I know these two things to be true:
- Drunken people are hilarious
- Drunken people are annoying and really freaking stupid
You can see where this becomes a problem.
Concerning that first one, let’s be totally honest and just admit that watching stupid people under the influence is kind of funny. I’ve been laughing at Animal House for years, and that movie is basically all jokes about alcohol. If one of my friends goes to a party, I immediately ask if anyone I know got drunk and then I ask for all of the embarrassing details. That’s why people drink! It turns normal human beings into goofy morons.
Unfortunately, alcohol also turns regular human beings into complete dumdums. I don’t get what’s so great about drinking so much that your senses shut down, you can’t walk on your own, and your body decides to get rid of the stuff by making you throw up—a lot. It’s disgusting. And at some point, you purge all sense of shame. Every once in a while, you see a funny drunken person, but ninety-nine percent of the time the drunken person is mocked or ignored. A large portion of stupid and regrettable decisions are made with a bottle in hand. And anyone that goes behind the wheel while drunk or even buzzed should be beaten to death with hammers and chainsaws.
All of this aside, alcohol is a staple of cultures around the globe, and that’s never going to change. I have nothing against the use of alcohol in and of itself. I think it’s totally natural for sensible adults (eighteen-plus; the twenty-one rule is ridiculous, but that’s a blog post for another day) to have a drink. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But I was raised in a faith and culture that doesn’t drink at all. We get a lot of guff for that. Those crazy Mormons think that a can of beer will send you to Hell.
Well, not quite.
I believe—and I speak for myself only, neither for the Church as a whole nor each individual member—that there’s nothing wrong with alcohol. I think it can be used unwisely, and I certainly think that you’re responsible for all of your actions under the influence. I personally do not drink, but that’s largely because I was raised in an alcohol-free household (and honestly, what college kid can afford to drink?). And let me tell you, kids, I don’t think I’m missing out on anything. I understand why the Church has the policies that it does.
The actual policy itself comes from a section of our Doctrine and Covenants, which is a set of records that was written in the late nineteenth century that chronicles the formation and running of the Church as a whole. It’s not something that we share as actively as the Bible or the Book of Mormon because it doesn’t have the same purpose. Anyway, Section 89 of the D&C is commonly referred to as the ‘Word of Wisdom’. It outlines things that are more suitable for consumption than others. (This is also the section which, according to some points of view, ‘bans’ caffeine). Verses 5-7 deal with specifically with alcohol. So, yes, we have scripture about this. We don’t kid around. But nowhere in there does it say that it is a damnable sin. Doubt me? Look it up.
So members of the Church don’t drink. But I have to admit that times have changed. This section was given to Joseph Smith on 27 February 1833, 181 years ago. Our behavior hadn’t changed, but I think at this point our reasoning has. At first, the section was used to keep the peace at meetings. But today it’s just practical.
Staying away from alcohol keeps families together, allows for focus, and generally allows the Spirit to abide and thrive. That’s what we strive for. So we don’t drink. It has nothing to do with anything other than that. And we get by just fine.
For the love of everything, if you know someone is Mormon and they refuse a drink, just deal with it. Don’t pester them. It really embarrasses some people to explain the Word of Wisdom in public. Nobody should judge anyone about their choices regarding alcohol. And if someone in the Church does drink, don’t give them crap either. Every person has the right to make this moral, sometimes-religious, and always-serious decision for themselves.
Finals are approaching campuses everywhere; that means hard studying and crazy partying. Stay classy and stay safe, you guys.