It’s a lot more complicated than just “tea” these days, isn’t it? Can we say for sure what the Word of Wisdom status is of all the variations? Some are easy, others less so.

1. Black tea — definitely out.
2. Iced (black) tea — definitely out, too.
(1a and 2a. But what if they’re decaf?)
3. Green tea.
I’ve heard from various members that green tea is okay. My current bishop said he doesn’t know whether it’s prohibited. I’m really not sure, either.
4. Oolong tea.
My bishop has no idea whether this is allowed. It’s not a product that you see as much as Black or Green, but it’s becoming a lot more popular in California lately, as it’s part of all sorts of new fad diets.
5. Chai tea.
Again, no idea. I have the vague impression that there are a whole bunch of different chais. Do they all contain black tea? Does anyone know?
6. White tea.
Um, what the heck is white tea, anyway? I see it in the supermarket sometimes, and in the occasional Chinese restaurant.
7. Yerba Mate.
About 10,000 former Argentine missionaries drink this stuff. I’m pretty sure it’s allowed.
8. Roibos.
I’m fairly confident it’s allowed. (Side note: Did you know, they collect this stuff using _ants_? Pretty cool.)
9. Peppermint, chamomile, etc.
Allowed, widely used.
10. Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime and Cranberry Apple Zinger.
Like Green Jello, these are required to be in the pantry of any church member who expects to attain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.

Honorable mention: Chapparal.
Used by my inlaws as a traditional general cure for everything, but really ought to be prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.

101 comments for “Teas

  1. Since 1-6 are all variations of the same thing, I assume that they are equally disallowed.

  2. Are they, Jim?

    Is it the plant that’s disallowed, the processing, or both?

    Green tea and black come from the same plant — but then, so do grape juice and wine. Or sugarwater and rum.

  3. I think 1-6 are out too. They’re all real tea. As for grape juice and wine, sure they’re both from grapes, but grapes aren’t prohibited. Wine is. As far as I know, the drinking of tea from the tea plant is verboten.

    Rum is from grapes???

  4. “Rum is from grapes???”

    No, no. Rum is fermented-and-distilled sugar water, basically. Twas an illustration that sometimes it’s the process, not the plant, that’s banned.

    “As far as I know, the drinking of tea from the tea plant is verboten.”

    Well, maybe. I really don’t know.

    We do know that drinking black tea is verboten. And drinking Cranberry Apple Zinger is okay. But beyond that, can we say?

    Is it because Black Tea is from the tea plant? Are we sure? I’m not sure. I have gotten no solid clarification, one way or the other, when I’ve asked local leaders. And I haven’t seen anything in official sources except for the general term “tea” — which local leaders that I’ve talked to, take to mean black or iced-black tea.

  5. In your examples, Kaimi, the processing turns them into something new, a new thing with a new content. In the case of tea, I’d say not. Only a lawyer could stretch tea leaves from the same plant fermented for different lengths of time (not, notice, processed in different ways) to be “something new.”

    Additionally, previous usage is a pretty handy guide to what was meant: “tea” didn’t refer to the processing method for JS and other Americans, nor for the Brits from whom we got it. It referred to the leaves of the tea plant, however processed, whether green, black, or in between. So, herbal teas (“tisanes” or “infusions”) have been allowed since the beginning of the W of W, and (to the degree that anything was prohibited at a particular time) teas from the tea plant were prohibited.

    Introducing new designations for those teas doesn’t change that distinction, so 1-6, being variations of the same thing–various stages in the fermentation of tea leaves–fall under the W of W’s prohibition.

  6. “Only a lawyer could stretch tea leaves from the same plant fermented for different lengths of time (not, notice, processed in different ways) to be “something new.””

    But Jim, being “fermented for different lengths of time” is _exactly_ the difference between grape juice and wine, isn’t it? Or, for that matter, between beer and Korean barley-water.

  7. “Additionally, previous usage is a pretty handy guide to what was meant: “tea” didn’t refer to the processing method for JS and other Americans, nor for the Brits from whom we got it. It referred to the leaves of the tea plant, however processed, whether green, black, or in between.”

    Did it?

    I’m happy to accept this interpretation, if accurate. I just don’t know that it is. My own impression is that only black tea was available in Joseph Smith’s day.

    “So, herbal teas (”tisanes” or “infusions”) have been allowed since the beginning of the W of W”

    Have they? Elder Widstoe considered them off limits, right? (Of course, he considered a _lot_ of things off limits).

    “Introducing new designations for those teas doesn’t change that distinction”

    My understanding (which could be wrong) is that these are not new designations, but rather old traditional teas in China/India, which were simply not exported and not known to Joseph Smith.

  8. What difference does it make? Tea is yucky, in all the forms I have tasted. Watery, with an aftertaste. That nasty fruit flavored water rates the same—either drink jiuce, or drink water, already! Much rather drink water, or lemonade, or hot cocoa (hotter the better; very nice with a peppermint stick). I can’t even walk past herbal tea aisles without flashbacks of Granma’s cure-all, camomile tea…I think folks faked being better faster than they were, just to avoid her saying “Here you go, dear, drink up!”

  9. I think that the specific applications of principles like this are areas where we are left to our own best judgment, or to govern ourselves, without imposing any more or less stringent requirements on others than is provided by general revelation.

