What is now the Joseph Smith Building in Salt Lake City was once a beautiful and historic hotel serving visitors from many parts of the world. In the 1980′s, the number of visitors to the hotel became increasingly low. The church asked Marriott Corp. to conduct a study as to what could be done to bring in more guests. The report was issued back to the church and at the top of the list was: Start serving alcohol.
Of course we know the end of the story. The church would not sell alcohol and so the building was turned into a memorial for the Prophet Joseph. What interests me about this story is not that the church refused to serve alcohol in its hotel but that Bill Marriott would sell it in his. The issue was raised again recently when a member friend mentioned to me that he owned stock in Anheuser Busch and Starbucks. He told me of a brother-in-law who equated it with buying the beer and drinking the coffee. The issue here is being associated with and profiting from products that are against our religious beliefs.
I personally believe that the world of commerce is so intertwined, especially in our age of globalization, that it is seemingly impossible not to associate in some form with companies and products that we don’t agree with. I believe if we were to completely rid ourselves of these associations, we would find ourselves living in the woods with no contact to other human beings. And yet I also know designers who will not work with certain materials, which are harmful to the environment, and lawyers who will not take certain cases. The decision is so personal that it demands that we evaluate and weigh these issues throughout our lives. That is what fascinates me about it.
Let me be clear that I understand our responsibility to ourselves and our own salvation. It’s unproductive and wrong for us to spend our lives worrying about how others live their lives and how they will be judged. Our eternal judgment will not be in relation to what others have done but in relation to what we have done. So what I am hoping is to hear about the reasons why YOU make the decisions you make. Commenting on what the Marriotts or anyone else should do in their business dealings is fruitless and not the reason for this post. Instead I’d be interested to hear, for example, if Don has ever struggled with what to show at his movie theatre or if Rusty would ever take a job with a cigarette company if the price was right.