Hot drinks

What are considered hot drinks?
Tea and coffee. “Hot drinks [defined as tea and coffee] are not for the body.” (E.T. Benson, Ensign, May 1983).

To what does “tea” refer?

“I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned therein; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee—the beverages in common use” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 182).

Tea as it is was consumed in the days of the early Saints, as it is today, was an infusion of the leaves, buds and internodes of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Teas derived from this plant include black tea, green tea, oolong tea, congou tea, pekoe tea, orange pekoe tea and souchong tea. They are available under numerous brand and product names.

Are diet supplements that contain green tea against the Word of Wisdom
The Word of Wisdom specifically states hot drinks. It does not specify ingredients that make up those hot drinks. While many prophets since Brigham Young have clarified that hot drinks means tea and coffee, they have not said that the coffee bean or the tea leaves are in violation of the Word of Wisdom (or at least not so far as I can tell). However, that being said, iced tea is also against the Word of Wisdom, so it appears that the temperature of the drink is irrelevant. One interpretation of the hot drinks portion of the Word of Wisdom could specify only the drink form.

Are herbal teas against the Word of Wisdom?
Herbal teas are not infusions of parts of the tea plant. They are infusions of other herbs, fruits and flowers.

Is caffeine the reason tea and coffee restricted?
Not necessarily. The Lord has never said that we are to abstain from tea and coffee because of the caffeine. In fact, He has never said what the physical reason is. We are to abstain from them because it is a commandment and because they “are not for the body” (D&C 89:9).

Is decaffeinated tea or decaffeinated coffee fine to drink?
As above, caffeine has never been revealed as the reason why we are not to partake of tea and coffee. The revelation has only been interpreted as coffee and tea. Period.

Does tea include “iced tea”?
Iced tea is still an infusion of the plant mentioned above, except where the drink is derived from other sources (herbs, fruits and flowers).

Are cola drinks prohibited in the Word of Wisdom?
No. But leaders have encouraged us not to partake of them.

“With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided” (Priesthood Bulletin, Feb 1972).

Isn’t herbal tea just decaffeinated tea?
No. Herbal tea is not created from the tea plant.

Are all herbal teas then fine to drink without fear of breaking the Word of Wisdom?
No. Some do contain parts of the tea plant. Care should be taken when purchasing herbal teas to read the list of ingredients.

What about other hot drinks?
It has been said that drinking beverages of high temperatures can cause damage to the lining of the mouth, esophagus and stomach. However, “hot drinks” only refers to tea and coffee.

What were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee—the beverages in common use” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 182).

Is chocolate against the Word of Wisdom?

At no time has cocoa or chocolate been included in the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom, and at no time has the Church said that cocoa is as harmful as coffee. Those who make these claims do so on their own responsibility, and obviously without knowing the facts of the matter (Elder Mark E. Peterson, Patterns for Living [Bookcraft, 1962], pp. 235-37).

Are tea tree oil products made from the same plant as green tea?
Tea tree oil is derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. Tea is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant.

26 thoughts on “Hot drinks

  1. This is a great page, especially your citations. However, I can’t help but notice that you didn’t cite what is arguably your most controversial implication: that some herbal teas be acceptable, per the Word of Wisdom. Can you provide a citation for your claim that “tea” refers exclusively to Camellia sinensis–containing drinks? Unless we can establish that, I don’t think we have the right to claim any kind of tea to be acceptable.

    So… any sources? Thanks.

    • The Word of Wisdom itself says that all herbs are ordained for the use of man. “Use” is very vague, but still, let’s safely assume it means “wise” or “educated use” of infusions, tinctures, essential oils, seasonings, etc. If you don’t like this definition, please suggest one of your own. So I guess my question to you is why WOULDN’T herbal infusions be acceptable? A wise herbalist is very educated on the effects of herbal medicines, and knows quite well what an infusion of a plant will do to the human organism. I can hardly imagine someone being labeled “unwise” because they are taking Chamomile tea at night to help them fall asleep — especially if they want a more natural alternative to synthetic sleep aids. So again, if herbs are ordained for the use of man, but not as infusions, how do you suggest we prepare them, and why would a certain preparation be any more acceptable than others?

    • “The Word of Wisdom counsels against drinking “hot drinks,” which have been identified by early Church leaders as coffee and tea. “Tea” refers to the standard tea derived from the tea plant, sometimes called black tea or green tea. The Word of Wisdom has not been interpreted as proscribing herbal teas, stating that “all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man (D&C 89:10)” (Victor L. Ludlow, Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel, p.434).

  2. Why didn’t God erase any ambiguity by simply saying tea and coffee instead of hot drinks? Does anyone really know through an historic record why Joseph Smith wrote the revelation as he did? Why hot drinks instead of a more clearly defined tea and coffee. Surely he knew how much better the understanding would be with the latter word usage. So, one wonders if he did not mean the actual drinking of hot drinks, as opposed to warm drinks, as was the custom in that time or culture to imbibed drinks that were extremely hot and whip the hot liquid, whatever it was, past your tongue and into your esophagus were it was not felt until it hit the stomach and then with a sincerely warming sensation (no central heat in those days). It would seem that Joseph Smith the prophet would know the imminent controversy that would arise through the unclear declaration that hot drinks are not for the bely, unless that is what he meant. Sure latter-day prophets have interpreted the Word of Wisdom since then, but no new revelation has ever been revealed or announced in that regard, and that tea and coffee are good drinks when used in moderation is an irrefutable truth, and God revealed the Word of Wisdom, much like the words that appear at times out of place in his translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith merely wrote the revelation down. I do believe God could have said coffee and tea.

    • I agree with you. I have the same concerns and it has always bothered me. But one thing about the Church, you are not to question authority. Well I do question authority all the time. I think it is part of the path to truth.

  3. I think I’m with “Jeff” on this one. When any of the follow up revelations were given what was the intention of the message? (I think we can only guess) I’ve always understood it to be the “ultra-rich” highly addictive black teas that were prevelant in the mid 1800’s, full of caffiene. Were the church memebers even drinking “white or green tea then–did they even know about it (still researching this myself)” In its truest sense the Camellia sinensis is an “herb” as well, to be used with wisdom..right? So I’ve understood the message to mean to obstain from any addictive, habitual forming stimulant. Avoiding mixed infusions with tea or even vitamins because it has green tea in it doesn’t seem to follow any wisdom that i can see. There seems to be a lot of different personal opinions from the prophets on this and it is very interesting. The only other General conference reference that I could find was from the 1851, sept meeting where they “called on all the sisters who will leave off the use of tea, coffee” manifest it by raising the right hand. I see some other reference by apostels in the chruch but again they seem to reference their opinion not doctrine.

  4. When any of the follow up revelations were given what was the intention of the message? (I think we can only guess)

    Guess? Every statement I have read seems pretty clear the intent is to clarify what “hot drinks” means.

    I’ve always understood it to be the “ultra-rich” highly addictive black teas that were prevelant in the mid 1800′s

    That’s entirely possible. Black tea is a traditionally Western drink, and converts of the early church came from primarily Western countries.

    In its truest sense the Camellia sinensis is an “herb” as well, to be used with wisdom..right?

    Sure. So is tobacco. And grapes are fruit. Yet tobacco and fermented grape juice are both prohibited.

    So I’ve understood the message to mean to obstain from any addictive, habitual forming stimulant.

    That is certainly one interpretation that some could infer by generalizations of the Word of Wisdom.

    Avoiding mixed infusions with tea or even vitamins because it has green tea in it doesn’t seem to follow any wisdom that i can see.

    There is a lot in the Word of Wisdom that doesn’t make sense if you view it solely as telling us how to be healthy. It tells us to not drink wine, yet wine is healthy for us. It tells us to eat meet only in times of winter, cold, and famine, yet lots of Mormons eat meat whenever they want and as often as they want. It tells us beer is okay, yet it is prohibited by current church leaders.

    If you view the Word of Wisdom as a law of health, which arguably it has been marketed to the saints as, then parts of it are not going to make sense. If you view it as similar to Jewish Kashrat and Islamic Halal or Haraam, then things become less problematic.

  5. The Word of Wisdom was given as counsel instead of commandment. Later, God had his prophets pull four items from D&C 89 as a test of faith and faithfulness. Still later, illegal drug use was added to the list of temple recommend questions. I agree with Jeff that God didn’t tell us why he prohibited “hot drinks” (which prophets as early as Hyrem Smith declared to be tea and coffee). And it’s not important for us to know. It’s important for us to live by faith. We shouldn’t try to explain it by saying tea and coffee contain caffeine. The simple truth is that God hasn’t told us why yet. I have observed that the Lord is sometimes purposely vague so that we will have to use our brains and exercise faith.

    And I am in agreement that the tea prohibition only includes products made from the Camellia sinensis plant, which was the source of tea in 1833. Herbal teas could be used with wisdom (as we should with any dietary item).