    Otherwise, we risk looking beyond the mark.

  10. I know in my mission, southern chile, drinking yerba mate was a no no, although things might have changed. we were encouraged to ask the members to cut down, or quit all together.

    I have another question, what about tea extract? my wife really likes the flavor of kashi cheerios, which have green tea extract, although my wife has never had a drink of green tea.

    quinn mccoy

  11. Quinn,

    That’s a good question. I would think it would be okay, myself, but that’s just my opinion.

    Possibly relevant fact: A good 80% of church members happily consume coffee extract on a regular basis.

    (That’s the most common source of caffeine for your Coke, Diet Coke, etc. — caffeine extracted from coffee beans during the decaf process)

  12. deb,

    That’s what I thought, too — until someone sat me down with a mug of English Breakfast with honey and lemon, or Earl Grey with sugar. The difference is that herbal teas are watery and boring; real tea can (and does) actually taste good.

    As far as the designations go, I don’t see why green tea would be in if black tea is out, given they share similar properties the same way that, say, rum and whiskey do. But if it is, can you have green tea bubble tea, but not black tea bubble tea? Or is bubble tea ‘tea’ no matter what kind of tea you put in it?

  13. How about coffee ice cream? Anyone wanna tackle that question?

    FYI, a counselor in my stake presidency growing up used to say, “Well, it isn’t hot and it isn’t a drink. So it should be okay.”

  14. i guess these questions really just lead us back to the reason for not drinking ‘hot’ ‘drinks’ in the first place, which of course has been given numerous reasons for existence. not to change topicsm, though. i assume if cooking with red wine vinegar is ok, then cooking with red wine is ok. and as such, taking something from tea that might be useful is therefore ok.

  15. And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

    Is there an herb more wholesome than green tea?

  16. My Mission Mom loved coffee ice cream.

    I don’t drink any hot drinks outside of hot chocolate, and no iced teas. It’s too complicated and not worth the effort to figure out for me.

  17. Quinn – Does “Southern Chile” mean the Osorno mission? I can report that mate *WAS* at one time permitted in Southern Chile, with members and missionaries alike. In the early 90s, I understand, there was talk of prohibiting the missionaries from drinking it … so that they could get work done.

  18. queuno – yes, osorno, this was the late 90s, and i assume that missionaries were wasting their time, and therefore, we were encouraged to get people to stop. i thought it was weird because all the argentines always said that they had never heard anything of the sort. i’m sure it was something that lasted a year and then went by the wayside.

  19. Taking mate away from the Argentines would be like banning mom and apple pie in the US — ain’t gonna happen. It’s too much of a cultural stape. At least in Chile, there are enough anti-Argentines that a ban wouldn’t have been too widely disputed, and mate is not a cultural staple.

    I have fond memories of spending my P-Day in Puerto Montt playing canasta (shhhh!) and passing around the mate (late 80s to early 90s).

    But I think it would have probably worked best to ban the missionaries from drinking it but let the members (but tell the members, if you want the missionaries to stay for “once”, you’ve got to serve Ecco and milk, to get them out faster).

  20. I’m aware that not too many years ago, at least one mission president in Brazil relayed to his missionaries that the Area Authority for that mission had instructed that the missionaries should no longer teach that green tea was prohibited by the Word of Wisdom.

    I personally have no idea what the right answer is, but I acknowledge that Kaimi’s question (at least as it pertains to green tea) is not as easily and definitively resolved as it may appear to those who use the particular DNA as the definition of the leaves involved as their operating rule.

  21. I was always more of a Coronado fan myself. Mate, with or without the accompanying half pound of azucar, was, is, and always will be completely not missed from my regular diet.
    As for tea, I think these are great questions. I’ll admit to being pretty confused at the infusion (ha) of tea derivatives into the food chain. Thanks, Jim F for the clarification.

  22. When on the mission in Bulgaria, the word that was on the official discussion flipbook is translated “black tea”. Oddly enough the word in Bulgarian for all kinds of tea (and the same in Russian I believe) is chai. I know that the discussions were brethren approved, and so when offered tea, we only declined black tea but would drink the other kinds. Take it for what it’s worth.

  23. Chai is a blend of spices–cinnamon and others–and while it’s often added to black tea, it can also be herbal tea (for example, the rooibos chai from Trader Joe’s).

  24. 2- I don’t see why it should be granted without need for discussion that iced tea is “definitely out”- it’s clearly not a hot drink. Why don’t folks file it with coffee ice cream and rum cake?

  25. I’ve never seen anything useful on how to judge what is appropriate and what is not. I live in Japan and the members here do not drink green tea or most anything else except the barley tea (mugicha / 麦茶). It’s not an issue in big parts of the world but the no tea thing here is catastrophic. I have no explanation when pressed (especially if I happen to be drinking a coke while the person across from me drinks a green tea) that makes any sense. My latest response is pretty much a laugh and a shrug together with a comment like “you can’t expect all religious beliefs to make sense or else you’d never manage to be a part of any religion.”

  26. This conversation reminds me of hearing my (devout) Jewish colleagues discuss issues related to keeping kosher. Esoteric stuff.

    Just FYI, Kaimi: Oolong is just a type of black tea. Definitely out. Please let your bishop know lest he lead anyone astray.

