Dear 100 Hour Board,
Referring back to Board Question 63136 and answer:
This issue has troubled me since 2001. Back then I spoke to my Bishop and Stake President about it. Neither had any answer and neither had ever even heard this was a thing. Not being satisfied I contacted the Hawaii Temple President who answered me by saying - "We found that if we don't serve coffee and tea after the luau people don't stay and buy dessert". That answer from the Temple President hurt my testimony so badly I can't even explain how badly.
I am dramatically concerned about the answer given by the Board - "Few visitors know beforehand that the PCC is owned and operated by the Church. Nearly everyone appreciates the Church's efforts to help young people from Polynesia and from many other countries get an education normally would not have such an opportunity. They do not, however, appreciate feeling like we are "forcing" our beliefs upon them against their will.
. . . This problem had become so significant that we addressed the issue with the First Presidency. After careful and prayerful consideration, they approved a reasonable accommodation to those of other faiths and other beliefs. This reasonable accommodation includes coffee, a soft drink with caffeine, and designated smoking areas." How can the First Presidency say that through prayer God gave them a divine answer that its okay to not follow Doctrine? Not by members but by extension to anyone being "served/ministered to" by Church Missionaries.
I understand not forcing the LDS Word of Wisdom non LDS folks but how can the First Presidency make a distinction between making a reasonable accommodation between coffee and alcohol or any other part of the Word of Wisdom? They make a "reasonable accommodation" for coffee and tea but not alcohol? How possibly can a distinction be made between one thing in the Word of Wisdom and another? How can the Church reconcile "forcing" Missionaries assigned to the PCC to serve coffee and tea? How is that not exactly the same as "forcing" a Missionary to bring a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of alcohol to a house bound non member as a matter of ministry/service? I understand the reasonable accommodation to allowing "smoking areas". This area permits folks to smoke away from folks who don't want to be exposed but the church is not having Missionaries sell cigarettes, the folks bring their own. Might it not be a similar "reasonable accommodation" to permit folks to bring their own Thermos of coffee, tea or wine and have a specific seating area at the luau for these folks? I cannot wrap my brain around this topic. By the way I am not condoning the reasonable accommodation I just can't wrap my brain around what appears to be a glaring hypocrisy by the church on this Word of Wisdom topic. Especially when it seems "appears" to put profits or income, which ever you want to call it, in front of Church Doctrine.
I have made it a point of never discussing this issue with anybody except my Bishop, Stake President and the Hawaii Temple President because I don't want to effect anyone's testimony. Especially since honestly this issue "based on the Hawaii Temple Presidents response" has shattered mine, but since this has already come up on here before and based on the Boards reply it is a known issue to the First Presidency I thought it to be okay to bring it up here again. Believe me when I tell you this is still an issue and I wish the First Presidency -through prayer- would re-evaluate the Church's response.
The Church has constantly answered Word of Wisdom questions with a response to the effect "the Church does not want even the appearance of breaking, stretching or finding a loophole in the Word of Wisdom". The specific response on this specific Word of Wisdom issue at the PCC seems to "give the appearance of" put profits in front of Doctrine.
Feel free to contact me directly or just reply to this question through the Board.
May I interest you in this Ensign article? In general it describes how we can be in the world, needing to make money to support ourselves and our families, but not of the world, trying to make money at all costs out of greed. That deals with some of the larger questions you've brought up, but it also specifically mentions the morality of a church member selling coffee at a store or restaurant. The conclusion?
Can an A-level grocer, for example, sell coffee and tea to those customers who know nothing of the Word of Wisdom and for whom it would not be a sin? The grocer might do so at the request of his customers to meet their demands when he clearly would never produce coffee himself. His involvement is indirect.
Some products and services may be detrimental to the individual while others damage the community. Coffee and tea, for example, would be products that have individual consequences. Alcohol and pornography, however, have proven to also have negative community consequences. “Pornography damages individual lives, families, and society. … Church members should … oppose its production, dissemination, and use.”
