Or rather, I have no problem living the Word of Wisdom when I understand exactly what the Word of Wisdom includes.
I've come to realize that there are a lot of Word of Wisdom grey areas, or certain parts about it that we're all a little fuzzy on. Sometimes I've had friends ask me, "Can you eat/drink this?" And I have to say, "Uh... I don't know, so I guess I better not just to be safe." That happened to me many years ago when I was out with a Chinese friend and was served green tea, which, silly me, thought was soup. It was in a little bowl and looked like soup and I was about to try it, but when he said it was green tea, I had to decline. Later on I discovered that it's black tea that's included in the Word of Wisdom. And green tea isn't black.
Ah, but it's because of the caffeine. That's what makes green tea off limits, right?
Tell that to all the Mormons who drink Coke and still get a temple recommend.
So caffeine isn't what makes something OK or not OK. Right?
Depends on who you ask.
I'm going to list some Word of Wisdom questions that I've had but have never really found a concrete answer to. Maybe some of you know better than I do, or are also confused:
- I grew up believing that ANY tea that wasn't herbal was bad. I believed this until, ironically, I happened to sit in on the missionary discussions when I was in Germany. This was before "Preach My Gospel" and The Elders had those flip-cards with phrases and pictures. Under the Word of Wisdom section, it listed the usual alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and "schwarzer tee," or "black tea." OK, so what does that mean? I worked in the food section of Wal-Mart once and I use to peruse all the different kids of tea. The English "Earl Grey" teas did say "black tea" on the label, so it was clear that those would be out. But then there were all these yummy-smelling other teas that looked red, yellow, green, but were not considered "black tea," nor "herbal tea." Now, if I were a German investigator, I would assume that any tea that wasn't black would be OK -- such as green tea, for example. But green tea has caffeine. Does that make it bad? If so, then decaffeinated green tea must be OK, right? Ah, but it's not herbal tea. However, it's not black. Confused? Me too.
- Browsing through recipes for chocolate cake in various magazines here, I discovered that almost all of them call for a small amount of coffee. I make my own cake and it's fine without it, but what happens when you get invited to someone's house, they serve you a piece of cake, which you know probably contains coffee? When I did my temple prep classes, the brother teaching them seemed to say that something like coffee in baked goods is not something we should worry about too much and that we shouldn't obsess over the Word of Wisdom. And yet I've heard of some Mormons not even using vanilla in cookie batter.
- Speaking of coffee, is decaf OK? I remember my parents' home teacher, who was a temple worker at the time, mentioning how he had stopped by the local donut shop to get his cup of decaf. I remember being surprised that decaf was OK because I had understood all coffee -- decaf or not -- to be a no-no. I still find it hard to believe that decaf is OK, but maybe it is?
- Are there any rules about cooking with alcohol (i.e. wine)? I knew an Italian brother in my home ward who cooked authentic Italian food and used wine because, according to him, the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process. I've heard others say this, but I've also heard that it doesn't evaporate completely. So what do you do when you discover that a delicious cream sauce or an Italian soup contains wine? Should you get rid of it or not worry about it? Just the other day, I was in a hurry and picked up a microwavable meal that was discounted because it was about to expire. When I got home, I noticed that the label said it contained white wine. When I checked the list of ingredients it said "white wine powder." I felt torn for a few seconds but then I thought, "Dang it, I'm not going to throw out a perfectly good meal just because of that."
- Red wine vinegar. Do you/would you use it?
- And then there is "alcohol free" beer and wine. I've never tried any of these products, first of all because I don't think I'd like them (at least not the beer), and second of all because most of them aren't entirely alcohol-free. With a few exceptions, they usually contain trace amounts of alcohol, around 0.5%. My dad used to tell me about something called "Texas Pride," near-beer which contained 0% alcohol and was brought to the Church picnic by a member who later went on to become an Area Authority. As far as I know, no one had a problem with it.
By the way, the picture above is of "Munkholm" alcohol-free beer which I've seen some members of the Church drink here in Norway. It was even served at a Mormon wedding that I attended. It's got 0% alcohol and if I thought I'd like it, I wouldn't have a problem drinking it.
What about "the appearance of evil?" If you were out at a restaurant with a bunch of friends, would you feel strange holding a bottle that looks like that?