Thursday, June 18, 2009

Too Bad I Don't Like Beer

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 with 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 and repealed prohibition in 1933, 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 analysis "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 our interactions 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, 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: God meant for it to be that way. 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 to some degree highstrung; 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 a pint or two is too much. An excess amount of beer can be detrimental to the liver and other parts of the body. That's why Section 89 calls for 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. Beer has antibiotic properties, it helps you sleep, 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 the country's unhappiest creatures. Wouldn't it make more sense if, instead of ingesting a dangerous drug twice a day, you simply followed the counsel of the Lord and sipped at a bottle of beer 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. I know nothing about it. I'm the squarest square in Squares-ville.

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 don't know how to tell one brand 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 joys 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.


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Anonymous said...

It wasn't the temperature, per se...but the hot drinks which contained liquors. It's only common sense to avoid drinking scalding liquids. It was LDS Apostle George Q. Cannon who came to the conclusion that 'hot drinks' referred to the temperature. He also preached prohibition on serving hot soups, stews, and boiled grain cereals.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Pick up a tea pot. My son loves herbal tea. He picked up an electric counter top pot that heats water much more rapidly than the stove. Here are some natural tips for fighting colds:

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Vietnamese noodle soup - Pho is also chock full of ingredients that bolster the immune system.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Especially in light of the fact that Joseph Smith enjoyed his cigars and hand rolled cigarettes right up until the day he died.

Janice Gordon

Naomi Win Martin said...

I don't have an awful lot of time to respond to what's been said, so apologies for approaching a very large issue in such a brief way, but I did want to add comment.

In short, I respect what you said and your faithful support of the sustained leaders, but I suspect your interpretation of sustaining the brethren is different than mine. Have you read J. Reuben Clark's “When Are the Words of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?" It's pertinent to this discussion and worth a read.

Sustaining the brethren to me means not rallying public, academic mutiny on the brethren attacking them for receiving revelation the same way anyone does. You're correct, the brethren are voted into their positions and given the mantle of leading the organization of the church, but there's a huge leap to be made from that to 'therefore whatever they say is of God and must be upheld without question or alternate interpretation'.

Just for starters, it's been said that "we make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators.” (James E. Faust, “Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, Nov 1989,and sometimes when revelations are received, it's been acknowledged by Joseph Smith that “some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:163 (take for example the instance of him trying to sell the copyright of the BOM in Canada - that was a revelation he thought was of God but then later said was of the devil - even prophets can get confused).

And I'm sure you've read this one : “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (Journal of Discourses, 9:150 [quoted by James E. Faust, "Continuous Revelation," Ensign, Nov 1989, 8].

I absolutely see what you're seeing, Steve, but I think not being supportive of the God-given right to question, operate on personal revelation while respecting the Brethren's right to address the church body with their personal judgment and inspiration, is all a part of working out our own salvation.

Anon 23 said...


Just because they may make a unanimous decision on something, doesn't mean it's God's will. They could all be without the Spirit and easily deceived to go along with things that are wrong or the Adversary's revelation, as I believe they do all the time. Even Joseph Smith and his apostles were often deceived by the Adversary's revelation.

But more important, it is obvious that this Church is not the same Church that Joseph Smith restored. This current LDS Church is completely Brigham Young's making, and it preaches and practices the vilest of evils and opposite doctrines to what Christ or Joseph Smith preached.

Joseph's true Church was lost and went into complete apostasy after his died, and it broke into many different groups or the few righteous just went off on their own and did the best they could without a true prophet to lead them anymore. Brigham Young just happened to convince the most people to follow and support him in his evil doctrines that were totally opposite to what Joseph taught. But most Saints refused to listen to Joseph, that's why they lost him and fell for false prophets like Brigham Young.

So you can stand by the LDS Church leaders and what they do and say if you would like, but that doesn't mean you are standing with Christ and God.

