Friday the 13th Caffeine Poll

So what do BCC readers believe (check all that apply):

The obvious subtext is the Word of Wisdom. At BYU we sell no caffeine, at least we don’t consciously sell stuff with “caffeine” as a listed ingredient. I don’t think we sell those energy drinks. Do we sell “no doz” on campus? I mean we do sell Hershey bars and fudge and so on, but no Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper. We do sell the so-called caffeine-free versions. Is this the righteous way? Am I a sinner for my occasional Dr. Pepper? Call me to repentance if you will! Once I was at a party at a conference and had a Diet Coke in my hand. A (non-Mormon) colleague was scandalized by my drink. Doing the Elmer Fudd voice, I tried to explain that coffee and tea were prohibited but not soft drinks. He was not convinced. I was going to pull out my David O. McKay caffeine letter until I realized it worked against me. President Hinckley didn’t make this any easier. And there’s the Pew Forum thing. You may take a finer grained approach. Caffeine only in the morning? Only Diet Coke? Is caffeine ingestion a genuine sin? Expound as you will and don’t hold back on me just because I’m one of the most important people in the world.


  1. Chris Gordon says:

    I take mine cold but while initially it was because those soft drinks happened to be ones I enjoyed, it’s now gotten to the point where abstention gives me headaches. Oops. Wish it weren’t that way and have been feeling desires to fix that for some time.

  2. I’m also a fan of caffeine-including meds for a certain sort of headache. I’m pretty sure that reasoning wouldn’t work for, say, tea (but it’s an herb! I’m using it for its medicinal properties!) but for now, headache wins over possible WoW hypocrisy.

    Fortunately the stuff *gives* me a headache if I don’t already have one, so it’s a non-issue most of the time.

  3. I personally avoid caffeine because I have an adrenal condition that makes it dangerous for me to consume stimulants. However, I don’t think the word of wisdom prohibits caffeine, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people using it in moderation. Although, if energy drinks taste as bad as they smell, I don’t know why anyone would want to drink them.

    My general pre-illness practice was that anything that came from the coffee plant and anything that came from the tea plant was prohibited regardless of its temperature, form, or caffeine content, and that sodas and such were fine. And for what it’s worth, chocolate doesn’t have caffeine in it. It has theobromine, which is a related alkaloid with different physiological effects.

  4. By legitimate I assume you mean not against the Word of Wisdom? In which case I voted lots of things as legitimate that I would never consume, energy drinks for instance.

    Another question, I get terrible migraines and have a large collection of prescribed medicines to control them. They all have side effects and medication isn’t great on the liver. Caffeine sometimes helps migraines. Of all the things I can take, to get a good dose of caffeine, coffee is probably the least harmful. Is it better to take pills prescribed or drink coffee (which doctors have suggested for a good dose of caffeine), coffee being against the Word of Wisdom? Could I still hold a temple recommend?

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Neither the Word of Wisdom nor any officially sanctioned modern variant has anything to say about caffeine. That said, people should avoid caffeine. They should also avoid carbonated beverages, large amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fatty foods, endangered species and noxious chemicals.

  6. Chocolate has a couple of xanthines in it, theobromine, as you note, but some caffeine too. About a 10 to 1 ratio I think.

  7. Way to spoil all the fun Steve.

  8. I see we have the healthy body healthy mind contingent this morning. Very well.

  9. I don’t think it’s legitimate to get your caffeine from caffeine-free soft drinks.

  10. You’re a very picky person RJ.

  11. The Word of Wisdom doesn’t say anything about caffeine. It is an inference we have drawn because we are eager to name easily identifiable reasons for the prohibition on tea and coffee and since approximately Sister Widtsoe’s contribution to the debate, many have assumed the reason is caffeine. The truth is that the reason is a mystery, aside from “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days” (D&C 89:4), which itself is a pretty mysterious reason. I’ve mused about this before:

  12. In the 1960s the First Presidency was defining Decaf as *ok*, since the “deleterious ingredients” had [nearly] been removed.

  13. I drink caffeinated beverages because they’re tasty, but I am mindful that they do contain a potentially addictive stimulant. I’m also not beyond a “medicinal Coke” when I need to keep my eyes open; considered “medicinal” as I’m drinking it _because_ it contains caffeine.

    When I was at BYU there was a work-around to the general caffeine ban. The campus stores did sell Guarana soda – and the plant extract it’s based off has twice as much caffeine as a coffee bean.

  14. I’m with Pres. McKay on Coke (I don’t like soda and only rarely drink it, but will fight to the death for the rights of those Mormons addicted to their fizzy caffeine!), the eating of rum (I value this one mostly for the tiramisu and mocha ice cream implications), and chocolate consumption. In exchange for these loopholes (apparent loopholes? since we don’t know the exact reason for the W of W restrictions it’s hard to say) I am only too happy to sidestep drinking hot coffee and tea, including decaf :) I’m a fan of Lorenzo Snow’s take on the W of W so I meet the official requirements of the “standard” restrictions and try to focus a lot on limited meat and a lot of vegetables. And a lot of chocolate.

  15. If you eschew caffeine because you think it harmful, and are as fat as a refrigerator because you also eschew the gym but not the dinner table, you may have missed the point.

    Just sayin’ is all.


  16. StillConfused says:

    I personally have not been able to tolerate caffeine due to my little hummingbird heart. But now that I am getting old and slowing down, I have looked into a little caffeine. The caffeine content in sodas is too high for me. So I have been trying white tea (10mg of caffeine vs. coffee’s 100mg of caffeine). White tea is akin to being in the same room as a cup of coffee. But it is a start for me. It also apparently has other health benefits.

    But personally, my God has his hands full with terrorists, the middle east, people who sing off key etc. to have time to give a hoot about the content of his followers’ beverages.

  17. I used to take the caffeine pills for migraines. Now I just take Excedrin. Not entirely sure which is worst but I’ll bet the Excedrin.

    mmiles, I wonder if a person can hold a temple recommend and still smoke weed if they live in California.

    Would even possessing a coffee maker be breaking the WoW?

  18. I love anything coffee-flavored or coffee-scented (despite having never had coffee).

  19. What’s your point Mogget?

  20. Steve Evans says:

    Mogget, that reminds me — when are you coming over for dinner?

  21. Mark Brown says:

    WVS # 12,

    I know a guy who came of age in that era who served as a mission president. It was a bit disconcerting to go with him to a restaurant and hear him order decaf with his meal.

    Sometimes I have to drive for long distances and it is important to be alert. I used to take No-Doz, but I quit when I noticed it made my hands shaky and gave me the jitters. Now I’ve found that 5 hour energy keeps me alert without all the other unwanted side effects.

  22. Excedrin contains caffeine.
    Members who used medicinal marijuana can and do hold temple recommends. She uses with the blessing of her Stake President.

  23. Peter LLC says:

    Isn’t the gym the place where people who can’t hack real work go to grind the faces of the poor?

  24. Anything not specifically prohibited by the WoW is legit. I used to drink a zero calorie monster or rockstar everyday, now I just stick to diet coke. This like most rules in the church leave a lot open to interpretation. It is up to individual members to set their own standards of what is acceptable and what is not. The occasional cup of coffee, not a big deal.

  25. I dunno, Steve. When am I coming over for dinner?


    I’m in my office now, watching the flurries and making up interesting ideas for a Science/Religion class, but other than that I am free. Lemme know when it works for you folks and what I can bring…


  26. How about amphetamines? You know, to keep mathematics from falling a month behind, keep musicians playing and truck drivers driving, and such.

  27. If it is really up to the individual member, why is caffeine not present at the BYUs? I mean doesn’t this smack of the “appearance of evil” thing? (I know the scriptural passage is suspect, but it’s engrained anyway.) Ergo, the Church thinks caffeine is evil.

  28. There are more than a few FP letters saying that Sanka is ok. That said, I think that was virtually all a result of the Widtsoes’ inquisition. Cooler minds prevailed.

  29. And Mark, 5-hour has about the same amount of caffeine as a standard No-Doz.

  30. it's a series of tubes says:

    Chris – it takes a about week, cold turkey, for the headaches to go away. Advil and Tylenol only take the edge off them slightly. Once your brain adjusts to a caffeine-free diet, though, you’ll feel a ton better.

    At least, the above was my experience a couple years ago. I’ve since lapsed back into regular consumption of Dr. Pepper and Mtn. Dew, so I need to gut it up and endure the headaches again. Boo!

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    When I was a boy we always kept a dusty eight-pack (bottles) of Coke in the food storage room for medicinal use to soothe upset stomachs. I’m old enough to have grown up when abstaining from caffeine was a big deal (a la Widtsoe).

    Now I drink caffeinated sodas without a second thought.

    I have a theory, which I’ve never actually pursued, that in the WoW “hot drinks” literally was referring to temperature. We have given Hyrum Smith’s clarification of “coffee and tea” canonical status, but I have my doubts.

  32. Clark Goble says:

    How do you get caffeine from non-caffeinated drinks?

    Also while chocolate has caffeine it’s pretty minor compared to even a 12 oz diet Coke let alone that 44 oz behemoth some of you are drinking right now. Plus everyone knows the drug of choice in chocolate is the theobromine. Of course it’s a pet peeve of mine when people claim chocolate doesn’t have caffeine. It most definitely does.

  33. Tyler Smith says:

    I am against anything that is harmful to my body, there may be slip ups where I shouldn’t have eaten an item. I have been trying to eat meat sparingly and more fruit and veggies. By doing this I have more energy and have lost weight. I have lost a total of 40 lbs in a year. I do get my protein by fish or raw nuts. I feel that this is correct but one must remember, I am not saying that every one else has to do it. I know that this was a personal choice with many prayers. 1 Nephi 1:20 And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence. Also, Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

    I fully believe if we live but how God

  34. Tyler Smith says:

    wants us to live, if that includes Caffeine, than that is the way. Article of Faith 11 says,” We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

  35. Clark that one was a throw-away for the Brazilians. And kind of a joke too.

  36. Clark Goble says:

    WVS – couldn’t you say that some prohibitions, such as at BYU, reflect a kind of talmudic approach to Mormon practice? Although I do think we have to put it in perspective. Even if you think caffeine is bad – how does it rank in your hierarchy of things not to do? Probably you wouldn’t put it on par with drinking some vodka, for instance.

  37. Not sure about now, but when I was there two years ago BYU sold Guarana. Loophole for those avoiding a trip to on off-campus gas station!

  38. What cracks me up are the coffee defenders I knew in college (all non-Mormon, fwiw) who drank it to get rid of the headaches caused by booze and lack of sleep – and the withdrawal headaches caused by the coffee over-consumption.

    Nothing else to add, but I second both #5 and #15, particularly.

  39. Clark, I think of the caffeine thing as akin to the no beard rule. It is so traditional now that it would nearly take a revelation a la 1978 to get rid of it or at least it seems so sometimes. So Talmud, yeah maybe.

  40. Advil and Tylenol only take the edge off them slightly.

    While taking the edge off your kidneys and liver, respectively, in the process.

  41. Chris Gordon says:

    @27, that’s a pretty big leap to say that the church thinks caffeine is evil because it is not present (officially, though in many a professor’s private stash in my observation) for sale at BYU. Anecdotally, a lower-level admin type there gave me the rationale that whenever there’s ambiguity in obedience, BYU will nearly always side with the more talmudic interpretation if for no other reason than to avoid tacitly or overtly endorsing the opposite.

    More than likely, though, it hasn’t seriously come up on anyone of import’s agenda since the line was drawn in the sand whenever it was that the line was so drawn back in the day.

  42. Hershey’s chocolate tastes like vomit. What happened to all the things that used to taste so good?

  43. My rule of thumb is simple: if there‘s enough caffeine to be listed as an ingredient, I stay away.

  44. Jeff, it has to be listed as an ingredient if any amount is added. Consequently a product which has caffeine added could have less caffeine in it than dark chocolate which has a fair amount naturally, but doesn’t have it listed on the ingredient dec.

  45. I have my office fridge at BYU stocked with Pepsi Max. I’m sure I’m a stumbling block to some poor soul.
    I think it is clear that moderate amounts of caffeine improve your mood, focus, and overall work performance. I personally doubt very much that there are any health benefits to be had from abstaining from coffee and tea completely (and probably other portions of the word of wisdom), but it serves the purpose of marking us as a unique group of people.

  46. They sell caffeinated drinks in the vending machines over at LDS Motion Picture Studios.

  47. a potential marijuana loophole…is that why so many mormons dig Ron Paul?

  48. Owen, I’ve always wondered about that place. Now it’s confirmed.

  49. “Hershey’s chocolate tastes like vomit.” Come now, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Hershey’s chocolate tastes like wax, not vomit.

  50. Tim, Hershey’s chocolate IS wax ( I suspect) which taste’s like vomit. Go buy a kiss, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  51. Such a Yank poll. Where’s the tea you oaf, Crawford?

  52. Ok, I’m putting tea in there.

  53. Re caffeine: You will pry my No-Doz out of my cold, dead hands. And also, ditto what others said about it being a preference for a simplistic, concrete answer over using one’s judgment.

    Now, re hot drinks. I’ve had some thought about this since I was researching various alcohols and liquors for one of my books. *gasp* I write characters who drink. Somebody tell my bishop.

    Anyway, not too long ago, I was reading a hard liquor connoisseur site and it referenced hard liquor as being a “hot drink” versus wine, which is a “cool drink.” The wording got me because “hot drink” is part of our subterranean lexicon. Soooo I asked my reformed bad-boy husband about this and he looked at me as if I were an idiot and said, “Sure. Hard liquor is hot going down and people drink it to warm up.”

    I’m positively drunk on the concept.

  54. The Nauvoo Cafe in the first floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building not only serves regular Coke, but they also have a pork sandwich that has been marinated in Coke.

  55. Of course someone who gets pain pills and medical marijuana with a prescribed can still hold a temple recommend. But my doctor won”t prescribe coffee, it’s on every corner. He’ll just suggest it. So because it’s not a controlled substance, I can’t use it medicinally and still hold a temple recommend?
    Srsly, I’ve been considering asking my bishop about this for ages. It’s seems like a good semi-solution to the problem.

  56. I inadvertently gave up the stuff (Coke) a year ago, and haven’t missed it.

    And I pay tithe of mint and anise.

  57. Kevin–You’re probably aware of this 1979 Lester Bush Dialogue article, which touches on early 19th Century health theories related to food temperature?

    Click to access Dialogue_V14N03_48.pdf

  58. If you’re using it medicinally, I think you would be fine, mmiles. In my opinion, it’s no different from using nyquil. I don’t think it’s a prescription vs. over the counter issue. I see it as a medicinal vs recreational issue.

  59. Diet Pepsi
    Diet Pepsi
    Diet Pepsi
    Diet Pepsi

    This is my one concession to my susceptibility to addictive substances, but it’s mine, and I’m sticking to it. I may be somewhat hypocritical, but I don’t brink Diet Pepsi to church functions, just so no one has an opportunity to get their knickers in a knot. But I don’t hide it under a bushel, either.

    I once had an LDS boss that drank huge amounts of caffeine free diet cola. I would ask him if there is no caffeine, and no sugar, what’s the point of drinking it? He had no answer for me.

  60. Since being diagnosed with diabetes II, I’ve gone to sugar free but primarily iced tea with sweetener. Living in the desert mandates you be able to drink something cold during the Summer and water may work but it just isn’t the same for me….

  61. Chris Gordon says:

    Mmiles, I’d say follow your conscience. Bishopric members and stake presidents aren’t supposed to pry into details (though we all have heard instances of them taking liberties); they’re supposed to ask the questions and let you answer yes or no.

    If you’re trying to follow the Spirit and if you do follow the Spirit, that should be enough. It’d be nice to get an official buy-in from your bishop, I’m sure, but in theory it shouldn’t be necessary. I certainly think there is room within the principles of obedience we adhere to for you to feel comfortable using coffee medicinally. Your road will not be without travail, I’m sure, if someone you give a ride to happens to see an empty venti skim chai latte cup or if your visiting teacher catches sight of your coffee maker, but that might just be the price you pay. :)

  62. @53
    I recently read a piece of historical fiction, Caleb’s Crossing, which is set in Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1600’s. The characters frequently refer to hard liquor as “hot waters”. The references caused me to think of the W of W as well.

  63. Steve, you’re missing out. Endangered species are delicious in a marinade of high-fructose corn syrup and noxious chemicals.

  64. In terms of disgusting and vomit-flavored, Hershey has nothing on Coke and Pepsi. If I weren’t Mormon I’d be a coffee addict, but I’m amazed people consume soft drinks for pleasure.

  65. Yet Another John says:

    #56, how do you “inadvertently” give up Coke?

  66. Steve Evans says:

    Eve, I hear ya, I’ve got a recipe for Ocelot a la Jolt Cola I’ve been dying to try.

  67. Mark Brown says:


    ditto Chris Gordon, # 61.

  68. I gave up Red Bull and The Dew for a morning cup of Joe. I’m a much healthier person. Of course, the WOW says nothing about health right?

    Try saying its not about the caffeine to any Non-Mormon and watch the confusion hit them square in the head. I say, it HAS to be only about potentially giving over your free-will to addiction. If its not about that, its stupid.

