When Was Root Beer Invented?

What does that have to do with Mormonism, other than that J. Willard Marriott, first got stated with a fast food hamburger stand that sold A&W root beer in Washington DC?

[It appears that I have fallen victim of another faith promoting, Mormon urban legend, that J. Willard Marriott OWNED A&W root beer. Years ago someone showed me a can that said that the company was owned by Alice and Willard Marriott and that was how they got the name of the root beer, but I have not been able to find another can that said that. The Marriott's did start with a hamburger stand and they sold A&W foot beer there, but they did not own that company. Go here and search for the words A & W ]

The answer is an example of white-washing Mormon History.

Did Joseph Smith Sr. sell soda pop, or fermented root beer?

From: "Perry L. Porter" <ldshist@ldshistory.us>  Revised 3/31/2000

But first some background on root beer, yeast, fermentation and
alcohol in old time root beer., or jump to the white-washing part.

I have recently had a very forceful Epiphany, a major paradigm shift, yea even a transient change of heart! See Disclaimer.

It's been estimated that as many as 2000 different brands may have entered the market since the "father of root beer," Charles E. Hires, first managed to brew the dark, frothy drink.
Even prior to Hires' creation, farm people of the 18th and 19th centuries had been making some sort of elementary root beer.
Root beer, the original American soft drink, is only 100 years younger than the nation itself. First created in 1875, root beer has a long and eventful history that coincides with the development of American popular culture.

Root Beer -- the Essential American Soft Drink Cecilia Marjakangas
A FAST-US-8 (TRENAV2E) Power, Pride & Politics Paper The FAST Area Studies Program Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere History of Root Beer


- Charles Elmer Hires, a student at Jefferson Medical College, first manufactured root beer in Philadelphia in 1866. In 1869 Hires opened a drug store to sell his concoction, finally going national in 1876.


06/09/1869   Charles Elmer Hires sells his 1st root beer (Philadelphia)


Many people assume that Hires is the original creator of root beer. He was not, but he most likely was one of the first, if not the first, to market the bottled extract for making root beer, and he was without question. the most successful promoter of his product. Since Hires was from Philadelphia, we will begin there. Then, we will move around the country!


Mississippi is also home of:   Root beer, invented by Edward Barq Sr. (1898)


John Mathews:    The person referred to as the "Father of American Soda Water" by most of the earlier histories of the soda fountain industry is John Mathews. He immigrated to the United States in 1832, but prior to that he had been a pioneer in England's soda water trade for several years. Mr. Mathews learned the rudiments of erecting and constructing carbonic acid gas and carbonating machinery from Joseph Bramah.
Mathews settled in New York, and began supplying carbonated water to establishments of the New York area, were (at the time) it was drank cold and unflavored. Under his expertise the soda industry grew dramatically.


Root Beer is a sweet carbonated beverage flavored with sassafras.

Sassafras contains the chemical known as safrole which is has been shown to be a carcinogen in laboratory animals and has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration. Some commercial varieties of root beer use artificial flavoring agents, other varieties use sassafras extract from which the safrole has been removed. Removing safrole from sassafras extract and verifying that it is safe is a task which is beyond the ability and equipment of most homebrewers. Many home brewers use commercially produced root beer extracts for flavoring their root beer, because these extracts do not contain safrole.

Homebrewed root beer is usually sweetened with table sugar (sucrose), and is usually carbonated by adding yeast. Yeast-carbonated root beer contains a small amount of alcohol.

Bottles of yeast-carbonated root beer may explode if allowed to ferment too long.
Commercially produced root beer is artificially carbonated, has likely been pasteurized, and may contain preservatives and stabilizers.

Q: Is the only purpose of yeast and fermentation to carbonate the root beer?
A: Yes. It's just a question of economics. A pinch of yeast and a cup of sugar amounts to pennies. A
carbonation system requires a major capital investment.
Traditional root beer was naturally carbonated by the actions of yeast. In general, the yeast was added and the mixture was allowed to ferment for a day or two. The root beer was then bottled and was consumed within a couple of weeks, before the bottles could explode. Modern homebrewers use the same general process except the bottled root beer is placed in the refrigerator after waiting a week for the root beer to become carbonated (or sometimes without waiting a week first). Yeast carbonated root beer will contain some alcohol.
I understand the the soda made from the extracts results in a drink with about .25% alcohol. Is the reason why this is so low compared to beer is because you bottle it immediately and the yeast stops working before it has time to convert much of the sugar?

