A Mormon’s Guide To Coffee Breaks and Happy Hours

Ah, summer.  That glorious time of year when young Mormons break out of their BYU / CES cohort cocoons and take internships and entry-level jobs amidst us coastal heretics.

Every year since I, a young grasshopper, first engaged in this ritual 10+ years ago, I hear Mormons ask the same questions time and time again.  For those just leaving Zion and entering Babylon, I’ve prepared this handy guide to common workplace dilemmas.

The “Coffee Break” Problem


MORMON QUESTION:  “A colleague who I would really love to have as a mentor asked me to get coffee.  How do I explain my religious beliefs and turn her down while still showing I care about the professional relationship?”

SECULAR TRANSLATION:  “Would you like to get coffee” does not mean “I would like to unwittingly pressure you to violate your religious beliefs and drink coffee with me, and if you do not drink coffee I will professionally shun you forever.”

What “would you like to get coffee” actually means is “Would you like to take an approximately 10-20 minute break to sneak away from the stifling office and go to a more casual, café style environment, where we can chat about how work and life are going?”  i.e. “coffee” is just a convenient shorthand.

MORMON-APPROVED ANSWER:  “Sure!  What time?”

Then go to the café and order hot chocolate, or herbal tea, or water, or juice, or a scone, or a cookie, or ice cream, or literally anything else on the menu that does not have caffeine.  You do not have to explain yourself.  You do not have to telegraph your religion.  There are a thousand reasons why non-Mormons would choose to not order coffee.  Nobody will notice or care.

Protip:  If you are uncomfortable asking a coworker to “get coffee,” you can just substitute the name of the closest cafe.  i.e. “Want to take an Au Bon Pain break?”


The “Other Gender” Problem


MORMON QUESTION:  “A coworker of the opposite sex asked me if I wanted to grab a sandwich.  But I’m married / engaged / in a relationship / single and not interested.  How do I turn them down without it being awkward?”

SECULAR TRANSLATION:  “Would you like to grab a sandwich?” means “Would you like to grab a sandwich?”  It does not mean “I have a sexual interest in you, my vixen coworker, which I intend to proclaim by serenading you in the line at Jimmy Johns.”

MORMON-APPROVED ANSWER:  “Yes, let’s go, I’m hungry.  So tell me, what projects are you working on these days?”

Protip: It’s always acceptable to knock on additional colleague’s doors and say “hey we’re going to Chipotle want to join?”  If it still ends up with only the two of you, don’t bail for twisted morality reasons.  That injects sex into a situation where it shouldn’t exist.


The “Happy Hour” Problem


MORMON QUESTION:   “My colleagues keep inviting me to a late afternoon pub trivia / happy hour.  So far I have stood up for my religion and refused to join them, since bars are dens of drunken iniquity.  But some other (*cough less righteous*) Mormon friends say I’m being uptight.  What should I do?”

SECULAR TRANSLATION:  “Happy hour” does not mean “get wasted in riotous living” or even “drink alcohol.”   “Happy hours” and “pub trivia nights” and “sports bars” are all synonyms for burger joints with slightly larger than normal beer selections.  On work nights they are filled with people in suits chatting over a plate of appetizers and a single drink each.  It is universally recognized that getting drunk at an office “happy hour” is professionally unacceptable.  All alcohol consumption is not created equal, and pubs/bars in city centers are not filled with partying college students from Animal House.


Then go to the pub like it’s a normal restaurant.  Order a lemonade and a half-price quesadilla.  Show off your nerdy knowledge of classic rock and World Cup teams.  You do not have to explain yourself.  You do not have to telegraph your religion.  There are a thousand reasons why non-Mormons would choose to not order alcohol.  Nobody will notice or care.


Protip: If you’re good enough at pub trivia, usually the prizes are free food or discounts on your tab!  I once joined a pub trivia team in D.C. that consistently scored high enough that two hours of entertainment plus dinner and lemonade each week cost me $2.


The “Cocktail Hour” Problem


MORMON QUESTION:  I’m going to an evening networking event and they have an open bar!  Someone might offer me alcohol!  Help!?!

SECULAR TRANSLATION:  “Open bar” or “networking event” means “either on a buffet table, or with professional catering staff walking around with trays, people will occasionally offer you food, non-alcoholic drinks, and alcoholic drinks as you socialize.”

MORMON-APPROVED ANSWER:   Attend the event, ask for non-alcoholic beverages, eat the h’ors douveres, and socialize.  You may say “no thanks” to any offer of alcoholic drinks. You do not have to explain yourself.  You do not have to telegraph your religion. There are a thousand reasons why non-Mormons would choose to not pick up a glass of wine.  Nobody will notice or care.

Protip:  I enjoy walking up to bartenders and saying “make me something delicious and non-alcoholic.”  They’ve come up with all sorts of ginger and cranberry concoctions.  Sometimes my friends who don’t want a second alcoholic drink end up copying me!


The “Weekend Party” Problem


MORMON QUESTION:  The head honcho is holding the annual summer / holiday party at the country club on a weekend, and people are talking about how last year it was a riot and everyone got sloshed and embarrassed themselves. What do I do?

SECULAR TRANSLATION:  Your coworkers probably will end up wasted.  But it takes time to get drunk – for the first hour or two, this event will likely feel indistinguishable from a casual wedding reception or backyard barbeque type event.

MORMON-APPROVED ANSWER(S):  “Thank you for the invitation, but I have other commitments this weekend.” or  “Oh that sounds great, I may be able to stop by for the first little bit.”

Protip:  My general policy is to avoid Sunday events.  I sometimes attend Saturday or Friday night events, but usually for only the first hour or so.  When people start getting loud or crude or drunk I sneak away.  Your coworkers will remember you made an appearance, but they won’t notice your (lack of) alcohol consumption and they won’t notice the exact length of time you stayed.


