TANYA - In the May 31, 1844 Milenial Star, "history of JS" one entry JS says, "Drank a glass of beer at Moessers." I know this was written before it was manditory to observe the WOW to enter the temple (which became manditory in 1901), but why didn't JS observe the WOW when he is the one who received it. I got this from the BYU Ed site so I know it is okay to look and believe and I also read that JS drank wine and also smoked cigars. This seems really unfair to me. I've been struggling since I joined the church not to drink coffee and tea (decaf) and JS was drinking liquor? Was this before it actually became a commandment? Even so, I do not think this was a very good example for JS to be participating in. I can hardly believe what I am reading, but I know it is true coming from the BYU site. I'm really don't understand this.
I've also been told that a Bishop cannot withhold a temple recommend from anyone that drinks decaf coffee/tea, but I would not know where to look to find this. I know that Apostle Widstlow said it was okay to drink decaf (Sanka) I believe it was, but I can't find that anywhere either. Could you help me?

JOEL - You are judging the conduct of past church leaders based on today's current doctrines and comandments. There were a lot of things members of the early church did back then that we don't do now, based on the "line upon line" method that God uses to govern His children.

In the Book of Mormon we read:
"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2 Nephi 28:30)

As the Church and the members have progressed over the years and have hearkened to God's counsel, He has responded by giving us more and more responsibility to more strictly live doctrines and comandments. Such is the case for the Word of Wisdom.
So if Joseph Smith were alive today and you saw him drinking and smoking, of course it would not be a good example; but back then it was acceptable based on what God required of them at the time.

Here is how the Revelation on the Word of Wisdom came about as recorded in the Journal of Discourses:
"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 [the] 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.)

Jospeh Smith then received the revelation (D&C 89) we now call the Word of Wisdom. Before it came into full force Joseph and many other church leaders and Saints drank wine or beer on occasion. Even for some years after it was required of church leaders to comply to the doctrine, they did not consider wine strong enough to be considered a "strong drink". The revelation itself states that it was given "not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom." So during Joseph Smith's time it wasn't really a commandment.

Strict compliance to the doctrine was not practiced until many years later. It wasn't until as late as 1930 that strict adherance to the Word of Wisdom was required for a Temple reccommend. President Joseph F. Smith taught that the Lord did not insist on strict compliance in the early years in order to allow a generation addicted to noxious substances some years to discard bad habits. Compliance to this revelation is more important to us in modern times since the concentration of alcohol in "strong drinks" has increased due to distillation.

The fact that God now requires stricter compliance to this is good news for us. It means that we are heading in the right direction and if we continue He will impart even more doctrines and information to us through His prophets.

Officially, decaffeinated teas and coffees are not specifically forbidden. The decision to drink these things is pretty much left up to the individual.
"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward." (D&C 58:26)
The only article I can find by John A.Widtsoe was called "Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation", but he said nothing in there about it being OK to drink Sanka or decaffienated coffee.
There was a letter from Joseph L. Anderson (Secretary to the First Presidency, dated 8 January 1965), who wrote to one member (as directed by President David O. McKay), in which he said,

"I am directed to tell you that the drinking of a beverage made from the coffee bean, from which all caffeine and deleterious drugs have been removed, is not regarded as a violation of the Word of Wisdom."

But even decaffienated coffee still contains small amount of caffiene and is known to cause some gastrointestinal disorders.

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