As I was bottling it, I started to wonder, what stops the yeasti-beasties from eating all that unfermented sugar, and blowing bottles all over my kitchen.  I thought that the yeast stopped working when either the sugar was gone or the alcohol reached some high amount (~14%?). I just gotta believe that my brew supply store wouldn't sell me a home bomb making kit.
OLD FASHIONED ROOT BEER   Classification: root beer, historical, 1910s, soda
Source: Thomas D. Feller (thomasf@deschutes.ico.tek.com) Issue #930, 7/22/92


1 cake, compressed yeast
5 pounds, sugar
2 ounces, sassafrass root
1 ounce, hops or ginger root
2 ounces, juniper berries
4 gallons, water
1 ounce, dandelion root
2 ounces, wintergreen

[Note that this, other than flavoring is basic ingredients of making regular beer.  Also it shows that alcoholic "root beer" continued after the artificially-carbonated / non-alcoholic rootbeer had been in wide use.]


[When I was searching to find if there was a bar in the Nauvoo House, I came across the following: ]

Chapter 4
The Smith Family "Reputation" At Palmyra And Manchester

The Smith family while living in Palmyra and Manchester are said (1) to have been lazy, shiftless, intemperate and untruthful; (2) to have opened a "shop" in Palmyra where they sold cakes, pies, root beer, and the like; and that on public occasions, such as the Fourth of July, militia training days, and election days, the elder Smith would load a rude hand-cart, made by himself, with these wares and sally forth to find such patronage as might come to hand; (3) to have been dishonest and guilty of stealing from their neighbors.

B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.4, p.39

[The Smiths would have been selling "beer" in the 1820's while "root beer" was not invented until 1869!  That is the artificially-carbonated, non-alcoholic version  of "root beer" as we know it today!

From Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, by Pomeroy Tucker, he quotes what neighbors said about the family business being called a "cake and beer shop,".  Roberts chose to include only part of the quote, leaving out the word beer, as if "cake and beer", were too wordy.  I would say that Roberts chose not be too accurate.

When Pomeroy listed what the "shop" merchandise, consisting of, he listed; "gingerbread, pies, boiled eggs, root-beer, and other like notions of traffic".  The "root-beer" that Pomeroy was refereeing to had to be the fermented/alcoholic variety since the non-alcoholic version which is  artificially injected with ( CO2 ) carbonation,  had not yet been invented.
Roberts may have been repeating Pomeroy's one time use of the term "root-beer", but he did not hyphenate it as Pomeroy did.  Plus the more accurate term of beer is within the same "quote" as the word cake and within the same sentence as the reference to "shop", so as a historian if Roberts is going to use the more accurate term "beer" or "root beer" he should have used "beer".  Also if he is going to use Pomeroy's words, whey not use the hyphenated word "root-beer" as Pomeroy did.

The real issue is whether Joseph Smith Sr. sold alcohol, whether it be refereed to as "beer" or "root-beer".   That the words "root" ever appeared before the word "beer", in any diary or newspaper before 1869 would indicate that this "root beer" was of the fermented kind, rather than the artificially-carbonated / non-alcoholic variety that any Mormon would give their child.

I own D. Charles Pyle, for helping me realize that I needed to clarify this distinction.]

Petty Employments Charged:

The second charge against the Smiths is that while at Palmyra "they opened a small shop" and sold cakes, pies, root beer and the like; and that on certain public occasions the elder Smith sold such wares in the streets from a hand-cart. There is nothing dishonorable in itself in this, even had they engaged in such an occupation.  Still it was put forth with evident intention of making the family appear contemptible by representing that its occupations were petty and mean.

B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.4, p.44

Pomeroy Tucker was the first to put forth this charge; and his work was published in 1867.  He pretends to speak from personal knowledge of the matter, being a resident of Palmyra while the Smiths lived in that vicinity; ...  Yet in all the fifteen separate and independent affidavits collected in Palmyra in 1833 by Hurlburt, and in the affidavit signed conjointly by 68 people of Palmyra and vicinity, derogatory to the Smiths, not a syllable is uttered respecting the "cake and beer shop," or the "peddling" of such wares in the street on public occasions mentioned with such pomp of circumstance by Pomeroy Tucker.  The silence of all the affidavits collected in 1833, and of all the anti-"Mormon" writers up to Tucker in 1867, throws strong suspicions of improbability upon his pretended statement of fact.  Malice invented the story, and sectarian prejudice accepted the falsehood for truth.