The Caveats


None of the above overrides ordinary social rules.  Anytime you are busy, have deadlines, have other plans or obligations, or simply don’t want to go, you may say no.  If you are getting uncomfortable vibes that a coworker is, in fact, sexually singling you out, you may say no.

The above guide only seeks to prevent (a) saying no to a positive career interaction for the sole reason that you think your religion demands it or (b) spending ten minutes trying to awkwardly explain your religion to a new coworker, when such an explanation is utterly unnecessary.

Occasionally, coworkers may notice that you’re not partaking of forbidden substances, and ask curious questions.  It’s fine to have friendly conversations about the topic — my standard “history of the Word of Wisdom” speech (derived from this article) has at times reduced my coworkers to laughing tears.  It’s also fine to simply answer “religious reasons” or “just because.”  And in the rare instance where a coworker outright pressures you or is rude?  Then the problem is their lack of professionalism, not your faith.


  1. Excellent advice. One of the guiding principles of my professional life is: “Always go to wine and cheese receptions because everyone else will go straight for the wine and I end up with all the cheese I want.”

  2. jaxjensen says:

    Wonderful. Same advice goes to those entering the military. Many will do the drinking/socializing thing and invite you. There is no problem going and living your standards without the need for lectures on “why”. Go be with people for heaven’s sake!

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    This is a great post. The advice is common-sense, and spot-on.

    ” You do not have to explain yourself. You do not have to telegraph your religion. There are a thousand reasons why non-Mormons would choose to not ______________. Nobody will notice or care.”

    Succinct. Well put. 12/10.

  4. Michael Austin, SAME.

  5. Great post! RE: “coffee breaks”

    The WoW says to abstain from hot drinks, which has been clarified as coffee and tea. There is no restriction on caffeine.

  6. Danielle says:

    I forget this isn’t typical knowledge. I do live in the coffee capitol of the world, though. I would have long ago become a social pariah if I gave a WoW speech every time “getting coffee” came up. I am a whiz at ordering amazing things at Starbucks that have nothing to do with coffee.
    A nice soda water with lime at a bar is completely socially acceptable without any questions. You even sound fancy when you say “do you have Pelligrino? With a lime please?” And I have gotten to watch in great amusement while bosses/coworkers made total fools of themselves after too many drinks. There are perks to being the sober one.

  7. Carolyn says:

    @t0008sa. Trust me I know the distinction between coffee/tea and caffeine. It features prominently in my stock humor speech to non Mormons, for whom that makes no sense.

  8. This is so good/timely/necessary for baby professionals who also happen to be Mormons.

    Hazelnut steamed milk, Diet Coke, and sparkling water have been my faithful companions through many a coffee break/happy hour/evening networking event.

  9. Villate says:

    I love to order a Shirley Temple at a bar and watch the reactions of the bartenders. Protip: At many bars, you can be the designated driver and drink (and sometimes eat) for free!

  10. Solid stuff. I’ve never had someone express dismay because I ordered a vanilla steamer when we went out for “coffee.” Also, if you go to a bar with friends people seem to respect you just fine if you order ginger beer because ginger beer is very trendy and people respect trendy things.

  11. Here’s one for you (which I heard about from an old roommate): you have an internship at an advertising agency and you’re assigned to work on Pepsi, Starbucks, and Gallo wine.

    Okay, go.

  12. So well done. I’ve had multiple occasions where colleagues, far from judging my standard bar order of cranberry with soda and lime, join the bandwagon. I’ll file this post away to give to my grad students.

    Also, I’ll add my witness to what Mike says about cheese.

  13. jaxjensen says:

    I have been told that if someone does notice you never drink and asks, that if you tell them that the last time you drank you tried to kill somebody, that now you’ll have a new advocate making sure you are never offered/tempted. Just a fun thought…

  14. Jessica says:

    Excellent points—it’s good to learn to exist and make friends outside of zion. One tip from me is to keep a drink in your hand at social events, even if you aren’t drinking it. That way you don’t have to keep turning down people offering you drinks of which you do not want to partake.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    BYU needs to pass out this post on laminated cards to its students going out into the big, bad world…

  16. Yep yep yep yeppers. Amen and amen.

  17. Carolyn, While I still find Tom Alexander’s article useful, I might actually enjoy the script of your “stock humor speech to non Mormons” even more. I’m afraid my speeches, on those rare occasions when unavoidable, have not been humorous enough.

  18. Kevin,

    Amen. They should keep those laminated cards in their scriptures.

  19. Truckers Atlas says:

    I enjoyed this piece for its humor, but if you need to be taught any of these principles I’d advise you to never leave Utah, work from home, or go into a career with CES.

  20. Richelle says:

    Bravo! The post I wish I’d written. We are of one heart and mind on this, Carolyn.

  21. richellejolene says:

    A Mormon friend (from EFY, of all places!) and I decided a long time ago that we wanted to use the phrase “go grab a coffee” just because it so handily describes the idea of catching up in a pleasant cafe setting. We started using it even long-distance as a way of saying “Let’s Skype.” So yeah, I use this phrase all the time and wish it were a given in Mormonism. I remember going to school in Provo and thinking “Let’s go grab froyo” just didn’t have the same flair…

    And I’ve become queen of the Mormon bar order (although it’s even easier if you’re terrestrial and drink kombucha). I second JJ with the ginger beer, as it is far superior to its ale cousin. The only bartender who has given me any strife about my order was, quelle surprise, an ex-Mormon. He hassled me about why I asked him to make me a mocktail and tried to make me feel really bad about it. Not sure how he’s made it this far without serving numerous recovering alcoholics, pregnant women, designated drivers, Dry January folks, etc. etc. etc. Every other bartender has been more than accommodating, and several have even told me they enjoy the challenge of making something complex and unique with the ingredients they have on hand. I’ve gotten some really good zero-proof drinks in my day.

