Granpappy the Booze-Hound

A BCC alum, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes in with a question for the ‘nacle:

My grandfather is in his 90s. He is a lifelong, devout church member and temple goer who has spent much of his retirement years doing genealogical extraction work, tending to in his magnificent garden, and reading biographies of Church presidents. His default mood is one of stern sensibility; his life has been characterized by a studied avoidance of capriciousness.

Recently, he surprised Grandma with this announcement. “I want to know what beer tastes like.”

Needless to say, this was a completely unexpected departure from his established record of strict religious orthopraxy. Even more surprisingly, Grandma, for what had to have been the first time in her 86 years, went to the store and bought him one.

She brought it home and cracked it open for him. He took a sip.

“I think it’s spoiled,” Grandpa said, and threw it away, abruptly ending his bizarre twilight rumpsringa.

“Well, there’s forty cents wasted!” Grandma exclaimed.

My question to you, ‘nacle saints: Do you get a pass on the WoW when you hit 90? And which is the greater sin: Grandpa, who has shown faint hints of senility, drinking a sip of beer? Grandma, who shows no signs of senility, buying it for him? Grandma buying such crappy beer for him? Furthermore, do I need to call Grandpa to repentance? Or should I buy him a bottle of some respectable import so that his indulgence in sin won’t be wasted on such inferior booze? Or both?

(Incidentally, to add to the family scandal, when Grandma recounted this to several of us during a recent visit, one cousin unthinkingly blurted out “You can’t even get a Natty Light for 40 cents!”—inadvertently incriminating herself by her knowledge not only of the current retail price of cheap beer, but of its street name.)

I welcome your thoughts.


  1. I dunno about Granpappy, but I have floated the idea among some of my Mormon hiking buddies and academic pals that the Word of Wisdom should not be operational in the Alps above 2000m or the night after you successfully defend your PhD dissertation.

    “twilight rumpsringa” — beautiful!

  2. It’s surprising to me, but I don’t really have a problem with Granpappy. Maybe that means I’ve compartmentalized the WoW into some sort of different category of sin or something, but it doesn’t seem horrible to me.

  3. Who knows, maybe he is preparing for the spirit world. Once he “crosses over” he can have long talks with early church members about the relative strengths and weaknesses of various barley drinks.

  4. Ronan, I think I could have made better use of your loophole before my dissertation defense. To each his own.

  5. I think it’s okay but in some ways other than “sin” it is unfortunate because it breaks a life-long track record of not ever taking a drink, which is something that is very difficult to achieve and quite an accomplishment, all religious implications aside.

  6. Name (required) says:

    Is a life-long track record of never taking a drink a good thing? Maybe it is–Jesus, Joseph Smith, BY, and probably every other pre-restoration prophet hasn’t accomplished it.

    I don’t see any problem with this.

  7. John, in the eternities, no one will give a rip. It’s about on par with skipping a priesthood meeting one Sunday during you life.

  8. SCT,
    Well then, you can always join me on my Alpine trip next summer. We’re overnighting at 3000m…

    I think it’s a red herring to bring up the JSJ-beer thing, but I can’t be bothered to counter it. Suffice it to say that john f’s comment speaketh truth.

  9. I think it’s ok, but I also think it’s sad. Grandpa probably doesn’t want it aired on BCC, I’m betting.

  10. It isn’t just the booze. I think it is a nod to what we hope is mature wisdom when we assume people of a certain age know what they are doing.

    Consider this example. Grandma marries grandpa in the temple, they raise family, grandpa dies. Grandma lives alone for twenty lonely years and then meets a man who is not a member whom she likes a lot, and who proposes marriage. I know a woman in this situation, and she wants to marry him but is worried about the example it will set for her grandchildren.

  11. It sounds to me like Grandma was wise and got the most disgusting beer for him to try. Cured his curiosity right quick, didn’t it?

    Along with that, I think there are variations on how much you can violate the WoW. The single drink isn’t enough to get your temple recommend taken. I know of no bishop who would suggest that. So put it in the minor sin category, not destroying his or her chance for exaltation.

  12. I am not sure why it matters. Grandpappy seems to have lived a good life. So why judge him? Leave that to God and trust the atonement. It is not our business to decide whether grandma and grandpa were sinning unless we are their judges, which we are not.

  13. In other words, I would just leave dear granddad alone.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with this at all. First, once you turn 90 it seems to me you get a pass on all sorts of things. Second, I think grandma was wise to just let him have a taste and not fight it. Third, I did much the same thing, just when I was young instead of old. I tried beer in high school and wine on my mission. In both cases, BLEECCHH!

    I’m not sure the cheapness of the beer was the controlling factor in his distaste for it. What beer drinkers often forget is that it is an acquired taste. It doesn’t matter whether it’s cheap or premium stuff, to someone taking his first swig it is going to taste awful.

    (For this reason I have a little theory, that people only become acclimated to alcohol through peer pressure, because if left to their own devices they would never keep drinking enough of the wretched stuff to acquire the taste for it.)

  15. mondo cool says:

    What Jacob M. said (#11). Grandma is the real star in this episode.

    Let Grandpa’s bishop decide what needs to be addressed.

  16. Kevin #14 before I joined the Church, My personal experience was that I wanted to be drunk, and I was initially willing to wade through the taste to get there. And there are plenty of Americanized girly drinks like Malibu, or Strawberry Hills etc, which get you past the taste.

