For the first 100 years after the revelation, there was a great debate in the Mormon world about whether the revelation was a hard ban or simply an endorsement of moderation and clean living. (Smith himself writes of sipping wine in his journals.) During this time, bishops were known to take kegs of beer out hunting, high church leaders chomped on cigars and faithful members sipped morning coffee, Bushman said. That ended in the 1930s, when the hard-liners won the debate and abstinence became requisite for church membership. (The suitability of imbibing caffeine in non-hot drinks, however, long remained a sticking point.)
The historical uncertainty about the ban doesn't do Crapo much good. "It does not absolve Crapo of his transgressions because nowadays Mormons would be shocked," Bushman said.
A spokesman for the Mormon church declined to comment on the Crapo incident.
In a nod to Mormon supporters, Crapo said Friday morning: "I will carry through on the appropriate measures for repentance." That means Crapo will meet with his local bishop and work to attain forgiveness. The church can refer members to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but increasingly its own social services wing treats substance abuse with a more scriptural approach. For a time Crapo will probably be asked to refrain from taking the sacrament at church, and his Temple Recommend, a physical card that faithful Mormons must present to gain admission to the sacred temples, will probably be temporarily revoked. It is unlikely that Crapo will have to appear before a church court, which is reserved for more serious transgressions such as adultery.
The attention on Crapo's arrest, in itself, validates the church's success "at trademarking clean living as part of what it means to be Mormon," said Patrick Mason, a professor of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. "It speaks to the fact that people in America don't know much about Mormons, but they do know a couple of things, and one is that Mormons don't drink."