Pomeroy Tucker Vender Of Idle Tales
B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.4, p.45 -p.46

[Note that the only time the correct term "beer" is used instead of "root beer" is in the CHC (Comprehensive History of the Church, by B. H. Roberts), is when it is used to discredit a witness that wrote unfavorably about the Smith family.  I think that Roberts should have used the word beer which implies alcohol rather than root beer which today's implies soft drink rather than old time root beer which contained alcohol.]

Less than twenty years before, Joseph Smith had been an improverished, [impoverished] illiterate, disreputable youth, the most notorious member of a shiftless family. His parents and their numerous progeny had squatted on an abandoned farm between Palmyra and Manchester, New York, and had patched up a tumble-down old house. Here they farmed, after a fashion; sold rootbeer and gingerbread in town on muster days and holidays; fished, hunted, trapped, and, occasionally, worked at odd jobs.

Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, Vol.2, p.260

"Your money or your damnation" has about as much ethical Sanction as the less pretentious demand of the highwayman who says, "Your money or your life." But we have not yet reached the end. The "Prophet's" father, who, prior to the discovery of the alleged divine mission of his son, eked out only a scanty living as a dispenser of cake and root beer, ("Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism," 12.) now became the dispenser of patriarchal blessings at ten dollars per week and expenses, (15 Millennial Star, 308,.) and later at three dollars per bless. ("Mormon Portraits," 16.)

B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol.2, p.80

Ciders and Root Beers. Cider and home-made root beers may be harmless if taken when freshly made but if allowed to ferment at all [become carbonated] they contain alcohol (which gives the tang) and are just as harmful to the body as though they were not home-made. Every fermented drink contains alcohol and it has been definitely shown that any degree of alcohol is injurious to the brain and nerves as well as being forbidden by the "word and will of the Lord".

Many a confirmed drunkard and derelict traces his passion for the "deadly drink" to the so-called harmless root beers or hard ciders prepared by father and mother in his childhood's home. Since there are so many really harmless as well as delicious drinks one wonders why otherwise good parents will put temptation in the way of themselves and loved ones. It may be true that a person doesn't get "dead" drunk on lightly fermented root beer or soft cider; but who knows when the taste for liquor which, a sleeping giant within, may be aroused. Besides, if son or daughter is given fermented root beer or cider by mother at home, why not take the "doctored" punch from sweetheart or friend at the party? The risk is so great that here the part of wisdom is to shun the very semblance of a taste for alcohol.

J. Widtsoe & L. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, p.226

[If Widstsoe's words are to be taken at face value, then Joseph Smith Sr. was responsible for introducing Joseph Smith Jr. to the evils of alcohol which Joseph Smith indulged in during his entire life.  Even on his last day on earth Joseph Smith Jr. sent out for and drank wine, to dull his reasoning and revive their spirits.

From the official History of the Church, we read:

Before the jailor came in, his boy brought in some water, and said the guard wanted some wine. Joseph gave Dr. Richards two dollars to give the guard; but the guard said one was enough, and would take no more.

The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail soon after the jailor went out.

Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as also Brother Taylor and the doctor (Richards), and the bottle was then given to the guard, who turned to go out. When at the top of the stairs some one below called him two or three times, and he went down.

Immediately there was a little rustling at the outer door of the jail, and a cry of surrender, and also a discharge of three or four firearms followed instantly. The doctor glanced an eye by the curtain of the window, and saw about a hundred armed men around the door.

History of the Church, Vol.6, Ch.34, p.616

According to John Taylor:

Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent  for to revive us. I think it was Captain  Jones who went after it, but they would not suffer him to return. I believe we all drank of the wine, and gave some to one or two of the prison guards. We all of us felt unusually dull and languid, with a remarkable depression of spirits. In consonance with those feelings I sang a song, that had lately been introduced into Nauvoo, entitled, 'A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief', etc.

