Reader Question Box #1: “is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom”

Welcome to a new series! The software that runs BCC tabulates detailed statistics on traffic to this site. One thing it shows is what search queries led readers to BCC each day. Aside from the usual top traffic terms (“bycommonconsent” “by common consent” etc), there are always miscellaneous surprises. Sometimes, these search queries can spark ideas for a post, because they afford a window onto the topics our readers are wondering about and what questions they have. For example, here is an issue that one of our readers needs guidance on:

is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom

As soon as I saw this on the list, I knew the BCC community needed to help this reader find the information they require. My research led me to this listing of the ingredients in Arby’s Jamocha shake. Alas, I see “instant coffee” on the list. However, one BCC perma has invoked a “spoon” rule–that it doesn’t violate the WoW as long as you eat it with a spoon (see also: Tiramisu, according to some). Readers, do you have any thoughts on this issue? What about related products such as Starbucks Frappuccino? Does it make a difference if it is in a bottle or made fresh at the store? Coffee flavored ice cream? Coffee cake? According to our site stats, inquiring minds want to know!

About this series:
As I said in the introduction, there are many interesting things that come up in our search stats. Some of them are important issues (today we got a few hits on “succession crisis”), and some of them are about Arby’s. Many of them make me wonder why on earth Google or Bing would send somebody to BCC with that query. For example, I did write that one post about Glee’s “Klaine”, but it is surprising that one post would make BCC the authority on it. (Maybe WaPo is right–we are taking over the internet!.) Ditto “capitalism”–I’m sure we’ve written some about that, but we’re no Marginal Revolution. Sometimes it seems like Google isn’t even trying. Come on, Google, there HAS to be a better place somewhere on the internet to send people who search for “torpedo cleavage.” Given the volume of noteworthy search queries, look for future episodes of the series to highlight more of these important issues culled from the stats.


  1. lostresearchers says:

    I wouldn’t drink it, but am not going to preach against people that do. That said, I take vitamins with a green tea portion in it, but don’t drink any tea.

  2. I have never been prouder of BCC’s readership than this day.

  3. I worked at an Arby’s when I was sixteen; if we worked a long enough shift we’d get a little bit of free food ($4 or something like that–enough for a sandwich and a shake). I got and ate a Jamocha shake without realizing what it was. My first Word of Wisdom breach. Probably not a great move for the kid that everyone else knew was Mormon.

  4. Not a day goes by that we don’t get hits on the phrase “i hate george lucas,” Thank you, Aaron B.

  5. Also, I should probably save this for a future post, but to the person wondering,

    do european mormons wear garments



  6. observer fka eric s says:

    Xantham Gum cancels out coffee WoW issues. Good to go.

  7. La la la la I can’t hear you I can’t hear you.

  8. As long as you don’t take more than 3000 steps its kosher.

    But more seriously. If you study the WoW and want to live by things after the wisdom and will of God, one whose wisdom we are trying our best to emulate, you’d probably avoid drinking many substances and stimulants which while not expressly mentioned by name go against the grain of making wise choices.

    I’m not in the least suggesting soda, mochachinos etc are prohibited according to scripture but I am saying they don’t appear to do much good compared to healthier alternatives as a regular beverage. And when we think about this life a large measure of is it to experience choices or opposition and choose the better part.

    Last thought is generally when we ask this kind of question we have an answer already if its for our individual good whether or not their is or even needs to be an express commandment prohibiting it.

    This is my best effort at working out the whole
    “not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days” thing.

  9. High Fructose Corn Syrup as the first ingredient should be enough to brake the WoW. Instant Coffee is coffee but since the product is not marketed for its coffee intake I wouldn’t hold it against someone for unknowingly sipping one.

    I’m surprised BCC isn’t hit by World of Warcraft searches.

  10. Mommie Dearest says:

    What?!? Tiramisu is against the WoW? Dang you guys.

  11. You’ll have to adopt the spoon rule, Mommie!

  12. If jamocha shakes are against the Word of Wisdom, then I have one temple recommend for sale… cheap. Slightly used.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    My wife adopts the “iced” rule. If it’s iced, it’s not a “hot drink,” QED. (Actually, she doesn’t bother justifying it; I do that for her.)

  14. Mommie Dearest says:

    I think perhaps the diet Dr. Pepper frequency makes the infrequent tiramisu question moot.

  15. I bought Arby’s shakes for the YM last week after we finished helping a ward member load a moving truck. I ordered chocolate for everyone. However, my shake was actually Jamocha (and was very good). I wonder if the YM also got jamocha? I am leading the youth of Zion down the path to hell? ;)

  16. I am going to defer to David O McKay’s response when asked by a guest at a party how he could be eating rum cake. “McKay smiled and reminded the guest that the Word of Wisdom forbade drinking alcohol, not eating it.” So if you eat the shake with a spoon you’re in the clear, but don’t even think about drinking it with a straw.

  17. IngridLola says:

    I take the same stance as Kevin Barney’s wife – it’s not a hot drink, so I’d say you’re good to go. However, I occasionally drink a hot, decaf mocha … and I also drink a buttload of Diet Coke … not sure how that all works out, but at least I don’t drink hot, caffeinated coffee drinks …

  18. I hate the smell of coffee, so I don’t even get close enough to tell if it smells like coffee. Thus, not an issue here, one way or the other.

    I was going to mention Pres. McKay and rum cake, but JohnE beat me to it. I just love that story.

  19. When Bruce was doing his PhD in Boston, Mitt Romney was a counselor to the SP. He (Mitt) used the spoon rule, which thus authorizes it for all Republicans. (Democrats probably invented it.) “If you can eat it with a spoon, it’s okay.” Nonetheless, I doubt Romney would have a jamocha shake. I think Huntsman would.