I encourage you to study Christ's teachings and the teachings of Joseph Smith and the ancient Prophets in the Book of Mormon, then you will start to see how contrary the Church's 'unanimous' decisions really are to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge fan of most wines. Too dry or sour tasting for me. When I drink wine, I prefer the 'dessert wines'. Kosher blackberry for me every time. If the LDS church didn't want to 'obey' the instructions of Yeshua found in every tome of scripture the LDS church accepts as scriptural, for the purpose of the alcoholic content then they could opt for grape juice. The fruit of the vine needn't necessarily be alcoholic.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Sorry Charlie...that's a flawed premise. Tell you what. My parents were both fanatics in regards to what the LDS leaders told them in regards to alchohol, tobacco and what they were told about the evils of caffeine. My mother once whipped me into a mass of oozing welts because she had bought a six pack of tall can beers to use the cans for a craft project she had seen in a magazine. She was pouring the beer out, and in childish curiosity I had put my finger under the flow and tasted it. She also whipped me, and my dad beat me because they discovered when I was going to the 7-11 around the block I was putting Coke slurpee in the bottom half of my glass and filling the rest with cherry. That wasn't a good week for me. My parents never touched a drop of liquor. And they abused me in every way shape or form two parents could abuse a little girl. Apparently they were not able to discern from good and evil when dad was sneaking into my room late at night and carrying me to the other end of the house to sodomize me. But he never touched a drop of alcohol. Oy freaking vey.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I drink wine here and there, and maybe one or two beers a day if I feel like it. I might even have a lovely tropical mixed drink at a restaurant if I feel like it. And I have NEVER beaten, battered, whipped, or sexually abused my child. Never paint with such a broad brush of generalization. While it's true that people who drink to absolute intoxication make mistakes in's not true of every one of them.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Always remembering...there are people who have a propensity toward addictive behaviors. Some people are addicted to adrenaline rushes and engage in risky behavior. Some like to race their motorcycles at high speeds and disregard the rules of the road. Some like to bungee jump. Some like to jump from a perfectly good airplane and parachute to the ground. Sometimes the motorcycle enthusiasts run out of luck, crash and lose life or limb. Sometimes the bungee cord breaks. Sometimes the chute doesn't open. Some enjoy computer games, and some become addicted. Some enjoy sexy movies and some get addicted to porn. It's a matter of understanding limits, and boundaries. Not everyone who likes high risk sports has a death wish. Not everyone who enjoys gaming becomes addicted. And not everyone who likes a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer now and then are going to turn into winos, or perpetual drunkards.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Full of yourself much?

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

The individuals you mentioned, Moses, Samuel and Joseph Smith among others were hand selected by random. They were not part of any hierarchy, nor did they wait in line to ascend to leadership through their places within such a hierarchy.

The very basis of the LDS church is prophecy through personal revelation, and hand selection of prophets by the Lord. God selected a young boy to bring about the restoration of knowledge which had been withdrawn from the world.

And since Joseph Smith was murdered before naming his successor...and since his wife Emma stated that her husband had intended that his eldest son be his successor in the leadership of the LDS church in event of his death...and since Joseph was killed before his son came of age...and according to Emma had instructed her that his own brother should lead the church until his son reached his majority...then it is highly likely that the LDS church apostacized at the moment when Brigham Young seized leadership through subterfuge and trickery.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Anonymous...I also spent a long time formulating a lengthy response to another individual's post. Apparently you are allowed a finite number of words to each post, because mine would not post. Did your responses actually post to the page? Did you see them posted, and then they disappeared? Or is it possible that you hit the wrong key and deleted them yourself? I've done that a time or two...which is why my son always reminds me to copy and save what I'm writing occasionally, in case I accidentally hit the wrong button.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

I tried the herb twice. Both times made me ill. It may be that it was tainted with something, or that I'm allergic to that specific herb.

