We went to Mormon-land for Easter this year and we had a wonderful time (all while tip-toeing around the ever-present elephant in the room). I was sent down the road for frozen peas (I was just surprised it wasn’t Jello) and so I took my little girl along with me. It only took us five minutes to get back to the house. We walked in the door and my little one (who is nearly 2.5) said “We went store” to which Grandma (naturally) responded “What did you buy?” My daughter, in her airy and soft voice, replied, “Beer.” The town we were in is a very Mormon town and is dry, so beer was not even an option.
Perplexed and obviously thrown, Grandma offered to take my daughter outside to play. I stood at the door watching as she got into the little toy car in Grandma’s yard and started to “drive”. She stopped the car at Grandma’s feet, leaned her head right out the window and said, “Coffee, bagel please.” Awesome. By that point she might as well have said “Grandma, me a heathen. Please, save me.”
This of course led me to thinking about the Word of Wisdom.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Word of Wisdom is a health code followed by Mormons and is found in their Doctrine & Covenants (a book with revelations from God).
Basically the WofW prohibits the use of tobacco, wine and “strong drinks” and “hot drinks” and includes a list of foods that should be eaten and how much (“wholesome herbs and every fruit in the season therof”, meat, sparingly and only in times of winter and famine, and the benefits of grains, including “mild drinks” made of barley) and of course, the spiritual rewards that will come with adherence to the Word.
Adherence to this piece of doctrine has become central to its current membership. In order to enter the temple (which, if you are Mormon is all you ever really want to do apparently) you must be compliant with the WofW and it has evolved to become a point of great pride within the church.
What is not discussed in the church is the obvious discretion between what was originally written and what has become doctrine. Umm…meat, sparingly? Have you ever been to a Mormon picnic? The only things more present than meat are jello and mayonnaise! This part of the WofW is basically ignored and like all great religions, the membership doesn’t seem to notice or care.
The other part that is weird (and there are many) is the prohibition on “hot drinks”. Mormons are great lovers of hot chocolate. They also drink cider, and more recently, are starting to drink herbal tea. While caffeine itself is never mentioned in the WofW, some Mormons have interpreted the doctrine as such and the Brigham Young University campus still only serves caffeine-free Coke. Other Mormons don’t worry about caffeine at all. Some Mormons drink herbal teas (which is really getting close to the line) while others wouldn’t dare.
The prohibition on drinking alcohol is even more confusing, while more universally followed. Mormons will tell you they don’t drink alcohol – period. (I’m not sure where they stand on using vanilla in their baking but I’m sure some where in Utah is a store selling de-alcoholized vanilla extract) What they won’t tell you is that the original text of the WofW was quite open to people drinking beer and likely mead or something similar. The prohibition is on “strong drinks” while mild drinks made of barley were permitted. Ummm, how many mild drinks made of barley are you aware of? In fact, even the apostle Brigham Young Jr. ascertained that beer was okay, unfortunately for millions of Mormons, that was later reversed by the church.
The Word of Wisdom, in my opinion is a shining example of what can happen when millions of people don’t think for themselves. Content to rely on church leaders and willfully ignorant of their changing opinions, most Mormons aren’t even aware that a discrepancy exists. They don’t read the original text in any kind of critical way because they are discouraged from doing so. They don’t stop and ask themselves why some of them drink caffeine while others don’t, or wonder why Jesus would drink so much wine and then ban it down the road. (Oh wait – the church actually teaches people that Jesus drank grape juice, not wine. I’m sure all those people in Cana were excited about the newly produced vats of grape juice. Sigh.) They seem to fail to see the problem with eating giant steaks, all summer long.
The ability of the human mind to perform logic-defying stunts of mental gymnastics is truly astounding.