  22. One laboratory that I worked in always had a Friday afternoon “tea time.” I always felt awkward going, not because I abstained from tea, but because I am an awkward introvert. Nevertheless, I went every time for the amazing cookies.

  23. Carolyn says:

    Yay cookies!

  24. Office I worked at had wine/beer/cheese late on Fridays. They asked everyone for preferences. My usual order was Sprecher’s Root Beer. No one ever asked why nor did I tell them.

  25. Sound advice. However, in my experience, everyone notices, and hot chocolate is a child’s drink.

  26. FWIW, if you’re at a bar or restaurant with a decent bartender, you can get amazing non-alcoholic mixed drinks. The easier or bartender will ask for a flavor profile you want (fruity, sour, ginger, or whatever), then the bartender will make something amazing. There are enough pregnant women, alcoholics, and people who just don’t want a drink tonight to make it worthwhile.

    At cocktail parties, my go-to drink is cranberry juice. In 15 years or so of professional life (all in big cities with few Mormons), I’ve never had anyone look at me funny.

  27. This post is both funny and sad. Funny because it is well written. Sad because I’m guessing if you’re writing this you must have seen something to warrant it.

    Honestly just saying “I don’t drink, I’m Mormon” or even “I don’t drink but thank you” was sufficient. People more often then not respect your choices. Heck I even did some college out of “Zion” and even in a place and an age where getting wasted was something people did more frequently than professional world, a simple no thank you was good enough. Everyone knew I didn’t drink and I’d still get invited 1- they were my friends and genuinely enjoyed my company 2- I am a fantastic designated driver.

  28. Carolyn says:

    Oh I’ve seen more than enough to warrant it!! My all time sad/favorite was a new Utah transplant in relief society who bore her testimony about how she had travelled with coworkers for a conference the week before but had refused to socialize with them in the evenings because they were going to bars or drinking alcohol and that was just sinful, so she had been lonely and bored all week but knew God would reward her.

  29. Trouble for me and many women was the invitation to ‘get a sandwich’ was a sexual invitation. The birthday cake at work included performances by strippers, both male and female. And my husband and I had to leave the party at a co-worker’s house when the illegal drugs started being used.
    I am glad your work situations are innocuous. Mine were not.

  30. Bro. Jones says:

    A nice thing is that at least in the US, people are smoking vastly less than they did even two decades ago. Time was when many of these activities didn’t require you to drink, but you’d go home smelling like an ashtray regardless. It’s nice that this generally isn’t an issue anymore.

    Otherwise: I’d add is that it’s still ok to make sure you have an escape route. It’s one thing to spend an hour or two at a party and then head out if things get untoward. But if the party is on a boat that’s out on the water, or transportation is an issue, things can get unpleasant. Plan accordingly!

  31. Carolyn says:

    @Wilson: and this is why the #MeToo movement exists, to destroy corporate cultures like that. It’s utterly unacceptable. As I caveated at the end, in cases of sexual harassment / toxic work cultures you absolutely can and should say no. (And complain to HR / the GC / other people with power to address the problem.) I hope you found a more professional environment later.

  32. I have been mocked for my refusal to drink alcohol. No, I did not make a big deal out of it. Just ordered sparkling water at the party and tried to have a good time but one of the guests knew I was Mormon and would not let it go. So as you train young Zion transplants, do not tell them they will never be mocked or belittled. They might be, publicly and relentlessly.
    As for going out with others drinking, I find it boring beyond belief. I can usually find something, anything else to do, other than that. If she felt she did not want to participate in this, I am sure God will bless her. I am sure she would have been equally bored if she had gone. And probably walked away with bad opinions of some colleagues.
    I am sorry for seeming anti-social but I am horrified to hear someone casually explain why she needed to get an abortion because her wedding was already planned for six months in the future and the dress was on order. Or repeat the story of starting an affair with her good friend’s husband in order to spark a divorce so she could marry him. Yes, these were ‘get a sandwich’ conversations from my workplaces. As was the story that one woman’s oldest child came from a one night stand and it ‘really hurt him that his father never visited and why did I think that would be?’ Or explained how successful his business bundling pornograghy had become.
    I do not ask others to live my beliefs. But I am having increasing difficulty nodding my head, as if in agreement or just sitting silent, completely appalled by what I am hearing.

  33. Ok, now do “Netflix and chill” ;)

  34. A colleague repeated a story to me about accepting an invitation to a mentoring graduate professor’s home for dinner. She knew both he and his wife. Turns out the wife was out of town. Turns out she was expected to be dessert.
    While many invitations are professional, not all are. If you are going to train young Mormons, be complete in your training. Tell them to be friendly but not naive.

  35. And even when you want to telegraph your religion, i.e., do missionary work, you should go to these social activities. However, talking about the things your religion prohibits is not the best approach (prohibitions give kind of negative first impression). But even then you should participate in these activities because it is easier to talk about serious topics such as religion if you have first build some kind or relationship. And that is what these social activities are all about.

  36. Carolyn says:

    @Renae — I thought about including a “here are the actual warning signs” but decided that was too long for this post. Maybe a follow up. But invitations alone to late low-lit dinners / hotel rooms / homes definitely qualify.