    It’s like Coca-cola or Coffee for that matter, we want the perceived benefits, and we believe others when they saw we will start to enjoy the taste. (I didn’t know sodas were an acquired taste until my daughter told me she didn’t like Sprite because of the fizz…)

  17. 16 – Sprite’s just nasty anyway! :)

    14 – did the same thing in high school myself, with similar results. Won’t have to or desire to expiriment so again.

  18. Kevin, what would have posessed you to taste wine on your mission?

  19. My mission president was fond of saying that you could drink gallons of Coke every day and make it to the Celestial Kingdom, but if you drank one drop of coffee and didn’t repent you wouldn’t.

    I put this bit of wisdom on my list of things he said but I didn’t believe, including: the attractiveness of your future spouse being equally proportional to your service record as a missionary, and that Japanese people descended from Noah’s son Japeth because they both had “Jap” in their names (feel free to correct me on either of these points).

  20. Kevin, pretty much all the things that are nasty at first taste that people later acquire a taste for (that I can think of) have some sort of drug in them. Beer, wine, cigars, coffee, are there any others? I know some people like raw oysters and I tried one and it was disgusting. Is that always an acquired taste as well? If so, my theory doesn’t always work. But if it’s valid then one’s body somehow responds to drugs in a way that overrides the honest information from one’s taste buds.

    I don’t think what Grandpa did was so terrible or harmful, but it was unnecessary and even risky. Some alcoholics report finding even their very first drink delicious, as though they’ve been waiting all their lives for the taste of alcohol. What if Grandpa had been one of those? Thank goodness he wasn’t! Even at 90 alcoholics can cause considerable damage to themselves and their families.

    What Grandma did was not wrong in my book. She respected his agency. I buy my non-member mom tobacco online because she’s afraid to put her credit card information online and can’t find the type she wants locally. To me it’s just doing a service for her. I do frequently urge her to quit for the sake of her health and the health of those around her. But I’m not the one who has stewardship over her decision to smoke or not. I think respecting agency is a higher principle than any other I can think of.

    My father wanted to try marijuana when he was dying of cancer. I suggested that he wasn’t missing anything, and really shouldn’t bother. As far as I know he followed my suggestion. It did upset me when he said that. If he had asked me to score him some weed, I don’t think I would have done it because I wouldn’t have been willing to break the law. Had he felt strongly that he could have benefited from marijuana medically, then I would have made him take it up with his doctor. But that wasn’t it. He just wanted to see what it was like, I think.

    It’s weird being in a non-member family, though. You really can’t take the high road because they’re just waiting for and expecting you to be holier-than-thou so they can pounce on that. Even though I’ve been a member for seven years, they still offer me wine and beer at every family gathering. I just mildly say no thank you. When I made the mistake of asking my brother a few years ago what he wanted for Christmas, he said all he wanted was a bottle of rum. I think he was trying to provoke some response from me. I just got him one, but I learned not to ask what he wants now. =) When I go to the grocery store for my mom, she usually wants me to pick up coffee for her and wine. I do it, but feel embarrassed (I know I shouldn’t) and hope nobody sees me with it. It’s their choice. I can only set a good example for them and love them.

    They don’t know how to respect people’s agency. I’ve felt in danger at various times of them trying to have me committed, or doing an intervention, or something of the sort over my joining the church. So I try to respect their agency in hopes that they’ll learn to respect mine, and just because that taught me how evil it can be not to respect someone’s agency.

  21. I was on my mission when I figured out what alcohol tasted like. An investigator offered us a chocolate. It burned the back of my throat and I told my comp that it tasted like the cough syrup mom used to give us. Meanwhile, my comp had spit her chocolate into her hand and hissed, “these are liquor chocolates!” Sure enough, they were. I asked her what she was planning on doing with her handful of sin, as there were no pets to feed it to. She ate it.

    We confessed to the Pres and he did not seem too concerned. I was surprised mom gave us cough syrup with alcohol in it.

    You know, if I ever had gone to a party with spiked punch, I would have been too naive to know it was spiked.

  22. Tatiana, wine tastes disgusting?? You’ve been drinking the wrong wines.

  23. Wow. Just, wow. I don’t get it.

    If taking a sip of a beer is the most aweful thing Grandpa ever does, I’d like to sit next to him on the Celestial Bus.

  24. Steve, please tell me you don’t drink wine! Please tell me you’re joking. =) Er, are you a convert?

    It seriously tastes bitter and nasty until you acquire a taste for it. And when you do, I think, it’s actually your brain acquiring a taste for the drug that is in it. So how great is that? Teaching your brain to crave a drug?

  25. Steve Evans: Are you
    1.) Bragging that you have drank wine
    2.) just being silly
    3.) attempting to establish you levi peterson esque street cred?

  26. Gilgamesh says:

    What everybody seems to be missing is the doctyrinal lesson of gaining experience. I am sure granddad had opportunities to experience lots of things that may or may not have been sinful if taken in context. Maybe the real lesson is that he had felt he had expereinced everything in life he needed to, but had never experienced drinking beer. This added to his experience.

    It is interesting how this story parallels Adam and Eve. Adam needed to gain experience and exercise his agency – Eve brought Adam the fruit. Grandpa “wanted” to exercise his agency, and grandma brought him a beer. They are just following the pattern set forth by Adam and Eve.

