Thursday, November 11, 2021

Hot Chocolate - A Word of Wisdom Violation

As a mortal, I believe I am afforded the opportunity to have a few indulgences which I know I will have to answer for at the pleasing judgment bar of God someday. 

Some may have indulgences like porn, video games, gambling, drinking and knowingly voting for socialists. I don't judge these people, and with the exception of the latter category, I tend not to avoid them, either. But if you want to avoid me after reading my #1 indulgence, I'll understand (I'll be sad, but understanding).

My #1 indulgence: I. Love. Hot. Chocolate.

I also confess that as Fall progresses and the advent of Winter is nigh, my wife and I plan to totally indulge in copious amounts of hot chocolate until next Spring. In fact, we plan to get some half-n-half, pour in 1-1/2 packets of hot chocolate, mix and nuke that sucker up until there is steam wafting from the chocolately deliciousness. 

Sinful? Decadent? Degenerate? Corrupt? Immortal? Damn straight it is, boss! It's a genuine, bona-fide Word of Wisdom violation: 

Yes, D&C 89:9 says my drinking hot chocolate runs contrary to the Word of Wisdom (ditto for soup, warm broth, Ovaltine, Postum, Japanese mugi-cha and herbal teas such as, chamomile, ginger and peppermint, which contain no caffeine at all, but let's just stick with hot chocolate for now).

I know there are many who would say "But…but…" and begin giving me interpretations of that scripture. BUT BUT do you see an asterisk or exception anywhere in or around "hot drinks are not for the body or belly"?  

Here, let's go back to the Joseph Smith Papers to see if there's an asterisk there:


Nope, no asterisk nor explanation there. There is an explanatory footnote (#15) in the right-hand panel, which says "Several other early nineteenth-century authors argued that any liquid taken at a high temperature could cause injury." But that provides no exception to the scripture. [2]

Explanations about Hot Chocolate's Sinful Status

In Bush's article (here), he admits that "The subject of "hot drinks" is a little more complicated. "While he admits that "Both tea and coffee were considered mild stimulants," here in the 20th and 21st centuries, drawing a conclusion that caffeine is the culprit is a little complicated. A cup of Swiss Miss cocoa mix has 5 mg of caffeine [3] - far less than a can of Diet Pepsi (35-38 mg). [4]

But I diverge from the issue of hot-ness. Bush's article correctly points out that at the time the Word of Wisdom was written (Feb 1833), liquids (such as soup, tea, and coffee, taken at a very high temperature) were considered "injurious." I always knew there was something about Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup that was injurious!

For more insight, I turned to the General Handbook of Instructions, which says:

Saying that Prophets have clarified that the teachings in D&C 89 include abstinence from hot drinks (tea and coffee) really doesn't tell me anything new. 

It may have started with Hyrum Smith, who said, "Again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly. There are many who wonder what this can mean, whether it refers to tea or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea and coffee." "I say" is hardly a definitive doctrinal statement per the Law of Common Consent. [5]

I found 22 references to "hot drinks" in the Scripture Citation Index. In a 1963 talk, Boyd K. Packer once said that "hot drinks -- understood by the Church to mean those with habit-forming potential, specifically coffee and tea" is the perpetuation of an unofficial interpretation of D&C 89:9. [6]   

In 1945, Joseph F. Merrill took things a step further, saying "hot drinks is enjoined, because they are not good for man. By hot drinks was meant primarily tea and coffee, though subsequent researches found that any drinks at high temperatures, such as hot water and soups, are harmful. The ideas voiced in the Word of Wisdom were expressed in words having the meaning current at the time. In those days hot drinks were commonly understood to be tea and coffee." [7] 

Yet Merrill's statement that "hot water and soups, are harmful" isn't accompanied by any double-blind, placebo-controlled studies (the kind which wise and thoughtful medical experts and government leaders gravitate to). It is, in fact, pure speculation ("the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence"), which Ronald A Rasband recently denounced when it comes to seeking answers concerning our health. [8]

In the April 7, 1868 General Conference, George Q. Cannon gave us a definitive interpretation: "Almost every elder who has spoken from this stand has felt the necessity and importance of calling the attention of the people to this subject (the Word of Wisdom). We are told, and very plainly too, that hot drinks-tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and all drinks of this kind are not good for man." [9]

But then again, a forgetful Apostle Mark E. Peterson said in 1962 that "At no time has cocoa or chocolate been included in the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom, and at no time has the Church said that cocoa is as harmful as coffee. Those who make these claims do so on their own responsibility, and obviously without knowing the facts of the matter." [10]  So much for "clarification."

