Is green tea against the Word of Wisdom?

Posted on April 1, 2006 at 12:28 pm

Church History

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Question

Dear Gramps,

On your older site I read a question about the Mormon Church’s stand on green tea. I enjoyed the answers but was wondering if there was actual documentation of the Mormon Church’s stand on green tea? I know many church members now that say it’s okay because it’s a healing herb and more and more natural companies are using it in their products. It would be most helpful if I could get an actual quote of the Mormon Church’s stand on green tea. Or where that information is found. Thank you so very much.

Dianne

 

Answer

Dear Dianne,

It’s strange how this topic of green tea keeps cropping up. I think that it’s symptomatic of the tendency toward putting blind faith in the science of today. We have made astounding advances in the last 50 years in some of the fields of technology–particularly space exploration and microelectronics, and it is not unreasonable that people would tend to believe that the scientists are discovering universal truth. WRONG!!! Science is making great advances in technology, but the theories (and we must emphasize that a theory is indeed a THEORY and not a FACT) upon which the technology is based are generally without foundation–and always have been.

To continue this digression for the sake of completeness, please permit a very cursory review– The fundamental particles of which the universe is composed were held by the Greeks, who led us into modern technology, to be air, fire, earth and water. This was held to be universally true until the discovery of the atom, which was described by Niels Bohr in 1913 to be a mass of electrons whirling around a nucleus in circular or elliptical orbits.

In 1919 the proton was discovered as a component of the atomic nucleus; and the neutron, along with the positron, was discovered in 1932. In 1937 the pi and mu mesons were discovered. Now, with the discovery of such sub-atomic particles as bosons, quarks and leptons, (there are six different quarks and six leptons, each with three variations), in addition to the later discovery of antiquarks and antileptons and a dozen gauge bosons, it will one day be realized that there is no such thing as a fundamental particle–that matter can be subdivided infinitely. But the scientists of each generation hold the view of their time with absolute certainty as absolute truth.

So, when some doctor recommends the use of green tea because of the antioxidants that it contains, most people bow in obeisance to the sacred cow of technology, and wonder why the prophets have not been equally inspired!

As you know, the Word of Wisdom was given as a revelation from God to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, and is recorded as Section 89 of the Mormon Scripture, The Doctrine and Covenants. Verse 9 of that revelation from God says And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

In the early 1800s tea and coffee were the only hot drinks that were used by western society. That hot drinks were meant to refer to tea and coffee is attested to by President Brigham Young, who of course was associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and who became the second president of the Mormon Church. President Young recorded,

“This Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of hot drinks and tobacco. I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned therein; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee-the beverages in common use. And the Lord said hot drinks are not good for the body nor the belly.” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe, p.182)

“Hot drinks” were officially defined as tea and coffee in a general conference in the very early days of the Mormon Church. Elder John A. Widtsoe, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reported the following:

“The Word of Wisdom contains certain very important warnings. It declares that alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee are not good for the body. The revelation says “hot drinks,” but before the revelation was a year old, “hot drinks” were defined to include tea and coffee” (Elder John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, April 1926).

And Victor L. Ludlow has further clarified that the “hot drinks” referred to in the Word of Wisdom do not apply to the herbal teas.

“The Word of Wisdom counsels against drinking “hot drinks,” which have been identified by early Church leaders as coffee and tea. “Tea” refers to the standard tea derived from the tea plant, sometimes called black tea or green tea. The Word of Wisdom has not been interpreted as proscribing herbal teas, stating that “all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man (D&C 89:10)” (Victor L. Ludlow, Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel, p.434).

Now, what is the difference between green and black tea? They both come from the same camellia sinensis plant. The only difference between the two is that black tea is further processed by fermentation.

When the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith the revelation on the Word of Wisdom, He knew exactly what the constituents of green tea were. The later discovery by man that green tea contains some medicinal properties, such as a relatively high concentration of the anti-oxidant vitamins, does not alter the decree of the Lord one iota. That is the same as saying that some forms of liquor are alright to drink because they contain a caramel flavoring!

The anti-oxidant vitamins are indeed very beneficial for the health, but they are available from many sources. I simply can’t understand why people who should know better keep using it as an excuse to violate the command of God and indulge in the drinking of tea.

 

Gramps

Summary
Article Name
Is green tea against the Word of Wisdom? - Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine
Author
Description
I was wondering if there was actual documentation of the Mormon Church’s stand on green tea? I know many church members now that say it’s okay because it’s a healing herb and more and more natural companies are using it in their products.
  • David Kepler

    I respect that i may never get a response on this, but i’m going to keep calling it out, because it is contrary to the potential good of this blog. the question didn’t prop up green tea as valid, so berating the asker and implying worship at the sacred cow of technology is unnecessary rage. the second half of this post was perfect and didn’t need your silly ‘science isn’t valid’ argument, which has nothing to do with this doctrine. wine and green tea can have proven value, but that is irrelevant to this argument and question, so why get so riled up about what isn’t being said or implied? When i joined the church i was told that herbal tea was okay, and it took awhile to get the answer that green tea was not okay. This question is valid and irrelevant to your science issues.

  • Jaimie

    Thank you! I have been saying this for years and now I have the proper sources to back me up.

  • Johnny

    “Now, what is the difference between green and black tea? They both come from the same camellia sinensis plant. The only difference between the two is that black tea is further processed by fermentation.”

    Another viewpoint on green tea !

    Now, what is the difference between grape juice and wine ? They both come from the same grapevine. The only difference between the two is that wine is further processed by fermentation !!!

    So using your logic then we should avoid grape juice and considered it a violation of the W of W because it comes from the same grape vine?

  • TruthAnalyzer

    Question: Although tea and coffee were the only “hot drinks” being used in 1833. Do we actually know that they were drinking “green tea” in those days? Would it not make sense that the only tea being drunk was black tea and that the fermentation process you describe was the reason for its being bad for the body in the amounts people were probably drinking? Perhaps someone has done more extensive searching on this.

    In any case, I am not seeing where a Prophet actually banned green tea in a way that was anything beyond his personal opinion. Indeed, Joseph Smith complained that he could not express a personal opinion without someone claiming it was revelation from God because he happened to be the Prophet.

    I think it would help if the Prophet would make a doctrinal statement on this question. As it is, I am told that it is left vague so that we can exercise our agency and follow the promptings of the Spirit. But it seems that when some folks attempt to do that, they are chastised as not being obedient to the Church leaders and just trying to find ways around the rules. Perhaps there is some of that; but also–just perhaps- there may be some sincere individuals who have been prompted, Should we be judging the agency of others; or should we express our reservations; but respect their agency and leave their decisions between them and God?

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