Unless You Are a Mormon

Soft Drink

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Shared by Patricia Holland

In the summer of 1973, Brother David K. Skidmore received military orders to report for duty in Thailand. Leaving a wife and two small children behind, David hoped to make the year pass as quickly as possible.

On the evening of his arrival, he was invited to join in a social gathering with his new squadron. He turned down an alcoholic drink for a soda pop and tried to obscure himself in quiet conversation amid the pounding of the music and the layered haze of smoke.

As he was introduced around, Brother Skidmore eventually ended up standing at the bar with the squadron commander, a colonel. With the officer's arm around David's neck he was a captive, listening to tales of airplanes, daring, and past comrades.

Soon a signal was given and the men gathered around the bar. The music was turned off and it became very quiet. Everyone was served a small drink of very strong alcohol. When the drinks came to Brother Skidmore, he said quietly, trying to be casual, "No, thank you, I prefer this soft drink."

The room went silent. "But this is a squadron tradition," the man said.

Thoughts raced through David's mind: "Why me? Why in front of the whole squadron? Why the very first night?" Trying to sound confident, David explained that he did not drink alcohol but would participate with soda pop.

With that, the silence deepened, and the commander's arm tightened around his neck and he said, "Lieutenant, I'm ordering you to have this drink. You'll drink it if I have to pour it down you myself."

David thought of how far he could get if he tried to fight. He envisioned the results, and an unpleasant visit to the wing commander to change squadrons. Again he asked himself, "Why me?" But he gathered his courage amidst the waiting silence and said, "I'm sorry, sir, I will not drink alcohol."

An electricity filled the air, and David prayed silently with all his heart.

The colonel leaned back and measured him with his eyes, then replied, "You are going to drink this. .

David kept praying.

Then the colonel added, …unless you are a Mormon."

What relief filled a soldier's soul! Of course he was a Mormon! He'd always been a Mormon. Why hadn't he said so earlier? "Yes, sir, I'm a Mormon," he answered.

The commander quizzed David again to make sure he wasn't simply taking an easy out. Then he said, "A soft drink for this man, please."

Shared by Patricia Holland at a BYU Devotional on September 9, 1986