Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Coffee: A Must-Read Post by Wilfried Decoo

"Coffee" by Wilfried Decoo over at T&S is on my essential reading list. The simple story told there says much about the unappreciated secret burdens that our fellow members may bear. May we all be more cautious in making assumptions about the level of faith and commitment found in those who seem weak.

40 comments:

Randy said...

How can you take this story at face value?

It reads and smells like a tortured attempt at a manufactured faith-promoting story.

Evil Catholic husband. Forcing the poor convert to drink coffee (EEK!). Dies suddenly in car accident. Daughter validates that father was a "beast." Forced Catholic funeral.

For all of you who find spiritual meaning in this story, get a grip, and get a life.

ltbugaf said...

Randy, I don't quite understand what "smells" manufactured. I'm not saying absolutely that you're wrong, but I am wondering why you're so confident that you're right. Do you have some inside information about Wilfried Decoo having secret motives or a history of fables? You point to a set of facts and say they're implausible, but I don't see what makes them so. I've certainly seen worse and more bizarre examples of spousal abuse.

Stephen said...

I used to do a lot for the legal services corporation in a smaller community, I'd say that the story is pretty much point on for an entire class of people.

The husband's religious affiliation is a detail without significance, it isn't a part of the pattern (more like his wearing a red shirt or something similar). Sorry that Randy got his pants in such a wad over it.

Some people have too much anger and not enough appreciation for narrative. He needs to read more of Wilifried's stories and he would realize that Wilifried is not in the faith promoting rumor camp of authors.

annegb said...

Wilfried is not a liar. He has a sweet amd tender voice when he tells his stories that is pervasive, but I believe him. I think we all have stories, we just can't tell them as well.

qhunt said...

Randy, it is a shame you allow these stories to make you so angry at the people who write and read them. If you are confident in your faith and beliefs, stories like these should not bother you.

john f. said...

Randy, Wilfried is telling real stories when he writes over at T&S. These are people and experiences that he knows and has had.

Randy B. said...

I don't usually feel a need to do this, but circumstances seem to call for it here. Just to make clear -- the Randy up above is not me.

Wilfried's piece is

Randy B. said...

opps . . . hit enter too early.

Wilfried's piece is one of the most compelling things I've read in the bloggernacle, and I don't limit that to just this year.

Mormanity said...

Randy, someday you will undestand that there are millions of people who have had billions of experiences other than yours. I can appreciate that you may have not had experience dealing with woman suffering from emotional or physical abuse, and that you may not understand the significance of the private pains that some people bear. Perhaps you have no idea what a spiritual experience is like or why people believe in God and accept teachings that you have not blessed. Perhaps you are puzzled why the LDS Word of Wisdom is a significant symbol of our desire to follow God, and why enemies of the Church sometimes delight in getting Mormons to sip coffee or drink alcohol. But your inability to empathize does not invalidate these experiences or make liars of those who share them.

Here we have a firsthand account from a writer. Why should we accept your accusations just because you don't like the idea that a husband could be cruel to his wife and taunt her religious beliefs?

Do you typically taunt those who don't share your religious views?

Wilfried said...

Thanks all for providing such kind defense!

When one reads such remarks as Randy's, one wonders what the motivation is. True concern? Genuine indignation? Or just ex- or anti-Mormon trouble-brewing? We have those too who roam around in the bloggernacle.

If you have lived, like I have, for 40 years in the mission field, in small struggling branches, with many converts coming from misery, there is indeed much to tell from personal experience.

The post about Irma, as Stephen noted correctly, has nothing to do with feelings about Catholicism. In Belgium, and certainly 40 years ago when this story happened, nearly every deceased person gets a Catholic funeral, even if the person never set foot in the Church since his infant baptism. It's part of an ingrained tradition. And therefore it's often a problem when a Mormon dies without other Mormon family. The non-Mormon family, if they can have their say, will arrange for a "regular" Catholic funeral. Irma's husband demanded a Catholic funeral, not because he was an active Catholic, but because it was part of his view of the world, and, also, yes, because it was a last form of abuse he could impose on her. But the post in itself has a different focus. And if it happens to be faith-promoting to the reader, I am grateful.

Mormanity said...