  20. What’s the story on the Mormon apostles working on the phrasing of the WoW, trying to figure out what would be verbotten and what wouldn’t be (before “by way of suggestion” became effectually deleted). As I’m remembering from my distant source, they were talking about forbidding hot cocoa. Someone said, “What’s next–soup?” Surely someone in this group would know who that was.

  21. I’m a recent convert, and this issue drives my non-LDS husband crazy. And, of course, I can’t explain it to him. Him: So, you can drink caffeine, but not HOT drinks with caffeine? No to coffee, no to green/black teas, ok to herbal teas (hot, but no caffeine), ok to coke/dietcoke (caffeine, but NOT hot)….

    I don’t have a straw rule or a spoon rule or anything like that. Before I converted, I was practically a life-long coffee-swilling, wine-glass-a-night drinking, caffeine to wake up, alcohol to wind down kind-of-person. I stopped all that. Everything. For a while. And I’ve researched the WoW, spoken with other LDS members, etc… And what I’ve come up with (and I might be wrong, so please let me know) is that I should focus less on absolutes and specifics and more on intent. I think the point of the WoW is to live in a healthy manner and not to find yourself or your body either swayed by or relying upon outside substances (just talking about coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco here; obviously, we need food).

    So, I don’t drink alcohol in any form. Ever. I’ll cook with it, and yes, I would eat Tiramisu without hesitation. I won’t eat rum cake, but that’s only b/c I never liked rum.

    I’ll drink decaf coffee, sometimes one per day. For shame, right? I choose that over a caffeinated soda. Again, intent. I don’t care that my decaf coffee is hot. Personally, i think the temperature matters less than the content.

    I will have soda with caffeine, but it is few and far between. Again, I think that is ok b/c I have no reliance on it as I once did.

    And yes occasionally I will have a large hot chai tea. Hot and with caffeine. Double whammy. Again, I’m not concerned with the temperature (someone steer me to where the temperature absolutely matters), and again, that leaves me the caffeine, and I use the same caffeinated soda analysis above.

    Do I follow the WoW? I think so. Silly rules about hot or cold and straw or spoon negate the intent that I believe is behind the WoW. I’d rather be consistent with that intent so I am firm in my belief of what is okay, and so that I can say to my non-LDS family – this is what I believe and this is what I do. Rather than splitting hairs and the whole thing seeming rather ridiculous.


  22. I once got asked this same question on my mission–I answered “I wouldn’t drink it” at the same time my companion said “I don’t see a problem with it.”

    Of course, I don’t like coffee–the smell alone is enough to make me gag. But I think that Aileen has it right–it’s more about intent than anything else–do you need a Diet Coke or a Dr Pepper to wake you up every day? Possible WoW breach. Enjoy the occasional frozen coffee concoction? Probably okay.

  23. Re 20: Chai made with rooibos tea is free of caffeine.

    And there are some wonderful varieties available.

  24. I agree with aileen’s approach absolutlely. Some WoW questions are beyond ridiculous. For example, I had a mission companion that refused to eat Grey Poupon mustard because it has white wine in it. Crazy!

  25. IngridLola says:

    MCQ, that is sad. White wine has such a delicious flavor.

  26. Margaret, (#19) I have heard that story too, but I heard that the brethren were voting on whether to ban hot chocolate as part of the WoW. the vote was in the affirmative unanimously until it reached the prophet, who i believe was McKay, who said the famous line “brethren, next it will be soup” and the topic was then dropped. I have heard the story several times, but I have no idea if it’s actually true. It fits with McKay’s attitude toward the WoW though, as demostrated by his “spoon rule” and his affinity for coca-cola.

  27. Left Field says:

    Many, many years ago, I had a couple of (non-LDS) friends who raved about Arby’s jamocha shake. In my Mormon naivete, I had no idea what it was, but I think I imagined it was some sort of tropical fruit. One day in Arby’s I decided to give it a try. Of course, on the first sip I recognized my error. I can now testify that it’s true what they say: coffee smells better than it tastes. I couldn’t manage to choke down the rest of the shake, WofW or no WofW.

    I had the same reaction when I drank iced tea by mistake, and when I tried non-alcoholic beer. All those people in the beer ads sure seem happy, so I figured beer would taste, you know–good. I knew beer was made with yeast, but I had no idea that it would taste like yeast. I figured after all those millennia making beer, someone would’ve developed a way to get rid of that horrible yeast flavor. I’m always grateful to the word of wisdom for keeping me away from stuff that tastes lousy.

  28. Had a previous comment in moderation I guess but wanted to add this as well… its entirely up to you and your reliance on the spirit to see if and how it applies to you.

    9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

    John A. Widtsoe wrote, “The question concerning the meaning of ‘hot drinks,’ as used in the Word of Wisdom, was at last brought to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He defined ‘hot drinks’ as tea and coffee, the two common household beverages of the day. Joel H. Johnson, with whose family the Prophet was intimate, relates that on a Sabbath day in July (1833) following the giving of the ‘Word of Wisdom,’ when both Joseph and Hyrum Smith were in the stand, the Prophet said to the Saints: ‘I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom. Tea and coffee are what the Lord meant when he said ‘hot drinks’.’ On March 17, 1838, when the body of Seventies were preparing for their pilgrimage to the ‘land of Zion,’ they agreed that they should see to it that ‘the commandments are kept, and the Word of Wisdom heeded, that is, no tobacco, tea, coffee, snuff or ardent spirits of any kind to be taken internally’ Sometime later, in 1842, Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother, in speaking upon the Word of Wisdom concerning the term ‘hot drinks’ said, ‘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.’ Brigham Young, who, as the President of the Council of Twelve, was very near to the Prophet, always taught that ‘hot drinks’ meant tea and coffee. He once said:

    “‘I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffeethe beverages in common use.’

    “Moreover, from the time that the Word of Wisdom was received, until the present day, the Church as a whole has understood and taught that the term ‘hot drinks’ refers to tea and coffee and all similar beverages. This definition may be extended to include all drinks whether hot or cold in temperature which, like coffee and tea, contain any stimulating substance, for such are detrimental to health” (The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, p.85).

  29. Chris Gordon says:

    Aileen, major props to you for being baptized and choosing to leave behind so many things, and for going it alone even! I feel pretty lucky to have grown up ignorant and naive of coffee, alcohol, and the like.

    I think your efforts to keep the commandments are awesome and wish you the best. You’ll fill in the details yourself as you try to figure out what they mean to you, what blessings you are or aren’t receiving because of it, etc. Be patient as I’m sure that everyone will have a take (including your hubby, as you’ve already seen!).

    As for the OP, my understanding is that in the apocrypha somewhere there is counsel that Arby’s is not for the belly, and it’s something I’ve tried to build my life around. Hence the idiom: “I’m so hungry I could eat Arby’s!”

  30. So funny to see this question posted. When I arrived at BYU as a recently baptized, super on fire, superbly righteous convert, I was positively shocked when a friend waxed poetic about how delicious Arby’s Jamocha shakes were. I at first abstained, honoring my sacred baptismal covenants not to imbibe any coffee-flavored treats. But by the end of the semester, and after much honest to goodness soul-searching, I had given in, unable to resist the peer pressure. At the end of the year, when I wrote about much I had changed that year in my journal, I specifically mentioned this indulgence.

    It was all downhill from there–the jamocha shakes were truly a gateway drug. I quickly went from eating them with a spoon, to drinking them with a straw….

  31. IngridLola says:

    “Moreover, from the time that the Word of Wisdom was received, until the present day, the Church as a whole has understood and taught that the term ‘hot drinks’ refers to tea and coffee and all similar beverages. This definition may be extended to include all drinks whether hot or cold in temperature which, like coffee and tea, contain any stimulating substance, for such are detrimental to health”

    Hmm, that whole first paragraph you quoted above that has Joseph Smith and others repeatedly saying “hot drinks mean tea and coffee. Hot drinks mean tea and coffee.” Then all of a sudden, “and all similar beverages” pops up in that last quote. Where did that come from?

  32. aileen — that was an excellent comment.

  33. StillConfused says:

    I think it may violate the word of wisdom for its calorie content

  34. Mmmm . . . jamochan’ me thirsty.

  35. aileen, you’re fine, and welcome to the fold. I personally think that one of the things that matters most about the Word of Wisdom is that it reminds us periodically that we are a community willing to make sacrifices to identify ourselves to each other and express our commitment to the Church. So to my eye what matters is that the Word of Wisdom enjoins some restrictions on us. How we implement those restrictions can reasonably vary among devoted LDS. I think it’s fine and moral (if a bit extreme) for some people to categorically avoid all methylxanthine ingestion, and it’s also fine and moral for others to have decaf but not other coffee types. Important for all of us to see the beauty of personalized devotions and expressions of community membership as powerful and meaningful even when the specific details differ some.

    (to my eye a) the moral crisis arises when the spoon has a straw in its handle, like those awful things at McDonalds, and b) fast food shakes are a caricature of food and could reasonably be rejected on purely aesthetic-spiritual grounds)

  36. I think they’re not, but I’m trying to decide if that’s just because I like them, so I don’t want them to be. In general, I seem to be fine with alcohol or coffee used as a flavoring rather than as the main substance of a dish or beverage. I like tiramisu, and I enjoy coffee ice cream, but kinda felt bad the time I realized three-quarters of the way through it that my Starbucks frappuccino had coffee in it.

    (At the post-Endowment lunch when one of my best friends went through the temple, I bought her a brandy-doused flaming cheese appetizer at lunch. I figured it was really about the flaming, not the brandy, and besides, we got to tell everyone that I took her out for a drink after the temple.)

  37. There is an old BYU devotional that Janet Lee, widow of Rex Lee mentions how much she loves Jamocha shakes. So I figure if it is on reruns on KBYU it must by ok. I’m not a huge fan of the shakes but they are good. I’ve never had coffee but I love the roasty smell.

  38. By the way, since it sounds like we pretty much have a definitive ruling on the Jamocha issue (KBYU FTW! thanks, Dovie), can anybody help out this person:

    “can you drown in a glass of water”

    I really think ‘no’, not least because you’d be hard pressed to get your whole face into a narrow glass opening, but is this some kind of trick question?

  39. I love WordPress search engine questions.

    I think the WoW is one of those things that we start off thinking is so clear and cut and dried, and then we come to realize it’s just like anything else — we have to ponder the principles and prayerfully figure out how to implement them.

    I think that can mean that the WoW might mean one thing to one person and then could gain different meaning at another time in life. I don’t see it as a completely static standard, even though the temple recommend questions are standard at the level of the ‘capacity of the weak.’ But clearly, where some of those lines are differs in different people’s minds.

    And so, my feeling is that we just can’t interpret it for others. I think the hardest Gospel Doctrine lesson I ever taught was on the WoW, because people wanted to bring their pet topics up. It was not easy to redirect the discussion! (Interestingly, the manual included this message: “As you teach the second and third sections of this lesson, focus on the basic health principles revealed by the Lord. Avoid discussion of health fads, special diets, and other kinds of food and drink. Emphasize that the Lord has not specified everything that we should and should not partake of.” This has stayed in my head as people have crossed my path trying to convince me that some special diet was the answer to my health issues/some ‘better’ way of living the WoW.

