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A media spotlight has been put on Church practices, largely because of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s membership in the Church.
Among the coverage was a production by NBC, titled “Mormon in America,” which aired August 23 and stated that Mormons don’t drink caffeine.
The Newsroom’s blog, located at www.mormonnewsroom.org/blog, runs a series titled “Mormonism in the News: Getting it Right.”
According to information on the website, the blog “presents several recent news articles, blog posts or videos that, in our view, provide accurate and fair reporting on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as those that misrepresent the faith to readers.”
The blog is managed and written by employees of the Public Affairs Department of the Church.
On August 29, the blog’s latest post contained a statement that said, “Despite what was reported, the Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines, known in our scriptures as ‘the Word of Wisdom’ (Doctrine and Covenants 89), prohibits alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco and ‘hot drinks’ — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee. The restriction does not go beyond this.”
Shortly after, the blog post was dated with changes to the previous statement:
“Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and ‘hot drinks’ — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.”
Though the language had been changed, some readers of the blog did not ignore the original phrasing and viewed the post as absolute clearance on caffeine consumption.
Nationwide, media have responded to the statements, reporting that caffeinated beverages had been given the official green light by Latter-day Saints.
But according to a note in the Church’s Newsroom blog’s “About” section, “information here is reliable and accurate but should not necessarily be viewed as official statements from the Church.”
Official news releases and statements from the Church are available on the Newsroom’s main website.
Regardless of whether the statements bear official status, they were sufficient to ignite a student-led movement at Brigham Young University for caffeinated drinks to be sold on BYU’s campus.
BYU student Josh Belnap began a petition August 31 on www.change.org.
According to the petition’s introduction, “The governing body of the school recently stated that it is not opposed to the use or consumption of caffeine. BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins recently stated that the reason the drinks are not served is due to the fact that there is no demand. This petition is to show the overwhelming demand.”
The petition had been signed by 958 sporters as of September 15.
“Here’s your demand,” Dave Owen of Seattle, Wash., said in a comment after adding his name to the petition.
A Facebook gro named “BYU for Caffeine” was created and had more than 2,000 members as of September 13.
The gro was later deleted, but a new one by the same name was created and had 218 “likes” as of September 15.
The Universe, BYU’s student newspaper, reported that BYU Dining Services Director Dean Wright doesn’t anticipate an imminent change in which beverages are offered on campus.
“As a business, at this point we’re just not seeing a need to break tradition with the products that we offer,” Wright told The Universe. “Certainly our students can go off campus and buy anything they like. We’re not trying to make any type of a judgment call.”
According to The Universe, BYU police officers asked a student-organized pro-caffeine protest to move off campus on September 14, as it had not gone through the proper channels necessary to hold a protest.
Whether Latter-day Saints should or should not drink caffeine has been a topic of debate for decades.
In his 1996 “60 Minutes” appearance, President Gordon B. Hinckley responded affirmatively when asked by Mike Wallace if members of the church abstain from caffeine.
In an April 1996 general conference address by President Boyd K. Packer of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he stated, “The Word of Wisdom was ‘given for a principle with promise’ … Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom… There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation.”