ON CONSUMPTION OF WINE
Many of us grew up as members of the LDS church or otherwise were raised with the teaching that the consumption of drinks containing alcohol was forbidden. After I had settled down from a protracted phase of rebellion, I declared in my new-found conversion, with my face to the heavens, that I would never take another drink of an alcoholic beverage again. I looked with envy upon those few stalwart individuals I knew, who I felt honestly could approach their God at death, and declare “alcohol has never passed these lips.” In my minds eye I could envision Heavenly Father wrapping them in His arms, pressing them close to His bosom, and for that one act of heroic abstinence declaring to them, “Well done, my faithful son, enter into My kingdom.” Actually I could imagine this about many more women than men that I knew, but that’s an aside that takes this in the wrong direction.
Early on, in my [as of late] re-new-found conversion to true principles which include remembering the restoration begun by Joseph Smith, I was invited to a Sacrament Service where wine would be used as the emblem to represent the sacrifice of the Lord’s blood. I was asked to make the wine because of an off the cuff remark I made about wanting to try my hand at wine making sometime, because that would now be “legal” under the idea of remembering the restoration. With trepidation I agreed, and proceeded in my idiocy of the topic to dump twelve bottles of grape juice with the whole grapes still in the bottles, which looked like they were getting old in our fruit room, into a five gallon bucket. I mashed the grapes in the juice with an old plaster stirrer (looks like a big potato masher), covered the bucket with cheese cloth, because it was fruit fly season, and set the bucket in a dark place to turn itself into wine. Within three days, I knew it was on its way, because you could smell it all over the house. Oh! Those were days never to be forgotten.
The Sacrament emblems were to be partaken of two weeks from the day I began this new wine. No problem, I thought, the way this stuff has taken off we’ll have plenty of time. The day before the big day, my wife and I poured the stuff in the bucket through the cheese cloth, and tasted it. YUK! We both looked at each other with that look which says, “I’m sure we just poisoned ourselves.” I thought we’d be dead within fifteen minutes, for sure. Well, that didn’t happen, and when we finally realized it was probably harmless and just tasted bad, we knew we could fix that. Four or five cups of sugar should just about do it, and five did it. Kind of on the order of, “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…” (you supply the melody.) Well, to make this story shorter and to get on with what I really want to say; everyone at the Sacrament Meeting lied and said the “wine” really tasted good (how would they know? None there knew what wine should taste like), and a couple of individuals exhibited signs of it really “gladdening their hearts.” Prohibition had finally ended for this small group with a one-half-full plastic cup each.
Preserving the Restoration is now in full swing. D&C 89 is no longer a stunting hinderance to pure worship, but has resumed its rightful place as a “Word of Wisdom, not by way of commandment.”
We can now eat and drink our fill, not only because of an admonition “to be free,” (with which I heartedly concur), but the wine these days sometimes really tastes good, and goes down real smooth. “You’ve gotta love it, baby!” (Hotrod Huntley.) In fact we’ve come so far that in the wilderness south of Moab a few weeks ago, a table was covered with dozens of bottles of wine of every label and ilk. I personally contributed five bottles of a ruby red, clear, delicious wine of my own make. The wine flowed freely; in some circles without inhibition. Every last drop of the labeled, and the ilk, was drunk. Some boasted with somewhat slurred speech they had gladdened their hearts with 5 or 6 cups full, as they fell into the long lines in front of the Porta-Johns.
Has the pendulum swung? Do we now “drink?” Or do we yet “Partake” of our Lord’s Sacrament? Is the emphasis on the wine, or on “the blood of the Lamb?” Well, I have come upon a barometer of wine consumption, with decorum being exhibited in the lower degrees of the scale, while the upper would tend to bawdiness. Actually this scale was developed in 375 B.C. It says:
Three bowls (archaic for glasses) only do I serve for the temperate:
one for health, which they empty first;
the second for love and pleasure;
and the third for sleep.
When this bowl is drunk up, wise guests go home.
The fourth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to violence;
the fifth to uproar;
the sixth to drunken revel;
the seventh to black eyes;
the eighth is the policeman’s;
the ninth belongs to biliousness; and
the tenth to madness and hurling the furniture.
—Eubulus (ca. 375 B.C.)
Recently I also stumbled on to something which I have read many times, but only just recently have I seen it. “That inasmuch as any man [or woman] drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves to offer up your sacraments before Him.” (D&C 89: 5. Emphasis is mine and is what I saw.)
If we combine the wisdom of Eubulus with the wisdom of The Word of Wisdom, it would seem to me, to be logical that in partaking of wine in our sacraments, we should seldom, if ever, exceed one glass. It would also seem illogical that our assembling together to offer up our “Sacraments” before Him should include a second glass whose stated effect is to induce a desire for love and pleasure, or for sure a third glass, whose purpose is to produce drowsiness in an assembly whose avowed purpose is alertness to promptings of the Spirit; And Eubulus points out everything after this just goes down hill.
Many of us, perhaps I would say most of us in this movement, are making a cultural switch from total abstinence, to the ingesting of wine two to three, and even more times per week. In a culture where alcohol is completely forbidden there was no process to model and foster a constructive use of wine. But research has shown that when communities come together, and the first instructions to their children include the teaching of appropriate benedictions for bread and wine, and wine is taught as something sacred, it is much less likely that members of that society will abuse alcohol. Children learn to understand drinking as an act of communion, and drunkenness as a profanity; a perversion of the sacred use of wine. The more the consumption of alcohol is tied to the socialization process within the family and the community, the more responsible all become. In the family, children, and adults learn how to drink, and simultaneously how not to drink. Hence the requirement in the above quoted verse: “…Only in assembling yourselves…” [in every possible vein you can think of that in].
As every chronicle should have a summing up and a conclusion, here is all I can think of to propose based on the foregoing facts: If you are going to drink at that upcoming sacramental wedding, fill that glass to the 5-7 oz mark and revel in the gladdening of a more healthy heart, and how joyous the occasion has become. Then as someone fills the wedding couples second glass, the attending company toasts with the remaining drops of their first glassful the departure of the happy couple, who, when they arrive at their nights lodging will just be coming into the glorious effects Eubulus proposes for that second glassful. The residue can then drive home, neither too sleepy, nor over the legal limit.
And now if you will all excuse me, dinner is on the table, and I think I will break the seal on that Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve been saving, to pair with that enticingly aromatic ribeye steak sizzling on our plates; after which I fully intend to pour for ourselves that second glass. Mazel Tov!