Now, a couple of other points:
- The Polynesian Cultural Center is a business, and it should be run like a business, by which I mean it should seek to be profitable. If those in charge of the PCC didn't try to make it profitable, it would ultimately need a lot of tithing funds to keep it running, money which could be used for other purposes like missionary or temple work.
- The article talks about how the Golden Rule should be used as an overarching principle when we conduct our business. We typically think of the Golden Rule as being "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," but there's another way to think of it: "Treat others as they would want to be treated." It's a subtle shift, but an important one: the latter approach puts the focus less on the person serving ("How do I want to be treated?") and more on the person being served ("How do they want to be treated?"). With this in mind, it's very hospitable for a business (such as the PCC, or, I don't know, Marriott Hotels?) to serve coffee to people who want it. It's not okay to serve alcohol or other similar substances because, again, they have far-reaching effects beyond the individual consuming them, but coffee is okay.
Hopefully that gives a little bit of insight. Keep reading the other responses by Sheebs, Anne, Certainly, and Babalugats for more good points!
It is culturally normal for people who smoke cigarettes to buy them in gas stations, convenience stores, or grocery stores and smoke them at other locations. They are not usually sold in theme parks. Similarly, alcohol is not served at most theme parks or museums (who would want a bunch of drunk people bumbling around?). Tea and coffee, however, are frequently served in theme parks and museums. The common thread across these observations is that the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is conforming to what is customary.
By having designated smoking areas, not serving alcohol, and serving tea and coffee, the PCC is accommodating what visitors expect. That way people won't have an unexpected experience ("Wait, there's no coffee? That is weird...") or feel judged for their behavior (people who smoke often have shame about their habit, not having a place for them would be uncomfortable).
The situation kind of reminds me of Acts 10. While it's not exactly the same situation, Peter does struggle with the idea of partaking of "unclean" food even when God is fine with it. In verse 28, I believe we read the principle of the story:
Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
I think that by serving tea and coffee at the PCC, the church is simply trying to be gracious as they "keep company", so to speak.
It is my opinion that sometimes in Sunday School manuals, the lessons make it sound like God is very rigid and cares about people keeping the rules above all else. I am of the opinion that these messages tend to be hyperbolic. This is a pet peeve of mine because real life is actually fraught with moral dilemmas that can be difficult to navigate (indeed, a moral dilemma is the setting of the creation story!). Though my situation, like Peter's, is a bit different from the PCC, I don't feel guilty when I eat food that my mother buys at the grocery store on a Sunday or when I help her find her cigarettes when she loses them in her car. I do this because I feel it is more important to be cordial and hospitable than it is to avoid the appearance of condoning evil. And I think God is fine with it.
I hope this helps. I'm sorry you are having such a tough time with this.
I'm not going to try to address the "why the Church does this specific thing" part of your question, so I'll come at it a little bit sideways.
While you and I may not have the authority or responsibility of making decisions on behalf of the Church (except within the limits of whatever stewardships we hold like in an auxiliary, ward, class, etc.) we absolutely have the right and responsibility to have God confirm to us whether or not the Church is His organization and whether it is one that He endorses.
I think this is really important, because the Church is a huge organization full of a ton of people with almost 200 years of history: that means there are a lot of decisions that have taken place and will continue to take place and there are good odds that we'll occasionally run into one that we look at and think "...really? That's not the way I would have thought God would want it."
In these situations there are a few possibilities: 1) It is the way God wants it, and as imperfect humans lacking in knowledge or understanding, we just don't get the "why" yet, or 2) In some situations it may not be the way God wants it, but the Church is being administered by imperfect people who don't always get everything right.
Sometimes people disagree on which of the above situations exists. The distinction is important because it may dictate what the appropriate response for us it (for example, if we don't understand why we need to forgive others but know that that is a doctrine from God, we can pray and study to gain knowledge and testimony. By contrast, if it comes out that our ward primary president isn't following a required two-deep leadership policy, we could bring our concerns to the bishop so that he could ensure the appropriate corrections took place.) However, it is really good that even if we're not sure which situation above we're in we don't have to be to receive confirmation from God about the truthfulness of the Church and that He wants us to be in it.