  27. Tracy M (no relation) :)

    I concur, except to point out that this probably isn’t the most aweful thing Grandpa has done. Sorry, couldn’t resist. How many times do we say, “Oh! If that was the only thing I’ve done wrong, then . . .” when the truth is it’s not the only thing we’ve done wrong, and we’re justifying our bad behavior? I know I do it all the time, but if that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done . . . :)

  28. Matt W., why are those the only options available? How is the assertion that wine does not taste terrible somehow a brag, or silly, or as establishment of street cred? Most of the world would say that wine pretty much rules.

    Tatiana, rest assured I’m no wine-bibber. Nor am I a convert. But I do disagree with your assessment that a love of wine is somehow purely the product of a demented addiction.

  29. The biggest problem with Grandpa’s indulgence is the potential poor example for impressionable kids. I personally want my kids and future grandkids to stay as far away as possible from alcohol and other drugs. My flirting with it would not send that message.

  30. Everyone knows the purpose of the Word of Wisdom is to “set us apart” in the eyes of the world–an outward symbol that we are, indeed, a peculiar people.

    Therefore, as long as there are no non-Mormons around to see us, the Word of Wisdom doesn’t apply.

  31. Steve, I’m relieved, however, it’s fine if you don’t agree with my theory.

    Here’s my theory of the purpose of the Word of Wisdom. (It’s okay for you to disagree with it as well. =)) This comes to me because my grandfather and several great-uncles were alcoholics, and the damage that did to our family has resonated down the generations. I think that we as a community don’t drink alcohol as a gift to those unknown among us who would have become alcoholics if we did. We don’t know which of us that would have been, but whoever they are, they get their lives back. And their families gets their lives back too. That is worth a whole lot.

    Also, of course, it’s really expensive, and that money is better spent on education or books or food or something positive.

    The whole process of conversion (which is still going on) has been one of teaching me to focus all my energies on growth and healing and positive things. Before, though I didn’t realize it, I spent at least 40% of my energies tearing myself down in various ways. So if you think of it, that negated another 40% of my energies and left me with only 20% net used in a positive direction. Since my conversion I’ve learned to revert probably 35% out of that 40% toward the positive, leaving me with a net 90% in the plus direction, or a 350% improvement over what I did before. I’m still working on turning that last 5% around.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    Tatiana, that’s an interesting theory and I love the way it tends towards a personal conversion to the principle. I also can totally agree with you as to the social costs of alcoholism and substance abuse.

    That said, I disagree with your theory! I think the principle of the WoW is very plainly laid out in its introduction:

    showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days — Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.

    In other words, it’s the order and will of God for the last days, with some profound promises, and it’s a bright-line rule adapted to the capacity of the weakest among us. It’s a safe rule, and a distinguishing rule. I don’t view the WoW as a permanent fixture or even as much more than a type of kosher law. But I do respect it and obey it.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    Steph no. 18, it was a mixture of youth, curiousity and opportunity. I don’t feel bad about it at all; it taught me that I don’t naturally like the taste of wine (I think I naively was expecting something like Welch’s), and it made future observance with the WoW much easier.

  34. “have drank”

    I know we’re talking about earth-shaking things like one sip of beer for a senile (?) 90-year-old, but, egads!, is this what passes for grammar these days?

    I think I need a stiff drink!

  35. Marjorie Conder says:

    Tatiana–I 100% agree with your WoW theory. I’m pretty convinced without ever really tasting the stuff that I would be a “goner” if I did. Alcoholics abound among my non/inactive relatives. I think there is a huge genetic predispostion component. I also really liked your theory of how the gospel makes more positive energy available to us. Good ideas all around. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree that grandpa’s salvation is not on the line at all. I also seem to remember in Camilla Kimball’s bio that she once tasted wine out of curiosity.

  36. Kevin Barney’s 33 reminds me of how I lost my virginity.

  37. “I also seem to remember in Camilla Kimball’s bio that she once tasted wine out of curiosity.”

    Which explains why women still don’t have the priesthood!

  38. Sam Kitterman says:

    I recall from my reading of the biography regarding President McKay of two instances applicable to this discussion. Both involved instances regarding President McKay and the WOW.

    The first involved an event at a movie theatre where the beverages being offered were in cups with Coca Cola advertising on the outside. The theatre manager apologized profusely to President McKay about that. McKay’s response was something to the effect that “Son, I don’t care what’s on the outside of the cup as long as it is coke inside the cup”.

    The second involved another event where rum balls were being served. A sister came up to President McKay and complained about it and such being violative of the WOW. Per the biography President McKay responded that the WOW forbade drinking of alcohol, not eating of alcohol.

    I recall these events were both documented in the biography…..

    For my own two cents I see more harm done by those who chatise others for violating the more commonly known elements of the WOW, e.g., smoking or drinking, but who themselves ignore the other “counsel” given in that “commandment”….

  39. Yup, I agree, Sam Kitterman. More harm is done (an missionary opportunities destroyed) by micromanaging what others imbibe in.

  40. Gotta go with Steve on this one–in my wild, inactive college days I didn’t follow the word of wisdom, and while beer is truly nasty (and I never acquired a taste for it) wine was at least drinkable to downright good from the get-go. I see nothing wrong with either Grandpa or Grandma’s actions in this instance. I think it’s great Grandma was supportive enough to get him beer, and pick out the nastiest one possible!

    As for the utility of the WoW in deterring alcoholism, the problem is those who are predisposed to alcoholism frequently find some other behavior or substance to become addicted to (coming from a family of alcoholics among the inactives and addictive personalities among the church-goers). I kind of wish the WoW were interpreted more along the lines of “moderation in all things” instead of “don’t do X” because that would actually address the issues of addiction.

