Unrighteous Dominion and Coca-Cola

A link with the headline BYU caffeine movementfizzles has been appearing in my Facebook feed. Apparently there was a facebook page calling for caffeinated versions of sodas to be sold at BYU, but its creator shut it down because it generated “heated opinions on both sides” as well as “general animosity.”

To explain the sort of reactions the page generated, the news story linked to above included this:

“If they dont serve caffeinated drinks in the temple, then Heavenly Father obviously doesnt want us to drink them, wrote one woman in an earlier post. It may seem like a small thing but it is all about obedience to the gospel and if we are willing to follow.

Apparently even an attempt to give away free caffeinated sodas was shut down by BYU police.

In conclusion, I would just like to bear my testimony of how grateful I am that I attended universities where the students, faculty and administration were not so overcome by the spirit of contention and unrighteous dominion that anyone tried to deprive someone of their god-given right to drink a freakin’ coca-cola, and where, for good measure, you could get a decent (albeit not generally superior) cup of coffee. In fact, when I first got to Iowa, the student union had a bar. You could buy a beer at the student union and drink it on the patio by the river. Come to think of it, I also had a very nice beer at the student union at UW Madison, which I drank with friends on the patio by the lake.

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10 Responses

  1. chanson says:


    Come to think of it, I also had a very nice beer at the student union at UW Madison, which I drank with friends on the patio by the lake.

    Me too! That place is excellent! (My younger brother — the only one of the five of us clever enough not to attend BYU — went to UW Madison.)

  2. chanson says:

    Now that I’ve read the article, another interesting point jumps out: The Internet really undermines the CoJCoL-dS’s efforts to control the flow of information, and yet they don’t seem capable of adapting and learning new strategies.

    Look at this case. First the Newsroom (perhaps in hopes of helping Mormonism seem less weird?) claimed that the CoJCoL-dS doesn’t forbid caffeine — a bit of a half-truth. They apparently got enough negative feedback to soften their wording immediately.

    The Newsroom’s half-truth put BYU in a position of having to explain why they prohibit the sale of caffeinated drinks. They could have said something simple, clear, and true. Here’s an example:

    “The Word of Wisdom as it appears in the D&C does not specifically mention caffeine, however, various modern LDS prophets have stated that the prohibition on “hot drinks” refers to coffee and tea, and have mentioned the caffeine content as a reason for it. Many Mormons interpret the prophetic statements on caffeine to mean that caffeine-filled beverages such as Coca-Cola are forbidden by the Word of Wisdom. Someone making policy at BYU at some point apparently believed this to be the case, and the current policy-makers are hesitant to reverse the policy, even though the belief that caffeine is against the WoW has declined in recent decades.”

    Instead they chose to say: “This was a decision based on customer needs and desires by our Dining Services department” — a statement cryptic enough that FOX News interpreted it to mean “Its because consumers simply didnt want it.”

    Then a well-meaning student apparently thought that it was an honest mistake on the part of BYU dining services, and set up a web site to demonstrate that, in fact, there is plenty of demand for caffeine-bearing beverages on BYU campus.

    Through this (and the ensuing controversy) the Newsroom succeeded in helping Mormons look a bit weirder than they would have if they’d given a simple, straight answer about Mormons and caffeine in the first place.

  3. Holly says:

    @2: excellent points. You would think that the primary publicity arm of God’s one and only true church wouldn’t have much problem with the idea that “honesty is the best policy.” But they seemed so stymied by the whole business. it’s like it never occurred to them to tell the truth, in part because it never occurred to them in the first place to figure out what the real story even is.
    I think one lesson we can draw from the LDS Newsroom is that when people aren’t allowed to criticize and analyze the validity of beliefs they’re told to adopt or statements they’re expected to affirm, their critical and analytical skills atrophy. Because these people seem just plain old dumb.

  4. chanson says:

    Here’s some cool news — some faithful Mormons over on Mormon Mentality are really taking the CoJCoL-dS to task for this one! Good for them!! Here are some highlights:
    No one believed it for a second when BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins alleged that there is no demand* for caffeinated soda at BYU disingenuous at best, even for a PR person.
    * What was the first thing I thought of when I read this? That there are no gays in Iran, closely followed by no women seminary teachers are fired when they have children. Also, pre-Utah and post-manifesto protestations that we werent practicing polygamy.

    BYU is certainly within its rights to not sell caffeine as it is anything else, so why cant they just admit their reasons? I have heard some say that the people protesting BYUs (non-)policy are giving BYU / the Church a bad name, black eye, etc. Nonsense the blame falls squarely on the administration for not being open about the rationale for the ban. If theyre embarrassed about the policy and how it makes BYU look, then change it. If they believe in it, then say so. As it is, it gives the impression true or not that they are trying to avoid appearing too weird to others while winking at more zealous members, allowing them to continue to feel extra righteous in their observance of a perceived higher law.

    I hate it when BYU or the Church does this and then expects us to run our doublethink subroutines. I dont think we should let them get away with it and, since this is a minor issue, its a good place to start. Thats the heart of the issue, in my opinion.

  5. Donna Banta says:

    I always smile to myself when I hear about these little bouts of rebellion at BYU and can’t help but speculate what the social consequences are for the poor schlubs who innocently think it’s okay to break the stupid rules. In my day the pressing issue at BYU was girls wearing blue jeans on campus. When my boyfriend saw me in the bookstore in jeans he broke up with me “out of principal.”

  6. Holly says:

    thanks for that link, Chanson.
    couldn’t help but note this comment:
    “The PR spin that BYU (and to some degree, the Church itself) seems to habitually engage in is part of an old-guard mentality that is fading somewhat from the Church but is still present in some of the more dyed-in-the-wool parts of mormomdom. Its a mentality that says, You cant trust the world with the truth. So an innocuous-sounding lie is constructed instead. Its an outdated and irretrievably broken mode of dealing with the world and it needs to be put out of its misery once and for all. That will never happen unless people inside the Church start making a point of shining the light of day on these obvious lies and asking that our institutions stop forcing their PR people to tell these silly stories when the truth will do just as well.”
    it reminded me of the conversation in this thread: http://mainstreetplaza.com/2012/08/28/and-the-book-of-abraham-is-de-canonized/
    It’s good to see active Mormons insisting that the church is better off telling the truth than “constructing an innocuous-sounding lie.”

  7. chanson says:

    It’s about time. The CoJCoL-dS is shooting itself in the foot soldiers by putting rank-and-file members in the position of having to make excuses (to themselves and others) for the leaders’ duplicity. It’s good to see some reminding their leaders about how integrity works.

    I find this point very interesting: “Its an outdated and irretrievably broken mode of dealing with the world and it needs to be put out of its misery once and for all.”

    I feel like when I was a kid and teen this sort of thing was less OK in Mormon circles, but Hinckley breathed new life into it. I wrote a post about it back in 2006, before the trend had become so entrenched.

  8. Holly says:

    @7: “I feel like when I was a kid and teen this sort of thing was less OK in Mormon circles,”
    I don’t remember it being like this when I was young. Mormons embraced their eccentricity and if other people didn’t like it, they could go to hell–literally.
    “but Hinckley breathed new life into it.”
    He sure did. What a mess he’s created for everyone else.

  9. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    I remember getting getting several lessons in church and seminary based on 1 Peter 2:9.
    Used to be proud to be peculiar. Now it’s cool to pretend to be hip while remaining obedient to being modestly hot.

  10. chanson says:

    8 & 9: That’s the way I remember it as well.

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