Friday, June 8, 2018

I can't... it's against my religion...

Yesterday morning, Bill and I were chatting before he headed off to work.  I told him that I got into an online discussion about the Word of Wisdom.  A person had shared this meme on Facebook and it prompted discussion.  I'm pretty sure this meme was posted in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling that a baker can't be forced to make wedding cakes for gay couples.  A lot of people are very upset about the ruling and feel it opens up a slippery slope toward legalized discrimination.

Naturally, a person who knew about Mormonism had to come along and take exception to what was posted about the LDS example...

Coke was never officially prohibited by the LDS church, so the person who said it would have been better if the meme had mentioned alcohol instead of Coke was correct.  However, a person claiming to be an ex Mormon then said that Coke was prohibited because of the caffeine.  Sorry, exMo, but you're wrong.  The actual prohibition in the Word of Wisdom was either "hot" or "strong" drinks.  When the Word of Wisdom was created, there were no cola drinks.  So technically, the prohibited drinks are coffee, tea (black), and alcohol.  

I have heard that many Mormons will drink herbal teas.  I have also heard that many Mormons don't drink caffeinated soft drinks.  For many years, caffeinated sodas were not sold at Brigham Young University.  However, it was supposedly not because caffeine was specifically prohibited, but because the beverages wouldn't sell enough to make stocking them a good business decision.  In fact, if Mormons had a real issue with caffeine, they would ban chocolate, because chocolate contains caffeine.

The ban is against "hot drinks", but most Mormons also don't drink iced tea or iced coffee.  But they will drink hot chocolate or broth.  So go figure that one.

Bill and I were discussing all of the rules that active Mormons must follow.  The subject turned to that of temple garments, which "endowed" church members wear under their clothes.  Mormons are certainly not the only religious people who require believers to wear certain articles of clothing.  Some Jews and Muslims also adhere to certain dress standards.  However, Mormons are the only religious people I know of who dictate what kind of underwear members are supposed to wear.

I have never worn temple garments myself, but I can tell you that the prospect of wearing them under my clothes during the summer in Virginia would make me think twice about my beliefs.  Bill has worn garments and he says they are very hot and uncomfortable, especially in certain climates.  I also like drinking whatever the hell I want to drink.  

Although my dad was initially concerned that Bill would convert me to Mormonism, he needn't have worried.  There is no way I'd ever allow a religion to dictate something as personal as what kind of underwear I wear or what I will eat or drink.  Other people feel differently about that, though, and they're fine with a religious leader telling them how to dress and what to eat or drink.  To be clear, I don't have an issue with that.  Whatever floats your boat.

However, there is one thing I have noticed among the faithful.  A lot of people seem to take great pride in following these strict rules.  It's as if following the rules makes them better people.  

I used to know a devout Mormon woman who often accused me of being "confused" about Mormonism.  She said I didn't understand the sacred covenants behind the church's teachings, because if I did, I would not have anything negative to say about them.  I noticed that she was very proud of the fact that she avoided things like alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco and willingly wore her garments, even when it was uncomfortable, inconvenient, or unpleasant to do so.  

I think it's fine for people to follow those rules if it makes them feel better about themselves.  However, in my view, life is tough enough as it is.  I don't need to wear special garments or avoid certain substances to make me a better person.  I'm not particularly religious, but the faith I was raised in taught that Jesus Christ has already paid the price of salvation.  Maybe my church got it wrong, but then, maybe other churches also got it wrong.  I don't know... and I don't necessarily care.

Strangely enough, Mormons often preach about the importance of "free agency".  Basically, that means that people have choices and they will be held accountable for their choices.  However, it seems to me that having a long list of rules to follow makes it harder to exercise free agency.  And then there's this promise that following the rules could mean getting to a higher echelon of Heaven.  But what if the Mormons got it wrong and Heaven isn't divided into three sections?  What if Heaven doesn't even exist?

Anyway... what a person chooses to eat or drink or wear is of no concern to me, as long as that person doesn't try to force his or her beliefs on other people or turn their beliefs into laws.  Personally, I think sometimes trying to avoid the appearance of evil is less character building than indulgence is.  Allowing an organization to tell you to wear certain underwear or avoid certain beverages may be harmless or even beneficial in some ways.  However, it also deprives a person the opportunity to make those choices for themselves.

It may be healthy for many people to avoid alcohol, coffee, and tea.  On the other hand, enjoying those substances in moderation can be very enriching.  Most adults will do just fine in deciding for themselves what they should or shouldn't drink or wear.  They don't need to be given rules to follow.

Incidentally, this topic comes up on RfM, too... only there, someone has posted about people who avoid R rated movies, even if the content is important.  They allow a church leader to tell them they can't watch Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan because those movies, excellent as they are, have been rated R.  The leadership has said not to watch R rated movies, so some Mormons won't.  It doesn't matter how excellent the film is or the reason why it's been rated R.  So much for free agency. 

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