I just started reading Greg Prince’s book, David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. It’s been a great read so far. Prince tells some interesting stories about President McKay and the Word of Wisdom.
BYU has banned caffeinated soft drinks on campus for years. I work for a few large national cable tv networks, and when they come to BYU, they often rant that they can’t find a good cup of coffee in Provo, and they are especially perplexed by the soft drink restrictions. Often these guys fly in on red-eye flights, and a boost of caffeine is very helpful to keeping them alert during football and basketball broadcasts. (I took one of those red-eye flights just this weekend, and drank some cheap cola to keep me awake.)
So, Coke and Pepsi are sold on campus, but without caffeine. I find it an odd situation, and I don’t have much to say when these non-LDS people rant about banning caffeine on campus. But it appears that President David O McKay was a bit more liberal on some of these Word of Wisdom issues. We all know the admonition to “avoid the appearance of evil”, yet President McKay was more liberal than some on the subject of Coke. Prince describes a situation where President McKay actually requested Coke. From page 23, (emphasis in book)
During the intermission of a theatrical presentation, his host offered to get refreshments: “His hearing wasn’t very good, and I got right down in front of him and I said, ‘President McKay, what would you like to drink? All of our cups say Coca Cola on them because of our arrangement with Coca Cola Bottling, but we have root beer and we have orange and we have Seven-Up. What would you like to drink?’ And he said, ‘I don’t care what it says on the cup, as long as there is Coke in the cup.”87 McKay’s point was simple and refreshing: Don’t get hung up on the letter of the law to the point where you squeeze all of the spirit out of life.
But that’s not all. Prince describes an interesting story concerning rum cake that President McKay ate. Also from page 23,
At a reception McKay attended, the hostess served rum cake. “All the guests hesitated, watching to see what McKay would do. He smacked his lips and began to eat.” When one guest expostulated, “‘But President McKay, don’t you know that is rum cake?’ McKay smiled and reminded the guest that the Word of Wisdom forbade drinking alcohol, not eating it.”86
Some people have tried to add chocolate as being prohibited by the Word of Wisdom. President McKay chided an apostle about this stance. From page 23,
he gently chided Apostle John A. Widtsoe, whose wife advocated such a rigid interpretation of the Word of Wisdom as to proscribe chocolate because of the stimulants it contained, saying “John, do you want to take all the joy of of life?'”85
Is anyone else surprised by these stories? Do you think Mormons will ever relax to President McKay’s position on the Word of Wisdom? When I was first married, my wife surprised me and cooked with wine. Do others cook with wine, or do you avoid it for “the appearance of evil”?