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I've heard it said a number of times that Mormons think it is wrong to consume caffeine. This would seem to naturally require abstinence from a number of beverages, such as coffee, black teas, and some soda/pop/coke. But other foods have caffeine in them as well, like chocolate, which, from what I can tell, are regularly consumed by Mormons.

Some years ago (15–20?) a Mormon friend explained that the caffeine in chocolate is somehow different chemically than the caffeine in coffee, and that this was why Mormons eat chocolate but don't drink coffee. I have no idea if this is true, and I don't really care, but it seemed to confirm a prohibition on caffeine by the LDS Church.

However, after a bit of research, the basis for this restriction seems to be the following line in the Doctrines and Covenants, §89, which makes no reference to caffeine:

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

Has the LDS Church officially expounded on the meaning of this text, or of any other texts that may relate to caffeine? That is, officially, does this text forbid:

  • Hot black tea (hot drink, caffeinated)
  • Hot milk (hot drink, not caffeinated)
  • Iced black tea (not hot drink, caffeinated)
  • Soda/pop/coke (not hot drink, caffeinated)
  • Chocolate (not hot drink, caffeinated)

What is the recent and current teaching of the LDS Church on this matter? Has there been any change or clarification in the last 50 years or so? A brief historical overview would help me put my Mormon friend's chocolate comments into context.

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that our bodies are temples where the Holy Ghost can dwell (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) and that they were given to us as a gift from God, therefore we are expected to take care of them.

The Word of Wisdom was originally given in 1833 as a word of counsel and is found in Doctrine and Covenants 89. Later prophets have reemphasized the Word of Wisdom as a law of health and today it is set forth as a commandment that all church members are expected to follow.

Because the Word of Wisdom is the most well-known health-related commandment, often members group related commandments and the general idea of taking care of one's body into the Word of Wisdom (for example, things like using moderation; establishing healthy sleep habits; warnings against recreational drugs, relying too heavily on medicine have to do with our health but are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom).

Joseph Smith, who received the Word of Wisdom, and prophets since his time have stated that "hot drinks" means tea and coffee. This includes decaffeinated coffee, and cold coffee and tea. It does not include chocolate, hot chocolate, or warm milk.

Often tea is further interpreted by Latter-day Saints to be any drink derived from the plant Camellia sinensis – like green tea, black tea, and iced tea – but there's still debate around mate, herbal teas, etc. The Church has not officially clarified beyond "coffee and tea."

Some members of the Church abstain from caffeine – you will find that it varies from family to family. This is an effort to take care of the body and likely stems from the fact that one of the obvious ingredients in coffee and tea is caffeine. Caffeine is, in fact, a drug. However, the Word of Wisdom, as set forth in D&C 89, does not specifically prohibit caffeine, nor has the Church officially taught that members should not drink caffeine.

  • The status of caffeine as a drug is irrelevant because the status of any substance as a drug is a human construct, and as such, is highly unlikely to be related to godly knowledge. Caffeine also happens to be a naturally-occurring substance much like the herbs that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon that were used to treat sicknesses; this association alone doesn't render caffeine a suitable treatment for any particular disease. – Adam Jan 15 '17 at 16:15

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