I only wish my mother wasn't so Mormony that she refused the relief it offers while she was suffering and dying of cancer.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agreed. Another point to consider...there are none who truly know the nature of God, and God's will for humanity. They can BELIEVE what they are told they should believe, they can have a pretty good idea based upon what they perceive that the Holy Spirit is telling them...but they do not and cannot know until they stand with their Creator face to face and speak with Him/Her as one would speak to their own father or mother.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

It depends largely upon what you're eating. For is awesome with a real Sicilian style pizza, or with a hot pastrami on rye sammich. Ice cold beer with these items is like a little bit of heaven.

Janice Gordon

Anonymous said...

They did when Brigham Young was preaching his Blood Atonement theory.

Janice Gordon

Anon 23 said...

Actually if everyone was a prophet we would not need prophets, for then everyone would receive the same information, knowledge and revelation from the Spirit as the 'ordained' prophet would. Thus there would be no need to be led by a prophet for people could just be led by the Spirit, once they had the Priesthood.

The only reason to have prophets is to help others become prophets and prophetesses. And it takes one to know one. If we aren't prophets ourselves we will be easily deceived to follow false prophets.

So the only ones who need a prophet are those who aren't prophets yet.


I also believe that the true Church was lost when Joseph died, for even though he may have wanted his son to be his successor, it didn't seem to pan out and the RLDS Church went down hill too, though I don't think it was ever a true Church either.

Brigham happened to be able to convince the most people in Nauvoo to follow him and sadly accept his whoredoms and evils, although Joseph had warned the saints over and over about not falling for polygamy and false prophets like Brigham. But most of the Saints refused to listen to Joseph and thus lost their prophet and easily fell for false doctrines and false prophets like Brigham and his gang.

Anon 23 said...


I'm truly sorry for all you had to endure while growing up. It's amazing and a true testament to your goodness and strength that you are so wonderful, strong and awake today.

I understand how common it is in the Church for people to feel or say they are so righteous while supporting or doing the vilest of evils. I believe all Church leaders from top to bottom are all doing this, yet they don't see, or don't want to see, the evil they do, while professing to be so righteous.

It also reminds me of false prophets like Brigham Young, who got up preaching to the people to no end, while he abused women and committed adultery continually by polygamy and the many other evils he chose to believe were ok.

I believe Brigham knew he was doing evil, like I believe the leaders today do, for he & they remembered and know the words and warnings of Joseph, but he and they wanted the perks & priviledges of power, polygamy and evil and thus would and will not repent.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Update: In my piece "Overruling Jesus" I finally did get around to defending God's badly maligned medicine commonly known as Marijuana. It can be found here:

Anonymous said...

This is why we have continuing revelation. Now is the time that we need to worry about, not what happened in other centuries. I have seen family members who have started with one beer a day become unable to function because of alcoholism. Maybe you should attend an AA meeting to see why the Lord advises us against drinking alcohol. The Word of Wisdom is meant for the weakest of us.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff here Rock. FWIW, I started this thread on LDSFF:


Anonymous said...

Thanks Rock. FWIW, I started this thread on LDSFF:


the_mormonion said...

Good point, Rock.

I, for one, am tired of the slippery slope argument that Anonymous makes here about beer. Does no one see the fatal flaw in this argument? Namely, that it is advocating Lucifer's premortal plan over God's?

To paraphrase Anonymous: The main reasons I don't agree with God's plan is: 1. It cuts a person off from the presence of God. 2. There is a good chance it could lead to sin and we are taught to be beholden to nothing but God. 3. It loosens a person's ability to have his choices made for him, leaving the door open for Satan to mislead.

lylee loper said...

In answer to your original question. I suggest Guiness. On tap is best for sure. But if you must, buy it at the most any grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Malted barley is roasted and fermented to enhance the flavor.

James Milligan said...

Try a polygamy porter, It should be right up your ally :)

Anonymous said...

I am a home brewer and student of that art and science. I make beer (specializing in British and pre-lager German ales), cider and mead. My first beer was a brown American ale and I was in my 30s. I absolutely loved it. It was very different from the excessive sweetness of Sprite, root beer, and ginger ale that I had grown up with. I also found I did not like the typical American pilsner because I did not like the tastes. Over time I have discovered, my palate was not used to the different tastes and their individual distinctive sensations, etc.

