Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Mormondom’s Perfect Food

Mormondom’s Perfect Food

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 10, 2009

Health food. Brain food. Energy food. Muscle food. Nerve food. Regenerative food. The food of warriors. Miracle food, insufficient doses of which caused death among children. “There’s nothing better for all members of every family.”

Or so you’d think, taking at face value these World War I era advertisements.


















  1. Ah, NOW we know why sugar is the Mormon vice…

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — February 10, 2009 @ 6:32 am

  2. Chocolate is my drug of choice. 🙂 Somehow, I think there was more to the death rates of children in Berlin at war’s end than just a lack of sugar. After four years of being blockaded by the Allied powers, I think there was a lot of other nutritional food items they were lacking.

    I don’t know much about the Church’s sugar industry in the early 20th century except the Church tried to promote it for years.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 10, 2009 @ 7:27 am

  3. I’m going to print out this page, make copies, and give them to kids in the ward on the sly. I’ll be their buddies 4ever and their mothers will think I’m a degenerate, which might be true anyway. But hey, if it’s in a church magazine, it must be true, right?

    This is a good find, Ardis. I think it would be hard for us to overestimate how much weight the endorsement of the president of the church carries. Imagine what would happen today if Thomas S. Monson started endorsing product brands.

    Comment by Mark Brown — February 10, 2009 @ 7:28 am

  4. Ah, how times have changed. Somehow, riding in the back of the SUV, sitting in front of the TV or video game and napping in between to conserve energy just don’t require as many calories as life in the olden days, when the little nippers played all day long at games that required a lot of vitality and taxed their strength to the limit.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 10, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  5. Oh, and I forgot to add: I think I’ll run up the street and get a doughnut.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 10, 2009 @ 7:50 am

  6. This is great! I have always “appreciated the food value of sugar”. It is at my suggestion they reverse the food pyramid!

    Comment by IntheDoghouse — February 10, 2009 @ 8:22 am

  7. I once saw an add that claimed smoking would kill the germs that caused to common cold (can’t find it now). So, what is being advertized today as “good” for you that really is “bad” for you?

    Comment by BruceCrow — February 10, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  8. About sugar and Mormons… I’m happy that we have the tradition of Fast Sunday, because that means that there is one week in the month that my children don’t leave church with their pockets and little fists stuffed with candy.

    Yeah… I’m the Grinch. (But unfortunately not enough of one to confiscate the high-calorie junk and put it in the trashcan where it belongs. If you’re going to spend calories on candy, it should be good-quality candy.)

    Here’s a history of the sugar industry in Utah by no less than the amazing Leonard Arrington.

    Comment by Researcher — February 10, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  9. Now that’s the way, Sister Grinch, to turn this silly post into something worth reading — thanks for the link. And I think BruceCrow’s smoking ad must be right: I’ve never smoked, and I do get colds.

    Thanks for the laughs, all.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — February 10, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  10. OK, I know I’m going to sound like a naive fool to some, but I was more repulsed by the fact that the corporation was using the name of the Church to promote its product, than by the silly health claims. This is the worst sort of religious infomercial. Blech. I feel dirty. (Yes, I know that Utah-Idaho Sugar Co. was a going concern of the Church itself.)

    Anyhow, speaking of other health claims, my paternal grandmother tells me that back when she was a young single lady, one health fad that she and her friends followed (temporarily) was the drinking (yes, drinking) of vegetable oil. The idea was that if you drank a lot of fat, it would actually slough off excess body fat. She chuckles now and says that she didn’t do it more than a couple of times.

    Still, she’ll turn 91 in July, so maybe there’s something to this “sugar and fat diet”?

    Comment by Hunter — February 10, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  11. Researcher: Thanks for the link and background on the sugar industry in Utah. If I remember correctly (and I could be wrong) didn’t HJGrant encourage Reed Smoot to push through the Smoot-Hawley tariff to protect Utah’s sugar industry? Seems I’ve come across that somewhere. Like I mentioned above, I don’t know too much about it.

    BTW: Our fast Sunday tradition is to buy a big bag of chocolate, put it in the freezer and dive into it after church and we’ve broken our fast. Now that’s a fast Sunday!

    Comment by Steve C. — February 10, 2009 @ 10:08 am

  12. “It will keep them healthy and strong.”

    This is, after all, what we pray that all our food might do.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — February 10, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  13. I believe the the phrase is “nourish and strengthen” 🙂

    Comment by BruceCrow — February 10, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  14. Maybe these ads and the resulting sales prompted the huge increase in Mormon dentists over the 20th century.

    Comment by kevinf — February 10, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  15. “… and do us the good we need.”

    Hunter, I would very much agree with you if this were a current ad — there would be something very distasteful about a current church leader hawking one brand of anything, in competition with other brands, especially in what seems to us to be a tawdry world of doing whatever it takes to sell. In the context of 1916-17, though, it feels very different to me. For one thing, there was no hard sell about anything advertised in the church magazines of that era (at least, not until the Beneficial ads of a few years later) — it was more like a manufacturer offering something, not insisting that you take it whether you want it or not. There also seems to be a sense of pride in offering home-grown products, kind of like “hey, we can do this as well as anybody anywhere — we’ve arrived!” Or so it feels to me.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — February 10, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  16. Ardis,

    I see this as a remnant of some of the thinking that went along with the cooperative movement and home manufacture era of the 19th century, and there is certainly a sense of “home town pride” in these ads.

