Coffee. The lifeblood of most college students. Whether you are an actor going to a late-night rehearsal, a med student beginning your residency or a mathematics major finishing a final proof before giving into the sweet release of sleep, coffee is important.
But for those of you who do not know, followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often don’t drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Rumor has it, caffeine is forbidden to members of the church. That said, adherence to the caffeine rule changes from person to person. Some members drink tea but ban coffee, others only drink herbal tea and almost everyone drinks hot chocolate (cocoa is technically caffeinated). So what is the truth?
According to LDS.org, the primary website for the church, “The Word of Wisdom does not mention it. Doctrine and Covenants 89:9 says we shouldn’t drink ‘hot drinks.’ The only official interpretation of this term is the statement made by early Church leaders that it means tea and coffee. Caffeine is not specifically mentioned as the reason not to drink these drinks.”
I found this interesting, to say the least, because for the longest time I thought caffeine was the long-standing offender. The idea that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ scriptures frowns upon caffeine has permeated popular culture among non-church members for years.
According to Mariah Pollard, the general manager for the University of Utah Campus Store Starbucks, “Profits are at a 10 percent increase compared to last year … Some of this is artificial, due to a rise in prices, but most of it is natural growth from popularity.”
This would make sense since the U is a nationally renowned school. All kinds of people come in for a mocha or americano, and not just religious residents of Utah get frappuccinos. There isn’t a lot else to say other than that I found all of this very intriguing, the social stigma and general misunderstanding behind this Word of Wisdom.
However, we should keep in mind this church counsel given by the late President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Boyd K. Packer: “The Word of Wisdom was ‘given for a principle with promise’ … A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions. Generally, principles are not spelled out in detail.”
Honestly, this makes so much sense and I don’t know why this did not cross my mind before. I know that the Word of Wisdom and the ten commandments are vague and up for interpretation. Some rules have to be followed closer than others, like “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (the Golden Rule) or not to kill people (universally understood). When it comes to our diets and preferences, whether religious or personal, it’s best to respect them and keep our opinions to ourselves.
This article is part of the Poynter College Media Project. Click here for more stories and information on the topic “Are U Mormon?”
A previous version of this article didn’t clearly articulate Boyd K. Packer’s authority within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We regret the error.