Many thanks, Wilfried, for your comments - and especially for the experiences you share.

Last night, after being touched by the imagery of the Atonement in the Chronicles of Narnia (great movie I saw with my family), I tried to relate the "Coffee" story to my family. Something about it hit me so powerfully, so personally, that I could not get the words out of my mouth. I pride myself on my ability to control my emotions, but I was choked up so much that I could not speak as I thought of what that woman bore and how noble she was, and she was viewed as so weak. My experiences as a bishop and my experiences in dealing with the abused drove many points home at that moment, and I simply could not speak - and after three attempts, I just had to wait and start again.

Applause Plush Toys said...

It seems that a couple of people are missing the point of the story. It's not about the WOW or drinking coffee. It's about not being judgemental of apparent weaknesses of others because we humans have limited (sometimes non-existent) knowledge of the situation and why people do the things they do. Judging others happens all over the place, not just in the LDS Church.

I can personally relate to this woman's story (not about the coffee). I appreciate and was touched by it, even if it might not be complete. There's always more to a story than what one person is able to relate. Sometimes even the person involved is unable to relate everything so that it is understandable. Just ask the people I tell stories to :)

Fortunately for all of us, the Lord knows everything, including the intent of our hearts. I am grateful He is the judge and I know His healing power.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, just erase history. good job Jeff

Walker said...

Anon@ 7:34

What on earth are you talking about?

Bookslinger said...

Walker, Anon made a false, or at least a very misleading, statement about the history of the Word of Wisdom in the church. At best it was a straw-man argument. At worst, he (Anon) was excreting in the punch bowl again. Either way, it was off-topic.

Jeff deleted the offending comment. I'm glad. Sometimes you just get tired of the same old snarkiness.

Wilfried Decoo's story was poignant on a couple levels because it conveyed much by what he didn't say. That made it not only a good story, but good story-telling.

I suppose we should be asking Randy and/or Anon what it was in their childhood that made them so bitter, distrusting, and snide. I think he/she/they need a big hug.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Book, Looks like Jeff couldn't handle the truth.
Fact. The WOW was not followed until after prohibition ended.
Fact. It was changed from what was then suggegtions for good health to something that must be followed to enter the temple.
Fact. It was not followd by the Prophets until George Albert Smith who changed the WOW because he has not happy the Utah Saints had not followed his advice and voted to repel prohibition.
If the WOW was so inspired, it seems to me that it should have been followed by the Church and the Prohpets before 1930. It was not.
Call it whatever you like, that is the history of the WOW. Jeff either knows nothing about it or does not want anybody to know its history. There are those of us in the Church that have studied its history at BYU, where they don't hide everything that is not so pleasant.

Bookslinger said...

Anon: 1) Your facts are off by a few decades, 2) you got the wrong prophet, 3) you got the wrong "why's", 4) DC 89 is plain that it wasn't a commandment when originally given, so nothing appears "hidden" or "re-written" to me, and 5) you're ignoring one more important doctrine concerning the matter.

I think you're just repeating someone else's erroneous assertions.

If you want to be a credible anti-mormon, you need to get your facts straight. Repeating stale and incorrect anti-mormon diatribes just lessens your credibility.

But by deleting your previous comment Jeff already indicated that the history of the WoW was not germaine to this thread. So I expect him to delete this and your comment.

Bookslinger said...

Anon: Wilfried's coffee story is more about abuse and hidden suffering than it is about the WoW.

I'm curious. What happened in your childhood that made you so bitter? Did your parents "beat you with the Mormon stick?" Were you physically or emotionally abused, or both, in the church? Did you feel betrayed when you finally realized that primary teachers gave you the dumbed-down version of church history? Or were you a convert who felt betrayed because the missionaries didn't give you a "warts and all" version of church history?

Whether your erroneous assertions about the history of the WoW were made in ignorance or out of malice, you've displayed a lot of bitterness. Let it go man. Let go the hate. Let go the toxins. Hating Mormons for whatever happened to you is not going to heal the wounds.

Mocking Mormons, especially with false accusations, does nothing to heal whatever wounds you have. It makes as much sense as kicking a tree root that tripped you. You'll just do it until you get tired of it and move on.

