The revelation establishing the School of the Prophets (Section 88), received Dec. 27, 1832, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom (Section 89), received Feb. 27, 1833, are closely linked.
The following is an account by 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 the time to witness them."The first School of the Prophets was held in a small room situated over the Prophet Joseph's kitchen, in a house which belonged to Bishop Newel K.T Whitney, and which was attached to his store, which store probably might be about fifteen feet square. . . . The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen. When they assembled together 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 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." (Journal of Discourses 12:158.)
In response to the Prophet's inquiries, the Lord revealed what is now known as the Word of Wisdom.
President Ezra Taft Benson, in speaking on the Word of Wisdom during the April 1983 general conference, said the revelation at first was not considered to be a commandment. "It was a `principle with a promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.' (D&C 89:3.) This allowed time for the saints to adjust to the principles contained in the revelation," said President Benson.
He said that in 1851, President Brigham Young proposed to the general conference of the Church that all saints formally covenant to keep the Word of Wisdom. "This proposal was unanimously upheld by the membership of the Church," said President Benson. "Since that day, the revelation has been a binding commandment on all Church members.
"The Word of Wisdom is one of the recognized and distinctive practices of members of the Church. Generally, others not of our faith acknowledge that members in good standing abstain from tobacco, coffee, tea, and all alcoholic beverages.
"Scientific studies have confirmed that Latter-day Saints have less incidence of heart problems, all forms of cancer, and other diseases because of their adherence to the Word of Wisdom. . . .
"The Word of Wisdom is one of the evidences of the inspiration of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling."
In his April 1977 general conference address, President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the Word of Wisdom: "In no conceivable way could it have come of the dietary literature of the time, nor from the mind of the man who announced it. Today, in terms of medical research, it is a miracle, whose observance has saved incalculable suffering and premature death for uncounted tens of thousands."
10 leading causes of death
Deaths per 100,000 percent of total deaths
Heart Disease 313.4 35.9
Cancer 196.1 22.4
Stroke 61.3 7.0
Accidents 39.0 4.5
Pulmonary Diseases 32.2 3.7
Pneumonia and Flu 28.8 3.3
Diabetes 15.6 1.6
Suicide 12.7 1.5
Chronic Liver Disease 10.7 1.2
Atherosclerosis 9.5 1.1
Note: Scientists estimate that smoking leads to one-third of the deaths caused from heart disease, along with being a major cause of deaths from cancer and pulmonary diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema.
Alcohol and other harmful drugs contribute to about one-half of traffic fatalities in the United States, as well as other accidents, suicide, liver diseases and atherosclerosis.
Statistical Source: National Center for Health Statistics