David O. McKay on Prohibition – October 1945

From: Old Battles Yet to be Fought—New Victories to Win


A fourth battle still raging, and in which the opposition seems to be gaining ground, is the battle against intemperance. The attitude of the Church of Jesus Christ towards temperance is unmistakable. February 27, 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith received what is known as the Word of Wisdom for the benefit of the council of the high priests assembled in Kirtland, and the Church, and also the Saints in Zion, given by revelation which sets forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all Saints in the last days D&C 89:1-2 Wine and "strong drinks" are condemned as beverages, and the use of them discountenanced in all cases except in the use of wine for sacramental purposes, and even this should be "pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make" D&C 89:5-7

Tobacco is condemned also as being "not good for man" D&C 89:8

At the time the Church took this decided stand against whisky and tobacco, no state in the Union had passed any law against the liquor traffic. It is true that temperance societies had been organized, and the cause of temperance was gaining impetus, but it was not until 1851—eighteen years after the revelation on the Word of Wisdom—that the first permanent prohibition law was passed in Maine. Later religious denominations began to organize temperance societies. It appears, therefore, that the Mormon Church was among the very first organizations, if not the first organization or church in the United States to legislate as an organized body against the use of alcoholic drinks and tobacco.

In 1908, President Joseph F. Smith in his opening address at the seventy-eighth annual conference said:

There is a general movement throughout the land looking toward local option of temperance among the people of our state and adjoining states. I sincerely hope that every Latter-day Saint will cooperate with this movement in order that we may curtail the monstrous evils that exist especially in our cities. I wish to say that I am in sympathy with this movement, and I know my brethren are united with me, and in harmony with the efforts that are being made to establish temperance throughout the land.

Many of you will remember how President Grant pleaded with the people of Utah to retain the Eighteenth Amendment. To the day of his death he regretted that Utah was in the column of states that repealed the prohibition law.

Statistics today seem to indicate that our fight for temperance is making little progress. For example, there was spent in Utah during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1945, for

Cigarettes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 4,978,196

Beer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11,197,806

Liquor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10,862,677

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $27,038,679

Intemperance goes hand in hand with lawlessness, and lawlessness is an enemy of peace.

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About Jacob Householder

Jacob is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-day Saints. He is the senior intern over Development and External Relations at the Madison Liberty Institute, the Director of Outreach for the Columbus Center for Constitutional Studies, and a senior at BYU-Idaho studying Financial Economics.

Copyright © 2019 | Jacob Householder — All Rights Reserved.

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