Maybe God really does work in mysterious ways—just like the Bible says. After 85 years of suffering through the high calorie and low alcohol content of grocery store brews, Utah has joined the ranks of America's more reasonable folks by allowing beer that's 5% alcohol by volume (4% alcohol by weight) to be sold in grocery stores and convenience marts. The change, which became official on Nov. 1, is not just about beer; its significance is, in fact, the passage of a new milestone in healthy tolerance. It's also a very visible sign The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Legislature finally took that giant leap, sacking the highly cautious laws that had filled the void left by the repeal of Prohibition. The nationally imposed Prohibition law endured from 1920 to 1933, but not everyone was happy about the passage of the liberating 21st Amendment that repealed the failed social experiment. (Consider the real cause of the Great Depression. Thinking for a moment outside the box, it might not have been the financial crash, but, actually, the absence of easily acquired legal alcohol.) For most of the nation, Prohibition had been an unhappy time, though we can never assume that Utahns actually went without. Hundreds of illegal stills were found and destroyed by state law enforcement, much to the disappointment of the imbibing population, and a horde of local bootleggers were prosecuted, fined and imprisoned.
Disappointed and determined Utahns, have, more than once, tried to bring Prohibition back, drafting state-wide temperance laws that would have made the state forever dry. Even today, unincorporated parts of Utah County do a sort-of Prohibition commemoration/celebration each week, making it illegal for the "unwashed" to buy beer there on "the Lord's day." It is entirely possible that one, single reason kept Utah's post-Prohibition, dry-state initiatives from enactment: Arguably, it was the concern of legislators that such a move would alienate non-Mormons and intensify the already-tenuous rift between the "gentiles" and the faithful, wherein a majority had historically dictated the personal practices of the minority.
While the local LDS population is probably cringing at the latest relaxation of Utah's liquor laws, thousands of its residents are rejoicing. The beer drinkers (who definitely qualify as a legally-designated minority group) can now cheer up and give each other high-fives. Miracles, they're assured, really do happen. Even Brigham Young, though reportedly "never given to the consumption of liquor," was a faithful beer connoisseur, considering it a "mild" drink, and exempting it from the Doctrine and Covenants injunction against "strong" beverages. He too must be elated—as he peers from under his First Avenue tombstone—to see such progress as part of his extended legacy.
Sadly, the news is not all good. While God has shown a bounteous generosity to Utah beer drinkers, he wasn't nearly as accommodating to the Minnesotans, who, at least for now, are stuck with the 3.2-dinosaur-poop-laws they've lived with since Prohibition's last days. People there are crying out, "Why, Lord, Why?" lamenting that they are forgotten by their Maker, and taking great pains to examine their lives, hoping to discover what they did to offend him. Some suspect their condemnation is due to the incessant lies about the size of their mosquitoes, or the silly claim that the state's 90,000 miles of shoreline exceed that of California, Hawaii and Florida together! (Oh, dear, Wikipedia just called; that claim wasn't a lie after all. I stand corrected.) Other Minnesotans have silently asked themselves if the heavenly disfavor is related to long, boring winters and excessive self-abuse. Anyway, Minnesotans can't figure out why they have slipped so far from grace, marginalized by an apparently prejudiced deity who simply likes Utahns better. (If you're from there, please accept my apology.)
Obviously, God was smiling on Utah when he allowed the latest change in its liquor laws, though his reasons are a tightly-held secret. Petitioned for an answer, even by the faithful, he has refused to disclose his reasons, presumably in order to maintain an enduring cloak of mystery. I can only suspect that his beneficence can be attributed to at least a few Utahns being named to his board of directors. (Of course, those who hold shares in the "company" can easily look up that information in the annual report, so, if you're really that curious, find someone with the telltale "garment lines," and just ask.)
I suppose, considering that an irritated God might decide to rescind this blessing, it's probably best to just maintain a prudent silence, simply leaving well enough alone. One thing is certain: Christmas will be a bit merrier this year for Utahns, while Minnesotans will be crying in their watered-down beer. Remember, when the sugar-plum fairies are adrift on the cold night air, to enjoy your new 5% beer. And make sure you set out a cold one for Santa, too.
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org