The role coffee may have played in bringing about the Book of Mormon

Robert Kirby

There’s a lot going on in the Mormon world right now. Two recent major events may actually have an important connection.

First, the LDS Church purchased the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon for $35 million. I’m not exactly sure as to the reason for the price. That much money would educate and inoculate a lot of kids in developing nations.

But, as with many things involving church, it wasn’t my decision. Not only was I not consulted on the sale, I don’t care either. Someone with the money obviously thought it was important to own the manuscript copy used by the printer to publish the Book of Mormon in 1830.

The second event also has a lot to do with LDS Church history. Despite a decades-old ban, Brigham Young University announced lifting of the embargo on the sale of caffeinated soda on campus.

The forbiddance was an extreme derivative of the Word of Wisdom, a health revelation delivered in 1833. It set in motion one of the greatest idiot debates in the history of Mormonism.

The debate was whether the scriptural prohibition against “hot drinks” — which top LDS leaders have said meant coffee and tea — was based on the substance known as caffeine, also pronounced by many orthodox Mormons as “caf-fiend.”

Somewhere along the line, the prohibition on what was regarded as the drool of Satan, extended itself to caffeinated soft drinks. We were encouraged/counseled/commanded to stop drinking Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and anything else that contained caf-fiend.

Because there’s nothing the deeply religious love more than taking something to a blithering extreme, chocolate was soon on the “thou shalt not slurp” suspect list — even though it was never proscribed and it doesn’t contain caffeine.

I think both of these events are related. Have you seen it yet? Check the dates. The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, a full three years before stimulating “hot drinks” were made taboo.

For the moment, let’s set aside our varying opinions on the Book of Mormon itself. I think we can all agree that it required long and perhaps even tedious hours of study and writing to produce a handwritten manuscript the size of a municipal code book.

Imagine, if you will, Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith laboring well into the night on the Book of Mormon. Tired and struggling to focus, they perhaps would have availed themselves to something that might sharpen them up. Say, oh, a cup of coffee or tea?

One of them • “[Yawn] Ugh. I don’t know about you, but I could use a cup of java.”

Relax. The Word of Wisdom was still three years off. So it is entirely possible that caffeine may have actually HELPED produce the book of scripture? I’m just saying.

Back to BYU lifting the curse on caffeinated soft drinks. College is hard. I know because I went. Granted, I only took a couple of classes before realizing that it was well beyond my ability to commit, focus or even care enough about to keep going.

But even smart people — especially young ones studying to be doctors, engineers and teachers — might need a little lift to keep at it to pass the test and earn a degree?

And let’s not forget having to sit through lectures from professors who are not only tired themselves, but also naturally as engaging as bath mats.

What better — or more harmless — way of staying on your toes than the same way that early church leaders did?

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