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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 08:25PM

Are Mormons Allowed to Drink Caffinated Sodas?

Mormon actor and TV sitcom star Johnny Whitaker smoked a lettuce-leaf pipe in the 1973 made-for-TV movie, “Tom Sawyer.”

Whitaker--a Mormon who served a two-year LDS mission in Portugal and attended Brigham Young University where he received a degree in communications--was (if I recall correctly from an article published some years back in the Mormon Church’s “Deseret News”) chastized by Spencer W. Kimball for setting a bad example and publicly expressed regret for having inhaled lettuce leaf smoke in a scene designed to portray him as doing tobacco.

("Brief Biographies of Latter-day Saint and/or Utah Film Personalities." at:

What Whitaker did, of course, was just a film act. “Technically” speaking, smoking lettuce leaves isn’t a violation of the Word of Wisdom--since the Food and Drug Adminstration has declared that lettuce leaves aren’t made from tobacco.

Yet, according to top Mormon Church leaders, drinking caffeinated sodas is an act that does actual violence to the God-directed designs of the Word of Wisdom. It’s the spirit of the thing. And aren’t Mormons into following “the spirit”?

Indeed, Mormon defender W. John Walsh--quoting leading Mormon Church authorities in his article “Drinking Soda (cola)”--notes that drinking caffeinated drinks does, in fact, violate the intent, purpose and spirit of the Word of Wisdom:

“While it is not a technical violation of the Word of Wisdom, Latter-day Saints are encouraged by Church leaders to avoid caffeinated drinks. It is believed that caffeine in large quantities, such as found in caffeinated soft drinks, is not good for the body and therefore violates the spirit of the Word of Wisdom.

“While many Latter-day Saints drink decaffeinated cola drinks, some people have suggested that we should avoid the empty calories of those beverages in favor of something more nutritious. It is well established that many people are overweight and yet also do not receive enough nutrition in their diets. The popularity of cola beverages has been linked to both problems in recent studies (See CNN Report on 2/15/01) Counsel from Church leaders on this subject is as follows:

“President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

“‘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.

“‘However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, ‘But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug.” With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude on this at but I personally do not put them in the class as with the tea and coffee because the Lord specifically mentioned them [the hot drinks]…. I might say also that strychnine and sleeping pills and opium and heroin are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom and yet I would discourage them with all my power.’ (‘The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,’ p. 202)

“President Heber J. Grant taught:

“‘I am not going to give any command, but I will ask it as a personal, individual favor to me, to let coca-cola alone. There are plenty of other things you can get at the soda fountains without drinking that which is injurious. The Lord does not want you to use any drug that creates an appetite for itself.’ (‘Conference Report,’ April 1922, p.165)

“Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

” . . . [T]here are many other substances which have a harmful effect on the human body, though such particular things are not specifically prohibited by the Word of Wisdom. Certainly the partaking of cola drinks, though not included within the measuring standard here set out, is in violation of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom. Harmful drugs of any sort are in a like category.’ (‘Mormon Doctrine,’ p. 845)

“Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone taught:

“Speaking of those who rationalize the church’s stand on cola drinks, Bishop Featherstone said, ‘We can find loopholes in a lot of things if we want to bend the rules of the church.’ (‘The Church News,’ Conference Issues 1970-1987, p. 9)

“Elder Samuel O. Bennion taught:

“I heard President Grant say, recently, that he would consider it a favor to him, if men and women would abstain from the use of tea and coffee, tobacco, liquor, and coca-cola; that they would have power given them to establish themselves in the faith, and save themselves from debt, sickness, and disease. And he read from the revelations, that the destroying angel would pass them by; and he is a prophet of God.’ (‘Conference Report,’ April 1922, p. 140)

“Elder John A. Widtsoe taught:

‘Whenever a drink is advertised to “give you a lift,” the “lift” is likely to be caused by the drug which it contains. Such soft drinks are decidedly harmful and habit-forming, even though sold by the millions. Such caffeine-containing drinks, offered by every soda fountain and most eating places, and consumed in large quantities, should be known and avoided.’ (‘The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation,’ p. 97)

“Elder Mark E. Peterson taught:

“‘And then there are some soft drinks which contain harmful or habit-forming ingredients. The leaders of the Church have not attempted to add to the list of prohibitions in the Word of Wisdom to include all such items, but they teach that in the spirit of the Word of Wisdom, if not in the letter, we should avoid anything which contains ingredients which are harmful and habit forming.’ (‘A Word of Wisdom,’ p. 15)”

("Drinkin Soda (cola)," by W. John Walsh, at:


Get real.

It doesn't matter what they taught. A recently-dead modern-day Mormon prophet declared:

"I don't know if we teach it."

(Gordon B. Hinckley, quoted under "Dodging and Dissembling Prophet?," from "Mormons in Transition," at:

Then again, I don't know if the Mormon Church teaches that Mormon Church president Gordon B. Hinckley taught that he didn't know if the Mormon Church teaches it.

The Mormon Church does, however, teach the consumption of Jell-O since, just like its "eternal" doctrine, you can't nail it to the wall.

Edited 11 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2012 09:30PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Mia ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 08:32PM

I remember those words about caffeinated soda. Most caffeine drinking mormons pretty much ignored that.

It's a good example of the prophet making a rule, everyone ignores it, and it just goes away. Too many coke drinking tithe payers to really push the issue.

You have to wonder, if a large quantity of tithe paying members started drinking coffee would they eventually let it go?

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Posted by: flyboy21 ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 08:38PM

They would suddenly realize coffee today is healthier than the mid-19th century variant and the Lord has changed his mind.

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Posted by: Ezra Taft Benson ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 08:35PM

I am roaming the earth as a ghost Steve!Please do not be suprised if I make an appearance at night in you bedroom.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 08:40PM

. . . ETB wanted me to come back to the Mormon Church.

Why Grandpa just didn't appear in my bedroom and tell me that himself, instead of depending on some anonymous California Mormon go-between gospel-headed goofball, is beyond me.

Show up. Grandpa, and I'll buy you a beer--Polygamy Porter's actually pretty good.

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2012 08:44PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: snb ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 08:51PM

The last line had me chuckling. Nice work. :)

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Posted by: deco ( )
Date: June 06, 2012 09:02PM

It may also be a case of appearances, since Johnny Whitaker, who completed a 2 year LDS mission in Portugal, is now an evangelist for the addiction recovery industry, and working as a drug counselor.

And he has publicly claimed 13 years of 'sobriety'

As of yet, and I would not be surprised if this changed, the LDS church does not have an addiction recovery program for caffinated soda. So, I am guessing this dude was smoking his lettuce, while shooting heroin, tequila etc, or snorting anything he could find.

For what it is worth, he was also Dana Plato's manager.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/06/2012 09:03PM by deco.

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Posted by: Fetal Deity ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 02:34AM

"No comment."

; )

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Posted by: SL Cabbie ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 02:46AM


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Posted by: Fetal Deity ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 02:53AM

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Posted by: Claire ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 09:10AM

Whitaker was a cute kid. Too bad his parents used most of his earnings to raise the rest of their brood.

When he came back from his mission,they preented him with a $100,000 check, which was all that was left.
His subsequent divorce soon relieved him of that too.

Anyway,that's what I read in an article about him some years ago.
I felt bad for him.

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Posted by: CA girl ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 12:03PM

When I was at the MTC, we got a pass to go to the mall for some reason - I think my comp needed to replace her glasses or something. I took the opportunity to buy a six-pack of Dr. Pepper and was carrying it down the mall when some beeyotch stopped me and said in the snottiest voice possible "Are you taking that back to the MTC?" I just laughed and said "Yep, smuggling it in." I didn't really know how bad Utah County Mormons were and how seriously they took themselves, being from CA. I wish I'd thought of something snotty to say back.

My point is - even back in the 90s, there were still plenty of members who took this restriction on caffeinated sodas seriously. Nowadays though, it seems like it's only the hard-core fanatics. Even my MP, once I got to Spain, said that everyone there drank Coke and the missionaries might as well drink it too - otherwise they'd go around offending everyone. Slippery doctrine is right.

Does anyone know if they sell caffeinated sodas at BYU? I'll bet plenty of students are drinking energy drinks bought off-campus, like Red Bull. But if Coke and Pepsi are still forbidden at BYU, that might give an idea of what the leaders are really thinking.

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Posted by: SL Cabbie ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 01:53PM

I'm not sure if they offer both leaded and unleaded, however... I'm fairly certain they do, but maybe some of our newer undercover sorts will chime in...

Hmmm...Krispy Kremes aren't on the approved list...

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Posted by: axeldc ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 02:00PM

These discussions are why I'm glad I'm not Mormon. I have enough going on in my life without some 3rd party telling getting after me for pretending to smoke lettuce leaves or drinking a perfectly legal substance in my own home on my own time.

For all the issues with Mormonism, the one I could never get over is their inability to simply butt out.

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Posted by: FullTimeLurker ( )
Date: June 07, 2012 05:19PM

As a missionary in the Far East, I had the opportunity to drive ETB to the airport. While I waited with him, He ask for something to drink. I cautioned about the local bottled juices and noted the Pepsi had just been introduced to the country. He said that would be fine. Best Pepsi I ever had and shared the drink with ETB!! (Ironically I had given up Coke and Pepsi the year before my mission and had abstained from the evil drink when it was introduced a few months before.)

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