In February and March 1833, Joseph Smith received revelation in connection with his meetings with the School of the Prophets. Topics of these revelations included the Word of Wisdom (89), establishing the Church (90), instructions about the Bible translation (91), and instructions about the United Firm (92).
“A School and an Endowment,” Nathan Waite, Revelations in Context
“The School of the Prophets allowed the early Saints to reach for more education than they had access to previously. But it also served purposes that went beyond learning facts and concepts.”
“Brigham Young’s Word of Wisdom Legacy,” Paul H. Peterson, Ronald W. Walker, BYU Studies 42, no. 3-4
The Word of Wisdom began to be required of people who wanted to enter the holy temple about a century after it was received. How did Church leaders begin to enforce it? It was Brigham Young who set the Church on a course of following the Word of Wisdom to the letter. While most Church members failed to obey the revelation’s proscriptions during Brigham’s lifetime, he set the goal that members would eventually comply. During his tenure, he changed the standard from moderate use of tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee to full abstinence.
“Health in Their Navel and Marrow to Their Bones,” Kate Holbrook, Ye Shall Have My Word
“Following a brief history of the Word of Wisdom’s reception, this paper explores how members have associated health with the Word of Wisdom and what this interpretation might reveal. Health is rarely the only consequence mentioned when Church leaders advocate the Word of Wisdom; they also mention spiritual blessings or the blessing of wisdom or both.”
“Tobacco-Related Cancers in Utah Compared to the United States: Quantifying the Benefits of the Word of Wisdom,” Ray M. Merrill, Gordon B. Lindsay, Joseph L. Lyon, BYU Studies 38, no. 4
This article presents data on tobacco use and incidence of cancer in Utah compared with the United States as a whole, up to 1995. Given that Utah has a high percentage of people who abstain from tobacco, the article shows that living the Word of Wisdom has been statistically beneficial for Utahns.
“Word of Wisdom,” Joseph L. Lyon, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The promises associated with the Word of Wisdom are considered both temporal and spiritual. The temporal promise has been interpreted as better health, and the spiritual promise as a closer relationship to God. These promises reflect the concern of the Church with both the temporal and spiritual Welfare of its members.
As always, we recommend the articles and videos posted at Doctrine and Covenants Central and Book of Mormon Central. There are short articles providing historical context for each section, and videos that explore both historical and modern application of the doctrines.