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Kirby: Mormon debate over caffeine puts me on edge

Published September 7, 2012 10:44 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Years ago while preparations were under way for a party at an LDS ward in Utah County (of course), someone sneaked into the kitchen and made off with part of the refreshments.

The items turned up in the bishop's office. Apparently while passing through the kitchen area, the culprit had spotted several bottles of root beer on the counter and "confiscated" them.

I don't know. In the name of righteousness, I guess.

It wasn't just any root beer. It was Barq's, a little-known caffeinated gateway beverage for more hard-core cola products. And Barq's just wasn't going to be allowed in our ward.

Response to this ecclesiastical intervention was mixed. Half the ward seemed grateful that the bishop was so observant regarding the Word of Wisdom. The rest, including me, found it impossible to get past "Are you #$%&@ serious?"

Few subjects among Mormons are as debated as the commandment regarding caff-. Wait. There isn't a commandment about caffeine. But you wouldn't know that from listening to some of us talk about it. We sound like the Taliban discussing bacon.

Right now would be a good time to point out how easy it is to perceive anal religious behavior in others while remaining completely oblivious to it in ourselves. One of the first things to leave town when dogmatism comes calling is reason

A lot of Mormon things seem to end up as "commandments" even though they're really no such things. I'm not exactly sure where this screw-turning behavior comes from. I suspect it stems far more from personality than prophecy.

There's a long list of things that have been parlayed from general suggestion to inviolable law: Every Young Man on a Mission. Facial hair. White shirts. No dating until 16. No tattoos. No flossing on Fast Sunday (in case you swallow something).

OK, I made that last one up. A little. I probably don't take these things as seriously as some think I should.

R-rated movies is a good example. After caffeine, you won't find a more rabidly discussed bit of Mormonism than the "counsel" to regard the Hollywood rating system as if it fell from the lips of God.

Personally, I never gave R ratings much thought. It's probably because I was a cop. Stressing over gore on a movie screen seemed rather pointless given that I sometimes wore it home.

I'm perfectly willing to let other people tweak the rules their way — up to the point that it negatively affects me and mine.

For example, my 12-year-old daughter coming home from a Young Women event in tears because a couple of leaders pulled her aside and informed her that sleeveless blouses are "immodest."

Really? Shoulders? There used to be a "commandment" about ankles and calves as well. Raise your hand, everyone who thinks that one should still be on the books.

I get the idea behind church counsel. A little bit of direction never hurt any — well, OK, it has.

Some people are so faithful that they're willing to tear a relationship apart over a tattoo, a diet Coke or a bare shoulder.

Hey, if it's possible to not live the gospel as well as you should, why isn't it equally possible to live it so dogmatically that you part company not only with reason but with loved ones?

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.






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