  37. The flip side of this post is that Coffee & The World encounters are where many young people begin to question some of our unique irrationalities: if caffeine is not an issue, exactly what’s the problem w/ coffee, esp as this is an “interpreted” prohibition? The priesthood ban was also indirect as is our current nonsense re: children of SSM. Selective WoW emphasis is a variety of hypocrisy, and if young adults are sensitive to anything it’s that.

  38. MDearest says:

    As a recommend-holding, WOW observant member with many years experience going to bars with friends and acquaintances, and enjoying the festivities while sober, my perspective is that the problem you describe isn’t the place to which you’re going.

  39. I can see where Deb is coming from a little. Being around people that are legitimately drunk is super boring and when stuff starts getting embarrassing it’s pretty hard to handle. I’ve noticed a big difference between going to a bar with friends or colleagues (who pretty much always know I don’t drink and don’t care) where the intent is to be social and not get super drunk, and “work parties.” Work parties can be pretty terrible if your co-workers can’t hold their liquor. It’s embarrassing for everyone and I get a little bit of a headache thinking about it. I have also noticed, however, that there are usually other people at those work parties who aren’t drinking to get drunk because they also see how embarrassing it is, so my wife and I just hang out with them.

  40. Carolyn, the problem can be that you may not know that no one else will be at the dinner. Young women in particular have to exercise caution, perhaps asking in advance about who else will be attending.
    I realize that was not the intent of the post, which provides some important information about getting along in a non-LDS world. Thank you for what you wrote. Would love to see a followup about some of the issues mentioned. In particular, how to respond to stories you consider abhorrent.

  41. No one important says:

    So much of this depends on tone and context. If you’re self assured and confident, you can smooth over any potentially awkward situation. The problem for me is that I am neither self assured nor confident, and being a practicing Mormon is fraught with all kinds of awkwardness. Like discovering your boss is gay and married with children, and mentions the Church’s exclusion policy for young children with gay parents. Talk about awkward.

  42. “… about how she had travelled with coworkers for a conference the week before but had refused to socialize with them in the evenings because they were going to bars or drinking alcohol and that was just sinful, so she had been lonely and bored all week but knew God would reward her.”

    Boy I hope so. There’s all kinds of things I’m probably doing wrong but for which my heart is in the right place. If I don’t get credit for those in the hereafter, it’s going to be a very unpleasant eternity indeed.

  43. Angie Bush says:

    The co-worker I interact most with is not Mormon, or religious. He doesn’t like the taste of alcohol or coffee, and drinks water at any outside lunch or happy hour event. The only people that have noticed or cared about this are Mormons that have seen this as an open door to send the missionaries because he’s a “dry Mormon”.

  44. Pretty good advice. Somewhat extreme hypothetical “Mormon questions.” I might wonder about letting into the wild anyone who held those questions for real.

    Echoing others (peterllc and probably more) my secular world is much more knowing and aware than the OP would suggest. More than a don’t see and don’t care, I’m likely to get “you’re Mormon” and then a version of the WoW and even why my interpretation or practice is or is not orthodox. Interesting conversations.

    Generally speaking, broad brush, even very casual acquaintances, I find that people want a one-liner, a category. They don’t care much what it is, but want a label. “Mormon” works. “Religious” works. “AA” works. “Designated driver” works. One of my friends (not Mormon in any version) says “I don’t drink anything brown.” That’s about as logical as the modern version of the Word of Wisdom (not), but it’s enough to move on to other topics. I would add to the advice of the OP that it’s not only fine, it’s a good idea, to have your one-liner at the ready. “No thank you” should be enough, but one more line is handy to have.

    And think three times before hot chocolate or anything with lots of milk and sugar, in a business setting, after noon. Not a good look.

  45. Thank you No One Important. I too have experienced the potentially career altering interactions over homosexual behavior that I disapprove of and would disapprove of with straight people. But my experience was with a gay co-worker who was passing around the group his vacation pictures. They included nude photos of his lover. Very awkward indeed. As were some of the stories he told. I am afraid all social interactions with co-workers can be fraught because until you get to know them you really have no idea what beliefs they might have.
    My current boss is gay and formerly LDS. There are minefields in every conversation. Thinking about returning to Utah. Want work life to be less stressful. But my sister tells me her officemate there is a lesbian woman conducting an affair with a married bisexual woman, which also means she has to ignore a lot of things going on around her. But she does not need to pretend she thinks everything going on is okay. Have to do that here in California.

  46. I don’t usually care about getting follow up questions if they come, but when I’m not in the mood to get into a discussion with an unfamiliar group, I’ll add “tonight” to a drink order. (as in “Eh, I’ll just have water today/tonight.”) It’s just enough mis-direction to bypass discussions, and no one has to know in my case, it’s EVERY night.

  47. I love this guide!

    One of my great lamantations over Mormondom is the lack of a Mormon social equivalent for going out for coffee/drinks. I go out all the time with friends and colleagues for coffee or drinks, with no problems ever when I order something else, but how do I invite a Mormon friend out for coffee? I just want to go get a drink and visit for awhile without the social and time pressure of a meal, but what is the Mormon social equivalent?! And how to phrase it in a way that is not “Would you like to go out for coffee? … And by that I mean some non-coffee beverage/pastry/snack that is WoW proof, at a time that is not typically mealtime, because I don’t want to awkwardly assume that you know what I mean when I ask you out for coffee…”

  48. Kristine says:

    Emma, it doesn’t have to be stressful to be around gay people. Nude pictures at the office are tacky regardless of orientation, but you can just walk away.

    I think part of the problem is that many Mormons feel compelled to not only disapprove of other people’s choices, but to announce that disapproval as evidence that they “stand for righteousness” or something. I think Jesus encountered some people like that and was not complimentary of their brand of righteousness…

  49. Michael says:

    When given lemons make lemonade.

