Thursday, August 30, 2012

Verily and it came to pass that it was verlily as clear as mud passing

So the fallout from Romney’s ordering Coffee ice cream continues. The church decided to officially publish a clarification to its WoW policy. Last night (29 August 2012) the church officially published in its “getting it right column” this statement:

Finally, another small correction: Despite what was reported, the Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines, known in our scriptures as “the Word of Wisdom” (Doctrine and Covenants 89), prohibits alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee. The restriction does not go beyond this.

The WoW has been an issue for longer than the church has existed in Utah, and finally there was a clarification on caffeine; according to the Church: “the Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine”.

There are obviously still some questions about the frozen coffee in Mitt’s Ice Cream, but there is a level of clarification in this statement that almost makes it appear as if the Church has become responsive to the needs of those who would understand it. Indeed the article in which the clarification occurs is in response to an NBC Rock Center hour long special on Mormonism.

I wonder if the true believers of Mormonism are a bit irritated that their Church makes clarifications for a hour-long TV network show that they would not make for several generations of actual Mormons.

I also wondered what CBS felt about it. Several years earlier CBS had the Mormon Church’s actual prophet of god on 60 minutes. Mike Wallace went through a list of prohibited items as Gordon Hinckley smiled and voiced his approval. One of the prohibited items was Caffeinated soda.

Is the new Church statement a result of a new revelation from god? Having a living prophet allows a church to get those things. On an issue that the church itself has elevated to such importance revelation would be an appropriate method of clarification.

Sometime today (30 August 2012) the church rethought their earlier statement, and then edited it to read:

Finally, another small correction: Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibits [sic] alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.

Now the clarification is that D&C 89 does not mention caffeine. Readers of my blog know that it also states that the entire WoW is just a recommendation and specifically not a commandment. The clarification quickly becomes worthless as the Church backs away from any segment that could be construed as clarifying anything.

And what is with the scare quotes surrounding “hot drinks”. Does that mean that iced coffee is good or bad? Is the iced coffee in Mitt’s ice cream a violation of the WoW or not?

One thing that is totally bizarre is how some apologists spin this non-clarification as evidence that the Church is relying on the members’ free agency to decide the details. Free agency is another rather vaporous concept the Mormons use to explain things. In this case free agency obviously means the opinion of whoever happens to be your bishop at the time that you have to re-up your temple recommend.

Maybe in this case the free agent is a secret agent hired by someone gunning for your job. They see you eating coffee ice cream, and turn you in to the bishop. Maybe they used to be bishop and know a thing or two about the current bishop’s son. I could spin a whole slew of somewhat reasonable hypotheticals.

The Mormons do provide a check to the bishop interview process. It is structured as an appeal to the next higher level of organization. Wards are organized into stakes. Each stake has a stake president who is also called from the lay population of its members. Only members with enough stature can be assured of reasonable or favorably slanted process in the processing of their membership. One way of attaining high status is to donate considerable amounts of money. Mitt Romney donates enough to the church to eat all the coffee ice cream he wants.

Of course the vast majority of members probably never run into the disciplinary process for the church. Very few would need to as long as the few that did were found guilty and only allowed to remain if silent. Questioning the Mormon Church is a hubris punishable by excommunication.

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