Cover of The Creed Haymond Story: How He Learned That the Word of Wisdom Is True, by Jay Todd

Cover of The Creed Haymond Story: How He Learned That the Word of Wisdom Is True, by Jay Todd

Since I was young I’ve often held as my claim to fame that I am distantly related to Creed Haymond (1893-1983, first cousin three times removed), the early 20th century track athlete, whose story about the Word of Wisdom has been told several times over the pulpit in General Conference.1 I thought that was pretty neat, and there was a short children’s book published, The Creed Haymond Story: How He Learned That the Word of Wisdom Is True, by Jay Todd, which I often read as a child.

Over the years, I’ve learned a little more about Creed Haymond. Apparently he was accepted to compete with the U.S. team at the 1920 Summer Olympics, but he was injured before the competition.2 He eventually became a dentist, and served in many capacities within the Church, including as mission president in the Northern States Mission, general board member of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, and a patriarch (while President James E. Faust served as president of the Cottonwood Stake). His wife, Elna Parkinson Haymond, served as a member of the Relief Society General Board.3 

Raven (my wife), me, and President Grinceri, in front of the Perth Australia temple.

Raven (my wife), me, and President Grinceri, in front of the Perth Australia temple in 2005.

I learned more about Creed Haymond when my wife and I went on a south Pacific tour with the BYU Ballroom Dance Company in May of 2005. We visited the Perth Australia temple. Since the temple was undergoing some cleaning and repairs we could not enter the temple, but the president of the temple was there to show us the grounds. Upon greeting me and my wife, President Grinceri asked us if we knew a Creed Haymond. We told him that we did and that I was related to him. He said that Creed was one of his Assistants when he was a mission president in Italy. We found out later from President Grinceri that this Creed was a grandson of the track athlete Creed Haymond. President Grinceri told us that his assistant had given him a tape recording of his grandfather retelling his well-known Word of Wisdom running story. He offered to send us a copy of this tape. With great appreciation, we accepted. When we arrived home to Provo, Utah, the tape cassette was in our mailbox.

The recording was in poor condition, likely being copied several times, and had a lot of noise. I made a digital copy of it a few years ago, and did some noise removal at that time. I did some further noise removal today. Below is the audio recording of Creed Haymond, telling his Word of Wisdom story:

Creed Haymond story MP3

I have made a transcription of this audio recording:

My story begins in 1903, when I was but a child. I was born and raised in Springville, Utah. My mother took me to Provo to the Utah Stake Conference, and there the General Authorities were represented by Elder Reed Smoot of the Council of the Twelve.

He spoke on the Word of Wisdom, and at the conclusion of his remarks, he said, “I promise every young person in my hearing, that if he will live the Word of Wisdom as God intends, and they are willing to do the work, they will be blessed with success in whatever they attempt to do in righteousness.”

I had a sister living in Provo, and we visited with her until nearly midnight, and then we drove home to Springville, in a buggy and horse. As we neared the half way point, my mother stopped the horse. She took hold of my hands and said, “Creed, do you remember what Br. Smoot said today?” Well, I remembered about like any eight-year-old boy would, sitting on a hard seat for two hours. So she told me. Then she said, “Will you promise me that you will never taste tea or coffee, or liquor or tobacco, as long as you live?” And I replied, “Yes, Momma, I will.”

The following Sunday, one week later, Joseph J. Cannon was visiting at our home. And I told him what I had promised. So he took my twin sister and me out on the front porch, and we placed our hands alternately on each others hands, and made this pledge: That neither of the three of us would ever taste tea or coffee, or liquor or tobacco, as long as lived, unless we were all three together, and did it with common consent.

Time passed from 1903. It was the spring of 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts. The occasion was the IC4A Championships, the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America. We were there to compete in the annual intercollegiate track meet. I was captain of the University of Pennsylvania track team, and we had a good team! On the first day of the meet, in the trial heats, the University of Pennsylvania qualified seventeen men for the semifinals on Saturday. Cornell placed second, with eleven men. Princeton had ten, I remember.

The next morning, the newspaper stated that the only thing that would prevent the University of Pennsylvania from winning the intercollegiate championships would be that they would all either have broken legs, or they’ll all be sick, and that proved not to be an idle prediction.