    This aspect of the WoW is a tough one, because tea is clearly a gift from above. Maybe it’s some kind of eternal consolation prize. (“Sorry ’bout the TK smoothie. Would you like a nice cup of Earl Grey?”)

  27. How about “study it out for yourself, pray about the answer, and do what you believe to be right, whether you like it or not.”

    Like the rest of life. Too complicated?

    I don’t do any version of any tea that is tea based (don’t care about the color), and nothing in 1-8 has any appeal to me. I had some jasmine tea once and hated it. I like some herbal teas, but I’ve got boxes in my cupboard that I haven’t opened in years (and should probably throw away since they’re stale). I’ve learned that I like coffee-free frappucinos at Starbucks, and italian sodas are nice sometimes too, but I mostly avoid them because there’s really nothing in the world that’s worth more than a dollar or so for 20 oz of to me under normal circumstances.

    Of all of the things in the gospel that can be tough to deal with, this isn’t one of them for me. I’m not remotely drawn to coffee, tea, tobacco or alcohol. I respect those who have to struggle against them, but I’m not at all sorry that I don’t. That part of my TR interviews are quick and easy.

  28. I seem to recall that the old German discussions (back when there were 6 of them) specifically mentioned abstaining from black and green tea.
    Ice tea doesn\’t necessarily have black tea in it (or at least not in Germany).

  29. This dfds tastes pretty good and it’s gotta be better for one than carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, Potassium Benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid and caffeine (i.e. Diet Coke), no?

  30. Tea is tea.


    Not sure why this is so difficult for so many people in the church. It’s funny. I run a Word of Wisdom site, and tea-realted questions are the ones I am asked most frequently. I even get people asking me to tell them where the prophets have said any drink from the Camelia sinensis plant is what is meant by tea.

    Tea is tea.


    Tea is an infusion made by steeping processed leaves, buds, or twigs of the tea bush, Camellia sinensis, in hot water for several minutes, after which it is drunk.

    The four basic types of true tea are black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea.

    The term “herbal tea” usually refers to infusions or tisane of fruit or herbs that contain no Camellia sinensis.[1]

    AND WHAT IS THIS TERRIBLE “Camellia sinensis” PLANT? This is also from wikipedia:

    Camellia sinensis is the tea plant, the plant species whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. It is of the genus Camellia (Chinese: 茶花; pinyin: Cháhuā), a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. White tea, green tea, oolong and black tea are all harvested from this species, but are processed differently to attain different levels of oxidation. Kukicha (twig tea) is also harvested from camellia sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than leaves.

  32. ”Sorry ’bout the TK smoothie. Would you like a nice cup of Earl Grey?”


  33. I don’t think textual arguments are very effective with the Word of Wisdom, even those that harken to originalism like Jim F’s. If we have learned anything over the last 95 years it is that the Word of Wisdom has much more to do with phophetic utterances (continuing revelation) than the text of D&C 89. Of course, that doesn’t help with this particular discussion or many others like it because we are currently left with out official statements on these particular issues. Thus the great anecdotes throughout the comments re mission presidents’ wives and area authorities policies.

  34. I don’t drink either black, green, white or oolong teas, but the “tea is tea” arguments ignore some legitimate ambiguities raised by Kaimi in #4, 6, 7 and 11.

  35. I’ll give up my decaf green tea over someone’s dead body…and I’ll be keeping my temple recommend, thank you very much as I believe that I’m truthfully keeping the WoW (moderation in all things). I’ve decided to start observing the D&C 89 WoW and that is between me and my Heavenly Father.

  36. I don’t get the “moderation in all things” mantra as applied to our Church. It’s not scriptural and isn’t really a tenet of our faith. Moderation in some things sure… but there are a lot of things we’re asked not to be moderate about at all, but to forsake wholesale.

  37. Marc #40, a post I read a long time ago at a less reputable blog made the point that true Christianity is in many ways all about moderation. I think the post was close to spot on. Here was one of the comments:

    I think the issue is one of definition and semantics. If you define Church teachings as the extreme or define moderation as dealing with church teachings in a luke warm manner you will of course come to the conclusion that moderation is bad. However, if moderation is defined in a broader manner: Such as, the Lord commands us in ways that lead to a moderate life style. Thus chastity but not celibacy; a total love of God but that makes room for frivilous yet fun activities; the word of wisdom but not being barred from the temple for eating ho-hos (I love ho-hos).

  38. “Tea is tea” you say. No! Types of tea are distinguished by the processing they undergo. Black tea is fully oxidized, Green is unoxidized probably accounting for the vast difference in their health benefits.

    Also the water for Black teas should be added at the boiling point (100 °C or 212 °F) truly making Black tea a “hot drink”. The water for Green tea should be added at a lower temperature, around 80 °C to 85 °C (176 °F to 185 °F).

    Given that we are currently left with out official statements on these particular issues, I believe that it is left to personal revelation, as a result, I am very comfortable drinking Green tea.

  39. Snapple’s ad campaign must not be nationwide. “White tea is made from baby tea leaf.”

  40. Marc #40 (overkill warning): Also temperance (defined as “Self-restraint and moderation in action of any kind,” OED) is scriptural. See D&C 12:8 (“And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.”).