Hops are typically added for a couple of reasons. First, their bitterness helps offset the sweetness of the malt. Other plants like heather, yarrow, and spruce were used traditionally to help add bitterness, but hops were the most lasting. This is probably due to the second reason hops are used. They have antiseptic properties. If bacteria get into your beer, there are chemicals in the hops that coat and interfere with the cell walls of the organism, making it harder for it to divide. That added with the alcohol content and most bugs can not thrive in that environment.

Malt is made by soaking the grain, allowing it to germinate. This activates the enzyme in the seed (barley, wheat, rye, etc) that converts the starch storage into sugars (fuel for plant cells) like maltose (and others). The malted grain is then dried, and sometimes roasted (to add flavors and colors later) to stop the growing process. This allows the grain to be stored for longer than say bread.

The brewer takes the malted grain, according to their recipe, and add it to water heated to between 148F and 168F. This is called mashing (a little different than corn mash used to make whiskey). The temperature, or combination of temperatures controls which specific enzyme is activated, and which sugar molecules are produced. Some longer chain sugars can not be consumed by yeast cells, so they will leave a residual sweetness and "body" to the beer. If you force mostly shorter chains, the yeast will eat it all and produce a "dry" tasting product. At the end of the mash time, the brewer typically raises the temp to 170F (and no higher) to stop the enzyme activity. With temperatures above 170F, tannins and other astringent compounds will be extracted from the grain husk materials in the mash.

The brewer then boils the wort for at least an hour, adding hops to the boil at different stages and in different amounts according to the style and recipe. Boiling the hops releases alpha and beta acids, which isomerize due to the heat. This is what gives the beer the bitterness taste, and it is on purpose. British ales are typically low in bitterness, with the exception of India Pale Ales or IPAs. Shipping beer in a hot surface ship from England to India would result in the beer spoiling ultimately. If you super charge the hops, then the nasties can not take hold and the beer does not spoil as fast, but it remains a bit hoppy.

In colonial times, the water would often make you very sick and would probably kill you. Table beer and ciders were produced for everyday drinking, even by small children. The alcohol content was below 2% ABV (Alcohol by Volume - Utah law threashold is 3.2% Alcohol by Weight, which was often used for tax collection in days of yore. 3.2%ABW is about 4.0%ABV. When craft breweries publish their alcohol content, they usually use ABV. In England, the session type beer is often at around 2.5-3.5%ABV, and are a full tasting and not watered down product. The idea is, you can "stand a-round" of drinks with your mates at the pub (everyone buys a pint round of British bitter) and you can still walk home with little ill effects. If you tried to do that with the typical popular beer, you would be picking gravel out of your teeth the next morning.

Anonymous said...

Rock, try Redd's Apple Ale and any Lambic - Fruit style beer (Lindeman's or Timmerman's)

More fruit taste than beer taste, though the beer taste is still there, but much less so.

Very nice.


Anonymous said...

very interesting that helps me understand more that the church is quite...........well not what it says to be

The Arkwelder said...

Great article! I can't believe I haven't read it until now. I don't like beer either and can't acquire a taste for it no matter how hard I try.

I've had a hard time convincing my friends and family that I still follow the Word of Wisdom even though I drink the occasionally alcoholic beverage or cup of coffee. The key to remember here is that the Word of Wisdom is not some arbitrary "worthiness" test (something the LDS Church is so fond of; it's simply good, sound advice. It truly is a "Word of Wisdom"...not by way of commandment.

Thus, they key here is moderation, probably with a focus on eating healthy and living right. I don't say, "The WoW says to drink barley drinks, therefore I'm going to drink beer." Instead it means I drink occasionally (usually only on special occasions), and I avoid getting stupid drunk. A nice buzz is all I need.

