Why the caffeine statement is important

For those of us who have been imbibing caffeinated beverages (of the cold, carbonated variety) all of our Mormon lives, the church’s caffeine statement comes as no radical surprise. It’s not that I doubt Joanna Brooks’s accounts of childhood Coke avoidance, it’s just that in my neck of Zion, such zealotry has always been a minority position. So far, no big deal. Held up for scrutiny, it’s always been rather obvious to me that the church could take no logical position against this particular alkaloid per se. So, the statement is no Manifesto . . . except that it kind of is.

I bet many of you have heard Mormons talk about the specter of tannic acid as proof for the wisdom of the prohibition against tea. Such a bizarre proof represents a Mormon need to have the Word of Wisdom be a code of health. I know why we do it — the Enlightenment compels us to want religion to make sense and tannic acid renders explicable the otherwise inexplicable avoidance of camelia sinensis, especially given what appear to be its health benefits. You have studies that show that green tea is awesome, I have tannic acid. I win because “acid” sounds awful.

I can think of three models for interpreting the Word of Wisdom:

1. Original literal intent: The 1833 revelation is taken literally. Excessive meat eating is out, as are wine and liquor, while mild barley drinks (beer) are in. “Hot drinks” = well, hot drinks.

2. Personally reinterpreted intent: Seeing the Word of Wisdom as a rather time-specific divine “greeting,” or example of best practice in antebellum healthy living, the believer adapts the principles to 2012, committing to living moderately and wisely. Maybe they drink tea, maybe they don’t, but if they do, it won’t be with too much sugar, because it is sugar (and the sugary food complex) that represent “evils and designs” in the 21st century.

3. Authorised reinterpreted intent: The 1833 text is not taken exactly at face value but is reinterpreted through official, normative channels in the LDS church. Thus, when considering what drinks are not kosher, official guidance from the church is sought, the answer in this case being “tea, coffee, alcohol.”

Only model two sees the Word of Wisdom primarily as a health code and it is the one most out of step with current LDS practice. That is telling. Model three is the official position of the church and while there are certainly health benefits to not smoking, drinking, etc., it is not the primary reason for adherence to the Word of Wisdom. Primarily it is about obedience to a principle that marks Mormons as different.

Now, this is probably an obvious point to many readers but it is interesting that the caffeine statement confirms it. By confirming that carbonated, often highly-sugared, very unhealthy drinks are kosher, the church is confirming that the Word of Wisdom is not really a health code. If it were, we would all be drinking green tea rather than Diet Coke. Once again, the Newsroom shifts the sands.

Comments

  1. More questions the statement puts into relief:

    – How are Mormons reacting? Do caffeine-deniers brush it aside? Do caffeine-imbibers use it as a neener-neener stick?
    – How do you roll back cultural markers such as BYU’s decaffeinated campus? If temples don’t serve Coke, what does that do to the statement?

  2. RJH,

    if you’re looking at original intent, wine is definitely in, for the sacrament. I agree that the meaning of strong drink is a drink which has been distilled to raise the alcohol content.

  3. It’s especially interesting that although #3 is clearly normative and basically binding for church members, it distinguishes itself from both 1 and 2 by being neither firmly grounded in revelation nor defensible as a health code.

  4. The fact that rye is extremely injurious to fowls would suggest that #1 is out. (I’ll never forget when a Sunday School teacher was saying the WoW was to be taken literally, and our humble and very meek Bishop raised his hand and said simply, “Rye is poisonous to fowls.” Poisonous was the word he used. As professor of Poultry Science at NC State, we took him at his word.)

  5. Well written, RJH. Your final paragraph is an astute and important point. While there are certainly health benefits for most of the WoW outlines, it is also a cultural identity marker and reminder that we are a peculiar people.

    Another important lesson from this whole thing is the increasingly authoritative position the Newsroom has become as the arbiter of LDS doctrine and culture. We used to have revelations, then manifestos, then proclamations, and now we have Newsroom blogs.

  6. Anon for Today says:

    Sorry that it’s only marginally related, but I’d like to share an anecdote about a reaction I hadn’t thought about. I’m good friends with my bishop and after I jokingly informing him of the Newsroom’s article his eyes lit up and he asked me to forward it to him immediately. Apparently, he, still new to the calling, has been surprised at the frequency of temple recommend interviewees he’s had to coax into their own worthiness as they’d “confess” to him their inability to lay aside caffeinated soda. He has reported having a tremendously difficult time reassuring them that they can still consider themselves obedient to the Word of Wisdom and has had members NOT BELIEVE HIM! He was thrilled to have something quasi-authoritative to be able to refer them to.

  7. Just by way of reality check, there remains no credible, rigorous evidence of the reputed health benefits of green tea or any other tea (or coffee, or just about anything else not regulated by FDA or equivalent agencies other than a small subset of vitamins/minerals that are basically impossible to avoid in modern Western foodstuffs). The only good data around these health behaviors are that a) tobacco is a bad idea to smoke or chew, and b) alcoholism is a problem. Anything else is boosterism, speculation, credulity or some combination thereof.
    And Brad, your #3 isn’t correct on either point. Official, exegetical flexibility is a core concept in modern LDS scripture, and health codes should generally be flexible, on the basis of evolving nutritional contexts and scientific insight.
    That said, I think that Word of Wisdom as health code, while an important part of its historical and more contemporary context, is a model that largely misses the mark, as I think RJH is correctly arguing.

  8. smb re: green tea,
    Indeed, but in the game of tannin vs. green tea, the game is already in cuckoo-land. However, I’m pretty sure that sugary-drinks can be bad news.

    “health codes should generally be flexible, on the basis of evolving nutritional contexts and scientific insight”

    Also, indeed, but if the WoW were a health code, then we’d be closer to model #2, which we aren’t because it ain’t.

  9. So is green tea IN now?

  10. No, but Red Bull is!

  11. The data on sugary drinks are pretty confusing too. Largely because, other than arsenic and cyanide and other frank toxins, the healthfulness of something is much more about context and quantity than it is about the actual substance involved. I think if WoW were a health code, given the cultural attachment to official rather than lay exegesis, we’d be more in the #3 camp as a community than in #2. But, again, I agree with you strongly that reading WoW as a health code, while that’s how people have historical read it, is basically wrong-headed and likely to lead to confusing conclusions. The interesting empirical question is how a boundary marker can or will operate when it loses the imprimatur of science or commonsensical miracle.

  12. Thanks for this post Ronan. I wish that the Church had gone with #2, or even #1.

  13. “The interesting empirical question is how a boundary marker can or will operate when it loses the imprimatur of science or commonsensical miracle.”

    Yes.

    But bollocks on sugary drinks. Of course I’m not talking about the odd Coke but the addiction to sugar (in food and drink) which contributes to our obesity epidemic in the West.

  14. Romni,
    But I like hot chocolate!

  15. SMB, please,

    http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food

    What do you make of this? Certainly coffee is not bad for you and studies are indicating it is actually good for you. That brown toasty stuff, instead of creating free radicals in the body, actually act as a free radical sink.

  16. This post would seem so obvious as to be boring, except for the strange fact that most Mormons continue to believe that the WoW is indeed a health code. I’m continually amazed at how people seem oblivious to obvious things.

    FWIW, here’s what the official “Media Guide” at lds.org has to say, under the heading “Health Code.”

    Health Code

    A health code revealed by God to Joseph Smith in 1833 cautions against using tobacco, consuming alcohol, tea and coffee and emphasizes the positive benefits of wise eating habits and physical and spiritual fitness. The Church interprets the misuse of drugs — illegal, legal, prescription or controlled — as a violation of the health code known in Latter-day Saint scripture as the “Word of Wisdom.”

  17. Sam, it requires more than exegetical flexibility to get from D&C 89 to current normative LDS dietary restrictions. At best you could argue (and quite defensibly, I think) that the current program is rooted in more recent revelation (though not published, announced, or canonized) that modifies/trumps 89.

    Further, although the FDA has expressly countered some of the most ambitious and far-fetched claims re green tea, it is far from blue acacia or silver water. So while some reputed claims clearly lack evidence, the studies cited, for example, on linked page below do seem to support a range of health benefits that would qualify green tea as an unusually healthy beverage

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_tea#section_5

    .

  18. Smb , I’m confused by your claim that there is no credible evidence of health benefits of green tea. I just saw this paper published in Cancer Epidemiology (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877782112001130) showing that green tea consumption is correlated with reduced pancreatic cancer risk. The risk is further reduced with increased consumption and lower temperature of the tea. Combined with all of the functional biochemical studies of epigallocatechin (just enter Green tea in PubMed, thousands of papers appear), how can you say that there is no credible evidence?

    Anyway, I’m wondering if most Mormons feel that iced Green tea or green tea extract is verboten. Maybe I should email the Newsroom people.

  19. In regard to responses to the newsroom article:

    I have already heard it once in person and read it once (in a non-blogosphere but Mormon venue) that the “law” is for the weakest and that those with spiritually attuned ears will continue to abstain from caffeine. So, at least in my anecdotal experience so far, the post probably has not really budged those with Dumbo sized spirit-ears from their righteous trajectory.

  20. Ronan, couldn’t the occasional hot chocolate be accommodated with #2 approach?

  21. God knows all press is good press and that anything that makes us stand out generates press, especially if it has little/no discernible logic to it. Polygamists….teetotalers…..allowed to drink caffeinated Coke but not green tea….that’s all so weird. Let’s write a story about these weird people.

