A good explanation of the Mormon-and-caffeine kerfuffle

(h/t) to Silverrain.

I thought this Plato-like discussion on Mormons and caffeine was very well done.

The highlight:

Mordecai: What does caffeine have to do with any of this? And why doesn’t the Church make it clear whether drinking caffeine breaks a rule you have to follow to be faithful?

Alan: I think it has. You don’t have to give up caffeine to be baptized or to make the covenants involved in our temple ceremonies. You do have to give up coffee and tea, at least as a general rule. But remember that fidelity isn’t just about following rules. Mormons are supposed to keep the Word of Wisdom not just to show that they’re willing to follow God’s rules, but to take care of their body and avoid addictions so that they can be more useful to God. I’m sure there are many members who can use caffeine safely, without putting either of these goals in jeopardy. I’m sure there are others who become addicted to caffeine or use it to sustain unhealthy sleep schedules–and that some of these are at a place in their life where they can’t avoid that, and drinking caffeine is the least of the evils they have to choose among. It’s not my job to judge.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

5 thoughts on “A good explanation of the Mormon-and-caffeine kerfuffle

  1. , but to take care of their body and avoid addictions so that they can be more useful to God

    Or I might add, so that we can be our happiest and fulfill our highest potential.

  2. Mordecai: So do you think some Mormons want the Church to just come out and say “caffeine is okay” so that they don’t have to feel conflicted over whether their own use of caffeine violates their covenants?

    Alan: To be fair, some of them probably just want their judgmental in-laws to leave them alone. But yes, I think there’s an ever-present temptation to reduce fidelity to rules because, in a sense, rules are easy. They may sometimes be hard to follow, but they’re easy to measure yourself by. It’s easier to say, “I’ve never cheated and I’ve always gotten her nice birthday presents,” than to ask yourself whether your wife is really as important to you as you promised she’d be.

  3. Caffeine is definitely addictive. In that sense I don’t think it’s possible to use it regularly while still avoiding the problem of addiction. On the other hand it’s not a particularly destructive addiction, “withdrawal symptoms” consisting of headaches and feeling a little crappy for a week or so.

  4. Agellius – I use caffeine sparingly and have never suffered addiction symptoms. Mostly, I drink a coke or dr. pepper because I have a headache and need to work or because I am driving and need to stay awake. I use the substance about 1-2 times per month. My most regular use is on temple trips because our temple is a few hours away and I want to be careful not to get in an accident while driving our youth.

    Again, I’ve never felt any addiction or withdrawal symptoms. I realize everyone is different, but for me – no problems.

  5. Dave:

    I probably wasn’t clear. I meant that it’s addictive if used regularly, and by that I meant pretty much daily. I agree that everyone’s different. I too can use it occasionally (usually in the form of Diet Coke) without any evident problems.

    But I think the addictiveness of caffeine when used daily is pretty well established. It can also disrupt your sleep, and it tends (combined with the sleep effect, perhaps) to increase anxiety and irritability.

    And I’m not even Mormon! : )

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