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Do the Mormons forbid consumption of caffeinated soft drinks?

Full Question

I have a Mormon colleague who does not drink Coke or other soft drinks. He said his religion forbids it. Is this true?

Answer

Yes, by a circuitous route Mormonism has ended up forbidding all caffeinated drinks to its members, including the popular soft drinks.

On February 27, 1833, Joseph Smith reported a revelation known as “the Word of Wisdom,” which is now enshrined in Mormon scripture as Doctrine and Covenants 89.

The elders of the early Mormon Church used to meet in a room over Joseph and Emma Smith’s house in Kirtland, Ohio. After a good deal of pipe-smoking, they would take large chews of tobacco and spit all over the floor. Smith’s wife was none too pleased with having to clean up the mess, and Smith quieted her by “inquiring of the Lord” (see Brigham Young; Journal of Discourses 12:157-158).

The resulting “revelation” allegedly was given “not by commandment or constraint,” but as advice or counsel that henceforth members should not use tobacco, alcohol, or “hot drinks,” interpreted as coffee and tea. Later prophets deemed this to refer also to cold coffee or tea and eventually extended to cover caffeinated colas as well.

Grains and vegetables were especially commended. According to the Word of Wisdom, meat was to be eaten sparingly, and then only in winter and times of famine. The “revelation” promised that those who followed it would “find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge.”

Mormons tout the Word of Wisdom as a case of God protecting them from health problems stemming from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine (all of which were already under attack for health reasons in 19th-century America). Yet the Mormon God was apparently not farsighted enough to inform his followers of the dangers of salt, fat, and cholesterol.

At first the “Word of Wisdom” was presented only as advice, not as having the force of law. But the “advice” from God soon took on the status of a commandment.

Observance of the Word of Wisdom was sporadic, even by Smith and other early leaders. By 1930, however, it had become more rigorously enforced. It is now enjoined “by . . . constraint” and not merely as advice. Prior to a candidate’s baptism, he is interviewed by a senior missionary who asks him questions, including about his compliance with the Word of Wisdom. For example, has he refrained from all alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea? For decades now members have been asked in their yearly interviews with church authorities if they keep the Word of Wisdom. Failure to do so–except for the meat prohibition, which has silently fallen through the cracks–bars one from attending the temple and from church leadership positions.

In the Mormon view, this has grave consequences, for unless a Mormon does his “temple work” he is unable in the next life to achieve godhood. Joseph Smith may have been able to use alcohol, tobacco, and coffee, even after the “giving” of the Word of Wisdom, but no Mormon today can, on pain of becoming a second-class citizen in theafterlife.

Of course, the Mormon prohibition on certain foods is in marked contrast to the biblical and Christian view. While Paul does urge moderation (Phil 4:5), and while periodic abstinence from foods can be a healthy spiritual discipline (Dn 10:2-3), the Bible stands fast in maintaining that all foods are to be received with thanksgiving: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tm 4:4). Specifically, as a matter of Christian liberty, Paul commands us not to have food laws imposed on us on religious grounds: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink” (Col 2:16). This includes even alcohol, so long as moderation is observed. Rather than condemn the consumption of alcohol, for example, the Bible clearly permits and even advises it (1 Tm 3:8, 5:23; Ti 2:3; 1 Pt 4:3; also Dt 14:24-26; Prv 31:6-7).









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9 comments

  1. Keth Lambrecht Reply

    Incorrect. Out religion does not forbid caffeine, or soft drinks. I drink Pepsi very often. The church leave items of that nature to personal choice. Unlike alcohol, which will get you in trouble with the church, caffeine will have no ill effect on you through the church.

  2. EddiHopkins Reply

    No! The Word of Wisdom does not forbid all caffeinated drinks! It states that we do not partake of coffee, tea (not herbal tea) strong drink and tobacco!

  3. Alissa Reply

    Caffeinated sodas are not against the word of wisdom and are not forbidden. I know that even some Mormon prophets and apostles drink caffeinated sodas. It has been encouraged to lay off the caffeine because it can become addictive and some people can’t function without it, we are better off not being dependent on caffeine.

  4. Garrett Spalka Reply

    This is wrong. The actual word of wisdom refers to “hot drinks” which is coffee. The myth of caffeine is concerned Mormon mommy’s trying to tell their kids not to drink soda. The purpose of the word of wisdom is for our bodies to be free of reliance from substances such as coffee, tobacco, and alcohol. Not all people experience addiction to these substances but not partaking of them will keep in in a clear mind. Why would you ask a Catholic about Mormon beliefs? Ask a Mormon. Just as I wouldn’t ask a Mormon about Catholic doctrine it doesn’t make any sense to get innaccurate information from any second party. I’m not targeting because I believe all Christians should stick together now-a-days and

  5. Randy Saunders Reply

    WRONG. Mormonism does NOT forbid or discourage the consumption of Coke or any other soft drink. The Word of Wisdom mentions the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and hot drinks (meaning coffee or tea). Nowhere does it mention soft drinks, caffeinated or otherwise. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (such as myself) who choose not to drink soda or other unhealthy drinks or foods do so simply to live healthier and of their own free will, not by the urging or command of any church leader or doctrine.

  6. Jack Reply

    This is false. We’re restricted from drinking coffee, tea (herbal is ok), and alcohol. No drugs or smoking either.

  7. Denise Hamilton Reply

    I only read the first sentence or two, but found an error. Caffeinated soft drinks are allowed. Coffee in any form (hot or cold), & black tea in any form (hot or cold) are not allowed. Herb teas are allowed. Many church leaders drink Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, & other caffeinated soft drinks.

  8. helen bd Reply

    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter – day Saints. We live oue faith seven days a week. Yes, we are counselled what is good and not good for our bodies. By following this counsel if have recovered well from cancer and a number of surgeries. We also have, in the Pearl of Great Price, the Articles of Faith. These are a response by Joseph Smith to a newspaper when asked what the Church believes. Number 11 reads

    “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

    This means that we ask that you allow us to follow our religion the same way we allow you to follow yours. I would suggest that you look at our websites mormon.com and lds.org. This will help you get the true information that you are looking for.

    Remember that we are all children of God and He & Jesus Christ loves each one of us.

  9. Mike Broan. Reply

    Nope, our church does not forbid us from drinking caffeine. However, they do forbid our bishops from molesting kids. Just sayin.

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