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I know that the LDS are against the taking of any kind of recreational drug including widely legal drugs like tobacco. However, when reading section 89 of the doctrine and covenant there appears to be an explicit ban on "hot drinks". Is this interpreted as referring to tea and coffee or is this a literal ban on warm beverages of all kinds that have no drug properties e.g. peppermint tea or even just hot water?

What is meant by "hot drinks"?

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    To clarify, caffeine is not specifically mentioned in any LDS scripture or official teachings, as far as I know. Some choose to consume it, others don't. – Matt Oct 23 '14 at 0:49
  • Also, see this related question with relevant answers and comments. – Matt Oct 23 '14 at 0:50
  • Adjusted question accordingly. – Reluctant_Linux_User Oct 23 '14 at 1:17
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"Hot drinks" refers to tea and coffee.

The LDS Student Manual for the Doctrine and Covenants references a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith providing this clarification:

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

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

The church has reaffirmed the meaning of "hot drinks" in recent times. For example, see Word of Wisdom on LDS.org:

latter-day prophets have taught that the term “hot drinks,” as written in [D&C 89:9], refers to tea and coffee

While it may seem peculiar now days to single out tea and coffee as "hot drinks," during the temperance movement of the 1830s they were both seen as substitutes for alcohol.

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    It's important to note that the stance against tea and coffee is not officially related to caffeine; in spite of past teachings by high-ranking leaders, caffeine has not been officially prohibited, only advised against. This seems to be more in keeping with the original spirit of Doctrine and Covenants 89 as a "Word of Wisdom", not so much a "Word of Commandment". – Adam Jan 15 '17 at 16:06
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In 1937, Elder John A. Widtsoe, then one of 12 apostles, published a book entitled: "The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation", in which he discussed the various chemicals and stimulants founded in coffee and tea, including caffiene, as well as those in chocolate and other beverages commonly taken hot, and offered his opinion that these were part of the reason for the prohibition in D&C 89. His opinions were well and widely received, and following them, many Mormons began to refuse caffeinated beverages such as certain soft drinks. However, this work was never presented to the church as doctrine or revelation and his opinion is not considered authoritative.

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The central message behind the commandment against hot drinks is this:

Habit-forming substances are to be avoided.

To preserve the integrity of the spirit, the body (in which the spirit dwells, during mortality) must not be reliant on psychoactive substances. Reliance on these substances can impede one's ability to communicate with God.

It is said that the Holy Ghost accompanies us on a daily basis as long as we live according to the Word of Wisdom. But the highs and lows that come along with stimulants can push the Holy Ghost away.

Energy Drinks: The Lift That Lets You Down

Caffeine—The Subtle Addiction

Given the withdrawal symptoms that regular caffeine consumers suffer when they abstain from caffeine (fatigue, headache,) it's clear that caffeine is a habit-forming substance. Therefore, it should be avoided.

This is not an official position of the church, but the above articles give some idea of what LDS writers think about caffeine.

Originally drafted as an answer to this closed question about caffeine.

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And this Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of hot drinks D&C 89:9 and tobacco. D&C 89:8 I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned therein; 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 coffee—the beverages in common use. And the Lord said hot drinks are not good for the body nor the belly, D&C 89:9 liquor is not good for the body nor the belly, but for the washing of the body, D&C 89:7 &c. Tobacco is not good, save for sick cattle, and for bruises and sores, its cleansing properties being then very useful. D&C 89:8

JD 13:274, Brigham Young, The Word of Wisdom—Spiritualism.

The spirit of the revelation is also in regards to doing things for the health of the body. It would seem reasonable that consuming any beverage that is at a temperature which would injure the body should be avoided (let the mint tea cool a bit, don't drink boiling water), but that is not an official part of the interpretation of the phrase in the revelation.

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