History of the Church, Vol. 7, p.101

The more that modern day Mormons condemn the moderate use alcohol and press forward with zero tolerance, the more they condemn their LDS ancestors.  While sitting in Gospel Doctrine class on a lesson on the Word of Wisdom, a class member (High Council man) said that when we break the world of wisdom we lose the spirit.  I could no longer remain silent and I informed the class that regardless of the rhetoric that was being repeated about the commitment to the Word of Wisdom, it was not generally followed by the membership until the Grant administration, and that Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, John Taylor and many other routinely broke the word of wisdom.

To may utter amazement the teacher glossed over the contradiction between words and deeds, by staying, "They would have been MORE spiritual if they had kept the word of wisdom!"  Yes Joseph Smith 2nd only to Jesus Christ, could have been MORE spiritual if only he had kept the word of wisdom!  GAG!

None of the modern prophets that have kept the word of wisdom have yet produced ONE revelation to match the charisma contained in the D&C.  Yes they have changed policy with the Blacks and the Priesthood, and the "real" revelation supposedly exists somewhere in the archives, but who has finished the "Inspired Translation" of the Bible, (JST)?  Who finished translation the "Book of Joseph"?  Who among the prophets that keep the Word of Wisdom, and are thus MORE spiritual, have translated one of the newly re-discovered Kinderhook plates containing history of Ham?  Joseph claimed that he he had finished the work and placed the mantel on the shoulders of the Twelve, but did he?  Has any of those that "religiously" keep the Word of Wisdom, actually taken on the full mantel of Joseph?  When it comes being a translator, by what fruits can we know them?]

"Whether disobedience to the word of wisdom was a transgression sufficient to deprive an official member from holding office in the Church, after having it sufficiently taught him?" After a free and full discussion, Joseph Smith the Prophet gave the following decision which was unanimously accepted by the council: "No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office after having the word of wisdom properly taught him; and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with and obey it."

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section 3, Footnote #1, p.117
(History of the Church, Vol. 2, pp. 34-35.)
(Essentials In Church History, p. 169)
Orson Pratt Journals, Watson, comp. (1975), p.33
Church History and Modern Revelation, by Joseph Fielding Smith. 1:383-84;
Messenger and Advocate (Nov 1836) Oliver Cowdery ed p.412
Times and Seasons, Vol.6, p.1022
Anthon H. Lund, Conference Report, October 1908, p.11
David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, p.375
Smith and Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Sec. 102, p.658
Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol 2, p.146
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1, DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
J. Widtsoe & L. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, p.28
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.846 WORD OF WISDOM
Burton, ed., We Believe, Word of Wisdom

[The number of citations, indicates the number of times this statement was quoted over the pulpit in General Conference or printed in different church books.]

Thurs. June 30, 1887

Pres. Taylor is much weaker this morning; he refused to take his usual bath. He does not partake of any nourishment, excepting a little wine and a glass of beer occasionally.

The Journal of L. John Nuttall

How did Mormon leaders and members interpret their obligations under the new revelation? The evidence points two ways. Some apparently regarded the Revelation as prohibitory and binding and wanted to make the obedience of its principles a matter of fellowship. The church council in Kirtland, in February, 1834, for example, adopted the following resolution: "No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office, after having the Word of Wisdom properly taught him, and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with it or obey it. . .

(Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Period I (2nd ed., Salt Lake City, 1948), II, 35.)

In December, 1836, the church congregation voted a pledge of total abstinence from intoxicants after which water was used in the Lord's Supper.

(Matthias Cowley, Wilford Woodruff. . . (Salt Lake City, 1909), p.65.)

At a general meeting conducted by church authorities in Far West, Missouri, in 1837, the membership agreed that "we will not fellowship any ordained member who will not, or does not, observe the Word of Wisdom according to its literal reading."

(History of the Church, II, 482.)

Several months later, at the annual conference of the church, Joseph Smith spoke on the Word of Wisdom and stated that it should be observed.

(Far West Record, p. 11, quoted in John A. Widstoe and Leah D. Widstoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation (2nd ed., Salt Lake City, 1938), p. 263.)

Moreover, when a council at Far West tried a high church official (David Whitmer) for his fellowship, the first of the five charges against him was that he did not observe the Word of Wisdom.

(History of the Church, III, 18-19. )

Taking the 1830's and 1840's as a whole, however, there is considerable evidence that many Mormon leaders and members believed that the Word of Wisdom meant only a piece of good advice and nothing more. One large group of Mormon families, for example, was advised in 1838 that they should not be "too particular in regard to the Word of Wisdom, (Ibid., III, 95.)  The same attitude continued during the years 1839-1845 when the Mormons were in Nauvoo, Illinois.