    So anyway, as to the specific question…. My personal approach? I deliberately choose to avoid mocha and alcohol in foods as well as drinks. But I’ve known plenty of people who have chosen the spoon approach. Besides, if I got technical with it, I’d never eat anything with extracts, and that would be detrimental to my mental health to try to analyze every bit of everything I eat at that level.

  40. Peter LLC says:

    You might want to take my opinion with a grain of salt since I’m the kind of person who avoids leavened bread out of an abundance of caution regarding the risk that trace amounts of ethanol might remain after baking, but, no, I don’t think a jamocha shake violates the word of wisdom.

  41. Bro. Jones says:

    #21 High five, Aileen–you’re awesome! As to your question: I’m a convert too, coming from about the same situation in terms of WoW observance and winding up at about the same place, and I’m cool with it. Especially on the cooking with alcohol. A fellow Mormon told me once that you can substitute apple juice for white wine in cooking. If one’s taste buds are that dead, she could probably substitute water or gasoline and also not tell the difference. ;)

  42. Bro. Jones,

    You can actually use apple juice in place of white whine when cooking. I have a great stock of aged apple juice that my family put into storage in 1984 that I use for this precise purpose.

  43. Don’t like mocha/coffee flavors. But if I did, I’d probably fall for that spoon wickedness just like that moral slurry in 36.

  44. Last Lemming says:

    Coffee cake?

    Coffee cake is fine, as long it is not served on a coffee table by a woman wearing a burgundy-colored tea-length dress.

  45. @katie #31
    “It was all downhill from there–the jamocha shakes were truly a gateway drug. I quickly went from eating them with a spoon, to drinking them with a straw….”

    Well Yeah. This is an arbys shake after all. You probably did that within the confines of the same shake unless you consumed the entire shake in your first spoonful.

  46. If I understand Mormon reasoning it goes something like this:
    1. D&C 89 says “hot drinks are not for the belly” allegedly straight from God via Mormon canonized revelation.
    2. implies coffee and tea as per Many statements from previous leaders because apparently God meant something other than what He said (which makes one wonder what exactly a written revelation in D&C really is compared with off-the-cuff statements from various sundry leaders).
    3. implies caffeine is not for the belly as per…?????? (I guess because caffeine is the stimulant in coffee)?
    4. but as per other statements from leaders this does not include caffeinated soda beverages. Apparently leaders have felt to explicitly state that caffeinated soda is not forbidden, leading one to believe there is traction for point #3 in Mormon culture.
    5. but BYU and other church owned facilities do not sell, and thereby discourage caffeine in any form.

    Try explaining any of this to a non-member.

    My vote is that if you like coffee taste and Jamocha floats your boat, go for it. My guess is one’s spirituality is a weighted function of many more significant factors than one’s intake of Jamocha shakes from Arby’s. Nothing like swatting at gnats while swallowing a camel!

    Next up: is buying candy from a vending machine at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning considered “breaking” the Sabbath?

  47. #45: LOL

    Re: coffee: My folks and siblings and I were all baptized together. My dad’s WoW difficulty was cigarettes, which he battled mightily (he had been a 3-pack-a-day Camel smoker — no filters), but I think my mom struggled more with coffee. And after baptism, she always kept instant coffee in the house for her friends.

    My first and only taste of coffee was on my mission, where we were told to accept decaf from investigators, if pressed. I was new in the field, and the older couple we had just taught had prepared Kaffee und Kuchen, with decaf for us. I kept stirring and stirring, but the “instant” coffee would not dissolve. I sipped it ever so slowing, gagging as I went, until the Hausfrau excused herself profusely: it turns out the decaf was not instant after all, but should have been brewed. My companion, by this time, had dutifully drunk his whole cup.

    I politely refused even decaf after that and can’t bear the thought of drinking anything coffee flavored, so all those iced frappa-cappa-whatevers are of no interest to me.

  48. The takeaway for me here is Pres. McKay and the rum cake.

    I’d never broken the word of wisdom before my mission, nor been tempted. Coffee reeks (how can adding a little of that reek to anything, including a shake, could make it better is beyond me) and beer looked like urine. But then I was introduced to rum cake and cognac marzipan on my mission. So good. So very, very good. I was so excited when my new wife and I found the cognac marzipan back in the states — see dear what I discovered on my mission! But there was a sign that said I had to be 21 to purpose it. What? That was actual alcohol? None of my comps had said anything, other than they were surprised I liked it. But, I did. I really liked it! Guiltily, I glanced at my wife, and she was giving me that “So, now that you have all the information, what choice are you going to make?” look she’s since given my children so many times over the years. I looked at a my feet and mumbled, “well, I’m 21… now.”

    Sigh. There are drawbacks to marrying somebody more righteous than you.

  49. The funniest thing about these conversations, to me, is how often some Mormons complain about the taste of the things in the Word of Wisdom they haven’t tried (not speaking directly of those above of course), as though the Word of Wisdom is saving them from having to drink the stuff. “It’s a good thing I’m Mormon, because if I weren’t, I’d be drinking horrible things with awful flavors! All the time!” News flash: some people really, really like the taste of beer and coffee. It’s not like everyone on Earth is just choking the stuff down simply because they don’t have the Word of Wisdom.

    In fact, that would be an interesting psychology study to do. Find out the percentage of Mormons who think coffee/beer tastes horrible and nasty, and compare that to the percentage of non-Mormons. Does the Gospel irrevocably alter our taste buds?