  41. Steve Evans says:

    Krizarro, I hear what you’re saying re: moderation, but I suspect in the case of the WoW that was not the idea. My theory is that it is the positing by the Lord/Joseph Smith of a safe and clear rule to protect even the weakest of the Saints. It’s hard to fault that idea, even if moderation could very well work for some/the majority of us.

  42. I love beer. Love it. I am a convert, and boy did I acquire a taste. When my daughter was a teen she asked me, “Mom, if Jesus appeared and you could just ask him one question, what would it be?” I replied, not entirely flippantly, “I would ask him if I can please have a beer.”

    I mostly follow the WofW, but if the church decided that this particular cultural marker was no longer necessary to differentiate us as a peculiar people, I would go out and buy a six pack of Corona and a lime NOW. I know there are better beers, but I joined the church before I had the budget to try them. I will educate myself thoroughly after the WofW is abandoned. Or when Hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

    So as far as grandpa is concerned, go for it, buddy. If he asks grandma to get him a hooker, though, I’d be very concerned about his mental state.

  43. Yeah, if the WoW told me not to eat Ciabattas or Cherry Garcia it would help me out.

  44. Corona and lime!? Ann, are you a Parrothead? Awesome.

  45. Doug Evans says:

    Trying a sip of beer is synonamus with looking at a pornographic web site for a moment and then moving on. The difference lies in what the trial turns into. There are tooooo many things that are addictive in this world today for a good many to withstand for even a moment. Experiences in life should be uplifting and move the person forward, not back or down. Walking in the gutter will unlikely become an addiction to those holding tight to the iron rod.

    Now I don’t want to get into the many things in my life which have redirected my path, changed my views, altered my thinking, and sometimes brought great saddness to my family. Sometimes one has to learn the hard way, when it would be so much easier to say NO! to what entices or beckons you to follow. One shouldn’t have to try everthing in life,,when common sense tells you that if you do this you are stupid.

    As a grandfather but not as old as grand-daddy of this story, it has taken me years and heartbreaks to understand the principles of faith, covenants, commitment,honour and most of all honesty with oneself. Grand-daddy may have been a little off-line, but that is all that Lucifer, the greatest liar of all time is waiting for.

  46. Way to kill the thread, Dad.

  47. OK, that was a little harsh. I meant it in jest. I hope my comments haven’t driven you to the bottle.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Some of you crack me up, but then I realize that you are serious and it becomes more sad than funny. Gramps needs to repent? Gramps needs to see his bishop? Some of you really need to lighten up…I imagine your lives are miserable.

    And lest you think I’m some sort of boozing jack mormon, I’m a convert who keeps the WoW. I keep it because I want to, because it’s good for me (severe strain of alcoholism runs in my family). But in the Grand Scheme O’ Things I know The Lord doesn’t give a rip about who indulged once in a while.

  49. Well, if Grandpa was 90 – and if the average life-expectancy for a male American (assumption) is about 78 – and if middle-age is about 40 – and if advanced age is a second childhood going backward after 40 – then Grandpa would have imbibed after his second childhood had ended (or the equivalent of about (-)10 years old). Anything done at a younger age than 8 would not count as sin, so Grandpa’s action is covered by the Atonement. How’s that? *grin*

    Seriously, should he have drunk it? In theory, probably not, but I can’t believe it will hurt his eternal destination – and my opinion doesn’t matter, anyway, since I don’t know the man, at all. Grandma is one cool woman – for all the reasons others have mentioned already.

    I believe if we have trouble accepting and obeying the WofW we are among the weakest of the weak in this particular category – just as those who struggle to avoid p**n or gambling or any other expression of addiction are the weakest of the weak in those categories. If you can’t give up something that shouldn’t be a big deal in the big picture, it probably is exactly what you need to give up.

    Given that foundation, I believe the WofW was given to teach an important principle – that some things are so destructive of self and community that those who will not become addicted should support those who would by agreeing to sacrifice an individual indulgence for the greater good – *especially* when conspiring men are pushing their evil designs without regard for the damage caused simply in a pursuit of riches and power through the subjugation of agency through addiction. It’s kind of a restatement of both Tatiana’s #31 and Steve’s #32 – which I believe are saying much the same thing.

  50. Man I’m thirsty. Fins to the left, fins to the right…

  51. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    This is hilarious! Why use the word “sin” at all? Adam and Eve’s partaking in the Garden was, at best, a “transgression!”

    I wonder why Granpappy didn’t buy his own beer?

    I’m already planning my 80th birthday party in Amsterdam. Just once I would like to know what it would be like to let go (knowing full well that it might not actually go that way; friends have reported feeling paranoia after smoking MJ). I’ve already invited my sibs. One brother said, “I’ll go, but I won’t smoke, and you’re crazy to even want to try!”

    Coming from a world-traveling family, my dad always advised us to drink soda (no ice), beer, or wine if we didn’t trust the water quality! I tell the same thing to my young ones, with the caveat that it’s only for keeping them alive! Alcoholism, too, runs in their father’s family, so we talk a lot about that as well. They need to make their own choices. I want to make sure they’re as well informed as possible.

    Talk to the bishop… That makes me laugh!

  52. On a recent business trip I had dinner with some colleagues. One of them was describing the wine she was drinking as having a certain taste created by the wood species of the container it was cured in (I’m not sure if those are the right terms.) She offered a sip to me to illustrate her point. It sounded interesting. I took a sip and verified her assessment. I don’t feel like I “sinned”. And the only way my bishop will know about this is if he reads this blog and recognizes my name. I sleep well with that knowledge.

