Latest from Mormon Land: Is caffeine really against the Word of Wisdom?

Also: A first for the oldest-ever First Presidency; a revised book explores the richness of the world’s religions; an ex-missionary’s tearful return to Ukraine; and Virginia’s first temple.

The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get the full newsletter, exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content and podcast transcripts.

Have a Coke and a guilt-free smile

This first news tidbit is brought to you in honor of this past Monday’s National Have a Coke Day:

Just Dew it, Latter-day Saints. As in glug a Mountain Dew. Or down a Dr Pepper. Or pound a Pepsi. Or quaff a Coke.

Despite what many snippy outsiders and nitpicking insiders think. There is no general church proscription against faithful members consuming caffeinated sodas.

Yes, the Word of Wisdom forbids “hot drinks.” Yes, church leaders have stated that means swearing off coffee or tea. And, yes, coffee and tea have caffeine. But that dictate doesn’t extend the scriptural health code’s prohibition to all caffeinated products.

So those cola drinks and that chocolate — either hot or cold — are fair game.

Latter-day Saint authorities reaffirmed that stance in 2012, stating that “the church revelation spelling out health practices ... does not mention the use of caffeine.” The faith’s flagship school, Brigham Young University, started selling caffeinated colas in 2017. Apostle Dieter Uchtdorf even joked in General Conference about imbibing “a diet soda that shall remain nameless.”

The General Handbook puts it simply: “Prophets have clarified that the teachings in Doctrine and Covenants 89 include abstinence from tobacco, strong drinks (alcohol), and hot drinks (tea and coffee).”

No mention of any corruptive caffeinated concoctions.

Of course, that hardly endorses that these products do a body good.

“There are other harmful substances and practices that are not specified in the Word of Wisdom or by church leaders,” the handbook cautions. “Members should use wisdom and prayerful judgment in making choices to promote their physical, spiritual, and emotional health.”

It’s just that caffeine is not the creedal culprit. Period. Full stop. The end.

A first for the First Presidency

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson, center, with his counselors, Dallin H. Oaks, left, and Henry B. Eyring, at General Conference on Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023. Soon all three will be in their 90s.

Welcome to the 90s, President Eyring.

When second counselor Henry B. Eyring turns 90 on May 31, he apparently will be part of the only three-member governing First Presidency in Latter-day Saint history to be made up exclusively of nonagenarians.

The trio already ranks as the oldest First Presidency. But come June, with church President Russell Nelson at 98 — the longest-living prophet-president — and first counselor Dallin Oaks at 90, the threesome’s average age will top 92½.

In fact, notes the LDS Data Analysis blog, the average age of all the apostles at the start of this year was 78.7, the second highest ever.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Teaching kids about the world’s religions

(Photo courtesy of BCC Press) The second edition of "A World of Faith," with text written by Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and illustrations by Kathleen Peterson.

Our own award-winning writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and celebrated Latter-day Saint illustrator Kathleen Peterson discuss their newly revised and expanded children’s book, “A World of Faith,” and the richness of religious diversity. Their acclaimed volume aims to eliminate bigotry through increased understanding and turn today’s readers into tomorrow’s peacemakers. Listen to the podcast.

From The Tribune

(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greets Ukraine's honorary consul in Utah Jonathan Freedman at the presidential palace in Kyiv, Ukraine.

• Join a Utah bishop who served his Latter-day Saint mission in Ukraine for an emotional return to that war-scarred country and an inspirational meeting with his hero: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

• A 19-year-old missionary from Canada became the faith’s third publicly reported full-time proselytizer to die this year. Isaac Heninger, who was serving in northern Utah, succumbed to a traumatic head injury.

Temple updates

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Richmond Virginia Temple, which was dedicated Sunday, May 7, 2023.

• President Dallin Oaks of the First Presidency dedicated Virginia’s first temple Sunday.

The Angel Moroni-topped, single-spired, 39,000-square-foot Richmond Temple — with its blue, gold and red color scheme complementing a blend of Federal and Jeffersonian architecture — is accented by symbols of Virginia’s state tree and flower: the dogwood.

“Every temple is beautiful, but this is an especially impressive House of the Lord for this great Commonwealth of Virginia,” Oaks said in a news release, noting the church’s growth there “has been very gradual but is currently very impressive” with more than 96,000 members.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The St. George Temple in May 2023.

• The renovated pioneer-era St. George Temple, a glistening white citadel in the heart southwestern Utah’s redrock wonderland, will open to public tours from Sept. 15 through Nov. 11 after a massive four-year makeover.

The church’s first temple in Utah — and one of 28 existing or planned temples in the Beehive State, including the companion Red Cliffs Temple in St. George — it will be rededicated Dec. 10.