Are Mormons Allowed to Drink Tea?

LDS members are free to drink herbal teas, but not traditional teas

Camomile tea
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Drinking tea is against the Word of Wisdom, the official doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Word of Wisdom is the label Mormons use to refer to a revelation received by Joseph Smith on February 27, 1833. This revelation is Section 89 in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of scripture. This divine law of health prohibits some foods and recommends others. Knowing the historical background of when this revelation was received can help people understand its purpose.

What Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants Says About Tea

Tea is not specifically named in this revelation; it only addresses strong drinks and hot drinks. These are mentioned in verses 5, 7, and 9:

That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

After this revelation was received, living prophets taught that it referred to alcoholic beverages and to tea and coffee. This guidance was not compulsory at first. In 1921, President and Prophet Heber J. Grant was inspired to make it compulsory by complete abstention. This requirement is still currently in force and is expected to continue.

What Tea is and What it is Not

Some drinks are called teas, but true teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant.

These include the following:

  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • White tea
  • Darjeeling tea
  • Oolong tea
  • Assam tea
  • Other Tea Types and Blends

These flavors and types of true teas sometimes come from how tea is processed and prepared.

Herbal Teas Are Not True Teas

There is no prohibition on herbal teas in the Word of Wisdom or in church guidance.

Herbal teas, by definition, do not come from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant. They are sometimes classified with terms such as:

  • Tisanes
  • Botanicals
  • Infusions

Teas like chamomile and peppermint fit into this category. You can generally assume that if a tea is labeled as an herbal, caffeine-free tea that it does not come from the tea plant and should be acceptable.

Herbs Are Mentioned in the Word of Wisdom

The Word of Wisdom actually encourages the use of herbs in verses 8 and 10-11:

And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.

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

Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

What About Caffeine?

For many years now, people sometimes assume that tea and coffee were prohibited because they contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and can have harmful side effects. Research on caffeine is a modern phenomenon and obviously did not exist in 1833 when the Word of Wisdom was given to the Church.

Some Mormons assume that anything with caffeine should be prohibited, especially soft drinks and chocolate. Church leaders have never endorsed this view.

Caffeine is widely acknowledged to be a stimulant and an addictive substance. Although the Church does not specifically prohibit it, they do not endorse it either. Guidance published in church magazines suggests strongly that it can be a dangerous substance, especially if it is consumed to excess:

The Letter of the Law Versus the Spirit of the Law

Often Latter-day Saints become focused on the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. How to obey the Word of Wisdom is something that individuals must study and ponder on their own.

Heavenly Father has not provided a specific list of every kind of substance that is or is not good for human bodies. He has given the faithful the agency to study it for their own understanding and to choose how they will accept and obey the Word of Wisdom.

Updated by Krista Cook.