  6. (Just noticed the email for this thread..happy to see its still going)
    Mmm? See, I guess I can’t seem to get that the tea prohibition meant Camellia Sinensis plant, but I’m open to the discussion.. I always want to learn and hear and that’s why I found this post. I want to understand. So please help me.

    A couple years back, I listened to someone teach new members that Tea”just meant the Camelias Sinensis plant as if it was church doctrine and it surprised me. They spoke of hardening Tannic Acid and not the caffeine as the “real” reason—so a lot of misinformation was given to them and I was kind of shocked and thought well since there’s no tannic acid in tea..caffeine is the only thing that Is highly addictive and stimulating…it seems pretty simple reasoning to me.

    I was born and raised in PA, and culturally taught–as if it were doctrine– that anything with caffeine was to be avoided. Probably pretty good advise but the church takes no doctrinal stance on it, as I understand, and shouldn’t need to ..we can see what happens if caffeine is abused. We all know people that do abuse–inside and outside the church–(especially with todays drinks). Back to the we don’t need to be “instructed in all things.” We should know if any one drink is controlling us.

    “My opinion” after much consideration is that we have to decide the nuances ourselves, at this point, and what the equivalent of our “hot teas” are from (180? Years later) our to us. And we should use wisdom, and seek out the best information to do so. Yes, Coffee and Tea is specific, but yet the church makes no stance on decaffeinated Coffee or Teas…assuming to leave that in our own hands. I can’t imagine being denied a temple recommend for drinking green tea, but perhaps different Bishops have strong opinions on it and it varies? –just thoughts.

    It seems so clear to me that it wasn’t so much that the saints were drinking Camelia Sinenses preparations, but “the black” highly addictive , highly stimulation preparations(I’m guessing that was all that was available to them). I can’t imagine–again only my opinion, please set me straight if this sounds absurd–But if the saints were only drinking the Camilia Sinensis plant, that was what we call today “White” tea which has very little caffeine (or in other words not addictive and not stimulating) that it may NOT have been added as a “hot tea” any more than hot chocolate wasn’t considered. It sure seems like they (not knowing about caffeine back then) were given inspiration to avoid addictive drinks. Again just my opinion.

    Of all the temple interviews I’ve had in life, I’ve only been asked If I obey the “Word Of Wisdom–never the dos and don’t , I always though that we were supposed to reconcile that with what we feel and know is true. Sure appears that many authorities in the chruch also had different thoughts on the Word of Wisdom.

    I completely respect all other opinions hear makes me think and see different perspectives. Thanks for the forum and your thoughts.

  7. Sorry, Perhaps I left some words out of my comments. My whole point was that you have your White, Oolong, Green and then your Blacker teas. All made from the same “plant.” Each relatively depends on the time its picked from the plant and how much, or the way it’s fermented. The difference seems to be the amount of caffeine that it each contains after prepared, hence my use of “preparations” of the same plant.

    It seems reasonable (to me at least) that the authorities never meant to punish the Camellia Sinensis plant just because some choose to (black) ferment it or abuse (become addicte to it) it in whatever manner —just like you were mentioning above, with Tobacco, Grapes, etc. or even “apple Juice” when specifically fermented gives you something that might impair your judgment.

  8. Troy, I’m pretty sure that Church authorities were not punishing any particular plant. I believe we should understand the meaning of the words in the revelation at the time the revelation was given. I don’t know which of the teas made from Camellia Sinesis were known to people generally in the northeastern part of the United States in 1833. I, therefore, assume that I would be safe not drinking any tea made from Camellia sinesis. I’ve read that there are some valid medicinal uses made from the plant. But as a show of faith in the Lord and faithfulness to my priesthood leaders, I abstain from tea.

    D & C 89 also teaches us, “That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make. And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.” Strong drink has been authoritatively interpreted to mean any alcoholic beverage. But recent studies show that some alcoholic drinks drunk with a particular frequency can be healthy for one’s heart. But I will not drink them, because I show the Lord I am willing to obey His commandments even if it is a sacrifice on my part to do so.

    In short, I think we “strain at gnats and swallow camels.” when we get too caught up in trying to analyze peripheral issues. The real issue is obedience to the Lord through sacrifice. I tell my non-member friends that I don’t understand why God requires this of me. But I gratefully obey Him because of His great love and care for me.

  9. Thanks for your thoughts, I do a lot of medicinal herb mixes, tinctures, capsules,etc. So these issues probably come up when I talk to people and other members more often then most. So my business is to be able to give some type of decent explaination to all types of people concerned with their health.

