January 29, 2018

How Could the Book of Mormon Mention Wine?

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Scripture Central

Some readers, assuming that grapes were unknown in pre-Columbian America, have wondered why the Book of Mormon mentions “wine” (Mosiah 11:15; 22:10; Alma 55:9; 3 Nephi 18:1; Moroni 6:6) and “liquors” (Alma 55:32).1 However, “there is ample evidence of the wide distribution both in North and South America of native undistilled alcoholic liquors, or beers and wines.”2 American species of grapes were grown in various regions of the Americas, including New Mexico, the West Indies, the Atlantic Gulf Coast, and the Yucatan. The Opata of northern Mexico, for example, reportedly made red wine from local grapes. Archaeologists have also identified seeds of grapes (vitis vinifera) in Chiapas, Mexico, dating to the Late Pre-Classic Period and these may have been used to make wine. 

The term wine, however, need not refer specifically to beverages of grapes. “There is no reason why the term `wine’ should not be retained to include the many varieties of liquor made by savage and semi-civilized races from the sap of trees. The latex of vegetable stems is sufficiently homologous with the juice of fruits, as that of the grape, to be classified with it in a genus [of beverages] distinct from fermented grains.”3 In addition to using grapes, Mesoamericans made a variety of fermented beverages from other fruits and plants, including, bananas, pineapple, agave, cactus fruit, palm sap, and tree bark with honey. The Spanish referred to the beverages made from these fruits as “wine” when they arrived in the New World.

  • 1. John A. Price, “The Book of Mormon vs Anthropological Prehistory,” The Indian Historian 7 (Summer, 1974): 35–40.
  • 2. Weston La Barre, “Native American Beers,” American Anthropologist 40, no. 2 (1938): 224.
  • 3. A. E. Crawley, “Drinks, drinking,” in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), 73.

Further Reading

John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient Americas: Visualizing the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 42–45, 53.

Book of Mormon Central, “Why Does the Book of Mormon Mention Wine, Vineyards, and Wine-Presses? (Mosiah 11:15),” KnoWhy 88 (April 28, 2016).

John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2013), 307–308.

Kirk Magleby, “King Noah’s Wine,” Book of Mormon Resources, November 12, 2011.

Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Wine and Grapes,” FairMormon Answers, online at fairmormon.org.

For more on various Pre-Columbian wines and other liquors, see Sonia Corcuera, “Beverages,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, ed. David Carrasco (Oxford University Press, 2001), 1:85–88; and Peter T. Furst, Alcohol in Ancient Mexico (Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2000).

Peter T. Furst, “Intoxicants and Intoxication,” in Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia, ed. Susan Toby Evan and David L. Webster (New York, NY: Garland Publishing, 2001), 371–375.

Tim Unwin, Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade (New York City, NY: Routledge, 1996), 215–217.

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