I have a hard time understanding the reasoning behind coffee and tea not being allowed. I have a friend who left the church because of this. I just don’t get how coffee isn’t allowed but energy drinks and other things are.
This may sound a bit harsh, but your friend did not leave the church over not being able to understand why coffee is included in the Word of Wisdom. Your question is really about obedience and why do we need to obey things we don’t understand. An unwillingness to obey is probably the prime reason many leave the church.
But let’s look at coffee and tea objectively.
Is coffee (and tea) harmful? The answer is undoubtedly yes. A quick search on the internet easily reveals some of its issues: Insomnia, headaches, heartburn, gout attacks, osteoporosis, incontinence, ulcers, reduction in fertility, forceful heart contractions, hallucinations, tremors, stress, high blood-pressure, etc., etc… Yes, most of these come from caffeine, something you also get from energy drinks and the like. But it can hardly be argued that coffee usage is beneficial to our health.
So, really, what are we asking? That we ought to be allowed to consume whatever we want to without any restrictions, in spite of the harm? Is the fact that one can get a temple recommend using energy drinks proof-positive that coffee and tea should be removed from the Word of Wisdom? Or, perhaps, should we be reconsidering our usage of energy drinks?
Regardless, it does not really matter. We cannot understand all the reasons the Lord gives every command. That is why we have the law of obedience, which includes the idea that we do as the Lord asks us to even if we do not understand. Coffee and tea usage being unhealthy does not seem particularly difficult to understand however. But even with some of the proposals that limited usage of some things included in the Word of Wisdom may be healthy (some suggest limited use of coffee can be healthy, and anti-oxidants in wine have been thought to be beneficial), the Lord’s commandments are His to give according to His will and understanding, not according to our wills and understanding.
Remember, this life is a test. What is that test? Will we obey? It’s a simple as that.
The Word of Wisdom can also be understood as a lesser law. We read in D&C 89:3, that it was, “Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints” (emphasis mine). Ideally we should look to live the purest and highest form of the law, not the least and lowest form. The higher-law version of the Word of Wisdom may well ban energy drinks, or at the very least, those living it would abstain from any addictive substances. And who knows, perhaps obedience to the fullest principles of the Word of Wisdom during the Millennium will be a great part of what will enable us to live “to the age of a tree.”
What has been revealed of the Lord’s health code is, as taught in vs. 3 of Section 89, an adaptation for the weakest of all saints. But if one feels like there’s more – live it! Enjoy the health and good life it brings. As a general principle, abstaining from coffee and tea are minimum requirements for temple admittance (and to receive saving ordinances). There is no law that says one can’t abstain from energy drinks, caffeinated beverages, lemonades, juices, or ice water. Feel free to do so (though I would not recommend abstaining from the water part of ice-water). Just don’t act like your personal Word of Wisdom scaffolding is the foundation for everyone else. REMEMBER HIRAM PAGE!!
Interesting to note (if you have tastes similar to mine), this is not a new practice. Elder Widtsoe, in writing about the Word of Wisdom, included a section on the evils of refined (white) flour (the GMO’s of his day I guess). Later, Elder McConkie corrected this thinking in his book, Mormon Doctrine:
“Some unstable people become cranks with reference to this law of health. It should be understood that the Word of Wisdom is not the gospel, and the gospel is not the Word of Wisdom. As Paul said, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14:17.)
There is no prohibition in Section 89, for instance, as to the eating of white bread, using white flour, white sugar, cocoa, chocolate, eggs, milk, meat, or anything else, except items classified under the headings, tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor. As a matter of fact those who command that men should not eat meat, are not ordained of God, such counsel being listed by Paul as an evidence of apostasy. God has created “meats,” he says, “to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Tim. 4:3.) If some particular food or drink disagrees with an individual, then that person should act accordingly without reference to the prohibitions in this particular law of health.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook also taught:
“Certain members have wanted to add substantially to various doctrines. An example might be when one advocates additions to the Word of Wisdom that are not authorized by the Brethren and proselytes others to adopt these interpretations. If we turn a health law or any other principle into a form of religious fanaticism, we are looking beyond the mark”.
In the same article he helps us to understand what the mark is:
“The “Mark” Is Christ”
And Christ taught us the means whereby we hit the mark:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)