(See History of the Church, V, 380; "History of Joseph Smith," June 27, 1843, in the Millennial Star, XXI (1859), 283; Diary of Oliver Huntington, Vol. III, p. 166, typescript, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City.)

Leonard J. Arrington, BYU Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, p.40

A sort story from one of our gdm-approval@mail.xmission.com list subscribers:

Here is a quote given me by my friend, Br. McClellan, who works with me at the Provo temple.  It is about his grandfather.
William C. McClellan's testimony: William C. McClellan related this experience to his Grandson in San Bernardino, CA, in the spring of 1916.

At the age of 16, was working with his father, James, in their field in Warsaw, Illinois.  He reported the following: "When I was a lad, working in the field hoeing corn in the late afternoon, it was quite warm and we were about to quit for the day when father straightened up, looked around then looked at me.  The solemn stillness of the surroundings was almost frightening.  The leaves on the corn suddenly drooped as if they had been in a blast of extreme heat; the leaves on the trees withered as if in deepest sorrow.  Father looked at me and said: ‘Will, something has happened to the Prophet!' "As soon as the men from the surrounding country could be notified from Carthage we were told at the identical time of which I spoke the Prophet had been killed.

"That," said grandfather years later, "was proof enough for me.  If the leaves of the corn and the leaves of the trees were near enough to the Prophet to mourn the passing of his spirit, I could ask for nothing more faith-promoting or convincing."

(You can share it with whomever it seems appropriate.  I asked my friend and he seemed to feel okay about it.  I realize that it is not supported by any documentation.  I have it on a hand typed note from my friend.)

[Commentary, if there exists such compelling evidence of the divine nature of the LDS Prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, then why would apologetic historians feel the need to white-wash Joseph's ancestors, by changing "beer" to "root beer" or indicating it's alcoholic content in those days, rather than documenting stories like the corn story above, that is unless they had some doubts of it's validity?

Another great irony of this very small but ill conceived lack of clarification, is that Brigham H. Roberts, had a drinking problems most all of his life.  I have not yet researched this enough to give sources, but my guess it that sometime after the death of Brigham H. Roberts, some well intended, but miss guided editor sanitized the history, by changing "beer" to "root beer".  It has lower my esteem for Brigham H. Roberts that as a very competent historian and one of the brightest of all mormons, B. H. Roberts sanitized Joseph Smith Sr.'s history, while Roberts, himself was a drinker, (see below).  The beer/root-beer that Joseph Smith Sr. sold resembled beer a lot more than it did the soda pop that was sold when Roberts wrote the CHC.]

In selling ginseng to make his fortune, Joseph, Sr., hoped to gain gold and silver, but when his treasure slipped away he became a loser.  His resultant depression and alcohol abuse were conditions that contributed to the family's itinerant, struggling economic life.  In a compensatory way, he sought in money digging to literally regain his treasure, the loss of which he never accepted.  One of the hallmarks of depression is an inability to accept loss and separation from that which one has experienced as an object of affection.

A Psycho-historical Study of the First Mormon Family, The Smiths And Their Dreams And Visions
Sunstone 12:2/25 (Mar 88)
By C. Jess Groesbeck

(C. JESS GROESBECK is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah College of Medicine and also at the University of California, Davis, Sacramento.  He engages in the private practice of psychoanlysis and forensic psychiatry in Provo, Utah.  He and his wife, the former Sharon Wild, are the parents of five children.  He has held numerous LDS church callings and presently serves on his stake's high council.)


Another shadow of true happiness which I would like to mention today is more damaging in its effects than is the habit of tobacco. It is the habit of drinking liquor. Elder Joseph F. Merrill has already graphically described the bad effects of alcohol and so I will be very brief on this subject.

It is my honest opinion that the devil has never discovered or invented a tool outside of liquor which is more destructive to the human soul. He has no other tool which can bring human beings down into misery, poverty, and degradation, which can cause corruption, and which can cause people to commit all other kinds of sins more than by having them use liquor. People when they get drunk are not in their right minds. In other words, they are crazy. While under the influence of liquor, the moral controls of men and women are relaxed, and they commit many sins that they would not otherwise do, such as adultery and murder. I know, youth of the Church, that the devil puts it into the hearts of wicked men to give our lovely girls liquor and get them drunk in order that they might rob them of their virtue.

