June 14th, 2012
09:38 AM ET
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – Nineteen-year-old baseball phenom Bryce Harper isn’t known for drawing attention to his faith – he’s kinda the anti-Tim Tebow in that way – but he didn’t hide his dismay Tuesday when thrown a question that intersected squarely with his Mormonism.
A Toronto reporter asked Harper, a Washington Nationals outfielder, whether he’d have a beer to celebrate a whopper of a home run and the Nationals’ win against the Blue Jays, taking advantage of Ontario’s lower drinking age.
Harper’s response: “That’s a clown question, bro.” The quip quickly blew up on the Internet.
The player appeared to be alluding to the Mormon prohibition on alcohol, rooted in a law that Mormons call the “Word of Wisdom,” which is found in Mormon Scripture.
Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1800s, is said to have received a law from God regarding healthy living, inaugurating a Mormon ban on drugs and alcohol – along with tobacco, coffee and tea.
"[S]trong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies,” according the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of Mormon scripture. "Hot drinks are not for the body or belly.”
The LDS church’s official website says the Word of Wisdom is aimed at keeping humans strong in body and mind.
“Our body is a precious gift from God,” the site says.
“God promises great physical and spiritual blessings to those who follow the Word of Wisdom,” the site continues. “Today, the scientific community promotes some of the same principles that a loving God gave to Joseph Smith nearly two centuries ago.”
Harper was raised in the Mormon fold Nevada, which is home to a large LDS minority. His faith is detailed in the recent book “The Last Natural: Bryce Harper's Big Gamble in Sin City and the Greatest Amateur Season Ever.”
Author Rob Miech spent time with Harper during his year as a college ball player. Harper left high school after his junior year, took the GEDs and enrolled in the College of Southern Nevada so he could focus on baseball.
While many young Mormons take two years in their early 20s to perform a mission trip for the church, Miech writes that Harper chose baseball as his mission.
“I feel I can be a walking Book of Mormon and help people on the baseball field and off it,” Harper told Miech.
In college, Harper inscribed his bat and the tape around his wrists with Scripture verses, including 2 Samuel 22:33-34, which encompasses a song from the Jewish hero David after an epic battle with King Saul.
“God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect,” the song says. “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me on high places.”
The verse is fitting for a rocket-armed rookie who is one of the fastest runners on his team.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.