On February 27, 1833, in response to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inquiries concerning the priesthood brethren’s use of tobacco in their meetings, the Lord gave the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 89, known as the Word of Wisdom. In it, the Lord warned against the use of harmful substances and encouraged the consumption of wholesome foods. The Lord also promised that those who follow the Word of Wisdom will be blessed both physically and spiritually.
Have you ever explained to someone why you do not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee or use tobacco? If so, do you remember what you said and how the person responded? This lesson will help you better understand the Word of Wisdom and be prepared to explain it to others.
In the winter of 1833, about 20 of the priesthood brethren began meeting in the upper room of Newel K. Whitney’s store in Kirtland, Ohio, to attend the School of the Prophets. “At the meeting of the school held on February 27, 1833, the Prophet received an important revelation. In the early days of the Church, the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea was common in society and among Church members. As the Prophet saw the brethren using tobacco at the school, he became concerned. Brigham Young recalled: ‘When they assembled together in this room after breakfast, the first [thing] they did was to light their pipes, and, while smoking, talk about the great things of the kingdom. … 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 [from chewing tobacco], 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’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 263).
Read the section introduction for Doctrine and Covenants 89, looking for what the Prophet Joseph Smith did in response to the brethren using tobacco. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 89:1–3, looking for words or phrases that describe the Lord’s purposes in giving this revelation.
You may have identified that one purpose of this revelation deals with our temporal salvation. Temporal salvation has to do with our physical well-being.
Notice in Doctrine and Covenants 89:2 that the Word of Wisdom was not initially given as a commandment. President Joseph F. Smith explained: “At that time, … if [the Word of Wisdom] had been given as a commandment it would have brought every man, addicted to the use of these noxious things, under condemnation; so the Lord was merciful and gave them a chance to overcome, before He brought them under the law” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1913, 14).
Because of this, we should be careful not to judge some of the early Church leaders and members who, even after the Word of Wisdom was revealed, used substances that are prohibited today. Throughout the early history of the Church, leaders invited the Saints to more fully live the Word of Wisdom. In the fall general conference of 1851, President Brigham Young proposed that all Saints formally covenant to abstain from tea, coffee, tobacco, and whiskey. On October 13, 1882, the Lord revealed to President John Taylor that the Word of Wisdom was to be considered a commandment. In 1919, the First Presidency, under President Heber J. Grant, made the observance of the Word of Wisdom a requirement for receiving a temple recommend. The Word of Wisdom continues to be an important commandment today, and obeying it is a prerequisite for baptism, temple attendance, missionary service, and other worthy service in the Church.
In your scripture study journal, write the phrase A Principle with Promise (from D&C 89:3) as shown below. Leave some space to write the principles and promises of this revelation under those two parts of the phrase. You might also want to mark this phrase in your scriptures.
Have you been fishing before?
In what ways does someone fishing try to deceive a fish into biting a hook?
Why might some people try to persuade you to partake of substances the Lord has forbidden? What lures, or methods, do they use to try to persuade you and others to use those substances? Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:4, looking for who the Lord warned would attempt to deceive the Saints in the last days.
Write the following in your scripture study journal under the heading “A Principle”: Because of evil designs of conspiring men in the last days, the Lord warns us not to use harmful substances.
The following statement from President Ezra Taft Benson helps us understand that one design of evil and conspiring men is to profit by selling addictive substances to others:
“The Lord foresaw the situation of today when motives for money would cause men to conspire to entice others to take noxious substances into their bodies. Advertisements which promote beer, wine, liquors, coffee, tobacco, and other harmful substances are examples of what the Lord foresaw. But the most pernicious example of an evil conspiracy in our time is those who induce young people into the use of drugs.
“My young brothers and sisters, in all love, we give you warning that Satan and his emissaries will strive to entice you to use harmful substances, because they well know if you partake, your spiritual powers will be inhibited and you will be in their evil power. Stay away from those places or people which would influence you to break the commandments of God. Keep the commandments of God and you will have the wisdom to know and discern that which is evil” (“A Principle with a Promise,” Ensign, May 1983, 54–55).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:5–9, looking for what substances the Lord warned the Saints not to take into their bodies. Consider marking what you find. (Church leaders have stated that the term “hot drinks” refers to tea and coffee.) In what ways are the substances in verses 5–9 harmful?
Notice that Doctrine and Covenants 89:7–8 says that alcohol and tobacco have proper as well as improper uses. Today there are other substances that can be misused so that they become harmful and addictive. Church leaders have warned against the use of “any drink, drug, chemical, or dangerous practice that is used to produce a ‘high’ or other artificial effect that may harm your body or mind. Some of these include marijuana, hard drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications that are abused, and household chemicals” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 26).
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
In what ways is addiction like the hook that a person fishing uses to catch fish?
Why is addiction damaging to our eternal progression?
How has the warning to abstain from addictive and harmful substances blessed your life?
You will be blessed if you decide now to never partake of the substances that are contrary to the Word of Wisdom.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:10–17, looking for what the Lord encouraged us to eat. You might want to mark what you find. According to verse 11, what type of attitude should we have as we partake of these healthful foods?
It might be helpful to know that “with prudence” means wisely and carefully. An overabundance or imbalanced diet even of good food can be unhealthy.
Write a principle about healthful foods under the heading “A Principle” in your scripture study journal.
One example of the prudent use of food can be found in the instruction the Lord gave concerning meat in Doctrine and Covenants 89:12–13. The word sparingly suggests that meat is to be used in a moderate way.
Write the following in your scripture study journal under the heading “Promise”: If we follow the Word of Wisdom, the Lord will bless us with …
Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–19, and identify some of the blessings you can receive for obeying the Word of Wisdom.
Use what you learned from verses 18–19 to partially complete the sentence you wrote in your scripture study journal. (Leave room to add to this sentence later.) Then answer the following question: How can observing the Word of Wisdom help us obtain wisdom and knowledge?
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained one of the fundamental purposes of the Word of Wisdom:
“I have come to know … that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. …
“If someone ‘under the influence’ can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings?
“As valuable as the Word of Wisdom is as a law of health, it may be much more valuable to you spiritually than it is physically” (“Prayers and Answers,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20).
Think about how obeying the Word of Wisdom has allowed you to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who reveals wisdom and knowledge to the faithful.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:20–21, looking for additional blessings that come from following the Word of Wisdom. (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21 is a scripture mastery passage. You may want to mark it in a distinctive way to help you find it later.)
From what you learned from these verses, add to the sentence under the heading “Promise” in your scripture study journal. (Look at footnote 21a to help you understand the phrase “the destroying angel shall pass by.” This promise of divine protection can refer to physical as well as spiritual safety.) Then write an answer to the following question: When have the promises in Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21 been fulfilled in your life or in the life of someone you know?
Consider setting a goal to better live the Word of Wisdom.
Copy the following headings and scripture references in your scripture study journal as shown:
Choose one of the verses, and work to memorize it for a few minutes. See if you can recite it to a family member or a friend. To memorize the entire passage, you may want to choose other verses and designate a time to work on memorizing them in the future.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 89 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: