Friday, 3 April 2009

21 Questions about Mormonism - The Mormon Java Jive

To find out what this series is about look here.

Q: Are consumption of alcohol and tobacco prohibited or simply discouraged?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

Q: Does the Church also ban the consumption of "hot drinks"? And does that apply specifically to caffeinated drinks?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

C: These two questions are very interesting and raise an important question about what is and isn’t authoritative in Mormonism. A Mormon will tell you that the only authoritative sources are the “Standard Works”; the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) and Pearl of Great Price. The Mormon health law, the Word of Wisdom, is found in the D&C. There are two facts that stand out; 1) there is no mention of tea or coffee and 2) it is “not a commandment or constraint but a principle” therefore not binding.

There has been much speculation over the years about what is forbidden, with members moving in their thinking from hot drinks to speculating whether the true purpose of the principle is the avoidance of caffeine. This led to the more zealous concluding that it was therefore wrong to drink Coca Cola, even Lucozade and similar drinks.

Mormon leaders have spoken about avoiding tea and coffee and warned the zealous not to take it too far, insisting that it doesn’t include Coca Cola. But then it doesn’t include tea and coffee and, in the original form, it is neither a commandment nor a restraint. In Christian tradition there are moral counsels, exhortations considered helpful in attaining the good Christian life; not binding precepts but guidance. The Word of Wisdom in its original form appears to fall into this category.  Since there is no revelation, that is in the Standard Works, that specifically commands or mentions any of these things that Mormons worry about then Mormons are not truly bound except by conscience. Now there’s a novel idea.

One idea that Mormons can't abide is that Mormonism is influenced by the society around it. Things that seem unique to Mormonism today were often the product of the age. The Word of Wisdom is a good example. The way the story is told you might be forgiven for believing that society at large was smoking, drinking etc. and being otherwise "worldly" and Mormons did the same until Joseph Smith had a revelation called the Word of Wisdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. At that time a temperance movement was sweeping America and most churches swore off drink, tobacco and, yes, tea and coffee as stimulants. If the Word of Wisdom hadn't been taught then Mormonism would have been the odd one out not the most enlightened.

Previous Posts:

Mormonism: A Cult?

Jesus: God the Son, or the son of a god?

Kolob: Where God Lives?

God, Mary and the 'S' Word

Jesus in America

What Every Mormon Wants: godhood

Mormon Women

Mormon Secret Underwear

More Than One Kolob?

In Black and White

The Elusive Gold Plates


Coming Up:

Mission or Metaphor?

Family of the gods

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