Coffee is a little bit harder to justify, but I think we have to use our heads here, and once again remember that this is a "word of wisdom". This doesn't mean outright ignoring the WoW, but it does mean not looking at things in such black and white terms. If you drink coffee every day, it will turn you into a jittery mess. Over time it will have an adverse effect on your heart and overall health. However, I drink a coffee maybe once or twice a month, and honestly, it just feels kinda nice.

Lastly, it's about knowing yourself and remembering that caffeine and alcohol (and tobacco) are indeed addictive. Some people do require the strict abstinence from these substances that the LDS Church demands. With the exception of tobacco (cigarettes), however, that's a very small subset of the population.

I often say that the Word of Wisdom ruined the LDS Church. I say this because while Latter-day Saints used to be known for their polygamy (and still are, to a large extent), they are now known as as those people who don't drink coffee or alcohol--which is almost just as bad. I'd rather they be known as 'Saints', i.e., those who have committed themselves to following and 'being' Christ. However, I must add that the LDS Church had to ruin the Word of Wisdom before the Word of Wisdom could ruin the LDS Church.

Anonymous said...

I think you're missing the point when it comes to alcohol. It's no secret that alcohol causes loads of problems in the world today. How many families have been destroyed by alcohol? How many stupid decisions were made while under its influence? My best friend was killed by a drunken driver. Another good friend is now paralyzed due to a drunken accident- he was drinking beer. I have two uncles who let alcohol destroy their lives and consequently their families- both of their drinks of choice was beer, rather than hard liquor.

I agree that a brew a day probably isn't a bad thing, in fact I think I'd rather enjoy it. However I believe the word of wisdom is in place to protect us from all of the evils caused by alcohol. Sometimes The Lord asks us to give up some things in order to protect us from greater evils and/or bless us. A good example of this is the law of chastity- Sex is awesome and has been proven to be great for your health. However he asks us to refrain from having sex outside of marriage. Sure plenty of people have promiscuous sex with little or no consequences- but i think we've all had a few friends who found a bun in the oven before they were ready.

And I'm sure we all think the same thing- oh that wouldn't happen to me, I'm not stupid. Well, I'm sure neither of my uncles saw themselves becoming alcoholics and destroying their families.After watching two families close to me degrade due to my uncles alcoholism I feel grateful that I don't have to ever worry about that happening in my life.

Also, I do believe that the word of wisdom was indeed made to be a commandment, I believe under Joseph F Smith, though I'd definitely have to do some fact-checking on that. I just remembering reading about it years ago.

Sorry if this isn't the most articulate comment, I'm writing it on my phone.

-Chris L.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Chris, the problems you describe with alcohol result from people using it for other than its proper use. It should be seen akin to a medicine or nutrient and used sparingly, not something imbibed in at parties. And of course drinking and driving is bound to result in a different outcome than having a pint of beer at the end of the day at home to unwind.

Not all alcohol is the same. The word of wisdom makes the distinction between strong spirits and fermented drinks. I know members who refuse to use herbal tinctures because they contain alcohol necessary for the extraction of the chemicals in the herbs. A couple of droppersful of tincure contains less alcohol than a bananan, yet these same people see nothing wrong with eating a banana. So wisdom is required.

I'll have to disagree with you about the word of wisdom being made a commandment. No president of the Church has the authority to change the scripture. It can only be superseded by God in the form of a new revelation. If you know of such a revelation, I'd like to see it. In the meantime, we had best read the scripture as it is written and not try to glom our own prejudices onto it.

Anon 23 said...

Wow Rock, your statement should be set in stone, "No President of the Church (or any true Prophet who ever lived) has the authority to change the scriptures."

Prophets are to 'lead us to Christ' & his words, not change them & lead us to follow them instead.

We will know true prophets & disciples of Christ, yesterday, today & forever, because they will preach the 'words of Christ', with exactness.

I wish more people would realize that very vital truth. It would clear up most falsehoods & deceptions that abound today in & out of the Church.

But it seems most everyone doesn't mind if leaders do the thinking for them & change scripture, for most people just seem to want to blindly follow so they don't have to go to the effort to think, study & discern truth for themselves.

