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Can Mormons Drink Coca-Cola?


Now we'd like to go back to a story we brought you on Saturday. In a review of a new mystery novel set in Utah, reporter Karen Grigsby Bates said something that caught the attention of some careful listeners.


KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: Most of what we non-Mormons know about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is restricted to a few things - no Coke, coffee or booze, tithing, sacred undergarments.

MARTIN: No Coke, coffee or booze. Well, after that aired, we heard from folks who've said that's not quite right. While many Mormons avoid Coke, not all do. And avoiding caffeinated beverages is not church doctrine - wait, what? We had to call up historian Matthew Bowman, an authority on the history of the LDS church to set the record straight.

MATTHEW BOWMAN: There is a code that Mormons follow - a dietary code - called the Word of Wisdom. And its history is rather complex and a little bit ambiguous, which lends itself to this kind of individual interpretation.

MARTIN: Bowman says it goes back to Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith, who said he received a revelation from God forbidding Mormons to consume hot drinks, alcohol, tobacco or too much meat. Over the years, the meaning of hot drinks has come to mean tea and coffee.

BOWMAN: But many Mormons who read this as a health code look at tea and coffee and say well, what do these things have in common? And the conclusion is caffeine. So many Mormons then will say well, we should not drink any caffeinated beverages.

MARTIN: In 2012, the church released an official statement stating explicitly that caffeinated soda is allowed under church doctrine. Still, many Mormons will not consume caffeinated drinks.

BOWMAN: That's what happens when you have a religion like Mormonism that has no professional theologians, no kind of standardized doctrine, right? The lines what is explicit doctrine and what simply many Mormons believe then are fuzzier than many people would like.

MARTIN: So the confusion about whether Mormons can drink Coca-Cola seems understandable, but Mormons can drink Coke - now you know. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.