Using Caffeine is a Sin Against God
Length: 2101 words (6 double-spaced pages)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
One of the most widely misunderstood commandments in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Word of Wisdom. The question that seems to trouble many members of the church is whether or not caffeine is part of the Word of Wisdom. In this paper, we will find that as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we cannot drink caffeinated beverages and say that we keep the Word of Wisdom.
President Hinckley asked and answered a question in General Conference on October 4th of 1997. "Are we moving to mainstream America as some observers believe? In this, I fear we are." The comment came due to the increasing amount of shopping that is being done on sundays in LDS communities, and the increasing amount of disobedience to the Word of Wisdom. His tone was one of concern and love.
We have a great responsibility to be an example of virtuous thought and deed. We have been blessed exceedingly with knowledge, that combined with wisdom will give us understanding. Why then, as a whole, do we seem to be regressing and becoming more like the world, as our Prophet has stated, instead of like the savior of all mankind, even Jesus Christ.
We have been counseled heretofore by prophets of old, "to seek learning, even by study, and by faith". We have an obligation to search the scriptures and to learn what the Lord is teaching us and warning us of. We must go forward with faith, and not backward. We must come unto the Lord, and not expect the Lord to come unto us.
Of the many dangers in this world, the greatest danger that we have is an uninformed citizenry. Being informed is an obligation that each of us has to ourselves. Brigham Young said that "Education is the ability to think clearly, to act well in the days work, and to appreciate life".
By this definition, and after knowing the effects of caffeine upon the human body, I have come to the conclusion that drinking caffeine is a sign of a lack of respect for oneself, and of an unappreciative attitude toward the life that each of us has been blessed with. Furthermore, it shows of either our inability, or unwillingness to learn to think clearly.
The body is a temple and should be treated as such. Modern revelation states that "the elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples." (Doctrine & Covenants 93:35)
The "big" question that we must each answer for ourselves is whether drinking caffeinated beverages is a violation of the Word of Wisdom or not? I have observed that this question provokes contention among members of the church quicker than almost any other. This is because there are so many guilty offenders.We know that we cannot go on in this practice and keep a clear conscience before our God. Every member that disobeys the word of the Lord in these areas not only risks their own salvation, but the salvation of many others who may be influenced by their example.
Even though the church has never officially taken a stand on the consumption of caffeinated beverages other than coffee and tea, there is ample evidence to persuade even the most rebellious individuals that drinking caffeinated beverages violates the Word of Wisdom. It may not violate the letter of the law, but it violates the spirit of the law.
Joseph Feilding McConckie, Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, and son of Bruce R. McConckie (beloved, late Apostle of the church), said that we must obey the letter of the law if we are going to get the Spirit. So, let's find out what the letter of the law is.
The Word of Wisdom is found in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). This revelation was ". . . sent by greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days-Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this Word of Wisdom by revelation" (vs. 3-5). With a little thought, we can safely assume that these statements about "evils and designs" become very prophetic in light of the roles that the tobacco, alcohol, and yes, "cola" companies play in our society today.
The Word of Wisdom prohibits the use of tobacco (except for an herb for bruises and all sick cattle), which was not proven to be harmful until this century. It also prohibits the use of alcohol, except for use in washing the body. In addition, it declares that "hot drinks are not for the body or belly" (vs. 9). It also gives some dietary guidelines which sound much like the federally-funded research that gave us the "food pyramid".
When this revelation was first received, there was a great deal of disputation among members of the church as to whether or not coffee and tea were what the Lord meant by "hot drinks". This was due to the fact that these were the most common drinks of the time, and people were having a hard time giving them up. In the journal of Joel Hills Johnson (present with Joseph Smith at the time the Word of Wisdom was received), Joseph Smith is quoted, "the Lord is showing us what is good for man to eat and drink. Now what do we drink when we take our meal? Tea and coffee. Is it not? Yes, tea and coffee. Then they are what the Lord meant when He said 'hot drinks'."