  41. Elder Oaks is not a fan of the phrase “moderation in all things”. (See “Our Strengths can Become Our Downfall”.)

  42. “…a total love of God but that makes room for frivilous yet fun activities; the word of wisdom but not being barred from the temple for eating ho-hos (I love ho-hos)….”

    Oh man, just for a moment my mind was opened to a vision of what life would be like if President Monson announced that a new question would be added to the list for those seeking a temple recommend: “Do you now or have you ever consumed chocolate in any form, or do you consort with or support individuals or groups that support the consuming of chocolate for personal use or pleasure?”

  43. Nat #45: Good point

    “The idea that our strengths can become our weaknesses could be understood to imply that we should have “moderation in all things.” But the Savior said that if we are “lukewarm,” he “will spue [us] out of [his] mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment. That is not moderation, but indifference. That kind of moderation runs counter to the divine commands to serve with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), to “seek … earnestly the riches of eternity” (D&C 68:31), and to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79). Moderation is not the answer.” Elder Oaks, “Our Strengths can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign October 1994 (http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=9d1b3ff73058b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1)

    Kaimi, I promise I’m now done with this threadjack. I will cease and desist.

  44. My personal opinion:

    1-6 Definite no. I agree with Kim Siever here. Tea is tea. (Unless it’s herbal tea, which brings us to the next category.)

    7-9 Case by case basis. Most herbal teas are better than soda pop, but not all herbal teas are innocuous. Comfrey, for example, can cause liver failure. I drank my fill of herbal teas in Germany and have felt little need to drink any since.

    10 Never heard of them. Is it the same sort of thing as Postum?

    We don’t drink coke/diet coke/etc. but I would never explain it to my kids in terms of the Word of Wisdom. I explain that they contain caffeine which is a type of medication and should be reserved for medical use and not for recreational use. My kids have seen me use it for morning sickness, which works for me, but might not for someone who is used to the effects of caffeine.

    And a correction to Kaimi’s #11: the caffeine in Coke and Pepsi comes from the kola nut which is not related to coffee.

    Kola Nut: family Malvaceae, Latin name Cola nitida
    Coffee: family Rubiaceae, many varieties including Coffea arabica
    Chocolate (for what it’s worth): family Sterculiaceae, Theobroma cacao

  45. Matt W (21) – Not the same thing. If there were a hue and cry about banning grape juice that had been left on a sunny counter for a week, then maybe we’d have a similar analogy.

    The Church leadership in South America routinely said that yerba mate and other herbal teas was just fine; it was just the black teas that weren’t OK. The problem would be all of the missionaries who’d come from Utah with their mission to impose order on the Saints in Argentina and Chile.

  46. Roibos Tea….

    Commonly drunk by native South African TR holding LDS. I have seen GA’s from SLC drink it as well as native South African MP’s

  47. researcher – 48 is fine, however, that still doesn’t answer my question from before kaimi’s response: what about tea extract?

  48. I have two questions that I would love input on.

    1) What is the problem with tea? If it is just that we obey for the sake of obediance I can deal with that but I think the other parts of the WoW are so easy to explain and they seem so rational.

    2) Shouldn’t the church come out with some sort of standard on this? My rational is the fact that it is one the temple recommend interview. Say that a person drinks green tea because when they took the discussions the missionaries told them black tea was off limits (that is what I always said as I had only heard of black tea and herbal tea). Then they find out that green tea is bad and risk their temple recommend when if we all knew the standard right away there would be no confusion.

  49. 51 – – You want me to make your decision for you? Sorry. I don’t do that. Just wanted to note what my husband and I have decided.

    I buy the cucumber and green tea diaper wipers and my baby grabs one out of the container to slurp sometimes (he’s always thirsty due to his meds) but that’s among the least of our worries. This kid is taking meds twice a day that have to be suspended in alcohol. He’s a dipsomaniac already and he’s not in nursery yet!

    (I am being silly just in case it’s not clear.)

    I sincerely doubt that a bishop would deny a temple recommend based on the situation in 52. I know at least one card carrying member who drinks green tea. But don’t take my word for it. When in doubt, ask the bishop. You might get an answer in the Heber J. Grant tradition and you might get one in the David O. McKay tradition. I imagine that if having a temple recommend is important to you, you would be willing to live with either answer.

  50. Only one thing is missing from this discussion, which may help lead to an answer about tea: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Once that is solved, then surely we can solve simpler things such as which sort of tea to imbibe. The problem with these debates, in my mind, is that they make the topic actually seem important, as they get even more heated than, say, questions of charity. When was the last time you heard a good debate over charity, and love? Or even a sacrament meeting theme? In my ward in 16 years, the favorite topics are, in this order, obedience, obedience, food storage, and such external measures of religiosity as the word of wisdom and the current standards of modesty. Not one meeting I can remember on something abstract and invisible. And I don’t even drink tea.

  51. When I first glanced, I thought the headline said “Texas” and I barely caught “more complicated than just ‘tea'” — I thought it was going to be some political diatribe on light sweet crude and Jed Clampett and offshore drilling. Silly me.

    I’ll add a real comment after I get a running start on the actual topic.


  52. I feel blessed to have no desire to drink tea. Why would I need something as a substitute for hot chocolate?

  53. “hot drinks are not for the body or belly”

    Does this strike anyone else as an oxymoron?

  54. Re. 45- I don’t really care what Elder Oaks thinks about it. When he’s the prophet I’ll listen, until then I’m just as entitled to revelation as he is.

