My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 89-93. Last week we learned about the School of the Prophets and how it was organized. This week we learn about what happened after the meetings began. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the elders of Israel about building God’s kingdom on earth, and they discussed spiritual truths, prayed together, fasted, and prepared to teach the gospel. However, something else took place that had lasting effect upon The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During the meetings, the elders smoked and chewed tobacco, common behavior for the time. However, the juice from the tobacco stained the hardwood floors black and caused a strong odor to linger in the air. In 1868, President Brigham Young gave the following description of the setting in the School of the Prophets.
The brethren came to that place for hundreds of miles to attend school in a little room probably no larger than eleven by fourteen [feet, or three by four meters]. 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 spit all over the room; 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, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom weas the result of his inquiry (“Remarks,” Deseret News, Feb. 26, 1868, 18) (as quoted in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual – Religion 324-325 ).
Zebedee Coltrin, one of the participants in the School of the Prophets, reported that after the Prophet read this revelation to the brethren, they “immediately threw their tobacco and pipes into the fire” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 3: February 1833-March 1834, 15, note 73) (as quoted in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual – Religion 324-325 ).
Doctrine and Covenants 89:2 tells us that the revelation did not come “by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom.” Immediately after the revelation was received, Church leaders invited the Saints to live the World of Wisdom more fully. Eighteen years later, President Brigham Young proposed during the fall general conference of 1851 that all Saints formally covenant to abstain from tea, coffee, tobacco, and whiskey.
Thirty years had passed after President Young’s proposal, and the Lord revealed to President John Taylor that the Word of Wisdom was to be considered to be a commandment (October 13, 1882). The Lord gave the Saints nearly fifty years to live the Word of Wisdom before He commanded them to live it.
Another thirty-seven years passed (1919) the First Presidency, under the direction of President Heber J. Grant, made the observance of the Word of Wisdom a requirement for receiving a temple recommend. Obedience to the Word of Wisdom remains a requirement for attending the temple. The gradual manner in which the Lord required the Saints to live the Word of Wisdom is an example of His mercy and love for us. If the Saints had been commanded to obey it as soon as it was received, most of them would have come under condemnation. Instead, He gave them an opportunity to overcome the habits before they were commanded to do so.
So, the Word of Wisdom – a principle with a promise – is the first principle in this lesson. The promise for living the Word of Wisdom is physical, spiritual, and mental health and safety.
The second principle for this lesson is found in Doctrine and Covenants 90: “The First Presidency holds the ‘keys of the kingdom’ (verses 2-6). When the Savior was on earth, He gave the keys of the kingdom to His ancient apostles Peter, James, and John. Many hundreds of years later, Peter, James, and John, as heavenly messengers, bestowed those same priesthood keys upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. These keys are “the right of presidency” (D&C 107:8), the directing power by which the priesthood is governed (see D&C 42:69; 65:2; 90:2-3).
In the revelation recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 90, the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that he held the keys of the kingdom and would continue to hold them in the next life. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) explained how the priesthood keys have continued from Joseph Smith to the current living prophet in this dispensation:
That same authority which Joseph held, those same keys and powers which were the very essence of his divinely given right to preside, were by him conferred upon the Twelve Apostles with Brigham Young at their head. Every president of the Church since then has come to that most high and sacred office out of the Council of the Twelve. Each of these men has been blessed with the spirit and power of revelation from on high. There has been an unbroken chain from Joseph Smith, Jr., to [the current prophet]. Of that I bear solemn witness and testimony before you this day (quoted in Teachings of the Living Prophets [Church Education System manual, 2016], 14) (as quoted in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual – Religion 324-325 .
From my studies this week, I received confirmation that Heavenly Father feels great love and mercy for His children. The gradual implementation of the Word of Wisdom is just one example of how much we mean to Him. He gave the Saints more than eighty years from when He taught the Word of Wisdom as a word of wisdom that even the weakest of Saints could receive and the time when He commanded the Saints to live it as a law.
I also received confirmation that the First Presidency hold “the keys of the kingdom.” The Lord will direct His Church through the administration of the First Presidency with assistance from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As I follow the Prophet and stay in the mainstream of the Church, I will be led in safety.