Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “Scared Straight”: 1926 Mormon Edition

“Scared Straight”: 1926 Mormon Edition

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 07, 2008

From the Improvement Era:



  1. Great stuff, as usual! Are there any advertisements 10 years later for the film “Reefer Madness”? They’d fit right in next to this ad.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 7, 2008 @ 8:17 am

  2. Wow, I better kick the habit! LOL. During the 1970s the Church did a similar campaign. It began with a guy who looked like a missionary. In a series of photos that followed, the fellow took on more and more “bad habits.” One showed him with a cigarette in his mouth. The very last picture was a mug shot. The caption read “The Decision is Yours.” It’s interesting how that campaign was recycled.

    I also find it interesting that it states “The Law may be helpless…” Wouldn’t they be surprised to see the measures that have been taken to reduce tobacco use!

    Comment by Steve C. — August 7, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  3. Haven’t seen any, Mark, but I’ll sure watch! heh-heh!

    I think they’d be surprised and pleased, Steve, but concerned that it didn’t go far enough. There was a real movement after WWI for a Prohibition-style ban on tobacco, which is possibly the story behind the reference to “law” here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2008 @ 8:21 am

  4. This is awesome, Ardis.

    I’m so sorry I didn’t get to meet up with you last weekend- the time just got swallowed up so quickly.

    Comment by tracy m — August 7, 2008 @ 9:03 am

  5. Awesome find, Ardis.

    Comment by Christopher — August 7, 2008 @ 9:11 am

  6. Great find, Ardis. A much-less-extreme contemporary example comes from the June Ensign, where spiritual progress is visually represented by varying degrees of facial hair.

    Comment by David G. — August 7, 2008 @ 9:32 am

  7. The Ensign one is funny because he looks so much more distinguished with a beard.

    Many smokers I know hover between 2 and 3 on the top as they age, although 3 is usually accompanied by supplementary oxygen. :-)

    Comment by Researcher — August 7, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  8. “Awesome” is a good summary. Stereotypical, sure, but awesome nonetheless.

    Personal threadjack alert:

    Ardis, I’d like your take on my latest post. I had you and a few specific others in mind when I wrote it – and it’s very short.

    Sorry, everyone else. Back to our regularly scheduled commentary.

    Comment by Ray — August 7, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  9. I shouldn’t be surprised that the illustrator didn’t read the story for the June Ensign. The man in the story did shave his beard, but his outward appearance seems to have gone from unkempt and shabby to neat and clean. And there’s no hint at an intermediate step, somewhere between “longer beard” and no beard. None of the three views in the illustration show an unkempt person, and the beards are both neatly trimmed.

    They should have resurrected the artist from 1926.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 7, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  10. Ray,

    Can’t you provide a link for the rest of us?

    Comment by Mark B. — August 7, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  11. A much-less-extreme contemporary example comes from the June Ensign, where spiritual progress is visually represented by varying degrees of facial hair

    Oh, crud, I am in so much trouble. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — August 7, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  12. The link to Ray’s post is in Keepa’s sidebar, and also here.

    bfwebster, you’re gonna FRY!!

    My dad wore a beard, as does one brother; the other brother has worn one from time to time. I liked ’em all.

    I draw the line at the tragic doom of tobacco, though. According to this 1926 chart, cigarettes result in holes in the knees of one’s trousers, and apparently the need to walk on tip-toe.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  13. That’s classic. I’m disappointed that the artist apparently failed to sign the piece.

    Comment by Justin — August 7, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  14. Ironically, the post I meant was this one:

    Ideal Communication – but the one Ardis linked actually fits what I wrote every bit as well. (See, Ardis, you are a greater influence than you realize. You directly inspired the post I just linked, but you also subconsciously inspired the one you linked.) :)

    Comment by Ray — August 7, 2008 @ 10:41 am

  15. The Link to the June Ensign is helpful. It shows on one page a picture of BY with a ZZ Top style and on the next page a shot of clean shaven Bruce R. Hmm. Does that imply a sort of evolution too?

    Comment by JPaul — August 7, 2008 @ 10:43 am

  16. Guess I should check out the sidebar sometimes.

    But polygasploitation did leave me scratching my head.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 7, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  17. I, for one, was not too happy to see that the June Ensign used hair length and facial hair as a sign of worthiness. My husband wore a beard all the time he was in a bishopric. My youngest son is about the most spiritual person I know, but he loves long hair. It was a trial for him to keep his hair short while singing with the MOTab Choir. A favorite family story concerns his hair. He had not had a senior class picture taken, so when he got ready for his mission and needed a picture to send in with his mission papers, he decided to do double duty. He had long hair at the time. He put on a plum-colored silk shirt and floral tie and wore his hair down for his “senior class” photo. Then he changed into a white shirt, nondescript dark tie, put his glasses on, and pulled his hair back into a pony tail for his mission photo.

