What's Religion Without A Few Rules

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 | 11:31 am

My ridiculously-gorgeous wife spent the week in Salt Lake City, a city she both loved and hated at the same time. She describes the place as insanely beautiful, yet strangely claustrophobic. I haven't been there, but it sounds like a great plot for a Twilight Zone story.

Anyhow, she came across this story from another lady working there for the week. This colleague brought a morning fill of Starbucks into the center begging everyoe to help themsleves. She learnt to her chagrin that there were no takers. "We're not permitted to drink coffee" explained the patient Mormon staff. Ix nay on da caffeine-ay. Fair enough. This lady was surprised later that day to note one of the staffers partaking in a Coke. She couldn't help but enquire "you know Coke has caffeine, right?". "Oh, I know" replied the staffer, "But the Mormon church has shares in Coke, so it's acceptable to drink." This from the mouth of a Mormon? Seemed odd. A little web-research revealed the following more factual data:

The great debunking reference site, Snopes notes that the Mormon church owning Coke/Pepsi is a noted urban legend, and in fact the church-goers are only advised by the church leaders to avoid caffeinated beverages. Indeed, Spencer W. Kimball noted in his book of teachings that he avoids all "cola drinks", and would hope other god-fearing (such a grea term!) Mormons do too.

But, it should be noted that coffee and tea, as with alcohol and tobacco are included in official church doctrine as no-no's. Further delving shows that it is actually "the hot drinks" that were specifically verbotten by Our Lord. Apparently a bloke called Joseph Smith, regarded as a Prophet, is responsible for making this leap. In 1833, he and Hyrum Smith and a gent called Joel Johnson -- "with whose family the Prophet was intimate" (grounds for divorce, surely) had the Prophet reveal that: "I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said 'hot drinks' in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. Tea and coffee (the hot beverages of the day) are what the Lord meant when he said 'hot drinks.' "

This is all related to, primarily, a basic interpretation of "your body is a temple" in The Doctrine And Covenants, Section 89. The Holy Ghost dwells in you, and he'd appreciate it if you don't mess up his flat. Mind you, the same section also tells you what you can feed your ox, and you can only have fruits in season (surely confounded by the use of hothouses and growth hormones).

The section then finishes up with some rousing words of common sense, which are meant to show you how you will be rewarded for following these doctrines. In summary, you shall "receive health in [your] navel and marrow to [your] bones". You'll find "wisdom and great treasures of knowledge", and you'll "run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint." All good things.

But being a Christian religious document, they couldn't leave it at just appealing to common sense. They had to throw in some fear at the end: If you follow the dietary rules, then "the destroying angel shall pass by [you], as the children of Israel, and not slay [you]." Bonus. Pass the grain please.

Congrats to the Mormons though for such a helpful prophet! While us Catholics have had nothing but Jesus/Mary's face appearing on random household objects, they have a bloke who pops up to define grey areas in scripture like some benevolent lawyer (an oxymoron?). Kind of takes all the fun out of it though. For example, where would the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition or Venezualan President Hugo Chavez be if "thou shall not kill" was not able to be loosely interpreted by Christian leaders of the day as "except if we say God asked you to."

So the question now is when can we expect the next prophetorial ammendment? For example, is hot chocolate forbidden? Are iced tea and coffee ok (must it be decaf)? What if my soda has been sitting in the sun? What about green tea (surely limiting Mormon uptake in China)? Sports drinks must be questionable, and I am sure Red Bull is right out.

You draw a black line through a grey area, and you just end up with two grey areas.


At 6/9/05 6:44 am, Blogger Shocho said...

If you read dooce.com, you find out some more things about Mormonism. She has categories for her posts, and you can select just "Mormonism" from that and glean her insights. Did Anna mention temple garments?

At 6/9/05 3:08 pm, Blogger Brad said...

Utah is easily one of the prettiest places on earth. If I was a "prophet" wandering some followers around the country I would of stopped there and said it was the holy land as well.

I've spent a good amount of time in Salt Lake City and Provo Utah is dead on in the description of "insanely beautiful, yet strangely claustrophobic." Juice Machines instead of pop machines was the one that threw me off.

I ordered coffe at a breakfast place there once and the waitress just looked at me strangly and said, "I, uh, guess we could brew up a pot." I was befuddled until my traveling compainions reminded me that we were in the holy land.

At 6/9/05 4:04 pm, Blogger thisismarcus said...

The South Park guys don't have much patience with Mormons. One becomes a porn star in Orgazmo and their musical episode about the origins of the Mormon church had the refrain "dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb" in the background throughout.

BTW nice Flickr photos. Could you pass my e-mail on to Jen in London please? I'll be back there in no time. Thanks!


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