Smith succeeded Snow as president of the church in 1901, the emphasis on refraining from meat was dropped. An official church publication suggests that because " [m] odern methods of refrigeration now make it possible to preserve meat in any season", the Word of Wisdom's limitations on the time of eating meat is not as important as observing the counsel to use it "sparingly". [Church Educational System (2001). [http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/dc-in/manualindex.asp "Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324 and 325] " (Salt Lake City: LDS Church) p. 210.]


The Word of Wisdom states in part,

16. All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

17. Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain. [sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=D&C 89|verse=16|range=-17.]

The revelation suggests that barley-based mild drinks (such as beer) may be permissible. As recently as 1901, Apostles Brigham Young, Jr. and John Henry Smith argued that the revelation did not prohibit beer.Thomas G. Alexander, "The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement", "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought" 14:3 (1981) pp. 78–88.] Today, however, there are few Latter-day Saints who view the consumption of such drinks as permitted by the Word of Wisdom.Fact|date=August 2007

Refined grain products

In a pamphlet written in 1930 called "The Word of Wisdom", Apostle John A. Widtsoe taught that refined flour was contrary to the Word of Wisdom.

tandards of adherence

Adherence to the proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom was not made a requirement for entry into LDS Church temples until 1902. However, even then, church president Joseph F. Smith encouraged stake presidents to be liberal with old men who used tobacco and old ladies who drank tea. Of those who violated the revelation, it was mainly habitual drunkards that were excluded from the temple. Around the turn of the century, the proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom were not strictly adhered to by such notable church leaders. Anthon H. Lund, a First Counselor in the First Presidency, drank beer and wine; Apostle Matthias F. Cowley drank beer and wine; Charles W. Penrose, who also served as a First Counselor in the First Presidency, drank wine; Relief Society president Emmeline B. Wells drank coffee; and church president George Albert Smith drank brandy, for medicinal purposes. In 1921, church president Heber J. Grant made adherence to the proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom an absolute requirement for entering the temple.

Today, adherence to the proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom is required for baptism ["To this day those regulations [of the Word of Wisdom] apply to every member and to everyone who seeks to join the Church. They are so compelling that no one is to be baptized into the Church without first agreeing to live by them.": Boyd K. Packer, [http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=00b27cf34f40c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____ “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,”] "Ensign", May 1996, p. 17.] and for entry into temples of the LDS Church.LDS Church (1997). [http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?vgnextoid=32c41b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=fb2b7befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0 “Chapter 29: The Lord’s Law of Health,”] "Gospel Principles" (Salt Lake City: LDS Church) p. 192.] BYU historian Thomas G. Alexander points out that while the original Word of Wisdom as a "principle with promise" was given by revelation, there is no evidence that any church leader has claimed a separate new revelation, or even a spiritual confirmation, of changing the Word of Wisdom from "a principle with promise" to a commandment.

Official modern interpretation

The church's official statement on the interpretation of the Word of Wisdom is short: it reaffirms the long-standing meaning of "hot drinks" and extends the substances covered by prohibition:

The only official interpretation of "hot drinks" (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term "hot drinks" means tea and coffee.

Members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs. Nor should members use harmful or habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician. [LDS Church (2006). "Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics" (Salt Lake City: LDS Church) p. 185.]

Although avoiding the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom is a requirement for admission to LDS temples, violation of the Word of Wisdom no longer results in church discipline, as it once did; the church instructs its leaders that church discipline "should not be [used] to discipline or threaten members who do not comply with the Word of Wisdom". [LDS Church (2006). "Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics" (Salt Lake City: LDS Church) p. 111.]

Popular application


The prohibition of "wine or strong drink" is widely interpreted as a blanket prohibition of all alcoholic beverages, regardless of the level of alcoholic content of the drink.

Hot drinks

Generally, members of the church view the prohibition on "hot drinks" as covering coffee and tea, whether or not the drinks are hot. There is generally thought to be no prohibition against herbal tea, hot chocolate, or malt drinks such as Ovaltine or Milo. Other members prohibit themselves from drinking any beverage that contains caffeine.