  69. it's a series of tubes says:

    it HAS to be only about potentially giving over your free-will to addiction

    Funny, and here I thought it was in consequence of evils and designs that do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days. How silly!

  70. I use the spirit of the law of the word of wisdom

  71. Kevin Barney says:

    57 Marie, I’m sure that’s where I picked up the idea.

  72. What’s the difference between good Mormons and bad Mormons? The temperature they take their caffine.

  73. #72 – I believe the correct term right now is, “Bazinga!”

  74. The Word of Wisdom says nothing about caffeine, so I feel fine using it. Same with crack.

  75. Mexican Coke, made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Ohhhh yeah.

  76. I picked I would never touch the stuff only because I have no reason to consume caffeine. Caffeine has absolutely no effect on my body. That’s not to say I don’t consume any of the items on that list, but I don’t specifically consume the one s I do for the caffeine.

  77. #74 for BCofTW.

  78. History folk, it seems like I read Thomas Alexander did some work that showed that the reason we interpret ‘hot drinks’ as coffee and tea is because BY could not grow it in Dixie and did not want to get it from the gentiles. Not true?

    I love me some diet coke or diet Mt.D in the morning. I love my addiction and relish every aspect of my morning rituals. Not only do I not want to give it up, I revel in it. If someone said they had a pill that would remove my caffeine addition instantly I would run away.

  79. #74 MCQ

    The Word of Wisdom says nothing about caffeine, so I feel fine using it. Same with crack.

    Or cocaine. Not sure my adrenals could take it, though…

  80. O.K. I’ve heard that the WoW says nothing about caffeine, Coke, Dr. P., Mt. Dew and the gang because they were still far in the future, but coffee and tea had been around and were well known for years, maybe centuries before the WoW was written/revealed, so why not say coffee and tea instead of the hot drink thing, if coffee and tea were what was meant. Would some of you smart people (and anyone else who wants to take a stab at it) please explain that to me, because I scandalized a good friend when I ordered ice tea with lunch last summer?

  81. I love reading the list of items the Mormon pioneers were supposed to take on their journey across the plains and seeing coffee on there. I guess the brethren knew the Saints would need some starter fluid in the morning to help them put their shoulders to the wheel.

  82. Re mmiles-

    Another question, I get terrible migraines and have a large collection of prescribed medicines to control them. They all have side effects and medication isn’t great on the liver. Caffeine sometimes helps migraines. Of all the things I can take, to get a good dose of caffeine, coffee is probably the least harmful. Is it better to take pills prescribed or drink coffee (which doctors have suggested for a good dose of caffeine), coffee being against the Word of Wisdom? Could I still hold a temple recommend?

    I actually have this problem as well. Lots of medicine for migraines. I’ve found that some Excedrin and a Dr. Pepper work pretty well for me for the most part. But I agree, I absolutely hate the effect I’m sure it’s having on my liver. I would prefer to drink green tea to help the headaches (don’t care for the taste of coffee much) but I haven’t really tried it.

    Personally, FWIW, I think what you’re suggesting is totally legitimate and I would support you having a recommend if you drank coffee to help with headaches.

  83. Coffee and Tea are both natural plants and if you read through Genesis 1:29-31 it clearly states that God created every green and seed-bearing plant for our food and that he saw that it was good. It is not a sin to purely use and enjoy what God has created for us (as his true Word tells us).

  84. Coca leaves, marijuana plants and poppies are all natural too, Kyle. Go ye forth and get stoned.

  85. The next BCC snacker is going to be awwwesssome. Hope people are bringing lots and lots of snacks.

  86. Well steve, gluttony is a sin but did God not create food for us to eat. We can abuse anything that was created for good (sex, food, medicine) and make it an idol which is sin. So as it may be okay with you, but I’ll pass on your advise of getting stoned. Thanks

  87. I have no idea what you are talking about.

  88. No caffeine at BYU.
    Church must be against caffeine.

    No medical school at BYU.
    Church must be against doctors.

    Elder Nelson wasn’t really a doctor.
    (New Mormon history)

  89. I’ve always supposed that there are “three degrees of glory” when it comes to the word of wisdom. The “still get my temple recommend” (anything caffeinated goes as long as its not coffee tea or tobacco) version is probably the Terrestrial Kingdom version of the WoW. My wife, earning her degree in nutritional therapy, is convincing me to move toward a “celestial” diet, more veggies, less processed garbage…that would probably include my chocolate covered almonds and chocolate shakes and…

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