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Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right | February 19, 2015

Mormonism News Getting Right

This “Getting It Right” includes a Salt Lake Tribune commentary about Utah’s liquor laws, as well as an article that explains the role of a Mormon bishop.

Salt Lake Tribune: (Op-ed) Utah’s Liquor Laws, Not Just Religion, Reduce Alcohol Abuse

Why are Utah’s smoking and drinking rates among the lowest in the United States? Some may be quick to give all credit to religion because 62 percent of Utahns belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members to abstain from smoking. But a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by James O. Mason (a former director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says religious devotion tells only part of the story.

Concerning tobacco control, Mason says that between 1986 and 2012 Utah’s smoking rate (which was already among the lowest in the nation), declined by nearly half. This happened because, Mason says:

Utah, like most other states, adopted a variety of evidence-based tobacco control strategies which were recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Experts from the CDC claimed comprehensive tobacco control policies would dramatically reduce smoking. The recommended strategies included increasing cigarette taxes, aggressive indoor clean air laws, youth access restrictions, access to smoking cessation services and anti-smoking media campaigns. Utah legislators took a gamble and followed the recommendations. What was the result? The smoking rate in Utah was cut almost in half. Public health policies, rather than religion, produced this decline.

Mason suggests that Utah’s public health policies also contribute to the state’s low rate of alcohol problems. He points to reports from the CDC and the World Health Organization that measure the effectiveness of select alcohol policies. Mason concludes:

These reports don't recommend prohibition, but they do convey the clear message that, collectively, policies which reduce alcohol availability such as the number and location of retail outlets, hours of sale and the price of drinks, substantially reduce the number of alcohol-related problems. Maybe Utah's alcohol control policies aren't so screwy after all. One prominent alcohol policy researcher called them the "envy of the nation." … Thoughtful analysis by experts suggests that alcohol control policies work.

Read Mason's op-ed at

Read more about the Church's views on Utah alcohol laws. Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge Explains a Mormon Bishop’s Role

Few responsibilities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are more demanding than that of bishop, the person who leads one of the faith’s 29,000 congregations. So imagine holding that position while also being general manager of the National Basketball Association’s Boston Celtics.

That’s what Danny Ainge did up until 2013, when he was released from a five-year term as bishop of his congregation. He tells’s Ian Thomsen that although being bishop brought added responsibility, he found profound joy in the opportunity to serve others.

“I spent most of my Sundays going from church to homes, to minister and visit the needy and the sick, and visiting hospitals and those that were sick,” Ainge says. “And I spent time counseling people, usually on Wednesday nights and most of my Sundays. … You're just helping those in need, and there is a great satisfaction in life that comes from that. And the great perspective of life that you learn from that.”

Ainge says a key lesson he learned from ministering to members of his congregation is the infinite ability of humans to love each other.

“There was this amazing increase in love for that person,” he says. “And you really come to understand that love is endless. I remember the feeling when I had my first daughter, like, how could you love someone more than that? And then having my son: How am I going to love my brand-new son as much as I love my first daughter? But then as you get older you realize there's no limit on love. Love is for everybody.”

One final note: Thomsen says Ainge was “promoted” to be a bishop, but no such concept exists in Church teachings. All Latter-day Saints are asked to serve voluntarily in a variety of ways. The purpose of Church callings is to help members follow Jesus Christ by serving others; no assignment is considered a promotion, demotion, or something to which one should aspire.

Read the full article at

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