For The First Time In Decades, Caffeinated Sodas On Sale At BYU Dining Halls
For the first time since the mid-1950s, students can buy caffeinated soft drinks at Brigham Young University's dining halls in Provo, Utah.
Mormons avoid drinking coffee and tea. In general, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a complicated – and often misunderstood – relationship with caffeine.
In 2012, the Church issued a press release that was explicit: "the Church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine."
Even after that, BYU, which is owned and operated by the Mormon Church, declined to sell the soft drinks. The Daily Universe, the BYU student paper, quoted a university spokeswoman saying at the time that "there has not been a demand for caffeinated beverages."
But the university says it is seeing demand now. In a Q and A about the decision, the Dining Services said, "Consumer preferences have clearly changed and requests have become much more frequent."
And students seem pretty excited.
"I am drinking CAFFEINATED Diet Coke," one smiling student tells The Daily Universe between sips. "I am so happy."
Law student George Simons tells member station KUER that the campus is buzzing about the change.
"I think it's a step in the right direction because I think it will lead to more acceptance and less judgment and I think if you judge you can't love," Simons says.
Media reports have incorrectly stated that Mormons aren't allowed to drink caffeinated soft drinks – in fact, the Church's 2012 clarification was in response to a TV segment.
Former presidential candidate and prominent LDS Church member Mitt Romney "has been seen drinking an occasional Diet Coke, and Mormon missionaries in France routinely imbibe caffeinated colas – without embarrassment or consequences," The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
While many Mormons do avoid caffeinated soft drinks, LDS Doctrine and Covenants – the revelation Mormon prophet Joseph Smith says he received from God — only explicitly forbids the consumption of "hot drinks."
The official handbook of the Church describes how that has been interpreted:
"The only official interpretation of 'hot drinks'... in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term 'hot drinks' means tea and coffee.
"Members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs. Nor should members use harmful or habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician."
However, university dining services say they will not sell highly-caffeinated energy drinks.
Even before this change, there was at least one way to get a Coke on campus. A group of entrepreneurial students recognized the demand earlier and launched a soda-delivery business.
It's called Caffeine Corner, a service that says it can deliver a cold Coke, Diet Coke, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper anywhere on campus within five minutes. Employees don shirts that say, "I'm a caffeine dealer."
In a video on the company's Facebook page, owner Wesley Monahan says the most common question he gets is, "Is it legal?" He responds: "The answer is yes! For heaven's sake, we're not dealing drugs."
It's not clear how the business will be impacted by the dining service change. But the dining halls will only sell Coca Cola products. That means no Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew. In a Facebook post, Caffeine Corner said, "Sounds like we're still in business."
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