Did Joseph Smith drink alcohol?
Yes, but probably not habitually and mostly wine. He also occasionally drank beer. Drinking was a common practice in his day (though drinking until drunk was frowned upon).
Did he drink after the Word of Wisdom was revealed?
Yes. The Word of Wisdom was first revealed on February 27, 1833. Joseph himself recorded drinking alcohol multiple times after that date.
Isn't that hypocritical? Couldn’t he keep the revelation he received?
At the time, the Word of Wisdom was viewed by many saints as more of a guideline than a strict code. The language of the text was that it came “not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:2). However, Joseph did teach that willfully neglecting to follow the Word of Wisdom may disqualify members from holding leadership positions, and violation might lead to disciplinary action.
Weren't early Mormon societies alcohol-free?
No. Early Church communities were temperate, but not completely dry. For example, Nauvoo had taverns and breweries. The sale of liquor in the city was regulated but not prohibited.
Was Joseph a drunkard?
No, probably not. Joseph’s clerk, who saw him daily at the office, swore he never saw him drunk. Critics accused him of excessive drinking, but other historical records indicate Joseph was an infrequent and moderate drinker. Close associates noted Joseph sometimes drank wine at the dinner table. Joseph reportedly listed whiskey as one of his temptations.
What did Joseph Smith think about alcohol?
Joseph Smith's revelation stated that drinking "wine or strong drink. . . .is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father," but "barley" could be used for "mild drink." It was reported that Joseph stated that drinking whiskey as "sinful" and that it was a personal "temptation." Joseph indicated that wine was an exceptions for religious purposes.
He also seems to have accepted the idea that alcohol was an appropriate means to "revive" spirits that were "dull and heavy" while in Carthage jail.
Was wine used in the sacrament after the Word of Wisdom was revealed?
Yes. But a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1830 indicates that it isn't important what is used for the sacrament.
What about that story where, as a child, Joseph refused liquor for a leg operation?
According to Lucy Mack Smith,[BIO] Joseph refused brandy or wine as painkillers for the surgery, saying, "I will not touch one particile of liquor." However, Lucy's account was recorded over 30 years after the incident and her memory of the events may have been influenced by the Word of Wisdom, which had been around for over a decade by the time she wrote her memoirs. Joseph Smith's 1842 account of the surgery made no mention of him refusing alcohol.
Did Joseph Smith really only have a third-grade education?
Read more in Joseph Smith's Pre-1830 Education
Didn't Joseph Sr. drink excessively at one point?
Possibly. Some sources accused Joseph Sr.[BIO] of being a "drunkard," but other accounts contradict these claims. However, Joseph Sr. may have alluded to a drinking problem the he may have had in blessings given to his sons.
Did Joseph Smith and his companions drink wine in Carthage?
Yes. John Taylor[BIO] said they sent for some. His account specifies that they didn’t drink it as a sacrament but to lift their spirits. Willard Richards[BIO] also recorded that Joseph paid for some wine to be brought to the prisoners.
When was the Word of Wisdom consistently enforced?
While the Word of Wisdom was taught and emphasized throughout the nineteenth century, its enforcement didn't really pick up steam until the twentieth century. Strict adherence to the Word of Wisdom did not become a requirement for temple entry until the 1934 Handbook of Instructions.
“I really needed to read this. It's nice to know that Joseph Smith was more imperfect than I thought he was made out to be. We can all strive to be better while knowing the Lord walks with us through our trials.”
“Its reasonable to think that if moderation were actually feasible for 99.9% of us, perhaps alcohol and other substances would not be an issue for God. But anyone who has been a substance addict knows from experience why God would take issue with it.”
- Parker P
“The early Word of Wisdom is strange because it didn't go into effect all the way? Do some commandments start as suggestions? You'd think if God told you "alcohol is bad, use in moderation" that you'd be more correct if you just stopped using it.”
- Derek B
“I mean I'd drink if God said it was okay, so go off king. Get your drinks in while you can.”