The appearance of evil in Utah Valley

By Common Consent posted an interesting link to this, a quick story about a Starbucks opening up in Utah Valley. Again, confession time. In addition to loving Buffy, I am a Starbucks junkie. Yes, it's true. I love everything about it. I love the way it looks, I love sitting there and sipping my hot drink, and I love the way I smell after I've been there for a while. And I love the drinks. No, not the coffee, but the other ones. The hot chocolate. The almond and vanilla steamers. The Italian sodas (at participating locals only!). And of course, my favorite, the caramel apple cider. It's so good it almost makes it worth it to live through a winter in Boston. (Well, ok, NOTHING makes living through a winter in Boston worth it, but still, it's a dang yummy drink.) I introduced my in-laws to this particular joy in life. My MIL's first time actually setting foot into a Starbucks was when she was visiting us in Boston, and I took her to one after we'd been sight-seeing in the cold. She got a little giddy when we went in, and she only ordered a muffin. I educated her about steamers, and while we were enjoying our treats, she said in a conspiratorial whisper, "I almost feel like being here is evil." I think she was only half-joking. I told my sister this little story, and she brought up a good point. She said, "What do you think people think when they see you drinking something out of a Starbuck's cup? Their first thought is probably not, 'Oh, she's drinking an almond steamer.' Clearly, they assume that you are drinking coffee." And then we talked about how appropriate it really was, drinking something innocuous out of a cup bearing the markings of something we abstain from. My sister said, "I mean, what would people think if Pres. Hinckley was walking around with a Starbucks mug in his hand?" I maintain that people aren't really all that concerned about what I'm drinking, although I hope they give me the benefit of the doubt when I share my hot drink with my small child at the airport. And I haven't stopped enjoying my Starbuck's experience. But I think it would be interesting to see if Starbucks can make it in Utah Valley, where I think people are VERY concerned with what everybody else is doing, drinking hot drinks inlcuded. And how important is avoiding the very appearance of evil? I mean, for leaders of the Church, I guess it's pretty important. There's a story out there that even before he was an Apostle, Elder Oaks wouldn't even drink a soda at a function where alcohol was being served, just so he could avoid any talk at all about what he might have been drinking. But I'm not a leader of the Church, and I don't think people who drink or manufacture coffee are inherently evil, so does that mean I can enjoy my pleasure guilt free? I hope so, because my MIL gave me a Starbucks gift card for Christmas, and I've still got enough for one more drink. Caramel apple cider, anyone?


Blogger Kim Siever said...

Does "appearance of evil" mean anything that resembles evil or does it mean when evil appears?

4/20/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

In this case, I think I mean anything that resembles evil. I clearly do not think that Starbucks is evil, nor do I think that putting a Starbucks in Utah Valley is evil either. But that's just me. Perhaps some would argue that in this case, it means both!

4/20/2005 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

Okay, the carmel apple cider sounds delicious! Too bad Maryland is stinking hot today! Cider and summer weather don't seem to go together for me.

As for Starbucks in Utah Valley, I'm surprised there isn't one there already since it seems like they are everywhere! I can just imagine the BYU Daily Universe editorials about this - so very funny!

4/20/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Yum....vanilla steamers are the best! I guess there is a huge cultural/social component to "the appearance of evil" (ie) I grew up in Portland, just a skip and a jump from the coffeehouse capital of the world and birthplace of Starbucks (Seattle). We would occasionally have YW activities at a coffeehouse. I've never thought twice about walking around with a Starbucks cup in my hand.

However, and probably because I'm married now, I get extremely self-conscious walking the six blocks between my apartment and my gym in workout clothes...afraid that I'm going to run into someone from church and they will know (whether it's obvious or not) that I'm not in my garments. The few times I have - I find myself unnecessarily explaining where I've been.....and that I'm going right back up to my apartment to change.

4/20/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


You're in Maryland? We're in Virginia, and yes, it IS stinking hot today. Jacob tried eating lunch outside, and he said, "Mom, the light is making me hot." Yes, cider is not appealing today. But just think about it in February--yum!