I had won my trial heats in the 100 and 220 on Friday. Just before I went to bed that night, Lawson Robertson, my coach, came to me with a glass of Sherry wine in his hand. He said, “Creed, I know your funny Mormon ideas. I know your standards. But I’m going to ask you to lay them aside tonight, and I want you to drink this glass of wine. You’ve been training for five months, and you didn’t run today with the ease that I would like to see. I’m afraid that by tomorrow you may go stale. Take this stimulant, and it will keep you from going stale.”

Well it came to me as a tremendous emotional shock. I said, “Robby, I can’t do it.” That night, my twin sister was in Springville. Joseph Cannon was in Bogotá, Columbia, South America. And I was in Boston. I could not have got in touch with them to get their permission, and I remembered the promise made to my mother many years before.

I said, “Robby, ask me to do anything but that and I will. I’ll even stay out of the meet tomorrow, if you think I’ll bring discredit upon the university.”

He said, “That isn’t what I want. I know what I’m doing, and I think you ought to take my advice, for your own good.”

“Well,” I said, “I won’t.”

He said, “Alright, but if you lose tomorrow, and the University of Pennsylvania loses, I’m going to hold you personally responsible!”

You can just imagine how I felt. I retired to my room and determined to go to the only source that I knew. I got in my pajamas, and knelt down beside the bed.

And I said, “Oh, Father in Heaven! I’m in trouble, and I need help. I’ve been asked to do something which I have been taught is not right. I want to know of myself whether or not the Word of Wisdom was in reality given to the Prophet Joseph Smith as a revelation for the benefit of the Church. And I want to know this of myself. If I will be blessed with that answer, my life will be devoted to service in thy Church.”

I got in bed. I expected an answer. But I didn’t expect it in the way it was received.

From this moment on, a series of unusual events took place over the next 20 hours. It was about 10 o’clock. I don’t suppose there was ever a sprinter, for an indoor track meet, that slept very soundly the night before. [...] he may be beat off the marks. The gun may catch him slow. Or he may be set back. So much depends upon the start. In fact, in the short races, nearly all depends upon the start when you’re in fast competition. And this was fast competition. But I went to sleep, and I didn’t hear a thing for nine hours.

The next morning, I was awakened by a knock on the door. The sun was shining bright, and I wondered if I was late for the meet. I jumped to the door, and there was my coach. He was upset, as he said, “How are you feeling?”

I said, “I’m feeling fine. I’ve never felt better.”

He replied, “Thank God, for all the other men are sick.”

“What caused it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think it was the wine?”

“I still don’t know.”

That was the first thing that happened. In the afternoon as the track meet started, the semifinals, the 100 yard dash, were called. Forty years ago, we did not have starting blocks at the start of a race, but ran from holes dug in the ground. In his semifinal, Carl Johnson from Michigan, a man six feet and [...] tall, drew the second lane. Being tall, his legs were long, and his holes were spread wide. He won his semifinal; it was Carl Johnson who’d been predicted by the sports writers to be the new 100 yard champion. They felt that I hadn’t shown sufficient fast time that spring to win from him.

I won my semifinal, but in the final, which took the six fastest men in the college world, [...] handed me a [...] as I drew lane number two, with the long holes. Now I’m short legged, as I’m only five feet, seven and a half inches tall. The track stewards had dumped the holes with dirt. But the ground was not sufficiently hard to make a solid footing. And our team manager dug my starting holes, he placed the rear hole directly in front of Johnson’s rear hole, and it was backed with soft dirt. Men who are trained to the limit are like race horses. They are under tension, and are anxious to get gone.

The starter said, “Take your marks.” “Get set.”

And at the gun, the runners were gone. With the intent to surge off the marks, my rear hole broke, and I slipped. My stride was broken, and I was about three yards behind in a race that determined the 100 yards sprint championship of America. In desperation I ran that race. I was in last place at 75 yards, running close in the pack. At 90 yards, Johnson was still in the lead. But somehow I passed. I did not pass him under my own strength, for I shouldn’t have placed better than last place under the conditions. But I broke the tape, and won the 100 yard college sprint championship.