  50. DowneyDouble says:

    On a recent business trip with my boss to Arizona, we stopped at Arby’s for lunch, and I ordered what I always order there, including a Jamocha shake. When I realized my boss overheard my order (I work in a certain Great and Spacious Building in downtown SLC), I went back and asked the Arby’s manager whether the Jamocha shake has real coffee or just “coffee flavor” as indicated on the menu. The manager told me it was NOT real coffee, but a flavored syrup derived from some kind of nut–almond if memory serves. That was his answer, and I am sticking with it! Google searches be darned! (darned, like socks)

  51. @50 My answer would be NO it does not. I still love the taste of my (decaf) coffee, somedays would almost kill for a cold beer, and really miss my red wine at night. But I’ve had all these things in great volume in my life. Maybe my buds are still adjusting. Who knows.

  52. Tiramisu is fine. The coffee totally cooks out, right?

  53. #52. I am open to the idea of acquired tastes, but even then, once it’s acquired, it’s something you like. Once I got used to sauerkraut and asparagus they became some of my favorite foods. Not together. The point being, people like the taste of beer and coffee. And chances are, Mormons would like them too if they could partake.

  54. Didn’t want to write the world’s longest comment, so I posted a reply on my blog. Hope you’ll take a look at it:

  55. You know, now that you’ve got me thinking about this (sorry everyone), this is related to a larger phenomenon of how Mormons in general seem to cry “sour grapes” to basically every forbidden thing. For instance, when we talk about people who go out and have fun on the lake on Sundays, and go to movie theaters on Sundays, and play sports on Sundays, and somebody in the class invariably says, “Oh well, but we know they’re not REALLY happy.”

    They’re not? They look pretty happy to me!

    Can’t we just acknowledge that stuff that is forbidden to us is indeed fun/pleasurable/enjoyable, it’s just that we choose not to partake of it so we can have a different kind of joy?

  56. Syphax, I’m not quite sure what you read here that gave you the idea people here were crying “sour grapes”. Most people here seem to be enjoying flirting around the edges of “the forbidden”. The “Oh well, but we know they’re not REALLY happy” phrase has been a joke for several decades, at least in my experience.

    I hope you weren’t offended by Paul’s gagging on coffee grounds or my opinion that coffee reeks — those are just personal takes. I’m pretty sure, Mormon or not, I could not acquire a taste for coffee, notwithstanding all those happy people around me who love it so much.

  57. @ 32 IngridLola

    See the top of the quote its from Apostle (scientist, UofU President) John A Widtsoe. Again I’m not saying it must apply… I think in large measure those things that have not become a test of fellowship (alcohol tabacco coffee etc) are very simply things given as wisdom from God for us each to choose as individuals to follow. That we are commanded to live by every word that proceeds forth out of the mouth of God makes the WoW statements interesting but its still for the most part up to us to choose how we apply it to ourselves.

  58. The Other Brother Jones says:

    My 2 cents…
    I gew up thinking that Coke and Pepsi were wrong! At first I didn’t even know abut caffeine. I couldn’t understand how my nonmember friends could be so evil. Then I learned to differentiate between doctrine and culture and I feel better now.
    When people ask why mormons are not allowed to have caffeine (but allow chocolate), I saw that the restriction is on teas and coffee. It says nothing about caffeine. But if you think you would do better without it, whether it be caffeine or high fructose corn syrup, then go without it. For me, I enjoy the occasional Mtn Dew, but colas? I could choke them down if I tried. (And I have).
    ….And I was *shocked* the time I saw herbal tea being sold in the temple cafeteria! I just about lost my tesimony right there.

  59. @jmb275:

    “Next up: is buying candy from a vending machine at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning considered “breaking” the Sabbath?”

    If you really want to know, just google search that and land at BCC somehow, and I’ll be happy to address it in episode 2. :)

  60. Btw what’s the primary source for the rum cake story? Any other corroboration? The story sounds a little cute how he “smacked his lips” while all eyes were on him.

    Not that I care about it. I think this story is a perfect application of excercising wisdom and not being judgemental and rude. He was at a party and to refuse to eat the cake with possibly trace amounts of alcohol would likely be rude and offend the hostess, make a scene etc.

    That does seem to be different than him making it on his own and providing it for his guests and counselling others to do so. To me it was being polite and even charitable. Its a good story to illustrate how to act in a gray area like rum cake or similar things in public settings. I don’t know if we can apply that principle to the habitual drinking of ice coffee drinks,etc That Jesus performed work contrary to what was expected on the Sabbath does not mean we ignore the Sabbath… not saying that is being applied in this case though.

  61. “The funniest thing about these conversations, to me, is how often some Mormons complain about the taste of the things in the Word of Wisdom they haven’t tried.”

    Since nobody said that in any of these comments, I’m glad you added your disclaimer. {g}

  62. Since I added the disclaimer, I’m glad you… liked it?

  63. Syphax, FWIW, the thing I remember from before my baptism is tea, and I miss it still. Hot tea with cream, iced tea. There are days I’d love to have it. (And don’t offer me those herbal teas — ick.) But I don’t drink it because I accept that I should not.

    I assume drinking non-dissolved coffee grounds is NOT an acquired taste, but I’d be happy to have someone else tell me otherwise.

    As for those people having fun on Sunday — believe me, any of us with kids knows how much fun they are having. Just in case we don’t, our kids will remind us (Why do we have to go to church? Look how much fun those kids on the playground are having!).

    jmb275 your question of 12:01 am vending purchases made me think of someone on my floor at Deseret Towers years ago who said he listened to records on Sunday, not the radio, because he didn’t want the folks at the radio station to have to work. (Guess he didn’t worry about the folks at the electric company. Or the folks who worked in the Morris Center cafeteria…)

  64. “made me think of someone on my floor at Deseret Towers years ago who said he listened to records on Sunday, not the radio, because he didn’t want the folks at the radio station to have to work.”


    At the same time, speaking as a mom, I’ve got to love and respect a kid who can think outside the box and realize it when other people are doing work on his behalf behind the scenes, that most people just never think about.

