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Mormon-owned BYU sells caffeinated colas in soda slip-up

Published October 9, 2013 10:10 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Caffeinated colas — long forbidden for sale at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University — popped up Tuesday in a vending machine on the Provo campus.

They were sighted in the Brimhall Building and immediately caused a run on the machine there, tweeted Provoan Sarah Kathryn Smith.

Alas, it was all an accident, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.

"Coke mistakenly included a limited number of caffeinated Coke Zeros in our order," Jenkins wrote in an email, "which no one caught while the vending machines were being stocked."

The caffeine question for Mormons stems from the Utah-based faith's health code, known as the Word of Wisdom, which bars coffee and tea. For years, some have suggested that the ban included caffeinated colas, and the church's flagship school, BYU, traditionally has neither sold nor served such drinks.

But top LDS leaders have taken no official stance against them.

A year ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints briefly posted a statement on its website saying that "the church does not prohibit the use of caffeine" and that the health-code reference to "hot drinks" "does not go beyond [tea and coffee]."

A day later, the website wording was slightly softened, saying only that "the church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine."

Fully caffeinated colas are available at the LDS Church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building restaurants and in the Lion House Pantry next to the faith's headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City.

Jenkins explained last year that BYU's shunning of those drinks is "not a university or church decision, but made by dining services, based on what our customers want."

There has not "been a demand for it," Jenkins said in September 2012. "We are constantly evaluating what those needs and desires are."

Jenkins' comments prompted some BYU students to launch a campaign to bring the verboten substance by showing a demand for it.

Unfortunately for them, this week's vending-machine episode did not signal a new openness.

"It was simply a mistake," Jenkins said, "our purchasing decisions have not changed."

Peggy Fletcher Stack