No wonder Joseph taught that those who are deceived by the craftiness of men & false prophets will lose their Exaltation, for allowing ourselves to be 'deceived' seems to be a choice.

Wicasa Wakan said...

Just saw this video on youtube about the process and ingredients that go into making beer, thought people here would be interested.

czimm said...


czimm said...

Love it. I love reading stuff that makes me grin.

I really enjoyed the following post over at ldsanarchy a while ago, and had a great giggle over the conclusion:

Good stuff! I get really excited over ideas that wipe out our LDS tendency to act like Pharisees. I haven't actually decided to...well, explore the beer issue myself (although the hubs likes to make jokes about what we should do for date night, I think my enjoyment of Denver Snuffer's writings may get me in enough trouble without throwing beer into the mix), but I get a huge kick out of these discussions.

BTW, if I remember correctly, my convert husband would recommend Dogfish Head? What a name...

Edwin Wilde said...

@ Janice and Anonymous:
Matthew 23: 1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Our modern day leaders sit in Joseph's seat. That which they bid you observe, that observe and do.

Edwin WIlde said...

Janice, I don't question your information but I am unfamiliar with it. Where I could research your suggestion that hot drinks were in direct reference to Hot alcoholic beverages?

Edwin Wilde said...

Matthew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Our modern day leaders sit in Joseph's seat. That which they bid you observe, that observe and do.

Edwin Wilde said...

Off-topic comment-
That reminds me of the story (probably fabricated but good nonetheless) of J. Golden Kimball sitting in a coffee shop in Salt Lake City, drinking coffee while reading his morning newspaper.
In walks a man who saw him from off the street. The man walks straight up to J. Golden Kimball and berates him for drinking coffee and in conclusion states, "I'd rather commit adultery than be found drinking coffee." To which J. Kimball retorted: "Well hell; who wouldn't?"

NewConvert101 said...

Hi Rock-

Try the Belgian Lambic in Raspberry flavor (Lindemans Framboise). The peach is also a good choice. It’s socially considered to be a “girly beer” and also sometimes referred to as “hummingbird water” if you order it at a bar, but I have to admit that I was a beer snob before converting to the LDS faith about 2 years ago, and this one is undoubtedly my favorite. Its brew contains about 70% barley malt and 30% unmalted wheat. It also contains a little less alcohol content than other darker brews. It’s a bit more expensive that your typical American “rice” beers (which aren’t even worth your $0.99 to me, but hey, to each his own), but the Lambic is well worth the extra cost in my eyes. The taste at first is more the berry flavor, but the end of the sip gives you the mild hops flavor as well. If you’ve never tried beer before in your life, this one is a good intro. FYI, this imported beer can also be difficult to find. My second favorite beer is the Guiness, a richer, much darker brew pretty much on the other end of the spectrum than the Lambic. But, still a quality and smooth choice in my opinion.

Your blog is so refreshing in so many ways. Last week I was researching the easiest way to resign from the LDS church and now this week I have a renewed sense of commitment after reading your blog. Since I have joined the LDS church, I have waxed and waned with the LDS faith. I absolutely love my Methodist roots, and always will. In my Methodist church growing up, the focus was on YOUR OWN interpretation of the Holy Bible after scripture study and meaningful prayer. Our reverend was there for guidance, but the overall opinion was very much open-minded, much like their slogan “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” The center of the religion is Jesus Christ, and the overall goal above else is to try to become more and more Christ-like in your words, actions, and thoughts every day. No temples, no tithing a fixed percentage (it was a free-will offering in which people didn’t pressure you to pay it or a yearly settlement; you just gave what you could and that was that), no garments, no 3-hr meetings, no home teaching, no separation of men/women in regards to priesthood, no tearing down other religions in order to bolster LDS doctrine, no “this church is true” instead of “the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true” etc., etc. Needless to say, this conversion has been a huge change and struggle for me with both amazingly beautiful moments and incredibly long moments of sorrow and agony. Also, when LDS teachers mix their own feelings with doctrine during lessons, it can be hard for a new convert to decipher what the doctrine IS and what is merely opinion.

