Agencies of moral reform mark the third hesitant step taken by the churches. This step was hesitant because Methodists, United Brethren, and Evangelicals believed their task was one of changing individuals who in turn would change society. Only gradually did they recognize that changed individuals needed organized support if they were to overcome society's evils.
The first of these evils to receive concerted attention was beverage alcohol. According to Mark Twain, the initial spiritual force in a new settlement was "never the newspaper, never the Sabbath-school, never the missionary--but always whiskey.'' Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical preachers knew the truth of Twain's quip. They visited families awash in whiskey. They knew how hard it was to help the Spirit break into souls soaked in spirits. So temperance talks were delivered and temperance societies organized, beginning with one in the New England Methodist Conference in 1833. The United Brethren Discipline of 1814 stated, "Every member shall abstain from strong drink, and use it only on necessity as medicine." Using, making, and selling spirituous liquors was forbidden by the Evangelical Discipline of 1839.
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