    My opinion has been that the Word of Wisdom is designed to (in order of importance) make us stand out, keep us safe from substances with crippling addictive consequences, and to keep us generally healthy for longer. It’s interesting that some in Joseph Smith’s time believed that hot drinks were bad for people because of the heat, not because of the chemical makeup, and if that’s what the original intent was, then 1) we’ve strayed very far and 2) the W of W is a pretty uninspired health code. But as a separator/marker, it works either way you interpret it (hot temperature or tea/coffee). Of course, with increasing numbers of non-LDS people giving up alcohol and tobacco for health reasons, if the primary reason for the W of W is marking us as different, then the tea/coffee restriction becomes even more crucial. (Or, as Thomas Alexander might argue, when the rest of humanity narrows the alcohol/tobacco gap, we’ll have to create or widen another gap…)

    Of course, God cares about health as well–I’m sure anyone praying for guidance on how to be healthier will be encouraged by the Spirit to step away from the Pepsi, excessive sugar, and meat-fest ward BBQs, and of course doing so would REALLY make us stand out–but perhaps God realizes that if he formally restricting these things would make us so peculiar we wouldn’t be able to break bread with anyone anywhere, thus defeating the ultimate purpose of having us stand out (and of course some places in the world it’s hard to find affordable, convenient liquids that are safe to drink, besides alcoholic drinks or canned/bottled soft drinks, so….)

  22. “Dumbo sized spirit-ears”

    Awesome.

  23. When I was a kid a woman from the American Cancer Society came to speak to us about the benefits of living the WoW. At the time Tetly Tea was running an add, “Make it hefty, hot, and hardy – Take tea and see.” She said that hot drinks were horrible cancer producers.

    Lately, in some parts of Iran, where it is culturally acceptable to drink very hot coffee, the incidence of throat cancer is substantially above the expected.

    In this regard, the reason, it was explained to me, why Asian tea cups have no handle is this, if it is too hot to hold, it is too hot to drink. Another support for the heat part of hot drinks.

    Can it not mean, really, hot drinks? Put an ice cube in your herbal tea.

  24. Guys, for your reference, the literature you’re citing is the type of preliminary data you would use to _actually_ study the question. It doesn’t even come close to answering the real question. And, sad to say, substantially less than 5% (probably less than 1-2%, although it all depends on how you’re framing it) of the compounds (or collections of compounds) that have such substantial preliminary data ever actually prove to be useful in a rigorous way. We publish preliminary data like that because our success is gauged by our paper trail, but unless the reporters are actively seducing us with the prospects of getting into the NYT, we are generally pretty honest that the data are only preliminary at best.

  25. original intent != literal intent
    So I think it’s a mistake to word it that way.

    What is actually out of LDS practice is the assertion that the “Word of Wisdom primarily as a health code and it is the one most out of step with current LDS practice. ”

    From President of the Quorum of the 12 – one who has far more authority to define what is LDS practice than you or the Newsroom… “The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith a code of health, the Word of Wisdom…”

    Or Pres. Hinckley, “This thing which we call the Word of Wisdom, which is a code of health, is most helpful…”

    Or Pres. Kimball, “…Mormons have a special health code (the Word of Wisdom…)”

    I see no where in the revelation the statement that obedience to the world of wisdom is a mark to make us a different. I do see a specific promise that, “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;” That doesn’t sound like a mark of obedience, so much as a blessing of health as a result of obedience.

    I’m by no means suggesting that caffeine has become part of the test of fellowship in the church that alcohol, etc. has. I would suggest it’s not wise to put caffeine into your body (or “soft drinks” for that matter) on a regular basis, some principles in the WoW might guide you to that fact, but it’s not spelled out and you can do as you please.

    But I’m completely amazed at how quick some people are to throw up an authoritative sounding blog post which completely lacks any authority, and in fact knowingly or unknowingly attempts to undermine previous authoritative statements.

  26. It’s also strange that the newsroom itself, who you’ve made as the supporting argument for this post, says, “The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee. *”

    Notice the phrase, “Church’s health guidelines” in reference to D&C 89, and you’ve turned around and written a post with the conclusion that, “The church is confirming that the Word of Wisdom is not really a health code”. Ok ok, the code is really more like guidelines. Is that we’re you’re going Captain Sparrow?

  27. I’ve long felt that the WoW, in a way similar to wearing the temple garments, is a reminder to us in the form of something that we do each day (what we eat and drink and otherwise take into our bodies, or abstaining from certain things) about covenants and promises. With the garments, they are less a cultural marker than a daily reminder of covenants made and promises we intend to keep. Otherwise, we’d still be wearing the ankle- and wrist-length garments, even in hot weather, to set us apart visually. The WoW and garment wearing are little things done on a daily basis to remind us of those covenants, which seems to fit mostly with your #3.

  28. Kaohor, if it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, etc, .we can call it whatever we want. Taxonomy still says it’s a duck.

  29. Romni,
    Yes, but only #2.

    Sam,
    You’re going beyond my intent. I’m not saying green tea is some wonder elixir and will defer to your scientific judgment. However, I think it is justifiable to say that green tea is, all other things being equal, “healthier” than a sugary soda. If you disagree, I will be happily surprised and look forward to Red Bull and Haribo for breakfast.

    kaphor,
    Your argument seems to be as much an argument against the Newsroom than with me. Take it up with them and whichever apostle oversees their work. Far be it for me to undermine any authoritative statements, but if that’s what the Newsroom wishes to do by implication, then so be it. Because if the WoW were really primarily about health, then Coke would not be prejudiced over tea and coffee. I can, however, of course accept that the WoW is a code_with_health_benefits (or “health code” for short) but that is not what it is in its primary function.

  30. #26
    I agree that the WoW can reasonably be described as such. It’s a basic shorthand that serves a descriptive purpose for children and outsiders.

  31. RJH, I don’t think, other things being equal, we have much beyond moral intuition and cultural bias to tell us that a single cup of sugar coke has a different health profile than green tea. My point is that we will never have the scientific backing we hope to have for our dietary choices, either pro- or con- in these debates over the meaning of WoW as health code. Patient agnosticism about the health meanings of most individual dietary choices is by far the safer path. (I’m not disputing that a balanced diet that avoids caloric excess is a good idea, I’m arguing that we just don’t have good scientific understanding of any individual constituents, either pro- or con-.) I don’t object to an occasional pastry and diet coke for breakfast.

  32. Sam,
    I suspect you are being deliberately contrary, as is your style. But I will toast you with my next Red Bull.

  33. Can you support your claim, using the text of the WoW, and the citations from prophets that the WoW is less about health -and- obedience (or maybe even health through obedience) than it is simply about obedience to become distinguished?

    I’m really not seeing why you can’t have the whole bag… yes of course we are distinguished for obedience to it. But the Newsroom itself calls it a health guideline, the prophets and apostles I’m sure have called it both. And you throw both out the window in this post, and then try to reclaim it has having some health benefits, but about being something (a mark) that neither the revelation itself, the newsroom, nor those with authoritatively have called it (exclusively).

    No one has ever suggested the WoW is completely prescriptive of everything you must be and do to be healthy. That does not mean it’s not a health code or health guidelines.

    It makes no sense to overly interpret the newsroom as saying something it never said. You’ve based the conclusion to this post on the church “confirming” that caffeine is not mentioned in the WoW. All they said was, “Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee. *”

    All the newsroom said was that the revelation does not mention caffeine. We can all agree on that. That statement actually leaves open the fact that habitual caffeine intake is still unhealthy and it could even leave out that God disapproves of caffeine, just as he does heroine, which is also not spelled out in the revelation, nor among the list of prohibited items according to that post.

    Now I’m not suggesting that caffeine is prohibited, but it would seem one has at least more credible evidence to suggest that either the newsroom is just as ok with heroine as it is with caffeine, or perhaps the newsroom is not saying everything except for telling the news media that, “you know this caffeine thing appears to have some wheels, and keeps getting passed around, and want to let everyone know the WoW doesn’t actually reference caffeine”.

    Every member should already know the WoW doesn’t reference caffeine. That’s why its a subject that comes up time and time again. If it was spelled out, we wouldn’t be debating it. But some want to avoid it on principle… others want to ingest it because it apparently tastes good (and/or they’re addicted to it).

  34. You should absolutely toast me with a Red Bull, and I am always contrarian, as you note. I guess my less contrary point is that since there is generally no reliable evidence for health effect one way or the other, it seems reasonable that a community would decide, somewhat arbitrarily, to include or exclude specific products. However else we may choose to criticize such a system, we should avoid making arguments from the health benefits of excluded products because those arguments are as scientifically uninformative as the arguments for health benefits from included products.

    (This is my response to what I see as an utterly obtuse argument that Mormons should drink green tea (or red wine) because it is healthy. I think as the WoW is currently constructed it is an important element of community identity, so that sort of flaunting difference (drink green tea!) in the name of science is as obtuse as flaunting community (beware tannins!) in the name of science.)

    So, I think we are in agreement in essentials, and I mostly wanted to sound authoritative and contrarian. Which I give myself even odds at having achieved.

  35. Yeah, we’re not talking about either green tea as medication or sugar water as liquid cancer. The threshold for saying that green tea cures cancer or should be FDA regulated as a medical treatment is not the same as the threshold for saying that there exists scientific evidence to reasonably conclude that green tea is very healthy to drink regularly, whereas drinking sugar water regularly poses health risks. I mean, not that people are mice or whatever, but biochemists who study diabetes give mice the disease by feeding them sugar water.

  36. Should read…

    All the newsroom said with regard to caffeine was that the revelation does not mention caffeine.