  55. We were regularly told to explain to investigators that they couldn’t drink black tea, but anything else was ok. I was told the same thing two years ago when I was introduced to the iced chai latte by my bishop while we were driving to daddy/daughter camp. Now I have an iced chai latte three or four times a month, that’s some good stuff. It tastes like cinnamon, sugar and pumpkin mixed with lots of ice and whole milk. Mmmmhhh.

    And I don’t get the coffee is bad but tieramasu and coffee ice cream are fine, which is what I’ve heard from stake presidents, bishops and my nosy former neighbor when she saw me holding a Starbucks cup.

  56. “Re. 45- I don’t really care what Elder Oaks thinks about it. When he’s the prophet I’ll listen, until then I’m just as entitled to revelation as he is. ”

    Uh, say what?

  57. Kaimi, just FYI, Chai is fine, if you make it at home. Commercially prepared chai often has a token handful of black tea thrown in, but I had an old Indian man in Santa Cruz teach me his mother’s chai recipe, and I make it all the time, simply leaving out the handfull of black tea. You can’t taste the difference at all.

    Chai is crushed cinnamon sticks, whole black peppercorns, crushed cardamom pods, minced fresh ginger, honey, allspice and whole cloves. Nothing verboten there. Add milk, yum.

  58. Just don’t go slanderin’ red tea (roobois)

    Not tea at all, very tasty, makes a killer iced tea with a little lemon and sugar.

    It’s sweeter than black tea, so the uninitiated palate might have an easier time with it (lol)

  59. Tony, Elder Oaks is a prophet. He has the keys of prophecy as do all of the 70. And you are right, you have just as much right to recieve revelation. Thanks for all the laughs. It has been very enjoyable to read the sarcasm. I see a legitimate concern to identify rules that need to be followed. But let us not be like the Jews who have to have every jot and tittle of the law. This is how they came to count thier steps on the sabbath! They couldn\’t determine how to keep the sabbath holy without that definition. I enjoy my agency and don\’t need to know what tea, liquer, honesty, fornification or any other gospel principle is. If it isn\’t written in scripture or modern revelation, I can ask my Heavenly Father and get an answer. And sometimes the answer is what do you think? And sometimes it is just – \”better to err on the side of caution\”.

  60. I realize this debate is raging in letter of the law territory and therefore not integral to eternal salvation, but the base tea in chai (commercially prepared, as tracy m mentions) is almost ALWAYS black tea, and not just a smidge, either. If black tea is out for you, count chai tea out too. Starbucks’ description of an iced chai latte is “A spicy drink of black tea infused with cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and star anise added to fresh milk and ice.” A 16-oz. serving contains 100 mg. That’s three times as much as in an equal serving of Diet Coke, just for the record.

    I went on a small education campaign when our seminary students were showing up to class with chai tea from the ‘Bucks in hand. If you choose to drink it, great, but please don’t do so because it’s not tea.

  61. researcher – i wasn’t really concerned with tea extract per se, but rather, what are the boundry lines, for things like the WoW, in general? the question was asked earlier, why are these things forbidden? is it just to test obedience? does it even matter? i ask these questions because things seem to exist for some sort of reason. so i wonder, what are we supposed to do with them?

  62. “A 16-oz. serving contains 100 mg. That’s three times as much as in an equal serving of Diet Coke, just for the record.

    I went on a small education campaign when our seminary students were showing up to class with chai tea from the ‘Bucks in hand. If you choose to drink it, great, but please don’t do so because it’s not tea. ”
    The place I get it says it doesn’t contain any black tea. I asked after my bishop bought me one. And if caffeine had anything to do with i, Dr. Pepper and chocolate would be part of the WOW.

  63. While Tony (#61) did phrase things a little harshly, I believe he is correct that there is a difference between statements made by General Authorities and those issued by the President or the First Presidency. That was the problem with Mormon Doctrine — while Bruce R. McConkie was a General Authority when the book was published, senior LDS leaders were reportedly unhappy with the book because he was not authorized to declare LDS doctrine in the authoritative manner in which he did so in the book.

  64. Wow. 73 comments before the Mormon Doctrine bashing started.

    Might be a Bloggernacle record.

  65. “there is a difference between statements made by General Authorities and those issued by the President or the First Presidency”.

    What exactly is the difference? Neither can be absolutely taken as doctrine binding on the church. And not only is Tony just as entitled to revelation as Elder Oaks, apostle, he is just as entitled as the hypothetical President Oaks.

  66. I consider statements that are signed by the entire First Presidency and the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to be about as close to official, canonical Church doctrine as I’m going to find these days. (What else do you need? A bolt of lightning?) On the other hand, a book (or any statement) that was written by a single General Authority, without the commission or even approval of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve is nothing close to official (especially when it gets the smack-down from the real authorities — *cough* Mormon Doctrine *cough*). I generally don’t consider such statements to be much of anything other than one man’s personal opinion. Don’t get me started.

    Now, back to the topic at hand.

    I believe I have recently heard the most official statement on the subject of disparate “teas” that I’m ever going hear. Listen carefully.