So, it sounds like you're in the position where you think that the PCC coffee/tea serving is something that's actually being done wrong, while many others believe that it's being done correctly. While it's good to seek a deeper understanding of the Church and of the Gospel, my point here is that you have the right to ask God whether this Church is where He wants you and whether it's His before you understand this issue, and He can answer you even if He doesn't immediately give you understanding on this issue. As this New Era article points out, He can answer you in many ways, including with gradual bits of knowledge and testimony. For example, you can receive continued blessings from following the commandments that you keep, which you're taught in the scriptures and by the modern Prophets. You can feel the Spirit during a testimony meeting. You can find peace attending the temple or walking its grounds.
It's okay to have questions. It's okay to not understand why certain things are the way they are. It's good that you care about following the commandments. I'm confident that God cares that His children are seeking to keep the commandments and want to do their part to help ensure that the Church is perfected. And because He loves us and wants to help us, we can always pray to have confirmation about the Gospel and the Church, even as we continue to learn more about the things we don't understand or as we strive to do our part to build up the Kingdom.
(P.S. I guess I'll make one comment on the actual issue, related to Frere Rubik's comments above. I was talking to a friend about your question and he pointed out that some things in the word of wisdom are bad of themselves (or what you might call malum in se at law (a simple example: murder)) while others are bad because they've been prohibited (or what you might call malum prohibitum at law (a simple example: there's nothing inherently virtuous about crossing a street while walking on white lines, but we may decide to have laws about crossing at crosswalks)). While doing mind-altering drugs is probably malum in se, other parts of the word of wisdom (such as wine of a similar alcohol content to that which Christ would have drunk) may well be malum prohibitum). Such things that are merely prohibited, in his mind, serve to distinguish the Church as "peculiar." Rating Pending addressed this point in his answer to the original question and also pointed out the relevance of covenants, which members have made and non-members have not.)
The best way I've been able to understand nuanced commandments goes like this:
The Spirit will never prompt you to contradict God's commandments. But he will give you guidance on how to prioritize them in a given situation.
I know it sounds terrible but hear me out. Earth life is hard because we have a lot of commandments to keep with limited resources. Some commandments become paralyzingly difficult to keep perfectly at the same time. An example could be providing for your family financially AND spending time with them. At different times and amounts, one of those commandments must take precedence over the other. If you are working too much, the spirit will tell you to take some financial hits to spend more time with your kids. Not contradiction. Prioritization.
The economic problem is more than just skipping dessert. There are plenty of reports of people who skipped the PCC entirely because they couldn't have ice tea or coffee. If the purpose of the Polynesian Cultural Center is to promote an understanding of culture, allow for missionary opportunities, and provide economic opportunities to Polynesian people, they first must operate as a successful business that is welcoming to guests. In order for the PCC to bless people the people have to be willing to come.
An example of this prioritization I speak of: a member of the church helps Native American tribes get legal approval to build casinos. Is he going against the commandments? You could make that argument, sure. Maybe you'd be right. But you'd have to ignore the fact that these gaming centers are a huge part of the economic development of certain tribal communities. And if you think he's just trying to make a good dollar, you'd also have to ignore the fact that he has often gone unpaid for his work. He really just wants these people to have a better quality of life and this is the best he can help with his skill set. Is he being inconsistent with his beliefs? Or prioritizing the commandment to love and serve God's children?
I think the PCC has an inspired purpose and the brethren knew that it could not serve that purpose effectively while being economically stunted and culturally narrow. I understand that nuances are hard. Especially when we are taught that keeping the commandments is do or die, right or wrong etc etc. I hope you find your answers that work for you. If you don't—I hope you keep asking. These are good questions and it matters to God that you have them. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for questioning. Stay humble. Stay sharp. Stay willing.