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Why Mormons Stay Away from Coffee? Unpacking the Mystery

In a world where coffee culture dominates from bustling city cafes to quiet suburban kitchens, the decision by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, to abstain from coffee often sparks curiosity and intrigue. The prohibition against coffee is not just a mere preference but is deeply rooted in the faith’s doctrines and teachings, specifically the Word of Wisdom, a set of health guidelines provided by their scripture. But what exactly are the reasons behind this distinctive practice, and how does it impact the daily lives of Mormons?

This article delves into the historical, religious, and cultural contexts that explain why Mormons do not drink coffee. By exploring the doctrinal foundation of this practice, alongside personal insights and scientific perspectives, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of this aspect of Mormon life. Whether you’re a Mormon seeking to reaffirm your faith’s teachings or a curious onlooker intrigued by this lifestyle choice, our exploration offers valuable insights and fosters a deeper understanding of the principles guiding the Mormon community.

Join us as we uncover the layers behind this fascinating topic, shedding light on the beliefs that shape the daily decisions of millions. This journey not only promises to enlighten but also to inspire a broader appreciation for the diverse ways in which faith and personal convictions influence our lives.

Section 1: The Foundations of the Word of Wisdom

To understand the Word of Wisdom, we must first look at its origins within Mormon scripture and the historical context in which it arose.

The Historical Context: Origin and Early History

In the 1830s, American society faced rampant alcohol abuse and tobacco use had risen dramatically. The temperance movement was gaining momentum.

It was within this climate that Joseph Smith Jr. said he received a revelation from God outlining a code of health, which became section 89 of Mormon scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants.

The Word of Wisdom was first presented as counsel, not commandment. Adherence was gradually strengthened over time. Today, following the Word of Wisdom is required for entry into Mormon temples, though interpretation and practice vary.

The Doctrine and Covenants: Direct Insights

Let’s look directly at some key verses from section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants concerning hot drinks, meat, and wholesome plants:

“Hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” (D&C 89:9)

“Flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air… are to be used sparingly.” (D&C 89:12)

“All wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man.” (D&C 89:10)

These statements begin to paint a picture of the Word of Wisdom’s dietary guidelines. The text provides both prohibitions and recommendations regarding consumption.

Modern Interpretation and Guidance

Today, Church leaders have clarified hot drinks as coffee and tea, not all caffeine. Meat is permitted, though eating less is encouraged. Wholesome herbs and plants encompass a broad, plant-focused diet.

Beyond clarifying ambiguities, modern Church guidance focuses on viewing the Word of Wisdom as a blessing for health and spiritual guidance, not just a set of rules. There is room for individuals to adapt the principles to their circumstances.

Section 2: The Prohibition Against Coffee and Tea

Mormons do not drink coffee because it is prohibited by the Word of Wisdom, which is a revelation from God given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1833. The Word of Wisdom commands Mormons to abstain from “hot drinks,” which includes coffee and tea, and also from tobacco, alcohol, and other harmful substances. While some Mormons may consume caffeine in other forms, the avoidance of coffee and tea is a key part of the Word of Wisdom and is considered a privilege and responsibility by many Mormons.

Doctrinal and Health Considerations

In 1833, Church leader Hyrum Smith linked hot drinks with alcohol and tobacco as addictive substances. He expressed concern over people spending money on imports like coffee when crops could be grown at home.

Today, in addition to the original prohibition, leaders point out potential health benefits of avoiding caffeine and tannic acid found in coffee and tea.

Caffeine and Beyond

Despite popular belief, the Mormon prohibition is specifically on coffee and tea, not all caffeine. Many Mormons enjoy caffeinated soda. Some leaders have clarified that caffeine is not inherently banned, though overuse of any stimulant is cautioned against.

Beyond caffeine, coffee and tea contain substances like tannins that leaders believe may be harmful, especially when consumed regularly at high temperatures. More research is still needed.

Section 3: Comparative and Cultural Perspectives

Section 3: Comparative and Cultural Perspectives
Section 3: Comparative and Cultural Perspectives

Having outlined the doctrine and reasoning, how do global Mormons navigate this dietary restriction across diverse cultures and perspectives?

