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Why Are Certain Things Forbidden In the Word of Wisdom?

by W. John Walsh

Due to the Word of Wisdom, Latter-day Saints are forbidden to consume coffee, tea, tobacco, or alcohol. While some Church members have speculated why these things are forbidden, the Lord has never given any definitive reasons and Latter-day Saints simply obey as a matter of faith.

When most people ask for the reasons behind the restrictions, they usually concentrate on coffee and tea, since they carry few known dangers.  Both alcohol and tobacco carry such well-known risks (e.g., cancer, addiction, loss of self-control) that their restrictions are somewhat obvious in the public's mind.  However, when the Word of Wisdom was received in 1833, few people suspected that alcohol and tobacco could carry such negative consequences.  It could very well be that 150 years from now, we will find out similar things about coffee and tea. 

Some Church leaders have suggested that the presence of caffeine, which affects the heart and circulatory system, is the major reason for the restriction of coffee and tea.   For this reason, they have counseled the Saints to avoid all caffeinated beverages as a violation of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom (See Cola Drinks).   However, until we receive a definitive answer, Latter-day Saints will continue to obey without knowledge of the reasons, but with full confidence that our God has some good ones.

(See "Run and Not Be Weary" by Elder L. Tom Perry; Daily Living home page; Attitudes Toward Health, Medicine, and Fitness home page)

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