LDS Church: Alcohol too great a risk

Recently, I wrote about a study showing that alcohol consumers, on average, live longer than teetotalers. I noted Scripture versus that appear to allow (or even celebrate) the use of alcohol in moderation. And I asked whether new scientific evidence might (or should) lead to a new discussion, among conservative Christians, about the appropriateness of alcohol consumption.

I received an interesting reply today from George Wing, a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, here in Arkansas. And I wanted to share it with you.

Unlike Catholics and Protestants, the LDS church does not have a closed canon when it comes to Scriptures. Some of the Mormon Church’s holy writings are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

And these modern writings, believed by Mormons to be divinely inspired, clearly denounce the use of alcohol. Mr. Wing argues that 1.) Scriptures condoned alcohol use in ancient days, at least in part, because clean, safe drinking water was in short supply. 2.) Now that clean water is available, the risks of alcohol outweigh the benefits. I am posting Mr. Wing’s thoughts below, with thanks.

To Bible Belt Blogger – Frank,

I have been aware for years that scientific studies show that a small quantity of alcohol may have some beneficial effects on the body. Also, be aware that before our access to clean drinking water that we have today, that it was more safe to drink wine than unpurified water in many areas of the world. The danger of contaminants was decreased by the alcohol content of wine. There are some who say that table wine of that day was not all that high in alcohol content for daily use, but I don’t claim to know.

An antipathous of the above counsel in the Old Testament could be the strict avoidance of pork in biblical times before we learned about how to treat pork to avoid trichinosis. It is not such a big deal today, physiologically speaking.

I wonder if new scripture were written today, with the ease and access to alcohol (and illegal drugs), would there be more restraint offered by a loving God in Heaven?

However, that being said, it does not take long to count up the avalanche of reasons why a person would be advised not to take one sip of alcohol, ever.

A website published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is SOBERING! Pun intended. Check out the multiplicity of reasons why alcohol is such a formula for disaster for too many. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa59.htm

Restraint in the use of alcohol is best done with total abstinence, in my opinion. None of us know if we, or our children, will be on the wrong end of the litany of negative statistics about the consequences of partaking of alcohol.

A loving Father in Heaven provided this counsel, “That in as much as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.”

The above is a quote from the 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the scriptures that we Mormons believe to be divine revelation. There is more counsel here in this section that I will share, both things that should be avoided and things that are for the use of man with thanksgiving.

As for me, my children, my grandchildren, and those I love, I have no regrets for teaching these concepts by precept and example.
The blessings abound!!! So what if I die 6 months earlier? The quality of life and the lowered risk of physical, mental, and emotional suffering is far less with abstinence based on my experience. Plus, the propensity to do stupid and sometime sinful things is reduced without behavior under the influence of alcohol.

George Wing

Updated: October 29, 2010 — 11:34 am

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  1. So the racists and polygamists of the 19th century banned alcohol? It’s not like the words of the Mormon prophets are eternal. Even when they proclaim their teachings as eternal, they get thrown out a generation later.

  2. A new book– I love the title, “The Search for God and Guinness”– tells how a rich brewery owner was inspired by John Wesley’s teachings to live your faith by being socially responsible. Consequently many people had better and healthier lives because of the alcoholic beverage industry. Book review in http://www.faithandleadership.com is worth a read.

  3. The historical roots of the Mormon faith fall draw from the 19th Century’s struggles with socioeconomic issues concerning alcohol. One of the resources for this that a formerly Mormon friend of mine uses is here:

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1053971961.html

    My suspicion is that within the next 15 years, a lot of genomic tools will illuminate our thinking on how the human body metabolizes alcohol, and will change how we deal with the substance, both socially and medically.

  4. Being a Mormon myself, I’m just waiting for the invention of “synthaohol,” the synthetic alcohol they drink in all the modern Star Trek series. It gives you all the, ahem, benefits of alcohol, but without the impairment in judgement. However, I personally think the ability to act stupid and have something to blame it on is the whole point.