One year ago I married the most wonderful man, who I knew then and know now is my soulmate. He was raised in the LDS faith, and is probably the most faithful Mormon I know when it comes to every principle, rule, commandment, etc, and helped me though every missionary lesson and even sang at my LDS baptism. He is someone I look up to, and also someone who believes in exact, unquestioning obedience. Exact obedience works for him, but it does not work so well for me.

Your blog has inspired me to start personalizing the LDS faith, much like I had personalized the Methodist faith. In my eyes, the worst feeling that you can have (besides regret) is trying to be someone that you are not. At many times I felt as though I have been pushing my round spirit into a square hole, often feeling suffocated by all these new rules, especially when preparing to go the temple. And the more I try to push myself to fit, the more I push back, just screaming to be…me.

I prayed to know to join the LDS church 2 years ago, and I cannot deny the answer that I received. So I know that I must be here, as a newfound Mormon. Now I just need to personalize this faith by taking it to God and at first, making it more bearable, and second, maybe start enjoying it again a little. THANK YOU for giving me the tools so I can start this new process.


NewConvert101 said...

Hopefully this link will post for the Lambic suggestion:

This beer chart may be helpful to you. I even learned some things I didn’t know either!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The kind words expressed by folks like you are what give me encouragement to keep going. Thank you.

Someone else some time back recommended that Lambic Raspberry beer. After trying several brands suggested by faithful readers and not caught the vision, I'd pretty much resigned my self to giving up the quest. But since this Lambic brand is supported from the mouth of two witnesses, maybe I'll dive in one more time.

As for your wonderful hubby, maybe you can find a post here on this site that you can recommend to him that coincides with your view of things so that he can better understand that you are not apostatizing; you're simply trying to be the best REAL Mormon you can be. Perhaps if you two can discuss something you have read here you can begin to find common ground.

Thanks for writing!

NewConvert101 said...

Thank you for your reply, Rock.

I will definitely share some of your blog postings with him, so he can better understand where I am coming from. One of the major things that I need to keep in mind though, is that although my husband’s way of worship does not work for me, I still need to RESPECT his way of exact obedience and drop any expectation for him to concede to my personal beliefs and my personalization of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bold, right?!

If I am ever going to expect him to respect my own views, then this respect must be mutual. I think this will be a life-long process for us both, but ultimately a good and challenging one- requiring both our minds and hearts to be open to each others’ ideas and agreeing to disagree if necessary. As much as I would LOVE for him to start questioning and reading/researching for himself and taking those questions to God for answers instead of exact unquestioning obedience of church leadership, I feel that any disrespect on my part would take away from the very essence that is uniquely…him. Much like how exact obedience takes away from the very essence that is uniquely me. It is his decision to worship Christ in the way he so chooses, as it is my own decision as well. At the end of the day, I believe that true love is helping your spouse be the best individual that THEY can be. I think the world would be a happier place if only we (all people, regardless of religious beliefs) were more tolerant and respectful despite disagreements.

Anonymous said...

Rock- Ok, I have one for you. Redd's apple ale. So, I read your post a month or so ago. I haven't been able to stomach the other crap either. My husband thoroughly enjoys his beer...might need to work on the moderation part...haha. Anyway, I had decided I would rather not drink than try to choke down beer. He brought home Redd's apple ale and it is wonderful! They have a strawberry ale too. My kind of mild drink. :)

Anonymous said...

The first beer I ever tried and liked was this Lambic Framboise Beer (see image: I still don't care much for your average beer, but hefeweizen or most wheat beers are not bad. Hard ciders are good too. I recently tried a sour beer, which is becoming all the rage here, and it was pretty good. I live in Portland (a.k.a. beervana) so the selection here is astounding.

Anonymous said...


