Word of Wisdom

March 7, 2017 · updated February 15, 2022

Many faiths have dietary laws, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of them. The Mormon dietary or health code is called the "Word of Wisdom."

The Word of Wisdom in Mormon Scriptures

According to Section 89 of The Doctrine and Covenants, [#776] God revealed these guidelines to Joseph Smith on February 27, 1833. The guidelines were given "not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom" (89:2) and promise health, wisdom, and "great treasures of knowledge" to those who follow them (89:18-19).

The Word of Wisdom specifies the following:

  • drink no strong drinks, but use them in washing one's body (89:5,7)
  • drink no wine, except for in sacraments (89:5-6)
  • use no tobacco, except to cure bruises and sick cattle (89:8)
  • drink no hot drinks (89:9)
  • use herbs and fruit in their seasons (89:10-11)
  • eat meat only sparingly; only in times of cold or famine (89:12-13, 15)
  • all grains, fruit and vegetables are good for men and animals (89:14, 16-17)

It also promises that those who "keep and do these sayings" will:

  • receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; (89:18)
  • find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; (89:19)
  • run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. (89:20)

"And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen." (89:21)

Can Mormons Have Caffeine?

The short answer is yes. Contrary to popular belief, the Word of Wisdom does not prohibit the use of caffeine. It says only "hot drinks are not for the body or belly." (D & C 89:9)

Joseph Smith later clarified "Tea and coffee are what the Lord meant when he said ‘hot drinks’"[#778] and this is accepted as the "official and correct definition."[#778]

There is no scriptural or official prohibition of caffelne in Mormonism:

The high caffeine content of these drinks [tea and coffee] has been widely discussed, and is generally accepted, as a likely explanation for the prohibition; but this explanation has, of itself, no binding doctrinal force.[#778]

Therefore some Mormons may choose to obey only the actual prohibitions against coffee and tea, or "go the extra mile" and avoid all caffeinated drinks (like colas and other caffeinated sodas) and foods containing caffeine (such as chocolate). This is entirely voluntary.[#778]

Mormon politician Mitt Romney is (or was in 2003) a known aficionado of Vanilla Coke. When this raised eyebrows among Mormons and non-Mormons alike, a spokeman for the Mormon church confirmed this was permitted under the Word of Wisdom and Romney's spokeman confirmed that although he enjoys Vanilla Coke, the then-governmor does not drink coffee or tea or smoke cigarettes.[#780]

Can Mormons Take Illegal or Prescription Drugs?

Although the Word of Wisdom does not specifically prohibit drugs, its prohibition of the habit-forming substances of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea lead most Mormons to conclude all illegal drugs and addictive substances should be avoided.

This is closer to an official teaching than the discouraging of caffeine, with an official website stating:

When people purposefully take anything harmful into their bodies, they are not living in harmony with the Word of Wisdom. Illegal drugs can especially destroy those who use them. The abuse of prescription drugs is also destructive spiritually and physically.[#779]

Are Mormons Vegetarians?

The Word of Wisdom spends just as many verses encouraging plant foods and discouraging meat as it does on drinks and tobacco, but this aspect of the health code typically receives little attention by Mormons or non-Mormons.

There are Mormons who are vegetarian for religious (and other) reasons, but they are a minority in their faith. In fact, Mormon culture tends to celebrate meat as much or more than non-Mormons.[#781][#782]