LDS Church clarifies caffeine use for faithful

Posted at 1:24 PM, Aug 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-31 02:09:05-04

PROVO -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be settling what has been a decades-long cultural debate in wards everywhere: caffeine.

In a blog post on the LDS Church's site, the church indicated that caffeine is not explicitly against the church's Word of Wisdom -- a set of guidelines for members that forbids the use of tobacco, alcohol and "hot drinks."

The church was responding to a report on Mormonism on NBC's "Rock Center," which claimed that LDS faithful were prohibited from drinking caffeine. The church wrote in response:

"Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibits alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee."

That post originally included the sentence: "The restriction does not go beyond this." However, it was later re-worded. A church spokesman did not offer any further comment beyond the post.

The post has sparked a debate online and in Mormon neighborhoods about whether the Word of Wisdom ever did forbid caffeine. Many LDS faithful grew up believing caffeine was not to be consumed at all.

Others have always consumed Diet Coke and tea, but avoided coffee.

"For me it's more of I don't want to get addicted to it. I don't want to be like, 'I need my caffeine today,' " said Dave Rollins, who carried a caffeine-free Diet Coke.

Rollins said he has known many Mormon faithful who believe caffeine is forbidden by the LDS Church.

"In fact, I baptized a guy who worked for Coke and he was thinking, 'I might have to get a different job!' " Rollins said.

"You see people on both sides," said Mary Ellen Robertson, the director of Sunstone, a foundation that studies Mormonism.

"The folks who say, like I did, 'I grew up not drinking caffeinated sodas, I was told by my parents it was bad and it was OK to judge people harshly who did.' Then there are folks on the other side of the spectrum, for whom this was never an issue, who say I don't see this as an accurate measure for my religiosity the way it's come to be used."

At the LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, caffeinated drinks are not sold. It is not because of a church or university edict, said spokeswoman Carri Jenkins, but customer demand.

"Dining Services has made the decision to not sell or serve caffeinated beverages on campus," she told FOX 13. "Simply based on what our customers want or do not want."

Jenkins said students would not violate BYU's Honor Code by consuming caffeine, nor would people be forbidden from bringing it on campus. The university would also revisit the sale of caffeine-full soda -- if it became an issue of demand.

"It's just something we'll have to look at," Jenkins said.