    There might be advantages to interacting with rival, less-than-nice co-workers who are drunk while you are sober. At the very least you can extract inside information from them which can save you from stepping in hidden piles of doodoo later. The work place is not always as professional as we might expect.

    I worked in an organization where the powerful white male leaders had affairs with the young black administrative women. Or so they say ( I have no real evidence). This gave these women power and status.They could avoid difficult tasks, show up late/leave early, act sassy and insubordinate, be given promotions, etc. They could make smack up about other people, especially white people and report them to the EEO. The boss would side in with their former/current lovers, discipline the innocent and then quietly take some of the teeth out of the discipline. Without knowing the ugly underside, this can seem unfair, strange and arbitrary.

    Bad move on my part: A coworker in line to be the next boss invited me to have lunch at The Cheetah Club with him after working there only a few weeks. I happened to know this club featured exotic dancers, not something I should have known as a good Mormon boy. I politely refused. He replied, Oh, come on, you really don’t know what a guy is like until you see him with a naked woman sitting on his lap. I should have said, something else polite.

    But no, I aggressively attacked him. I’m married and that is never going to happen to me. Then I pointed out that he was one of the more respected people in his field, was married, attended a Baptist church with his wife, and had teenage daughters. How would you like it if they were dancing and sitting on my lap like that?

    This was the beginning of years of conflicts, many of which I lost and had negative consequences on my career for decades. Along with a closet lesbian coworker he tried to seduce, we committed near professional suicide and did manage to barely sack him when he was about to be promoted to the head of the organization. Regardless, we have a powerful enemy for life. Hanging out with likes of him drunk in a social setting for 20 minutes would be most valuable for a new employee, especially one of the female persuasion.

  50. Kristine, my secretary is gay. I hired him. I am not stressed about gay people. I am stressed about being unable to defend my beliefs when they are attacked because he is my boss. I am stressed about being unable to complain because Mormons are okay to bash here in the Bay area. My sister at least can say it is not okay for her officemate to be conducting an affair with a married person. I cannot. Do not judge, the theme of the millennial generation. I am tired of people defending unacceptable behaviors that ruin people’s lives but then ruining the lives of anyone whose opinions digress from their accepted norms.

  51. Michael. I am horrified by your post. I too have worked in positions where the senior management was doing dreadful things. So many of the partners in the investment banking firm where I worked were having affairs with the secretaries. So much drug use going on in the bathrooms. But it was the financial fraud that finally drove so many people in the accounting department to quit. I was walking the floor to 1 a.m. night after night. It ended up being career suicide. Never able to get back on track.

  52. Just a question. How do you feel when the office party revolves around gambling tables. That is a situation I faced at work. I ate the lunch, turned my free chips over to a co-worker and slipped out. So did two other co-workers. But it was noticed and resented by senior management.

  53. Harriet says:

    I have a close friend who participated in the church’s prop 8 election drive. They asked the members to support the effort. But, because her boss is gay, she could not use her home phone. I hate feeling we must hide when we support what we believe because it will destroy our careers. Ugly time in our country’s history.

  54. Kristine says:

    Emma–I’m not a millennial. Not even close.

    And I am sorry you are in such a difficult situation.

  55. Kristine, I do not believe the problem is about Mormons wanting to publicly stand for righteousness by announcing our disapproval. I think people are thoroughly disturbed by situations they are facing at work. I would like to have work friends and have had them. While I find most office socializing fraught with minefields since your job is at stake, I thoroughly like the people I work with. But the affairs and other behavior I am made aware of since so few attempt to hide anymore upset me. Being questioned on same-sex marriage puts me in an uncomfortable position. I do not approve of same-sex marriage. I support the church’s policy with respect to baptizing children of same-sex couples. Do I tell how I feel, because that might cost me my job. Do I equivocate? Even casual discussions of movies seem to lead to uncomfortable discussions. What I can express to friends from church is totally different from what I feel I can say with work associates. No, I do not support a woman’s right to choose abortion. Yes, I was happy with the Supreme Court decision on Masterpiece cakes. I do not watch R-rated movies. No, I do not like to visit the wineries on weekends. No I cannot golf on Sunday. No, I do not consider the younger George Bush a nut case because he said God spoke to him. And that is before you get to the way I feel about business practices that my work might be adopting that I believe exploit the poor and uneducated.

  56. Kristine says:

    I also can express different things to friends from church and friends from work. That’s what it means to live in a pluralistic society.

  57. @Kristine
    “I think part of the problem is that many Mormons feel compelled to not only disapprove of other people’s choices, but to announce that disapproval as evidence that they ‘stand for righteousness’ or something.”

    Unfortunately, this is not a unique Mormon thing, nor is it a unique religious thing. It’s just a human thing.

  58. Kristine says:

    JJ–touché! Mormons are rare in focusing on coffee, though :)

  59. My dad is a lawyer in big law. As a young lawyer, working with other young lawyers he would feel awkward about the amount of alcohol they were drinking and how much of office socializing not only had to do with alcohol, but getting very drunk. 20 years into his career, half were recovering alcoholics so he had a lot of non-lds friends to not drink with. When he orders a diet coke at an event, it is just assumed he is one of many lawyers who is a recovering alcoholic.

    From my experience, it isn’t just Mormons who feel awkward about socializing with the opposite gender one on one. It’s part of work life, but a lot of people are sensitive about it and it can feel like a big deal. This is sad for people who need mentored by a person of the opposite sex, but it isn’t just in Mormondom that this is an issue.

  60. I loved all of your advice, btw! My husband mentors many young women is his STEM career, and I encourage him to. He’s a great guy and I trust him, fully. This mentoring is usually done in the office, with the door open- just like the young men he mentors.

