news roundup – Mitt’s coffee; more openish books; weird birthday bashes

I’ve been out of town hiking in the Rockies without internet access and now that I’m back and going through my backlog of news, a bunch of interesting stories have grabbed my attention.

First, there’s news that Mitt Romney is fine with coffee-flavored ice cream. I’ve seen lengthy debates over caffeinated sodas, hot chocolate, and herbal tea as to whether or not they run afoul of the Word of Wisdom, but I’ve never seen a discussion of coffee-flavored ice cream. It’s technically not a hot drink, and the word of wisdom says nothing about caffeine or ice cream. I think coffee-flavored ice cream is in. Thoughts?

Just how orthodox is Mitt?

Second, apparently if enough news sources raise questions about Mormon finances and keep reiterating how miserly the religion is when it comes to charitable work, LDS Inc. feels an inclination to respond and kind of, sort of, open the black box just a little bit. The powers that be put together a flowery, effluent, paean to Mormon charitable work on Anyone care to dissect what’s included?

Third, in a seeming contradiction to their humble efforts to shower the world with Mormon charity, just a week earlier LDS Inc. held a mega birthday bash for the top dog, Thomas Monson. I don’t get this. Really, I don’t. Mormons don’t worship their prophet (so they say, over and over again, and so says their doctrine). But then they throw this mega-bash with tens of thousands of onlookers, gobs of musical numbers, a variety of video clip dedications, etc. Perhaps this didn’t cost that much, but it no doubt cost thousands of dollars, probably tens of thousands, when you consider the security involved, the time spent filming and rehearsing, etc. What gives? If Monson is the humble voice of the Lord, why does he need a mega birthday bash? I’m asking that in all sincerity. This wasn’t common when I was a member. I don’t recall EBT birthday bashes. Was I just not on the guest list and therefore oblivious?

The humble servant of the Lord’s Chosen at his birthday bash observed by tens of thousands.


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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19 Responses

  1. Seth R. says:

    You realize coffee flavored ice cream doesn’t have real coffee in it, right?

    I suppose you’d prefer it if Monson selfishly stayed home and didn’t let anyone have fun on his birthday except him?

    Public figures have an obligation to the public. And they have an obligation to use their own personal brand and not squander it uselessly. Any actor understands that. Any politician understands that. And any leader should understand that.

  2. Alan says:

    Anyone care to dissect whats included?

    As I mentioned on a different thread, this is how I read the article:

    “If by numerical details, you mean how many hours a year LDS folks volunteer or how many pounds of food we deliver, then well be happy to give those to you. If by numerical details, you mean financials to make a determination about whether were actually as charitable as we say we are in relation to our income, then no, thats our business.

  3. profxm says:


    You may be mistaken on whether or not coffee-flavored ice cream has coffee in it. Apparently Haagen-Dazs’s ice cream does:

    Regardless of whether it does or not, is it the “letter” of the law or the “spirit” that matters on this?

    Also, how is allowing people to throw him a mega-bash altruistic? I’m not sure I understand your logic.

    And there are lots of public figures who do not have tens of thousands of people attend their birthday parties. I don’t recall any politicians of note doing so recently. Most Hollywood actors don’t do that. The Queen of England holds events like this, as did the former pastor of my local megachurch. But most public figures don’t have mega-birthday parties.

  4. profxm says:

    Alan, good summary. You’re right – it’s an effort to compensate for their closed books by citing the charitable nature of the members.

  5. Holly says:

    @1 & 3: Starbucks’ various coffee ice creams also have real coffee in them. So does Ben & Jerry’s. Some of them use coffee brewed strongly enough that you can get a buzz from them.

  6. aerin says:

    I thought pres. Obama had a birthday bash recently, and donors to his campaign could attend…

    I was taught coffee ice cream was “the appearance (sp) of evil”. Can’t say I care that Romney eats it or not….

  7. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    When I was young, Dreyer’s mocha almond fudge ice cream was (at least in Northern California) definitely not against the Word of Wisdom. Neither was Sanka, which I have heard was occasionally served at church functions in Oakland.
    I would have been in a heap load of trouble if I ever drank real coffee, but was treated with candy called coffee nips. Perhaps it kept me awake during sacrament meetings,

  8. Chris F. says:

    My own take on the WoW is that anything that is bad for you or is potentially addictive, should be avoided. By that definition I certainly don’t follow it perfectly and I don’t really care if others do or not.

    My determination of whether or not I vote for Romney, or Obama for that matter, is whether or not I believe that they are going to be the best person to lead the country.

  9. Seth R. says:

    profxm… where are the “tens of thousands?”

    I only saw a few hundred in that picture. Did you have a link for this or something?

    And yeah, why shouldn’t people celebrate and stuff? What’s it hurting? Reminds me of the line from Shakespear’s character Toby to the pious steward Malvolio:

    “Thinkest thou because thou art virtuous, there shall be no cakes and ale?”

    How much money got blown doing that really? It’s easy to assert things, but I’d like to see the data on it.