    It appears, that If I feel that I am obeying the the Word of Wisdom (by way of or not by way of comandment or just good temporal earthly wisdom) and being obedient to what I think the sprit of the law is then I am very happy with that.
    Thanks all.

  10. I have been told by my son that served a mission in Japan, a tea drinking society, that as missionaries they were to teach that black, white, green and oolong teas were against the Word of Wisdom.

  11. In the original word of wisdom it was very specific about alcohol and tobacco. If tea and coffee were the hot drinks, why wasn’t it specific to those as well? They were common at the time and it has always bothered me that it was not specific. There was no reason for ambiguity. Also, the Church picks and chooses what it wants to abide by. The word of wisdom is very specific about eating meat, yet that goes completely unnoticed. It is like it does not even exist in the word of wisdom. So much is made about tea and coffee in the Church when in reality neither is bad for you. In fact, there are many benefits to prudent use of tea and coffee. I do realize that it is not much to ask to reframe from using tea and coffee. The contradictions are the problem for me and picking and choosing what will be followed. There were too many livestock producers in the early Church to enforce the limited use of meat in my opinion. And it was Brigham Young that made the Word of Wisdom a commandment. It was previously a guideline. Wasn’t it Brigham Young that also commanded not to allow black men to hold the Priesthood? Wasn’t it he that believed in the curse of Cain (a common theory for Baptists and other protestant religions in America at the time – hand in hand with slavery), which has since been renounced by the Church? If he was so wrong about blacks and priesthood why should I trust him on the word of wisdom? The whole thing bothers me. There is so much hypocrisy around the word of wisdom and a lot of Church members act like drinking tea and coffee are mortal sins.

    • D&C 89 is not specific about alcohol. “Strong drinks” is a pretty generic phrase.

      I don’t think D&C 89 argues that tea and coffee are unhealthy, only that we shouldn’t consume them. I think the rationale is missing in that section.

    • Let’s be honest people drink alcohol for which purpose to be happy to be peaceful but exactly the opposite occurs and violence and arguments and murders occur. With that being said does alcohol truly bring us closer to the Lord? Does alcohol become addicting? yes, and it doesn’t just take amounts of excessive use just like meth it too can be addicting on the first try because of its false senses and to the point it’s affects. Can we live without alcohol and be happy? Yes. And what is the only thing we should depend our happiness upon in life? In my opinion, the Lord. And it says tea and tobacco alcohol and coffee, so just follow the commandments quit trying to fathom the Lords wisdom because to be honest you may have trust issues with the Church since your questioning and trying to find little dabbles to dive into. I try to follow all encouragements and commandments even little meat and meatless dinners and I have given soda up to the Lord. Strengthen your faith and just do it, find the blessings, and trust the Lord. If Joseph smith is a prophet then his words be the Lords.

  12. If a person doesn’t believe that God lives and directs His people through revelation and through authorized, inspired mortal servants, no amount of explanation of the Word of Wisdom (or any doctrine) will suffice. On the other hand, if a person has had powerful spiritual experiences with God confirming His existence and His program, a person will not see hypocrisy (pretending or acting) in His prophets but the foibles of mortality or the inscrutability of God. If Brigham Young or any other person were to lead His Church down the wrong path, the Lord would correct him or remove him. That’s one reason why no doctrine can be taught as official and the mind of the Lord unless all members of the First Presidency and Twelve sign off on it. The Lord’s thoughts are much higher than our thoughts. We can no more understand His explanation of why He instituted plural marriage, the ban on giving the priesthood to His children of African descent or women in general, and the Word of Wisdom (to just mention a few) as my trying to explain the inner workings of a computer to a toddler. That’s why faith is essential. God reveals Himself to a person. The person comes to know of the love, omnipotence, omniscience, justice, and glory of the Lord. Thereafter, the person trusts God in matters he can’t understand yet. That gives a person time to let the Lord’s program to do its marvelous transforming work in us. That trust is faith. And that’s why we are saved by grace through faith.

