Mormon Adventures with Alcohol

I was born and raised in the Church, and have been an active member all my life. From those two facts, you might reasonably assume that these lips have never touched alcohol. And you would be wrong.

Not that I have much experience with alcohol; I have simply tasted it. Twice.

First was when I was a teenager. I was sitting around a table, playing cards, I think, in a friend’s basement. I was the only Mormon there; my friends were drinking beer, and I was drinking a soft drink. And a powerful sense of curiosity overcame me, and I announced that I wanted a beer. My friends, knowing full well the strictures of my religion, were horrified, and tried to talk me out of it, but I had made up my mind. So I cracked open a cold one, took one sip, and that was enough. It was disgusting! From that experience I came up with a theory, that if it weren’t for peer pressure, no one would drink alcohol, because it tastes so nasty that only peer pressure would drive one to drink enough of the stuff to power through it to the point that you develop a taste for it. (Fortunately for me, my friends weren’t egging me on, but in fact were doing the opposite.) [1]

Second was when I was on my mission. We were visiting a member woman, and even though she was a member she was drinking wine. In fact, she was drinking a lot of it. I had always sort of naively assumed that wine tasted like Welch’s grape juice, which I love, so I asked to have a glass. Much like my teenage friends, she protectively demurred at first, but I was insistent, so she gave me one. And once again, I only made it through a single sip. I will here give an exact quote from my mission journal: “I tasted it, and it is wicked stuff.”

Thus endeth the sum total of my history of tasting alcohol. But for me, at least, these tastings were actually a good thing, Ever since my youth I have never been tempted in the least by alcohol. Once my curiosity as to how it tasted was sated, that was all I needed.

If I left the Church, I suppose I might become a social drinker, but it would be a process and I would have to develop a taste for the stuff. More likely, I think, even if I left the Church tomorrow I suspect I would never become a drinker.

So those are my experiences with alcohol. What are yours?

[1] I expressed this theory once to a friend, who opined there is another reason people learn to enjoy to drink, and that is to get to the effect the alcohol gives them. Since I’ve never drunk enough alcohol to reach that point, I can’t comment meaningfully on his observation.

Comments

  1. NyQuil. Every time I get sick. And I won’t give it up.

  2. I’m a convert so I did drink alcohol before I converted (and briefly when I was less active). It’s disgusting stuff, and I don’t miss it at all. I agree; people only drink it because of the effect it gives, not for the taste. My first marriage was destroyed by alcohol (his drinking, not mine obviously) and I now work with alcoholics and see how much damage it does. We’re very, very blessed to be protected by the Word of Wisdom.

  3. I used to brew my own Apple Cider, and Elderberry Wine…in 1977, that is. I enjoyed several Rums and Coke, along with standard Beer, and Whiskey. I will admit that I have had some indulgences with Alcohol – Beer – some time ago, along with a ghastly-tasting can of RTD…or so. RTD=Ready To Drink.
    I became a Member in 1981.
    Never consumed Beer on my Mission to Australia. I would have been found out.
    I am not potting another; in the Soft Drink aisles of one of the Supermarkets in Oz, you could purchase a can of low caloried Beer. Even the mere appearance of evil in this case, would have all of the non-Members clamouring, for sly grogging against those who do.

    On a slightly different note:
    Using Alcohol in your cooking; this cooks out, and you are left with a lovely flavour. To those whom falsely imagine that you get intoxicated ( or otherwise ), I say to you to GROW UP. And STOP being so stupid.

  4. Anonthistimecausethisissodarnshameful says:

    I had a few drinks in my twenties. I lived at Branbury, so expectations weren’t high. I have had more than just a taste, but my option of alcohol is still similar to yours and I have wondered if I would ever do it again if I left the church. My answer is most likely no. I found beer gross. You really do have to power through for a buzz, and it just isn’t worth it. I admit I liked wine, but only the lightest, fruitiest kind (Chardonnay, Riesling) but even those don’t taste fantastic. I likes them because one glass could make me feel relaxed and much more outgoing. I am very shy, particularly in mingle situations. But, more than one glass could make me drunk. I hate being drunk. I will never understand people who enjoy it. Hangovers are miserable and not worth any fun you may have had while drunk. I have also tried mixed drinks, martini like fruity concoctions. They taste a little better than beer and wine maybe, but I still felt like I was trying to enjoy a glass of cough syrup. Something nasty covered in grape or cherry. I would rather just have a glass of juice. In conclusion, I think if I were suddenly no longer bound to the word of wisdom, I might occasionally drink a glass if wine socially. I would not drink anything else, and I would not even have wine in my house.

  5. I’ve always been a member. I was never tempted to try alcohol. I was at my MIL’s house a couple years ago at age 41. I was thirsty and it was late. I went outside to the patio and opened up the cooler of drinks. I took out a Sprite, opened it and drank.
    My first thought was that this Sprite isn’t overcarbonated (always annoying how carbonated the first few sips are). After the first gulp I realize and spit on the second mouthful.
    I had made it 41 years without drinking beer.
    I am not thrilled that my Mormon MILs house is where my 12 year old accidentally poured herself a glass of wine on Thanksgiving thinking it was sparkling cider. But my MIL’s house is where we can spend Christmas entirely alone with her, or we can go for a week in the summer and have my kids’ cousins show up (adult cousins who they have never met before who bring their live in girlfriend and her kids) and everything in between.
    You’d think I would have remembered that there was beer around that day, but seriously I’ve been going to that house for over 20 years and it is usually safe.