  37. kaphor, as I undertand the OP, interpretation #2 allows us to adapt the list of banned substances according to modern notions of health gleaned from data obtained since 1833, and not necessarily informed by official pronouncements from church leaders. This is a logical conclusion if the WoW was intended solely as a law of/call to health, but a conclusion that is surely further out of step with most Mormons’ interpretation than #1 or #3. The fact that you quoted several modern apostles indicates that your interpretation is likely #3. I think #3 can still view the WoW as a law of health. However, the line-items are determined by official channels, we trust that abiding by them will make keep us healthy, and we have no line-item veto power (i.e. largely a test of obedience).

  38. What Brad said.

  39. kaphor,
    All I am saying is that if the WoW were primarily a health code* it would be healthier.
    (*For shorthand purposes, it’s reasonable to call is as such, however, as long as you know the label’s limitations.)
    Or what Cort said.
    And if you don’t like that line of reasoning, I don’t really care.

  40. Given the similarity of certain temple phrasing that pertains to much more than mortal physical health, I think it’s fair to say that the W of W’s health benefit promises are more spiritual/eternal/community-oriented than they are concerned with individual mortal physical health, and God has certainly never told us all the reasons he does things or asks us to do things. Given how the leadership’s interpretation of the W of W has shifted over time, I can’t think of any other primary reason for the W of W than to mark us as different and keep us in mind of that otherness. See also: Mosaic law dietary restrictions.

    Also, we need not suppose that God is telling us that the natural consequence of obeying the W of W is increased health (of whatever kind)–all we know is that he has promised us “health” benefits if we obey it. There may be little or no natural cause-and-effect relationship between some of the restrictions and increased physical health.

  41. Brad, even without my contrarianity stuck in the ‘on’ position, “there exists scientific evidence to reasonably conclude that green tea is very healthy to drink regularly” is simply not true. Seriously, just not true. Making arguments about the meaning of WoW on the basis of such an assumption is a bad idea, in my view. A true statement regarding green tea would be “there exists substantial cultural support for the notion that green tea is healthy, and preliminary studies have suggested the possibility that green tea may be associated with improved health, but data to date are heavily confounded and unreliable. Rigorous inferences about the health implications of a diet rich in green tea will need to await prospective, controlled studies. In the interim, choices about consumption of green tea will be made on the basis of personal convictions and social contexts. It is entirely possible that green tea is approximately as healthy as tap water.”

    If people are patient enough, they can wade through the burial ground of supplements and ideas like green tea that had substantial cultural support before failing in prospective, controlled trials. If you want a “vitamin” take a look at Vitamin E, which it turns out is harmful as supplementation or Vitamin D, which only has data for bone health.

  42. Though I think there is.

  43. I’m with Kaphor. In the Teachings of SWK, he said he didn’t drink cola drinks because they have caffeine, and that he would encourage others to avoid cola drinks. He clearly did not consider it something spelled out in the WOW, but that he was trying to avoid anything he felt was addictive or unhealthy. I don’t think anyone’s going to Hades for ingesting the occasional Mountain Dew. Still, if science says something may be addictive, it only makes sense to avoid it. My anecdotal experience is that those who regularly ingest caffeine products are mildly addicted to them. They complain of headaches and the shakes if they don’t get their “fix” a couple of times of day. But I don’t think they’d rob someone or a store to get it! BTW, I don’t think caffeine has any taste, so I don’t think ingesting it is a taste bud pleasing issue.

  44. It is my observation that the WoW was converted to the Letter Of The Law so that it could be used as a measuring stick. Strong drink and tobacco were specifically named and can be checked on by name. Hot drinks lie in the general area as “wheat for man” and “meat sparingly.” It cannot be accurately gauged. You cannot ask a Mormon if he is eating meat sparingly in a temple recommend interview because it is to vague and open to interpretation. So is any question about hot drinks.

    In order to make it about obedience and make it accountable, it needed specificity. Hot drinks, if they were going to be a measure of the weakest who can be called Saints, needed to be named. If there were a way of quantifying “sparingly,” it, too, would have been modified so as to be able to check for obedience.

    Always a tug-of-war between the letter and the spirit. The spirit always looses, or almost always.

  45. The Other Clark says:

    The caffeine statement is important, not because of what it says about caffeine, but because of what Ben said in #5

    “…the increasingly authoritative position the Newsroom has become as the arbiter of LDS doctrine and culture. We used to have revelations, then manifestos, then proclamations, and now we have Newsroom blogs.”

    This whole thing smacks of a publicity stunt. If it were important for Church leaders to know, they’d send a letter to bishops. If it was important for rank-and-file members, they’d mention in in General Conference, or have a letter read in Sacrament meeting. If its a newsroom release, it’s intended for non-members.

  46. #43, IDAT, caffeine has a strongly bitter taste. Try chewing a NoDoze. Most medications are bitter, oddly enough. Maybe the body knows that in quantity they could be dangerous.

    A long time ago, at work, about every month they would have a colloquium where people would present their work in a dark room with overhead slides. I could not stay awake, and I was getting teased substantially about sleeping in the seminars. I determined that NoDoze was the cure, and it worked. Not only that, but I chemically trained my brain to stay awake in the presentations. After a few months I did not need the caffeine.

    Here is the sticky question, if you sleep in Sacrament Meeting, what should you do?

  47. If the WoW were more about health than about obedience the temple recommend interview would be different. Rather than asking if we obey the WoW the members of the bishop and stake presidency would ask for a certified copy of our most recent physical examination to determine if we are in fact healthy. Yet they ask if we obey, with nary a mention of health.

  48. I understand this post is not a pro/con regarding the ingestion of caffeine etc. but trying to examine the fundamental rationale underlying the prescription of WoW.

    But as an examination of the interpreting models of the WoW the post does so on a very poor logical foundation.

    It cites as (sole) primary evidence two sentences in a Newsroom blog post. It’s strange to do that in the bloggernacle where statements by Apostles and down get missed quite frequently when they don’t suit us. But never mind that issue.

    The lack of logic shows through in looking at the news room content. It says the WoW does not mention caffeine. The church’s health guidelines proscribe alcohol, tea, coffee, tobacco. All items mentioned in the WoW or within in the original intent of it. (Hyrum Smith: “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.”)

    Neither the newsroom post nor the WoW, says nothing about marijuana. Nothing about various powerful narcotics. The Newsroom post didn’t even say if caffeine was “ok” to drink! It just said it’s not outawed in the WoW along with Tobacco, etc. which is apparently the incorrect reporting the Newsroom was trying to correct.

    So the intent of the Newsroom post was to correct erroneous reporting regarding what is and what is not in the WoW. The author of this post has now use that blog post, with a specific intent as the primary piece of evidence in order to re-interpret the WoW as not being a health code.

    Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?

    Finally, regarding the WoW not being completely descriptive of a health code, President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Such revelation is unnecessary. The Word of Wisdom is a basic law. It points the way and gives us ample instruction in regard to both food and drink, good for the body and also detrimental. If we sincerely follow what is written with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, we need no further counsel. . . .”

  49. Re: 47
    It seems clear to me certain elements of the WoW have risen to the level of being a test of fellowship, or indicative of our good standing in the church (Temple Recommend), so to speak.

    Again the confusion seems to be that you must keep the complete WoW to have a temple recommend. Or that if you don’t have to keep the WoW to have a temple recommend the WoW must necessarily not be about health. These are pretty big leaps in logic.

  50. The Other Brother Jones says:

    The “Word of Wisdom” has more than one definition. The original revelation specifically says that it is not a commandment but a word_of_wisdom. My understanding is that it came about because Emma was disgusted with all the men smoking and chewing and spitting on the floor. But not a commandment.

    Later (I don’t know the date), the Word of Wisdom was enshrined as a commandment, at least for the determination of worthiness in the church. This is why it is asked in temple reccomend interviews. Butit was not not the whole section 89 that was so enshrined. It was just the “thou shalt nots”, while the “thou shalt” verses are left up to the individual.

    When debating what the WofW allows or disallows, we have to specify if we are talking about the requirement “for the purposes of worthiness”, or the suggestions that might be interpreted as a health code. One definition allows EQ BBQ meat-fests(Which are working great in our ward, and have a specific fellowshipping purpose), and one will not.

    Also, there is a third definition which has more to do with the culture of the church. This is the one that nixes caffeine.

    I was raised thinking that Coke and Pepsi were a sin. (I also though that buying bread form a store was a sin)

    I remember some debates at family reunions about homemade rootbeer. Dry ice was OK, but the yeast recipe was _alcohol_!

    Grandpa was known for his yeasty rootbeer. He would make a batch that filled about 12 2 litre bottles, but he couldn’t drink it fast enough. At reunions, some would enjoy it because it was just rootbeer. Some would abstain because of their religious beliefs, or because they were driving. Of course, all are members.

    I think to a great extent the debate is silly. The church is very specific about the requirements for good standing in the church. Follow that. This news release just makes it more clear. As far as the other stuff goes, you’ll have to read up on whatever sources you think apply and make your own decision. Mine is that Coke and Pepsi taste nasty. Barqs and Mountain Dew are not so bad. But for the sake my health, I need to get off of all of it.

    Just my 2 bits.

  51. The Other Brother Jones says:

    Took too long to write my comment. Now similar comments making my point got in ahead of me! Oh well. . . back to work

  52. IDIAT, I see that RW has already weighed in on the question, and various internet sources do say that caffeine is bitter, but The Merck Index doesn’t mention taste. The Index does mention that it is obtained as a by-product from the manufacture of caffeine-free coffee, that it binds to benzodiazepine receptors (it’s a central nervous system stimulant), and “has been used as a cardiac and respiratory stimulant and as a diuretic.”

