BoneZo | Salt Lake City Weekly

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Re: “Utah Brewing Timeline

Something you mimissed in the Word of Wisdom verse 17,"and barley... for all mild drinks and other grains." Beer (also called "small beer") generally had an alcohol content of about 2% and was the most commoncommon drink of just about everyone at just about every meal (yes, Mormons would give their children beer at breakfast!). This wasn't just a Utah thing, it was universal throughout most of the world. People didn't specify "small" or "weak" beer because that would be superfluous. If your goal was to get drunk you would take a shot of "strong" drink, commonly rum, and add it to your beer.
As for "pure wine of the grape" it was exactly that, wine that hadn't been adulterated with stronger spirits. Here again the goal was not to eliminate wine altogether or only for sacrament, it was to prevent some of the ugly drunken behaviors we're still struggling with today.
It wasn't until the 1850's that science figured out that water was the dangerous killerkiller that was causing pandemics that ravaged cities and pepeople who put theirtheir outhouse above their drinking water. They had noticed the benefits of a clean water supply, but it was John Snow's map that proved that working in the brewery was the secret to escaping cholera and beer (yup, 2%) was shown to be the path to health.
By the 20th century most cities had created safe plumbing and had rendered the drinking water safe by adding one of the most feared poisons, chlorine, to it to kill those microbes who had recently been proven to be the source of disease carried in the water.
At the same time a movement was building in the US to get rid of the many evils caused by alcohol. Prohibition was joined by women's groups as women bore most of the consequences of alcoholism, primarily poverty and physical beatings. The only way to end the abuse seemed to be eliminating alcohol completely. As the movement grew this goal was embraced. There was oneone small problem:by the time the Volstead act was passed a small group of fanatics (not Mormons) had found a way to include beer and wine in prohibition, something most of the population didn't associate with alcohol problems.
While history has demonstrated that you can't legislate morality or sobriety the problems associated with alcohol became worse. Criminals organized and thrthrough intimidation (murder is pretty intimidating) gained control of breweries, vintners and distilleries. About this same time the Mormon authorities moved from their prior interpretation and enforcement of the Word of Wisdom to the point where Mormons who consumed alcohol were actually breaking federal law. The line was drawn that members of the LDS church who consumed alcohol could not participate in the most sacred worship which takes place in the temples. From that time forward members are asked if they keep the Word of Wisdom by their ecclesiastical leaders. If they answer "no", they are excluded from temple worship.
I don't know if modern interpretation of the Word of Wisdom would be different had the fanatics not prevailed in formulating the Volstead act or if people (including members) had shown a little more self control vis-รก-vis alcohol consumption, but it really doesn't seem important to me. Giving up all forms of alcohol consumption is a personal decision with consequences we choose.
An interesting footnote, though, is that as the 21st amendment went state to state requiring popular conventions rather than legislative action, South Carolina said "NO" while Utah's population became the voice of reason that repealed the 18th amendment.
It's easy to poke fun at Utah and Utahns, but I have found that it is generally ignorance and ignorents that generate the most passionate contention. It boggles my mind when I read posts with comments like, "Am I the only one who drinks in the neighborhood? Who can I invite over for an evening? While I'm sure there are many Mormons who would feel uncomfortable in that situation and even decline the invitation, I generally respond,"Ask anyone you want." I hope I never choose my friends based on their religious philosophies or practices. I have never closed my door to friends or family for whom alcohol is a part of their life.

Some cultures find Opium and opioids acceptable, but see alcohol as the cause of social problems they can avoid by abstaining completely from alcohol.
Many cultures oppose any substance that influences human senses or behavior.
It is becoming increasingly common for Americans to abstain from meat. Some go as far as not consuming any animal product.
Most of us could improve our physical and emotional health by modifying our diets.
Those of us who drink might want to explore some of the benefits of having Mormon friends who keep the Word of Wisdom. If you take us to dinner our check is usually 20% lighter (much more than 20% if your guest really knows their wines!). A lot of us can get an enjoyable contact high without becoming that embarrassing, obnoxious drunk guy you wish you could ditch, but is your spouse's sibling. I was the "designated driver" long before that sobriquet was invented. Many friends, from high school till today, have known that I will make sure they get home to face the consequences of a night out. Hopefully, those consequences will never be more than a little headache.

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Posted by BoneZo on 11/21/2015 at 3:18 PM

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