  6. I started drinking beer after reading Rock Waterman’s blogpost on beer being OK according to The Word of Wisdom text. My first experience with it was this stuff is nasty and then I started trying other kinds. Blue Moon with an orange slice is my all time favorite!
    That being said, I’ve never been drunk. Not once. I don’t allow myself to drink more than a couple of beers at any given time. I believe beer can be a good thing — excellent calming affect after a long day — in moderation.

  7. My Mormon upbringing and personality kept me from trying it until I became an adult. As an adult, I realized my extended family has a history of various issues that lead me to believe I might be susceptible to alcoholism, and I have seen a few of those things in small measure within myself over the years. That alone is reason enough for me to avoid it all.

  8. Proving yet again how Kevin Barney is the most unqualified apologist in all of Mormondom.

  9. Yeah, Waterman’s kind of a sola revelatione fundamentalist that way.

    What’s been interesting to me is how many non-LDS actually avoid either alcohol, coffee, or both. During my wife’s graduate training in Food Chemistry, internships for a big food company in the Coffee section, then PhD in Food Studies, we’ve met a LOT of people who eschew these for various non-religious reasons. Heck, half the people in the Coffee division didn’t actually drink or like coffee.
    I think Mormon rhetoric about the WoW/”the World” combined with the ubiquity of beer and coffee ads leads Mormons to think that the every non-LDS has several cups of coffee per day, then drinks every evening, and gets drunk with some frequency…. and it’s not the case.

  10. On my mission we were at a contacts Christmas open house where my companion and I were told the egg nogg was not enhaced. We each took a drink and from “previous experience”, I knew something was in the mix. I put down my glass after a sip, but my companion thought it was really good and asked for more.

    I waited until after his third cup to tell him.

  11. My only experience with beer is when as a senior in high school I was at a country concert and a guy asked me to two-step and we were dancing and he just laid one on me right after drinking beer. Yep, beer is gross. A few years ago my friends from work and I would go out to happy hour occasionally, their drinks looked soooo good! I guess it’s nice to know they really aren’t?? Anyways, I still think the fruity drinks look delicious. I’ve wanted to know, and teased my friends I won’t ever break my promise, BUT wouldn’t be too crushed if they ever spiked my lemonade :)

    Now my MUCH more strait-laced husband who would run the other way screaming from a drop of alcohol has tried it . . . . We were at a work barbecue and he went outside to grab a drink from the coolers and saw a fruity drink that looked good. He walked back in the house a while later with a half-drunk wine cooler and I almost died. “What,” he said, “it’s a malt.” (thinking whopper/malted shakes – sigh). I’m not sure wine cooler really counts, but it’s all we got.

  12. I’m a convert as well and I never stopped liking the taste of alcohol. If they ever repeal that part of the Word of Wisdom, I’m picking up some bourbon.

  13. I’ve been a member all my life. There’s nothing like drinking a well brewed cup of coffee with my wife at 6 am to begin our day. We watch the sun come up, plan our day and enjoy waking up together! And, there’s nothing like a good microbrew beer at the trailhead after a long day of backcountry powder skiing with friends, or an ice cold Bud Light after a summer mountain bike ride.

  14. A thorough history of the WoW and beer would be an entire series of posts, and I think Rock Waterman might already have done it. Joseph F. Smith had a beer habit as a young man, and of course he died before the prophetic interpretation of the WoW became “no alcohol period,” which was at the time of Prohibition in the United States. Until then, “barley for mild drinks” meant just what you’ve always suspected it meant, and we ain’t talkin’ Postum.

    That said, as an adult convert and former fraternity boy, I started drinking when I was in high school due to the influence of “evil companions.” Although bourbon was my drink of choice, I did have a taste for the thick, heady English and Irish ales rather than American cat-piss beer. And, yes, the buzz is the main reason to keep drinking. I suspect that, if I weren’t a member, I might just do it a little too often. I don’t recall ever taking a drink without the intent to get pretty well buzzed. Sometimes I miscalculated. :)

  15. I was raised LDS and eschewed all things verboten until I was about 23. I was at my brother’s wedding and they were serving wine and champagne. I was really curious to know what they tasted like, so I tried one sip of each and they were both disgusting. I much prefer sparkling cider and grape juice. The smell of beer nauseates me so I’ve never even wanted to try that. But I have always wanted to try one of the fruity drinks. And I’d really like to try black and green teas. That last one is on my bucket list.

  16. I don’t drink alcohol, but, I have challenged others to combine the claimed to be worst tasting alcohols into a cocktail: Vermouth & Thunderbird! i also heard a crack from the late Singer Jim Croce between songs, on a recording of one of his last performances, about “Ripple: Wine that’s never seen a grape!”

  17. leonasankhla says:

    Oh dear, I would be a total wino if given the chance. Even the smell of alcohol gets me excited. Lifelong active Mormon here, and I have had exactly two experiences with tasting the stuff. The first was in the mission home in the mission where my dad was serving as a mission president. The meat in that part of the world at that time had a gamey flavor, and my mom would disguise it by cooking it in liberal amounts of very cheap (VERY cheap) red wine. One day she couldn’t get the cork out, I grabbed the cork screw, she grabbed the bottle, and we both tugged. Yeah. I got a wave of cheap wine right in the mouth. Not tasty. Not at all tasty.