Find another church, or another religion, if that's what it takes. Focus on whatever uplifts you, because you'll never be uplifted by putting down others, no matter how right you are or how wrong they are.

It's not really about the WoW, or when it evolved from suggestion to commandment, is it?

Anonymous said...

I thought this story was over the top--excessively maudlin, manufactured spirituality.

There are *always* going to be reasons that people can't keep commandments perfectly. Even if this woman didn't have an evil coffee-forcing non-member husband, she could just have had an overpowering urge for the aroma and taste. Would that have been a good reason to drink coffee? That's as good a reason as the husband she picked and chose to remain with.

So who are single people's scapegoats? They don't have spouses to blame for breaking the commandments. Give me a break.

I say this story should be nominated for a Thomas S. Monson award.

Walker said...

Anon@12:04--

I would concur. A fine story deserves a fine award.

Sentimentality does not a false story make. If simple tragedy makes a story maudlin, then the whole world lieth in maudlinity. I would be happy to show you a whole slieu of "maudlin" stories in San Diego with the Hmong people whom I taught in their own language (I say that just so you know that the language barrier has not distorted my understanding of their story--see Jeff's site for more info), provided that is, you wouldn't laugh it all off as Hollywood-esque hogwash

And of all the "reasons" (as you mockingly call them) for imperfection in commandment-keeping, Irma's flouts the majority of those I've seen people employ ("I don't have time" "So-and-so said poor people aren't welcome here"--one I've actually heard by the way; I could go on). I could tell the story of a dear friend who committed suicide (talk about "not keeping commandments perfectly"), yet whose father-in-law had a very special experience teaching him that many members' understanding of suicide is, at best, misguided, and at worst, wacked.

And as to Irma's decision to "remain with" her husband, I just hope that a marriage therapist would never lay that treatment on a patient ("You picked him; you're stuck with him"). Now there's the healing balm of the gospel! (???) I knew one dear sister who married a seemingly "fine young man" when, within a year, that fine young man morphed into a monster (assuming, of course, that her telling of it was accurarcy--I, for one, believe her). Can you judge her or Irma for not seeing into the future? Go ahead, if you dare (see Matthew 7:1-4). Never mind Paul teachings that the "unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife" (1 Cor. 7:14).

And I'm quite happy not having a "scapegoat" right now. At least my poor choices can remain in relative isolation instead of dissipating into the eternities.

Anonymous said...

That was a nice story and very easy to swallow. It has all the elements that you come to expect from a good Mormon faith building kinda story. The very good member and the evil husband (who happens to belong to the church of the devil) and the aloof Bishop with good hearted intentions but no inspiration as he calls his flock to repentance.
It has all the classic charatures we come to expect. Like a good fantasy story, some people are all good and some people are all evil. And sometimes they switch sides and then they become all bad and the other guys are all good. It really is all so black and white if you really are willing to look. It reminds me of a book I once read. I'm reading it again and better get back to it now as I only have a few more days left to finish it.

Walker said...

I failed to mention in this in my previous post, but would you believe me if I related a similar account, only it came my first-hand acquaintances? (the two accounts' similarities are remarkable, only this husband was a tad bit more abusive and quite a bit more deceptive). In any case, I'll be sure to pass the word onto Sister Xiong that she need not worry about her abusive husband--cuz after all, her life is a fantasy and a cliche one at that.

Wilfried said...

I thank Anon. for the sustained attention he wants to give to my post. I welcome criticism. But in his case I notice a resentment that goes much deeper. I wish we could help him.

Back to the absolute veracity of the story. As has been noted, cases like Irma's are not unique. But we need to understand the conditions of certain people, especially if they come from other social strata, times and area's. Irma and so many others... Apart from the tragedy itself, the worst that can happen to a raped woman is not to be believed. The worst that can happen to a woman in an abusive marriage is that her story is treated with suspicion, that she is told that "things are certainly not that black and white", that there is probably some fault on both sides. I invite Anon. to go to Refuge homes for battered women and listen to their stories, even as of today in the U.S. And Irma's story happened in Belgium and in a period when there were no such Refuge homes and when leaving a husband at her age was virtually impossible. Even if she could have left, she was, as mentioned in the story, "from a submissive generation", willing to endure and to obey.