  61. ” The only people that have noticed or cared about this are Mormons that have seen this as an open door to send the missionaries because he’s a “dry Mormon””

    But it’s okay to push your religion on a person who has no interest in joining it.

  62. Kristine, I did not mean to imply you are a millennial. Just that that phrase is. But many of the managers here are. No one is to judge anything they believe and do but you had better not have an opinion that differs from the accepted norm, which here is ultra liberal. It is no longer about tolerance. You must change the way you think. Conservative Christians actually hold whispered conversations in the halls at election time. They do not dare mention their beliefs. But the liberals spout theirs openly.

  63. Kristine says:

    Emma, I’m sorry, but that’s just silly. Conservative Christians control every branch of government, a major 24-hour news outlet and huge swaths of corporate America. The notion that they are a persecuted minority is risible and dangerous. The “ultra-liberal” tolerance you find so odious is the only thing that protects Mormons from things like being denied the right to adopt children because they are not the right kind of Christians, etc. Having to hold one’s tongue about one’s political positions at work* is a small price to pay for the religious tolerance that allowed our faith to grow and flourish in America. The fact that many Mormons’ political views currently align with Conservative Christians’ is a momentary fluke, and we should not let it trick us into a false sense that “tolerance” a virtue that only benefits people who are not like us.

    (*which, technically, you don’t have to do–every court in the country would rule in your favor if you could demonstrate that your employer discriminated against you based on the expression of a political position. Social awkwardness is not persecution.)

  64. Correction says:

    Political identity is not a protected class by any state or by the federal government. If you are fired solely for your political beliefs, you have no legal recourse against your employer. There may be a narrow exception for some government workers, but for everyone else there is no legal protection for sincerely held political beliefs. Political expression is only protected from from government interference, so private employers have a great deal of leeway to censure unpopular political expressions and beliefs. Case in point is the freedom to kneel when the national anthem is played at NFL games.

  65. Kristine says:

    Huh–always great to start out Sunday morning by being utterly, embarrassingly wrong in public! Thanks, Correction.

  66. For those who stand by their conservative beliefs in liberal circles, when challenged, may I suggest considering a compassionate deflection rather than a confrontational defense. If it does not outrage your conscience, when asked about gay marriage you can respond “It’s not my business, but I hope everyone has the chance to be happy.” Or “I’m pretty old fashioned, but I’m glad it is safer now than it used to be for people to be themselves.” Or you can ask for them about their beliefs instead – generally, people would rather talk than listen, so make yourself the listener. If it applies to you consider asking this coworker for advice on how to be supportive of a gay person in your life.

    As a liberal Mormon in Utah, I use those kind of techniques all of the time.

  67. Kristine, in certain parts of the Bay area you were not allowed to publicly state your opposition to gay marriage without risking your job. This was during the Prop 8 election. I knew one man who was pushed out of his job and another whose employees were harassed because they donated money to the ‘wrong side’. And of course there was the head of Firefox who had to leave his company. This is not tolerance. This is intimidation. This is silencing opinions you do not agree with through threats. I do not feel protected by this tolerance because it only tolerates one side. The Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cake case had to stop the civil rights commission from their ‘tolerance’ of the beliefs of others.

  68. Whether or not you are asked to explain your lack of alcohol consumption the first time you refrain depends on what your coworkers are like, how much they have drunk already, and what they are like when buzzed or drunk. I have found that drinking short of drunkenness makes many of my coworkers less fun to be around. Even those who don’t get aggressive or angry often get nosy, loud, or monopolize the conversation. I usually leave early when alcoohol is being consumed at a work event.

  69. Kristine says:

    “Kristine, in certain parts of the Bay area you were not allowed to publicly state your opposition to gay marriage without risking your job…”

    I know. It’s kind of like being at church if you’re on the other side of the issue! Losing a job/losing a temple recommend. It’s hard. We humans don’t do well with opposing and deeply felt moral convictions.

  70. I find that my co-workers are happy to make good use of my drink ticket.

  71. Bro. Jones says:

    Good gravy, some of you have the misfortune of working at terrible places! For what it’s worth, I’ve worked in healthcare or related industries for almost ten years total, and the stuff you’ve described would not fly at our social events. Something about having lives on the line as part of our work seems to bring at least a bit of decorum. (Offsite events like conferences can get crazy, but nothing strictly work-related.)

  72. Jack Hughes says:

    Another relevant piece of advice, after personally witnessing this faux pas on a few occasions:

    Outside of Utah, root beer is a children’s beverage. Do not order root beer at an upscale bar/restaurant or at a business dinner if you expect to be taken seriously as an adult. You might as well be drinking from a juice box.

  73. That’s too bad because root beer is DELICIOUS. I say shake off the shackles of oppressive social perception and sip on that artificial sassafras nectar to your heart’s content.

  74. Why root beer is verboten but coca-cola is acceptable is beyond me. In my world, all high-calorie, sugary sodas are created equal (in that I hate them all).

  75. Jack Hughes says:

    I’m not opposed to root beer, as long as it’s enjoyed responsibly and in the privacy of one’s home, or perhaps at a church function or child’s birthday party.

    When I went to college and was exposed to large concentrations of Utahns for the first time, I was blown away by how snobbish they were about root beer. Everyone talked incessantly about their favorite brands, vintages (I once listened to a harangue about how “A&W used to be my brand until they changed the recipe a few years ago and it got weird, now it’s Mug or nothing for me!”) and being shocked when restaurants don’t carry root beer, like every Utah restaurant does. Root beer all tastes the same to me, and if I never taste it again I wouldn’t feel at all as though something important was missing from my life.

