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Question

Why doesn’t the Church just come out and say it’s okay to drink coffee?   They beat around the bush about caffeine drinks and hot drinks..

Steve

 

Answer

Steve,

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Because it has been revealed and interpreted that Latter-day Saints are to avoid putting coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcoholic substances into our bodies.

The Word of Wisdom isn’t really about these harmful substances. The Word of Wisdom is about treating our bodies as temples of holiness. All of God’s covenant people have had a law of health to separate themselves from the rest of the world. We can read of the Jews who have kosher laws. We as Latter-day Saints have the Word of Wisdom.

Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet, wrote: “And again, ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.” (“The Word of Wisdom,” Times and Seasons, 1 June 1842, p. 800.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. …

“Tea and coffee … are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks.’” (In Joel H. Johnson, Voice from the Mountains [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881], p. 12.)

If, by chance, you meant caffeine, instead of coffee in your question to me, then we get into a “letter of the law” versus the “spirit of the law” conversation. Do we really want to follow the path of “what can I get away with and still be considered a member in good standing?” For me, strong drinks, while officially determined to mean alcohol (and hot drinks are coffee and tea), would include strong energy drinks. They are quite strong in their effect on the body and are not healthy. They may be “allowed” by the minimal standards of the Word of Wisdom, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking them.

As we study the Word of Wisdom, we can learn that there are more ‘do’s’ than ‘don’ts’. We can learn of the blessings for willingly following this commandment. It is easy to think that it’s only about avoiding these harmful substances. This seems to be the way that missionaries teach and seek commitments of investigators to follow the Word of Wisdom. It also seems to be the focus of how we teach our youth to help them avoid making poor decisions.

The sooner we understand that the Word of Wisdom is spiritual in nature, the sooner we can have a proper testimony of its benefits for us as a people.

 

Gramps

 

 

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