Cola and other caffeinated beverages

A longstanding issue among members of the church is whether it is permissible to ingest drinks containing caffeine that are not coffee or tea. In 1918, Frederick J. Pack, a Latter-day Saint professor at the University of Utah, published an article in an official church magazine in which he reasoned that because Coca-Cola contained caffeine, which is also present in tea and coffee, Latter-day Saints should abstain from Coca-Cola in the same way that they abstain from the Word of Wisdom "hot drinks". [Frederick J. Pack, [http://search.ldslibrary.com/article/view/1634170?q= "Should Latter-Day Saints Drink Coca-Cola?"] "Improvement Era" 21:5 (Mar. 1918).] Since Pack's article, many Latter-day Saints have come to believe that the reason tea and coffee are proscribed is the presence of caffeine in the drinks. However, the church has never stated that this is the reason for the prohibition.

The church has no official stance on the consumption of caffeinated beverages and the consumption of such does not constitute a violation of the Word of Wisdom. However, a number of church leaders have discouraged the use of such products. For example, in 1922, Church President Heber J. Grant counseled the Latter-day Saints:

I am not going to give any command, but I will ask it as a personal, individual favor to me, to let coca-cola [sic] alone. There are plenty of other things you can get at the soda fountains without drinking that which is injurious. The Lord does not want you to use any drug that creates an appetite for itself. [ [http://search.ldslibrary.com/article/view/245630 "Conference Report", April 1922, p. 165] .]

Two years after making this statement, Grant met with a representative of the Coca-Cola Company to discuss the church's position on Coca-Cola; at the conclusion of their second meeting, Grant stated that he was "sure I have not the slightest desire to recommend that the people leave Coca-Cola alone if th [e] amount [of caffeine in Coca-Cola] is absolutely harmless, which they claim it is". Grant never again spoke out against the use of cola drinks.

Approximately fifty years later, the church issued an official statement which stated:

With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided. [LDS Church, "Priesthood Bulletin", Feb. 1972, p.4; quoted in Church Educational System (2001). [http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/dc-in/manualindex.asp "Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324 and 325] " (Salt Lake City: LDS Church) p. 209.]

Because of such statements, some adherents believe that caffeine is officially prohibited under the Word of Wisdom.Fact|date=August 2007 Some members who hold that caffeinated soft drinks are prohibited distinguish between foods with naturally occurring caffeine and those in which caffeine is an additive.Fact|date=August 2007

Other areas

Speculation also exists concerning the use of alcohol as a cooking ingredient or the use of decaffeinated coffee or tea.Fact|date=August 2007 The church has taken no official stance on either.

Health studies regarding Latter-day Saints

A 14-year selective study conducted by UCLA epidemiologist James E. Enstrom tracked the health of 10,000 moderately active LDS people in California and ended in 1987. Of these non-smoking, monogamous non-drinkers, Enstrom concluded from the study "that LDS Church members who follow religious mandates barring smoking and drinking have one of the lowest death rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases—about half that of the general population. ... Moreover, the healthiest LDS Church members enjoy a life expectancy eight to eleven years longer than that of the general white population in the United States." The standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for whites in the general population is defined as 100. For males in the study, the SMRs "are 47 for all cancers, 52 for cardiovascular diseases, and 47 for all causes; the SMRs for females are 72 for all cancers, 64 for cardiovascular diseases, and 66 for all causes." For LDS high priests who never smoked cigarettes, exercised, and had proper sleep, the mortality rate was less. The results were largely duplicated in a separate study of an LDS-like subgroup of white non-smoking churchgoers in Alameda, California.Enstrom, 1989.]



* Full text of sourcetext|source=The Doctrine and Covenants|book=Section 89, of the LDS Church's "Doctrine and Covenants".
* [http://www.jefflindsay.com/WWisdom.shtml The cited Associated Press article and discussion of Word of Wisdom by Jeff Lindsay] (the full article is about halfway down the page)
* [http://www.watchman.org/lds/tmlds.htm "The Watchman's" discussion of the UCLA study]
title=The Origin of the Word of Wisdom
journal=Journal of Mormon History
title=Synoptic Minutes of a Quarterly Conference of the Twelve Apostles: The Clawson and Lund Diaries of July 9–11, 1901
journal=Journal of Mormon History
first=Brent G.
title='Standing between Two Fires': Mormons and Prohibition, 1908–1917
journal=Journal of Mormon History

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