    BUT my mom’s family is Catholic, my husband’s family is Hindu, and so extended family parties are never dry. I have smelled some truly ambrosial wines. Wines that smell nothing like that cheap Brazilian job (which smelled as awful as it tasted).

    And then there was that one time in Puerto Rico…naive little Mormon girl, moi, had bought “sangria” plenty of times at the BYU Bookstore. They used to sell bottles of the stuff that gets added to the booze right next to the guarana. So, ignorant young twenty-something that I was, I plopped myself down at a table in San Juan, saw sangria on the menu at a price so cheap I thought, “There’s no way that’s alcohol. It must be just like back at BYU!” Um, not. I took a really big gulp of it. And it was….amazing. I won’t lie. It was a stunning sensory experience. My mouth went cold, my cheeks went flushed, I felt giddy and light-headed for the rest of the evening (until the headache). It was wonderful! I didn’t take more than that first gulp (I’m sure the drink was half rum). As for the way it tasted…not at all bad. But I like really pronounced, strong flavors, and from my earliest memories at family parties always suspected I would enjoy just about everything to do with alcohol.

    Except of course the headaches (and I had a monster headache a couple of hours after that drink in San Juan), the hangovers, the total loss inhibition, the (for me, given my family’s genetics and my own personality) inevitable addiction, the liver damage, the wreckless and dangerous behavior, the broken relationships…

    Yes, on balance, I feel llike I have been protected and blessed by this facet of the Word of Wisdom. Alcohol is clearly one of those things with which I should have nothing to do. I don’t believe alcohol is inherently evil; on the contrary, I think its cultivation and creation can be elevated to an art form. (I’ve got family members who do this and have won awards for it.) And I know plenty people who enjoy alcohol in moderation and are responsible. But I would not be one of them.

  18. *reckless

    I hate it when I do that. If I drank anywhere near as much as I’d probably want to, wreckless is the last thing I’d be. ;)

  19. I had spiked punch at a party as a freshman in college, and I made everyone wait 3 hours (after getting one of the math honors students ti figure out the rate of consumption and use by my body, after getting one of the biology honors students to calculate the amount of alcohol actually in the punch, and getting another honors student to verify it) until I would drive anyone home, since I was the designated driver for the group I had driven. (Did I mention that we were honors students who had way more fun figuring out all the stuff that came after my half cup of punch than we did the 2 hours previous to that consumption? I was also 16 at the time.)

    Two years before that I had virgin strawberry margaritas, on the TAG (talented and gifted) trip to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, when my mom and I went out for dinner together to get away from the rest of the group. There was a mix up with the drink orders, and we hot the ones with alcohol. We wouldn’t have noticed, but the people who were supposed to get the alcohol in theirs, it was something really expensive, noticed that theirs was missing it. My mom refused to pay the extra training $20 for the expensive alcohol, since we hadn’t ordered them that way.

    On my honeymoon, we went to Victoria, BC and had a super delicious kiwi frozen dessert, and liked the one we shared, enough that we got a second one. It wasn’t until we got the bill and it had a charge for the alcohol tax that I had any idea. He got very tipsy, I couldn’t tell a difference. I have had several other experiences where I have consumed alcohol, and besides being thirsty, I can’t say that I really noticed or have ever gotten the buzz people talk about. I went on a date one time where the guy tried to get me drunk, and I ended up putting him to bed after he was obviously drunk, and then drove home without realizing I had anything alcoholic to drink. If he hadn’t told me the next day, I probably would not have known.

    I think that I would notice a particular taste, so I don’t think that I have never had beer, but I couldn’t tell you for certain. I use wine when making pasta sauces from scratch and other kinds of alcohol in several candies I occasionally make.

  20. I’m an adult convert, and I think it’s funny when Mormons talk about alcohol.

  21. I was a social drinker for a couple of “wild” years. Eventually I learned to appreciate a good wine pairing with dinner, but the alcohol taste was overwhelming at first. Beer, wine, liqueur, cocktails…they all just seemed like a desperate attempt to mask the taste of alcohol.

    As for the effect, anything more than a glass of wine just made me feel tired and ill. I don’t miss it at all and really don’t understand the appeal.

  22. Question here. Why do people celebrate and drink alcohol when it is actually a depressant?
    I’ve always been curious about that. People drink to celebrate an event and also drink when they are upset over something.

  23. Mormonr Sprike drinks, we don’t spike them

  24. Oops! I meant to spell Mormons. Must have had too much Sprite in my eggnog….

  25. I stopped going to church for various reasons when I was 21, after which I tried alcohol in modest amounts. Because there is alcoholism in my family and I read sciencey articles about health effects, I have a personal limit of 2 drinks per week. There is a lot of variation in alcohol, both within and between categories. It took awhile to figure out what I like. I personally love bitter flavors, and enjoy IPAs but eschew almost all other beers. I’m pretty picky about wine and cocktails as well. I’ve started making my own flavored bitters and will add a few drops to a mocktail on nights when I want a fancy drink but no alcohol (it’s kind of like flavoring things with vanilla extract, but there are lots of flavor options). My husband has never been Mormon, but both he and his mother are very sensitive to the taste of alcohol and dislike it despite his father’s attempts at getting them to try a wide variety of things in hopes they’ll appreciate one. Almost all non-alcoholic drinks taste way too sweet to drink (besides coffee and tea, of course). It’s nice to have something interesting that isn’t sometimes. I personally dislike fruity alcoholic drinks because they’re generally using fruit to cover up the bad taste of whatever alcohol they’re using in it, and I’d rather have fruit juice or a smoothie. If I’m going to have a drink, I want one where the type of alcohol tastes interesting and doesn’t need to be covered up.

