Monday, June 22, 2009

Mormons and Beer: The Truth Will Set You Free

Thanks to Chris for pointing this in my direction. A recent posting from PureMormonism blog on the Mormon history and doctrine regarding beer.

I want to hear what you all think about this?

Imagine there are two guys in your ward, both active in the church and stalwart in the faith. One is a vegetarian who prefers to eat mostly organic food, fresh and in season. He drinks herbal teas, and almost never eats meat. By "almost never", I mean he's not stupid; he'd eat an animal if he ever found himself in a situation where he was starving. But he tries to eat healthy, and he has one guilty pleasure no one in his ward knows about: At the end of a long day, he likes to kick back with a cold beer.

The second guy loves food - all kinds of food. Especially meat. For him, a day without meat would be a day without sunshine. Junk food is a way of life with this guy. He could take or leave fruits and vegetables, and he mostly leaves them. He wouldn't think of drinking herbal teas, because "hot drinks are not for the body" (except hot chocolate). He doesn't smoke, drink, or dance the hoochi-coo. And he looks like Jabba the Hut.

So here's the question: Which one of these two guys would you say most perfectly lives the Word of Wisdom?

Answer: Bachelor number one.

But, you ask, what about that daily beer?

I said most perfectly. Because, along with his other positive habits, he drinks beer, he's the one most perfectly living the Word of Wisdom. God tells us in Section 89 that beer is one of the reasons He gave us barley.

If you didn't know that, it's probably because like many latter day saints, you learned all about the Word of Wisdom in Sunday school, but you've most likely never gotten around to really reading the thing.

So let's look at it again. Remember the part describing the purposes of the various grains, the one that begins "Nevertheless, wheat for man..."? Open your scriptures to Doctrine and Covenants Section 89 and turn to verse 17. Let's read, in God's own words, what he created barley for: "...and barley for all useful animals and for mild drinks, as also other grain."

The early saints would have been astounded that future members would ever conflate their mild barley drink -beer- with the "strong drink" advised against in verses 5 and 7. Early Mormons regularly consumed beer without compunction, as had most of mankind throughout recorded history.

In 1843 the church's newspaper, the Nauvoo Neighbor, advertised ale and beer available at the Nauvoo Brewery. Joseph Smith oversaw a fully stocked bar located at his home in the Mansion House. In an 1844 journal entry Joseph Smith mentions that he stopped in and "drank a glass of beer at Moesser's". He mentions this in passing as if it was no big deal, because to him it wasn't.

This was eleven years after Joseph received the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, so you can't say he didn't know better. The fact is, beer was not proscribed by Section 89; it was prescribed.

Within three years of the saints' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, breweries were operating at the mouths of every river canyon from Logan to Nephi. Most of the saints were immigrants from England, Denmark, and Germany, and these Teutonics brought with them their old-world brewing skills. A sizable brewery once sat close to where the Provo temple is now, and the Henry Wagener Brewery took up a massive 150 acres just across the street from where the "This Is The Place" monument now stands. So many breweries appeared so fast that by 1851 the smell emanating from all these operations provoked the city council to declare them a nuisance. Yet they continued to operate.

Beer was manufactured and consumed by faithful members of the church who never gave a second thought to the idea that there might be anything wrong with it. Most would have applied Benjamin Franklin's famous declaration regarding wine to their beer and ale, that it was "proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy".

By the time Johnston's Army arrived in 1857, ushering in a steady stream of thirsty gentiles through Utah, things really took off for the Mormon brewers. Beer was available everywhere, including the church owned ZCMI where both Mormons and gentiles could stop in to grab a brewski any day but Sunday.

So how did the LDS church membership devolve from an appreciation of beer as a gift from God, to our present-day anathema toward it?

Well, we got the idea from the protestants.

Temperance Nation

By the time of the Manifesto in 1890, the LDS conversion rate was practically nil. All anybody knew about Mormons were that they were that crazy bunch of polygamous weirdos off in the desert. Any growth the church experienced was primarily internal, as pretty much the only baptisms Utahns were performing were on eight year old kids who already lived there. Certainly nobody new wanted to join.

The united states government and the eastern newspapers had painted us such pariahs that we couldn't get anybody to take our religion seriously on a bet. Missionaries couldn't get anyone to take a pamphlet, let alone read the Book of Mormon. Proselyting was at a standstill. We needed to find some way to get our numbers up.

