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LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 21: D&C 89

LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 21: D&C 89

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Published by Mike Parker
LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 21: D&C 89
LDS Doctrine and Covenants Notes 21: D&C 89

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Published by: Mike Parker on May 04, 2010
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© 2013, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Doctrine and CovenantsWeek 21: D&C 89
The origin of the Word of Wisdom is found in the School of the Prophets.
The first School of the Prophets was organized by commandment of the Lord atKirtland, Ohio.
Its purpose was to instruct selected priesthood holders on scripture,doctrine, and secular learning.ii)
Its first meeting was held 23 January 1833.
The Word of Wisdom was received onemonth later. b)
Background and circumstances.i)
In September 1832 Joseph and his family moved from the John Johnson home inHiram, Ohio,
into the living quarters above Newell K. Whitney‘s store in Kirtland.
One of the small upstairs rooms was converted into a schoolroom where theSchool of the Prophets would meet.ii)
Brigham Young:
I think I am as well acquainted with the circumstances which led to the giving of the Word of Wisdom as any man in the Church, although I was not present at thetime to witness them. The first school of the prophets was held in a small roomsituated over the Prophet Joseph
s kitchen, in a house which belonged to BishopWhitney
The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend schoolin a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembledtogether 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 overthe room, and as soon as the pipe was out of their mouths a large chew of tobaccowould then be taken.
Often when the Prophet entered the room to givethe 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 theProphet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conductof the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdomwas the result of his inquiry.
Sources for this lesson include:
Paul H. Peterson
, ―An Historical Analysis of 
the Word of Wisdom
,‖ M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972
Lester E. Bush, Jr.
, ―The Word of Wisdom in Early Nineteenth
Century Perspective,‖
14/3 (Autumn1981), 46
65 (
Robert J. McCue, ―Did the Word of Wisdom Become a Commandment in 1851 ?,‖
14/3 (Autumn 1981),66
77 (
Thomas G. Alexander, ―The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to R 
14/3 (Autumn 1981),78
88 (
Clyde Ford, ―The Origin of the Word of Wisdom,‖
 Journal of Mormon History
24/2 (Fall 1998), 129
For more information on the School of the Prophets, see
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism
(New York, New York: Macmillan,
1992), s.v. ―Schools of the Prophets,‖ 3:1269–
70 (
This commandment came on 27 December 1832; see D&C 88:74
80, 122, 127
The ordinance of washing of feet was performed at this meeting, as described in lesson 20, page 10(
Brigham Young, 8 February 1868.
 Journal of Discourses
Hurricane Utah Adult Religion Class Doctrine and Covenants Sections 89 Week 21, Page 2© 2013, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Health science in 1833.i)
General medical understanding of disease:
Early nineteenth-century medical orthodoxy held that most of what we now knowto be different diseases were manifestations of one basic underlying condition
merely different ―symptoms,‖ as it were, of a single disease state. This underlying
condition, to oversimplify, was an imbalance in the vital nervous energy believedto determine the health of an individual. An excess of this energy could be broughtabout by over-stimulation from a variety of sources, and this led to somethingvaguely analogous to what we now call hypertension. Among the common
manifestations of this internal tension were ―fevers,‖ ―inflammations‖ (especiallyof the stomach) or simple ―dyspepsia.‖ Depletion of the vital nervous energy led,
not surprisingly, to debility. The practical implications of this perspective are nothard to guess. Acutely ill individuals
especially if fever or signs of inflammationwere present
needed a reduction in stimulation through dietary adjustment andsuch relaxing or energy dissipating measures as massive blood-letting, purging withlarge doses of mercury, and blistering
all to relieve excessive internal pressures.
Conversely, those in a debilitated state needed dietary or medicinal stimulation….
 Late in the eighteenth century [physician Benjamin] Rush concluded that over-stimulation was in fact the only significant cause of disease. Debility was merelythe final stages of an unanswered, co-existing over-stimulation. Many, but not all
