Word of Wisdom/Brigham Young and tobacco/Growing tobacco in Utah
Brigham Young instructed members of the Church to grow tobacco in Utah
Brigham Young instructed members of the Church to grow tobacco in Utah.
- Did Brigham violate the Word of Wisdom by doing this?
- Why did he ask them to grow tobacco?
Since Brigham realized that a considerable sum ($60-80,000 in 1861 dollars) was being spent annually on tobacco (at least a small part of which was used for medicinal purposes in the 19th century) he preferred that these funds remain within the territory to foster further economic growth and self-sufficiency, rather than disappearing into eastern markets.
The Word of Wisdom was enforced differently in the 19th century than today. It was not the strict test of fellowships that it is for the modern member.
Leonard Arrington (later Church Historian) described how difficulties with the U.S. federal government, and the Saints' relative isolation, led them to adopt a program of economic self-sufficiency. Simply put, Brigham and other leaders wanted to conserve the Saints' cash, and preferred to make or grow anything which they consumed locally:
The self-sufficiency program which followed the Utah War and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 led Mormon leaders to greatly expand the southern colonies. In October 1861, 309 families were called to go south immediately to settle in what would now be called "Utah's Dixie". They represented a variety of occupations and were instructed to go in an organized group and "cheerfully contribute their efforts to supply the Territory with cotton, sugar, grapes, tobacco, figs, almonds, olive oil and such other useful articles as the Lord has given us, the places for garden spots in the south to produce." Brigham Young specifically desired them to produce the territorial supply of tobacco -- so as to eliminate "paying to outsiders from sixty to eighty thousand dollars annually for that one article -- and also wine: for the Holy Sacrament, for medicine, and for sale to "outsiders."
The Word of Wisdom was not enforced as rigorously, or with the same requirements, in Brigham Young's day. Many speakers emphasized the Lord's patience in this matter, as applied to both leaders and members.
- Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom : an economic history of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900, reprint, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005 ), 216.