Meanwhile back in the states, a huge temperance movement was sweeping the sectarian religious world, a backlash against decades of unbridled American alcoholism and public drunkenness. Public vows of abstinence were all the rage. It was no longer cool to profess Christ on Sunday if you spent Saturday night in a saloon; now a man's spiritual measure was taken by how vociferously he denounced the demon rum.

The motto of virtuous young women everywhere was "lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine", and young men, whose lips desperately wanted to touch the lips of young women, dutifully fell into line. It was futile to argue with these women that beer and ale, which were brewed, did not belong in the same class as hard liquors such as whiskey, which was distilled. These young ladies had zero tolerance for any of it; it was all the same to them. Talk to the hand, 'cause the lips ain't listenin'.

There was a pious war against booze raging in Christian America, and mild drinks were getting caught in the crossfire.

The debate spilled over into Utah where, though public drunkenness was strictly forbidden, wine and distilled spirits had always been available (some members paid their tithing in wine they made themselves; the St George tithing office reported collecting 7000 gallons by 1887). Still, hard liquor was hardly tolerated by Mormons the way beer had traditionally been.

By 1900, the parsing of the Word of Wisdom was well under way in debate among the leaders of the church. According to BYU Professor Emeritus Thomas G. Alexander:

"...All general authorities were not in agreement on all aspects of the word of wisdom...After he became president of the church, Lorenzo Snow again emphasized the centrality of not eating meat...and in 1901 John Henry Smith and Brigham Young, Jr., of the Twelve both thought that the church ought not interdict beer, at least not Danish beer." Apostle Anthon H. Lund, who happened to be Danish, agreed, especially the part about Danish beer. So did did Mathias F.Cowley and others.

Over the next couple of decades, the Mormon people as a whole jumped on the Temperance bandwagon, and in 1919 Utah enthusiastically ratified the 18th amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages, including beer. Utah breweries closed down and before long all traces disappeared. In time, the descendants of the pioneers forgot they had ever existed. Land once occupied by the sprawling Henry Wagoner Company eventually became home to the Hogle zoo.

The Mormon support of prohibition had a positive effect on missionary work. We could boast to teetotaling Christians that we were way ahead of the curve on the evils of alcohol, having been hip to that scene as far back as 1833. With the hub-bub over polygamy having pretty much quieted down, the church was experiencing a re-branding. Missionaries were no longer fearsome devils come to steal your daughters; they were now those nice young men who didn't smoke or drink.

Looks like we'd found our gimmick.

After America came to its senses in 1933 and repealed prohibition, many Christians no longer saw any harm in the occasional beer, but by this time Mormons were so proudly tethered to their image as the fermentedly free that they couldn't let go. It allowed us to remain a peculiar people, but now in a good way. Our image as strict non-drinkers was what was now defining us to the rest of the world. It was the thing that was getting us in the papers.

And within the church the Word of Wisdom gradually transmogrified from a gentle principle with promise to That Doctrine Which Must Be Obeyed.

The Commandment That Never Was

Anyone who actually reads the Word of Wisdom is struck by the dichotomy between what is declared in its opening verses and the way it's promulgated by the church today. The actual revelation is very clear in its wording that what is to follow is "not by way of commandment or constraint". It's a guide to healthy living, a principle with a promise attached for any who choose to follow the wise advice therein.

A modern member might hear about the Word of Wisdom all his life and never know of the counsel it gives regarding food -what should be eaten and what should not. The emphasis today is always on the four negatives we are to avoid: alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco (and sometimes Pepsi, according to some). A person can think he's living the Word of Wisdom to the letter without ever having read it, and actually be in egregious violation of it, like Brother Jabba above.

So, who changed the Word of Wisdom? How and when did the Lord declare unquestioning obedience to be so paramount that almost all other doctrines and practices take a back seat?

In Seminary I was told that some years after the saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young announced that the saints had now had plenty of time to quit using tobacco, liquor, tea, and coffee, and that henceforth the Lord had declared they were to live it as a commandment.

But is this true? Did Brigham Young ever make such a declaration? More importantly, did Jesus Christ, author of the revelation, tell Brigham Young that it was no longer voluntary?

When Joseph Fielding Smith was an apostle, he authored a set of books entitled "Answers to Gospel Questions". Here's where we get our modern interpretation:

"September 9th, 1851, President Brigham Young stated that the members of the church Had had sufficient time to be taught the import of this revelation, and that henceforth it was to be considered a divine commandment. This was first put before the male members and then before the women, and by unanimous vote accepted."