  76. I just want to snobbishly observe that Jack Hughes’s comment about wanna-be-root beer snobs in Utah praising Mug and condemning A&W–both of which are drecky, corn-syrup-based, mass marketed watery soups of sugar–made me spit out some of my precious Abita in laughter.

  77. OK. I’ll try Abita, but not all root beers are created equal. Though it’s too sweet, I prefer Barq’s for a caffeine fix; can’t stand the taste of any cola drinks I’ve yet tried. But, of course, Carolyn’s approach is healthier. Why are addictive, high-calorie, sugary sodas without caffeine not prohibited by the WoW anyway? :)

  78. “Why are addictive, high-calorie, sugary sodas without caffeine not prohibited by the WoW anyway?”

    Because, JR, sugar is the only vice left to us. If they took that away there would be a revolution.

  79. It would be interesting (fun) to speculate about a new Word of Wisdom. I think we’d need three lists:
    1. The Inspired version. Exactly the same as at present.
    2. The Health Code version. Using 2018 understandings and fads (instead of 1833 or 1921). High calorie sugary soda might hit the list. Diet Coke??
    3. The Cultural Signifier version. In my opinion the most interesting to speculate about. I suspect coffee would hit the list again. Taking this back to the OP.

  80. What a fascinating thread! I’m a life long west coast resident, and other than my time at the MTC and visiting my kids at BYU I’ve not really been in Utah. My entire life my keeping the WoW in school, university, work, has been this: “I’ll have a diet coke, thanks!”. I can’t even think of one time when it was weird or awkward. Same with lunch with a coworker who is of a different gender. “Great, let’s go over the Finklehouser account and figure out a way to coordinate our services.”

    That others have run into difficulties with these situations is an eye opener for me. That a guide is needed (and apparently it’s very much needed) speaks volumes of the insider/outsider mentality that must permeate the Lord’s University.

  81. @Jack Hughes drinking a Henry Weinhard’s in the company of loved ones makes me feel like the king of my domain! The captain of my own destiny! A man among men! What could be more adult than that? (Other than sipping on a fancy genuine sugar cane RB like brother Fox)

  82. Kevin Barney says:

    HP, I’ve had the same experience as you describe. I’ve practiced law in Chicago for 33 years at four different firms, and none of this has ever been a problem for me (because I instinctively followed the Carolyn approach). And meeting alone with a woman is no problem either. As a new know-nothing associate at my first firm, three of my mentors were top-notch female partners. I don’t think I ever had a problem being alone with women in the work environment, but if I did that experience knocked it right out of me. All you have to do is be professional, it’s not rocket science. The BYU computer science geeks who can’t seem to navigate a conference including women in a professional manner need to get over themselves.

  83. MDearest says:

    You guys who have never had small-batch, craft root beer, bottled in gallon jugs in their grandma‘s kitchen and cooled in a snow-melt river, may continue to debate about that commercial dreck that comes in aluminum cans. The cognoscenti know the truth.

  84. Jared vdH says:

    I work on a 7 person team at work – 4 of the 7 don’t drink, though I’m the only Mormon. One of my coworkers had a great answer once when asked – I’m a teetotaler! I’ve also heard “I’m straight edge” and “I don’t like alcohol”. It’s never been a problem for me so far in my career.

    Emma – your experience sounds about the same as working in Texas has been for some of my colleagues. The liberals have had to have whispered hall conversations since all of the management is conservative. We have unfortunately entered into a heavily polarized phase of American politics where nearly every political conversation can get heated very quickly and depending on the topic and people involved can be career ending, at least within that particular company, and depending on how tightly socially connected the industry is, the industry as well.

    Finally, to address the question above concerning company social events centered on gambling tables. I once went to a company Christmas part where this was one of the features. Since there was no way to pay for more chips and the chips themselves were not redeemable for anything either, I just treated them like raffle or carnival tickets, used them, and when I ran out, I ran out. Since there was nothing actually at stake I didn’t really classify it as gambling in my mind. Not sure if your situation was different or not.

  85. MDearest, I remember some of that small-batch, craft root beer having something of an alcoholic kick. It was a new experience. (No caffeine, though.) The cognoscenti [not I] may know the truth.

  86. Could someone please just post their artisan root beer recipe already?

  87. sothisisbliss says:

    Amen! Except that navigating that right moment to step out is sometimes awkward for me. There have been occasions where I wish I just hadn’t gone. Also, as a married professional, I do try hard to make certain to go in a group.

  88. In my >35 year long career not drinking has only occasionally caused me some social grief. I certainly didn’t feel that way about coffee until I read this story (https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/yw37am/how-not-drinking-coffee-almost-ruined-my-career), which made me wonder what I may have been missing. There are other very similar accounts out there.

    Of course many of us have thrived in our a careers as non-drinkers. But I think at least some of us are swimming against the current just a bit. People really do bond over their vices, be they drinking, smoking, or coffee. Same goes for golf. I’ve heard more than once that one doesn’t really know a co-worker or client until you’ve gotten drunk with them.

  89. Michael says:

    Root beer-a recipe for disaster, l l’arned the hard way in rural Utah as a youth not long after polygamy was abandoned. Mostly. This vintage Mormon.

    Get cha one of those old metal 10 gallon milk cans. Fill ‘er up with crick water. Add 10 pounds of U&I beet sugar. Pour in a jug of extract purchased at a store. Add 10 pounds of dry ice and put the lid on tight. Jump in the lid to seal it.

    We did this in the kitchen of a kid named Ramaroos. We got distracted by Eliza Emma next door jumping rope in a short skirt. We let it fester and bubble too long until it exploded. Ramaroos got birched. Took us a month to clean the kitchen up. No liquid refreshments for the ward MIA dance that week..