In referring to alcohol, Robert G. Ingersoll said:

It murders the soul; it is the sum of all villainy, the father of all crime, the mother of all abominations, the devil's best friend, and God's worst enemy. (Editorial, Church Section, Deseret News, September 27, 1947.)
Milton R. Hunter, Conference Report, October 1947, p.98

[ Side note: A friend of mine, (Al) pointed out that this quote from Ingersoll is a misquote by some other Christian minister who was then quoted countless times since. In this particular case a Mormon GA in general conference.  This was not really a quote from Ingersoll, whom by the way was not a believer in god, even though the person doing the quoting didn't know this and didn't bother to check.  Here is one Christian site that repeats the misquote. Here is some information on Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), an American lawyer and orator known as the "Great Agnostic." ]

In this state, Joseph, Sr., appears to have habitually and chronically abused alcohol, which must have had a shattering effect on the family.  Although the extent of Joseph, Sr.'s, drinking has been a matter of debate, Richard Bushman notes that:

The vicissitudes of life seem to have weighed heavily on Joseph, Sr.  In a patriarchal blessing given to Hyrum, Dec. 9, 1834, Joseph, Sr., commended Hyrum for the respect he paid his father despite difficulties: "Though he has been out of the way through wine, thou hast never forsaken him nor laughed him to scorn." [(]Hyrum Smith Papers, Church Archives.[)] Since there is no evidence of intemperance after the organization of the church, Joseph, Sr., likely referred to a time before 1826 when Hyrum married and left home.

[Bushman, Richard L., Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of a Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago:University of Illinois, 1984), p. 208]

Years later, in an 1884 interview Lorenzo Saunders referred to Joseph, Sr.'s, drinking, saying, "The old man [referring to Joseph Smith, Sr.] would always tell yarns.  He would go to a turkey shoot, get tight and then put spells on people's guns and tell them they would not be able to shoot."

[Interview with Lorenzo Saunders, 17 September 1884, by William H. Kelley.  Original notes in the archives of Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.]

In the same decade, in an interview in the Saints' Herald, William Kelley noted that Joseph, Sr., and Joseph Smith, Jr., sometimes drank together, most likely cider.

[Kelley, William H., "The Hill Cumorah . . . The Stories of Hurlbut, Howe, Tucker, etc. from Late Interviews," Saints Herald 28 (1 June 1881):167.]

Mormon historian Marvin Hill notes that Joseph, Sr.'s, drinking was seldom talked about and may be one of the reasons why he seems to be left in the shadows, historically. [Hill, Marvin, personal communication with Groesbeck] Certainly, Lucy Mack Smith did not want to bring out the family skeletons in her history.  It is noteworthy that when Joseph, Sr., was baptized, Joseph, Jr., cried deeply.  There was a great deal of pent-up emotion.  While this could be interpreted on the surface as just overwhelming joy at his father joining the Church, it could also reflect his great relief at seeing his father overcome the state he had been in, emotionally and spiritually.

A clinical interpretation of the data suggests Joseph, Sr., hoped to escape his economic woes and depression through money digging and alcohol - to always "to find a treasure." This view suggests a basis for Joseph, Sr.'s, conflicts with Lucy and later with the rest of the family.  It also contradicts the view articulated by Bushman and Anderson that the family was without stress."  [Bushman, p. 31]

A Psycho-historical Study of the First Mormon Family The Smiths And Their Dreams And Visions
Sunstone 12:2/25 (Mar 88)
By C. Jess Groesbeck

The recognition of the injurious effects of alcoholic drinks was not new in Joseph Smith's day. In almost every country, coincidentally with the record of the existence of alcohol, opposition to its use has been voiced. The Bible, from Noah to the later prophets, contains numerous references to the evil of drunkenness: "Do not drink wine nor strong drink." (Leviticus 10:9); "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1); "Wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps." (Deuteronomy 32:33); "Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess." (Ephesians 5:18).

J. Widtsoe & L. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, p.42

The Word of Wisdom Confirmed. Certain it is that the prohibition in the Word of Wisdom against the use of alcohol as a beverage is in full concord with the best knowledge of the day. The direct statement of the Word of Wisdom implying that alcohol is not good for man must be looked upon, in consideration of the knowledge of Joseph Smith's day, as an evidence of divine inspiration.

