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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Prohibition, Heber J. Grant and the Same Anemic Arguments Rising Again

August 7 is also my Mom's birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! [Correction: My Mom was baptized  into the Church the day of Pearl Harbor's attack - December 7, 1941. She was not born on that day as my original post stated. I also had mistaken the months. My thanks to an astute reader to point out this error and allow me to correct it.]


In addition, it is the anniversary of my term paper for my L.D.S. history since 1901 (Religion 343) class at Brigham Young University taught by Dr. Richard O. Cowan. I submitted my paper entitled, "Conference Teachings on Prohibition and The Word of Wisdom" August 7, 1984. It focused entirely on Heber J. Grant's addresses before and after he became President of the Church.


Prohibition of alcohol existed in the United States from 1920 to 1933 as a Constitutional Amendment. It was repealed by popular vote. Utah was the crucial state that completed its repeal. Below are some observations and quotes from my paper.


Grant believed drinking alcohol would cause mothers to have a higher incidence of unsound babies. He didn't elaborate on what he meant by unsound but it seems clear from the context that he meant birth defects. Conference Report, Spring 1926, p. 162.


Kansas was a dry state. It's vital statistics and lack of disease so shocked U. S. officials that they sent a squad out to investigate and found the statistics substantiated. Grant believed their partial adherence to the World of Wisdom explained the statistics. He believed Kansans were blessed for it. Conference Report, Spring 1916, p. 93, 97.


Grant pointed out that before Prohibition passed, 3 million dollars was spent annually on drink. Conference Report, Fall 1922, p. 191. He said nobody benefited from this. If Utah spent nothing on liquor, tea, coffee, or tobacco we would not need help from the federal government to care for the poor. Conference Report, Fall 1935, p. 9.
I have heard Latter-day Saints say that we need the saloon to help pay our taxes. God pity the men whose consciences have become so elastic. Conference Report, Spring 1914, p. 27.
But how under the heavens any man with ordinary intelligence with which God has endowed him believes and can believe that empty barrels and empty bottles will bring wealth to this community, when the contents have first destroyed the manhood and the intellectuality and the efficiency of the people who have emptied the bottles and barrels, is one of the untold mysteries to me. Conference Report, Spring 1916, p. 38.
The money that is expended for tea, coffee, tobacco and liquor would take care of all the poor people in the world, it would save the world financially. Conference Report, Spring 1937, p. 14.
I do not suppose that when we get whiskey, wine, beer, etc., much of it will be used for the washing of people's bodies. Conference Report, Spring 1933, p. 8.
I think one of th weakest excuses I ever heard of in my life is that one -- "not by commandment or constraint" -- when before the verse ends it tells you that it is the will of God. Conference Report, Fall 1934, p. 130.
With the help of the Lord to the very best of my ability, I warned this people not to vote for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. I warned them against lies that were being circulated to the effect that there was more drunkenness and more use of liquor than there had been when we did not have Prohibition. Millions of dollars of money, I am sure, was expended to have the Eighteenth Amendment repealed. Conference Report, Spring 1937, p. 13.
I have never felt so humiliated in my life over anything as that the state of Utah voted for the repeal of Prohibition. Conference Report, Fall 1934, p. 139.
These same arguments, that Grant condemned, are commonly put forth today in order to justify legalizing drugs, especially marijuana.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Krista,

    I just came across your blog as I was researching President Grant and his views on prohibition. I would love to read more about this, and was wondering if you could let me know if you recommend any particular reading (you quote specific pages, and I was wondering what source you were using). Thanks so very much!

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  2. Hi Rachel, I'm so sorry my response has taken so long. You caught me in the middle of a another move.

    I read all of President Grant's General Conference addresses. The page numbers all refer to that source. This is the small paperback booklet of Conference addresses, not when they are printed in the Ensign.

    I read them in hard copy at the Lee Library on BYU's campus. I don't think they have made it online yet, though I'm hoping they eventually get added to the LDS Scripture Citation Index http://scriptures.byu.edu/

    Try the Church History Library http://churchhistorycatalog.lds.org/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?vid=LDS_PATRON_VIEW or contact them directly with your query. http://chl.altarama.com/reft000.aspx

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  3. Apparently Grant was ignorant of both A) a person's God-given right to make their own decisions about what to put into their body and B) the massive amounts of corruption and violence associated with prohibition. What ever happened to Joseph Smith's statement about teaching people correct principles and then letting them make their own decisions? It is a weak religion that feels the need to enforce it's doctrines at the point of a sword. I thought God was a being of love and persuasion not force and violence (which is what government uses to enforce laws)...
    As for the alcohol industry not helping anyone, that's false. The alcohol industry created jobs for people who were producing something that people wanted.
    I also take issue with his statement about getting help from the federal government to take care of the poor. The US Constitution does not authorize the federal government to 'take care of the poor' (i.e., make them dependent on government handouts by plundering the public at large). This statement assumes that the rest of the country had the means and duty to bail out the state of Utah when in fact it was federal government meddling in the economy (in the form of taxation, Federal Reserve policy, and 'stimulus' spending) that caused and prolonged the Great Depression.
    As a Mormon, I would sure like to see other Mormons spread our faith through peaceful means rather than coercive means (i.e., laws). By the way, you have a lot of courage if you wrote an a paper critical of an LDS church president at BYU!

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    1. I usually don't like commenting on blogs. I have not yet read the talks to se why it was that he felt in favor of the prohibition.I believe that if he said it during conference, him bring the President of the church, Prophet, Seer and Revelator, he might have a very real reason why to oppose it. That is not what I want to comment about. My reason for commenting is to clarify something that you seemed to have misunderstood. When he talked about the government helping the poor he wasn't saying that the government should help them.he said that the government wouldn't have to help them as much if things that affect the health of people wouldn't be allowed.see,as most prophets have, since Joseph Smith, President Grant was opposed to government subsidies and welfare because it enslaves people, it offers a very dangerous political lever and it is, by all definitions, legalized plunder (which, no matter what it is called or how it is described, will continue being plunder nonetheless). If you study what the prophets have said you would realize that most of them have warned the people over allowing the government take upon itself, powers not granted by the constitution.but because the constitution does say that the federal government has power to enact laws for the general welfare (which doesn't mean food stamps or medicare, etc.) of the people, it means they have the power to consider something that will benefit everyone. You gave to understand the proper role of government to understand why it wad the President Grant, and many others, favored prohibition.

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  4. I thought the attack on pearl harbor was dec 7, 1941.

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