LDS Church: ‘Alcohol policy in Utah closely tied to moral climate of the state’

In a Nov. 6, 2012 photo, people try to get signatures onto a petition to have a vote on the issue of alcohol sales, in Hyde Park, Utah. Residents can vote to lift a long-standing ban on the sale of alcohol in Tuesday’s election. Hyde Park, population 4,000, is among a handful of dry cities left in a state known for its tee totaling ways. (AP Photo/The Herald Journal, Eli Lucero)
In a Nov. 6, 2012 photo, people try to get signatures onto a petition to have a vote on the issue of alcohol sales, in Hyde Park, Utah. (AP Photo/The Herald Journal, Eli Lucero)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Tuesday outlining its official position on alcohol laws in Utah.

In a question and answer session, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve discussed the Church’s position and claimed that Utah is a national leader on successful alcohol policy.

“Some have supposed that the Church takes a position on alcohol regulation in Utah because it wants to impose its beliefs or practices on other people, but there’s really no point in that,” Christofferson said. “We’re interested particularly in three areas as it pertains to alcohol consumption: first, abuse or overconsumption; second, underage drinking; and third, DUI’s. And that’s basically our position and our interest.”

Utah is home to nearly two million members of the Church and is often ridiculed for its unique alcohol codes and regulations. One of these laws includes alcoholic beverages being prepared out of sight of restaurant patrons.

A controversy erupted last year after various restaurants were cited for serving alcohol before food was served. This law was later clarified by the legislature to mean that a restaurant patron can order an alcoholic drink first as long as they show an intent to buy food at the restaurant.

Bars across the state are expressing the difficulties they are finding with current laws. ABG’s bar on Center Street in Provo expressed some of their difficulties.

“Its not the end of the world, we can still make a drink. It just makes it really difficult, and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Ivy, a local bartender who works at ABG’s bar. “I mean you can can drink as much as you want, but you can’t drink what you want.”

The Church’s official health code, known as the Word of Wisdom, requires active members of the Church to abstain from alcoholic beverages of any kind. The revelation, given to the Church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, in 1833, is one of the identifying characteristics about Mormons in popular media and culture.

“The Church’s concern, however, is not to promote the health code we embrace as Church members but to support legislation that advances the safety and well-being of all state residents, particularly minors, and to avoid the societal costs and harms that often result from alcohol excess consumption and abuse, underage drinking and DUI’s,” the Church’s statement says.

Provo mayor John Curtis believes there are many positive societal effects to not subjecting Provo to an alcohol culture. These include benefits such as a higher quality of life and safety throughout the city.

“At the same time I have a strong respect for those who choose to drink responsibly; I think ‘responsible’ is the key word,” Curtis said. “Provo doesn’t want to mandate our values on them as long as they are responsibly drinking.”

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