Anon., I hope you will be able to meet Irma when the time comes. Let's also hope we can all be worthy enough to reach the place where she is.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Walker said...

Anon,

I'm seeing some real issues here of bitterness. Perhaps it's a show to get us all t'd off or perhaps you're venting; I'm not sure (no false accusations, but your tone smacks of another poster on a different thread--could be wrong, but could I be right?)

I really don't want to threadjack here (I'm assuming that's why Book did not go into a full rebuttal of your claims--but since you seem to show an extensive knowledge of his lifestyle, you probably know that already), but for the record, there are individuals here (like myself) who HAVE worked for church historians, as professional researchers writers. This of course gives me no special access to rightness or eloquence, but you're the one who brought it up.

My testimony is still intact (if not stronger than before). Don't worry. If you want someone to chill your sensibilities, I can do the job for you if you wish (of course, that would require serious distortion and/or ripping from context on my part). On the other hand, if you want someone to inspire you, I can oblige you there too (which requires no distortion--an ironically more difficult task). Yes, I've read journals of polygamists who've gone haywire. I've read the "sordid" details of Joseph Smith's life (the word is quotes for a reason). Utterly unconvincing as smoking guns (or even simmering bottle rockets) against the Church's character.

Bottom line: I see no reason to continue this jacking. Back to reality with Irma.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
W alker said...

"I did ask you a question once, it was in regards to Josephs seer stone. You never responded, either you don't know the answer to the question I asked or dare not say what you know. Either way, makes no difference. Bury your head in the sand if you like."

Ah, yes--I remember that question was asked just as my work began to heat up. (sound convenient? Perhaps. But life has convenient coincidences sometimes). In any case, here goes (BTW, sand dunes are an excellent way of keeping the head warm this time of year--you should try it ;)

On the seer stone issue, Joseph was believed (and he believed this himself) to have powers to "see" things, find hidden objects. At one of his trials, his father prayed that the Lord might teach Joseph the true nature of his gift. Use of the seer stone was an important part of this "seeric" ability) (incidentally, this was the same stone Wilford Woodruff would dedicate decades later in the St. George (?) temple). The Lord can use our idiosyncracies to teach us. i.e if Joseph were Hmong instead of Yankee, I would have no problem with the Lord using shamanistic principles to teach him about spiritual gifts. The Lord used a similar pattern with Oliver (as can be noted in sec. 8 of D&C--where "gift of Aaron" originally read something to the effect of "gift of the divining rod")

"Did I malign the Church's character? I simply made statments giving greater clearity to this WOW issue."

See below (I'm focusing the rest of my remarks on the WOW elements of your post).

"if the WOW was so inspired, it seems to me that it should have been followed by the Church and the Prohpets before 1930. It was not."

The latter seems quite a bit more loaded than merely a "statement giving greater clarity."

At that, it is a generalization that portrays strict adherence to the Word of Wisdom by the prophets to be something that popped out of nowhere in 1930. Hardly the case.

In 1901, Joseph F. Smith criticized some individuals who sought to justify looseness in WOW observance by claiming tea and coffee were not specifically mentioned. Further, in 1902, he wrote a very revealing letter to Stake President John Hess, offering a degree of fluidity (primarily w/old men who were addicted, but refrained from tobacco on temple attending days, but that Hess should "draw the line on drunkenness." Even more striking, when in 1908 the prohibition debate had reached a zenith (it would revive again in 1915), the Church made no pronouncement outside of the typical Word of Wisdom advice given previously (see Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 17, 1909)

The point here is that HJG's administration was not the magical starting point for WOW wisdom observance, though it is fair to say that his was the first to nail it down (Woodruff had said in 1898 that recommends ought to be given people who were sub-par in their observance and JFS instructed leaders to be liberal in the judgment). In fact there is reason to believe that Grant had strong feelings long previous to his administration; he was expressing hard-line attitudes even as early as 1894 (my personal view: Grant was the prophet chosen by the Lord to carry this message).

In any case, the WOW was indeed "followed" (depending on your def. of followed) well before prohibition ended (or even began). Grant's hardline attitude was not due to sour grapes over prohibition, as he had such opinions twenty years prior. There is more information about this in Paul Peterson's thesis. Obviously, we could delve deeper, but what's been written should be sufficient.