With all due respect to the late President Smith, if an anti-Mormon had tried to pass off such a misleading statement about Mormon history as this, he would have been accused of distorting and twisting the facts. Nothing like what president Smith avers occurred at all. Brigham Young didn't convert the Word of Wisdom into a commandment, nor did he claim the Lord did. Nor did the body of the church ever vote to accept it as a commandment. Here is what actually happened as recorded in the Millenial Star:

"President Young rose to put the motion and called on all the sisters who will leave off the use of tea, coffee, etc., to manifest it by raising the right hand; seconded and carried.

"And then put the following motion; calling on all the boys who were under ninety years of age who would covenant to leave off the use of tobacco, Whiskey, and all things mentioned in the Word of Wisdom to manifest it in like manner, which was carried unanimously."

As Robert J. McCue makes clear in his essay "Did The Word of Wisdom Become a Commandment in 1851?", the vote was simply a personal commitment by those present to abstain from items condemned in the Word of Wisdom. It wasn't until nine years later that Brigham Young himself gave up tobacco, although he had long considered the habit uncouth, filthy, and offensive. In 1860, nearly a decade after he was supposed to have declared the Word of Wisdom a commandment, he advised the Brethren, "If you must use tobacco, put a small portion in your mouth when no person sees you, and be careful that no one sees you chew it. I do not charge you with sin."

The evidence is that Brigham Young regretted his earlier call for the young men and women to commit to stop using these substances, for it appears that many caught up in the fervor of the moment were unable to keep their resolutions for very long. Years later, President Young made this statement:

"I will not call upon you to make a covenant to do this, for some might break their covenants, and that would be a sin."

Brigham Young made many statements condemning the use of hard liquor and tobacco, but never claimed a commandment from the Lord on the subject. Indeed, Thomas G. Alexander affirms that there never has been a revelation from the Lord requiring obedience to the Word of Wisdom, or converting it from voluntary to mandatory.

This is not to say that these substances are not harmful; there's no question that they are. But God only commands us regarding how we are to interact with others. He does not interfere with our free agency to make our own mistakes regarding how we treat ourselves.

Beer For The Body

Raised as I was to believe that beer was the devil's brew, I was really caught up short awhile back when I read something in a newsletter by a very Godly natural health expert whose opinion I had always trusted. This author is read by religiously hard-core vegans and food purists who strive at putting only pure raw foods into their bodies and avoiding all harmful substances in their search for both physical and spiritual perfection. He told his readers that most of them were neglecting an essential nutrient that God had provided for thousands of years: Beer. More particularly, fermented hops, which is an essential ingredient in beer.

According to this expert, for at least the past four thousand years, mankind drank beer at the end of the day to relax, and there's a reason he did: God meant for it to be. God gives our bodies the means to accomplish what's necessary throughout the day. Our bodies create stress so that we can get things done. Stress is what enables us to get up, go, and keep going.

But at the end of the day the body needs to let go of all that stress, otherwise the nervous system remains highstrung to a degree; it never truly unwinds. The pollinated hops flower contains anodynes and soporifics that relax the nerves in a way nothing else can, and a beer made of fermented barley is the best way to deliver those hops to the nerves that need them. The small amount of alcohol in a pint of beer assists in that delivery.

And this is key: one beer is all it takes; more than two pints is too much. An excess amount of beer can be detrimental to your liver and other parts of your body. That's why Section 89 advises moderation.

It may not even be necessary to have a beer every day. For some people a pint at the end of the week does the trick. The point is to reverse the stress buildup and relax your nervous system. It helps you sleep, has antibiotic properties, and the barley contains important B vitamins and other nutrients. Those who stress all day and do not provide their bodies with the means to undo all that stress before bedtime are asking for trouble.

Are there other ways besides beer to cope with the stresses of life? I suppose. Antidepressant drugs are prescribed in Utah more often than in any other state, and at twice the national average. I would guess one reason is because, unlike the rest of the world, we refuse to recognize and use a natural substance God gave us to cope with stress, even when our own scriptures provide for it.

If we are to believe the statistics, Mormon women are among America's unhappiest creatures. Wouldn't it make more sense if, instead of ingesting a dangerous drug four times a day, you simply took the counsel of Christ and sipped from a bottle of beer each night while reading to the kids? You could help them learn what the Word of Wisdom really says, while at the same time affirming to them Ben Franklin's adage regarding the proof of God's love.

Or are you more comfortable rejecting the counsel of God in favor of obeying the doctrines of men?

