When I was six years old, my best friend’s mother got out some ice cream for me. When I put a spoon in my mouth, I noticed a strange flavor. I looked at the box to see what the flavor was: COFFEE! Panicking, I put my hand over my mouth and immediately ran home to spit it out in a toilet. The poor woman called my mom to see what was wrong. I’m not sure what she said, but thinking about that experience reminds me of just how overboard good Latter-day Saints sometimes go when it comes to the recommendation-turned-commandment known as the Word of Wisdom.
One of the few correct things that most people know about Mormons is that they generally don’t smoke, drink, etc. And that’s one of the few things that some of our members seem to really understand as well. The Word of Wisdom is an inspired and marvelous thing, certainly, but I worry about how much more attention it seems to get in the minds of our youth than, say, avoiding pornography. Wouldn’t it be great if the thing about Mormons that really made us stand out from the mainstream world was our aversion to pornography, even more than our aversion to coffee?
Somehow we’ve done a great job teaching our children and adults to avoid tobacco, coffee, and alcohol like the plague. But in today’s climate, the thing that the Prophet seems to most frequently equate with the plague is not Lipton tea or Camel cigarettes, but pornography. Thinking of Gordon Smith’s recent post on this issue, I agree that we need to find a way to better prepare our people against this major evil. Missionaries who may be well trained in helping people overcome smoking need to be even better trained in helping those struggling with more dangerous addictions, and I suspect that bishops and other leaders need a much higher level of expertise in this area.
I hope we can see the day when one of the most remarkable and well known things about Mormons is not what we don’t take into our bodies, but what we don’t take into our minds. What we teach is wonderful, but too many are ill prepared for the power of the temptations that abound today. It can be a genuine struggle, sometimes a daily struggle, even for the most faithful of Saints, depending on their circumstances. Coffee has never been that big of a problem for most of us.