And of course, there's the elusive Italian soda. It's so delicious on a summer's day, and I can't always find it at Starbucks. I used to work near a coffee shop that sold those things, and I have to say, I frequented it so often that when they saw me coming, they started getting out the stuff to make it. It's basically cream, sparkling water, and flavoring mixed with ice. It's divine!

4/20/2005 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Kaimi said...


We'll have to have a Buffy-watching night some time with some takeout Starbucks.

I like the cider, but Mardell is a big fan of the peppermint hot chocolate.

(And by the way, which side of the great debate in Buffy are you on? To wit -- best season: Season 2 or Season 3?).

4/20/2005 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Obviously you guys haven't been there lately!! Starbucks has now introduced a new, even more devastating product: Chantico, their luxurious "drinking chocolate." It tastes amazingly good, but don't look at the nutrition charts or you may kill yourself. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

4/20/2005 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Chantico? I might have to go right now and get some.


total threadjacking, but since it's about Buffy, I don't mind. I think the best season was, of course, with Angel, but I'm not exactly sure if that's 2 or 3. I learned of the Buffy magic late in the game, in its last season, and caught up with reruns on FX, which means I'm a little fuzzy on which season was what.

4/20/2005 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Kim Siever said...

"And how important is avoiding the very appearance of evil? I mean, for leaders of the Church, I guess it's pretty important."

"In this case, I think I mean anything that resembles evil."

So, you think it is pretty important to Church leaders that we avoid a caramel apple cider in Starbucks?

4/20/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Heather, in all seriousness, go out RIGHT NOW and get some Chantico. I swear on your husband's honor that it's awesome.

4/20/2005 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I can't tell if you are messing with me or if my post was really that confusing.

Let me try to be clear-

I heard that Elder Oaks won't even drink water at a function where alcohol is being served, only because he wants to avoid the very appearance of evil, that is, doing something that could even resemble something evil. He is a high profile Mormon, he sets the standards, etc, etc, so certainly he must feel that it is important to avoid the very appearance of evil. I understand that in his case, it's important to remain very clear about what his activities are.

But then there are the rest of us. When I carry around a Starbuck's cup, I doubt very much that people care what I'm drinking. They probably assume that I'm drinking coffee, but they don't care, because coffee is not forbidden to most of the people around here. But what if another Mormon saw me carrying around the cup--what message does it send? Would they be wondering, "hmm...maybe Heather is breaking the Word of Wisdom". In Boston and perhaps Seattle--no. In Utah Valley, I think the answer would be different, and there would be wondering talk and suspicions, and I would feel compelled to confess, "It's only cider! Try the Chantico, it's delicious!"

And then there's the whole idea that even frequenting a place that sells coffee could be evil, (my MIL's feeling when I introduced her to this vice) and that we should avoid the entire thing because again, even though we are only drinking cider, we are not avoiding even the appearance of evil.

And the whole thing started with the question of whether or not Starbucks could make it in a place like Utah Valley, where Mormons are the majority. I just think it will be interesting to note this particular franchise's progress in a town where most people abstain from coffee and tea.

4/20/2005 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

So, in answer to your question Kim, I would hope that it is NOT important to Church leaders that we are drinking apple cider from Starbucks. But there may be some people out there who think that it is, that we shouldn't be involved with coffee houses at all.

And maybe they're right-I don't know. I just hope they're NOT right, because like I said, I dig the caramel apple cider, and it sounds like soon I'll be addicted to their Chantico drink as well!

4/20/2005 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

A bit of a funny story, I was running late to Ward Council early one Sunday morning, and I put my requisite hot chocolate into a disposable hot drinks cup that we conveniently had left over from a party in which we served hot cider. It looks pretty much like a generic, large coffee cup, with sipper lid and everything. Didn't occur to me until someone (probably my husband, can't remember) mentioned it most of the way through the meeting, and I had to justify both the idea that I had been drinking coffee and that I had stopped at a drivethrough on a Sunday to purchase it!

4/20/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

From my vantage point, currently looking at downtown Seattle from my office, there is no appearance of evil at Starbucks. Appearance of paying too much for a hot beaverage? Yes. Evil? No.

