In the LDS Church I have continually been taught the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89). The basic premise is that we should only take into our body things that are healthy and non-addicting. The section mentions hot drinks, which have been interpreted to mean tea and coffee. Here is where the controversy begins.
Without fail when D&C 89 is taught in Church the subject of caffeinated beverages (i.e. Coke, Mountain Dew) comes up. There are two schools of thought about this within the Church. Adherents of the first argue that caffeine is an addictive drug and though not mentioned specifically in the Word of Wisdom drinking caffeinated beverages breaks the “spirit” of the law. They also point to statements by a few General Authorities condemning its consumption. It is also noted that on the campus of BYU Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Coke and many other normally caffeinated beverages are sold without caffeine (I think UT is one of the rare places where you can find Decaff Mountain Dew).
When President Hinckley was on Larry King a few years ago he was asked many probing questions. One of them was if Church members drink caffeinated soda. President Hinckley replied that we do not. I am not one to advocate drinking caffeine (I do occasionally do so), but this statement was not very accurate. Drinking caffeinated sodas is very common among LDS members. I have yet to attend a ward where I didn’t know several people that drink Coke or Pepsi.
Members of the other school of thought reason that caffeine is not highly addictive. An occasional Coke or Mountain Dew will not turn into a life long addiction. Caffeinated drinks used to help keep awake on long trips or during and all night study session are an instance when these may be used properly. Most members that drink caffeinated soda will admit that it is bad to indulge in it all the time, but not if taken infrequently.
They also argue that if drinking caffeine doesn’t keep them from getting a temple recommend it must be okay. A few weeks after the prophets statement, I went for my temple recommend interview and when asked about the Word of Wisdom I expressly stated that I drink Coke and other caffeinated sodas. The Bishop balked at the idea that this would constitute breaking the Word of Wisdom. I walked out 10 mins. later with my recommend.
Now if caffeine is strictly prohibited then all the many things that contain even a hint of caffeine are also taboo. This includes the inoccuous cup of hot chocolate. No more chocolate candy bars either they contain 6 mg of caffeine. And what about those caffeine free cola drinks. Pepsi free boasts that it is 99% caffeine free. That’s right 1% of the caffeine remains making these “caffiene free” drinks off limits to strict adherents of the spirit of the law.
It is also argued that many members concerned with caffeine consumption ignore other admonitions that are expressly stated in the Word of Wisdom, such as reducing consumption of meat and increasing intake of whole grains. Thus their attitude seems to be one of don’t break the spirit of the law, just go and outright break the law.
In the end this topic is peripheral, but the fact that it comes up so often means it merits more discussion. If you are a Mormon what do you think about caffeinated beverages? If you are a non-Mormon what do think of the ban on Tea and coffee? Do you think that LDS members that drink caffeinated sodas are hypocrites?