Doctrine and Covenants 89: The Word of Wisdom

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 102–103

In 1833 the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family were living in the Newel K. Whitney store in Kirtland, Ohio ( photo 7 in “Church History, Chronology, Maps, and Photographs” at the end of the triple combination). In one of the upstairs rooms of the Whitney store, the Prophet set up the first School of the Prophets (as was commanded inD&C 88). President Brigham Young, even though he was not a member of the school of the prophets then, spoke of those gatherings for instruction and how the revelation found inDoctrine and Covenants 89came: “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, 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” (inJournal of Discourses,12:158). The revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of the Prophet’s inquiry.Notice that inDoctrine and Covenants 89:3the Lord said this revelation is a “principle with promise.” As you read this section, give special attention to the Lord’s promises. Although today we have a great amount of medical evidence supporting the counsel given in the Word of Wisdom, there was little known about it at the time this revelation was given. Particularly notice, however, the spiritual blessings that are promised. Science does not even attempt to verify the spiritual blessings the Lord promised, but millions can bear testimony that they are true. This revelation is further evidence of the prophetic calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 89

Constraint(v. 2)Force 
Conspiring men(v. 4)Men who agree together to do something bad or unlawful 
Strong drink(vv. 5, 7)Drinks with alcohol 
Herb(vv. 8, 10–11)Plant 
Hot drinks(v. 9)Coffee and tea ( the “Understanding the Scriptures” section forD&C 89:9) 
Prudence(v. 11)Control, not to excess 
Sparingly(v. 12)Not often, in small amounts 
Navel(v. 18)Symbolic of internal organs 
Marrow(v. 18)Innermost part of bone containing nutrients (represents vitality and strength) 

Doctrine and Covenants 89:2—“Not by Commandment or Constraint”

President Joseph F. Smith explained: “The reason undoubtedly why the Word of Wisdom was given—as not by ‘commandment or restraint’ was that at that time, at least, if it 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. Later on, it was announced … by President Brigham Young, that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation and a command of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1913, 14). Obedience to the Word of Wisdom is also one of the requirements to obtain a temple recommend.

Doctrine and Covenants 89:9—What Does “Hot Drinks” Mean?

President Hyrum Smith—the Prophet Joseph Smith’s brother, Patriarch to the Church, and Assistant President—taught: “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” (“The Word of Wisdom,”Times and Seasons,June 1, 1842, 800).

Doctrine and Covenants 89:19—Finding Wisdom and Hidden Treasures of Knowledge

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:

“Your body is the instrument of your mind. In your emotions, the spirit and the body come closest to being one. What you learn spiritually depends, to a degree, on how you treat your body. That is why the Word of Wisdom is so important.

“The habit-forming substances prohibited by that revelation—tea, coffee, liquor, tobacco—interfere with the delicate feelings of spiritual communication, just as other addictive drugs will do.

“Do not ignore the Word of Wisdom, for that may cost you the ‘great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures’ [D&C 89:19] promised to those who keep it. And good health is an added blessing” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 78; orEnsign,Nov. 1994, 61).

Studying the Scriptures

Do three of the following activities (A–D) as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 89.

Activity A iconExplain the Idea

InDoctrine and Covenants 89:3, the Lord said that the Word of Wisdom is “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakestof all saints.” Explain how you think obeying the Word of Wisdom can help a person become strong in all areas of life—physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Activity B iconGive Evidence

  1. 1.

    InDoctrine and Covenants 89:4, the Lord explained one of the reasons He gave the Word of Wisdom. Write what this verse means.

  2. 2.

    Find evidence supporting that purpose of the Word of Wisdom. For example, notice advertisements on billboards, magazines, newspapers, or television. Describe one or two of them in your notebook. What does their main message m to be? Whatdon’tthey tell you? In what ways do they fulfill the prophecy in verse 4?

  3. 3.

    Give short answers to the following questions:

    1. a.

      Why would some people encourage you to use substances prohibited by the Word of Wisdom?

    2. b.

      Why should you obey the Word of Wisdom?

Activity C iconMake a List

  1. 1.

    The Lord identified several harmful substances and several beneficial foods inDoctrine and Covenants 89:5–17. Make two lists in your notebook—one labeled “Harmful Substances” and the other labeled “Beneficial Foods.” After each entry, briefly note what the Lord said about its use.

  2. 2.

    The Lord did not list everything in the Word of Wisdom that we should or should not eat or drink. We are expected to use common sense, the counsel of local and general Church leaders, and the guidance of the Spirit. President Boyd K. Packer noted:

“Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom. It’s well known that tea, coffee, liquor, and tobacco are against it. It has not been spelled out in more detail. Rather, we teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation.

“Everything harmful is not specifically listed; arsenic, for instance—certainly bad, but not habit-forming! He who must be commanded in all things, the Lord said, ‘is a slothful and not a wise servant’ (D&C 58:26)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 22; orEnsign,May 1996, 17).

Consider President Packer’s statement and other counsel from Church leaders about the Word of Wisdom and add a few other things to do and not to do to your list.

Activity D Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21

  1. 1.

    List the blessings inDoctrine and Covenants 89:18–21that the Lord promised those who obey the Word of Wisdom.

  2. 2.

    If you were giving a talk on the Word of Wisdom to a group of youth, what examples would you give for each of those blessings?