    Sounds like a medication, and it’s the reason why I would tend to use it as a medication (and have, for morning sickness) like Tylenol or aspirin and not otherwise. (Plus all that nasty high-fructose corn syrup in soda.) Despite that, I can’t remember any point during my life at which I would have justified my avoidance of caffeine by citing any specific provision of the Word of Wisdom, but I was very aware that it served as a dividing line in our religious culture.

    My grandmother, a wonderful story-teller, used the Mormon cultural tension about caffeine to tell a memorable story about visiting with the pope of the Coptic Church in Egypt — the one who died recently. He offered my grandparents tea, and they politely turned it down with a brief explanation that it was a religious avoidance. He sent his servant back for some bottles of Coke. My grandparents looked at each other and drank it.

  53. kaphor (#49)

    I’m going to attempt to reply, but I can’t follow what you’re saying at all. My understanding is that you need to obey the WoW as understood under RJH’s model #3 in order to have a recommend. Is yours different?

    It is also my understanding that being healthy is not a requirement for a temple recommend. I’ve never been asked about my health in an interview. (As a side note, newer temples have a couple of double wide seats in ordinance rooms.) Have you experienced different interviews? Am I not paying careful attention?

  54. There is something exceedingly strange when Mormons strain at caffeinated drinks and chow down on the sugar. That we don’t have to be “healthy” to have a temple recommend is another fascinating example of this delicious irony. AND when did adherence to some interpretation of the WoW become part of the temple recommend interview?

  55. Sherry, the irony exists only if the WoW is viewed primarily as a law of health. Would you agree?

  56. It seems like “hot drinks” were defined as coffee and tea during the Utah era. And that there was an economic justification for that definition; both coffee and tea had to be imported and that was problematic at the time.

  57. You guys can have all of your lofty arguments, but what I want to know is whether Coke with Green Tea Flavor actually has any of the benefits of Green Tea, or if it’s just the flavor?

    (ponders to self) Also, it seems pretty rare to see a tea-flavored soda. I wonder why.

    If I drink an Arnold Palmer, am I only sinning halfway?

  58. Kaphor, if the WoW were primarily a health code, it would have told those Nauvoo-ites to boil their water. People didn’t live long enough to die from alcohol or cigarettes, but they sure keeled over from contaminated water.

  59. This thread has made for interesting afternoon reading while taking a break from work, and sipping my Coke Zero. I really enjoy the occasional Word of Wisdom post (even though the arguments in the comments tend to be predictable).

    I think one of the reasons the newsroom item is interesting is because it seems to be a newish, quasi-authoritative development (and for the reasons Ben P points out in comment no. 5). Things in the LDS Church change so slowly that even a slight or incremental development is cause for excitement. It’s been nearly a hundred years since we’ve seen much change to the official approach to the WoW. I wonder if we’ll see any more change in my lifetime. Will there ever been a time when green tea, iced coffee, beer or even the occasional glass of red wine will be considered okay for a temple recommend holder? Don’t know. For now, I’ll sip my Coke Zero and enjoy my new acceptance into among the orthodoxy. Or quasy-orthodoxy. Or whatever.

  60. Caffeine is most certainly bitter. I was involved in a PhD level study looking at various ways of masking its bitterness in beverages. (FWIW, I was one of the “trained tasters,” not one of the food science PhD folks.)

  61. I grew up looking at it as a health code. Actually, I still do. I credit it for the long and healthy life of my husband’s grandpa and father. However, I don’t think it was ever meant to be a pharisaical list to add to our “how I do better than my neighbor” list. There is a lot of room for interpretation outside of tobacco and strong drink (made simpler by including all alcohol, but also more complicated because of wine or beer in food with the alcohol cooked out enough -or is it?).

    Interesting read. Though I think this is really not something that is a Big Deal.

  62. The church tends to take a rather minimalist stance on what is clearly banned by the Word of Wisdom. There are so many harmful things that are against the spirit of the law. However, the church only takes a stance on the few substances clearly identified by the prophet and apostles as forbidden. This is important, because the Word of Wisdom is a bar to baptism and temple worthiness and so there has to be at least a minimal standard to determine worthiness. Each person should prayerfully consider substances not clearly condemned and make wise, informed and spiritual decisions

  63. Ben S – Referring to the Word of Wisdom as a code does not equal “Everything You Must Do to Be Healthy”. The point of the post does not seem to be, “the WoW does not contain all the good things you can do nor all the bad things you shouldn’t do” therefore it’s not a Health Code.

    By that same logic, the 10 Commandments or various teachings of scriptures could not be consider some kind of morality code because they don’t say everything good you should do or bad you shouldn’t do. By that same logic, the California Health Code is not a Health Code, because it doesn’t say everything good you should do, nor bad you shouldn’t do either.

    If the California Health Code was really interested in our health it would tell us not to eat at McDonalds, therefore it’s not a health code.

    Again, if the point is that the WoW contains some principles, some guidelines, and nothing more, and is therefore not similar to a traditional levitical-like health code I would agree. But saying the WoW different from a health code you’d find in the old testament does not mean it’s still not a health code.

  64. IDIAT- Regarding stealing to feed a caffeine addiction, prepare to be amazed: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=960&sid=20272375

  65. smb is right.

  66. “I was involved in a PhD level study looking at various ways of masking its bitterness in beverages”

    Sugar. Can I have my PhD now?

  67. From what I know, the WoW slowly evolved from a general guideline into a commandment. Brigham Young started the change in the 1850s, but it was not universally enforced or considered a requirement for temple worthiness until the administration of Heber J. Grant (in the 1930s-40s). Prohibitions on tea and coffee were gradual – especially for older members who had a long history of use before requirements were tightened.

    The obervation about the Newsroom is the big take-away here…

  68. Definitely annoys me when we try to instrumentalize religion excessively.

  69. #56, “hot drinks” were defined as coffee and tea at least by 1842:

    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

    (Times and Seasons, 1 June 1842)

    That was Hyrum Smith speaking, with Joseph also on the stand. The wording of that suggests to me that it was a question that had been debated by members for some time.

  70. I think “tannins are terrible for you” is a great argument. I joined the Church at 15 and was a major coffee drinker…seriously an addict. I even had to call up the Missionaries from a payphone at the diner at 3 am because I wanted a coffee like they were my sponsors or something.

    That being said, it was never ever ever ever about the caffeine for me or for anyone I ever knew until I moved to Utah. Yes, caffeine is not good for you, but so what? A lot of things aren’t good for you, and it always annoyed me when people talked about caffeine like it was Devil’s sperm. I get no caffeine headaches, and in fact soda caffeine does not have any sway over me whatsoever. But I drink soda plenty. I give it up every year for Lent and I get nary a headache, or unusual bad mood.

    The Word of Wisdom has morphed into some kind of weird Goliath-style monster. imo it is just another club to beat people over the head with anymore. I don’t have a TR anyway, so honestly I don’t even care about it. I still don’t drink alcohol, tea, coffee, or use tobacco though.

  71. Sharee Hughes says:

    I don’t use caffeine because it makes my heart beat fast and that scares me. I also do not like the taste at all of colas or other caffeinated beverages such as Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew. I have tried drinking those beverages when driving at night during a long trip, but the taste really turns me off on them. I don’t know what people see in them. As for green tea, I had some green tea flavored ice cream once and thought it was dreadful. So even if it’s really, really healthy and even if the church said it was okay to drink green tea, I would not likely do so. Just give me water.

  72. While it’s easy to see that obeying the Word of Wisdom acts as a cultural marker that bonds and sets apart Latter-day Saints (like eating kosher does for observant Jews), it seems strange to argue it’s not a health code. The Word of Wisdom can easily serve as both an external marker of obedience and allegiance to God’s church and, in addition, promise a healthier life. (This is true regardless if the dietary advice is incomplete or could be rewritten more effectively and accurately in modern times.) As plenty of commentators have noted above, modern-day prophets have consistently said as much, but even more obviously, the text of D&C 89 itself explicitly promises blessings that all relate to temporal (and likely spiritual) health:

    “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

    And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

    And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

    And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.”

  73. As I drink my 32 oz diet Pepsi in the morning, I always have a good chuckle at those heathens who always drink a 12 oz espresso. Don’t they know that stuff will kill them?

  74. Kathie Christensen says:

    #56 rogerdhansen – “‘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.” – Hyrum Smith, Times and Seasons, Vol. III., p. 799.)

  75. Kathie Christensen says:

    Oops. Too slow with that.

  76. Just last week wasn’t there celebration that the church wasn’t so rigid? This feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. IF the church does confirm that red bull and coke zero are not the healthiest of drinks, then we have a back lash of all caffeine drinkers everywhere on the pharisaical nature of the church that doesn’t understand love at all but only has rules upon rules with which to judge people. IF on the other hand the church says something benign as it did…the word of wisdom does not mention caffeinated beverages- then the word of wisdom is NOT a health code and we should all drink as much as we possibly can, and possibly eat more ice cream and jello too. Is there no room for wisdom at all?

    the statement wasn’t a change for me. I had never been taught that caffeinated drinks were against the word of wisdom. I’ve always thought of it as a guideline for health. I read it and pray when I’m struggling with health. It works for me. I’ve also always thought of it as a marker. The ancient codes of health were also markers. So I didn’t really stress as science goes in and out in what it decides is healthy or not-because it cycles and changes it’s mind on food ALL the time.

    I’m HAPPY it leaves plenty of wiggle room to be smart or stupid. It leaves room for me to think and investigate and figure out what my body needs or shouldn’t have.