Although I agree with your interpretation of the word of wisdom, the point about the temple recommend interview is one I can't quite get behind. I don't remember for sure, but don't they call out alcohol specifically in the temple recommend interview questions, when talking about the w.o.w. ? In other words, although the word of wisdom differentiates between beer and strong drink, the temple interview does not, if I'm not mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Malted Barley is sprouted barley which changes the carbohydrates into a more fermentable form. Malt o meal is malted barley. I once asked a Church leader about the word of wisdom and the pro scribing og mild drink from barley which to me meant mildly fermented beer , but the response I got was that it meant postum which was a drink made from roasted barley to be more like a decaffeinated coffee. I don't think postum was available as such in Jo Smiths time.

Mook Farchings said...

Can someone tell me which verse of D&C 89 "moderation" is used or even referred to?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Well by golly, Mook, looks like I've been wrong about that. I confess I thought that phrase was in section 89; turns out it's nowhere in the D&C at all.

Just goes to show we can't trust our conditioning. And here I am lecturing others for not having ever read the D&C. I've read it and put words into it that were not there.

From what I can determine, this teaching originated with Aristotle and is reflected in Buddhism as the middle way. It's scripture alright. Just not Mormon scripture.

Thanks for pointing that out, Mook.

kindfoodfarm said...

I wouldn't waste time with mass-produced crap from Coors, Miller, Budweiser and the like. Find a microbrewery pub, order a flight of beer (several small samples), from light to dark, along with some tasty pub food (should be salty, which will make you thirstier for the beer), and sip away. It most definitely is an acquired taste. Cold beer is great when you're hot and thirsty, by the way. I seldom drink it anymore, and when we have a beer occasionally, that's one between us. Also, cannabis is also excellent for relaxation and stress release, as well as other more medicinal effects. Needn't be combined with beer drinking.

Nicole said...

Beer is an acquired taste. Once you acquire it, you'll enjoy more of them. I'm sure this has been discussed many times over, but there are too many comments for me to scroll through. I began drinking in my twenties and found that really light beers were the most palatable. Then I began to appreciate stouts like Guinness. Stella Artois is a great-tasting light beer.

Thanks for posting this. I've been thinking about these same discrepancies for many years now and was surprised to find that other Mormons have been as frustrated and as confused as I've felt about the way parts of the WoW are ignored and others are ballooned way beyond proportion. Seems to me that eating too much meat is a much greater offense than drinking a beer, since meat requires the slaughter of another animal and in today's world with the abundance of food, that slaughter seems rather wonton.

I read this the other day and was surprised to see that WebMD lists so many positive health aspects of beer.

Anonymous said...

Try Redd's apple ale. It actually tastes REALLY REALLY good! Not just tolerable, but delicious! Kind of like a martinellies sparkling cider!
Sorry, dont know the ingredients.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Z, thank you to alerting me to that broken link. You can find that quote near the bottom of the page in "An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith," Edited by Scott Faulring.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Whoops, Z, I forgot to tell you what page: 486.

Anonymous said...

First off let me say that I drink beer and I'm LDS.
Point one, when you say, "That's why Section 89 calls for moderation." your totally making things up, unless you are God or at least the prophet and if that's the case I retract everything I'm saying.
Point two, if you sustain the prophet, a basic part of being a worthy member of the church, drinking beer is then wrong regardless of every point you've made.
Point three, if your going to be lds and enjoy beer, like myself, just admit it's wrong, you'll be ok, but don't say what your doing it's right. Nephites drink alcohol, Joseph Smith, drink alcohol, Christ made alcohol and drank alcohol, but you cannot have alcohol and that's ok. Shoot there's probably even beer in heaven, but until then you can't have any without repenting. Just like having an awsome beard, wearing sandals to church, or polygamy...ect jk. But seriously commandments change, people change and prophets are just as human as you and I. God the Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost are the only ones who don't have to follow/sustain the prophet. So in my view every point you made is irrelevant, but at least you can be honest with yourself and if your doing wrong, you should at least admit to yourself it's wrong. You can still enjoy life if your imperfect.

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