Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Caffeine and controversy

Published: Friday, Sept. 7 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Forget the Kristen Stewart scandal. The talk among playgroups at the park is now: "Are you or are you not going to drink caffeine now that the church has said it’s OK?"

For the record, a blog post on mormonnewsroom.org reacting to the recent "Rock Center" television special on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints read, in part: “the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and ‘hot drinks’ — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.”

In my opinion, it’s nothing new. In fact, the church's handbook has been exceedingly clear on this point for years: "The only official interpretation of 'hot drinks' in the Word of Wisdom is the statement ... that the term 'hot drinks' means tea and coffee."

We’ve known all along what the stance was. There is nothing in our Word of Wisdom that says you can’t drink a Coke. We are expected to be big boys and girls and make good decisions about our health all by ourselves.

The fact is, there are many other things about coffee that aren’t good for your health besides the caffeine, and there are many other things besides caffeine — such as sugar, for example, or corn syrup — in soft drinks that can be addicting or habit forming, too.

It comes down to what it’s always come down to: personal decision. And my personal decision is usually to avoid sodas altogether, but if ever I do have a craving for some carbonation, it’s usually a root beer.

My mom never bought caffeinated drinks growing up. We never thought there was anything really wrong with them; we just knew that she preferred water, whole milk, juice, or very rarely a root beer or 7-Up to a Coca-Cola. We didn’t order sodas when we went out to eat. And to be honest, I could never drink a full one myself, anyhow. Sodas were expensive, so they were saved for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas. (Still nothing like some Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider, in my opinion!)

But for some reason, we got on a caffeine-free Coca-Cola kick for a while. I don’t know why, but my mom started buying the big two-liter bottles, and we’d go through them pretty fast.

Then one day, my mom sat us around the kitchen bar. She told us a story of a family who used to buy non-alcoholic beer to take with them on vacations. She said that while they were members of the church, they were not appearing to live the standards we are taught. Then she pulled out the caffeine-free Coca-Cola. She said she wanted us to do what we thought was right, but that she didn’t want to buy the soda for our home anymore. She said she wanted us to avoid “even the appearance of evil” and then walked over to the sink and dumped a brand-new bottle down the drain.

You may be laughing right now. You may think that is downright ridiculous and WAY over the top. But that night stood out to me. My mom always said, “If ever there’s a question, err on the safe side.” Even if it’s the extremely safe side.

That being said, I have always had somewhat of a rebellious streak.

I remember my first Coca-Cola well. In fact, it was a very dramatic and controversial night for the Rasmusen family.

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