What All This Has To Do With Me

Even though I now know it's good for me, I confess to not drinking any beer myself yet. The thing is, I tried beer some forty years ago and couldn't stand the taste. I just don't understand what anybody sees in it. It's horrible. I'd sooner drink my own urine.

But I've decided I ought to give it another try, though this time with a quality brew. The problem is, I haven't the slightest idea how to go about selecting a good beer. As the squarest square in Squares-ville, I know nothing about the subject. Actually, it's not so much quality I'm looking for as something that would just taste acceptable to me as a first time beer drinker. I sure don't want to buy a twelve-pack of something with a fancy label just to find out it tastes like crap. I simply don't know how to tell one beer from another.

I went to Smart & Final to read the ingredients on labels, but guess what? Beer labels don't tell you what's in the beer. I suppose it's assumed that all beer has the same ingredients, but since I wasn't sure, I didn't buy any. I did see that some labels say they're made with wheat, but I don't know if that means wheat only, or wheat in addition to barley and hops. Would wheat and barley and hops taste better than simply barley and hops? And how would I know which is which?

What I think I'm looking for is a traditional brew made with hops and barley, so I can have the kind of beer Joseph Smith himself would have drank. But I want it to taste decent, so I'm open to suggestions.

I know that some of the readers of this blog are Jack-Mormons (excuse me, "less actives") who may have discovered the joy of beer already, so I'm counting on you to help me out with this so that I can finally, truly start living the Word of Wisdom.


Lisa said...

Fantastic post, TJ. I did a post not too many months ago touching on this same issue. I was astounded to finally read the WoW without trying to hold my proverbial "shelf" up

Barley for mild drinks.


But that doesn't matter anymore, you know, because President Grant received revelation.

(insert rolling of the eyes here)

Make us peculiar, thanks. As if we aren't peculiar enough. I don't think it's a bad thing to not drink, but it's the extent that we take the idea that drinking = bad person, bad choices.

It's no more a bad choice than is, like you said, being Jabba the Hut.

And it certainly doesn't equal bad person.

But that's the impression. I've only been connected with the church for ten years and it took less than that for me to equate drinks with horrible people. Sure they could be good, but they could also be better. They could be Mormon.

That said, I sympathize with you on the beer front. My husband once worked stocking the liquor department at the grocery store and told me the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (a local brew) sold out, so we tried that.

It surprised me how good it smelled, but there were at least fifty different levels of flavor that hit you when you drink. It's heavy stuff, and I later learned from my stepbrother that pale ale's are best served with food. It did taste better with pizza.

Sometimes towns throw festivals or community faires where they have beer tastings. Look it up. I have yet to find a wine I like (though, like beer, I hear it's an acquired taste) but I want to attend a wine tasting before I decide it all sucks.

Now, wine is branded bad but that's a whole other post. Check out my archives, see if you're inspired. Did you know, for example, that for a time under Brigham Young the church had its own vineyard and brought in income from it?


Lisa said...

Shameless plugs/easy referral: my takes on the subjects. Hope you don't mind.

Wine and the Church


Prophecy and the Word of Wisdom

T.J. Shelby said...

I don't mind at all. Information is knowledge, knowledge is power.

Just to clarify though. The entire text, minus my two sentence intro, is all from the PureMormonism blog. See hyperlink at beginning of post.

Having that straight, I totally agree with your comments. I love how we used to pay tithing in wine (7,000 gallons, no less, just in St. George alone) but when dogma becomes doctrine, we all suffer.

Scott H. said...

I know this isn't you TJ, but here's my opinion.

Sounds like someone mis-interpreting the Word of Wisdom for their own rationalization.

"I'm going to interpret 'mild drinks' to be what I want it to be and not what the Church has stated it is" or "I know better than our current prophets and modern revelation."

The prophet and apostles also smoked/chewed tobacco in the school of prophets, well Joseph did so why can't I? That's a ridiculous argument. Yes, section 89 was originally given not as commandment and constraint, but as advice; but the members didn't follow that advice and they had to make it requisite to membership.

"hey that guys fat so that means i can drink beer." Again, a ridiculous rationalization. How about "that guy rapes people so I'll just fornicate and I'll be a better person?" same thing.

how about, "don't be fat AND don't drink beer?" That sounds valid.

And as for people drinking beer to relax and be healthy? What a big fat load of crap! "one beer is all it takes; more than two pints is too much." Who the heck is out there drinking one beer every once in a while to be healthy? The problem is that it is addictive. You can point out the one or two good things in many bad substances, while ignoring the 50 others. That's how Satan works, in half-truths.