It seems that this same problem of justification and unclear thinking was evident among the early members of the church as well, even that the prophet decided to declare unto them the word of the Lord on this subject.
Today, since caffeinated "soft drinks" are so commonly used, late prophets of the church have made comments and tried to teach us what the word of the Lord is on this subject. Even though "soft drinks" are not "hot drinks", they are now included in the Word of Wisdom by the prophets.
In "The Gospel Teacher and His Message", a talk given to the Seminary and Institute teachers of the church, our late prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, made this statement
You have been counseled repeatedly to 'live in the world, but not be one of the world'. Sometimes some of our members want to live as close as they can to worldly standards and yet qualify for a Temple recommend. . . Do not live 'on the fringes'. Some years ago, one of our teachers told his students that he used cola drinks and that it did not prevent him from holding a temple recommend. This was an indication of poor judgement on his part, and it illustrates what I mean by living 'on the fringes'. Live the spirit of the commandments. (17)
Also, in President Hinckley's interview on Larry King Live recently, a caller from Salt Lake City called in and asked this question,
I was wondering about some of the guidelines in dietary restrictions Mormons live by, and how strictly members follow them. As I was reading once the Word of Wisdom, my impression was that its major point was that one should respect all life, including animals, as such, only consume them when absolutely necessary to sustain life and to then eat them sparingly. But I've noticed this is rarely followed by Mormons and I'm wondering if this has something to do with...
PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY:
Oh, I don't know. You've read a part of the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom covers many things. It covers the excessive use of meat, as I see it. It covers in a very particular way the use of tobacco and alcohol.
By saying, "No."
PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY:
By saying, by proscribing those things.
No to caffeine.
PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY:
No to caffeine, coffee, and tea.
In President Hinckley's interview with Mike Wallace in 1996, he stated a similar pronouncement.
Furthermore, in the Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, President Kimball gave his personal testimony on this subject.
Wisdom goes beyond the letter of the law. Generally when we speak of the Word of Wisdom, we are talking about tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor, and all of the fringe things, even though they might be detrimental, are not included in the technical interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would...
This is the word of the prophets on the subject. I am confident that all of us are aware what the Lord has said concerning the words of His Prophets. Are they not to be considered as the Lord himself was speaking to us. We find this in D&C 1: 8;
And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious..., and in vs. 38, "what I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
Whatever the called servants of the Lord speak is the same as if spoken by the Lord himself. Each of us has a choice as whether or not we will follow the Lord. This a choice that we have been given so graciously by our Father in Heaven. His only desire is to protect us and bring us back to dwell with him for eternity. However, we must understand that He is perfect and unchanging. He knows everything. He is omniscient, and omnipotent. If it is our desire to dwell with him again, then we must come to the realization that it is us who needs to change.
A friend of mine told me, how previous to viewing President Hinckley's interview with Larry King, he had consumed caffeinated beverages. He explained to me that he had never really understood that caffeinated beverages were prohibited by the church. After hearing the prophet's words, he has not consumed any caffeinated beverages since, and he has made a covenant never to do so.
This is an example of obedience that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, need to look upon with a very high regard. We need to learn to be obedient, and to keep the spirit of the laws and commandments that our Father in Heaven has seen fit to bless us with. Furthermore, we need to understand that these laws and commandments have not been given for His benefit. They are only for our own benefit, and for our salvation.
In the last four verses of Doctrine and Covenants 89, the Lord says,
"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And they shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen."
The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Sec. 1, 89, & 93)
Hinckley, President Gordon B. General Conference Report. "Look To The Future." Ensign. November, 1997: (69)
Hinckley, President Gordon B. Interview on Larry King Live. 8th September, 1998. Online. World Wide Web.
Bowler, Lula L. Wilson. Journal of her grandfather, Joel Hills. Johnson. "The Word of Wisdom." I possess copy of page in journal. No direct source.
Benson, President Ezra Taft. "The Gospel Teacher and His Message." Discourse to church educators at the Temple Square Assembly Hall. 2nd Edition.17 September, 1976 : 53.