  53. Re: 52…I hope you enjoy ETERNAL DAMNATION in THE FIREY DEPTHS OF HELL, Lamonte…I kid, I kid!

    Re: 51…Trish, MJ made me very paranoid to the verge of panic attacks every time I smoked it (as a heathen, non-member teen)so I would say be careful. But it affects everybody is differently, I suppose…

  54. When I was in third grade, they had a Chinese culture thing at school and offered us green tea to try. Of course I had some. When I told my mother, she was surprised, reminding me that this was against the word of wisdom. It seemed obvious to me at the time that trying something as a part of your education was different than having it in your home and making it part of your ‘real life.’

    What lesson did my young, unformed self garner on that occassion? Don’t tell your mother what you do at school.

  55. Norbert, your story reminds me of the time I went out to eat with some friends. We both had our almost 2-year-olds with us. I went to go get some napkins and when I come back, my daughter is drinking out of my friends glass — I say, “hey, what’s that?” My friend says, “don’t worry it’s just iced tea.” My daughter was downing the stuff. I hurried and switched out the glass and gave my daughter her sippy cup.

  56. MikeInWeHo says:

    Am I the only person here who found the initial story utterly sweet, innocent, and charming?

    This thread reveals how far removed I am from contemporary Mormon culture, I guess. A comment like #5 seems like it came from another planet, one I don’t live on. And in a way, I don’t…but that’s OK.

    Oddly, though, I agree with the many here who feel that beer is gross.

  57. No Mike, I thought it was sweet, too. And I think beer is gross- even the so-called good stuff. My planer might be somewhere near yours.

  58. Nick Literski says:

    (For this reason I have a little theory, that people only become acclimated to alcohol through peer pressure, because if left to their own devices they would never keep drinking enough of the wretched stuff to acquire the taste for it.)

    It really depends on the alcohol, Kevin. I despise beer, and haven’t found a wine I like. On the other hand, I really enjoy a nice, smooth, Canadian whiskey.

  59. If grandpa had asked me under the circumstances, I like to think I would have gotten him the beer. Though I would probably have driven to another city to make the purchase, since I am a Bishop :-)

  60. Nick, all whiskey is gross.

  61. 56 – you live in West Hollywood. That is a different planet. :)

    Also, what I think #5 was getting at is that he had taken a principled stand against alcohol for 90 years, but he decides to go against his principles just once. I don’t think #5 is saying that is a huge sin, just that it’s kinda sad when you look at someone going against their longheld principles. I think the sweet part of the story, as I mentioned before, is how Grandma handled it.

  62. StillConfused says:

    That is a great story. Grandma was funny that she was worried about the money spent. I love that generation. All he did was taste it so I wouldn’t get too bent out of shape. That is less alcohol than is in many common cold remedies etc. Plus, when you hit 90, you have earned the right to be a little eccentric.

  63. Jacob, the problem with comment #5 is it underscores an unhealthy obsession many members have with our law of health. The sin/transgression is on par with him going on a vacation that would require him to miss church when he never has in 90 years. On the other hand, maybe I’m destined for a TK smoothy.

  64. My opinion….

    Give gramps a break. He took a sip of beer out of curiosity. I have dealt with an occassional YM who has told me that he tried smoking or drinking. I typically first laugh with them, then ask them how it was, they reply “terrible” then move on. Often they just want to try it and see what it tastes like. Gramps is kind of like one of these YM.

    Its NOT a matter for the bishop whatsoever. In order for a Bishop to get involved would require much more then a sip of beer. We take the WOW for to seriously sometimes.

  65. 63 – make that an unhealthy obsession many members have with one part of our law of health, and I’ll agree with you.

    I would agree with the whole transgression idea, except that I always understood transgression as an act that is ignorantly sinful – like Adam and Eve. Unless you mean that it is something that is not that inherently sinful, just temporarily against our code of conduct, which would mean that I think this would be only a transgression. Grandpa knew full well what he was doing, at least, assuming he isn’t off his rocker, so to speak. I do see this, in whichever light, as being very pardonable, and not worth a Bishop’s interview. I don’t think anyone seriously advocated for him to go to the Bishop about it. I think they were just saying that if it is really a question of this person’s worthiness, let the Bishop decide, not us over here in the bloggernacle.

  66. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 58, 60

    Hint from the quasi-apostate: Try a nice single-malt scotch, at least 12 years old. 15 is even better if you can afford it. (End sinful threadjack)

  67. Re: 66-Scotch, bleccch! Most vile swill on earth, IMHO. I drank some scotch once and spent the rest of the day looking for some gasoline to gargle to get the scotch taste out of my mouth!

  68. Adam Greenwood says:

    Oh brother. In most corners of the Church, the Word of Wisdom isn’t some optional commandment.

    I certainly wouldn’t buy him more booze, but, y’know, what can you do with the old? Sometimes you just have to ignore them.

  69. Does anybody else have the uneasy feeling that the whole post is wrong?

    I mean, is beer “booze”? Would wine be considered “booze”?

    I don’t think so. But maybe I’m the only person in the USA who thinks that “booze” means distilled liquors but not beer and wine.

    That’s all right. I’m also apparently the only person in the USA who knows how to conjugate “lay” and “lie” and who thinks that a person who can’t sounds uneducated.

  70. The OED seems schizophrenic on the topic:

    Alcoholic drink, chiefly beer; U.S. esp. spirits.

    Maybe it’s just another case of trans-Atlantic schizophrenia.