of America’s leading physicians eventually subscribed to this notion, and
accordingly treated
patients with the theoretically ―de
stimulating‖ depleting
measures which became the hallmark of the so-
called ―heroic‖ orthodoxpractice….
…[It] was reasonably enough assumed that the ill
-advised consumptionof stimulants by even those in good
health could lead to disease…. Immoderate use
of even mildly stimulating foods and drinks was likely to result in symptoms rangingfrom dyspepsia to nervous debility, and this was especially so in the many
individuals of ―delicate,‖ ―nervous‖ or ―sanguine‖
temperament. Young children,pregnant women and those already ill with fevers or other inflammations wereparticularly at risk, as were those whose jobs were largely sedentary, such asstudents. The more powerful stimulants, unless prescribed for purely medicinalpurposes, posed substantial risks to everyone who consumed them. On thesegeneral points, nearly all orthodox physicians were in agreement. They differedonly on the
of stimulation associated with such items as ardent spirits,wine, beer, etc., coffee, tea, meat, mustard, pepper and other spices.
 Led by such non-physician crusaders as Sylvester Graham (of Graham cracker
fame)…[health zealots] began crusades against the abuse, and more often against
any use of such stimulants as coffee and tea, all meats, ultimately all condimentsand spices
and sex. (Graham also barred white bread and salt.)
Bush, 48
52. ―
Graham also believed marital sex was unsafe if indulged in more often than once a month. He advisedmarried people under age thirty, in ill health, or leading sedentary lives to abstain totally from sex and, seemingly, almosteverything else.
Hurricane Utah Adult Religion Class Doctrine and Covenants Sections 89 Week 21, Page 3© 2013, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
Tobacco was long touted for its medicinal uses, but by the 1830s this was beginning to fall into disfavor. Its habitual use was considered problematic, although
it was not considered as ―stimulating‖ as coffee, tea, or alcohol.
Excessive use of alcoholic drinks was considered especially hazardous to the healthof those with weak constitutions. Some physicians recommended completeabstinence.(1)
The general belief of the time supported the Word of Wisdom‘s call for complete
abstinence, and a national temperance movement was on the rise.
From a few thousand advocates late in the 1820s, the American TemperanceSociety had grown to well over a million members by 1834. Estimated percapita alcohol consumption plummeted during this decade to less than a third
its previous level…. Indeed, the Mormons themselves seem to have applied this
aspect of the Word of Wisdom in essential conformity to the received medicalopinion of the day.
Drinks that were too hot
such as coffee, tea, soup, or even water
 were consideredoverstimulating.(1)
temperatures were also widely believed to be harmful.(a)
One medical authority claimed ―that a copious draught of 
cold water, taken in
a state of perspiration and fatigue, is often instantly fatal.‖
It was commonly held that the appropriate temperature of food and drink was very little above or below the heat of the blood. v)
Red meat was also considered more ―stimulating‖ than chicken or fish, and all of 
these more stimulating than fruits and vegetables.
―Life expectancy in 1830 is estimated at half of what it is today—
a mere thirty-five
 years. By 1900 this had climbed to just under fifty.‖
―The problem, of course, wa
s that no one knew about germs
 bacterial, viral orotherwise
—until late in the [nineteenth] century…. In America at least, most illness
 was still tied to miasma or
other atmospheric conditions.‖
Many diseases
such ascholera, dysentery, infant diarrhea, and typhoid fever
spread rapidly due to the lack of clean drinking water and adequate waste disposal. Ironically, drinking alcohol,coffee, and tea was actually much
in the nineteenth century than drinking water.
So, contrary to popular belief, the Word of Wisdom was mostly in line withprevailing medical beliefs of its day.(1)
The miracle of the Word of Wisdom is that it ―got the right things right,‖
prohibiting only those substances that have actually been shown to be harmful,
and ignoring the ―folk medicine‖ of the 1830s.
Bush, 56
Bush, 51
In a single week, eight such deaths were reported from Philadelphia alone!
‖ Bush, 55. Bush cites contemporary medical
expert Andrew Combe, MD,
The Physiology of Digestion Considered with Relation to the Principles of Dietetics
(New York,1836), 273; the edition available through Google Books has this citation on page 309(
Bush, 53
Bush, 59.
Bush, 60. These were safer to consume because both alcohol and boiling water kill most harmful microorganisms.

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