Those unfamiliar with the nuances of the Word of Wisdom will sometimes assume that tea and coffee are forbidden because of the caffeine or defend other distinctions to make sense of the prohibition of those drinks and not other similar drinks. In each case the defense of different attributes of the drinks as the active principle behind the prohibition breaks down:

  • caffeine: other caffeinated drinks are okay and now sold on BYU’s campus. From this we can conclude that it’s not about the caffeine.
  • temperature: the original revelation specified “hot drinks” but the temperature seems irrelevant: iced tea and iced coffee are both prohibited, whereas hot chocolate and herbal teas are okay.1 From this we can conclude that it’s not about the temperature.
  • brewed: herbal teas and other coffee substitutes are brewed, so these are okay. From this we can conclude that it’s not about whether something is brewed or not.

Furthermore, we can rule out other combinations of these attributes, too. For instance, were a person to brew a hot herbal tea and add some hot coca cola to it, (making it caffeinated, hot, and brewed) this would not be considered a violation of the Word of Wisdom.

See also

Analysis inspired by this post.

  1. As discussed in this 1979 Ensign article, some herbal drinks might be discouraged based on certain properties, but none besides that made from true tea, Camellia sinensis, would be considered an explicit violation of the Word of Wisdom as understood today.