TGA gives historical overview of WoW at beginning of 20th century.

Academic / Technical Report
Thomas G. Alexander

Thomas G. Alexander, "The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14:3 (Autumn 1981): 79, 82

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
Thomas G. Alexander
Reading Public

The death of Lorenzo Snow brought Joseph F. Smith to the presidency. Smith's views on the Word of Wisdom were close to those of Heber J. Grant and it is to his administration that the path to our current interpretation of the Word of Wisdom leads. Dropping the emphasis on abstaining from meat, he urged the need to refrain from tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco. In 1902, he reversed President Snow's stand and closed the saloon at Saltair, a move which the Protestant clergy heartily approved. Following this lead, in June, 1902, the First Presidency and Twelve agreed not to fellowship anyone who operated or frequented saloons. In the same year, Joseph F. Smith urged stake presidents and others to refuse recommends to flagrant violators but to be somewhat liberal with old men who used tobacco and old ladies who drank tea. Habitual drunkards, however, were to be denied temple recommends.

By mid-1905, members of the Twelve were actively using stake conference visits to promote adherence. In September, 1905, for instance, George Albert Smith advised the Stake Presidency, High Council and Bishops in Star Valley, Wyoming, to refuse "to longer tolerate men in presiding positions who would not keep the Word of Wisdom." George F. Richards preferred the technique of interviewing and urging compliance rather than insisting on lack of toleration. In keeping with the change in emphasis, the First Presidency and Twelve substituted water for wine in the sacrament in their temple meetings, apparently beginning July 5, 1906.

. . . .emphasis on the Word of Wisdom during Joseph F. Smith's administration continued essentially as in 1902. In a letter dated December 28, 1915, President Smith said that young "or middle-aged men who have had experience in the Church should not be ordained to the Priesthood nor recommended to the privileges of the House of the Lord unless they will abstain from the use of tobacco and intoxicating drinks." Since Prohibition had outlawed the legal use of alcohol, emphasis in church magazines and talks after 1917 centered on tobacco, and members were urged to support groups like the No-Tobacco League of America, the YMCA and the Salvation Army in their efforts to eradicate the use of tobacco.

After the inauguration of Heber J. Grant's administration in 1918, however, the advice became less flexible. In 1921, church leadership made adherence to the Word of Wisdom a requirement for admission to the temple. Before this stake presidents and bishops had been encouraged to in this matter, but exceptions had been made. Apparently under this new emphasis, in March, 1921, George F. Richards, both as apostle and president of the Salt Lake Temple, phoned two Salt Lake City bishops about two tobacco users who had come to the temple and told the bishops "to try to clean them up before they come here again."

Between 1921 and 1933, the adherence to the Word of Wisdom for full fellowship in the Church was made even more explicit. The 1928 General Handbook of Instructions, to guide bishops and stake presidents on church policy, reads: "It is important that all those who may desire to enter the temple for endowments or other ordinances should be encouraged by the bishopric to observe the principle of tithing as well as all other Gospel principles." The next edition of the Handbook, published in 1933, reads that members desiring temple recommends "should observe the law of tithing. The applicant should also observe all other principles of the Gospel, should keep the Word of Wisdom, not use profanity, should not join nor be a member of any secret oath bound organization and should sustain without reservation the general and local authorities of the church." Additionally, both the 1928 and 1934 editions of the Handbook — but not previous editions—listed "liquor drinking" and "bootlegging" among the "transgressions which are ordinarily such as to justify consideration by the bishop's court." To these the 1934 edition also added "drunkenness."

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