We never got to what bothered me at church a few weeks ago in our last podcast since the Duran Duran Rescue team was successful and we were able to join back up with Branden Campbell. Branden’s second call saved our listeners from what could have likely been a passionate lengthy, and wordy rant from me (Lauren).
But don’t you worry, because if you were disappointed you didn’t get to hear the rant, just keeping reading. If you’re glad you didn’t have to deal with it, stop reading now.
And thus it begins: It’s a story about Joseph Smith. I was taught it in Primary. My family had an illustrated children’s book sold at Deseret Book all about this story, and the moral that comes with it. As for me, I despise the story. IF the story is even true, (which I doubt it is. I personally think it’s an urban legend sort of like George Washington and his cherry tree) BUT IF it is, the lessons learned are terrible. I think it should be banned from all church publications and lessons. Whew. I hadn’t heard the story for a while, but it popped back up in Sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. Yes, it was in someone’s talk, as they spoke about making good choices and being faithful. THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS STORY ABOUT MAKING GOOD CHOICES, OR BEING FAITHFUL. I might have sort of groaned when the women started telling the story.
I warned you this was a rant.
It’s a story (ahem, legend) about Joseph Smith when he was about seven or eight years old. The truths we know: Joseph indeed had a leg accident, and he did need surgery as a young boy on the leg. He wasn’t privileged like we are today in having modern medicine. There were no powerful pain killers, and no anesthesiologists to put him out while the surgery was being done. (And let me tell you, I find this part of the story heart wrenching and hard to even comprehend). In fact, it could be because I find it so heart wrenching, that what happens next irks me to the core, and I PRAY it ISN’T true. The doctors offered Joseph Smith alcohol as a way to ease the pain during the surgery. Supposedly, Joseph declines. Please don’t tell me he really declined. The alcohol was MEDICINE. It was a pain reliever! It was the equivalent of what Tylenol, aspirin, and Lortab are today. This was a medicine prescribed by doctors to be taken to calm Joseph down during the surgery and lessen the severe pain that was about to occur. But according to the said story, Joseph refused the doctor’s orders. What the?!?! Sure, alcohol isn’t considered medicine today…but it was back then! And for a child to refuse and for his dad to go along with those wishes?!—No, I am NOT okay with that! Please don’t tell me that he wasn’t forced to take the medicine.
SECONDLY: Lest I Remind you that this story…I mean, legend, occurred before Joseph ever had the first vision. Before the Latter Day church was ever established or the Book of Mormon ever translated. There was nothing, NOTHING in the religion of the Smith’s home at the time that condemned alcohol. The family read the Bible in which wine is written about abundantly. There was no Word of Wisdom that existed. So, for those who say the moral of the story is about following God’s commandments no matter the circumstances, I say: What commandment? The only thing this young boy did IF he even did it was reject the doctor’s directions. There is nothing to do with being faithful in this story, as there was no commandment Joseph was being faithful to.
It wasn’t even until Kirtland that the Word of Wisdom was even established. And it wasn’t even until AFTER Joseph Smith’s death that the Word of Wisdom even became a commandment, opposed to a guideline or suggestion–which brings me to something else that irked me in church during a lesson at the mid-singles ward. But we’ll save that for next week.
Until then, send your comments and emails this way, whether you agree or disagree. We’ll read them on the next episode and hopefully get some good discussion going. Either way, I will not be teaching my primary students about this story…er….legend.