Over 80% of adults in North America regularly consume coffee. That sounds like most people, but there are also significant groups of people who choose not to drink coffee. You might think these are the people with caffeine allergy or sensitivity.
But a large number of people do not drink coffee because of religious restrictions. Mormons, also known as the followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abstain from drinking things like tea or coffee.
While many would dismiss this as some sort of arbitrary religious dietary restriction, it isn’t that simple. In this article, we are going to look at the reasons why Mormons don’t drink coffee.
Do Mormons Drink Coffee?
The short answer is no, Mormons are pretty strict about abstaining from coffee. This brings us to the question, why? Can Mormons have caffeine? Are green teas off-limits too?
While most people can understand why religious texts forbid alcohol, people find it hard to understand why coffee isn’t allowed in Mormon households.
To answer these questions we need to go all the way back to 1833, when the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith received insight from God about a number of issues on health, diet, and the way to live correctly.
These insights were later recorded as the Word of Wisdom. In it, tobacco and alcohol were ordained as forbidden. The Word of Wisdom also states that “hot drinks” are forbidden. At the time of the revelation, the most common hot beverages were tea and coffee.
Because of this coffee, teas, alcohol, and tobacco were all seen as harmful for health and not conducive to a good and pure way of living. Since then, Mormons have shunned tea and coffee, and other hot beverages that fall under these categories.
Is Caffeine the Culprit Here?
The idea of forbidding tea and coffee has led many people to think that the LDS requires followers to abstain from caffeine. After all, caffeine is a stimulant; which many stricter orthodoxies consider just as bad as intoxicants.
Caffeinated drinks also become ‘habit-forming’ for many people who need their daily cups of tea or coffee to function. This is also thought to be one of the reasons why Mormons are expected to abstain from tea or coffee.
In that vein, about green tea, Word of Wisdom scholars agree that it is off-limits as well. Anything that is made from traditional tea and served hot is generally out of bounds.
However, Mormons also consume sodas and eat chocolate and other foods that contain small amounts of caffeine. The Church has even clarified their stance, stating that there are no rules against consuming coffee itself.
The idea, then, seems to be the amount of caffeine as well. While they do stay away from highly caffeinated energy drinks, there doesn’t seem to be an issue with hot chocolate.
The concept of personal interpretation is also important here. Although modern Church leadership has also forbidden iced coffees and teas, as well as vaping and recreational marijuana, there are lots of gray areas without any rulings.
For instance, are Mormons allowed to consume coffee-flavored foods without the actual caffeine? Is decaf coffee allowed? Sodas contain a good amount of caffeine too, so why haven’t they been outright forbidden?
The Word of Wisdom serves as a guide for the followers of this Church. So while many things are clearly prohibited, others are not. It is up to individual Churches, families, or even people to decide the rest.
Some Mormons drink sodas because they believe they are allowed to, while others do not. Lots of Mormons abstain from all kinds of coffee-related things, including decaf flavored desserts. Others even shun drinks containing trace amounts of green tea extract.
Why Tea and Coffee are Avoided
At the end of the day, Mormons are in consensus about abstaining from tea and coffee drinks. For many people, it is about following religious laws. For others, there is the added benefit of clean and healthy living, which the Mormon faith stresses upon.
Similarly, the Word of Wisdom also speaks of a ‘promise’, whereby those who follow these restrictions will be rewarded with good health, wisdom, and vast knowledge. For many Mormons, giving up these things is worth the reward they receive.
Equally important is the idea of their religious identity– it sets the Mormons apart from other people of other faiths and reinforces their identity as a follower of the Mormon Church and a member of their community.
So What Do Mormons Drink Instead?
With all this talk about Mormon food restrictions, you might be wondering what they are allowed to drink. Well, except for alcohol, tea, and coffee, Mormons are allowed to drink almost anything else out there.
A popular Mormon coffee substitute in the past was a caffeine-free roasted-grain beverage known as Postum. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, this drink was seen as a healthier alternative to coffee. It was discontinued in 2007, but can still be found in grocery stores, produced by a different company since 2013.
Mormons also drink herbal tinctures or teas (tisane) that don’t contain caffeine. They also drink juices, shakes, smoothies, and milk. While there is debate over whether sodas and carbonated beverages are allowed, many consume these in moderation.
Other unique drinks that Mormons drink instead of coffee include pero (ground roasted barley), dandelion coffee, and chicory root. Five flavor berry tea is also an extremely popular stand-in for regular tea. Pero, while less popular, tastes almost exactly like coffee when sweetened with sugar and with dairy.
Warm malted beverages are also very common among Mormon households. Drinks like Ovaltine, Horlicks, and Milo are known to be healthy and contain no caffeine, making them a great substitute for tea and coffee.
Moreover, drinks made from roasted barley and other grains are even recommended as they are said to be ‘mild’. The Word of Wisdom even prescribes grains and their by-products as they are said to be good for the body and spirit.
Other Mormon Religious Restrictions
We’ve already answered the question: ‘Do Mormons drink alcohol?’ The answer goes back to what we’ve said, as Mormons do not partake in coffee, tea, all kinds of intoxicants, as well as drugs. Heavily caffeinated energy drinks are also forbidden in certain Mormon churches, and drinks like Coke are discouraged too.
But many people still wonder what else are Mormons not allowed to do, besides not consuming coffee and caffeinated beverages. They are also prohibited from gambling and other less than honest dealings with money.
Mormons are encouraged to consume meat sparingly, focusing on grains and vegetables. Crude language and profanity are also discouraged, and occult practices are absolutely forbidden.
Although medical marijuana is allowed, using cannabis for recreation is also prohibited. On a similar note, the Mormon Church also forbids abusing legal or prescribed drugs. Besides tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping are also not allowed.
Mormons, like many other religions, are often seen as unusual because so little is known about them. There is a lot of speculation about these groups, which leads to many people wondering, “Are Mormons crazy?” But the truth is that they are just like any other religious group, with their own dietary restrictions, just like the idea of halal or kosher foods.
So the next time you are asked why don’t Mormons drink coffee, you’ll know why. It’s always quite fun explaining to novices that it really isn’t about caffeine being a stimulant at all.