    Comment by Maurine — August 7, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  18. Ardis, the advertisement is great, but apparently it didn’t do much good. In 1944, three leaflets were printed by the church to be used for Sunday School classes or for 2-1/2 minute talks: “Nicotine on the Air,” “Alcohol Talks to Youth,” and “The Word of Wisdom in Practical Terms.” Copies of all three booklets are located in the Church Archives.

    Comment by Maurine — August 7, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  19. This reminds me of the thread a week or so back about deacon uniformity. I think Maurine has a great point (#17). I personally don’t wear facial hair or long hair. Nevertheless, I don’t think that is a true measure of one’s worthiness. Apparently to some it is. My brother recently told me that in their stake facial hair is taboo. He said that the temple president (I won’t disclose which temple) had met with the stake presidents in the temple district and told them that men with facial hair could not go to the temple. I certainly hope that this was only a rumor and that my brother’s information was wrong.

    Comment by Steve C. — August 7, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  20. The anti-tobacco movement, a drive separate from Word of Wisdom adherence and more like the promotion of Prohibition, was a longstanding one. For decades, there is a No-Tobacco column in the Improvement Era. This post I did at Times & Seasons about the 1941 “New Pioneers” campaign for clean living is another manifestation of the crusade. It’s easy to see all these efforts, and the booklets Maurine mentions, in today’s terms as “just” a series of lessons on the Word of Wisdom, but I do think there was a different quality about them. The efforts I’m describing as a campaign or crusade seldom mention the Word of Wisdom by name, or emphasize obedience to the gospel or any spiritual dimension — like this mini-poster, it’s all about health and character, in a message that would be as suitable for any gentile organization as it was for the MIA. Good times.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 7, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  21. #19 – Any temple president making that declaration is acting outside the scope of his authority. Any Stake President making that determination also is acting outside of his authority. I also hope the information is wrong.

    I have been asked to shave and wear a suit and tie in all my official duties as a function of my calling, and I don’t argue about it, but that is a very different thing than making it a blanket standard of worthiness for church or temple attendance.

    Comment by Ray — August 7, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  22. Ardis,

    Your blog is awesome.

    The anti-tobacco campaign of the 20’s-50’s had in my view a couple of opposing results

    1. Eventually it solidified rank and file support for the WOW. Its hard to believe but smoking/coffee/alchohol was pretty common amongst members prior to HJG enforcing the WOW for TR’s. There is a hilarious description in a book about HJG were on Sunday morning at S conf he preaches the WOW and at the SP’s house later that afternoon he is much to his surprise served coffee by the SP’s wife.

    2. It had a lot of casualties as far as activity rates are concerned for that time period. Esp amongst Men. It served as a major stumbling block for many formerly active or marginally active men in the rural corridor. FYI all of paternal ggrandfathers went inactive over the WOW during this period.

    Comment by bbell — August 7, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  23. Ditto with both of my paternal great grandfathers. They were both smokers. One picked it up in the Army, the other one in newspaper work. Eventually they both kicked the habit and were active members of the church.

    I know I don’t have a cousin named bbell, and probably none of my cousins would know this about their great grandfathers anyway, but how curious. I’m certain that neither of my maternal great grandfathers smoked.

    Comment by Researcher — August 7, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  24. I have a vague recollection that my maternal grandfather (who’s probably about the same vintage as Researcher’s great-grandfather) may have been a smoker for a while. (This hadn’t crossed my conscious mind for a long long time.) Robert L. Simpson, who was in the Inglewood (?) Stake seventies quorum, worked with my grandfather and helped move him back to activity in the church.

    And my paternal grandfather, who later was a bishop, a stake president and a patriarch, told us a story about the time some folks served him and my grandmother some drink that turned out to be alcoholic (dandelion wine, maybe?), and they drank enough that the room started getting fuzzy around the edges, so to speak. That was probably sometime early in their marriage, around 1915. He did say that was the last time he was ever in that condition (which leaves open the question how many previous times there had been!).

    I’m with Kirby–if we have to do pioneer reenactments, we should apply the same rules as applied back then. So the bottles of Captain Morgan and Jose Cuervo come along.

    Researcher’s comment also shows the evils of newspapering (ink-stained wretches all) and the Army (as my dad said once: “Being in the army sure as hell didn’t affect my language!”).

    Comment by Mark B. — August 7, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

  25. Researcher.

    All of my maternal ggrandfathers went inactive over the WOW as well. My family is from Ogden and Rexburg

    Comment by bbell — August 8, 2008 @ 8:48 am

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