4/20/2005 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Starbucks will probably do fairly well in Utah Valley - nobody likes chocolate more. They probably won't sell as much coffee, but their cider/chocolate/steamer business will probably be enough to keep the store open and thriving.

4/20/2005 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Kim Siever said...

"But what if another Mormon saw me carrying around the cup--what message does it send?"

That they should continue with their judging others.

It's Elder Oaks' prerogative to not drink anything at a function just in case someone might assume it is alcohol. However, if someone does assume it's alcohol, who's in the wrong? Elder Oaks for drinking water or the person judging him for it?

4/20/2005 08:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Jenn L said...

Taking the caffine topic aside (and thus possibly hijacking this post for which I'm sorry) but Starbucks as a corporation does an incredible amount of good. As most of you know, Starbucks gives all full AND part time employees access to comprehensive health care...they promote social responsibility in the way they require their growers to cultivate the coffee beans (not to mention it gives the farmers a substantial cash crop outside of farming drugs) and following the tsunami, starbucks turned their entire overseas distribution system over to the relief effort. However, my favorite Starbucks story is that at some point three starbucks employees were killed while closing up a store one night. Howard Shultz (the founder) heard about this in the middle of the night and immediately chartered a plane so that he could be there with the family. But it's more than a PR move on his part - he not only spent the entire week with the families but has also committed all future profits from the store to a memorial fund for those employees. Given how much good the company is trying to do, I'm more than happy to spend my hardearned money there.

4/20/2005 08:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Jenn L said...

Forgot to add, I don't work for Starbucks...

4/20/2005 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I only drink water.

4/20/2005 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Geoff J said...

I wish I could convince myself to only drink water...

4/21/2005 01:43:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

I don't think coffee is evil, unhealthy, but not evil.

The thing that bothers me about word of wisdom issues is that people judge themselves or others on such things. It's coffee, tobacco, or alcohol (drugs, too). We leave out over-eating.

But there are people who obey the word of wisdom, attend church, and are totally out of whack spiritually. I'd take a good drunk over a self-righteous jerk any day.

4/21/2005 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

You people are making those of us who are Starbucks-less very very jealous.

I think Kim has a good point -- I had a professor at BYU who wouldn't drink anything but milk on airplanes, because that way he's sure no one thinks he's drinking something alcoholic. At the time, I admired that, but now I think it's just silly. Who really cares what other people are thinking? If they want to know what I'm drinking, they can ask. If they want to know why I frequent the local coffee shop and have a t-shirt from there (the owners are close friends and they have AWESOME desserts) they can ask.

BTW, I think many Mormons miss out on many delicious food experiences because of our Word of Wisdom judgement issues. For example, is it wrong to eat a dish that's been cooked with wine? (Or to have wine in the house solely for cooking purposes?)

4/21/2005 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

I am a little torn on this issue. On the one hand, we are not breaking any commandments by drinking a non-coffee drink and it's really nobody's business what we drink anyway. On the other hand, we are supposed to be a peculiar people, and sometimes I wonder if we get a little carried away with getting as close to the world as we can without actually violating one of the commandments. BTW, I'm not at all suggesting that Heather is doing that.

4/21/2005 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

OK, I'll admit it...I also drink juice. But not often. I'm diabetic and don't drink anything with caffeine or artificial sweetener

I don't worry so much about other people judging (who cares?) as I do the example I set. If someone sees me drinking from a coffee cup and assumes I'm drinking coffee, it may help them justify their own drinking of coffee. And who hasn't done that? "Well I saw so-and-so shopping on Sunday, why shouldn't I?" or whatever. Just something else to think about.

4/21/2005 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Heather O. said...


I'm surprised that Jonesboro doesn't have a Starbucks. We had one right by our house in Little Rock, and it was even a drive-through--very convenient!


I think you bring up a good point, and one that I had hoped to talk about. I think we often do try to get as close as we can to committing sin without actually doing it. I think frequenting a coffee house is pretty harmless, but maybe there are other things that we do that even though they aren't really bad, they should be avoided all the time anyway.

4/21/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Heather P. said...