    BTW when I start telling stories like this at office parties people think I am drunk.

  90. Totes had to Google cognoscenti ….

    Also, Sprite with Grenadine FTW.

  91. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Remembered this advice last night while at a work dinner, forgoing the root beer for some peach/ orange/ lime concoction while everyone else ordered cocktails. Definitely noticed by everyone else, leading to lots of questions and extended discussion. So much for not being conspicuous. Thanks, folks.

  92. ATNM – but it was delicious, right?

  93. Camerdu says:

    Amen. Great advice. If someone pushes me for why I don’t, I fluctuate between “I don’t want to”, and “My life falls apart when I drink”. That usually gets a good laugh. There are plenty of people in this world, and 99.999% of them don’t really care why you don’t drink alcohol or coffee. It’s no big deal – don’t turn it into one.

  94. Loursat says:

    christiankimball’s comment mentions the Word of Wisdom’s function as a cultural signifier and as a health code. In some ways the WoW is excellent health advice, but it is obviously not a comprehensive plan for good health practices. The older and more antiquated it gets, the more important it becomes as a cultural signifier. This discussion suggests how useful the WoW can also be as a token of personal observance. That’s the flip side of being a cultural signifier. It’s kind of perfect for this function–it pops up in ways that can be socially awkward, but seldom in ways that are too hard to handle. It marks us just enough to remind us of the constant effort to find holiness in the world and to be holy. And when the WoW starts to feel like a set of empty gestures, it can serve as a gentle wake-up call to our spirits. The antiquated aspects of the WoW actually enhance this feature. It’s one of the things that are totally legitimate to do just because they’re things that Mormons do. (Or, if you will, just because God asked.) I’m not a fan of the way that the WoW becomes a harsh divider between in-groups and out-groups, but that’s mostly a different discussion. As a tool for personal devotion, it has merit.

  95. Left Field says:

    If everyone is sitting around drinking brown beverages, I don’t really care about someone’s arbitrary determination that one hot brown beverage is a “childrens’s drink” and another is not; or if one carbonated brown beverage is a “children’s drink” and another is not. Drink whatever brown beverage you want. It’s the other person who has the problem.

  96. nobody, really says:

    “I’m allergic to alcohol. It makes me break out in handcuffs.”
    -Glenn Beck, Mormon and recovering alcoholic, on explaining why he doesn’t drink alcohol

  97. Michael says:

    I agree that coffee is a cultural signifier more than a health code. What if coffee actually was good for you, a wholesome herb that prevented some diseases? What if the cost of not drinking coffee was not just social awkwardness- but sickness, suffering and premature death?

    Check this out: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5420628/

    Just think of the list of our prominent church leaders who suffered from these conditions.
    I wonder if President Nelson has some sort of endogenous psychogenic generation of stimulant brain chemicals. The restrained energy, he reminds me of a friend who drank 20 cups of coffee a day. Most cardiac surgeons drink a lot of coffee to work those 100-120 hour weeks during 7 years of residency training and that often doesn’t stop for decades until they stop operating. (Or die prematurely of heart disease.) How did he survive and prosper?

    Of course, it isn’t 100%. My MIL is in her mid 80’s, and has Parkinson’s. My FIL died of Alzheimer’s a couple years ago. Both life-long coffee consumers. Maybe the coffee magic doesn’t work if you have been to the temple.

  98. Loursat (6/26 8:18pm): A useful observation, that the flip side of cultural signifier is personal observance and reminder. But then the flip flip side is virtue signaling and self-righteousness. The mind-set really matters here.

    Michael (6/27 9:58am): Twice recently I heard of a bishop readily agreeing that coffee was OK with a medical reason. Twice is enough to wonder if there’s a pattern, but I don’t know anything more. If it were up to me–and it clearly isn’t–I would be quick to understand a variety of reasons to go for moderation instead of absolutes.

  99. Michael says:


    The problem with the medical permission is that as described so far, the coffee is preventive and is not guaranteed to make a difference in any specific individual. Large numbers of people would have to be drinking it for many years to achieve a benefit in a fewer who are not identifiable at this point. It is not like the bishop can look into a seer stone and select the 15 or 20 people in his ward who would benefit in their old age and tell them to start drinking coffee. We don’t all live to old age, some of us die of accidents or diseases that strike us “before our time.” Coffee drinking helping to prevent neurological degenerative diseases of old age would not benefit those who die young. Seeing that fate in a seer stone might not be a good thing either.

    It is similar to the reason we wear seat belts. Only a small percent of motorists died in collisions before they were prescribed by law. My dad refused to wear them and survived until quite old (90 years) when we started forcing him. He was never in a wreck where they would have saved him. As a teenager he was in a collision that threw him through the windshield and he was lucky to survive that. Seat belts were not available then. Seat belts do save many lives but there are still many people dying in automobile collisions.

  100. My favorite line is “I’m over 18, so water is an adult beverage!”

  101. Kevin Barney says “The BYU computer science geeks who can’t seem to navigate a conference including women in a professional manner need to get over themselves.”

    I am one of the BYU CS geeks, and I had a female mentor in grad school (not BYU). She was more Christian than I was (although, she did think I wasn’t Christian anyway). Not all BYU CS geeks have problems with women.

  102. Jack Hughes says “Outside of Utah, root beer is a children’s beverage. Do not order root beer at an upscale bar/restaurant or at a business dinner if you expect to be taken seriously as an adult. You might as well be drinking from a juice box.”

    I was in Seattle a week ago and split a pizza with coworkers at 11:30pm while prepping for meetings the next day (Rocco’s on 2nd Ave, pepperoni with extra cheese). No one blinked when I ordered root beer. RB and pizza go well together.

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