Last week, NBC News’ hour-long feature on Mormonism made the mistake of stating that Mormons don’t drink caffeine. This prompted a very quick correction on the LDS Church’s website: “the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine,” and that the faith’s health-code reference to “hot drinks” “does not go beyond [tea and coffee]. A day later, the website was slightly altered by stating that “the church revelation spelling out health practices . . . does not mention the use of caffeine.”
To add further confusion (or insanity) to the situation, a BYU spin doctor opened her mouth to justify the university’s failure to sell caffeinated drinks on campus.
Carri Jenkins explained that it is “not a university or church decision, but [one] made by the dining services based on what our customers want.” There has not “been a demand for it.”
Nothing like throwing “dining services” under the bus. Ms. Jenkin’s statement left the doubters (including me) enjoying a good laugh.
One of the overall doubters is David Jones of SLC who wrote the following in a letter to the Tribune (5 Sep 2012):
The [LDS] Church actively campaigned against caffeine sodas in previous decades. The official Church News ran stories that listed the caffeine content of drinks (my babysitter was distraught that Dr. Pepper had more caffeine than Coke). Mission presidents railed against caffeine drinks, and elders who imbibed were made to feel like they had sinned.
In the 1960s in the Franco-Belgian Mission, at one of our missionary conferences, we were counselled against consuming caffeinated sodas. Unfortunately I had a standing order for a Coke at a nearby restaurant and was immediately branded a sinner.
The LDS Church’s “clarification” on caffeine inspired Pat Bagley, cartoonist for the SLTrib, to illustrate 4 “great moments in Mormon history”:
- July 24, 1847: the saints arrive in Salt Lake Valley
- Sept 25, 1890: the end of polygamy (sort of)
- June 8, 1978: black male members get the priesthood
- Aug 30,2012: Coke and Pepsi OK’d
But there are still a bunch of really important questions about “hot drinks” that need to be answered, including:
- Does this make ice-tea okay?
- If it’s not the caffeine, what is wrong with “hot drinks”? Why the prohibition on coffee and tea?
- Is it okay to drink coffee and tea if they are only luke warm?
- What is the situation with energy drinks (where they ramp-up the caffeine)?
When I pointed out these questions to my son, he suggested that I just eat all my meals on the BYU campus. That way I will always be safe.
In general, from a health perspective it is better to drink coffee and tea than it is to consume carbonated beverages. The principal problems with the latter are the empty calories and carbonation. Jones concludes his letter:
Science won out. Studies show that caffeine isn’t bad, and so instead of saying “My bad,” the LDS Church just changes its website, as if the whole issue were a misunderstanding by the “gentiles.”
Baloney. Anyone who lived in Mormonism the past half century knows the misunderstanding started at the top of the Mormon pyramid.