  77. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    #75: We’re on the same team, Kathie! :)

  78. You just may have out-smarted God with this article. Way to go.

  79. Southern States Gal says:

    I think it WoW should not be a barrier to baptism. Maybe for “advancements” to offices in the PH or temple. Ss admission. We should stop at alcohol & tobacco ss tbry harm others. Then leave the rest to teaching principals and Leroy folks govern themselves.

    Besides that it will help.to. make conversions in China easier. We.are not just tallking habits….it is a national crop of significant importance to the economy of many nations. Tea or coffeenis far from immorale!
    //

  80. Southern States Gal says:

    Sorry lots of.typos.using a very small.screen.

  81. #76 lessonNumberOne
    I think this is a commentary on what a huge force is wielded by the God of Rules. How to pick our way through the rules while knowing that it is by grace we are saved, lest any man boast.

    There is a natural tension between works and grace. If we were Catholics, much less tension because works are the name of the game. If we were Evangelical, then grace does it and there is no tension. In our Church we have both. We feel the pull and the push. By definition we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t by ones side or the other.

    In the description of Myers Briggs, there are basically four types of churches, NF, NT, SF, and ST. We tend to be the archetypical ST church based on works and hard-nosed, too. But many of us know the Spirit and Grace and find the demands of works much like the works of the Jewish tradition which main function is to separate Jews from gentiles. It worked but at substantial cost to Jews.

    Right now we are paying a cost for holding to the iron rod in many ways. This WoW kerfluffle is just a ruffle on the waters compared to the much larger issues. It seems to me that we, as a Church, are at a cross roads trying to figure out what we will become and how the tensions between the ST church and the NF church will play out. The Church started out with a large component of NF, spirit driven, diffuse leadership, lack of rules. Over time we have let the commandment driven ST content take over (the correlation committee). I think we are seeing an exodus of the NF membership, and those of us with NF tendencies who stay are feeling the pinch.

    So, caffeine or not to caffeine, in that gap lies the basic gospel of works or the gospel of grace. The battle will continue on more important fields. My opinion is that we have become a Church of Works with a little grace thrown in, just enough to allow some of us, who do not take the whole caffeine issue very seriously, to barely squeak by. There are lots of people, really good people, who cannot abide the church of commands, the Church of no caffeine, the Church of the iron rod, who leave. Therein lies the future of the Church.

  82. I basically choose to interpret the Word of Wisdom as a revelation given to Joseph Smith which essentially said “be healthy”. Joseph smith then interpreted this commandment according to the best common health knowledge of his day to produce the 19th Century document known as the Word of Wisdom. Now, as scientific and medical knowledge advance and improve, I think we have the responsibility to reinterpret that basic, underlying commandment of Be Healthy according to the added knowledge and learning we have.
    I wish Church leadership embraced a point of view somewhat similar to this. For me, I hope that in the future we may begin to see the WoW temple rec intervirw question being interpreted as something along the lines of “Are you striving to live a healthy lifestyle according to the best of your knowledge, learning and expertise?” rather than the more literal, specific and somewhat pharisaical obsession with “do you drink tea, coffee or alcohol? Do you smoke? Do you take drugs?” Most of these things are at least somewhat bad for your health in excess, but I wish there was a little more room for personal responsibility with regards to some of the more controversial aspects. So I guess I fall under the category of #2. Being different for the sake of being different holds no particular appeal for me.

  83. Drinking my Dr. Brown approved giant can of Monster Energy this morning, my heart racing like a bullet train, it came to me. Let’s just call the WoW a “dietary code” and everyone should be happy.

  84. It is entirely possible that green tea is approximately as healthy as tap water.

    That sounds pretty healthy to me. At least if you have the fortune to drink Viennese tap water.

  85. Latter-day Guy says:

    “If we were Catholics, much less tension because works are the name of the game.”

    Uh, you know how sometimes people stereotype Mormon beliefs? Yeah, about that…

  86. It’s not, nor ever was, a health code. Arguably, since its reinterpretation under President Grant, it is a marker of faith (like kashrut). Beyond that, it doesn’t mean much.

  87. “My opinion is that we have become a Church of Works with a little grace thrown in..”

    We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Savior is the ideal. We covenant to be willing and ultimately take his name upon us, which in part means follow him, by doing what he would do, saying what he would say, thinking what he would think, and serving as he would serve – as best as we are able to do so. (Works) Where grace comes in on a daily basis is through the atonement he wrought we become Saints and are not only forgiven as we make mistakes in this process, but strengthened and enabled by it to become better than the natural man. That strengthening, enabling, and ultimately redeeming power continues beyond the veil into the resurrection and exaltation.

    I have had the truth of this conclusion distill upon my soul, through mine own actions and experiences in following the Savior, after putting some faith in the words found by study of the scriptures combined with the sermons of prophets and apostles.

    This gospel of salvation, by refraining from habitual caffeine or even tobacco and dozens of other rules is not the gospel I know of, nor is it the one the scriptures and lds authorities, old and modern, preach. To allege otherwise seems to be taking counsel and advice on wise course of action for our daily efforts in the above cause (but surely not the emphasis or purpose of it) out of proportion

  88. Obviously the second interpretation is out. The people who live longest on the planet (Okinawa, Japan) drain teacups by the gazillion. Most also drink alcohol. I don’t have a problem with it being something to set us apart. I think we should just embrace that. I don’t drink tea, coffee, or alcohol because I’m a Mormon and we don’t. Simple as that.

    However, in such a PR-invested church, I would think we’d take more of a stance against choices that lead to obesity (e.g. any food covered with potato chip crumbs). I can’t imagine the church putting pictures of BMI 30+ members horking down jello by the plateful on the lds.org.

  89. RW I get that you think it is some grand commentary. I just really don’t. I think it is a gentle reminder. A couple on national TV said we believe something. It’s actually not in the word of wisdom or considered part of the word of wisdom …the end. It’s not like the church declared caffeinated drinks healthy. It’s not like they rewrote anything.

    I don’t know the Briggs church thing so you lose me with the ST whole concept.

    I don’t see the church of works thing. I know how some other people see us, but they also think we have worship joseph smith, regularly talk about kolob and have orgies in the temple…just maybe I don’t judge myself by how other people see me. I’m in Texas…I’d be a non Jesus worshipping, polygamist, cult member who is trying to steal away their children for devil worship by lying and pretending I believe in Jesus.

    I understand that any church with standards shares the possible worry that people will emphasize the works over the purpose of the works (to build faith, have the spirit to guide you, love people and know Jesus). I suppose that’s why we have the sacrament every sunday and not the recommitment to the to do list ceremony. On the other hand a religion that doesn’t require sacrifice doesn’t build the faith necessary to save…. it’s never been that we earn our way there, it’s that obedience and repentance help us want to stay after Jesus Christ’s atonement saves us. It’s not that we don’t believe in Grace, it’s that we believe Grace changes us.

    There is no cost for holding on to the iron rod as long as you are moving toward the tree of life. Yes it is dangerous to think the whole goal is to just stand there and hold on. You do have to let go of the rod to grab the fruit.

    I think it is interesting to watch the role of the newsroom as the church figures out how to be in an internet, google, and news by the second world.

  90. Every once in a while I’ll be minding my own business at work drinking a Dr. Pepper when someone will say “Hey, I thought you Mormons couldn’t drink Coke.” These conversations usually made me feel a little awkward. I think the primary purpose for the newsroom blog post was to hopefully give all us caffeine-imbibing members somewhere to point when someone catches us “breaking a rule.” Don’t really want everyone else thinking we’re a bunch of hypocrites just because of all the soda we drink.

    When my mom was baptized in the mid-70s the missionaries made her give up Coke, and it is still her opinion that caffeine avoidance is a Very Important Commandment. For all the tears and serious discussion we had when she found Pepsi in my refrigerator in my apartment, you would have thought that she found a stack of Playboys in there.

  91. “I think the primary purpose for the newsroom blog post as to hopefully give all us…”

    The newsroom blog post’s primary purpose is to correct the misunderstanding among the media which was contributed by some members sharing their own interpretations of the WoW to the media.

    What’s most interesting about this topic, is truly the “why the caffeine statement is important.” This post would use the newsroom’s statement directed at members of the media to inform some deeper doctrinal perspective of the WoW. (rather than simply take the statement at face value that, contrary to reports, the WoW doesn’t mention caffeine.)

    What’s most interesting is the desire (hope?) among some members that the newsroom is speaking through backdoor channel to the church directly, and further that it’s possible to get the newsroom to opine on a variety of topics and then reinterpret that brief statement as being some kind of doctrinal statement.

  92. RE: CAFFEINE: http://www.aacr.org/home/public–media/aacr-in-the-news.aspx?d=2757

    “Caffeine and Exercise May Be Protective Against Skin Cancer Caused by Sun Exposure”

    Actually, caffeine MAY be good for you -

  93. Fwiw, I posted the following on my own blog before reading this post:

    “So What if Jesus Drank Wine?” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2012/09/so-what-if-jesus-drank-wine.html)

    Summary: I like wording it as a “dietary code” – but I don’t believe health benefits are the primary reason we collectively should follow its principles in our current day but focus temple attendance / obedience requirements focused on the destructive elements. For me, it’s not about what might or might not be harmful to every individual; it’s about what is devastating to many individuals (“the weakest” with regard to those specific things). Just as we shouldn’t eat meat among vegetarians, I believe we shouldn’t drink or smoke (to use the primary examples) among those who are prone to addiction – and abstinence is the easiest way to do so (or should be, for those who truly are “strong” in that area.

