Can Mormons Drink Coffee? Understanding the LDS Church’s Stance

This article clarifies whether Mormons are permitted to drink coffee according to their faith’s dietary laws.

The Doctrine: Word of Wisdom

the doctrine word of wisdom

The Word of Wisdom, a health code revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833, is a foundational text for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The document serves as a guide for lifestyle choices that promote physical and spiritual well-being. It emphasizes the consumption of wholesome herbs and the fruits of the season, while recommending grain as the staple of one’s diet. Importantly, it specifically advises against the intake of harmful substances.

Key substances that are explicitly discouraged include alcohol, tobacco, and “hot drinks” – a term commonly interpreted by church leaders to mean tea and coffee. This directive aligns with the church’s focus on maintaining a healthy body, which is viewed as a vital, living temple necessary for spiritual growth and connection with God.

The adherence to these guidelines is not just seen as beneficial for health, but also as a marker of spiritual commitment and readiness to participate in sacred temple activities.

What Does the Word of Wisdom Say About Coffee?

The Word of Wisdom, a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, is a pivotal text for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Authored by Joseph Smith in the 1830s, it advises against the consumption of “hot drinks.” Latter-day interpretations by church leaders classify coffee, regardless of its temperature, as a prohibited substance under this category.

Despite the clear directive, the text doesn’t specifically mention coffee by name. Instead, the interpretation relies heavily on guidance from subsequent church leaders who have identified “hot drinks” as tea and coffee. These interpretations emphasize the health and spiritual well-being of believers, suggesting that abstinence from these beverages is a form of bodily reverence and spiritual discipline.

This guidance is upheld strictly in the LDS community, influencing social habits and even the dietary choices of its members globally. The prohibition of coffee is more than a dietary commandment—it’s a marker of faithfulness and commitment to the principles laid out by the church.

Historical Context of the Coffee Prohibition

Coffee’s prohibition among Mormons stems from an 1833 revelation received by Joseph Smith, known as the Word of Wisdom. This directive, originally given as counsel, became a commandment for Church members by the early 20th century. Though the text does not explicitly mention coffee, it advises against “hot drinks,” which early church leaders interpreted to include coffee and tea due to their stimulant properties.

The context of the 19th century also influences this stance. During this period, the temperance movement in America was advocating against substances they saw as harmful to body and society, which likely impacted the Church’s stance on substances like alcohol and caffeine.

Understanding this historical backdrop sheds light on why coffee remains off-limits for practicing Mormons today, despite more widespread societal acceptance.

Cultural Significance of Coffee Prohibition Among Mormons

Coffee holds a distinct role in social and religious contexts worldwide, and its avoidance is particularly significant within the Mormon community. Adhering to this standard helps signify commitment and obedience to the church’s teachings, reinforcing a collective identity among its members.

For many Mormons, choosing not to drink coffee serves as a daily reminder of their dedication to living according to church doctrines. It is also a public expression of faith, often prompting discussions about religious beliefs when dining with non-Mormon friends or colleagues.

Moreover, this prohibition aids in creating a sense of unity and distinctiveness from broader societal norms. By abstaining from coffee, Mormons can strengthen community bonds and maintain a clear distinction in lifestyle choices that align with their spiritual values.

Exceptions and Modern Interpretations: Iced Coffee and Caffeinated Sodas

Despite the clear stance against hot coffee, there’s some ambiguity around cold coffee and caffeinated sodas within the Mormon community. Following the inclinations of the Word of Wisdom, hot drinks have historically been interpreted to mean tea and coffee. However, as cultural practices evolve and new products enter the market, interpretations fluctuate.

Iced coffee, despite being cold, still derives from coffee beans and is generally avoided by those who strictly adhere to their faith’s dietary guidelines. On the other hand, caffeinated sodas do not fall into the ‘hot drink’ category and have been seen in a different light. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has clarified in recent years that caffeinated sodas are not in violation of the Word of Wisdom, distinguishing them from coffee and tea.

This distinction highlights an adaptation to modern consumables while maintaining the foundational doctrines. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see a Mormon enjoying a soda with caffeine, though they would typically avoid an iced coffee. This reflects broader trends in dietary interpretation, showing flexibility and adaptation over time.