  26. I tasted beer in high school. I really did not want to because it reminded me of horse pee when it was poured out. Still does. It was yucky. Alcohol is definitely an acquired taste.

    My parents were converts but they never drank before converting.

    I do use certain alcohols in my cooking and baking because of fantastic flavors. I make a mean rum cake for the holidays.

    Alcohol, when used properly is medicinal. Prescription cough syrups are mainly alcohol.

  27. I should have known. Playing with face cards lead to drinking. Mom was right!!!

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    Tracy, I am actually rather self-conscious of my lack of knowledge about and experience with alcohol, so in my case at least you are right to be amused.

  29. I think Tracy’s absolutely right that the Mormon view of alcohol (disgusting, only for a buzz) has little relation to reality (except, maybe, for teenagers and college students). An analogy of sorts: on Friday, I overheard a couple women talking about how disgusting olives were, how happy they were that they’d found a cookbook that didn’t have olives in the recipes (because most do?) and how they overpower the dish.

    I was tremendously amused, but there is some relevance: some food you have to get used to. Your palate as a teenager can (and should) be different than your palate as an adult, and there’s no shame

    So just because alcohol is an acquired taste doesn’t mean people don’t actively acquire that taste, or that there’s no reason but the buzz to try the taste; if you’ve ever read beer or wine writing, you’ll know there’s a huge interest in the particular flavors.

    That said, as a good lifelong Mormon, the closest I’ve come to drinking is cooking with beer and wine.

  30. Sorry: I swear I closed my italics after the “should.”

  31. I too was an adult when I converted, so, I was a coffee and tea drinker, and an alcohol drinker too. I used to like coffee, was quite an addict. I had developed a taste for fine Scotchec, and so, I do follow the WoW now, but I dont make a big deal of it. I am amused by folks in EQ going on and on about the sins of, and evils that will befall us if coffee or tea or alcohol are consumed. C’mon folks, these are substances that human the world over have consumed for millenia, we have to stop this fetish over not consuming these substances.

  32. I had a heart attack 19 years ago. Just after the heart attack, I started to subscribe to the “Harvard Heart Letter,” but I haven’t read it for years. But at that time, there was legitimate research indicating that alcohol, not just wine, had a positive effect on the heart. That said, the HHL recommendation was that if you don’t drink, don’t start. And if you do drink, drink in moderation. So there may be some medical reasons for drinking alcohol.

    With coffee and tea, I suspect that any nutritionist would recommend coffee and tea over soft drink as your caffeine delivery system. With soft drinks, you get sugar and carbonation with your caffeine. Neither is good for body. When I look at the obesity in the developed world, I wonder how hard the Church should push the coffee and tea issue. My parents both enjoyed their coffee yet were still able to maintain their temple permits. My grandfather (who was both a
    Bishop and Stake President) couldn’t wait to get out of Cache Valley so he could have a cup of “Joe.”

  33. marthamylove says:

    I had my first taste of alcohol when I was a teen babysitting. The family had entertained before I was scheduled to arrive. The kitchen had been cleaned up and they took off, leaving me to put the kiddies to bed.

    Once that was done I began looking for some snacks. They always left me some but in their rush to get out they forgot to point them out on this particular evening. So when I looked in the fridge and saw a nice tall pitcher of ice water I poured myself a glass and took a swallow. The first clue that it wasn’t water was the sense of my esophagus being on fire.

    I don’t know if I got smashed that night on one swallow but it was not an experience I was willing to replete. Nevertheless, over the years (I’m now eligible for Social Security) I did try alcohol again. It’s not all bad. You don’t lose your agency and become a raging alcoholic. You don’t get roaring drunk before you know it. And, though there’s still a lot I don’t like, there are many things that are yummy and refreshing like the limoncello I make from my own tree and sip over crushed ice in the summer or a well-seasoned Bloody Mary or good Mexican food with a Margarita.

    If it relegates me to the Terrestrial Kingdom I just hope there will be lemon trees there.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Good analogy, Sam. I hated olives as a teenager, but love them today.

  35. I’ve felt the same way (acquired taste so you can get buzzed or drunk) until I became a fan of really good dark chocolate. Then I understood better about acquiring the taste and developing it more as you grow to like it.

    Of course since Elder Widtsoe felt chocolate was in some ways against the Spirit of the Wow, maybe there’s a bit of truth to avoiding habits thatnrequire acquiring tastes.

    Then again if that were the case our kids these days would never eat anything other than chicken nuggets and hot dogs.

  36. I tasted alcohol in my twenties and didn’t like it at all. I thought it was awful stuff. I do cook with it, though. Wine tenderizes meat and the alcohol will pretty much cook out, leaving just the fermented taste, which is nice. My ex-husband used to drink beer and I would never let him kiss me when he had been drinking it. Yuck. As for coffee, I can’t even stand the smell of it, let alone the taste. Don’t care for tea, either. I ordered some green tea flavored ice cream in a restaurant once and couldn’t eat it. And I don’t like olives, but will eat them if they are on a pizza or sliced up in a salad.