Barnes & Noble in Orem has a Starbucks. The one opening in American Fork is the first stand-alone Starbucks in Utah County and that's why it's news-making, I guess.
And there are other coffee shops in Utah Valley (although, admittedly, they do often have a hard time staying in business) - Juice'n'Java (Provo and Orem locations), Red's Coffeehouse (Provo), Steamers (Provo), and Vermillion Skies (Provo, although that one isn't technically a "coffee" shop because it sells no coffee, only other hot and cold beverages - italian sodas, herb teas, mockacinos made with Pero, etc).
I love coffee shops. I used to be a member of a bookclub that met in a coffee shop. And sometimes I go to see friends play music. The atmosphere is great. (And I *love* the smell of coffee.)

4/21/2005 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Heather P. said...

One more thing - the Deseret News had this story earlier in the week.

And I don't care about people judging, but the one comment that made me think is where Susan asks about the example you are setting. But there are so many things to drink you can get from a coffee shop, many that are WoW compliant, and so I don't know.

4/21/2005 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Ah Heather, Jonesboro is so completely, totally, hopelessly backward that even though we have probably a dozen or so coffee shops in town, we have yet to get a Starbucks. It seems we have a mediocre-coffee shop mentality around here (or at least a locally-owned one). Sigh. The sad part is that the non-Starbucks coffee shops don't usually carry anything other than coffee, and when they do, it's hopelessly sub-par.

Here's an interesting example-setting question: what would you think if you saw someone you knew was Mormon go into a coffee shop and come out with a bag of coffee?

4/21/2005 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I cook with wine. I think it's okay. Nobody got drunk, but the food tasted good.

4/21/2005 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...


I'd probably assume they're a coffee-drinker, or were purchasing coffee for someone else.

4/21/2005 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

I just wanted to tell you that because of this thread I had to get a vanilla steamer and a cranberry-apple muffin for breakfast this morning. That was an expensive breakfast ... but yummy ...

4/22/2005 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Expensive, but, oh, so worth it, right?


Honestly, my first thought if it was somebody I didn't know very well would be, "Well, didn't have them pegged as apostate. I wonder what flavor they chose?" Then my non-judging self would take over, and I'd probably tell myself that they were just getting coffee for their compost pile, or something. If it was somebody I knew well who I knew was a straight-arrow Mormon, I would be confused, and would go right up and ask them what was up. I'm sure there would be a good story to tell.

4/22/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that we have to be serious all the time, and I like this blog, but don't people have better things to worry about than if they see a Mormon drinking or buying coffee?

I'm stunned that something as harmless as drinking coffee is equated with "evil" or the "appearance of evil". I guess if we were talking about alcohol it would be different, but it blows my mind that drinking coffee is such a big deal.

Granted, I came from a family who believed drinking coke was against the WoW, so I understand the orthodoxy. But it still blows my mind, really. Coffee isn't even mentioned in the Word of Wisdom, but "hot drinks" are. Doesn't cider and hot chocolate fall into this category?

I've never understood this part of the Word of Wisdom. I think it's because my family grew up not drinking Coke and then we moved to Utah and everyone was drinking Coke. So what's the reasoning behind it? Is there any?

Sorry to vent, and I really do like this blog, but I just turned on the news and got an earful of all the horrible things happening in this world. Drinking coffee is not one of them.

4/22/2005 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Thanks for joining us.

The issue about "hot drinks" in the WoW is not a new one, and the 89th section of the D&C is not very cut and dry about what exactly is a "hot drink". I just know that Pres. Hinckley has specifically said that we don't drink tea or coffee, so, there you have it.

I'm sure we could have a discussion about the WoW on another thread. I'm also sure that BCC and Times and Seasons have covered the discussion at length. They also have more serious discussions about the world at large, if you are so dissatisfied with the content of this particular blog. Are there certain topics that you yourself feel compelled to discuss that relate to the Mormon mothers of the world? We're always looking for new idea, and if you don't mind, include your name so we can appreciate who is criticizing us.