    My Mormon bishop said that the Church must sometimes cater to the lowest common denominator. Many, maybe even most, Mormons could take a social sip of wine now and then and be just fine. But, many may go strait from “sip” to “drunk” and kill innocent people in their cars. It is interesting to note in the quote from D&C 89 in Mr. Wing’s letter that wine drinking was okay for sacraments. We use water today instead of wine, but the early Mormons used wine. I’m not sure, but I think we technically still could. The practice of using water was authorized by a later revelation in the D&C when the Church encountered trouble acquiring wine. They were too busy being chased from town to town, and glass bottles were fragile, I suppose.

    It is also interesting to note that the Mormon Church did not start to systematically enforce the commandments about alcohol until the 1930s. Joseph Smith, our founder and receiver of this commandment, was known to drink wine on occasion even after this revelation was given. Brigham Young chewed tobacco (another part of the commandment) up into his 70′s. To his credit, he did eventually give it up. There are accounts of many Church leaders drinking moderately up until the 1930s when I guess they decided to take this commandment more seriously.

    You can still be a member in good standing and drink in the Mormon Church. You simply cannot attend the Temple and receive certain “callings” or duties within the Church. They are rare, but I know of several such people and there may be more that I don’t know about. They are still welcome within the Church. They have to give it up to be baptized, but if they “backslide” they are not thrown out and are still essentially full members.

  5. John, what saith the LDS Church concerning the noble herb? You got any members who might light one up every now and then?

  6. My brother certainly does! But he’s not active in the Church anymore. We certainly don’t condone anything illegal (unless it’s plural wives), so members doing that would be reprimanded in some way, I’m sure. We do have an extensive substance abuse counseling and treatment service within the LDS Social Services. We need it! Utah has the highest prescription drug abuse rate in the nation! The Wal-Mart pharmacy just down the street is the 4th busiest in the world! But then, those drugs are not technically illegal, so… I guess all our multiple wives need something. :)

  7. That was funny, John. Of course, I live in Kentucky, which is on one end of a big pipeline between here and Florida, through which prescription drugs apparently flow night and day.

    You know, people’s views on marijuana are interesting. Up in the mountains of Kentucky, many people are conservative Christians, of various stripes, and like the LDS, they pretty well frown on all drinking of alcohol, successfully enough that many counties in the mountains are still dry to this day. But many of these people have no particular beef with pot, a plant that they see as native to the mountains (it does grow wild many places there, left over from when they grew industrial hemp years ago; apparently something happens to it as it goes wild, and it evolves from hemp into marijuana), and which they don’t associate with the ills of alcohol.

    What about Mormons in, say, California, where they have medical marijuana? Is the taint the illegality or the getting high? Obviously alcohol is legal in most places, and I suppose caffeine is legal everywhere, so I know the LDS doesn’t just go by what’s legal, a wise move in today’s world.

  8. I guess since they’re kin, I gotta love ‘em, but those hillbillies are weird. I guess it matters the means to the buzz for them. My Pentecostal grandfather thought it was a sin to see a “moving picture show” in a theater, but it was okay to watch television. So, if I occasionally don’t make sense, you know why.

    I suppose if a doctor prescribes it and it is legal, the LDS Church would be okay with medical weed. My brother (different one than above—I got four of them) got some sort of intestinal bug while on his Church mission in Argentina. After a couple years suffering with it, loosing weight and such, back in the states he went to see a doctor. The doctor said he could prescribe something, but he had found the most effective way of ridding the nasty buggers was to drink a whole bottle of tequila. My brother asked his Bishop. He said “if the doc says so” and it worked. My brother was disappointed. It was his only chance to get sauced and all he got was a slight buzz.

    All these things have their uses, but everything needs to be done in wisdom. That’s why the Mormon health code is called the “Word of Wisdom.” None of us follows it very well. It also says to eat meat only in “winter and times of famine.” You wouldn’t know that to judge from all the piles of dead flesh at all the Chuck-A-Rama restaurants in Salt Lake City. (It certainly doesn’t help that the LDS Church is heavily invested in the beef industry.)

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