  37. Drank some alcohol in my teens and early 20s, but it always tasted like horse urine, or something fruity trying to cover up horse urine. Fortunately, I did not get addicted. And I never did acquire a taste for alcohol. I consider myself lucky.

  38. It really depends. My first beers were disgusting Natty Lights at the beer pong table and during my wilder college days. My first hard alcohol was the nail polish remover-esque Aristocrat Vodka at a house party. By the time college ended, I had discovered “good” alcohol. I’ll agree with an earlier poster that Blue Moon is amazing. I love a good Guinness, Pilsner Urquell, or Paulaner Hefeweisen. There’s a lot of variety out there, good and bad.

  39. I was about 4 years old, and we were all at Grandma’s house. Grandma and Grandpa were temple workers, but Grandma was subject to nasty migraine headaches. Her chosen home remedy cure was to buy glass gallon jugs of apple cider – the thick kind, with chunks of apple in it – and she’d add a quarter teaspoon of brewer’s yeast and set them in the basement. I had no idea that when I spotted a good jug of apple cider in her fridge that there might be anything wrong with it. I found a big glass, poured it all by myself very carefully, and drank most of it down. I remember feeling dizzy, and I eventually found a soft comfy chair and curled up for a nap. Six or seven hours later, Mom was trying to wake me up when she spotted the glass on the end table next to me, and she figured out what had happened.

    Good stuff.

  40. A. Reynolds says:

    We used to buy mint extract to “spike” the punch at stake dances. We actually thought the 4-5 tablespoons in the small bottles would have an adverse effect on the rest of the youth. We never were caught…

  41. Dr_Doctorstein says:

    I first tasted wine at age 13 out of a brand-new kiddush cup one Friday evening, just before sundown, right after saying the traditional blessing: “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine.”

  42. College. Limoncello. Naples. Thought it was just some fancy citrus drink. It was quite tasty and gave this good Mormon girl a quick buzz.

    I would definitely be a wine drinker if it wasn’t for the WoW.

  43. Holding out hope that one of the great and important things that has yet to be revealed is either an update or a return to the original spirit of the WoW. In with wine, out with HFCS.

  44. I agree with Sister; as an adult convert with a history of alcohol use pre-baptism, and coming from a hard-drinking family, and living far from Happy Valley, it is very amusing to hear Mormons talk about alcohol. Not just comments to this post, but in general.

    I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard confess to trying some cheap swill in high school, whatever rotgut vodka they could get someone to buy for them or whichever awful domestic lite beer was cheapest, and then say that the “taste of alcohol” was awful and they can’t see how anyone could like it. As if there were no difference between 3.2% Pfeiffer, Hauenstein or Pabst Blue Ribbon and Newcastle, Harp, or Bass; Ancient Age vs. Maker’s Mark; two-buck Chuck vs. 24-year-old single-malt Glenfiddich. Yes, raw alcohol tastes pretty bad, and most of the stuff you consume at high school parties isn’t consumed for the sophistication value. :)

    Of course, the other amusing thing is the way that a single drink, nay, a single taste of alcohol instantly turns a person into a raging alcoholic in almost any sacrament meeting talk or YW/YM lesson (see Hawkgrrl’s Mormon Jargon post, s.v. “Addiction (n.)” – the state of having done something forbidden once).

    And for your reading pleasure:


    Oh! that each fair girl in our abstinence band
    Would say: “I’ll ne’er give my heart or my hand
    Unto one who I ever had reason to think
    Would taste one small drop of the vile, cursed drink”;
    But say, when you’re wooed, “I’m a foe to the wine,
    And the lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.”

  45. Having previously confessed here that I occasionally drank in my younger days, contrary to the tone of some of the posts here, drinking alcohol is not a virtue. In my opinion. I have nothing but praise for the person who never tried alcohol, and I not judge those who have.

  46. I work in entertainment and it’s very common for people to offer to buy me a drink. All of my coworkers are casual drinkers who always enjoy a drink or two in the course of an evening, so I know firsthand that it’s possible to enjoy alcohol and still be a good (even wonderful) human being. But most bartenders don’t seem to keep a repertoire of interesting virgin cocktails, and I’m really trying to quit soda, so I generally end up declining (makes me feel like a heel every time). My father’s side of the family has a thick streak of alcoholism and I already know I can’t control myself around other treats, so I am also grateful for the WoW’s strict interpretation in my youth. I know my weaknesses, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I may very likely have ended up promiscuous and an alcoholic. But that is me and my weaknesses, not an automatic Rx for anyone that chooses to drink.

  47. Our current home is just a mile or two away from 4 or 5 of the best places to get a cocktail in the southeast. And they are delicious to the taste. I don’t drink soda anymore though. Swapping out one vice for another.

  48. Christian J says:

    I was born/raised in the Church, started drinking in high school. It really took off when I turned 21. Learned to *really love a good beer. Black and Tan was my fave. Half Guinness half Harp. Very tasty and pretty too.

    I loved to drink. Loved it too much. The taste, the pubs, the buzz. But, it all kept ending badly. Surprise surprise, I usually found myself making really bad choices toward the end. Would have called myself an alcoholic in training for sure. After some false starts, quit for good about 15 years ago. My family and the Church helped me get there, but I did it for me.

    I don’t think alcohol or drinkers are evil, but I do think that *most (if not all) people would be better off without.

  49. I find it interesting that so many are so sure that they’d be alcoholics if not for the Word of Wisdom. I guess some of you might. But most would not.

