Caffeine and Mormonism

Bottoms up, it’s no longer frowned upon to have Pepsi if you’re a Mormon!

The topic above has received a fair amount of attention this week and caused me to look back in my memory bank of being a Mormon. I distinctly recall going through bishop interviews to receive my temple recommends and being asked if I had refrained from drinking caffeinated sodas.

I was so afraid of not receiving the coveted recommend that I stayed away from everything but root beer and ironically had no problem at all with gulping down hot chocolate.  Go figure…

Mormons are beset with an unending list of must-dos that always reminds me now of Jesus’ exchange with Mary and Martha.  (Luke 10:38-42) That list will never end and yet it always evolves.

One of the major problems within Mormonism (theology aside) is the way most Mormons look at the teachings and prophecies of the Church. Many of those are dissected into a private interpretation that no longer reflects the true meaning of what the leaders originally intended.

Caffeine is one of those.  Here is Smith’s original prophecy from February 27, 1833 and a few of the subsequent interpretations of what leaders thought he meant;

D&C 89:4, 9; “Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation— 9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.”

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg 289; “Hyrum Smith, Assistant President of the Church, later defined “hot drinks” as coffee and tea (T&S 3 [June 1, 1842]:800), establishing the official interpretation for subsequent generations. The Word of Wisdom was given originally to show the will of God, though not as a commandment. Abstinence from coffee has been expected of fully participating members since the early twentieth century…The main chemical in coffee that has caused health concerns is caffeine, a cerebral and cardiovascular stimulant. A large number of other substances are also found in coffee, and their effects on health are not yet well understood.”

Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, vol. 3: pg 215; “…Often when the Prophet entered the room to give the school instructions he would find himself in a cloud of tobacco smoke. This, and the complaints of his wife at having to clean so filthy a floor made the Prophet think upon the matter, and he inquired of the Lord relating to the conduct of the Elders in using tobacco, and the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was the result of his inquiry. (JD, February 8, 1868, 12:158.)” – Brigham Young

Melissa, one of my volunteers, made the comment “Who says Mormons don’t have modern day revelations?”  While her comment is hilarious, on the flip side it’s quite sad considering now they’re contradicting everything they’ve been teaching on the subject for the past century.

I also found it interesting and up to par with the way Smith always came about receiving revelations from God that because Emma was sick of cleaning up the piles of spit from chewing tobacco off the floor he’d have a revelation on her tea drinking habit.  That’s convenient.

The Mormons are an example of how institutions change with the changes in society. They cave on what they originally deemed godly to the dictates of what man says is acceptable.  Major tenets from polygamy to their temple garments and ceremonies and the race issue to caffeine have all been changed.  What’s next, same sex marriages or female bishops?  Mormonism doesn’t look like it used to so much so it’s doubtful Smith would even recognize it today.


1 Cor. 1:18