I've thought about writing a letter to Pres. Nelson and asking him for guidance. After all, who better than a worldwide cardiac expert / global faith leader / revelator all in one to answer my question about hot chocolate? But alas, I know that the Brethren would refer my inquiry back to my stake president. He would call me in for a meeting just to refer me back to the General Handbook of Instructions. This is known as an "endless loop" (which is very common among members seeking answers).

Luckily, Pres. Nelson's 1st Counselor has come to the rescue. Dallin H. Oaks said, "The shield the Lord gives to the faithful also protects us against our own harmful impulses. The revelation that commands modern Saints to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, hot drinks, and other harmful things promises the faithful that "the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them (D&C 89:21)." [11]

If what Oaks says is true (and knowing that the church's prophets, seers and revelators would NEVER mislead us), I am now praying that the destroying angel has mercy on me and won't slay me…

…all because I drank hot chocolate.

Homework Assignments

Today: Please leave me a comment (below) with the best hot chocolate brand/recipe, and why. I figure if I'm going to sin and even be destroyed by an angel for sipping hot chocolate, I might as well do it with style and panache.

Whenever: The next time you're having some casual conversations with a member, ask them if they think it's important to obey the Word of Wisdom. (They'll likely say yes). Then ask them about abstaining from hot drinks. Then ask them about hot chocolate. If they say it's allowed, ask them where it says so in D&C 89. If they say church leaders have said it's just tea and coffee, then ask them when that revision to D&C 89:9 was voted on by church members. Let me know how it goes!


2.   Bush, Lester E. "The Word of Wisdom in Early Nineteenth-Century Perspective." In The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, edited by Dan Vogel, 161-185. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990.
5.   "The Word of Wisdom," Times and Seasons 3 no. 15 (1 June 1842), 801.
6.   April 1963 General Conference
7.   October 1945 General Conference
9.   Journal of Discourses V.12:221-223
10.   Patterns for Living, 1962, p. 235-37;
11.   "Bible Stories and Personal Protection", October 1992 General Conference


Anonymous said...

Remember, people in charge get to decide what words mean. "Hot drinks" means only certain teas & coffee. Likewise "Safe and effective" means safe and effective for those who don't get harmed by the injections and who don't die afterwards from the shots or from catching Covid.

Of course one of the great ironies of the pandemic for the church and the Word of Wisdom is being of a healthy disposition prior to catching Covid greatly reduces the risk of death. There is no greater defense to Covid than being healthy. And the Word of Wisdom provides excellent counsel on health. Seeing this one would think church leaders would be proclaiming how great the Lord's wisdom to prepare his people for the last days. And you would be thinking wrong.

Latter-Day Truths said...

So far, I've seen no mention by the Brethren whatsoever of the Word of Wisdom as it relates to the pandemic. Perhaps the marketing execs in NYC haven't heard of it yet.

If the Brethren believe in the WoW, then why don't they preach it? Here's one possible answer: If the Brethren can't get their stuff together re: hot chocolate, what hope do we have of them ever getting their stuff together re: Covid?

I've been working on a post on how RMN could nuke the pandemic once and for all. But it's still in the conceptual stages.

Jared Livesey said...

When did the Church unanimously consent to contradict the Lord by mandating the reception of the Word of Wisdom by constraint and commandment?

Latter-Day Truths said...


My bet: Probably around the same time they switched tithing from "increase" to "income."

Dave P. said...

Jared beat me to it. You can't violate something that isn't a commandment.