Also, mild barley drinks could be considered a non-fermented barley drink, that's like beer, but non-alcoholic. We had one on my mission called Pony Malta and it tasted horrible. But nevertheless, I would consider that to be a "mild drink" made from barley.

I'm sure someone'll probably point out something they consider to be wrong in my argument. I don't care. You can rationalize to your hearts content and interpret the scriptures as you please, but I'll follow the interpretation as given to us by modern prophets. That's the great thing about a LIVING Church, if someone wants a dead Church that doesn't change and doesn't receive modern revelation from a Living God, there are plenty of options for them out there...

While I spout my huge digression, it was interesting reading and I learned history.

And thanks Lisa for rolling your eyes at President Grant, nice illustration of respecting prophets...

sonnymaloy said...

Well for my two cents I sure learned about beer on Sundays up close and personal. Is beer and tabacco addictive hell yeah ask the one who has been addictted to both. But with that everything is addicting if you let it be. Like the people that need meat for every meal, the one's that need their energy drinks, or the one's that need their soda and on and on. The word of wisdom does not speak about some of those either. This is a you choice in my opinion. If you can sit down and do things in moderation good for you that is good self control. I really think we are warned about somethings not just because it can be bad for you if you do it to much but because what it does to families when took to far. Agian I'm living proof. Do I think their is good in beer of course MY GREAT-GRANDMA lived to be 102 years old and she drank one can of beer a day some drink wine to thin their blood. So before all the bashing starts step out of your comfort zones and weigh the pros and cons and make a wise choice it's only your life and the road you are on.

Christopher Maloy said...

I personally liked the post. Gotta say that Sonny had the best comments of all.

I definitely don't agree with Scott's argument but he is right about the logical fallacy of the fat man. It is a "straw-man" fallacy.

I don't buy the crap about being a LIVING church nor do I give much credence to his understanding of drinking beer.

Once you get to the level of complete submission that anything another holy person says is what goes then you can be lead to do anything. There is nothing you won't do to follow the lord (fly planes into buildings, marry 10 women, you name it). Personally I think it is an inferior way to think and live.

Once again I like Sonny's comment and there really isn't much to add beyond that. Be your own person.

Cheers all!!!

Christopher Maloy said...

Oh last comment. Mild drinks made from barley are not the Pony Malta popular in Latin America.

To the early saints it was beer and small beer.

Lisa said...

Scott: Thank you!

Chris: I think members like to say it's some kind of non-fermented barley drink (sounds so good, doesn't it?) because it is in line with their way of thinking.

But then again you probably knew that.

Because, duh, Joe Smith refused alcohol when they worked on his leg.

And you should, too. No more cough medicines! haha

Scott said...

A couple of thoughts.

#1. Beer is not good for anyone, never has been. To make beer you take a prescribed amount of barley and hops and grind it into liquid, mix it with water and some other preservatives, and let it sit in a vat to rot. Once these grains have rotted sufficiently to become only mildly poisonous, it is ready for human consumption. When consumed a portion of the liquid is absorbed into the blood stream where it partially paralyzes the brain causing a euphoric state. The remainder of the liquid is filtered out by your body’s built in poison filter the liver, and expelled via urine. If too much of this poison is absorbed it sometimes causes the body to vomit in order to expel this poison, if too much poison is absorbed into the blood stream the potential for death by alcohol poisoning exists.

All alcohol is rotten food, for a fun exercise try to discover what rotten food is used to create the various types of alcohol, here are a couple to get you started.

Beer=rotten barley/hops
Wine=rotten grapes
Vodka=rotten potatoes

#2. As for the word of wisdom, while this sounds odd, the WoW has always been an evolving commandment. A precise read shows that it was originally given as a recommendation, not commandment. J. Golden Kimball often talks about the time “Before the brethren got serious about the word of wisdom.” Eventually Brigham Young upgraded the WoW to a commandment, then in 1921 it became a requirement for temple attendance. President Heber J. Grant was a staunch prohibitionist, and the strict anti-beer stance can probably date back to those days.

#3. My final query is concerning non-alcoholic beer, granted it does contain a trace amount of alcohol, but does the consumption of near or non-alcoholic beer rise to the level of WoW violation? I think at best this is a grey area.

Christopher Maloy said...

Scott I admire your bravery to continue your anti-beer stance on this post, but I have to respectfully disagree with you. I don't know why I feel so compelled to answer.