    • With that logic anything goes. Whatever the prophet says is inspired and of God. The logic discussed above limits any discussion or questioning. I do not for one minute believe that God denied the Priesthood to those of African descent. I think Brigham Young was a racist and that he instituted the ban. The Church has back tracked on the subject and has apologized for this policy. I don’t think it is being unfaithful to question some things that simply do not make sense and do not appear to be from God. I have a nephew on a mission and he wrote in one of his letters that he told someone considering baptism that “he did not know why “blacks” could not hold the priesthood until 1978 and that he did not know why homosexuality was a sin, but he believe in a living prophet and all he needed to do was listen and obey the prophet.” To me that is a complete cop out. He should know the answer to these questions. Just because there is a living prophet, it does not excuse members to search out the truth on their own. And when something does not seem right, it is our obligation to question it. I do not believe in the curse of Cain theory (nor does the Church any more) and I believe that the restrictions on people of African descent was merely a reflections of the times (slavery). I believe the word of wisdom is a wonderful doctrine. It was given as a guideline for living – not a commandment. Brigham Young made it a commandment many years later. Although I believe Brigham Young was a dynamitic leader, I do not believe that all of his writings and thoughts are scripture. He had a number of really bad ideas – blood atonement, etc. So forgive me if I choose to think for myself. I believe that people of African descent have been treated badly in the past by the Church and I am certainly glad this has been corrected. As far as the word of wisdom, following it not that difficult although I do question why so much emphasis on tea and coffee while completely disregarding the guidance on a meat centered diet. Tea and coffee are not specifically mentioned but the concept of eating very little meat is quite clear. That is what I mean by hypocrisy. And you questioning my faith because I do not believe in certain positions is simply wrong and an easy way to dismiss my concerns.

      • Well if you look at the world it’s population depends far more on the meat rather than herbs and fruits and vegatables. And because of his G.M.Os are born and hormone inducers and other cancer causing and harmful chemicals are injected so I understand the meatless part. Plus meat is way different from those days and now, please watch from farm to fridge.

  13. The common definition of “hot drinks” in 1833 and today is any drink that has alcohol added typically drunk hot. For example, here is a list of “hot drinks”:

    When we parse D&C 89 we read that in pertinent part it first refers to not using wine or strong drink. Strong drink was also used to mean alcohol. Then it jumps to avoiding tobacco, then it states in pertinent part: “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” “And again”? This refers back to wine and strong drinks but now throws in the “hot drinks” like hot toddy, etc. So it all makes sense.

    Now we know Brigham Young decided that the meaning of “hot drinks” meant only coffee and black tea (as mentioned by others, when ships returned from Asia they filled their hulls with tea (green tea) which then on the return trip rotted/fermented turning the green tea the color black. Black tea is nowhere near as healthful as green tea. However, since Brigham Young, people had to come up with reasons why “hot drinks” referred to tea and coffee and so everyone jumped on caffeine. So “hot caffeine” is bad but in soft drinks “cold caffeine” is okay (unless it is iced tea or iced coffee). Et cetera.

    We should be able to understand why “hot drinks” actually meant hot beverages with alcohol added — this removes the inconsistencies of why hot chocolate and colas are fine but tea and coffee are not.

    But we have a policy that is also called the “word of wisdom.” This policy comes from D&C 89 but its purpose is to keep people out of the church, out of the temples, etc. In other words, as a condition precedent, a person seeking baptism must change her diet (no alcohol, tobacco, tea or coffee), a person wishing to receive the Holy Ghost must change her diet, a person must abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol before receiving the priesthood, endowments, temple marriage. The policy is presently a “commandment” while D&C 89 is not. Hence, based on the policy, regardless of the original meaning of “hot drinks” in 1833, we abstain, inter alia, from drinking white, green, oolong, Matcha, black tea from the plant camellia sinensis but teas from other plants are fine (including yerba mate from the holly plant which is loaded with caffeine).

  14. The more I review the word of wisdom, the more questions I have about it. I don’t believe there are any good health reasons to avoid tea and coffee (of course excessive use of anything is not good). I am not convinced that tea and coffee were the original meaning of hot drinks. I think it was later decided to define hot drinks as tea and coffee. I don’t think it was inspired at all. But it is church policy. Brigham Young had a number of ideas that I don’t believe were inspired, which is a whole other conversation. We make so much out of the word of wisdom, especially the tea and coffee portion of it (which isn’t in the word of wisdom at all). It is not much to avoid tea and coffee, but to continue saying these products are unhealthy is really not correct. Even alcohol in moderate amounts is not necessary unhealthy. In fact there are many studies that suggest wine in moderation actually improves health. Instead of defending the word of wisdom as a health law we should just except the fact that we are asked not use alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee. Also, we should not have a meat centered diet as the word of wisdom is quite clear in that regard. Meat should be eaten sparingly. I have read about the added comma but I don’t buy that argument. It makes no sense to me and it seems clear to me what was intended. Trying to say caffeine is the issue in tea and coffee is ridiculous. I agree with the previous comment that hot drinks most likely was referring to alcohol added to hot drinks. That makes a lot more sense.

    Regardless though, it is Church policy to avoid tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco. To participate you need to adhere to those rules.

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