    My stake president had been fielding an increasing number of questions on this topic (imagine that!), so he wrote to Church headquarters to ask for more insight. He received a letter from someone appointed by the First Presidency to respond. My stake president was asked to not make copies of the letter (think of the hair-splitting and the hedge-making that would ensue!), but to share it at his discretion, so he read it aloud to me (and others).

    It essentially said: black tea, green tea, coffee, or any other drink that contains harmful or addictive substances is to be avoided. I took that to also include caffeinated pops and so-called “energy” drinks. I never really had any desire to put those crap drinks into my system, and I tend not to drink pop of any kind anyway, but the content of the letter (especially the part about addictive and harmful substances) pretty much sealed it for me. Plus, it gave me knew ammo for the teenage boys I work with in the ward. I think the letter also expounded a bit on “agency” in the light of healthiness (is that like truthiness?), but I could be mis-remembering.

    My wife loves peppermint tea (preferably freshly grown, harvested, and dried at home) with honey, yet she’s never had a drop of caffeine in her life. Ever. I think she’s in the clear on that point.

    Personally, I’m in the “boiled lawn clippings” camp. I also believe we should be looking for ways to keep the commandments and not looking for ways to skirt around them. (That was another bit of advice from my gentle, humble stake president.)

    Now you could argue that the letter, and therefore the advice contained therein, was addressed only to my stake president, or that it wasn’t precisely written by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and you’d be correct. (But the content of the letter was reviewed by at least, if I’m remembering correctly, President Monson, who as far as I know .) You could split hairs and build up hedges all day long. Or, you could take the smart advice, drive your stagecoach just a little further away from the edge, and do you genuine best to truly and sincerely live according to the underlying principle: be healthy in every way. Unfortunately, too many of us look past that true principle, choosing instead to skirt around it while guzzling down gratuitous amounts of meat and Diet Coke.

    Don’t get me started.


  67. No lightning is needed, just presentation of such statements in general conference as official declarations, followed by the sustaining vote by the membership.

  68. “My stake president was asked to not make copies of the letter…”
    Secret doctrine! No wonder we need blog posts on tea.

  69. It should be no surprise that this post generated so much traffic, given the cultural significance of the WOW. That the moral implications of tea can generate such debate among so many in such different settings demonstrates that WOW binds us together and sets us apart. I have always thought that was one of the most important reasons for it.

  70. Re. 80- Amen, Alex. Without such action you end up with Pharisaic pronouncements by varying levels of church authorities who often contradict each other along with pointless, no-win internet debates.

  71. Once you try Rooibos, you will no longer desire to break the WOW. It is like liquid manna from the African heavens. It will help you to escape the sinful closet black tea guzzling life that you probably lead. Forsake your wicked ways, drink Rooibos.

    This comment was sponsored by Trader Joe\’s – Your Neighborhood Grocery Store.

  72. My issue is that the Word of Wisdom states, “Hot drinks”, and was only later clarified into “coffee and tea.”

    I think it fascinating how we’ve moved the doctrine forward beyond the actual scripture. I can see how “hot drinks” meant coffee and tea in Joseph Smith’s day. They didn’t make much iced tea in the 1830s, nor did they have Coca Cola.

    How are we to determine the current viewing of the WoW when no one will give solid examples? My mission president discouraged us from using Yerba Mate, believing it was breaking the word of wisdom. Yet, it wasn’t and isn’t explicit in the scripture, nor in the whisperings that come from Salt Lake today.

    I also had a stake president that discouraged Red Zinger tea.

    How about the new energy drinks? What about other herbs that may or may not have been discouraged by someone’s bishop or stake president?

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they would send to bishops a list of what they felt was included as a partial, but not totally inclusive list?

  73. Gerald –

    I totally agree. I mentioned this to my wife last night and she said that if you think you are obey the WoW you are. I have read that here and while i get that I have a problem with that on so many levels.

    People are able to convince themselves of just about everything and anything. Reading sec 89 I cannot imagine how one would assume that ice tea is a no-no, but everyone here seems to agree it is. Why is that? Because in the past the first presidency has seen clear to clarify the matter. I am good with that. Now we are facing with the WoW a time when the questions on tea are insignificant compared to other issues. What about steroids, most would say against the WoW, but what about other supplements? What constitutes a line? It is not practical to expect a new ruling every time something new comes out but if we understood basic guidelines, it would be much easier to make decisions. Every person simply doing whatever they see as best sounds nice but historically, it is the foundation for apostasy, so I would be against that.

  74. Jonovitch –

    “[My wife’s] never had a drop of caffeine in her life. Ever.”

    Has she ever had any chocolate in her life? And, if so, what about that especially pernicious dark chocolate? Or does she hold a line similar to that of John A. Widstoe (and his wife)?

  75. Gerald 88: “I mentioned this to my wife last night and she said that if you think you are obey the WoW you are. I have read that here and while i get that I have a problem with that on so many levels.”

    But this is the same with all of Mormon doctrine/theology. With the WoW there are a couple baselines: no hot coffee, no beer, no hard liquor, no black tea, no smoking. Beyond that it’s a wide open and amorphous playing field. With our doctrine generally, there are a couple baselines: Christ is Savior, Joseph Smith is prophet, we have a living prophet. Beyond that it’s a wide open and amorphous playing field. You can find “active” and “orthodox” Mormons that disagree on just about everything outside those very limited baselines (and we can even argue about what Jesus is our Savior means). If that is something that bothers you about Mormonism (and I can see how it would, and maybe it should bug me more) it is something that will bug you for the rest of your life and maybe into the eternities. That’s because what is probably the most Mormon doctrine of all is that we are non-creedal and allow a vast spectrum of belief.