    I spent a lot of my summers in the 60’s thinning sugar beets on my uncle’s farm in Idaho, and I know U&I Sugar was still a major factor in the sugar business then. Did they ultimately get bought out by ADM or some other huge agribusiness conglomerate? Nonetheless, I am glad I never have to stand there looking at a long row of beets with a hoe in hand, and the hot sun overhead. Cured me of any desire to be a farmer.

    Comment by kevinf — February 10, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  17. Worrying in 2009 about overeating in 1917 reminds me of reading about a group of polar explorers, who would eat a half-stick of butter a day to meet their bodies’ needs for nourishment.

    As with certain other things, don’t try this at home.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 10, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  18. “it builds up the worn-down tissue and nerves more rapidly than do other foods.” WHAT? Who wrote this? Dr. Sponge Bob? Do not let my kids see this post. They are finally buying into my mantra that “sugar is the enemy”.

    Comment by Beth Reeve — February 10, 2009 @ 11:45 am

  19. How funny that you posted this today. I seriously was researching sugar on the internet yesterday, because someone told me it is addicting and I wanted to know if it really was. I sure seem to be addicted. Even though I don’t eat chocolate anymore, I find ways to get lots of sugar.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — February 10, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  20. Ardis,
    This is an inspiring post. Noting that these “revelations” on sugar appear over the name of a LDS authority, I imbibe the content of these adds with sweet anticipation. I now have patriarchal authority with which to combat an evil movement afoot in my home that attempts to paint sugar as the enemy and in so doing call good evil and evil good.

    Sweet blessed day. Thank you Ardis!

    Comment by Paul Reeve — February 10, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  21. And here I was worried that the worst I could be held accountable for was a surge in donut sales.

    The loss of domestic tranquility à la maison Reeve is something I never bargained for!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 10, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  22. Ardis,
    It is not just a sugar conspiracy that you’ve laid bare, but an underhanded attack on Sponge Bob as well (see #18). I’m distributing copies of this revelation to the Reeve “six pack.” Wait until they learn the true regenerative power of sugar from “great food experts.” To think that we’ve been missing out on one of the best “body fuels” available and have been reduced to reading cereal labels for sugar content below 10g/serving before it is allowed in the home. Masses unite!

    Comment by Paul Reeve — February 10, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  23. Paul,

    Not only the best “body fuel”, but also a “concentrated nutriment”. Concentrated Nutriment! Who knew?

    Comment by kevinf — February 10, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  24. Sure, a spoonful of sugar is just that: a spoonful of sugar. With all the carbonated water and artificial flavoring and coloring and caffeine, how much Coke you would have to drink in order to get the same amount of pure sugar?

    I do remember trying to follow this rule of nutrition as a missionary. We’d come home at 9:30 p.m., hungry as bears in March, and go right to the bread bag. Two slices toasted, buttered, with a layer of sugar, and we were ready for a feast. If only we’d known how much Joseph F. Smith would have approved, we’d have eaten even more.

    This also reminds me of a song Allen Sherman sang back in the good old days, “The Drinking Man’s Diet.”

    One verses went:

    For breakfast some cornflakes and vodka,
    But cornflakes have carbohydrate;
    So I don’t eat those fattening cornflakes,
    I eat the vodka straight.

    So, skip the water, the veggies, the meat, etc. Just eat the sugar straight.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 10, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  25. So Paul,

    Do you lock yourself in the bathroom for privacy to sneak your sugar the way I know that some women do with chocolate? I don’t do that, but I do have one desk drawer right next to my computer filled with Hershey Kisses (and some nuts). My kids all know what is in the drawer and start snarfing my chocolate whenever they come home to use my computer.

    Comment by Maurine — February 10, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  26. Wow. I need a cookie.

    Comment by Matt W's wife — February 10, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

  27. Yes. You do. “There’s nothing better for all members of every family.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 10, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  28. I spent a lot of my summers in the 60’s thinning sugar beets on my uncle’s farm in Idaho, and I know U&I Sugar was still a major factor in the sugar business then. Did they ultimately get bought out by ADM or some other huge agribusiness conglomerate?

    I checked M. Godrey’s 2001 dissertation on Utah-Idaho for information. Citing a 1999 letter written by a former U-I president, he notes that U-I decided to leave the sugar business in 1979 for financial reasons. U-I then moved its headquarters to Kennewick, WA, where it concentrated on potato processing. During the mid-80s, he writes, the LDS Church sold U-I, and it became known as AgraWest (“Breaking a monopoly: Progressive reform, the federal government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907-1921,” 272n.6).

    Comment by Justin — February 11, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  29. Maurine, #25
    Yes, I’m a sugar addict. Because of my wife’s “sugar is the enemy” mantra, I’m forced into hiding. I have to sneak my fixes away from the prying eyes of the kids. These adds, however, embolden me.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — February 11, 2009 @ 11:04 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI