Drink a coffee, save your Mormon soul

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Coffee and CigaretteA guest post by Mette Harrison

At lunch recently, a dear Catholic friend of mine talked to me about the practice of abstaining from meat at Lent and on other occasions. He said that a priest reminded people that if they were busy judging others for not having the same self-will or piety they had themselves, then they should “Eat a Cheeseburger and Save Your Soul.”

I thought it was such a wonderful idea, I immediately wanted to apply it to Mormonism.

How often do we as Mormons think that our commitment to the Word of Wisdom makes us superior to others? How often do we hear parents telling children that x person or y person is making “a very bad choice” or “will be sorry” when they take a drink or smoke a cigarette?

It is one thing to vow not to drink alcohol, coffee or tea for ourselves; it is something else again to figure out how to deal with others who are making a different choice.

When I was in high school (I still have difficulty believing this happened at the ripe old age of 14), my sister and brother-in-law gave me a test. They offered me a list of sins and asked me to put them in order of gravity. Among the sins were smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking coffee, fornicating, and murder. I put drinking coffee, drinking alcohol, and smoking at the top of the list and put murder and fornicating at the bottom.

Looking back, I can see why I did this. Obviously, my impression came from the number of lessons I had heard on each of these topics. I am sure that my young women’s leaders thought that murder was pretty far down on the list of likely sins, so they didn’t spend much time on it. (I’m not sure why they thought fornicating was so unlikely. I suspect this was because they talked about sexual sins in such veiled language I actually had no idea what they meant — a problem I still think needs to be dealt with in the church today.)

But I understood clearly how bad it was to drink coffee or tea. I would NEVER do that because it would cause me to be cast out of the church and it would make my parents ashamed of me.

Of course, I’m not saying that we should encourage teens to drink alcohol or tell them it doesn’t matter if they do it or not. I sometimes wish we talked about the problem more in terms of physical addiction than in terms of spiritual sin, however.

I wish that we thought about people who did not have the wise counsel of parents and prophets as being worthy of our compassion and love. I think parents are often so afraid that their children will be tempted by bad habits that they keep them far away from anyone who may have different life experiences. In Utah, I see this fairly often, when parents encourage their children not to make close friendships with non-Mormons. Yet this strips everyone of the chance to learn and to live deeply.

What if every time we chose not to drink coffee in the morning, we spent some time feeling love for those around us who make different choices? What if when we declined a drink alcohol at a night-time business event, we chose not to feel superior, but to ask questions of others about their religious beliefs? What if we took the opportunity each time we see someone smoking to say a prayer for peace and love in the world?

I don’t think I’m aiming at pitying people who don’t follow the Word of Wisdom, but every part of our worship of God should ideally make us better able to serve as His hands, and be more loving.

Shouldn’t it?

If we’re so busy defensively explaining why the caffeine in coffee is actually different than the caffeine in the hot cocoa we’re enjoying, are we losing a chance to have a real spiritual experience? If so, then maybe we should drink a coffee, and save our soul?

 

Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison is a novelist whose whodunit The Bishop’s Wife has earned rave reviews since it was released late last year. She has a PhD from Princeton University and is a nationally ranked triathlete.

She is a monthly guest here at Flunking Sainthood (for some of her previous posts, see “My Daughter Isn’t a Mormon Anymore” or  “Possible Long-Term Consequences of Mormon Modesty“).
  • Interesting. I have never felt superior to anyone because I chose to abstain from alcohol et al., and they chose to imbibe, or smoke, or whatever. My father was a smoker and ofttimes drinker. My mother smoked and drank. My best friend smoked and did drugs before she joined the Church. So what?

    It has always been my position that if everyone’s sins, including my own, smelled like cigarettes, and because of that we never came to church, the pews would be empty. The truth is, we all sin. Its just that some sins smell, and some don’t. The greater sin is to those who feel superior, but I don’t think it is as widespread as the assumptions in this article suggest. Outside the Utah bubble, members of the Church are pretty much normal when it comes to things like judging others of their sins- they really don’t do it that much, no more than the author has judged all Mormons of being judgmental. And most likely it is not all that bad in Utah, just the snooty parts.

  • Ah, yes, my greatest sin is indeed being judgmental. Which is why I wrote this essay mostly for myself.

  • I once heard a story (probably apocryphal, but a really good story!) about a judgmental woman in sacrament meeting who began pointedly sniffing the air and scrunching her nose up when a smoker came to sit behind her. Finally the smoker behind her leaned forward and whispered, “So what do YOUR sins smell like?” Your comment reminded me of that story, Kelly.

    It’s great that you don’t judge people for what they drink or don’t drink, Kelly, but I know plenty of Mormons who do make that judgment and seem to have no idea how it sounds to other people. Even our fixation with the “health benefits” of omitting whatever we’ve given up can come across as a “See! We Mormons must be right about everything, because science is now proving we were right about nicotine/tannic acid/caffeine/whatever.” (We also conveniently ignore all counterfactual evidence about the health benefits of moderate wine drinking, etc.)

  • Debbie Snowcroft

    Jana wrote: “How often do we as Mormons think that our commitment to the Word of Wisdom makes us superior to others?”

    This isn’t just (or even mostly) a personal problem; it’s an institutional one. Mormonism is almost unique in judging members as “worthy” or “not worthy,” and (from a practical perspective) nothing in Mormonism defines “worthiness” more than having a current temple recommend. It’s natural that Mormons will judge others by the same yard stick with which they are judged by the Church.

    Have a cup of coffee = not worthy to hold a temple recommend.

    Vote for a politician who starts a war based on lies = “political issue,” and full temple privileges.

    Few things have damaged the moral/ethical compass of Mormons more than the church’s official standard of “worthiness” and it’s over-reaching emphasis on things that have little/nothing to do with a person’s goodness.

  • Maddy

    I think many LDS members are guilty of the sin of pride, whether it is based on observance of the WoW, fufilling callings and duties, monetary contributions, “one and only true church” claims etc. One of the most common ones is claiming the LDS Church and its members are the most charitable in the world, despite having little factual basis on which to make that claim.

    I am grateful for the WoW prohibition against alcohol, as it helped some family members avoid becoming alcoholics. However, I don’t see spiritual or temporal benefits from continued prohibitions against drinking tea and coffee. There is some scientific evidence coffee drinkers are at lower risk for developing Parkinson’s and other diseases. (Alzheimers?)

  • Eric Facer

    Jana,

    Several years ago, a speaker at General Conference (I can’t remember who) said that he was pleased whenever he could detect the smell of tobacco in church—it meant that someone who was struggling with one of the commandments was still trying. I kind of like that attitude. On both sides.

  • Fred M

    Unlike Kelly, I myself have been guilty of judging WoW breakers both in and outside the church, and have witnessed widespread judging everywhere I’ve been. But I’m encouraged that he feels that way.

    I wish there wasn’t such an inordinate emphasis placed on the WoW–I’ve lived it all my life, but at this point in my life I’d definitely place it below almost every other sin I can think of. The very fact that God allowed his children to consume alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco for literally thousands of years without it being a sin indicates to me that its level of importance can’t be that great. I’ve also realized that my friends who drink a glass of wine every night are likely living a healthier lifestyle than I am. But that’s not why I live the WoW.

    I’d love to see the day when seeing a member of the church drinking coffee doesn’t elicit gasps and whispers from the “more righteous” members who are okay with “lesser” sins like withholding money from the poor…

  • SanAntonioRob

    Maddy,

    I grew up in the Church, and despite many talks and articles about the need for charity (both Christ-like love and being generous), I never heard a Mormon claim we are the most charitable. Ever.

    But since you threw in that claim of questionable origin… A simple Google search brings up an article on CNN Money that shows Utah is the most charitable state. There are admittedly 3 potential issues with my mentioning the CNN article:

    1) Utah does not equal Mormons – true, but in this case it would be just plain silly to dismiss the connection.
    2) Mormon tithing, to many people, is not *really* charity – there is no point in arguing this. The 2 sides will never agree.
    3) As a Mormon posting the CNN article, am I proving Maddy’s point about Mormons feeling superiority over others? – No. I actually did the search to see if I could find a Mormon making a claim we are the most charitable. The CNN article happened to come up. No reason not to post it.

  • Memba

    What has always confused me most on the issue of why we LDS tend to rate Word of Wisdom so high on the “sinometer”, is the fact that it hasn’t even been a binding rule on the church for 100 years. It is pretty hard to call this some kind of eternal law considering the fact that it didn’t become a commandment or requirement for temple entry until 1921. It certainly can’t be considered a doctrine. It is a policy–and not one restored from the primitive church, as far as we know. There are a lot of other sinful things one could do out there that do violate doctrinal teachings.

    I think one of the biggest problems with this issue in Utah is that our non-LDS neighbors deeply resent LDS interference with alcohol laws. Based on many conversations over the years, this is the #1 irritant about the church with Utah non-LDS.

  • SanAntonioRob

    I have always obeyed the WoW, but I don’t see it as being a permanent fixture in the Church – or at least not a requirements for baptism or temple attendance. Jesus’ first miracle was making wine (no, it wasn’t just grape juice). He instituted the sacrament using wine (no, it wasn’t just grape juice). When Romney ate coffee ice cream, the Church released a statement clarifying that doing so was not against the WoW. So we can drink hot cocoa (a hot drink with caffeine), we can eat coffee ice cream (made with coffee beans), we can drink Coke, but we can’t drink HOT coffee or caffeinated teas. This simply makes no sense.

    I think the WoW was either entirely Joseph’s idea to placate Emma, or maybe his best guess at interpreting a divine impression. What I don’t believe is that God kept Joseph as a Prophet despite repeated lies to Emma, the Church, and the world about polygamy and his own sexual conduct, but God really wants to bar a coffee drinker from baptism.

  • Charles Embleton

    Well said.

  • Charles Embleton

    like

  • DJ

    So this just makes me a little curious of what the author stops to think about when they think of other things that are considered sins by divine revelation. So when we see a smoker we stop and pray for peace in the world, what do we do when we hear about a rapist on the news. She talked about the ranking of sins according to seriousness. Do we change our prayer each time the sin we detect increases in level of severity? Isn’t this practice of noticing the sin of another training ourselves to judge others by taking notice of the sins of others. I 100% agree that judgement of others is not ours to take. I also agree that the idea that the judgment of the Utah LDS community as a whole by the author, based on the few members she knows (keeping in mind total population ) is just as judgmental. Perhaps I need to say a prayer for peace on earth each time I see a post online that stereotypes every Utah Mormon as this or that. Let us not forget, all judgment aside God’s divine law is God’s…

  • W

    “I know plenty of Mormons who do make that judgment”

    When we say “that judgment,” though, are we talking about the judgment that:

    (a) those who live the mainstream understanding of the WoW are morally superior to those who don’t

    or

    (b) the benefits of practicing the WoW are real enough that those who don’t are missing out on something of value and possibly hurting themselves

    If we’re making the former judgment, our Catholic friend’s cheeseburger-perspective recommendation seems to be great advice. If we’re making the second judgment, is it really a similar problem?

    Metta’s experience seems to be that collectively we tend to read as making judgment (a). Perhaps Kelly is sharing his PoV because he’s not sure that’s the case. I’m no stranger to the human tendency towards (a), but I think if we polled a good statistical sample of active Mormons with the two readings I outlined, I’d honestly expect most would identify with (b).

    It sounds like you’d…

  • Joshua

    Jana – I love your articles because I feel that they provide a different perspective or insight that helps me to be a more rounded person. I can’t always agree but I love the conversation and follow you.
    However, I feel this article was a waste of time. I’m tired of the droll that most Mormons are high and mighty and judgmental. If only they would just drink coffee.
    I say this might be true of like 3% of the local ward. So, if there is 15 plus million members, this article might be true of like 450,000 and they all probably live in Utah because dont really see this much else.
    It would be interesting with most of pop. reside outside of the USA, orboutside of Utah, with most of them probably the minority religion or converts, If this is really a church epidemic or just a small fraction. I would just rather hear you discuss stuff in the church like will they do away with private weddings, or how to feel good about being a Mormon when everyone is linking you with the 3%.

  • Joshua

    I would just rather talk about the global church as a whole and not the factions of the group. I just don’t see my self as a member of a white, American, Protestant church anymore.

  • Memba

    Go to dinner or lunch in a restaurant in the afternoon or some “off” time with someone who wants a drink and enjoy the conversation that follows. I entertain out of town guests for business at meals regularly, and I am so tired of trying to explain rules and laws I don’t understand. What an awesome way to introduce the church. And the non-LDS locals with me and the guests just roll their eyes and talk about weird Mormon laws. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. I personally experience it at least a couple of times a year.

    I suspect most Utah LDS rarely if ever go out w a friend or business guest who drinks. I am pretty certain church leaders don’t do it here at home.

    So be tired of hearing about this issue. But don’t consider yourself too knowledgeable until you experience it first hand several times. See how you dig it.

  • Maddy

    SanAntonioRob,
    Well, you are fortunate, because i’ve heard it countless times. And no, I don’t consider tithing as “charity” which goes to build churches, temples, church education–including BYU etc. And yes, we are very busy carrying out our various church assignments. What I’ve observed over the many years I’ve been LDS is other denominations doing great work in the communities such as providing shelters for the homeless, running soup kitchens etc. Additionally, unless churches report donation dollars collected and how that money was spent who knows where the LDS church “stacks up?”

  • JeffP

    As a businessman, and a parent living in the LDS belt, the issue in my experience is iced-tea.

    I don’t remember ever getting the impression that LDS colleagues or friends are judging us for drinking iced-tea. I sometimes will order water rather than ice-tea when on a business lunch with people I know are LDS , not wanting for lunch to be an occasion for resentment or judgmentalism on either of our parts (I confess that I have probably been more judgemental over this, in reverse, because of my kids).
    However, the kids are different, and my kids have a few times reported soda-pop drinking LDS friends being snarky at them for buying Snapple (juice mixed w/ Ice-tea).

  • This is very well said. Everyone should know that the Word of Wisdom is a temple recommend requirement, but not a commandment from God. The Church has gone total Pharisees on this issue. Really, it just tells us all things in moderation. It doesn’t forbid us from anything. When we act like we are better than those that smoke or drink we forget that the majority of LDS Mormons have a sugar addiction. Technically, that makes no one temple worthy. We are the ONLY Mormon Church that focuses on the WoW like we do. And it doesn’t even save our souls.

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  • Fred M

    Here’s a hypothetical. Two of the temple recommend interview questions are “Do you obey the Word of Wisdom?” and “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?”

    Brother A goes for a TR interview. Confesses that he tries to be honest, but every month is dishonest about four times (telling lies to get out of attending things, helping out with things, doing things with certain people). He always repents, but still is occasionally dishonest.

    Brother B goes for a TR interview. Confesses that he tries to obey the WoW, but every month ends up drinking about four cups of coffee. He always repents, but still occasionally has a coffee.

    I know it’s up to the local leaders, but generally who would get a recommend? Brother A only? Brother B only? Both? Neither? I feel like the prevailing attitude would be Brother A only, but I’m not sure that’s the way it should be. Dishonesty is worse than coffee drinking, in my opinion. Thoughts?

  • Bob

    Seriously? Stop sniping at perceptions of your Mormon culture. What of our humanity to one another? We can accomplish much more working together than arguing about theology or cultural differences. I was born Catholic but have been exposed to many different cultures and religions. All I am acquainted with, teach values that can, if adapted by adherents, bring the human family together, improve the quality of life and the condition of the world. Many of these humanitarian values we also share with those who do not have any particular faith. As a result, we find good, honorable and moral people in societies across the globe. To paraphrase Mormon Apostle L Tom Perry, we want Catholics to be better Catholics, Methodists to be better Methodists, Mormons to be better Mormons, etc., so that the world can see the positive difference faith in God can make.

  • Matthew

    An old friend is a TBM type Mormon but she smokes and has tried to quite dozens of times, sometimes for a few months and then starts again but attends sacrament meeting weekly. She once spoke to her bishop about it and he said, Betsy, if all our sins smelled as bad as your cigarettes this building would stink so bad we couldn’t enter it.

  • Matthew

    And I have read somewhere that Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses refers to bishops who drink alcohol and even looked into planting vineyards in southern Utah and that some early Mormons used wine as the sacrament in the 19th century before it was replaced with water. It was not always as strict as it is now.

  • RobertL

    While I was at Ricks College, a professor who knew students were cheating on quizzes noted that these students would not break the word of wisdom, but would cheat on quizzes. He then asked “which is worse?”

    While I believe the word of wisdom is important, there are certainly worse sins than breaking it.

  • memba

    The prohibition amendment took effect in 1920 in the U.S. The policy requiring Word of Wisdom compliance to get in the temple started in 1921. It was not repealed, although prohibition was repealed in 1933.

    Word of Wisdom seems to be key in how we want to “brand” ourselves. Hence the over emphasis on what is a relatively minor policy (I don’t know how, doctrinally, you could support calling it a “commandment”).

  • Bob

    So much misunderstanding and so many misconceptions from Jesus Christ to Thomas Monson.

  • If you drink coffee you’ll be cast out of the church and others will be ashamed of you, but you encouage others to drink coffee and save their soul. That about summerizes the shifting doctrines of Mormonism. http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

  • sven

    Apparently I’m constantly judging murderers because I think murder is “a very bad choice” and they “will be sorry”… perhaps I should take up your advice… “and save my soul”.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Dishonesty is MUCH worse than coffee drinking. If a member confesses to dishonest conduct in a temple recommend interview, I would expect the priesthood leader to inquire into the nature of the dishonesty … and refuse the recommend until restitution or other remedial actions have been undertaken over and above mere sorrow for the misdeeds. (I understand the interview question to concern the kind of dishonesty that causes loss or harm because a victim has relied on the dishonest behavior in the belief that it was sincere.) And if dishonesty is habitual I would think that it could even lead to church discipline.

    The problem with Word of Wisdom issues is that they are almost by definitions matters of habit rather than isolated instances. And while church discipline would not be appropriate (in contrast to a pattern of dishonest practice) habitual disobedience does and should be relevant to temple worthiness. Hope that helps to answer your question.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Boy you just have to have SOMETHING abusive to say, don’t you? It doesn’t have to make sense (like here) or have any relation to accuracy (it doesn’t here) as long as you get to abuse those darn Mormons. You DO have Mormons in your family, right? How do they feel about your behavior?

  • trytoseeitmyway

    My perspective is that of a convert, who joined relatively later in life. I used to enjoy wine and cocktails … and I miss them to this day! I used to drink coffee heavily, although I don’t think that I miss that particularly. But it is possible to think that the Mormons are too focused on beverages.

    But it is also possible to think, you know, discipleship is intended to be a discipline. If I only “give up” the things I don’t want to do, that doesn’t say much about my ability to subject my wishes and preferences to the Lord. Whereas if I give up something I actually liked, then maybe I have learned something about the difference between “the natural man” and someone who has been born again as a disciple of Christ.

    But if Utahans don’t like Utah alcohol laws, ask them how they feel about DUI fatalities. Ever lost a loved one to a drunk driver?

  • Interesting discussion. One “alternative” (actually very sensible) that I do not see reflected in the article or comment section is to lead an evidence-based life. Leaving theology aside, this would suggest that the cup of coffee in your illustration is nearly harmless, but the cigarette is something to avoid. Alcohol in moderation (a glass of wine per day, for example) is shown again and again by research to be harmless…maybe because of self-selection. (People who are dangerously out of control, in general, probably won’t stop at a glass of wine per day.) Marijuana, well, I don’t need to tell you about the evidence, because you’ve probably read it, even if you don’t believe it is possible. Dancing? Good exercise. Yoga? Same. Living an evidence-based life is very different from living an religious-authority-based life, but some of us like it. A lot.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Well, SURE you do. And if anyone ever questions anything you do, you just say, hey, it’s “evidence based.”

    Dude, every alcoholic that ever was told himself or herself that he or she was drinking “in moderation,” long after an evidence-based assessment would find that to be true. And a lot of people who think of themselves as leading an “evidence based” life will blow over, say, .08 BAC when they get stopped.

    But what you’re not getting – and no surprise here – is that some people accept the discipline of external accountability, even for behaviors you think are harmless in themselves, as a way of subordinating their own desires to transcendent purposes or ideals. Which doesn’t mean that we pass any judgment on you for not wanting to do that … at least not until you start preening yourself in public over how cool and evidence-based you are, compared to us religious fools. Because some of us think that’s obnoxious. A lot.

  • cwandrews

    The commandments are infinitely and eternally connected. Only when we someday obey them to perfection will we understand what it is to exist as deity. In the meantime, we struggle to get it right. Satan has a most powerful tool in coercing us to comparison in weighing our adherence to gospel principles versus our neighbor (religion notwithstanding).

    Whether from a viewpoint of excess pride or inordinate shame, comparison is damaging and corrosive. Given the external nature of the Word of Wisdom, naturally we flock to it when comparing gets the best of us. In other words, the problem doesn’t lie in the Word of Wisdom per se, but the external and observable nature of its adherence (or lack thereof).

    If people with pornography issues all wore a big patch with a ‘P’ on it, or those struggling with same sex attraction had a similar external identifier, guaranteed that would be the new go-to for comparison of worthiness.

  • Susan

    Learn about Christ, you need to learn who the Pharisees really were, because they were not what you think they were. Their depiction in the New Testament is completely distorted and inaccurate. They were deeply religious men. They were trying to sanctify everyday life.

  • Bob

    I think my born, lived and recently died Catholic father put it best. Whenever asked if he wanted a drink (alcoholic) he would respond, “No thank you, I’m in training”. When they asked what sport he played, he would say, “It’s not for sport, I’m going to heaven and they don’t drink there.”

  • Joel

    Good point about rendering “worthy” v. “not worthy” judgments based on the temple-recommend issues.

    Add our presumption that unworthiness causes withdrawal of the spirit, and you can see why learning of Joseph’s particular style of polygamy can cause jarring cognitive dissonance. Put simply, Joseph may appear to have engaged in conduct that would render any of us “unworthy” and, therefore, ineligible for companionship of the Holy Ghost.

    Because of our conditioning about worthiness, the apologist’s refrain that we shouldn’t expect our leaders to be “perfect” rings hollow. The disturbed member may be thinking, “I don’t expect anyone to be perfect; but I reasonably assume that a true prophet would abstain from the type or degree of sin that would render me ‘unworthy’ for a recommend, and even cause excommunication.”

    Judgment is dangerous to testimony, as well. If one judge’s the Church (leaders) as we’re used to the Church judging us, it could prompt…

  • Matthew,tell your friend to seek deliverance from Our Saviour from this unhealthy,oppressive,flesh-dominate habit/addiction,and trust and believe that He can and will free her.I myself once smoked,and when my desire to be delivered from nicotine met Almighty God’s power to deliver me,I got on my knees a smoker and got up a non-smoker just.like.that.,not 10 minutes later,and I NEVER SMOKED AGAIN.That was 3 days before Thanksgiving,1984,over 30 years ago.No withdrawal,no lingering cravings…NOTHING.As long ago that was,I’m STILL amazed and in awe at Our Father’s amazing power and His willingness to wield it in behalf of His Children.I will pray for your friend as well,and while I wouldn’t dare presume that Almighty God will work as quickly in her behalf as He did in mine,I have NO DOUBT that He can and will free her from nicotine if she trusts and believes that He will! At any rate,God bless you,and always remember—God is good,ALL the time and then some!!—PEACE IN CHRIST,…

  • SanAntonioRob

    Your comparing Russ’s philosophy to an alcoholic is about as fair and accurate as someone comparing your “subordinating their own desires to transcendent purposes or ideals” to drinking cool-aid in a mass suicide.

    Mormonism is an evidence-based religion (or at least it should be):

    “By their fruits ye shall know them”
    “Experiment upon the word”
    “Ye shall know whether they be of God, or whether I speak of myself”

    Christ and the scriptures tell us repeatedly to read/experiment/study and see the evidence. I don’t remember a scripture that says “Even if you experimented and it still seems backwards, still keep doing it.” In short, good Mormons should be living an evidence-based system, not dismissing it.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Gee, brother Rob, this is a bit harsh. Russ is correct as far as he goes in saying that there is a lot of research on the health benefits of just a small amount of wine each day. But I understand the Word of Wisdom (as interpreted since the time of Prohibition) to rule out any use of alcohol at all. So what do you say to someone (like me) who says, before I was baptized, I would drink wine or a cocktail infrequently but never had a problem.

    My answer – I’ll be curious about yours – is that my own experience or sense that I can tolerate limited quantities on less than a daily basis isn’t the issue. The issue is, am I prepared to be obedient to a rule that is intended to be protective across the board. Discipleship should lead me to accept a discipline regardless of whether I’ve concluded on the basis of evidence that I don’t personally need to follow that rule to be healthy.

  • Amy Allen

    Every person who has ever existed needs the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. We all have different reasons and sins for why this is true. However I am pretty over all of the Mormon bashing from within our own ranks. Not one of us is perfect. I have been a member my whole life, I have gone to church on the east coast, west coast, midwest and Utah. And frankly, Mormons being judgmental of non members word of wisdom choices has never stuck out to me as our biggest problem. I would say that one of the biggest problems is trying so hard to assimilate into the “real” world that we forget our own standards and eventuality stop living them. Every person on this earth can be judgmental. We ALL need to be doing better. But when articles like this are written it is just like fodder for those who already hate us. As soon as we as Mormons stop helping our neighbor, stop raising good kids and the jails are clogged with Mormons, THEN we have a problem. And no, I will never drink your coffee.

  • Joel

    I think it’s about loyalty. Seriously.

    in my experience, it’s rare that Mormons look down on non-Mormons because they drink coffee.

    We do tend to judge other Mormons, however, for coffee. I wonder if the WoW is a cultural marker — like circumcision. So, drinking coffee strikes us as a small betrayal of the covenant community. And it seems like an act of deliberate distancing particularly because abstaining from coffee doesn’t require overcoming a major temptation. In other words, there are so many other ways to get your caffeine that drinking coffee sends a message that you’re too cool for the rest of us.

  • Abusive, or factual? Mormonism’s shifting doctrine: First blacks aren’t allowed in the priesthood, then they are. First polygamy is practiced, then it’s outlawed. First only a complete apostasy from Christianity will establish Mormonism, now Mormons want to be considered Christian. First there are Quakers living on the moon, now there aren’t. First if you drink coffee you’ll be kicked out of the church, now you drink coffee to save your soul.

    Shifting doctrine.

  • SanAntonioRob

    My comparison was harsh. But that was exactly my point. You are not a cool-aid drinking cult member committing mass suicide; and Russ is not an alochoholic giving lame justifications for continued drinking.

    Most people both make evidence-based decisions and give deference to authority (except those in the state pen), depending on the circumstances. In your example, I would encourage the member to follow the WoW, even if he is doing so out of deference.

    But in general, I would hope every member feels their default is doing things based on the evidence of good it does, with the occasional deference to authority required when we disagree. I do not believe the default is deference, and expecting evidence is prideful. The latter is what your previous comment to Russ appeared to advocate.

  • Thought provoking. We do get caught up in minutia when it comes to sins, and being judgmental is often a sin unto itself. Caffeinated products have become the drawing line between temple recommends or not, for good or for bad. Chocolate has trace amounts, which I guess is considerably less than a Coke or Dr. Pepper, which will still not stop us from passing a temple interview. But caffeinated tea and coffee will. It can seem arbitrary.
    Overeating and overindulging in fats and sugars are also serious offenses against the LDS Word of Wisdom, as is overdoing meats.
    I guess if I had known you when you were 14 I would have been pretty judgmental of your judgments. Murder and fornication get us disfellowshipped and excommunicated. Tobacco and coffee? Well, I guess we can teach our next generation of teens and youngsters better. I have a few and I would be shocked and disappointed if they answered similarly. But I shall see …

  • Downtown Dave: You are missing a lot of points. Doctrines and policies are different. Jesus taught first to the Jew, then Peter took it to the Gentile. Some LDS policies have adapted similarly, and I know it is not as simple as that but true doctrine does not change. Policies do, and we believe the Lord Himself approves of those shifts as you attributed them to doctrine and I differ in opinion. But hence is the trick in acknowledging and accepting such changes and shifts. God bless us all in knowing for yourself, myself, what is right. I recognize it is not easy. But worth it.

  • downtown dave

    These are not policies. Brigham young said that when blacks were allowed into the priesthood it would be the end of Mormonism. It was taught that those who did not practice and condone polygamy would be damned. It is also good to look up Mormon quotes on Christianity. These issues can’t be passed off as policies.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    I notice you didn’t answer the question about LDS members of your own family, or how they feel about your behavior. Why is that?

    My point about your original comment was that it made no sense. It still doesn’t. I appreciate that you simply offer that comment as a way to pivot over to something else. This is called trolling.

    I would engage with the other things you then write, but that is what is known as “feeding the troll,” and it is considered unwise.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    You didn’t answer my question but oh well.

  • SanAntonioRob

    You asked what I would say. I answered what I would say. You gave your philosophy on obedience vs. evidence, I gave you mine. What exactly did I not answer?

  • Bob

    I believe the LDS faith is lead by living prophets who interpret the scriptures and speak the word of God for our day. “Scientific” evidence and conclusions vary greatly…I’ll stick with the WOW and the words of our prophets.