  50. Anon for now says:

    “the other amusing thing is the way that a single drink, nay, a single taste of alcohol instantly turns a person into a raging alcoholic”

    This isn’t entirely an exaggeration. (I’m slightly changing some personal details in the following.) For several years, I worked with an exmo (his still-LDS wife was my boss) who had a very messy story. After his excommunication, he’d gone out to eat and in frustrated rebellion, ordered his first ever glass of wine with dinner, whatever they recommended. He ended up drinking the whole bottle, then leaving and finding a liquor store. He quickly became an alcoholic, and over two years, drank (in his estimation) $50,000+ of wine and hard liquor. He eventually got into AA, and has been clean for several years, but still smokes, though he’d desperately love to give that up. He is neutral about the Church (he’s started attending a non-denominational Christian church), but has nothing but good to say about the WoW. I assume he’s one of those with a genetic disposition for it.
    I’m all for blowing up stereotypes, but let’s avoid the counter-assumption, that such things never happen at all.

  51. Didn’t touch a drop until I was 37. And as per the WOW no strong drink, just mild barley (or/as other grain drinks). Palates do indeed mature over time and the occasional beer hits the spot. So refreshing when compared to syrupy garbage. And yes the buzz feels nice, it eases the body. Yes alcohol is a depressant, that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes one depressed (sad, morose). Heart health, yea! Hops (for you essential oil people) hoo-rah! Fewer unknowns than anti-depressants…Yikes…

    Moderation is key. I can see how easy it would be to fall into alcoholism. If you see yourself as susceptible then stay away. I do think it’s empowering to exercise free will and act in faith instead of fear. I think we see a lot of that in the culture and misunderstand. When I told my wife about the beer one of her first questions was, “Are you going to drive drunk?” As if one drop of alcohol was suddenly transform me into some unfettered beast (kind of like Barney’s first drink on The Simpsons).

    There are tragedies that arise from abuse of alcohol. But the picture isn’t some black and white sketch with teetotalers on one side and alcoholics on the other. In this regard Utah Mormons (myself included) can be a bit naive. This sort of polemic retards understanding. Not wholly dissimilar to the next to murder garbage where someone is suicidal because he ‘abused’ himself.

  52. Christian J says:

    gst, I think, by adulthood, people are pretty familiar with themselves and could identify an addictive personality. I don’t think its a misunderstanding of the effects of alcohol, but a correct understanding of who they are.

  53. Converted in my late teens. I was a surprisingly heavy drinker in my teen years, whatever I could raid from my mother’s substantial liquor cabinet. One of the driving forces in my conversion was my realization that, “Hey, I really shouldn’t be drinking to fall asleep at the tender age of 16. I seem to be taking after my mother’s family, who have problems with this sort of thing. Time to quit!”

    I cook with alcohol all the time. I actually rather enjoy the taste of non-alcoholic beer (German and English imports, anyway).

  54. anon for the moment says:

    Yup, what Christian said. My grandmother was a blackout drunk who went on binges. I have two uncles and a brother who’ve been to rehab, a cousin who drank herself to death, and a few more cousins who should probably quit drinking. Even my father, a wonderful man who I love and adore, drank a bit too much. I know I have an addictive personality and have to put in extra effort to avoid my weaknesses. I’m 39 years old; I have a pretty good handle on where I’m strong and where I tend to fail. Maybe I could handle alcohol just fine. But the odds are *very* good that I can’t. No point in starting now.

  55. I think that’s a good call; I’m not arguing with you.

    I’m just pointing out that modern Mormonism tries to convince all of us that we’re alcoholics waiting to happen. And a lot of Mormons believe that about themselves. Only some of them are right.

  56. marthamylove says:

    As to this business of an “addictive personality” let me say that I am not any kind of expert but have seen some evidence in my own life. My grandfather who was third generation Native American on his grandmother’s side had the NA problematical relationship to alcohol. My father (his son) drank socially in moderation. I only once in my entire life saw him drunk or even close to it. But, he was a raging workaholic. Not, I understand, in the DSM, but if you see it up close and personal you get the crystal clear message that it’s very unhealthy and part of an addictive pattern out of that individual’s control and spilling over into other’s lives.

    Me, I can have alcohol without any problem. The most I’ve ever been is buzzed. And that, probably less than 20% of the times that I have a drink. I probably average less than 1 drink per month. I know my limit and I’m not even very interested in approaching it. But the UNfermented grain! Now that’s a problem for me. I can’t eat a nice “healthy” whole grain — not a bowl of oatmeal, or some barley soup, a plate of tabouleh or a slice of the heartiest “healthiest” bread you can imagine — without running amok. I have been — all 5’3″ of me — over 200 pounds. Just imagine what it was like to have food storage the equivalent of a ticking bomb in my basement day in and day out! It was only with Heavenly Father’s love and help that I struggled to learn my body’s and my spirit’s limits and stay within them.

    I know Heavenly Father doesn’t want me to live a bleak life of water and iceberg lettuce. I know he gave my spirit this mortal body to learn and to have joy. So I know that the WOW is a metaphorical path intended to help us respect our bodies and learn the lessons this mortal existence can teach us. And I know that addiction is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon even within a family that struggles with addiction.

  57. I proofread but missed one. I meant to say I’ve probably only gotten buzzed less than 10% of the times I’ve had a drink.