We eat rotten stuff all the time, but I guess since it is not prescribed in the WofW we will nevermind those right? If we are going down the rotten food argument then we have to dismiss cheese, sour cream, sauerkraut, aged beef, butter milk, ... and a ton more crap.

I am not a fan of the science lesson because most of what was being argued can be dismissed by the use in moderation. There are tons of benefits to beer and there are a lot of human beings that would agree. Humans have been making beer since early Egyptian times. Some of man's first writings have been recipes for beer. Some of man's first gods were gods of wine and beer coming out of Mesopotamia. Humans have used beer to cure sickness, numb pain when modern medicines were not available. Some of the most important treaties and moments in history happened in local pubs or in the presence of beer and wine. Economies around the world rely on the production of beer (and wine I might add).

Beer can help you sleep better, help you avoid heart disease, help you relax, helps those with urinary problems, helps those with vessel dilation, positive social implications on the elderly, helps with digestion, etc, etc, etc.

All alcohol is not rotten food. Alcohol is alcohol. It is a result of the yeast fermenting process. It also serves a purpose.

Just as with all technology man is required to use constraint and reason to control his behavior.

I will tell you right now if you gave me the option of taking any number of medicines we have today for any of the reasons listed above or drinking a beer at night, the choice clear for me, but then again I am a godless, soulless secular humanist who bases his decisions on practicality and not dogma.

I will not argue your #2 or #3 because I feel it is better debate by those of you that are passionate about it and care.

Thanks for the comments Scott. Too bad you don't live closer so we could do this in person.

Christopher Maloy said...

My bad. I was talking to the wrong Scott. Same message applies, but you can disregard the living closer bit and the bravery bit.

T.J. Shelby said...

Scott H - I think the crutch of the matter once again trickles back to the question of when does a Prophet speak as a Prophet and when does he speak as a man?

It's pretty readily accepted that there was never a Priesthood ban on blacks. There were Prophets who made doctrine and church policy based off of interpretation. Even Pres Hinckley said so.

Now, repeating itself, as history often does, is the historical views that show:

A. When it came from the Lord, it was NOT a commandment, nor is there indications that it was ever meant to be so.

B. There is no recorded revelation stating the Lord had changed his mind and now wanted it as a commandment but simply (and yet again) how the leaders of the Church interpreted it at that time.

Right, wrong or indifferent...there was no revelation requiring conformity.

T.J. Shelby said...

Scott and Scott H - Sorry I didn't address your individual opinions on various points of disagreement. I think they are secondary points to the main issue that I previously discussed.

I will say that two of the funnier thoughts I had were this:
1. It was very "Mormon" of you both to so quickly dismiss the scientific findings of the health aspects of beer simply because it went against your spiritual beliefs.
2. Scott H - Your "ridiculous rationalization" comparison of gluttony and alcohol consumption to rape and consensual sex made me throw up in my mouth just a little.

T.J. Shelby said...

Healthy dialogue brings understanding and progress.

Thanks for participating all of you!

Scott said...

TJ, I dismiss these finding, not out of some sort of spiritual intolerance, there is science to my assertions too. Alcohol is rotten food, and it is a neurotoxin.

Getting a little anecdotal, I have a great deal of alcoholism in my family, including my grandmother who died of sorosis of the liver from drinking beer, granted it was to excess, but it was beer nonetheless.

As for the findings that there can be some therapeutic aspects to beer drinking, while that may be true, the damage done does not justify the consumption.

Overall, I actually really liked the article. I love it when church historical events don't fit into a tidy box.

patty maloy said...

This is funny and surely interesting to read! I suggest you all meet and go out for and evening discussion and have some rotten potatoes with O.J or whatever "mild drinks" you choose...
by the end of the night I'm sure you'll all be plenty loopy and best friends! Can't we all just get along!

Christopher Maloy said...

I know you can find any quote for any situation, but I thought I would be clever and list a few here. I find it very appropriate. Damn you all ... I am now craving a beer.