    I also wish it would be eliminated as a requirement for baptism and used solely as a requiremente for temple attendance. It’s too high a bar for too many really good people, imo, for entry into the Church.

  94. So its the obedience that’s giving me health in my navel and marrow in my bones? Not the actual prohibitions? Seems counter intuitive.

  95. Nt if obedience prepares you to receive salvation and THAT’s where you have a healthy naval et al.

  96. it's a series of tubes says:

    Seems counter intuitive.

    If one views “health in the navel and marrow in the bones” as blessings received from a God who controls / can control those items, rather than solely as direct biological consequences of consuming or avoiding a substance, does it still seem counterintuitive?

  97. baylordoctor says:

    “By confirming that carbonated, often highly-sugared, very unhealthy drinks are kosher…….”

    Really?

    No. They didn’t say that.

  98. Hmm. This is my thinking: Most humans (until recently in industrialized countries) throughout history have viewed food almost entirely in terms of nutrition. Now we have God giving a command that involves food and drink. Some of the blessing are good health – *but we should not assume that the food/drink (or lack thereof) is doing any of the work*. Huh?

  99. have viewed food almost entirely in terms of nutrition

    Survival, rather. I would argue that thoughts of nutrition are probably not on the Top 10 Reasons to Eat This Not That when one is limited to what little one can grow and/or forage and, perhaps, enjoy a little bit.

    Besides, every body’s definition of “nutrition” is different. Grains (all of them) make my life a living hell, wreaking havoc on my body and my mind, and you’ll pry my caffeine out of my cold, dead, ADHD-addled hands.

    This idea amongst us and various food activitists out there that one size fits all is utter BS.

    /factual “I” statements before I start in on full-rant mode

  100. Moriah, I was using nutrition in a general/what’s going to help me survive out of what’s available – sort of way. Not in the contemp. American (“how do I look great and feel great?!”) sort of way.

  101. #82 …WOW kerfuffle is a ruffle on the waters compared to the much larger issues.

    This comment reminded me of our annual summer street party. Typically, the Mormons keep to themselves and the four or five non-Mormon beer drinkers are hanging out by themselves. I decided to hang out with the beer drinkers. Being a member, they were a little uncomfortable when I approached and began talking to them. Being familiar with many of the fine local craft beers available in Salt Lake, I offered my opinions and preferences, and was immediately drawn in to the group and enjoyed some fine conversation on a variety of topics. Probably did more to soften the Mormon/non-Mormon bridge than any number of ward social events intended to include folks not of our tribe. And, got to know some interesting folks that I had not known very well.

  102. I stand humbly and gladly corrected on whether caffeine has any taste. I’m not quite sure why it is that, when combined with other substances, it enhances the flavor. But hey – Dr. P and Mountain Dew sure hit the spot sometimes. I personally go a little out of my way to avoid caffeine drinks, but if that’s all there is, I’ll drink them occasionally. When I was investigating the church back in 1979, I do remember a hell fire and brimstone talk given in church about the evils of violating the WOW, and caffeinated drinks were mentioned. My mother, a non-member, even had a college roommate around 1952 who was LDS and wouldn’t drink hot chocolate. When I joined the church, that was her only knowledge of Mormons — polygamy and can’t drink hot chocolate. Nonetheless, I survived the rants and raves and turned out okay – I think.

  103. I’ve read through the comments and OP, and I don’t recall seeing a reference to the wording in the Church Handbook of Instructions: I apologize if I missed it somewhere else.

    21.3.11 Word of Wisdom
    The only official interpretation of “hot drinks (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.

    Yes, there is additional language about habit forming and harmful substances, but none of them are named at all. That specific language has been in the Handbook for at least 20 years, to my recollection, and probably longer. The newsroom item isn’t really “news” as much as a way of getting this out there to a wider audience. Interpretation #3 seems to be based on this.

  104. CTJ, there’s a huge philosophical difference between seeing health benefits as the “primary reason” for obedience to the WofW and seeing them as “one of the reasons” for it.

    Also, as has been noted, if it’s all about health (or even primarily about health), then the spirit of the law would include updating it to reflect newly gained insights into increased health benefits. Yes, there are health benefits, but I have a hard time reading the first few verses of Section 89 and putting health benefits at the top of the list of reasons why it was given.

    Finally, I should clarify why I would like to see adherence to the WofW eliminated as a condition of baptism. Currently, we don’t excommunicate members who do not adhere to the temple attendance prohibitions – and I am glad that is the case. Given that policy, I’d like consistency – the same standard for those who are seeking to join as for those who already have joined. If we aren’t going to kick someone out for something, I don’t want someone else to be denied entrance for that exact same thing.

  105. The further this discussion of WoW moves from “health directive” the more irrational it becomes. Remember that the next time you sit next to a 400 lb saint in the temple. Very little of it (WoW) makes sense anymore, especially as currently interpreted, except in the abstract, i.e., another test of faith. That’s just nuts. And, by the way, so is claiming there’s no research indicating benefits not only of green tea (various cancers), but of black tea (cardio-vascular disease) and coffee (all the above). On top of that, they’re all loaded with antioxidants. Diet Coke – zero. In the same spirit, there’s no “definitive” word on the causes of global warming either, but by now it’s pretty clear that deriving energy from combustion is bad for a large variety of reasons.

  106. “Very little of it (WoW) makes sense anymore”

    Actually, most of it makes sense still – as written, not necessarily as interpreted by many.

  107. Camel meet gnats.

  108. Joseph McKnight says:

    I’ve read somewhere (sorry I’m not more of a historian) that “hot drinks” used to be mis-interpreted by some church leaders to be disallowing hot broth soups, too, in addition to the then-common coffee and tea (mid to late 1800’s). Anyone remember this issue in history. Seems like a very wrong interpretation, but it was taught for a time (like boiling water would be bad back then, yikes!) Or how about the oft-repeated anecdotes (not sure how much credence to give them) about the WofW being a joke or jab back at Emma for having even brought the issue up to Joseph in the first place? Since reading those two issues, and then hearing so many wild interpretations during temple recommend interviews (I’m a counselor in a bishopric), I wonder, really, why we even have this as such a strong commandment. Just last week, as mandated from Elder Rasband, our bishop gave a powerpoint on “The Mormons, Good Neighbors” and the “health code” WofW was the first of several selling points Elder Rasband wanted us to spread to the world.

  109. I said this in a long-ago thread, but one day, I was reading along in a book that referenced whiskey as a “hot drink,” and this lightbulb went off in my head. There are a variety of hard liquors that are described everywhere as tasting “warm” and go down “burning” and promote the feeling of warmth. It was also, apparently, a common idiom for whiskey et al in the 19th Century. So, often I’ve wondered if “hot drinks” really referred to whiskey et al.

  110. My bishop doesn’t even ask any specific questions. He just asks if you are keeping the word of wisdom. I gather from the comments that some bishops ask about it from every angle.

  111. Joseph, I don’t know about how it was interpreted by early Mormons, but this article by Lester Bush details contemporaneous beliefs that liquids of a hot temperature were dangerous to ingest.

    https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V14N03_48.pdf

  112. Indeed, there have been some studies that suggest that consuming overly hot beverages can be linked to oral cancers. Keep in mind, however, that the link requires both duration of habit and concentration of behavior (ie, several hot beverages a day for a period of decades).

  113. According to the article, cold drinks were also suspect. Anything too far from body temperature was viewed by some to be dangerous health-wise.

    Between this and David O. McKay’s opinion that rum cake was okay because you were eating alcohol rather than drinking it….I feel pretty good about my occasional room-temperature tiramisu.

  114. Matt Rasmussen says:

    So your link “the church’s caffeine statement” goes to the Daily Herald instead of the actual church statement? (Which mentions the church statement but also doesn’t link to it, not that I expected them to.) I can’t find the statement on the Newsroom site – did they take it down?

    On the funny side, I had a Branch President once refer to tannic acid being the reason hot drinks were against the WoW but he called it “satanic acid” and followed up the statement with, “of course it’s bad for you if it has Satan’s name in it!” Those were the days…

  115. I think it’s a matter of obedience. When asked to go the extra mile, is that all you go? I think that as with most laws of obedience, you are blessed according to the level that you go with it. There are also talks in the Ensign that suggest that your body is a temple and to try to take care of it… but that is cast aside by many too.

  116. Matt 115 I was telling a friend about tannic acid one time, and he interrupted me and shouted “SATANIC ACID? MORMONS ARE CRAZY!” Agreed, those were definitely the days.

  117. Mental Floss says:

    Durante, that while I agree with your statement about obedience, there are many Mormons who feel that principle can be more important than the letter of the law. On many levels it does not make sense that sugary, fattening sodas and energy drinks are kosher but a cup of coffee is not (though in many health researchers actually believe coffee in moderate amounts can be GOOD for you). For many this conundrum of principle says why can the WoW not be a personal thing, as it was given originally in history?

  118. As I read these WoW discussions I am wondering if Jews have similar discussions about Kashrut. Do observant orthodox Jews have elaborate justifications for not eating lobster and bacon, or do they just rely on obedience. Is Kashrut considered a health code or a dietary code that provides defining boundaries between Israel and the world? If they have such discussions, how many centuries have they been going on?

  119. Mental Floss, I am one of those who feel that the principle should be more important than the letter of the law – the principle in this case being keeping yourself healthy. I can see it as being a mark of obedience, but I prefer to think of it as being obedience to the general principle rather than the principle’s specific applications. Thus, I would prefer the Church not to be so Pharisaical about exactly how we apply the principle in our own lives. Temple recommend interviews should ask if we are striving to live the principle of “Be Healthy”, without delving into the specifics, in my opinion.