  58. When you think about how much of the culture at large revolves around alcohol, and how much assault (sexual and otherwise,) how many deaths, injuries, disease, and heartache relate in some way to alcohol, I agree with Christian J.

    Most people would be better off without it.

  59. gst has a point, and I would never be so dim as to start an argument with him, but I have a healthy respect for alcohol, first and foremost, as an addictive drug, and this from personal and family experience.

    I drank socially as an inactive young adult but have obeyed the constraints of the church for decades. I see the complexities, and sometimes juggle them. I taught my children that they mustn’t judge their near-teetotaler grandparents (or their dad) for having a fully stocked and seldom used bar. On the other hand, I shared openly with them the consequences of certain relatives’ addictive behavior, as a caution and a reason for the value of the WoW. I don’t see alcohol itself as inherently evil. I suspect that there will be available in heaven both wine and single malt scotch. But here on earth, during a time when it was a societal norm to blow a chunk of your paycheck on a friday bender, then go home and beat the wife, I can see the WoW as a necessary blessing of restraint. And even in our modern times, in church culture it’s better to deal with self-righteous dolts than the effects of alcohol addiction. I see it as a mostly reasonable cultural policy and not a fundamental doctrine of the eternities.

  60. Christian J says:

    gst, there’s some common wisdom that cultures (local or national) that shun alcohol are more likely to produce abusers. I can get behind this. Italians don’t know about beer bongs (for example). And I cringe at the drinking=alcoholism rhetoric in our Mormon culture. BUT, when someone says – It would probably be a problem for me because of how I know myself, I tend to believe them.

  61. blueridgesaint says:

    Fascinating trail of comments, all over the board. What is striking is the wide variance of experience and opinion on the topic – both in terms of what you have/haven’t done (OP’s original question), and also in terms of what’s considered acceptable/not.

    Once one learns some of the “evolved” history of the WoW and it’s social evolution, first as optional, then as a commandment for some, then (now) as a temple recommend standard, and its now associated (and arguably outsized) importance as a purity test/indicator of valiance, that adds yet even more additional color to the whole topic.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that the all of this additional info is sort of marginal. It’s interesting historically, but it seems less relevant to me when it comes to our “lived practice”. The fact that the WoW is now a key test of orthodoxy, and as such has become a visible, widely understood social marker of church membership – – this is the primary thing that matters at this point… REGARDLESS of how the current state came to be. In other words, it seems kind of irrelevant to me that the practice may have socially evolved, or could be explained by sociological (non spiritual) explanations, or partially debunked by apocryphal (or true?) Emma Smith stories about chewing tobacco. It seems irrelevant what the medical explanations are about whether wine is good for the heart, or bad. The favorite quest of young zealous missionaries to explain WHY coffee or tea are bad (is it the tannin? the caffeine? etc) – also irrelevant.

    To me, these lines of reasoning are analogous to trying to “reason” through what the best tithing percentage is (is it really 10%? what about 11? or 9?), or how to handle tax treatment (net or gross?) etc – – or even whether or not one’s payment of tithing necessarily yields associated temporal benefits. These things, while worthy of discussion and potentially of interest to some, are all sort of marginal, esoteric tangents. If you’re a tithe payer, you pay on your interpretation of 10% of your increase. Period. You can try to justify paying less, or withholding your payments based on not wanting to support some of the uses of tithing funds – – but in the end, the point of living that law is about whether one has the faith to live that law. That’s the point: do we make the sacrifice?

    For me, WoW is much the same. Do I actually think that God is actually, stridently (and specifically) opposed to coffee, or iced tea? Or even – as many of the commenters have pointed out – responsible moderate consumption of alcohol in a social setting? News flash: given the “evolved” history of Wow, probably not. Do I think that these substances/foods/drinks are even as detrimental as some of the other contemporary, widely acceptable WoW-flaunting practices of today, such as too much sugar consumption, or immoderate red meat consumption, overconsumption of fast food, etc? Again, probably not.

    But this seems largely besides the point. Living the WoW has come to be one of those notable, well-known social practices that defines Mormonism, both within and without the faith. And therefore, As someone who works and is in constant professional contact with nonmormons, it seems important to live that law, as a useful signal of the overall importance of one’s discipleship. Like MDearest, I’m not convinced that the WoW is much more than an evolved social norm in the church, with roots in puritanism and prohibition, and I’m much less sure that it’s a true eternal/doctrinal principle. Nevertheless it errs on the side of caution, which (as others have pointed out) is useful. And again: the point I’d add is that it’s a symbol of our commitment to the faith, and that’s also useful.

    (BTW, although I’ve argued that it’s an aside, my actual experience – per OP’s original question – is complete abstinence. Haven’t ever tasted alcohol. Had lots of exposure as a teenager, plenty of opportunity, hasn’t ever held much appeal. May stem from my time in high school rock bands, in which I drove lots of drunk friends home…)

  62. Anon for now says:

    -“”given the “evolved” history of Wow, probably not.”
    Why can’t God be responsible for evolution? He only gives revelation once, and then ceases guiding? Original revelation can meet all further demands of a changing society/culture?

    “widely acceptable WoW-flaunting practices of today”
    Think you meant “flout” not “flaunt.”

  63. My father in law is a retired LDS Family Services counselor and when my husband was a teen, he asked him if he ever had a desire to smoke or drink. My husband, a 15 yr old straight laced guy, said he always wondered what alcohol tasted like. My FIL drove to the store with him, bought him a six pack, and popped the can open for him. My husband hated the taste, spit it out, they poured the rest of it out together and that was that.