  65. I reckon (and this was a sort of a “ping, revelation” moment I had one day :P) that the Word of Wisdom is given to us both for the health reasons, but also for sharing the gospel -reasons. It is the single most often asked question I got/still get since I was baptised: why don’t you drink x ? Especially in Europe, where we seem to really dig our coffee, tea and alcohol. And since the question came so frequently, I eventually (after some trial and error) became an expert on directing the conversation to the Restoration (or God in general if talking to an atheist) and my personal spiritual experiences, and thus being able to share and explain the more important bits of my new faith instead of going down the “but what about this that and the other” -lane (esp. since they were usually just saying that to be flippant). But I see WoW – like the Sabbath – is given to us as a help, in more ways that we notice, perhaps.

    As for my application of WoW, I politely decline anything that has products of coffee beans or tea leaves (black or green or whatever colour made of that plant Camellia Sinensis – the red ones (Rooibos) seem to be a plant of a totally different sort and gets grouped with other herbs like peppermint or camomile and are therefore potable by me). While our species has indeed made a lot of very good scientist and we are verily enjoying the fruits of their labours and really appreciate everything they continue to do for us – they don’t know everything, only God does. So there’s a possibility it’s not just the caffeine that is the problem in the intake of those plants. :3

    But for each person I do think it’s most important to find and stick to your own line, that’s where the strength lies in the end: having rules that you obey because you love God, that you are reminded of Him when you live them (wasn’t the Law of Moses at least partly to do with this, remembering God in even the small fiddly details of life?) It’s like that youth-thing: you make the decision once and stick with it – whether your rule is based on a literal interpretation of the exact words in the text, a biological separation of plants, the addictive qualities of the products or “spoon vs. straw” is up to each on their own. We’ll all keep the WoW as well as we can according to our understanding. And in the really big picture, it’s not exactly going to matter in the post-mortal life, is it? I don’t think there will be things that break the WoW over there.

    Sorry, I ramble, but I promise I made it as short as possible :x

  66. 65, did he also crank the record player by hand? those poor people at the power station…

  67. #67 & 65 (ref 64): LOL. As I recall, I might have gotten the mini sermon from him because he saw me buying stamps at a machine on the way home from church. It hadn’t even occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t do that at the time. (Of course my convert mother who was perfect in nearly every way found a reason to stop at the store every Sunday on the way home from church (to buy a half-gallon of milk, or a box of saltines or a paper or something…). Perhaps it was her way of keeping herself from being translated so we’d have her around.)

  68. When I was a kid I thought my Dad was morally corrupt because he drank Coke. He explained that it kept him awake and he needed it. (My mother was a semi-convert and always drank instant coffee. She did not go to the temple.)

    Now I understand. If I am going to stay awake in Sacrament meeting, it is with my NoDoz pill. (Is it better to sleep and be embarrassed or awake and caffeinated. It is not a matter of willpower, and I sympathize with my dad.)

    In general, there is a reason why people like tea and coffee. Caffeine is just the smallest part. The taste is the thing. And if you can accustom yourself to unsweetened yogurt and buttermilk, beer is not far behind.

    There is a good reason for avoiding HOT drinks. Very hot drinks do promote cancer. As for the rest, it appears that tea and coffee have real health benefits in terms of absorbing free radicals. All that brown burned stuff, rather than promoting cancer, has the effect of absorbing the free radicals produced in the body. Even green tea is beneficial in this regard.

    Mission stories? We inherited a long-standing investigator. One evening she asked if we would like tea. We said, “Na, Schoen.” Immediately I recognized the black tea taste but, rather than cause embarrassment, continued to drink. Walking home my companion exclaimed how wonderful that tea was, how good. Sadly I had to confess to our sin. That was before Malekov torte.

    I am wondering if tea and coffee are our “tithes of mint and anise.”

  69. #50 Syphax, I can tell you that I DO love the taste of coffee, wine, and beer. Iced tea is also the only thing I can drink at times because water makes me vomit (horrible, I know). Anyway, I do agree with you. Saying you are glad you are Mormon so that you don’t have to partake of those atrocities just means you haven’t had the opportunity of enjoying said atrocities.

    Call me whatever you want, but I believe I adhere to the WoW better than most as I do not gorge on food, drink sugar-filled sodas, or eat high fructose-filled foods like there is no tomorrow. If I sip the occasional (well, maybe not-so-occasional) wine, it does absolutely no harm. I know because I asked my doctor about it.

  70. namakemono says:

    re #15 – don`t worry – a while back our primary handed out cookies some with coffee flavored cream in them – the kids all survived ^_^

  71. I wouldn’t drink it. A chemical is a chemical, after all. It doesn’t matter if its in a pipet tip or locked inside of a coconut, much less a machine at Arbys.
    I wouldn’t judge though.

  72. “Saying you are glad you are Mormon so that you don’t have to partake of those atrocities just means you haven’t had the opportunity of enjoying said atrocities.”

    or that your family has a history of alcoholism, and you’re glad you had the WofW to take away that possibility in your own life.

    Very few things are as black and white as we like to make them appear to be, including the way the WofW is presented too often from BOTH sides.

  73. Dr. Horrible says:

    #59 is spot on. We are told to abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol. There doesn’t need to be some common thread between the items. It is a commandment. Didn’t use to be. But, it is now. Why do we do it? I don’t know. I don’t need to know. Any attempt to divine some higher purpose is missing the mark and is personal revelation at best.

    Those who try to cite studies and reasons why it’s a good thing are leaning on the arm of the flesh to explain a spiritual commandment.

  74. Horrible,

    The correlation committee appears to disagree with you – very clearly articulating the whole of the WoW as a matter of health.

  75. Therefore, an individual examining the WoW against current science in the area of health, is hardly “leaning on the arm of flesh.”