Global Adherence and Cultural Challenges

For Mormons, saying “no” to coffee can be challenging, as coffee culture sweeps the globe. Many report awkward moments declining offered cups of coffee in social and professional settings.

Cultural norms around tea in Asian and British communities can also present obstacles for Mormons seeking to adhere to their beliefs. Respectful dialogue and adaptation is required.

Interfaith Dialogue

Many other faiths also teach dietary self-discipline. Mormons can learn much from their Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian brothers and sisters who likewise navigate religious dietary laws.

In today’s pluralistic society, interfaith understanding around dietary differences enriches religious freedom and cultivates mutual respect.

Section 4: Adherence, Challenges, and Support

How do everyday Mormons incorporate the Word of Wisdom into their lifestyles? What resources help them adhere to this code of health?

Community Support and Resources

From potlucks to youth camps, food plays a central role in Mormon community life. Recipes, advice for eating out, and stories of overcoming addiction circulate frequently.

The Church has shared official resources like the Word of Wisdom Health Challenge. Mormon mommy bloggers offer meal plans accommodating dietary restrictions. Support is abundant.

Navigating Social and Professional Settings

Many Mormons order herbal tea or hot chocolate when meeting peers for coffee. At conferences with coffee breaks, they sip water or snack instead. Open communication dispels awkwardness.

At work, Mormons may explain their dietary needs, but focus conversations on shared values, not differences. With understanding and creativity, professional environments can comfortably accommodate.

Section 5: Health, Environment, and Economic Impacts

Beyond religious importance, how might adhering to the Word of Wisdom influence health, economy, and sustainability?

Health Benefits and Scientific Views

Some studies correlate Mormon health with the Word of Wisdom. However, debate persists on the specific health impacts of coffee and tea versus other lifestyle factors.

While the science is complex, most agree consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as recommended, benefits health. Moderation in meat also promotes wellness.

Economic and Environmental Considerations

Following the Word of Wisdom supports local food producers as Mormons purchase meat sparingly but seek bounteous produce. Home grown food also reduces transport miles.

Avoiding tea supports more ecologically sustainable crops and saves packaging. Doubts exist about fair trade coffee, requiring careful consumer choices.

Also, try: how to get coffee stain out

Section 6: Personal and Community Insights

Beyond science and statistics, what has living the Word of Wisdom meant for individual Mormons and their communities?

Testimonials and Personal Stories

Individuals share overcoming addiction, weight loss, improved energy and feeling spiritually grounded through the Word of Wisdom. It provides guidance amid confusing health messages.

Beyond health, many Mormons cherish the Word of Wisdom as a unifying identity marker. It connects them to their pioneer ancestors who grew and stored their own wholesome foods.

Diversity of Practices and Views

While united in abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea, Mormons admit diversity in other aspects of adherence from meat consumption to caffeinated soda.

Some hope for greater emphasis on whole foods over processed products. Others want more grace for those struggling with portions of the code. Mormons have room to grow in supporting each other.

Section 7: Scholarly and Critical Perspectives

Academic work provides important critiques and analysis on the Word of Wisdom from non-Mormon perspectives.

Scholarly Analysis

Sociologists have studied the Word of Wisdom as a boundary maintaining device and marker of Mormon identity. Historians recount earlier regulations surrounding meat.

Public health scholars have analyzed the possible health impacts of the dietary restrictions for both good and ill. Much debate continues from scientific standpoints.

Legal and Policy Implications

Legal experts have discussed religious exemptions to controlled substances laws, as sacramental wine is permitted for some faiths. Policy discussions have covered school lunch accommodations.

Government promotion of coffee economics has also faced critique by Mormons seeking to live the Word of Wisdom. Navigating policy tensions remains ongoing.

Section 8: Engaging with the Younger Generation

For a health code to endure, nurturing commitment among youth is essential. How are Mormon youth taught and absorbing this guidance?

Education and Youth Engagement

Children learn the Word of Wisdom through scripture study, songs and gaming apps. Youth camps feature recreational activities without cafeteria coffee temptations.

