Whenever he thought about it, he felt terrible. And so, at last, he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it. ~John-Roger and Peter McWilliams
Question #93440 posted on 01/19/2021 4:20 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I grew up in the church. My dad was a member but my mom wasnt. After they divorced, my mom got baptized and was active for a few years, but shes been inactive for about 10 years. Every time I travel to places where they grow good coffee, she asks me to buy some for her. Ive always said no, because it feels like Im helping her break the word of wisdom. But I also feel kind of guilty because... Well shes my mom and I love her and I want to make her happy. Recently I bought her some, but now Im debating whether to mail it to her or not. Thoughts?

-Mommas boy


Dear you,

None of us here can really tell you what is the absolute right thing to do. But I can tell you what I would do in your situation. I would have absolutely no compunctions about getting my mother coffee. My reasoning here can be broken down to 2 main points:

  1. According to the moral code she is living, drinking coffee is not bad so by getting her coffee I wouldn't be helping her go against her own ideals. 
  2. Drinking coffee is not objectively bad; there is nothing inherently sinful about drinking coffee--the Word of Wisdom is a code, not everlasting doctrine regarding eternal significance of different foods and drinks.
A very common misconception in the Church is that because we preach not drinking or eating certain things, no one should. Keeping the Word of Wisdom is a personal promise between us and God. It's illogical to enforce a promise we have made on other people. Even for people who have left the Church, leaving was a choice that they made. In the context I'm speaking in, it's like voiding a contract. Consuming substances banned in the Word of Wisdom is no longer breaking a promise because they are no longer making the promise to keep it.

Dear son,

Anathema has the right of it. I just want to put it this way: if your mother is already drinking coffee without your help or your approval, then whether or not you decide to buy her particularly good coffee is largely immaterial. You're not responsible for the habit, she is. I think there's a difference between enabling someone to do something you consider to be intrinsically wrong or obviously harmful (such as using pornography or smoking cigarettes), and enabling someone to do something that you personally choose not to do.

With that said, I don't think you should feel bad if you're not entirely comfortable sending coffee to your mom, so long as you and your mother are both kind and understanding about it. In my own family, my parents don't buy any of the coffee or alcohol that my siblings drink, and we have an understanding about that. Could I be prevailed upon to do so? Probably. I don't really see an especially compelling reason not to. But unlike you, I've never been asked.

I hope this helps!




Dear Mama's Boy,

I had a mission companion whose parents were coffee farmers, and she grew up helping grow coffee on the family farm. She personally didn't drink coffee, nor did she even necessarily believe that people SHOULD drink coffee, yet that was her parents' livelihood, and she wanted them to do well in it. So she helped them all while she was growing up, including after she converted to the Church. I don't think that made her a bad person--if anything it made her a better person for genuinely wanting to help her parents in the ways that they asked for, not the ways that she thought they should be helped, not to mention the work ethic it helped instill. Just because we personally might make individual choices about what foods/drinks to consume, what types of clothes to wear, or what type of media to watch/listen to doesn't mean that everyone else is bound by those decisions, or that we should try to force those decisions on others.



Dear Bohemian Rhapsody,

I'm on team "Send Your Mom the Coffee, It's Really Okay." For one, I'm on board with Anathema's suggestion that we shouldn't necessarily try to enforce the behavior of other people based on our personal covenants with God (in fact, I personally believe this is a rather broad principle that extends beyond just Word of Wisdom questions, but that's a subject for another day). Backing me up is this Ensign article from 2013; I'd go into further detail, but honestly I'm having a hard time putting sentences together at the moment and I don't want to leave this post for another day in case I forget. But, the article's not too long, and it's one of my favorites (for some reason it sticks out in my head more than any other Ensign article I've ever read), so I recommend you just give it a quick read and then you'll understand what I'm saying.

-Frère Rubik