"Beer, if drank with moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.” - Thomas Jefferson

"Fill with mingled cream and amber, I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber through the chambers of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies, come to life and fade away.
What care I how time advances? I am drinking ale today." - Edgar Allan Poe

“What event is more awfully important to an English colony than the erection of its first brewhouse? “ - Reverend Sidney Smith

This one is just for laughs:
"There's nothing wrong with sobriety in moderation." - John Ciardi (1916-1986)

Drink is the feast of reason and the flow of soul. - Alexander Pope

Everybody should believe in something — I believe I’ll have another drink. - Anon

And of course my favorite:
“The Church is near, but the road is icy. The bar is far away, but I will walk carefully.” - Russian proverb

Jodi Jean said...

wow ... literally wow. i was going to ask if you were going to start drinking beer and then i got to the end ... i tried it after college (NASTY!) supposedly it tastes better after the first one ... but then again you'd be going against what you said about not needing more than one.

T.J. Shelby said...

Jodi, All the text below the beginning four lines were taken directly from the PureMormonism blog post (see my original post for hyperlink). I cannot take credit for content.

That being said...I enjoy mild barley drinks.

Scott H. said...

Well, Chris gave some quotes so let me add my own quotes:

-(MY FAVORITE, the current LIVING PROPHET and MOUTH PIECE OF GOD): "Any form of Alcohol, including BEER, is harmful to your spirit and your body...if any has stumbled in his journey, there is a way back..." (President Thomas S. Monson, "Standards of Strength," New Era, Oct. 2008, 2-5)

-"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Jesus Christ, Luke 6:46)

-"The leaders of the Church have consistently defined 'strong drinks' as any alcoholic beverage." (Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine & Covenants Encyclopedia, p. 568)

-"The High Council of the Church over which the Prophet Joseph Smith presided declared in 1834 by unanimous vote after a full and free discussion on the subject, that, 'No official member of this Church is WORTHY to hold office after having the Word of Wisdom PROPERLY taught him; and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with or obey it.'[Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 177] " (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, p. 169)

-"The reason undoubtedly why the Word of Wisdom was given - as not by 'commandment or restraint' was that at that time, at least, if it had been given as a commandment it would have brought every man, addicted to the use of these noxious things, under condemnation; so the Lord was merciful and gave them a chance to overcome, before He brought them under the law. Later on, it was announced from this stand, by President Brigham Young [JD 12:118; September 9, 1851] that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation and a command of the Lord." (Joseph F. Smith, CR, October 1913, p. 14)

-or more succinctly: "The Word of Wisdom is a commandment." (Brigham Young, JD 12:118; Improvement Era, Feb. 1956, p. 78)

-“'Just one can of beer.' We do not know our potential for alcohol addiction, but one drink usually leads to another. It is much better never to take the first drink. Then you know you won’t be led to more." (James E. Faust, "It Can't Happen to Me," Liahona, July 2002, 51-54)

-Satan also seeks to deceive us about right and wrong and persuade us that there is no such thing as sin. This detour typically starts off with what seems to be only a small departure: 'Just try it once. One BEER or one cigarette or one porno movie won’t hurt.' What all of these departures have in common is that each of them is addictive. Addiction is a condition in which we surrender part of our power of choice. When we do that we give the devil power over us. The prophet Nephi described where this leads: the devil says, 'There is no hell,' and, 'I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance' (2 Ne. 28:22)." (Dallin H. Oaks, "Be Not Deceived," Ensign, Nov. 2004, 43)

-"I do not ask that you be prudes. I ask only that you choose the right...There was no problem in refusing beer." (President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency Message "True to the Faith," Ensign, June 1996, 2)

-"There are Goliaths all around us, hulking giants with evil intent to destroy. These are not nine-foot-tall men, but they are people and institutions that control attractive but evil things that may challenge and weaken and destroy us. Included in these are beer and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these products would like to enslave you into their use." (President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Overpowering the Goliaths in Our Lives," Ensign, Jan 2002, 2)

Christopher Maloy said...

Arguing from authority or appeal to authority.

From wikipedia:
Source A says that p.
Source A is authoritative.
Therefore, p is true.

You CAN use quotes to support your arguments but you CAN'T use them to dictate what is true despite the argument.

That my friend is a logical fallacy and gets you no closer to the truth.

I don't want this to turn into a bash session between you and me Scott, but I find it kind of funny that you call the prophet the mouthpiece of god and that god would care so much about us, as his children, that he would command us to not partake of beer. Don't you think it is kind of funny that an all knowing all powerful god would give us that commandment instead of the cure for AIDS, cancer or hunger in the world?

My points:
If god wants mindless automatons to follow him without question then I hope the idea of hell is truly more merciful than I have been told because that is where I will be.

Second point, if there is a god I do not think an imperfect person capable of self deceit, interpretation and prejudice can know his will (especially for other people). That is an iron age way of thinking when people were ignorant.