    On the other hand, gives “Hard liquor” as its first definition, and “an alcoholic beverage” as the second.

  71. Maybe she could have gotten the poor guy some O’Douls, then he could have drunk the whole bottle and still had a clean conscience! Of course there is that pesky 0.01% alcohol remaining. When I go to Munich I enjoy all the alcohol-free beer they have on tap in the beer-gardens. Mmmm…mild barley drinks…

  72. Ah, heck. There’s 0.01% alcohol in the air we breathe.

  73. I think we sometimes portray the gravity of WoW transgression to that of fornication, at least this is the perception a lot of youth have. We need to change the way we teach this principle, at least culturally. I think the core is what Steve pointed out from section 89.

  74. MikeInWeHo says:

    That’s a good point. Where I come from, booze could include beer, wine, or distilled spirits. Hooch, on the other hand, referred only to distilled spirits.

    This thread reminds me of a Utah joke: Why should a gentile never invite only one Mormon over to his house?

    And an Episcopalian joke:
    Why can there never be 4 Episcopalians in a room?

    Whoever can answer BOTH correctly gets a free bottle of Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve.

  75. The way I read the D&C, my modern english translation isn’t “don’t you dare have a drop of this stuff ever”, it’s “guys, this stuff isn’t good for you”. Seriously, I see it as a call for moderation or elimination but totally not “a sin” and not a problem if you’re not 100% about it. I understand that doesn’t sync with the church today and I’m not advocating revolt or anything, it’s just that I don’t understand why people give it such inflated importance in the scheme of things, and with such strictness against small and infrequent transgressions. The scriptural language is a far cry from “thou shalt not”.

  76. Aaron Brown says:

    Because unless you invite two or more, the one will drink all your beer.

    So do I get half a free bottle?


  77. Because whenever four of them are together, there will always be a fifth.

    But I cheated, Mike. I asked my Episcopalian friend, who refers to members of his denomination as whiskeypalians.

  78. Re: 74- Haha, in the south the joke is “why should you never take just one baptist fishing…”

    And as a former Episcopalian I’d love to hear the answer to the 4 Episcopalians riddle…

  79. Re: 77- I should have waited, Mark IV just gave me my answer…and it’s true, too!

  80. MikeInWeHo says:

    The guy next door to me is a big-wig Episcopal musician, very successful. He throws these church parties all time, and all I can say is: Those people can drink. Like, seriously drink. And that’s saying a lot in my current social milieu.

    FWIW, I’m convinced that the oft-touted long Mormon life span has little to do with the fact that the LDS don’t drink alcohol. It can probably be explained by the lack of smoking alone. Don’t know if there are any good studies that explore why the LDS live longer. Everyone assumes it’s due to the WoW, but it might well be due to PARTS of the WoW and Mormon culture. One suspects abstaining from tea is not the reason, for example.

    Sorry, no winners my challenge in #74.

    This thread is delightful. It makes me want to throw a SoCal bloggersnacker at The Abbey, my favorite after-work-with-friends haunt:

    I’d pick up the bar tab for all who attend. :)

  81. Mike,

    Isn’t it on fire like everything else over there? Speaking of course, both figuratively and literally..

  82. 74 – the answer to the first one is that if you only ivite one, he’ll drink all your booze. Don’t know the answer to the second one, though.

    81 – We didn’t start the fire!

  83. Um, that would be “invite one” not ivite one. Aplogies fro bd speling.

  84. Norbert #54: Hold on! Green tea is against the WoW? That’s news to me. I thought green tea was considered “herbal tea” which gets a pass. Am I wrong? Any WoW hair splitters out there want to explain that one? I have been using green tea for years as a health supplement. Do I need to turn in my temple recommend? Really, what is the deal?

    Mike #80: I’m in! Just please don’t ask me to bring the karaoke machine!

    Order me a margarita (rocks, no salt), I’ve been using it for years as a health drink.

  85. Eric Russell says:

    Alas, MCQ, we have had that discussion in the nacle many times, but no one has ever been able to provide a slam dunk answer. The general consensus, however, is that yes, green tea is indeed ‘tea’ because it is a form of Camellia Sinensis, which is the actual tea plant. Black, green and oolang teas are actual teas and not herbal teas.

  86. I love this story. They say that some alcohol consumption can be good for you though so I hope the little swig didn’t just lengthen poor old Grandpappy’s life even longer. That would be so awkward.

    10 bucks says he just got himself some street cred in the spirit world though.

  87. Amri, even that isn’t true. For now, anyway.

    A drink a day for health? Forget it, research says

  88. Re: 84 and 85- I don’t care what anybody says, I’m not giving up my decaf green tea, nor am I surrendering my temple recommend. Not gonna happen.

