The apocalypse is here. At least that’s what some Brigham Young University students were saying when they heard the news that BYU would be serving Coke products with caffeine for the first time in 60 years.
Few have been able to explain the on-campus prohibition. BYU officials trace it back to a director of food services in the mid-1950s. Officials claim the change is being made now because “consumer preferences” demand it. In 2012 the school claimed it didn’t serve caffeinated soda because there was little demand for it. Critics scoffed at that claim – many Mormons would opt for a Diet Coke IV if practical.
Some claim that the prohibition on caffeinated soda derived from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ policy against caffeinated soft drinks. The LDS Church owns BYU.
Except that the LDS Church has no such policy. While some church leaders years ago encouraged members not to drink caffeinated drinks, because of their addictive qualities, there was never an official policy against them.
Caffeine used to be the barometer between a “good” church member and a “Jack Mormon.” Differences arose because of different interpretations of the church’s health code, known as the Word of Wisdom. The code prohibits coffee and tea, some say because of their caffeine content while others believe they are prohibited as “hot drinks.”
Which just begs the question, why does the church prohibit coffee and tea anyway? The Word of Wisdom is, at its essence, a health guide. But tea is arguably one of the healthiest drinks on the planet.
If it is caffeine in coffee and tea that is prohibited, why are caffeinated drinks not prohibited? If it is the temperature of coffee and tea, why can members drink hot chocolate? Most members shrug off the inconsistencies, because there is no good answer.
Regardless, BYU students spent Thursday celebrating the school’s updated caffeine policy.
Now that caffeine is allowed, what could be next? The recent controversy surrounding the non-LDS ROTC colonel who refused to sign the honor code because he knew he would be drinking coffee at home may encourage the school to reconsider its position on requiring non-LDS students and faculty to follow the church’s health code.
Such a policy change could go a long way in recruiting top students and faculty, especially for graduate programs. For instance, tell a non-LDS law student that they have to get through law school without coffee and they’ll look at you like you just asked them to walk on the moon.
Guess we’ll know in 60 years.