  76. Cynthia L. says:

    Julie M. Smith is on Dr. Horrible’s side:

    Personally, I would take it as a good sign when Julie is on your side!

  77. Mommie Dearest says:

    Dr H., I don’t believe that trying to divine other purposes for “spiritual commandments” is leaning on the arm of flesh in any way. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons we walk by faith is that by so doing, we can, if we are observant, glean many other reasons why commandments from God are all kinds of wisdom. And I believe it’s one of the main ways we find hidden treasures of knowledge.

    If you are one of those who find joy and meaning in living up to commandments for their own sake alone, I rather admire that. At the same time, however, I don’t believe God expects that of all of his children — there are so many of us who like to live with our eyes open to all the other reasons he might have for blessing us with these commandments. It’s not a sin to develop our own personal motivations for keeping them, in addition to our belief that he has asked it of us.

  78. Cynthia, I didn’t like that Ensign article either. But, that doesn’t mean that the living of God’s commandments HAS to be removed of logic and common sense. In other words, you can have your Diet Coke – I’m sticking with green tea. :)

  79. A very fair point, CJ.

  80. Here is a link on the “alcohol cooks out” myth in response to some of the earlier commenters. Trace the source yourself if you want to confirm accuracy.

    On this line, I just don’t buy into the “spoon rule.” I mean, a few μg of medication vs. a teaspoon of a drug in the body could turn out to be a pretty big difference, as with other things we eat or drink. I don’t think coffee, ethanol, or all the rest is any different: they’re all compounds. And on the “a little bit won’t hurt” argument, well, you could say that about a lot of things at first… :)

  81. Edit: Blast this comment system and its eternal existence.
    I’m not saying the alcohol cooking thing is all bad. Just sharing information I thought other people would like to learn.

  82. Josh, as far as “a little bit won’t hurt”–that argument does make sense sometimes, right? Would you eat chocolate chip cookies whose recipe includes 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (contains >= 35% alcohol)?

  83. @83: Yes, touché. Sometimes you can’t help it. But sometimes you can.
    Strangely enough, I feel like chugging a bottle of vanilla or emptying white wine into your spaghetti sauce are two different things though.

  84. It is my understanding that the WoW was not given as a commandment, but much later, in a General Conf. the Brethren submitted it for a vote by the Membership to be accepted as a commandment as a token of our love and commitment to God and to set us apart from the World. The vote passed, and it became a commandment. As I understand it, they used to have ash stands outside the Salt Lake Temple doors for patrons to extingish their cigars before entering. Maybe one of you historian-types can confirm or debunk my memory here…

    By the way, I’m a 2 Diet Coke a day man…

  85. A relevant article:

    Puts things into perspective for me….

  86. If a food item is insanely unhealthy, like many other mass produced dietary items are these days, are they against the Word of Wisdom?

    LDS typically live 10 years longer than average. However, this could be a result of having less chronic stress. Nothing comforts like having Jesus as your wingman. Maybe we’re straining at caffeinated gnats while swallowing high butterfat camels.

    I usually don’t care. I was once debating with myself about whether to get a 44oz Thirst Buster or not, saying to myself that “it probably won’t kill me but even if it does, life’s a”, and from out of the blue a quiet little voice in my head distinctly said “Wonderful gift”. And I said, well that’s not exactly the phrase I was thinking of. My point is, maybe it should be about prolonging life rather than keeping a temple recommend.

  87. Sharee Hughes says:

    I don’t like the smell or taste of coffee, so would ot likely order a Jamocha shake, but if the coffee is just flavoring (like vanilla, brandy extract, etc.), I would not condemn ayone else for drinking it. As for chocolate, the active ingredient is theobromide, which is a member of the caffeine family, but it is NOT caffeine and does not have the same effect on the nervous system. Is there caffeine in chocolate? Yes, but a very tiny amount–about the same as in decaf coffee. I also don’t drink cola drinks, because I do not like the taste. Although drinking colas will not keep you from a temple recommend, a former prophet (I think it was Heber J. Grant, who was before my time) once said in a conference session, after the congregation had just sung “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet,” which includes the line, “we love to obey thy commands,” that he was not going to command those who were listening, but he was going to suggest pretty heavlily that they not drink cola drinks. Actually, any carbonated beverage is not that healthy and should be consumed sparingly (in moderation, as with all things).

  88. Dr. Horrible says:

    I hear members of the church cite health studies ALL THE TIME when It comes to obeying the WoW. But, those are reasons of men. And, the arm of the flesh is fickle. Coffee’s bad? Several studies say that a cup a day is good. Wine? We know the common meme on that these days.

    When we tell folks to obey because it’s good for the belly, we create the environment where they are laying a foundation on man’s reasons…

  89. While you are looking at caffeinated products on ThinkGeek, I testify that these little babies are the most awesome tasty caffeine buzzes ever:

  90. Horrible,
    The reason you hear people reference physical health in relation to the WoW, is because the Lord, apparently sites it repeatedly in section 89 – most prominently as *one* of the promises – “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones”.

  91. For every benefit of coffee and wine, there is a substitute that provides the exact same benefit but doesn’t cause the same complications – without being in opposition to the WofW. That’s pretty significant, imo.

  92. I have to say, when I posted this post, I did NOT expect 92 comments. Go read about that Relative Finder Facebook app I wrote about earlier this week, y’all! Way less controversial! :-)

  93. Sam Kitterman Jr. says:

    #61, the rum cake story and another dealing with coca-cola being in cups labeled coca-cola is from “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” published by University of Utah. The authors did give citations for both stories but for unknown reasons my copy is missing the citation pages for the beginning chapters, same including “Prophet and Man”. If someone has the book and the references (86 and 87) I’m sure they can provide same. OR buy the book, its well written, well documented and made me for one appreciate Presidnt McKay far more though he was the Prophet in my first two years as a member of the Church.
    As for the coca-cola story, it goes as follows: President McKay was attending a theatrical presentation and his host (apparently someone with the theatre management) went to get refreshments during intermission. He asked the president what he wanted to drink but apologized for the fact all of the cups had coca cola on the outside per the arrangement with Coca Cola. President McKay responded, “I don’t care what it says on the cup, as long as there is a Coke in the cup”.

