The caffeination (but not necessarily liberalization) of Mormons?

The “Word of Wisdom,” which dictates diet regulations in Mormonism, is not followed strictly by most Latter-Day Saints, with only about half of church members saying they do so, according to a study in the independent Mormon journal Dialogue (Spring). The prohibition of such beverages as caffeinated soda and coffee has become a well-known feature of the church even to outsiders. These results are from the Next Mormon Survey, which is an online survey of about 1,700 Mormons and former Mormons based on a “panel matching” technique that is said to be comparable to a representative sampling method. Researchers John Ferguson III, Benjamin R. Knoll, and Jana Riess find that Word of Wisdom adherence plays a smaller part than might be expected in defining Mormon identity. Compliance with the Word of Wisdom is required to obtain a “temple recommend,” which is a prerequisite for participating in temple ceremonies and holding many leadership positions in the church. But “there is no strong consensus among Mormons themselves that Word of Wisdom compliance is essential to “‘being a good Mormon,’” the authors write.

The prohibition of coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco has become a well-known feature of the church even to outsiders. Only 37.5 percent of respondents said refraining from drinking coffee or tea is essential to being a good Mormon. However, 57.2 percent said did say that not drinking alcohol is essential to being a good Mormon. Coffee was found to be the most popular “prohibited substance,” with about one-third of respondents reporting that they drank the beverage in the last six months. The change is reflected in Mormon culture, with caffeinated sodas now being sold on the campus of Brigham Young University, even though these beverages were never officially prohibited by the church. As might be expected, regular attenders were most likely to follow the Word of Wisdom, but the authors speculate that younger active Mormons, who showed less strict adherence to the regulations than other active Mormons, are will be likely to further relax and reinterpret these teachings as they move to positions of church leadership.