Apparently, as early as 1882, evidence from John Taylor's journal indicates that he received a revelation that identified the WOW as a commandment. True, the prohibition movement had already been making inroads nationwide; however, there is no reason to believe that Taylor's emphasis on the WOW is dependent on the national prohibition movement (see Paul Peterson's Master's Thesis--"A Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom)

Walker said...

Oops. The last paragraph seems a little out of place doesn't it? After I had written it, I decided to go in a different direction. True enough, but it's not very relevant.

Ah well...enjoy.

randy said...

For the record: Wilfried has NOT verified the veracity of this story.

In fact, his comments indicate to me he wants to treat this story as an amalgamation or a representation, not a factual occurrence.

Again - it's bogus.

Walker said...

How could we expect Wilfried to verify the story w/o betraying confidences?

Anonymous said...

Oh, brother. How do you expect him to 'verify' it? It's quite apparent that his word isn't good enough for you.

Anyway, who cares? Most of us don't have your simple faith that when Mormons speak they must be lying.

-Adam Greenwood

randy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Walker said...

Did Adam ever say that he encouraged fabrications "as long as they promote the faith"? I'm not sure what others' experience has been, but I have yet to see when "faith-promoting" falsehoods are valued above truth (in my Church anyway--maybe the Mormon church where ya'll are is different ;)

Mormanity said...

Yeah, I'm growing weary of anonymous nastiness and really stupid off-topic comments. Anonymous comments will be deleted more frequently from now on, and offensive off-topic comments are always fair game.

It's so vicious!

I have no fear of truth, but I am annoyed by nasty comments from people who don't dare identify themselves.

Snip snip!

Anonymous said...

The Word of Wisdom has changed from people not being able to smoke tobacco or use it on 'temple' days to the now no-use at all. Why is it that the revelation was so inspired that it wasn't followed?
How silly this woman's coffee plight was. Had she known that coffee and alcohol were used by memebers of the church for a hundred years, she might not have had such a great burden to bear.
Maybe more openness and honesty with the history of the church would have lessened her pain. But I dare not speak that, as it would be too difficult for many
here to comprehend.

Alan E.

Walker said...

Alan,

Chances are, if you have spent any significant amount of time in a gospel doctrine class on D&C (at least in my experience), the "suggestion-to-commandment" transition has almost certainly been brought up.

And it is indeed unfortunate if you have experienced whitewashed church history. Most likely, it has been due to innocent ignorance rather than malicious dishonesty. as D. Michael Quinn has noted, most members of the church, even GAs are not exremely well-read in church history, nor do they have time to become so. They're more concerned with what they need to do RIGHT NOW to achieve exaltation.

In sum, as Elder Maxwell has noted, if some folks care less for the life of the mind (or in your terminology, care less for "openness and honesty), it is on a localized and not on an institutionalized basis (see "Deposition of a Disciple").

ltbugaf said...

For the record: Randy has NOT verified the falsity of this story.

In fact, his comments indicate to me that he has adopted an unreasonable standard of assuming that every personal experience related by a member of the Church is to be presumed false.

Again - Randy's conclusion is bogus.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply disturbed that the author of the "coffee story" identifies himself as a Branch President, and talks of Irmas troubles in an open forum.

Let Irma and her husband rest. I hope her grandchildren do not read the account and identify their grandparents.

Wilfried said...

It's remarkable how a person can just not "let go". Haven't we seen this since ages in the Church? Sad.

For the record, what I tell is a precise rendering of my experiences and recollections. You'll have to trust me in that. Besides, even if a story is supported by affidavits of witnesses, it wouldn't help some people. We know that from our own Mormon history.

Also to clarify: when a story involves troublesome aspects of individuals, I change the names.

Irma's story happened some 40 years ago. Still, I am sure her children have not forgotten what she endured -- and what they endured themselves. And I hope they pass the memory and some wise considerations on to their children, for we know tendencies to domestic violence run in families. It's a topic that must be talked about in families, to understand its sources and the ways to avoid it.

handmaiden said...

Poor old woman. Not even Mormons can understand her life. Coffee isn't a sin.