Some parents focus on cultivating intrinsic motivation rather than enforcing obedience. Youth respond to principles of self-mastery, moderation and listening to spiritual promptings.

Youth Perspectives

Some youth see the Word of Wisdom as a wholesome alternative to peer pressure. Others struggle, feeling left out during coffee dates. Support during high school and college transitions is crucial.

Emphasizing ethics over strict orthodoxy resonates with socially conscious youth. Many hope for greater emphasis on overall wellness beyond a set of rules.

Conclusion: Reflecting on Faith, Health, and Identity

The Word of Wisdom remains a distinctive characteristic of Mormon life that encompasses health, history and faith. What broader personal and communal implications does this unique code of health contain?

The Role of Faith in Dietary Choices

Mormons see the Word of Wisdom as inspired guidance, not just sound nutrition advice. Their faith shapes this health code, distinguishing it from secular diets.

Still, the faith required and strength gained through adhering to these guidelines applies across many traditions. All who seek discipline according to their beliefs relate at some level.

The Broader Implications

Ultimately, the Word of Wisdom influences more than just individual Mormons. It impacts families, communities, economies, environments and the global nutrition conversation.

May all people of faith thoughtfully consider their dietary choices in light of spiritual and ethical values as well as health. In doing so collectively, we can build a healthier, more just and sustainable world.


Why don’t Mormons drink coffee?

Mormons believe God revealed a prohibition on “hot drinks” understood as coffee and tea. They avoid these out of religious commitment rather than just health considerations.

Do Mormons drink caffeinated soda?

Yes, many Mormons do enjoy caffeinated soda in moderation. The prohibition is specifically on coffee and tea, not caffeine itself.

Do Mormons have to be vegetarian?

No, meat is permitted within the Word of Wisdom. However, eating meat sparingly is encouraged while fruits, vegetables and grains are highly recommended.

Can Mormons eat chocolate?

Yes, chocolate is permitted within the Word of Wisdom. The focus is on coffee and tea as hot beverages, not chocolate which is seen as a solid food.

What if a Mormon struggles with the Word of Wisdom?

Church leaders encourage taking a non-judgmental approach and providing support for those struggling to adhere to the guidelines. Effort and progress are celebrated over perfect obedience.

0 thoughts on “Why Mormons Stay Away from Coffee? Unpacking the Mystery

  1. I look at the Word of Wisdom as having two levels. The first level is the bare minimum of what not to do – no coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. The second level is the bonus level, which isn’t totally required but is best. The second level is eating good foods and exercising and otherwise doing what you need to in order to be healthy and avoiding anything addictive. We’re generally pretty good at the first level. The second level takes more work.

  2. It’s interesting that the original Section 89 Word of Wisdom closely matches the general guidance of health professionals of the early 19th century. “Hot drinks” specifically comes straight out of health textbooks at the time and included soup and hot chocolate as well as all teas and coffee because “hot drinks” were thought to cause ulcers. Interestingly, Section 89 also allows for beer but prohibits distilled liquors and yet modern Mormons don’t drink alcohol at all. The commandment we have today only loosely matches Section 89, which is fine because Section 89 also says it’s not given by way of commandment.

    In regards to why? The only real answer is that it’s now a commandment. All the health benefits are more tertiary and some are fairly weak. Is coffee and tea bad for you? Yes and no, depends on who you talk to and who is using it. Is alcohol bad for you? Yes and no, depends on who you talk to and who is using it. And yet Mormons refrain from both because it’s what God has commanded.

  3. In addition to what most of these other comments have said regarding how the church defined “hot drinks” as coffee and black/green tea (herbal is fine), the reasoning behind the Word of Wisdom is unknown really. The way I look at it is like for the Jewish people. In the Bible it talks about not eating pork and being kosher or whatever with the reasoning being it set His church at the time apart from others. That’s how it is for us today. Is there some health benefit? Maybe. But the only real reason I can think of is that the word of wisdom is a current day “restriction” that sets us apart from the world as members of the Church of Christ

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