LDS liquor statement a step forward

By By Anne Roper and By Anne Roper

By Anne Roper

I was sitting on a bench outside a restaurant, waiting for both a table and my date so we could eat something before making a mad dash to see “Cats.” He was late. I was not surprised. Soon a woman from Montana who was in town for a convention joined me on my lonely bench. She, too, was waiting for a table and had been on her feet all day. I thought, “I bet this woman would like a drink right now.”

“It’s been a long day,” she said. “I could really use a drink.”

Ah. Bingo.

I normally feel uncomfortable when this subject comes up. I love showing off Salt Lake City and what it has to offer. However, I knew she’d have a hard time finding a place to get that alcoholic beverage because of Utah’s liquor laws in their present and, well, “tolerant-free” state.

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope for change. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement on alcohol that emphasizes “individual freedom of choice.” That translates into, “If people want to drink, let them.”

The statement is encouraging, but it will take a change of mind to get looser laws enacted.

This is the first statement on this issue from the LDS Church. It never endorsed the laws, but gave a hats-off to Utah for having the lowest drunk-driving rate in the country, citing the U.S. Census Bureau. The laws were made by people who thought that to be a good Mormon, they had to pass laws requiring membership applications and fees to drink in clubs.

However, the statement didn’t call for complete reform. It just said a better mean could be achieved. Four of the statement’s seven paragraphs are dedicated to listing the connection between alcohol and car accidents, abuse and troublesome behavior in general. The LDS Church certainly isn’t changing its stance on member consumption, that’s still a no-no, but encourages everyone to work together so people can have more of a choice.

There has to be something wrong with a law if a church, especially the LDS Church, says it’s too conservative. It’s taken a big step toward making Salt Lake City a more hospitable place. However, nothing will change unless residents follow suit and encourage our lawmakers to show just how friendly we are.

I will plead the case of the unsuspecting, tired, convention-going out-of-towner: She just wants a drink. Let her get one.

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Willus Branham

Anne Roper