One of the most famous incidents from Joseph Smith's boyhood is the leg operation he underwent when he was seven years old. He refused to take brandy as an anesthetic, insisting instead that his father hold him while his leg was cut open and pieces of bone broken off.
This incident was brought up by our Gospel Doctrine teacher yesterday as an example of how Joseph Smith was prepared for his prophetic mission. He noted that the Word of Wisdom hadn’t been revealed yet, but that “that was just how Joseph was raised -- that his family didn’t do that sort of thing.”
I’m sure the teacher had good intentions. The problem is that, as noted by Kaimi and commenters over at Times & Seasons, it’s simply not true. Joseph and his family drank alcohol up through Joseph's death (he had wine just before he was killed; see History of the Church 6:616). I’m inclined to agree with Marc D. that the most likely reason Joseph refused alcohol was that his father had problems with alcoholism.
This seems like a minor issue, but it highlights one of the things that bothers me when I see it in the Church: the idealization of prophets. This can cause problems in a couple of ways: First, the specifics. When someone who has been taught in Sunday School that Joseph never drank alcohol finds out (most likely from an unfriendly source) that he actually did, there is a sense of betrayal -- why was I taught falsely in church? Second, the general expectation that prophets should be superhuman. The comment was made in a context that was pretty much saying, “See how prepared Joseph was? Even at seven years old, the Holy Ghost revealed to him that he shouldn't drink alcohol, even though he wouldn't have the Word of Wisdom revealed to him for many years.” And this sets up incorrect expectations that run up against reality and can cause a lot of confusion later on. It seems to me that this type of approach generally tends to lead people to discount their belief in a prophet instead of critically examining their own assumptions of what a prophet is.
So, did I speak up in Sunday School to correct the teacher? No, I bit my tongue for a couple of reasons: 1) there wasn't time to address all of these issues; 2) even if there had been, I'm not sure it was the proper venue; 3) I don't know the teacher well enough or how my comments might have been received -- after all, it might have been more difficult for people to discover through my comment that Joseph Smith drank alcohol. I was quite frustrated. What would you have done, or what would you do from here, if anything?