  120. It kind of reminds me of discussions about oral sex. During a long time I thought it was OK because I wanted it to be ok . My wife thought it wasn’t ok because she didn’t like it that much. We decided it was time to turn to our leaders for interpretation… Hmm NO ! Wrong choice ! The Lord has given enough in the scriptures and we should be self reliant.
    We decided it was time to ask the Lord, seperatly. We felt it didn’t please the Lord so we stopped.

    I love cherry coke. But after having read so many things on the subject I was confused. I asked the Lord and I felt I should not drink that any more. Is it because of caffeine ? I don’t know, and I don’t care .

    Instead of commenting on the church’s statement and spending hours debating online, everyone should receive “The will of the Lord” through prayer.

  121. it's a series of tubes says:

    everyone should receive “The will of the Lord” through prayer.

    Blitz, what would you suggest in the event person A receives answer A as the “will of the Lord” through prayer, and person B receives answer B in the same manner? Which one is “the will of the Lord?”

  122. smb,

    Fair enough on correlation is hardly ever causation in nutrition/consumption studies. But just curious, if you were speculating based on current knowledge and your gut would you say there is a decent probability that green tea will be found to be deleterious to our health when all is said and done.

    Also an open question for the floor. It was my understanding that in at least some Asian countries, LDS members regularly interpret the WoW to exclude black tea but allow green tea. At least green tea consumption is not considered grounds for TR rejection. Anybody out there that can confirm or deny this?

  123. Sadly, A Japanese friend of mine says that the Church in Japan is def. *against* green tea – specifically because its so popular. Meanwhile, my green tea drinking flies under the radar her in the US.

    To Ray’s point, the details of the WoW should not even be in the conversation of a baptismal commitment.

  124. 122 – As long as person A or B is not teaching and encouraging others to do contrary of the teachings of the Lord’s authorized servants, they can go on their way.

    Is this an ecclesiastical setting where the EQ Pres says we should do one thing and the RS Pres says another? That’s obviously a separate issue.

    In the case of someone receiving revelation they shouldn’t drink diet coke, that answer has no authority beyond their personal sphere, unless they have been authorized to teach it (either by nature of their calling as an Apostle or following in the example and teaching what an Apostle is already teaching). Case in point, if the Apostles teach, in principle that the WoW is a health code and has principles that can help us to receive answers from God about substances we put in our body, that is the best way to look at it. The Apostles are not out there teaching not to drink caffeine specifically, so we ought not to be teaching others that. But we can come to conclusions on our own with the guidance of revelation and principle that addictive substances which create a dependency are things we generally stay away from.

    But it’s not up to any of us to go around taking the intentional general principles the Apostles teach and turn it into specifics, when not even the Apostles are doing that.

    In a situation where one person receives true answer A and another false interprets their own answer B, and they both go on their way and do their own thing, that’s also the way it’s supposed to work. We’re using our own agency, and are accountable for our own decisions. But neither has the authority to extend their answer beyond their own actions. They of course may share it with others, as they prudently decide to, but they shouldn’t place a burden of requirement upon others unless they’ve also received the same revelation (either direct from God or his authorized servants).

    In a case where both receive A and B and both A and B are true, I would assume that those seemingly conflicting answers are true for that individual at that point in time, and intended to help their growth, but that there is obviously more they will receive as they look to God and live their lives.

    On a side note, when it comes to sharing answers that we’ve received by revelation, let’s leave oral sex out of the conversation. This would fit into the subject of, “if the Apostles are not out actively teaching and sharing it, why are you… that answer was meant for you.”

    I’m not saying we just parrot what the Apostles say… but there are specific things they talk about for a reason and I think its good, as best as we can to pattern our counsel and sharing of experiences after them, just as they are striving to emulate the Lord. Not suggesting this is always the case though, as there are always exceptions that come up.

  125. it’s a series of tubes: Very interesting question indeed. It’s a better topic to discuss…
    Frankly, I am not sure. Maybe fasting would help.

    When we take a decision as a bishopric, during a disciplinary council or a regular meeting (for callings) we feel the same spirit and reach the same answer because we are united and we come before the Lord to aske his opinion on an important matter.

    D&C 132:8 Behold, mine house is a house of aorder, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.

    God is not going to confuse us. But our brain, our habits, influences of the world, friends , our deepest feelings, our desires can trick us.

  126. ha! maybe fasting would help. or not. I know I’m not supposed to eat sugar. I know other people don’t need to go to that extreme. I know I’m supposed to have my 10th baby…again that’s not for everyone.

    It’s more a case of Noah built a boat, Nephi built a boat, the brother of Jared built a boat and Moses….he parted the seas. The boat builders are not right just because they have a majority, or because they prayed better. It’s not a case of if only Moses had fasted. It is called personal revelation.

    AS far as a husband and wife. If they disagree the no has it. the end. If they want to revisit or pray later that’s fine, but until that time it’s not a yes. This is a two person thing. It is possible that one person is ready before another. There are a million reasons why it might happen. Perhaps one party shares too much information on the internet. I don’t know.

  127. it's a series of tubes says:

    God is not going to confuse us.

    126, this is the sort of dogmatic answer I was expecting, and what I was attempting to call out in my somewhat facetious question in 122. Your response implies that there is ONE TRUE ANSWER ™ in each instance, and that when people do not agree as to what the “will of the Lord” is for them personally on a topic, one or the other must be wrong. Or at least not fasting enough.

    Perhaps one party shares too much information on the internet.

    Zing!

  128. Chris Kimball says:

    #122 and #125: I believe the set of possible answers is {A, B, neither, both}. That there can be “the will of the Lord for A, and the will of the Lord for B”. However, there are (I don’t know how many, but significant numbers of thoughtful) people who believe otherwise, that God will not confuse, that the rules are the same for everybody in every situation, that the set of possible answers is {A, B, neither}. If you’re in the {A, B, neither} camp, these next questions will probably be nonsense. If you’re in the {A, B, neither, both} camp, then answer me these:
    (a) Do the official statements form boundary conditions? So that “coffee is OK for A in his particular situation and condition” is categorically wrong? Or is that in the realm of possible? (Subject to the whole gauntlet of “self-serving” “hearing what you want to hear” “desire speaking” challenges, of course.)
    (b) If “coffee is OK for A in his particular situation” is a possible, then what is the correct/true/appropriate answer to the TR question? Yes (as has been revealed to me for me)? No (as the Church means or intends the question)?

    #123 and #124: Years ago, in Korea, the “official” word (but never sourced, to my knowledge) was that “tea” means black tea, without any yea or nay or interpretation regarding green tea. There were discussions about green tea, not unlike the caffeine discussion, and I think the most common conclusion was that green tea was out because it is made from leaves of the same Camellia sinensis that makes black tea (picked at a different time and processed differently). Yerba Mate makes for an interesting contrast, especially for this post. Stories I hear (no survey or statistics) suggest that Mormons commonly put it in the “not a hot drink” category. It’s a different plant, and in that way distinguishable from tea. But it would be difficult to argue for a distinction on health grounds, based on chemical composition and properties.

  129. it's a series of tubes says:

    Chris, now we’re getting into interesting territory. I fall in the {A, B, neither, both} camp; as to your question A, I’m inclined to agree that official statements are nearly always boundary conditions – recognizing, of course, that there can be divinely sanctioned exceptions to just about everything we view as a “rule”, whether the rule is a minor or a major one (c.f. Nephi/Laban, etc).

  130. Chris you have opened somewhat of a false dichotomy with your specific question.

    You proposed two types of people: {A, B, neither} types (1) or {A, B, neither, both} types (2).

    I suggest that’s not accurate. A person can be both types. Returning to the topic at hand, that part of the problem with this post. It’s an academic attempt to force a particular interpreting model onto the WoW. The 3 models I think each actually have some inspiration behind them, so I don’t know why we throw the baby out with the bathwater and just pick #3. The baby is taking a bath in the water… it’s all 3 as necessary (literal, health, and sign of obedience).

    So back to your questioning, in the case of coffee, it’s already been setup as a test of fellowship, a measure of your good standing within the church. It has nothing to do with you being a good person, or even a 100% healthy person (even though it’s a good health practice to abstain).

    In that case, we ought to revert to the type 1 position. On questions of Coke, it becomes more of a type 2 position, where we can each decide for ourselves. But to be clear, I don’t think God is giving people answers saying, “yes drink cokes on a daily basis it’s good for you”, although we could obviously construct a narrative where a person has a particular health issue where it does become positive for them.

    These either or choices are always philosophers dilemmas. I realize that they are trying to get to the essence of the choice, and what are the reasons for why we lean each way.

    But within the midst of every philosopher’s dilemma question, I rarely see the kind of advice found in the scriptures – study it out, seek the guidance of the spirit, light and knowledge comes line upon line, growing from grace to grace, etc.

  131. Chris Kimball says:

    kaphor:
    I suspect that when all is said and done, I will peg you in the category of “{A,B,neither,both} with Church statements as boundary conditions”, and you will feel mislabeled, and we’ll never resolve it (nor is there any reason we have to agree).

    But I think you are proposing a different idea about the Word of Wisdom (for which I have a lot of sympathy), which is that the standard form coffee-tea-alcohol-tobacco-Word-of-Wisdom is a defined term by the in-this-world institutional church–a “test of fellowship” in your terms. That the standard form WoW is not (is no longer?) a commandment or a matter of God’s will or a possible subject of personal revelation at all. It’s just a different category. At the same time, you would recognize a more generalized health code, more or less derivative of Section 89, that is God’s will, a commandment, a subject of personal revelation, about which there may be many individualized variations.