  89. Whatever the reason, any former Japan missionary can tell you that green tea is ikenai. Sorry MCQ.

  90. One point I was glad to see pop up in this discussion, as it’s something I ponder often, was the nod toward the fact that many ordinary medicines and other consumable health care products contain alcohol or caffeine. Sometimes those chemical compounds actually compose a major part of the beneficial effects of the medicine. Particularly within American society it would be difficult to find someone who hasn’t consumed at least minor amounts of the two. I’m not really interested very much in that inconsequential point, but it’s interesting to think about. I am, however, very interested in the following question: How exactly does medication in the general sense fit into this paradigm of not poisoning the body (and the soul, for that matter)? It’s only a little illogical to me to stigmatize two relatively safe (in moderation), natural compounds (alcohol and caffeine) when pharmaceutical companies sell extremely powerful, often addictive synthetic compounds for which we have no data concerning long term effects. I read often about old folks who share what they believe to be their “secret to longevity.” Often the topic of alcohol comes about with some saying, for example, that they had two glasses of red wine every evening. Others claim that they never touched the stuff! I think what’s clear and reasonable is that we have people living around us consuming responsible amounts of alcohol (and caffeine) and living long, happy lives. Personally, the collection of elderly people I know and love provide enough data to stabilize my belief in moderation. But what about the fancy medications we practically guzzle these days? Ritalin and Adderall given to kids who may not truly need it, antidepressants handed out like candy to people who might have otherwise found more family-based, natural ways to sort out their feelings. Often the effects of alcohol are analogous (not exactly the same) to the effects of medications (easement of pain, relaxation etc), but have much more dangerous side effects. Are any of you with me in the observation of this impropriety?
    My main point here is that I think we are overlooking substances that have the potential to be far more damaging than caffeine and alcohol in the long run (and I’m not talking about addiction…that case is obvious no matter the substance), and also that many people don’t have a reasonable, explainable, basis for their intolerance toward alcohol and caffeine. Further, shouldn’t we look into the causes of all these new epidemics of stress and ADD to see if it’s not something in our culture or way of conducting business at the base? I think nipping those causes in the bud will be far more beneficial to happy individuals and families than worrying about grandpa’s curiosity, or the relatively remote possibility of dangerous addiction to alcohol. What are your thoughts on this?

    PS. For those of you who have sipped beer and reeled in horror at the taste let me ask you this, partly in jest: did you appreciate the flavor of vegetables as a child? How do you feel about them now? Just because something tastes weird in the beginning doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, and it surely doesn’t mean it’s evil.

  91. Will: I couldn’t agree more.

    There’s just no logic to the WoW, and I guess we can’t justify it that way. It just is what it is.

    I have to say that I’m with Tony on green tea, though. I’m going to look into this more. Maybe I’ll get a special dispensation. I once knew a guy who claimed he had a letter from an apostle that told him decaf coffee was OK.

  92. MCQ, the problem with drinking decaf coffee is it rules out Coca-Cola. I’d much rather do without coffee and tea in all forms than lose Coke and Mt. Dew.

  93. Will, I think your point is well taken, and there are certainly gray areas with regard to health for many of these substances. The main point, as has been stated here, is that we have been asked to abstain from the things mentioned in the W o W as a matter of covenant, in order to obtain the blessings specified. Regardless of the health benefits that may come from drinking a glass or two of wine, for me the blessings from keeping the covenant outweigh any desire to “supplement” my diet.

  94. But iced tea is ok, right? Because it’s not a hot drink? ;)

    I was surprised to see that the caffeine mg per ounce of iced tea was less than that of say, Mountain Dew. Of course, it’s easier to drink (non-carbonated) in larger quantities. (And instant tea is about 2/3 the caff. content of iced.)

    Ah, I miss those days. It’s probably pretty hard to live in the South and not drink iced tea. My grandmother (LDS) actually took me out to breakfast on the day I was baptized (on a Sunday, no less) and had iced tea with her breakfast. Not that I’m judging. =)

  95. MattG, I’m a little currious where you believe the WoW covenant is made. I know it’s a missionary point where a commitment is made prebaptism. I know you have to obey the current policy (whether that is actually supported by scripture is another discussion) to get a temple recomend. I don’t recall ever making a covenant to obey the WoW, though.

  96. Will – You’re PS is retarded. I didn’t say the alcohol was evil because it tasted bad, just that the horrible taste helps me to keep my covenant with God. Big difference.

    Besides, I still hate most veggies, and I think my parents were evil for making me partake in them! :)

  97. 95 – my shot at this is that by following the policies made by the designated authorities – ie, prophets and apostles – is part of “keeping His commandments” which, as you know, is part of the baptismal covenant, which is renewed each week with partaking of the sacrament. It’s a little stretch, but it holds true for me.

  98. Kyle M, you’re not kidding, are you?

    Jacob summed it up, but if you need clarification, try looking at the missionary discussions (Preach My Gospel). Then try looking at the baptism interview questions. Then try looking at the temple recommend interview questions.

    Every step along the way, the WofW is taught and a commitment is requested. The WofW has covenant language clearly written into it. Initially, it was given as counsel; eventually it was accetped as command; at all times, it was a covenant for those who accepted it.

    Sorry, but this is black letter law to me.

  99. Ray,

    I’m surely not arguing that the WoW is optional to be in full fellowship in the church. As I already stated, I know it’s a commitment you make before baptism and that you must adhere to the commitment for a temple recommend.

    The baptismal interview only has one covenant in it. That is to take upon you the name of Christ and keep His commandments. The lifestyle questions and commitments are not part of the covenant. The temple recommend is not a covenant in and of itself.

    If you believe the WoW is part of the catch all “keep His commandments,” that’s fine. I’d even agree with that. I just don’t believe the WoW is specified in any of the covenants we make.

    I also disagree that section 89 has any covenantal language in it, rather quite the opposite.

  100. KyleM,

    If you look at the history of the Church’s adherence to the WoW, you will see that at first it was given as counsel, then later the First Presidency brought it forth at General Conference and asked the Church as a body to receive it by covenant as a standard of worthiness, i.e., not longer an option for “members in good standing”. Therefore that covenant is also taken by us when we are baptized into this church, it hasn’t been rescinded.