J. Widtsoe & L. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, p.61

Perhaps right here is one reason why we quibble about the meaning of the Word of Wisdom. When a taste is begotten, a habit is established, or when our appetites are concerned, almost every one of us is inclined to quibble just a little so that we may satisfy that appetite. The fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee and similar substances as injurious to the body and handicaps in the journey of life, is an evidence of the divine inspiration of the latter-day prophet, for the physiological value of these substances was not known in that early day. Only after the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith did the world of science establish the fact that these substances act injuriously upon the human organism.

John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, April 1926, p.110

Uncle Golden's struggles with the Word of Wisdom sometimes forced him into ironic circumstances.  On one occasion, he was asked to go to Cache Valley where the stake president had decided to call all the Melchizedek priesthood holders together for the purpose of emphasizing the importance of the Word of Wisdom.  Uncle Golden didn't realize this was going to be the theme until he got there.  As a matter of fact, he didn't know what he was to speak about until the stake president announced it in introducing Uncle Golden: "J. Golden Kimball will now speak to us on the subject of the Word of Wisdom." Uncle Golden didn't know what to say.  He stood at the pulpit for a long time waiting for some inspiration; he didn't want to be a hypocrite and he knew he had problems with this principle.  So finally he looked at the audience and said, "I'd like to know how many of you brethren have never had a puff on a cigarette in all your life.  Would you please stand?' Well, Uncle Golden related later that much to his amazement most of the brethren in that audience stood.  He looked at them for a long time and then said, 'Now, all of you that are standing, I want to know how many of you have never had a taste of whiskey in all your life.  If you have, sit down.' Again, to Uncle Golden's amazement, only a few of the brethren sat down.  The rest of them stood there proudly looking at him and then there was a long silence.  I guess Uncle Golden thought they looked a little too self-righteous, because his next comment was, "Well, brethren, you don't know what the hell you've missed."

J. Golden Nuggets, More Words Of Wisdom
By James N. Kimball
Sunstone 10:3/41 (Mar 85)

Now please keep in mind this wonderful revelation was given to us 125 years ago. At that time, medical science had not given any consideration to the use of tobacco and alcohol.  So, we can come to but one conclusion: Joseph Smith received a revelation of the Lord whereby we are to protect ourselves against these individuals who are anxious that young men and young women over the country shall use alcohol and tobacco.

Joseph L. Wirthlin, Conference Report, October 1958, p.31 - p.32

Uncle Golden's struggle with the Word of Wisdom was really not his alone.  Another member of the First Council of the Seventy, Brother B. H. Roberts, had problems with alcohol.  Perhaps that was one of the reasons they were such good friends.  They often traveled together.  Uncle Golden said that when they were back in the hotel room after a long day of preaching and teaching the gospel and meeting with the Saints, Brother Roberts would ask Uncle Golden to go get him something so that he might imbibe and relax and sleep better.  Uncle Golden was happy to do this.  But he mentions in his diaries that after several drinks Brother Roberts became very morose and depressed.  He told Uncle Golden how terrible he felt that he had this problem and how hypocritical he was to represent himself to the Saints as a leader while struggling with this temptation.  Uncle Golden would try to help him through the night.  On one occasion Golden went over and put his arm around him and said, "B. H., I want you to know something.  Even when you're drunk, you're a helluva lot better man than most of the Brethren are sober."

J. Golden Nuggets, More Words Of Wisdom
By James N. Kimball
Sunstone 10:3/41 (Mar 85)

Roberts's weakness for alcohol seems to have put another barrier between him and other members of the Council. In 1908 Seymour B. Young recorded that Roberts "has been many times much worse for liquor in so much that his brethren of the council have had to take up a labor with him."

1924 Became senior president of the First Council of Seventy. From 1922 to 1927 he served as president of the Eastern States Mission.

Historian:    Although he had no professional training in history, Roberts ranks among the most productive historians of [p.247] Mormonism. Appointed assistant Church historian in 1901, he was author of many historical works, including The Life of John Taylor, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, Succession in the Presidency, New Witnesses for God, Missouri Persecutions, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith—Prophet, Teacher, and the six-volume Comprehensive History of the Church. He also edited the History of the Church in seven volumes.

Van Wagoner and Walker, A Book of Mormons, p.246

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