  76. I can hardly add anything about tea per se. I think Paul in #90 made a good point about the fine line being drawn by the individual. As for me, I don’t drink any hot drinks and just to be safe I abstain from iced tea made from the Camellia Sinensis products (and if I don’t know I err on the side of caution). No biggie for me, since I don’t feel I miss out on anything. I figure that the reason this is in the WoW is to set us apart from other people, but that’s just speculation.

    I would like to inject a bit about “harmful and addictive substances”: What about white sugar? The youngest I’ve heard anyone diagnosed with type 2 (adult onset) diabetes is eight years old. And that is thanks to consuming heaps of white sugar.

    And I’m not saying that the Lord will reject you if you add sugar to a dessert you make and then partake in *reasonable* quantities. But to guzzle sugar-laced soft drinks by the quart is to flirt with death. And that’s especially true for the so-called energy drinks that have so much sugar and caffeine (plus taurine and some other funky stuff, depending on the brand) that they give you a buzz almost like alcohol.

    What I’m getting at is that we can and should use our common sense and our right for personal revelation. Joseph Smith said that the Lord would reveal to any worthy saint the same things He has revealed to Joseph (that’s paraphrased a little from the Priesthood/RS self study guide for this year). I figure if this hair-splitting was really important, it would have been addressed in General Conference or First Presidency messages within, say, the last decade or so.

  77. In the Church, we have principles, practices, and personal preferences. In the case of the Word of Wisdom…

    …the principle is to consume what is healthy and avoid what is not.

    …the official practice relates to coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.

    …the personal preferences involve Coke, energy drinks, Yerba Mate, Caro/Pero coffee, peppermint tea, green Jell-O, sugar, corn syrup, sodium benzoate, red meat, etc. (Personally, I try to avoid all of these as I do my best to stay true to the overarching principle. As an aside, I personally find it unfortunate that “eat meat sparingly” is not part of the “official practice” list. But that’s another debate [which I am so ready for, by the way.])

    We can and should teach each other about the principles and practices of the Church, but my personal preferences cannot and should not be imposed on others. I can share examples of “what would Jon do?” in certain situations, but we must not elevate our personal preferences to be the standard for everyone else.


  78. Marc (89), we all know chocolate doesn’t count. Sheesh.

    Besides this obvious and generally accepted fact, I defer to Researcher’s comment (48) which clearly tri-furcates the main plant-sources of caffeine as “strengst verboten!,” “kinda sorta, but not on Sundays” and “come on now, everybody knows that chocolate doesn’t count.”


  79. Jonovitch-

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “eat meat sparingly” part of the WOW not being part of the official practice list, because I’ve never heard the First Presidency or other apostles encourage members to eat meat at every meal or to overly indulge in the practice,nor have I witnessed endless numbers of LDS members engaging in meat orgies regularly. We don’t eat meat at every meal in our house but we are not vegans either. The Lord says in D&C 49 that He ordained beasts and fowl as food for man and as far as I can tell, most of my LDS neighbors eat in a manner similar to ours.

    When we treat our bodies with respect and dignity even in diet, we obtain the promised blessings of hidden treasures of knowledge and strength and when we don’t-we lose. Oddly, the promise of being spared by the destroying angel is rarely mentioned in WOW discussions.

    (the other quin)

  80. You’re reading is pretty selective there Quin… after the admonition to use the “flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air… sparingly,” the Word of Wisdom says “and it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Read textually, that’s a lot more restrictive than just not eating meat at every meal.

  81. Okay, game on. (Threadjack alert.)

    Ten billion animals are slaughtered every year for meat in the USA. That’s not a typo. One year, one country, 10 *billion* sacrifices to the god of meat. We are a nation of meat guzzlers, and Mormons are not any better than the rest.

    My bishop just got five (count em: five!) drug-eluting stents placed in and around his heart. He is (or rather, he was) a meat-a-vore. Another man in my ward is vocal about his love for meat. He’s quite large, and I sincerely fear for his health. My personal opinion is that he’s not correctly practicing the word of wisdom (but again, I’d never dare to hold my standard against him in any way that counted), and I hesitantly mention it only because of the semi-anonymity here of me and especially of him.

    Yet another friend in the ward has said that animals are “filling the measure of their creation” by being eaten by us. I might buy that argument if the cows we consume actually grazed on grass as nature intended, rather than on corn-and-brains-meal while being confined to a industrial complex and pumped full of antacids, antibiotics, and hormones for the duration of their sorry shell of an existence. Furthermore, most chickens never see the outside of their one-square meter cage (which happens to be occupied by three or four other chickens) while being similarly subjected to unreal doses of hormones and antibiotics.

    Unfortunately, as more nations around the world become “modernized” they demand more meat, too. I really don’t think God intended us to grow meat to the tune of billions of carcasses per annum. And I really do think he was serious about eating meat sparingly, **as he clearly stated,** and only in times of winter, or cold, or famine (i.e., when our grains — you know, “the staff of life” — are having a hard time growing out of the ground).