    Among other things, that would mean that the coffee-tea-alcohol-tobacco-Word-of-Wisdom rule–your “test of fellowship” rule–is completely and exclusively defined and circumscribed by official statements. And I would agree.

  132. I believe someone said they could not find the “caffeine statement” on the LDS Newsroom site. If you will do a search for “caffeine” you will find it in the blog called Getting It Right from August 29, in the article about the Rock Center program.

  133. Sheldon 119 the major difference (and so less a bone of contention) between WoW and kashrut is that kashrut actually makes sense as a health law. I keep kosher because it just makes healthy sense. Shellfish are the cockroaches of the sea, pigs are disgusting and butchered improperly, unhealthily, and inhumanely. The mixing of meat and dairy more has to do with improper refrigeration techniques but of course is still practiced today.

    I have no statistics to cite, but in my personal experience those who do not wish to keep kosher simply don’t practice orthodox Judaism. They don’t really struggle the way we do between orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

  134. Chris Kimball says:

    “those who do not wish to keep kosher simply don’t practice orthodox Judaism. They don’t really struggle the way we do between orthodoxy and heterodoxy”

    I don’t know one way or the other, but I did once upon a time listen in on a discussion among people who professed orthodoxy, about mixing meat and almond milk. The discussion touched on many of the same issues as “its not about caffeine.”

  135. I think it’s generally a good idea to mostly abstain from coke products, and even soda without caffeine. What is there in it that does you any good? – besides the shivery deliciousness. I don’t know, maybe there is some good in that. When you get to the end, would you rather have had a few more years of dry bread and unsalted fish, or a few less years of chocolate torte?

    As for God, I don’t think he sweats the little stuff. On the list of personal failings that God wants me to address, my preference for Sunkist orange over Orange Crush, likely a product of the over-the-top total caffeine content in Sunkist, can’t be that high. As for the church, He is far more concerned with the sorcerers and gossips in our midst.

    (Note: I don’t actually drink soda at all, except in the occasional root beer float. Both righteousness and wisdom are mine.)

  136. 135 Chris I am sure you are correct. My comment was only based on my experiences and understanding. I would definitely have a caffeine-like argument about almond milk though. I would never call that dairy.

  137. EOR, if you’re eating beef and chicken but not pork due to the manner in which pigs are butchered then I would suggest a vegetarian diet or at least one where you butcher the meat yourself is probably called for. They’re all butchered in a highly similar fashion. And all of them live in deplorable conditions while they’re being fattened up unless you buy it free range or even better from a farmer you know personally.

  138. I’m a pescetarian. I don’t eat chicken, or beef. When I did eat chicken and beef though I did get free-range and/or locally farmed. I agree that many or possibly even most animals are butchered improperly and inhumanely. It is a real problem for me.

  139. Not surprisingly, I just want to second what Thomas said in #136.

    As part of my current diet (the only one that ever has worked for me), I haven’t had any sodas (except an occasional sip of what my wife and children are drinking) for over six months. It certainly isn’t the only reason, or even the primary reason, but I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in the last six months and don’t miss the soda at all.

    Sometimes, I think we collectively strain so hard at some gnats that we let other critters in without thinking about it. We aren’t exactly a trim people, ime – and I certainly have been a prime example of that for over 15 years. Now that I’m living the spirit of the Word of Wisdom better, I’m much healthier. That is the take-away for me, at the individual level.

  140. “…we collectively strain so hard at some gnats that we let other critters in without thinking about it.”
    This is a true reflection of the way we, as a church, observe the WoW. I’ve watched this thread from a distance with a degree of amuzement. I’ve always had this notion that the Brethren kept sodas out of the formal rules in order to deliver bishops and other local leaders from becoming the dreaded Coke Police, and this thread demonstrates (some of the) why. It’s in the labyrinth of the Word of Wisdom that the Mormon proclivity for obeying according to lemming logic is amply displayed.

  141. The following was from a recent WSJ article.
    Coffee drinkers live longer.
    MILWAUKEE (AP) – One of life’s simple pleasures just got a little sweeter. After years of waffling research on coffee and health, even some fear that java might raise the risk of heart disease, a big study finds the opposite: Coffee drinkers are a little more likely to live longer. Regular or decaf doesn’t matter.
    The study of 400,000 people is the largest ever done on the issue, and the results should reassure any coffee lovers who think it’s a guilty pleasure that may do harm.
    “Our study suggests that’s really not the case,” said lead researcher Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute. “There may actually be a modest benefit of coffee drinking.”
    No one knows why. Coffee contains a thousand things that can affect health, from helpful antioxidants to tiny amounts of substances linked to cancer. The most widely studied ingredient – caffeine – didn’t play a role in the new study’s results.
    It’s not that earlier studies were wrong. There is evidence that coffee can raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, and blood pressure at least short-term, and those in turn can raise the risk of heart disease.
    Even in the new study, it first seemed that coffee drinkers were more likely to die at any given time. But they also tended to smoke, drink more alcohol, eat more red meat and exercise less than non-coffee-drinkers. Once researchers took those things into account, a clear pattern emerged: Each cup of coffee per day nudged up the chances of living longer.
    The study was done by the National Institutes of Health and AARP. The results are published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
    Careful, though – this doesn’t prove that coffee makes people live longer, only that the two seem related. Like most studies on diet and health, this one was based strictly on observing people’s habits and resulting health. So it can’t prove cause and effect.
    But with so many people, more than a decade of follow-up and enough deaths to compare, “this is probably the best evidence we have” and are likely to get, said Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health. He had no role in this study but helped lead a previous one that also found coffee beneficial.
    The new one began in 1995 and involved AARP members ages 50 to 71 in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Atlanta and Detroit. People who already had heart disease, a stroke or cancer weren’t included. Neither were folks at diet extremes – too many or too few calories per day.
    The rest gave information on coffee drinking once, at the start of the study. “People are fairly consistent in their coffee drinking over their lifetime,” so the single measure shouldn’t be a big limitation, Freedman said.
    Of the 402,260 participants, about 42,000 drank no coffee. About 15,000 drank six cups or more a day. Most people had two or three.
    By 2008, about 52,000 of them had died. Compared to those who drank no coffee, men who had two or three cups a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age. For women, it was 13 percent.
    Even a single cup a day seemed to lower risk a little: 6 percent in men and 5 percent in women. The strongest effect was in women who had four or five cups a day – a 16 percent lower risk of death.
    None of these are big numbers, though, and Freedman can’t say how much extra life coffee might buy.
    “I really can’t calculate that,” especially because smoking is a key factor that affects longevity at every age, he said.
    Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart or respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, injuries, accidents or infections. No effect was seen on cancer death risk, though.
    Other research ties coffee drinking to lower levels of markers for inflammation and insulin resistance. Researchers also considered that people in poor health might refrain from drinking coffee and whether their abstention could bias the results. But the study excluded people with cancer and heart disease – the most common health problems – to minimize this chance. Also, the strongest benefits of coffee drinking were seen in people who were healthiest when the study began.
    About two-thirds of study participants drank regular coffee, and the rest, decaf. The type of coffee made no difference in the results.
    Hu had this advice for coffee lovers:
    – Watch the sugar and cream. Extra calories and fat could negate any benefits from coffee.
    – Drink filtered coffee rather than boiled – filtering removes compounds that raise LDL, the bad cholesterol.
    Researchers did not look at tea, soda or other beverages but plan to in future analyses.
    Lou and Mariann Maris have already compared them. Sipping a local brew at a lakefront coffee shop, the suburban Milwaukee couple told of how they missed coffee after briefly giving it up in the 1970s as part of a health kick that included transcendental meditation and eating vegetarian.
    Mariann Maris switched to tea after being treated for breast cancer in 2008, but again missed the taste of coffee. It’s one of life’s great pleasures, especially because her husband makes it, she said.
    “Nothing is as satisfying to me as a cup of coffee in the morning,” she said.

    Online:
    New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org

  142. So the Word of Wisdom should be for physical or spiritual benefit? We like to say both. When it was given to Joseph Smith in 1833, he did not have the benefit of modern science. It was obvious enough why tobacco and strong drink were not good for man but hot drinks? One just had to take it on faith back then. Then along comes a scientist guy about the turn of the century, when caffeine was identified in those hot drinks, and through his inspiration, he indicated that to be the reason why hot drinks were prohibited. Science saves the day. It would be interesting to see when caffeine was first mentioned in Church discourse. It obviously took on the weight of revelation, from who, I am not sure we know. So if you pursue the caffeine route, the Word of Wisdom becomes primarily a health code. That way Heber J Grant could have rewritten the Word of Wisdom in 1933 to prohibit alcohol because of what it does to you, tobacco because it gives you lung cancer, emphesyma, and heart disease, and instead of hot drinks, all caffeniated beverages and pills for whatever reason.

    If the Saints want to stay healthy, there are plenty of things with and beyond the Word of Wisdom they can do. Health is a good goal, but the spiritual side of it, I think, is more important making us a peculiar people and giving us the spiritual strengh that goes along with it. Tea and coffee are still the adult drinks of this world. I go to coffee with some of my friends every Friday morning and take hot chocolate instead. What effect it has on them is not important, it’s the effect it has on me.

  143. I have to wonder why the Newsroom softened their original statement from “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine” and that the reference to “hot drinks” does not go beyond (tea and coffee),” to “the church revelation…does not mention the use of caffeine.”

    Any ideas? I have not read all of the comments, so this may have been discussed.

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