The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long had guidelines against consuming tobacco and hot drinks — specifically hot coffee and tea. Recently, the church issued some clarifications on those guidelines as technology and trends change the way people use the forbidden products.
In the August issue of its New Era youth magazine, the LDS church published an article titled “Vaping, Coffee, Tea, and Marijuana: Clearing up Word of Wisdom confusion.” The Word of Wisdom is part of the church’s gospel that pertains to physical health, including topics such as the use of prescription and illegal drugs, and consumption of fruits, vegetables and meat.
In the article, the church explains that “modern prophets and apostles have frequently taught that the Word of Wisdom warns us against substances that can harm us or enslave us to addiction.” With the rising popularity in recent years of electronic cigarettes, vapes, CBD oil and all varieties of coffee-based drinks, the rules around the substances could have become confusing for young Mormons, the article states.
The article clarifies four topics: vaping, e-cigarettes, etc.; mocha, latte, macchiato, etc.; green tea and iced tea; marijuana and opioids.
In a nutshell, most of the substances are still forbidden (or, in the case of opioids, meant to be used only as prescribed). Here’s what the church had to say about each.
Vaping and e-cigarettes: The original Word of Wisdom forbade tobacco, which is not present in e-cigarettes or vapes. However, the church clarifies in the recent article that tobacco isn’t the only substance to be avoided in traditional or unconventional cigarettes.
“Most vaping pods contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and all of them contain harmful chemicals,” the article says. “Vaping is clearly against the Word of Wisdom.”
Coffee and espresso drinks: Whether it’s cold brew, lattes, Frappuccinos or some other Starbucks concoction, it’s pretty much all against the gospel, the church says.
“If you’re in a coffee shop (or any other shop that’s well-known for its coffee), the drink you’re ordering probably has coffee in it, so either never buy drinks at coffee shops or always ask if there’s coffee in it,” the article advises. “Drinks with names that include café or caffé, mocha, latte, espresso, or anything ending in -ccino usually have coffee in them and are against the Word of Wisdom.”
Tea: “Green tea and black tea are both made from the leaves of the exact same tea plant,” the New Era article explains. “The only difference is that the leaves in black tea are fermented and in green tea they’re not. They’re both tea and against the Word of Wisdom.”
By that standard, matcha powder is likely also against the rules. Iced tea is also out.
Marijuana and opioids: The widespread legalization of both recreational and medicinal marijuana might have the LDS church changing its stance a tiny bit.
“Medical [marijuana] uses are being studied, but just like many pain medications such as opioids, marijuana is an addictive substance,” the article states, advising church members to use such medications only under the care and direction of doctors.
More Mormons consume coffee, tea, alcohol
In a church survey conducted earlier this year, nearly a third of respondents indicated that they had used at least one or more of the Word of Wisdom’s forbidden substances in the past six months. According to an analysis of the survey by the Religion in Public blog, 35% of church members said they consume coffee, 25% consume tea and 25% consume alcohol.
The survey also found that younger Mormons are less likely to feel it’s vital to avoid coffee and tea drinks, and that as much as 70 percent of church members consume caffeinated soda. That last point was another confusing element of the Word of Wisdom for some time, with some members assuming coffee and tea were forbidden for their caffeine content.
The church clarified that point in 2012, declaring caffeinated soda and hot chocolate OK, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article.