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I understand that members of the LDS (Mormon) Church are prohibited from drinking coffee and perhaps some other drinks and possibly food, much like the Jewish people in the Old Testament were forbidden from eating pork and other foods.

What are the specific drinks that are forbidden by the LDS Church today? Also, are there any specific foods that are forbidden as well? What is the basis for these teachings in the Bible and other sources?

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2 Answers 2

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The Word of Wisdom refers both to Doctrine and Covenants section 89, and also to its interpretation. The scripture is listed here:

http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/89?lang=eng

As with many issues in LDS doctrine, some aspects are specified, and others are left open-ended. The official list from mormon.org posted above contains a few items that are explicitly banned--you can't claim to be "living the Word of Wisdom" (and be considered worthy of a temple recommend) if you consume them, even occasionally. However, the scripture contains other guidelines whose interpretation is open to debate within the LDS community. In addition to caffeine (discussed elsewhere), the following is debated:

Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

Within the LDS community, someone on a pure meat diet would not be ineligible to receive a temple recommend, but personal opinions vary widely on how this should be interpreted.

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Thanks for your answer. Does hot drinks include hot water, hot tea, and hot apple cider? Anything hot? –  Narnian Mar 26 '12 at 12:05
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@Narnian, the only "hot drinks" that are included in the official (minimalist) interpretation are coffee and tea (but not herbal tea). Under the assumption that the phrase "hot drinks" referred to the popular hot drinks of the time, most mormons don't interpret the scripture as referring to temperature. –  amcnabb Mar 26 '12 at 16:15
    
Interesting... thanks! –  Narnian Mar 26 '12 at 16:20
    
@amcnabb. So what about iced tea? –  TRiG Jul 28 '12 at 19:09
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@TRiG, iced tea is still tea, and as I mentioned earlier, it's not about temperature. –  amcnabb Jul 28 '12 at 20:09

From Mormon.org:

Our body is a precious gift from God. To help keep our bodies and our minds healthy and strong, God gave a law of health to Joseph Smith in 1833. This law is known as the Word of Wisdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 89:1-21).

In addition to emphasizing the benefits of proper eating and physical and spiritual health, God has spoken against the use of:

  • Tobacco.
  • Alcohol.
  • Coffee and tea.
  • Illegal drugs.

God promises great physical and spiritual blessings to those who follow the Word of Wisdom. Today, the scientific community promotes some of the same principles that a loving God gave to Joseph Smith nearly two centuries ago.

Reading the comments on the site linked above, the reasoning for the prohibition of these substances is that they impair the clear use of the mind; this is essentially the same principle why drunkenness is forbidden in Catholic moral teaching: free will and intelligence are gifts from God which allow us to know and love Him, so the voluntary impairment of these is wrong. St. Thomas Aquinas, on the question of how much are we allowed to drink, answers that we can drink "to the point of merriment (also translated as 'hilarity')."

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@AudioSancto It was explained to me as because they are addictive, not just mind altering, and my Mormon friends will drink herbal tea so I think there is a line drawn somewhere there as well. –  MaskedPlant Feb 3 '12 at 18:10
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@Audio: While the church has declined to get into specific scientific details, the exact words of the original revelation are to not consume "hot drinks." This has been interpreted by church leaders as referring to coffee and tea, which constituted the principal hot drinks at the time the revelation was given. It should be noted, though, that modern research has found that habitually consuming overly-heated (or overly-chilled, for that matter) beverages can cause serious long-term damage to the tongue, mouth, throat and stomach. It's possible that that's a factor as well. –  Mason Wheeler Feb 3 '12 at 19:15
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What is the basis of the "illegal drugs" category? Is that just a withholding of laws, that many/most Christians follow? Or is there something more specific there? I ask simply because what is "illegal" varies widely by locality, so I'm assuming this is a rule against breaking the law, more than against specific drugs. –  Flimzy Feb 4 '12 at 5:35
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@MaskedPlant: Many drugs are legally available without a prescription. And even within the realm of prescriptions, those drugs that are "legal" vary; in some localities, greatly. In Mexico you can get all sorts of drugs OTC that in the U.S. require a prescription. And in many places recreational drugs (marijuana especially) are legal. Can a Mormon smoke pot in Denmark? Can a Mormon take viagra in Mexico without a prescription? –  Flimzy Feb 4 '12 at 17:39
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@Flimzy I think that would make a great question, I think this conversation has diverted quite a bit from the original topic, and this comment list is getting pretty long. –  MaskedPlant Feb 6 '12 at 15:01

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