Third point, the word of wisdom can't be commanded from god ... it just seems too petty and man made. It seems more like common sense and culturally influenced.

Fourth point, (this one is not related to beer but to your comment on LIVING). I guess if you are talking about alive then you are right, but if you are giving yourself a reason for god to change his mind based on the circumstance of the time then I have to disagree. Just because you capitalized the word LIVING doesn't make it true.

When did Mormons turn into Pharisees? wanting commandments in all things? I thought the revolutionary idea of Mormonism was to teach men correct principles and let them govern themselves?

Anyway, I enjoy talking about this stuff and you do to if I remember correctly, but maybe we should take it to email. Write me and we can continue this discussion. Gotz to go work now.

Natalie said...
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Connie H said...

Selfish gratification comes with a price-loss of Temple recommend which leads to loss of Celestial marriage.
I say the cost is too high! No beer is worth it.

Matt Shelby said...

It only leads to all the losses if you believe they were commandments in the first place.....what if, hear me out, what if the WoW truely was meant to be guidelines and has been totally misconstrued and turned into what is presently believed?

I see that two different Scott's responded. Each debating the same thing but for two totally different reasons.

One Scott, admits to alot of alcoholism in his family and his grandmothers death from it. Tragic.

The other Scott, I know is a returned missionary, probably never tasted a beer and grew up in the church and was taught everything I was ever taught about alcohol. That it was bad for you, the Devil, devil, devil......blah, blah, blah.

Yes, if abused alcohol can be really bad. I've seen it and I've lived it. But the rationalization of how it's rotten food and bad for your body is absolutely ridiculous.

How many times have you been to the doctors and been prescribed penicillen? Or any drug in the "cillen" families? Last time I checked, those "medications" came from mold. Yet I bet you took that medication right? Yeah, because in MODERATION, it was good for you.

I think Sonny had the best comments on this issue....step outside your comfort zones and make an educated decision.

And for my two cents: Questioning leaders and their decisions/rules is not a sin. It's all about aquiring the proper knowledge on issues to see where you personally stand.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for the exposure you gave my piece, TJ.

Scott H, I'm interested in how you came to the conclusion that by reporting facts on the history of a revelation from God, I am somehow attempting to "rationalize" disobedience to Him.

It would seem to me that one example of "rationalization" would talking oneself into believing that "mild drinks" consist merely of barley soaked in water, and not the traditional beverage consumed by all mankind going back at least to the ancient Israelites.

And I'm completely lost by your mocking characterization of my opinion that "that guy's fat, so that means I can drink beer."

I think you missed the point. My example was the guy was fat because he ignores the main thrust of the Word of Wisdom, i.e. he eats way too much meat and virtually no fruits and vegetables. I don't think adding beer to his diet help.

Neither would I claim one person's lack of obedience to the scriptures is carte blanc to do whatever I might wish. It was a sloppy comparison, and it reveals, as much of your comment did, that you made assumptions about my position without reading the entire piece.

It saddens me that someone who obviously purports to believe in continuing revelation does not seem to believe that Christ is at the head of this church.

How else to interpret the long list of statements from church leaders, while never once including a revelation from God himself reversing his previous position.

I care not what "the Church" says, because God has commanded us not to rely on the arm of flesh. What sets us apart from other religions is our reliance upon actual revelation, rather than on the interpretations of mortal men. Your insistence on citing the unsupported statements of the leaders AS THOUGH THEIR STATEMENTS TRUMP THE WORD OF GOD sounds to me like an attempt to rationalize a way to bring holy scripture into alignment with your own fixed beliefs.

I received a letter from a reader who, like you, accused me of attempting to place my views above those of the prophets. My answer is at the link below. If you find anything I've said therein out of harmony with the revealed gospel, please point the errors out to me on that forum and I will make the appropriate corrections:

Alan Rock Waterman said...

And by the way, I STILL haven't gotten around to drinking beer, because I'm STILL afraid of the taste.

And that's too bad, because until I do, I don't see how I can fully be living the word of wisdom.

andrew said...

you go rock, wit'cho bad self! i laugh all the way to my fridge while i grab myself a newcastle. i may be breaking the word of wisdom in your eyes, scott(s), but not in my own, and confident not in the lord's. in fact i would wager that you passing judgement on us beer drinkers is more grievous than my humble partaking of this mild barley drink, which, i might add, i do give thanks to the good lord for this centuries-old discovery of this beneficial fungi

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