    I remember after being baptized my mom took me to a “Big Boy’s” for a celebratory lunch. The waitress asked if I wanted a Coke and my mother quickly stated, “Oh no! He can’t drink Coke any more. He’s a Mormon now!” Needless to say, I later learned the issue as to caffeine soft drinks as well as the evils of white sugar, white bread, energy drinks, and so on. All continues to remind me (and reminds me often) that there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law and more often, the interpretation of the spirit of the law is personal and can not be applied in a cookie cutter mode to all….although there are those who make it loud and clear their personal interpretation is the letter….

  94. #85, there are early photos of the Celestial Room in the Salt Lake Temple that show what appear to be spitoons.

  95. #61 and #94:

    From page 23, David O. McKay and The Rise of

    But he didn’t stop there. At a reception McKay attended, the hostess served rum cake. “All the guests hesitated, watching to see what McKay would do. He smacked his lips and began to eat.” When one guest expostulated, “‘But President Mckay, don’t you know that is rum cake?’ McKay smiled and reminded the guest that the Word of Wisdom forbade drinking alcohol, not eating it.” [86]

    During intermission at a theatrical presentation, his host offered to get refreshments: “His hearing wasn’t very good, and I got right down in front of him and I said,’President McKay, what would you like to drink? All of our cups say Coca Cola on them because of our arrangement with Coca Cola Bottling, but we have root beer and we have orange and we have Seven-Up. What would you like to drink?’ And he said,’I don’t care what it says on the cup as long as there is a Coke in the cup.'” [87]

    End note 86. Leonard J. Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian, 41-42.

    End note 87: Edward Barner interview.

  96. The Rise of Modern Mormonism . . .

  97. As to the Widtsoe quote that strays from reference to statements by Joseph and Hyrum Smith and Brigham Young that “hot drinks” means *drinking* hot coffea and hot tea to a broad statement against caffeinated drinks, I think it simply boils down to our natural tendency to create logical-seeming reasons for particular commandments.

    Elder Widtsoe (and, if I remember correctly, this actually came more particularly from his wife) appears to have reasoned as follows:
    – Jospeh Smith and Brigham Young said coffea and tea are what is meant by “hot drinks” in the Word of Wisdom. Why?
    – Coffea and tea both have caffeine.
    – Therefore, because this is common between the two prohibited beverages, the *reason* must be the caffeine. [My gloss would be that this is an unnecessary step to take in Word of Wisdom obedience but does reflect a particular characteristic of some Mormons of desiring to build hedges around commandments. The problem is that the result is more restrictive commandments than the commandments themselves.]
    – Therefore, all caffeinated beverages must be against the Word of Wisdom.

    As my comment in square brackets above notes, I don’t think this was a necessary step but it does seem to be the source of nearly ubiquitous abstention from coca-cola or other caffeinated beverages in a large segment of LDS homes. It is a product of trying to figure out the reason for a curious commandment and then deciding that living according to the supposed reason (ferreted out by syllogism rather than revelation) is mandated. For example, if we had a commandment to wear a red hat and we didn’t know the reason (like “hot drinks” in the Word of Wisdom), someone would likely supply the reason: it must be because of the color red, so if we are commanded to wear a red hat, it must be more desirably and righteous to wear only red for other articles of clothing. So a de facto mandate would enter into the picture of only wearing red clothing.

  98. #96. My thanks for providing the citations. I’ve got to get around to contacting UofU Press and get those missing pages….

  99. cchrissyy says:

    Doesn’t look like a “hot drink” to me.

  100. #92 – What substitute is there for wine that provides the same benefits? I’ve heard some people say that you can substitute grape juice, but to my knowledge the science does not back up that claim.

  101. Hanna Tycc says:

    You know the difference between a good Mormon and a bad Mormon? The temperature of their caffeine.

  102. It clearly IS against the “word of wisdom,” which to me is one of many reasons that those directives are B.S. Life is too short and mornings are too early to go without coffee, mojitos, juicy steaks . . . (not necessarily, but perhaps, all together)

    I’ve never smoked or done illegal drugs. Those are the only aspects of it I have never breached. Also, I waited till I was of age to drink, which is freaking rare.

  103. Sigh. When I was a brand new missionary, 4 of us elders in our district went to a fast food place. One of them ordered a mocha shake. I told him that contained coffee, but her insisted it was just burned chocolate. And, having the least seniority there *always* made me wrong in such situations.

    Though, I’m puzzled why Diet Coke is the caffeinated beverage of choice for some many members…

  104. “Though, I’m puzzled why Diet Coke is the caffeinated beverage of choice for some many members…”

    Yeah, that article in the ENSIGN a few years ago about the dangers of phosphoric acid in cola drinks, which is very bad for bone density, warned me off it. So now I use Diet Mountain Dew.

    And when do I consume it? On the long drive home from the temple (a few hours away).

  105. #73 @Ray

    “Saying you are glad you are Mormon so that you don’t have to partake of those atrocities just means you haven’t had the opportunity of enjoying said atrocities.”

    or that your family has a history of alcoholism, and you’re glad you had the WofW to take away that possibility in your own life.

    I’d be a lush. I like to imagine I’d be a very funny one, though.

    In other news, I have a betting pool open on which future General Conference it will be announced that caffeine is against the WoW.

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