Rhone said...

Was going to say the same thing, Dave. "Not by commandment or constraint" means just that. Of course, by the same measure, it looks like people are completely OK to consume 'mild barley drinks' (beer) and 'all wholesome herbs' (weed).

MRR Cali guy said...

Here is the historical context: early church members continued to drink black tea and coffee for years after the WoW was announced. They packed coffee as a staple in the wagons crossing the plains. BY was addicted to chewing tobacco well into his 60s.

At first, the wow was (as it says) just good advice. But even then, many understood that hot drinks did NOT include tea or coffee. As I mentioned, coffee and tea were listed as staples that were to be included in the provisions people were to bring with them on the journey west.

Hot drinks referred specifically to two things:

1. It was commonly believed that the temperature of things affected your health. People avoided anything either too hot or too cold because they thought it would cause illness (they didn't know about viruses or germs.) The notion of HOT in the directive is critical.

2. Keeping your four "vital humours" (bodily fluids) in balance was the state of medicine at the time. Black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm all needed to be in harmony. It's why Brigham Young was such a proponent of enemas. Hot drinks, like lobelia, were used as a purgative (it made you vomit) were regularly prescribed. Of course, lobelia could also make you blind and cause your teeth to fall out. Medicinal teas like THAT were also what were more than likely what was being cautioned about in the W.O.W.

Coffee and tea were brilliant inventions. Boiled water allowed people to hydrate safely at a time when water sources were unreliable. Teas provided essential antioxidants. And because of the huge volumes of meat and bread consumed at meals, a mild stimulant in the afternoon helped avoid post-lunch fatigue.

Other elements of the word of wisdom hearken to medieval medical practices as well. Abstaining from meat except in winter is a perfect example. The belief was that meat caused the production of blood, which generated heat (which is why people with fevers were often bled), and getting too hot in the summer was dangerous since it was already so warm. So meat was to be avoided (the notion about refrigeration, etc., is just rubbish.)

Modern interpretations are just as confusing. David O McKay, in response to an inquiry about drinking decaffeinated coffee (at the time, the only such brand was Sanka) said it was perfectly fine as long as the offending element (caffeine) had been removed. Current leaders, in their decision to permit caffeinated Coke products on BYU campus, said caffeine was never the problem. ��

Frankly, you could drop a N-Doz (caffeine) tablet in a cup of decaffeinated coffee and be fine.

Here's the rule. It says hot drinks. YOU decide what that means for you. We all know that there isn't any real underlying health benefit for doing this, so find the place that makes you comfortable and do that, and tell your Bishop that you are in compliance with that (rather archaic and silly) requirement.

Jared Livesey said...

In this, "interpret" means substituting one statement or phrase in a given language for another in the same language where the original and the replacement differ in meaning.

1) We accept a statement as true if, and only if, we believe it.
2) We believe a statement if, and only if, we believe it literally.
3) If we do not believe a statement then we reject it outright or by interpreting it.

Methods of textual interpretation purporting to produce the author's intended meaning either result in statements to be taken literally, or else the results must themselves be interpreted.

In a FAQ Joseph Smith wrote concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he addressed the issue of the proper interpretation of scripture.

Question 1st. Do you believe the bible?
Answer. If we do, we are the only people under heaven that does. For there are none of the religious sects of the day that do.

Question 2nd. Wherein do you differ from other sects?
Answer. Because we believe the bible, and all other sects profess to believe their interpretations of the bible, and their creeds.

Question 3rd. Will every body be damned but Mormons?
Answer. Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent and work righteousness.

Elsewhere, again speaking of the scriptures, Joseph said: "What is the rule of Interpretation? Just no interpretation at all; Understand it, precisely as it reads." We may call this Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation."

While additional statements from Joseph to this effect may be adduced, we can see from these that he taught the correct method of interpreting scripture is to take the text at literal face value, which is what is today called "literalism" or "naive literalism." Literalism, in Joseph's language, is "no interpretation at all." Literalism is how a small child approaches speech: he takes what you say as what you mean according to the language he knows at face value. Literalism may therefore produce as many understandings of a text as there are readers.