    I asked my FIL what he would have done if my husband had loved it and became a raging alcoholic. He said it really isn’t about the beer. It’s about the mystery and forbiddenness of it all that teens are drawn to. When you do it openly, you dispel the myth. Interesting theory but neither one of us are on board to do it with our own kids….

  64. blueridgesaint says:

    ***WoW-flouting” not “WoW-flaunting”*** – great catch Anon.

    Completely agree with you that continuing revelation can meet further demands of a changing society… my point was simply that in this case, it doesn’t really matter to me, either way. Some would uphold the WoW because of faith in it’s divine provenance. Others would say this faith is misplaced, and point to it’s arbitrariness and history as reason to justify disregarding it. (Or modifying it.) I’m not that interested in the debate between these points of view. My adherence to the WoW isn’t predicated on possessing some testimonial surety that it’s 100% divine – rather, that it’s one of those things that folks both in and out of the church utilize to assess how “Mormon” someone really is. And to be clear: I’m not necessarily advocating that this sort of litmus test is good, or that it’s defensible. But it is the world we live in. And therefore, it seems to me that living the WoW is something one does, if one is even marginally serious about things like temple attendance or external signaling.

    And no, I wouldn’t apply similar reasoning to the wearing of white shirts, or the enforcement of BYU-I’s rule banning capris. (see https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/09/18/from-our-friends-in-rexburg/) It seems clear to me that the WoW is in a different category than things that are clearly cultural, or have origin in “the unwritten order of things”, or apply only in Rexburg, etc…

  65. I had a piece of rum cake once. I remember it tasting only okay, and I felt a little light-headed the rest of the afternoon. Also, someone offered me a wine cooler once, and it smelled like hell. I have never been interested in drinking alcohol. I think even if I left the church, I wouldn’t bother. Coffee, sure. Alcohol, meh.

  66. I read a fascinating article about Heber J. Grant being addicted to beer. (BYU Studies article, if the link doesn’t work Google “Heber J. Grant’s Years oi Passage”) https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/…/6919/6568

    Isn’t President Grant the one who made abstinence from alcohol a temple recommend requirement? (historians, correct me if I’m wrong). I’d always assumed that he knew first-hand what a brutal master addiction could be, so he wanted to protect the weakest among us from the temptation. I don’t think the controversy is unique to Mormonism. Ask any emergency room physician or police officer & they’ll tell you the worst brutality, carnage and gore they see usually have alcohol in the mix. (I actually have a cop friend who thinks crime would drop significantly if we outlawed alcohol but legalized marijuana… but that’s another topic).

    On the flip side, I’ve heard it argued that complete abstinence has made Mormons wholly lacking in the art and practice of moderation, and that has reared its head in ugly ways like higher rates of pain pill addiction (i.e. we don’t know how to control ourselves.) I don’t know if that’s true or not.

    I have zero experience with alcohol (besides Nyquil) & have been a member all my life. My mother’s side of the family has all the markings of addictive genetic traits, so we might’ve been spared some ugly outcomes by our teetotaling stance.

  67. Growing I had half my friends who drank. I tasted (simple sip) every alcohol known to man I suppose. Dispite finding their taste, well, distasteful, all it took was trying Everclear and scotch and wine didn’t seem so bad. In fact it helped prepare me for my mission to West Virginia where moonshine really is as common as stereotypes suggest. Long story short, my comp and I got really bad flu/cold and a non-member we were good friends with busted out a shot of moonshine mixed with raw honey from her beehive and fresh lemon juice. My comp refused and with refusing I was better the next day and he got worse!

    At any rate, cigars are my thing

  68. Isn’t President Grant the one who made abstinence from alcohol a temple recommend requirement? (historians, correct me if I’m wrong). I’d always assumed that he knew first-hand what a brutal master addiction could be, so he wanted to protect the weakest among us from the temptation.

    Yes, he was, and that may well have been part of his motivation. But he also led a largely American church in a nation that had just enacted Prohibition.

  69. “Yes, he was, and that may well have been part of his motivation. But he also led a largely American church in a nation that had just enacted Prohibition.”

    Exactly opposite, WoW didn’t become part of temple recommend/priesthood advancement til it had been repealed.

  70. Coming from a long line of brewers (4 generations that worked at breweries), in addition to growing up Catholic, I had a double whammy heading me straight to alcoholic bliss. Please don’t think I’m generalizing that all Catholics are alcoholics, I’m saying all Catholics are alcoholics. Jk. I was able to avoid the alcoholic dependent pitfall that befell many of my relatives, I think because I didn’t care too much were hard liquor. Beer was my thing I have my first beer at 2 years old which I snuck (my parents didn’t give it to me, they found me asleep having downed half a bottle). I know many people in and out of the church deride the taste of beer, yet I’ve always liked it and still do. I see no problem with drinking a non alcoholic brew. I know there are those that would disagree with me on that topic.to those who would say that there is still a .5 percent alcohol content, I would say that there’s more alcohol in nyquil and other medications. and it comes down to the reason that you drink a particular drink. I’m not drinking it to catch a buzz, and not social. Do we drink a 2 liter of soda every day, because we “need to”? There are plenty of other things that are not considered addictions that people abuse without realizing it that are much more harmful.