Excerpts from “Means of Preserving Health and Preventing Diseases” and the Word of Wisdom
Shadrach Ricketson, a physician in New York, published the book “Means of Preserving Health and Preventing Diseases” in 1806 in New York. In addition to pulling from “instructive” encyclopedias of the day, he also quoted extensively from other sources who he described as “practical writers of established reputation … who stand foremost on the subjects on which they wrote.”
This document aims to provide faithful transcripts of all mentions of the various substances or practices considered unique to the purported revelation known as “the Word of Wisdom”.
Just prior to the introduction, the book includes a recommendation under the signature of 8 others, most of whom seem to have been influential physicians at that time. Some quick web searches suggest the following identities:
- Nichs (Nicholas) Romayne: The First President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City
- James Tillary: 16th President of the St. Andrews Society of the State of New York
- John R. B. Rodgers: Professor of midwifery at Columbia College
- Wright Post: professor of surgery, anatomy and physiology at Columbia College
- William Hammersley: physician
- James S. Stringham: earliest professor of medical jurisprudence in America (also)
- William Moore: (no information yet found)
- Valentine Seaman: “introduced the smallpox vaccine to the United States and mapped yellow fever in New York City.”
The “noted” American physician David Hosack wrote a personalized recommendation:
Sir, I HAVE perused the work you have put into my hands, relative to the “Means of preserving health and of preventing diseases.”
It appears to me to be arranged in a perspicuous manner, and to contain principles which will receive general approbation.
You have also very judiciously availed yourself of the observations of some of the ablest writers of the present day, which will give an additional value to your work, especially with those who may not have access to the originals.
Accept, Sir, my best wishes for the success of your undertaking,
Your humble servant, DAVID HOSACK.
The most common interpretation of “hot drinks” near the time of the Word of Wisdom was a reference to tea and coffee (e.g., Hyrum Smith in 1842, “I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.”
However, it also seems possible that the “hot” was in reference to temperature. For instance, when giving his opinion on the meaning of the phrase, Hyrum Smith in 1842 acknowledged the inherent ambiguity in the term “hot drinks”: “And again ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not.” In 1868, George Q. Cannon defined “hot drinks” as “tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and all drinks of this kind,” and in the same talk stated (emphasis added), “We must not permit them to drink liquor or hot drinks, or hot soups …” which seems to indicate a concern with temperature.
Brigham Young also saw tea and coffee as the meaning behind the phrase “hot drinks”, but his words also underscore the possibility of temperature as the underlying unifying characteristic:
And this Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of hot drinks and tobacco. I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned therein; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee—the beverages in common use. And the Lord said hot drinks are not good for the body nor the belly, liquor is not good for the body nor the belly, but for the washing of the body, &c.
Finally, for what it is worth, modern LDS sponsored web sites draw the connection between “hot drinks” and temperature when research demonstrates health risks to consuming hot (temperature) drinks, for example.
Given the ambiguity involved, this compilation also includes references to drinks and hotness (i.e., temperature).
Hot Drinks (temperature)
Vegetables and Grain