  101. MattG,

    I have to go, but this article talks about that.


    I agree it’s binding for being a member in good standing. Perhaps I just have a more strict definition of covenant.

  102. Sorry, everyone else, but I want to put this to bed.


    “Sometimes denotes an agreement … between God and man; … it is important to notice that God in his good pleasure fixes the terms, which man accepts.” In other words, God tells us what He will do when we do what He has asked us to do.

    D&C 89:18-21

    18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
    19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
    20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
    21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.

    What about this isn’t a covenant, particularly when it is included explicitly in the over-arching covenant of obedience to the commandments inherent in baptism? I can accept differences in interpreting the WofW, but following it to the best of our understanding is as basic as following the Law of Chastity and paying tithing – whether one accepts it as a separate covenant or simply as a part of a comprehensive covenant. Again, to me this is black letter law.

  103. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, citing the Bible Dictionary isn’t going to get you anywhere. Non-canonical, baby!

    Need I point out the contradiction in your statement that somehow the WoW is included “explicitly” in the overarching covenant of obedience “inherent” in baptism?

    The closest we come to a direct covenant to obeying the WoW is the temple recommend interview. Everything else is indirect.

  104. 103 – It’s not so much a contradiction when the words, “walking in obedience to the commandments” are almost identical to the words, “obey his commandments” that we say during the sacramental prayers.

    101 – And even including the linked article, whether it is a rule or law, it is the same as to our need to obey it.

    I don’t think anyone is seriously considering here that the WoW isn’t a commandment for us, so I’m going on record saying that I think when you divorce specific commandments from the covenants we make, you’re walkin’ on Jello.

  105. I think it depends on how you define “full fellowship.” Nobody is going to stop me from serving in a calling, taking the sacrament or tithing(!) if I imbibe on occasion, but it WILL keep me out of the temple if I do so.

    My lack of interest in going to the temple was instrumental in my return to occasional imbibing, and my desire to go back to the temple is what made me stop. But I was a member in full fellowship the entire time by my definition of the term.

  106. Grandp’s had the right idea. Life was coming to an end, and what a saint he had been. Before he left this earth he wanted to make sure he could distinguish between fermented and unfermented so when he was offered that on Kolob he would pick the right one so as not to loose his place in line.


  107. Jacob M,
    You are so correct. The WofW is not a commandment as such, but I would definitely not want to place my salvation on walking the fine line between living it and not living it. Sins of omission and sins of commission are well defined. Take your pick. “So it is written, so shall it be” Pharaoh

  108. Steve, something can be both explicit and inherent. They are not mutually exclusive.

    Glenna, it is easier to argue that the WofW is not a covenant than that it is not a commandment. It wasn’t a commandment when it was given, but it was accepted “by common consent” as a commandment later. Until that action is reversed, it is a commandment – and it is taught as such in the missionary discussions.

    There is no ambiguity when it is taught by the missionaries. Personally, I wish it was only a temple standard and not a baptism standard, but it isn’t. You aren’t excommunicated or even automatically disfellowshipped *after* baptism for “minor” violations, but you also aren’t baptized unless you are willing to commit at least to honor its prohibitions.

    Again, I wish people could get baptized by committing to try to live it, since that commitment could become an on-going and enabling motivation instead of the difficulty becoming a guilt-inducing stumbling block, but that’s not what is required of investigators. They must quit for long enough to witness their intentions to give up those habits – if the missionaries are following the mission rules properly.

  109. Steve Evans says:

    LOL, ray, keep up the good fight.

  110. Thanks, Steve. I was going to stop, but now I know I should soldier on. *grin*

  111. Steve Evans says:

    No, actually you should stop.

  112. Yeah, I know. Consider it done.

  113. Green tea may be unkosher in Japanese LDS life, but in the official German LDS literature, it’s “schwarzer Tee” that is verboten.

    Camellia Sinensis > black tea (fermented) or green tea (unfermented)

    Grapes > wine (fermented) or grape juice (unfermented)

    Cereals > beer (fermented) or “Malta” etc. (unfermented)

  114. Thanks Bibber!

  115. truebluethru'n'thru says:

    Sure, strong drink and stimulative beverages are great! And while elderly Granddad may have looked over his long and pure life and mulled over what pleasures he’d perhaps missed through this or that one “road never taken before”; sure, I’ve taken it (and many more).

    My friend, a hard working, successful girl, occasionally a binger, often serves alchohol as social amenity when I visit, which I would politely sip and even enjoy; and for proper social protocol I’d be required to bring along a bottle of something as a gift. The other day I bought something flavored with licorice, good stuff with a real cork stopper, but planned to bring O’Douls for me since I’m anew a teetotaler.

    “How selfish is that?!” I thought, “Buying alcohol for my occasionally binge drinking friend in order just to smooth my own social way, while I carefully remain not-even-slightly-unsober with O’Douls?!” As a rule I don’t litter but I made and exception and immediately threw it from my car window, past the road’s shoulder, for a “crash!” (Joseph’s wise word from the Lord were that it’s easy for the least of worshippers to avoid certain simple, yet unneedful, pleasures.)

  116. My understand the WoW came about as a request to give up unnecessary things (tea, coffee, spirits) at a time when food was needed. Brigham asked the saints to not spend money on things that were not needed. As the years went by the WoW became the Mormon religion and the true covenants became a promise to live some other time.

  117. Steve Evans says:

    SG, you’re mistaken.

  118. Gosh I love WoW threads. They never cease to entertain. Well, or maybe, they just never cease.