    As for Romney, I don’t care about him having the ice cream any more than I care about Pres. David O. McKay having a hearty portion of rum cake. Just seems nitpicky to me.

  10. profxm says:

    The article I linked to said tens of thousands were in attendance, though I’m assuming they were observing over satellite, as the picture doesn’t show tens of thousands.

    I guess I have two issues with the birthday bash:
    1) Mormons don’t worship their prophet. So why throw such a celebration for their prophet?
    2) The Mormon Church has been getting hammered on how little it spends on charity. They then turn around and spend at least thousands of dollars on a birthday bash for their prophet. This kind of seems like the recent discoveries of lavish Las Vegas “conferences” thrown by the General Services Administration during a period when the government is racking up debt. The appearance of lavish spending is problematic at the present.

    I don’t care if Romney eats coffee-flavored ice cream. He can do tequila shots for all I care. I’m just wondering why the Mormon faithful aren’t up-in-arms over it. Is this a loophole in the Word of Wisdom?

  11. aerin says:

    Are there bishops who would deny someone a temple recommend for eating coffee ice cream? Or rum cake?

  12. chanson says:

    Regarding coffee ice cream: My impression is that there’s always been a bit of gray area for making up your own interpretations in borderline cases. Like, when I was at BYU many eons ago, I met faithful Mormons who were totally OK with cooking with alcohol (eg. rum cake) even though that was totally verboten at my house.

    As far as the party is concerned (in light of their financial questions), sure it’s just a little thing. Yet, it’s getting to be a lot of little things. Like that article aerin quoted, claiming that Kolob and Adam-ondi-Ahman are some kind of fringe beliefs that ordinary Mormons don’t really believe in. These are the sorts of things that add up to a pattern where the CoJCoL-dS doesn’t appear to be holding itself up to a very high moral standard that people would want to aspire to.

    And, frankly, the fact that the faithful will jump up to defend any and every action of the CoJCoL-dS (even those that honestly merit some reflection) doesn’t help demonstrate Mormon integrity.

  13. Donna Banta says:

    Ah, those pesky grey areas …

  14. Seth R. says:

    Don’t get me wrong Profxm, I wouldn’t agree with throwing a birthday broadcast if it were up to me. I just don’t agree with making too much of it.

    You know… I remember reading a book from an experienced corporate executive talking about things a CEO needs to watch out for that will bring a company down.

    One of the big things he warned about were the “yes-men.” He called them a cancer that will utterly destroy a corporation. CEO tend to naturally get surrounded by yes-men who provide a serious echo-chamber effect telling them only what the yes-men THINK the CEO wants to hear.

    Note I said “think” – because most CEO’s actually do have the company’s best interests at heart and want to hear bad news just as much as good – so it can be dealt with. But they are prevented from hearing about the problems by their posse of kiss-ups.

    This can result in rather silly stories.

    One CEO remarked at a banquet where a concert harpist played “how lovely” the music was. A year later, the bemused CEO finally asked “what’s with all the damn harp music?”

    His yes-men had personally taken it upon themselves to make sure harp music was played at every function he attended.

    There’s another story about a bunch of eager yes-men trying to have an entire Coca Cola vending machine hauled up to a CEO’s hotel suite balcony by ropes because he casually remarked he’d like a Coke.

    I have to wonder if this broadcast was really Monson’s idea to begin with.

  15. Seth R. says:

    We have a bottle of red cooking wine up in the top cupboard right now. Don’t use it much though.

  16. chanson says:

    @14 I doubt it was Monson’s idea. I think the giant-birthday-bash-for-the-prophet thing started with Hinkley, and now, apparently, it has become a tradition.

  17. Seth R. says:

    Which simply begs the question – was it Hinckley’s idea?

  18. Parker says:

    Norbert posted at Common Consent “On trying to recognize a Mormon from afar.” He was asking, if I read him right, if there is anything about Mormonism that would inform Romney’s policies, if elected president. He concluded that he didn’t think so. His respondents largely declared how in fact the Church has influenced Romney’s character, and what a wonderful compassionate stake president (and bishop) Romney was. The point was, that since he is such a man of sterling character, complements of his religion, he will be an outstanding president.

    His compassionate character traits weren’t the point. The question is, is there anything that he will draw from his religion that will serve as a definitive guide on such issues as environmentalism, welfare, healthcare, or war, for example? Other than insisting on WofW standards at state dinners, I can’t think of how his policy decisions will be informed by Mormonism. And character alone is not an endorsement for enlightened leadership.

  19. chanson says:

    @17 Well, the LDS church news article I linked seemed to indicate that it was Hinckley’s wish to have such a birthday party (whether or not it was originally his idea):

    President Hinckley explained the party was not for him, but instead was his gift to those who have touched his life. “Tonight,” he said, “is my opportunity to give something back to the community in which I have spent most of my life, and to the many wonderful people here and throughout the world who, for all of these years, have shown me kindness and touched me with their goodness.”

    Then, my guess is that they did the same for Monson because they don’t want to give the impression that he’s any less of a prophet than Hinckley was.

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