On alcohol and the Latter-day Saints

On alcohol and the Latter-day Saints November 30, 2019


Bell Tower and Temple spire
BYU’s Centennial Bell Tower, with the Provo Utah Temple in the background
(Wikimedia Commons)


Several people on the paternal side — the non-Latter-day Saint side — of my extended family had fairly serious problems with alcohol throughout their lives.  In one or two cases, unfortunately, their problems seriously impacted others beside themselves.


There is evidence that heredity can incline a person to chronic alcohol abuse.  So, not knowing whether I myself might have been born with a genetic proclivity in that direction, I’ve always been quietly grateful that, when the time came for me to choose to drink or not to drink, I had already committed myself on religious grounds, with considerable support from my faith community, not to do so.  I’ve never regretted the choice even slightly.  I’ve never been tempted, at all, to go back on it.  I don’t miss it.


A few years ago, I hosted a rather prominent non-LDS visitor to BYU for a couple of days.  (Some here who are political junkies like me would definitely recognize his name; a Democratic activist, among other things, he was continually taking calls on one or the other of his two cell phones from well-known Democrats, including, at one point while I was driving him somewhere, from Jimmy Carter.)


Things became just a bit rocky shortly after his arrival in Provo, though.  I took him to see a short introductory film for visitors to campus which, very briefly, mentioned the lack of booze at BYU.  As soon as the film ended, he exploded in angry disbelief at what he considered our transparently dishonest propaganda.  It turns out that college alcohol abuse is a big topic for him.  When I assured him that, although there are undoubtedly exceptions, it really is true that the vast majority of BYU students don’t consume alcohol, he disdainfully (and rather insultingly) wondered how much I was paid to “toe the party line.”  That was, I admit, quite uncomfortable.  He soon lightened up.  But, for the rest of his time in Provo, he kept asking surprised students what their favorite drinks were, when they had last attended a “kegger,” which beer they liked to take to football games, and so forth.


Several days after returning to his home base in Washington DC, however, he wrote me a note of apology.  His conversations at BYU, and then his conversations back east about BYU, had finally convinced him that we weren’t lying, or merely striking a pose, and that the University really is an alcohol-free zone.


I’m rather proud of BYU and my community on that score.


Over the years, though, I’ve wondered about seeming evidence that moderate consumption of wine is actually beneficial to human health.  In that event, I reasoned, perhaps the chief function of the Word of Wisdom’s bar to alcohol consumption would be to serve as a token or a marker of commitment to obeying the will of God, even without evidence of temporal benefit.


However, things have changed a bit in recent months.  I’ve already mentioned this study here on my blog, but it bears repeating because some may have missed the news and because that news is really quite important:


“No amount of alcohol is good for your overall health, global study says”


And, now, this even more recent story should probably be, as it were, added to the mix:


“1 in 20 deaths globally are a result of alcohol use”


And then there are results such as these:


“2016 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100,000 Population by State”


All in all, the Latter-day Saint practice of abstention from alcoholic beverages is looking very good these days, scientifically speaking.



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