A popular belief that caffeine is prohibited by the LDS Church’s Word of Wisdom may partly stem from the fact that caffeinated soft drinks are not sold on the BYU campus.
How a recent blog post on the Church’s website affects that belief is a popular question on campus.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a blog on Aug. 29 in the newsroom section of LDS.org that read: “The Church does not prohibit the use of caffeine.” The statement was subsequently updated to read that “the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine.”
The Salt Lake Tribune called attention to the blog in an Aug. 30 story under the headline: “OK Mormons, drink up — Coke and Pepsi are OK.”
“This decision has been based on what our customers want, and there has not been a demand for caffeinated beverages,” said BYU Spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.
A Facebook group called “BYU for Caffeine,” created the same day the Church first updated their blog about caffeine, was quick to pick up on the language and had more than 100 likes within hours of its creation. The group’s page claims that it is “the movement to get caffeinated beverages in our vending machines.”
Other Facebook groups have followed, and the Universe started receiving letters as well with questions or opinions about whether the blog’s language could lead to a change on campus.
Coca Cola-brand soft drinks are sold on the LDS Church-owned campus, and the brand bearing Coke’s caffeine colors is highly publicized on new soft drink dispensers recently installed in the Wilkinson Student Center. But none of the beverages the new machines dispense are caffeinated.
BYU Spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the choice to not offer caffeinated beverages on campus is “not a university or Church decision, but one made by Dining Services. This decision has been based on what our customers want, and there has not been a demand for caffeinated beverages.”
BYU’s Dining Services controls all vending machines and food concessions on campus. “Dining Services is constantly evaluating the needs and desires of its customers,” Jenkins said.
One of the Facebook posts says, in bold, block letters, “We are the demand.”
Dining Services Director Dean Wright said his organization uses online surveys, focus groups and data analysis to determine what it will offer to the campus community.
Wright said surveys have not asked about caffeinated soft drinks and that the recent blog on the Church’s website came at a busy time on campus when caffeine wasn’t on Dining Service’s radar.
“I have received emails on both sides of the issue — those in favor of caffeine and those against it,” Wright said. “Dining Services is so busy just getting everything open and serving over 30,000 meals a day that we do not have any plans at this point to do any polling on caffeine.”
Opinions about caffeine are entrenched in Church culture.
“With the close ties BYU has with the LDS Church, it’s just implied that we have to (not have caffeine) because of the Word of Wisdom,” said Burke McComb, a freshman from Santa Barbara, Calif., majoring in business management.
“I should have that choice, and I don’t. Given the choice between caffeinated and non-caffeinated, I’d definitely choose caffeine,” said Junior Marcus Horton.
Ally Cuneo, a senior from Roswell, Ga., majoring in sociology, said, “There is no caffeine on campus because it isn’t really supported by the Church.”
However, some students may not agree with the idea that there is not a demand for caffeine on campus.
“I have to go to Costco to get my Diet Coke,” said Carlie Shields, a freshman from Atlanta, Ga., majoring in mechanical engineering. “A lot of students might want it for late-night study.”
Marcus Horton, a junior from Austin, Texas, majoring in pre-management, also prefers caffeinated beverages.
“I should have that choice, and I don’t,” Horton said. “Given the choice between caffeinated and non-caffeinated, I’d definitely choose caffeine.”
Wright doesn’t see a change ahead on campus. “As a business, at this point we’re just not seeing a need to break tradition with the products that we offer,” he said. “Certainly our students can go off campus and buy anything they like. We’re not trying to make any type of a judgment call.”