The purpose of Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation" is not to produce the "best" reading, understood as the clearest possible contemporary expression of the original author's intent; communicating his intended meaning is the original author's problem to solve in his writing. The purpose of Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation" is to help people to believe the word of God as they have received it so that they may pass the first test of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For the very first thing God desires out of us is merely to believe on his word. Believing on God's word is to believe his words at literal face value just as you have received them, for that is what it means to believe something, and put your trust in them - just as a small child uncritically understands and believes and trusts his father's words.

"Whoso repenteth and cometh to me as a little child, him shall I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God."

Latter-Day Truths said...

I just think the whole Word of Wisdom / forbidden foods and drinks issue is one of the best examples to date of "the teachings of men mingled with scripture."

OK Seminaries and Institute teachers: Prove. Me. Wrong.

Anonymous said...

Well the post seems like typical exmo bitchn' but to answer your homework assignment:

2 heaping tbs of any cocoa or cacao powder of your choice
2 mugs of whole milk - organic
sugar to taste

mix ingredients together and let milk come to boil, once boiling, reduce heat to simmer to avoid spilling onto hotplate and let boil for at least one minute. Common practice in france is to boil for 5-7 because it breaks down the fiber in the cocoa powder and thickens the mix.

If you want, put 5 or 6 drops of organic orange oil for an orange hot chocolate, nothing synthetic! And only put this in at the end so as to avoid boiling it off.

We're purists and don't do cocoa "mixes" as they are usually full of shit.

Latter-Day Truths said...


LOL thanks for the frank comment!

I'm not sure if my observations were "typical exmo bitchn'". I have absolutely nothing to bitch about being able to drink the hot drink of my choice. It's my hope somebody will drink this and feel more comfortable imbibing into one of those apostate hot chocolates or soups.

And thanks for the recipe! I like some of the chemistry aspects of it. Makes sense. I'll try it.

1 said...

Hot drinks very likely was referring to hard liquor like whiskey, which is "hot" when you drink it and injurious to your physical and mental health.

Anonymous said...

Hot drinks are bad in some folk medicine, which early Americana was steeped in before Rockefeller took over the health industry and turned us all into oil eating organisms.

gruden said...

I'm not generally a follower of Snuffer, but I respect his historical research and commentary, and his interpretation of hot drinks was in those days it usually referred to spirits, ie. whiskey. Alcohol is a toxin to the body, so it makes sense that drinks with a high alcohol content would be labeled as bad for the body. Nothing else really makes any sense, since many types of warm herbal teas are very good for the body.

But there's a bigger issue here: The Lord said specifically this was NOT a commandment, and a few men later decided to making it binding on Mormons without divine direction, and therefore with all the discussion and hair-splitting we've had about it over the years misses the point (adding or subtracting from the Word is prohibited, which this was).

Peter had a vision in Acts 10, about food that had been forbidden by the Law of Moses was now 'on the menu', so to speak. But the meaning goes beyond that. Why did God remove dietary restrictions? One answer could be that with the gospel going global, local dietary customs were not to be a restriction for accepting the Gospel.

With the WoW, God was keeping consistent with this, not making a commandment because He did not intend for it to restrict people's ability to accept the Gospel. What the WoW is, is a bit of spiritual advice for those ready to move on to higher understanding. The Lord is basically saying, if you want to achieve higher levels of spirituality and understanding, you should eat certain things and avoid other things. If you're not ready, don't worry about it yet, don't run faster than you have strength.

By making it compulsory, it really misses the point and sends people in the wrong direction. I remember being a missionary in Europe years ago we couldn't baptize a wonderful family simply because they struggled with smoking. In every other way they were what you would consider 'golden'. It's really a shame, in retrospect I don't think the Lord intended them to be denied blessings for that reason, He could always work with them to overcome that issue later when they were ready. Sometimes we need to be bolstered to deal with certain problems, and blocking people from that is counter productive.