Then it came to the 220 yard run. By some strange [...] of events, the 220 trials came after the field events had been finished, and the crowd of people were anxious to go home. In my semifinal, it was announced that Haymond of Pennsylvania was going to try for a new worlds record for the straightaway 220. Actually, that had an electrifying effect upon me. When the gun went, I went with it. In trying to run with every ounce of strength that I possessed, I tied up, and missed the record by 2/5ths of a second, running 21 and three-fifths seconds.

As I finished the race, the [...] came up and said, “All right, back to the start, Haymond, because they are going to run the finals immediately.” Well, I was in this condition. [Huffing.] And I was in no condition to run. I grumbled, and went back to the start. But I walked back just as slowly as I could.

When I got to the start, one of the sprinters, who was in the finals also, came up and said, “Haymond, they are going to run the 220 immediately. I’ve just run before you, and I’m in better condition than you are, but I’m not ready to run. You have a right to demand that we have a rest.”

So I went over to the starter, and said, “Mr. [...], you can see I’m in no condition to run now. I think we ought to have a rest.”

He said, “All right, Haymond. I’ll give you ten minutes.”

And just as he said it, the telephone rang, and the referee gave orders for the race to start.

He said, “I’m sorry, boys, but you’ll have to come to your marks.”

We went to the marks, grumbling. And he said, “Take your marks.” “Get set.”

As you get set, you always take a deep breath. And you hold that breath until the gun goes. And you let the breath go, with a surge throw yourself off balance, by throwing your left arm forward, and a sharp thrust in the legs, lets you get a tremendous start. I got a beautiful start! I was almost in the air when the gun went. I ran long, free, and easy, and hit the tape with yards to spare. I was thrilled because I had won the 220 the year before, and to repeat again, was quite a satisfaction.

When it was announced that I was going to try for a worlds record, Lawson Robertson, coach of the University of Pennsylvania, found the team coach of [...] University, went to the top of the grandstand, right over the finish line, where they could get an unobstructed view of the finish. [...] experienced [...] found that that is the best place to time a race, where individual differences may determine a man’s athletic fate.

As I hit the tape, they snapped their watches. They recorded 21 seconds flat, which was 1/5th of a second under the worlds record. Now I know that I wouldn’t have run that fast in the condition I was in. But as I took that deep breath to start, every vestige of exhaustion disappeared, and I was as fresh as I was that morning.

The coaches checked with the timers, and found that [...] timers had 21 seconds flat, but that the [...] timer had 21 and 3/5th seconds. Well, worlds records are not given on split timing.

Robertson came to me, put his arm around me, and said, “Regardless of what the timers say, you just ran the fastest 220 on record. You may always have that satisfaction.”

Although this was not a situation where records mattered, I am [...] however, because it was run in time that was beyond my ability under those conditions. I think the Lord placed conditions just as they were. I have the satisfaction that I had run the fastest 220 that had yet been run.

Now another thing happened. We had five intercollegiate champions on our team the year before. Not one of the other four champions placed better than third place, in times that were slower than their ordinary quality of running. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking anything about my prayer the night before. I had just repeated as the intercollegiate sprint champion. I was very happy. I was receiving congratulations and the apologies of my coach. He said, “I guess you know what you’re doing.”

I went back to the hotel. I was tired, and after eating, I retired early. I forgot my prayers that night. But I was a hero, and I was thinking heroics. And as I was dosing off to sleep, I suddenly became conscious of this thought: “Were your prayers answered?”

It was as if a voice had spoken to me. As I laid there, and thought of all the conditions that had occurred in the meet, and the conditions of almost impossibilities, I realized that my prayer the night before had been answered. I had been given a witness that this thing called the Word of Wisdom was ordained of God.

I got out of bed immediately, knelt in prayer, and thanksgiving to God that he had heard me, and to re-pledge the covenant that I had made with Him the night before.

I bear you my witness that I know that the Word of Wisdom was given for the benefit of God’s covenant children! They we may stand before the world as Paul said to the Philippians:

14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and [a] perverse [generation], among whom ye shine as lights in the world. (Phil. 2:14-15)

And to [...] that we may ourselves seek for a personal testimony, regarding the requirements which God has made upon us. I ask in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, amen.

Creed Haymond Story of the Word of Wisdom, in His Own Words

  1. The General Conference talks that were given were:

    The Creed Haymond story has also been told other times within the Church and elsewhere:

  2. Wikipedia –
  3. Obituary - Creed Haymond’s obituary

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