The Word of Wisdom was announced by Joseph Smith as a revelation from God in 1833. The revelation prohibited the use of alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee. Its pronouncement came at a time when temperance movements were conspicuous throughout America.
Interpretations and attitudes have changed toward the Word of Wisdom over the years. Before 1840 many Mormons considered abstinence important though Joseph Smith stressed moderation. Observance became lax as Mormons treked westward to settle Utah territory. Brigham Young stressed obedience to the revelation in the 1860's but never made observance obligatory. Under John Taylor in 1883, a Word of Wisdom reformation began. Taylor stressed that Church officers should obey the revelation as did successors, Wilford Woodruff and Joseph F. Smith. None of them required rigid compliance for procurement of a Temple recommend. Heber J. Grant preached the Word of Wisdom with zeal and during his administration, strict observance became a criterion of orthodoxy. Attitudes have changed little since Grant's time and today Word of Wisdom adherence is a distinguishing characteristic of Mormon society.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Peterson, Paul H., "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom" (1972). Theses and Dissertations. 5039.
Word of Wisdom, History