    Yes, I do bring this up whenever a Word of Wisdom lesson is introduced (because it’s usually completely disregarded as irrelevant), and yes, I think too many of us otherwise good and faithful Mormons are selectively ignoring clear, plain, simple advice given to us by the Creator of all things.

    Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice from me: try preparing your next dinnertime meal using a little meat as a garnish or a flavor enhancer, rather than the main dish. You might feel a little better about yourself (maybe), and you might realize you’re not missing out on much by gulping down large amounts of another animal’s artificially enhanced muscle tissue.

    But this thread is about tea. (I told you I was ready for this debate.) End of threadjack.


  82. Marc, your reading is equally selective if you ignore what the Lord says in D&C49:18-19

    18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
    19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

    (Not to mention what the Lord says in section 59)

    I’m NOT advocating the practice of being a full time “meat-o-vore” by any means, and my second comment speaks to treating our bodies with respect and proper diet. I am pointing out that once you start arguing the finest points, someone is bound to point out that verse 19 above seems to encourage wearing leather and fur as well as eating things ABUNDANTLY, and that in some places in the civilized world, “times of winter and cold” are 6+ months of the year. (after all, the Lord says times OF cold OR winter OR famine) Neither extreme is correct according to God, and at the root of God’s wishes is that we acknowledge the bounty we have been given and use it with gratitude and wisdom.

    Jonovitch, your assumption still seems to be that the majority of LDS members are exactly like your bishop or your neighbor, which I think is incorrect and rather insulting. My point is that in light of the fact that many members have large families and small budgets, most of the “average” people I know eat a lot of casseroles, pasta, etc and “Mothers Who Know” usually carry the scent of peanut butter everywhere they go. Meat is expensive and it has been my experience that most families usually stretch their “meat flavored” main dishes with other things. For example, I cannot remember even one time when a meal brought into my family by LDS ward members included steak, ribs, pork chops, or even whole pieces of chicken…seriously, and none of the hundreds of meals I’ve taken to others contained such “luxuries” either.

    Your experience may be different than mine, but that doesn’t automatically equate with conclusive evidence that a majority of good and faithful Mormons are ignoring the advice given to us by the Creator.

  83. “eat a lot of casseroles, pasta, etc and “Mothers Who Know” usually carry the scent of peanut butter everywhere they go” (98)

    When it comes down to it, many Americans eat a poor diet, heavy in processed foods, trans fats, saturated fats, sugars, etc. Have you ever looked at the label on a jar of peanut butter? This “health food” is almost as much shortening and sugar as it is peanut.

    The price of all these cream-of-mushroom casseroles, baked goods, kool-aid, soda, “fruit” snacks, packaged cookies, and trips to the drive-through:

    *gall bladder disease,
    *various diet-related cancers,
    *heart disease.

    It’s nothing that a little green tea will fix. It also can’t be fixed by eating more meat. It takes the brave and drastic step of cutting out cheap processed foods and moving to the wide and wonderful variety of healthy and fairly inexpensive ethnic diets.

    What a blessing to live in a time where we have so much choice and what a tragedy to sit and parse through the different kinds of teas and what is or isn’t good for our bodies and spirits and then go eat a couple of bowls of sugar puffs.

  84. Again, quin, you need to read to the end of the very sections you cited (and read in context).

    Section 49 addresses the Shakers’ strict prohibition of pork — another extreme position that was struck down by God. I am not a vegetarian, neither did I ever advocate that position. And yet, after decrying the prohibition of meat, we read clearly in verse 21 that too much meat is bad.

    D&C 49:21 “And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.”

    Section 59 is about sacraments and fasting and thanksgiving and the joy we can find in all the great abundance God has given us. Yet again, after pointing out that everything is for man’s use, in verse 20 we are told do be wise and moderate in our use of these things.

    D&C 59:20 “And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.”

    Neither of those sections are part of the Word of Wisdom (Section 89), which is the official health code of the Church, and which spells out most clearly of all that meat should be eaten sparingly. But that doesn’t even matter because both of them agree with the “eat meat sparingly” principle anyway! God is not contradicting himself.

    I like Researcher’s comment (99) most of all. Cheap, processed “food products” are not any better than any other officially restricted item on the list. As I like to put it, “real food does not come in a box!”

    To clarify once more: meat is okay if used sparingly, not excessively, and needfully. God said so — in three different sections (thanks for pointing them out!). Also, real grains and fruits and vegetables (not manufactured “food products”) should be the basis of our diet. The fewer the ingredients on the label (and the easier to pronounce), the better.

    In the Church and out, I generally see an overblown lust for meat. I never claimed evidence of a majority, I simply offered a few recent examples as an illustration of the problem (I have plenty more examples, and it sounds like others do, too). In the end, I think we’re agreeing vociferously.

    I apologize again for the threadjack, but did you really expect a debate on the finer points of the Word of Wisdom to stay on topic?


  85. Quin – Have you read what I’ve written? My reading isn’t selective at all. I never said suggested that anyone shouldn’t eat meat, just that the WoW textually seems pretty clear, that we should eat mean sparingly, for the most part only in famine or in winter… this isn’t the same in my book as eating it “moderately.” Like most members I know, I can’t claim to only eat meat as “sparingly” as the WoW seems to call for (I’ve eaten plenty this summer), but perhaps we’d all be better off if we did.

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