4/22/2005 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

J Stapley,
My husband, who works in downtown Seattle, was stopped by a passerby who asked, "Excuse me, where I can I get cup of coffee?"
My husband said to the lady and said, "You're in Seattle. Let's see, there's a Starbucks right there (he pointed), and there's a Tully's right there, and a Seattle's best (or something) on that corner."
He walked away laughing.
I'm with you on the $$$. Whenever someone says the economy is bad, I just look at them in wonder. Everywhere I go, I see people WASTE money on so many things. I guess I won't begrudge someone an occasional treat if they can afford it, but I'd rather have no debt and save monthly for retirement....something that Americans do too little these days.

4/22/2005 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Heather. I didn't realise that Starbucks was a topic for Mormom mothers.

4/22/2005 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/22/2005 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Clearly, you have some definite thoughts about what we SHOULD be talking. Please, enlighten us.

BTW, whenever chocolate is brought up in any form-- drinking, hot, or otherwise, it's a topic for Mormon mothers!

4/22/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that you shouldn't talk about drinking coffee or whatever it is you want to talk about. I felt like commenting on the fact that I didn't understand why drinking coffee is such a scandal. I'm sorry if my comments were taken personally. I like this blog and lurk a lot. I think your post hit a nerve, because it reminded me of all the people out there, Mormon and non-Mormon, who do judge people on things like drinking coffee.

Anyway, I apologize if I was harsh in my comments, and next time I'll use my name when I make comments, which should remind me to be more civil.

4/22/2005 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

"I think your post hit a nerve, because it reminded me of all the people out there, Mormon and non-Mormon, who do judge people on things like drinking coffee."

Now you're talking, and that's a great comment. One of my intended points was that I think there indeed ARE people who judge others based on things like drinking coffee, and that, dare I say it, Utah Valley is one of those places. That's why I think it would be interesting to see how a business like Starbucks does in a place where people are, indeed, watching others and thinking suspicious thoughts about what exactly is in that Starbucks cup with the recycled cardboard hand guard.

4/22/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

99% of mormons agree that drinking coffee is against the WoW. The WoW is a big commandment. It is in the temple recommend interview.
So is honesty.
If someone said that they wonder if something they do might make people THINK they are being dishonest, but they really aren't, I would think it was an interesting, relevant conversation.
What do we do if we are doing something that might LOOK like we are breaking a commandment. Should we tell everyone and justify ourselves? Sure, it isn't fair for them to judge us. But is it fair for us to make them THINK something different than reality. And is it fair for us to SEEM like we are not living our religion, when there might be people around us looking to us as examples.
Often, as a lone Mormon, I feel that my living my standards meant something to people around me. They respected it and maybe they even learned something from it. Is it fair to disappoint them by not caring if what I am doing makes them THINK I am not living up to those standards.
As much as I believe in not judging, I also think that reputation is important. Look at parenting. Kids get lost. Kids get hurt. Kids make poor choices. But I care about my reputation as a parent. I don't care about it more than my kids well being...I'm not that sort of person. But other people do size you up and it matters. I don't want teachers/other parents/neighbors, etc. to think I neglect my children, don't feed them, don't supervise them, don't teach them manners or proper behavior, etc. I don't want people to call the police or social services on me, I don't want to go to jail if my child is injured, or another child is injured while under my care.
Reputation does matter. The appearance of goodness does matter in some aspects of life.
Is a coffee cup one of these aspects? Maybe, maybe not.

4/22/2005 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

I've only been to Starbucks a couple of times, and I have to say I thought their cocoa was a little disappointing, but their pumpkin scones (possibly seasonal) are soooo good.

As a strange sidenote, 7-11 has the best hot chocolate I've ever consumed.

4/26/2005 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Summer said...

Just for the record, there are several Starbucks in Utah Valley now, and they do very well (at least four I can think of offhand).

1/01/2008 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, PLEASE for the love of God, will all of you wien yourselves off of the man made, lamb disguised seductiveness and pick up a Bible? In all love, the hour is short and you need to make sure you understand God's Word. Please. In all seriousness, just learn God's Will and forget all this counterfeit nonsense. You have been deceived by a wolf in meek, tender looking sheep's clothing telling you what your itching ears want to hear. Heed God's warning about this in Matthew, Luke, Peter and Mark. He makes it very clear. Mountain Meadows Massacre and Danites = bad fruits. Much love to you all.

5/23/2015 12:55:00 AM  

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