The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants to make clear that vaping, green tea and fancy coffee drinks are off limits under the religion's dietary code, which is meant to keep members from consuming unhealthy substances.
Mormon leaders pointed to an article in its youth magazine New Era which reminded readers that the Word of Wisdom prohibits “hot drinks”, understood to mean tea and coffee, and harmful or habit-forming substances.
E-cigarettes are highly addictive, “iced tea is still tea” and any drink ending in “-ccino” probably has coffee and breaks the rules, the church wrote.
Recreational marijuana is also banned but medical marijuana and opioids are fine when used as prescribed by a doctor.
The Christian sect - widely known as the Mormon church - had previously said it approved of medical marijuana in certain circumstances, but last year it opposed a medical marijuana bill in Utah that it said went too far.
Experts and church members said the clarifications raised as many questions as they answered.
For example, there is still confusion over why is iced tea off limits if it's cold, what the church's stance on coffee-flavoured desserts is and whether drinks with green-tea extract are allowed.
Lauren Lethbridge is a student newspaper editor at Brigham Young University, which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For her, following the Word of Wisdom is about obedience to the church.
She said several of her friends drink juices with green-tea extract. Many of them feel fine about the extract but one friend vowed to throw out her drinks immediately.
“I think people are still concerned and a little stressed about 'does this qualify?' or 'is this bad?' ” said Ms Lethbridge. “But I think less people are having it be a major concern for them.”
The Word of Wisdom is a section of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the church's four volumes of scripture. Mormons believe God revealed the foods and substances that are good and bad for people to consume in 1833. Liquor, tobacco, tea and coffee were prohibited.
Heber Grant, a church president, decided in the 20th century to drill down on the rules and to make adherence a prerequisite for entering a Mormon temple, said Gregory Prince, a historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Beer and wine were initially acceptable, while liquor was not. Eventually all alcohol became off limits.
Church members in recent years have debated whether soda, which typically has caffeine, is prohibited.
After prominent church member and then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attracted attention in 2012 for drinking Diet Coke on the campaign trail, the church clarified that it has no rule against caffeine itself.Mormon has dance off with Michael Jackson impersonator - London Liv
The church tends to issue clarifications when it gets a lot of questions about the same substance or when it realises members in different locations are not on the same page, Mr Prince said.
He said church members also vary in how closely they follow the Word of Wisdom, which he called “a living document".
Adhering to the dietary rules signals to others that someone is a church member, Mr Prince said. He said the practice is similar to how Jews might keep kosher as a way of demonstrating their faith.
“That this is how we self-identify within our tribe,” he said. “This is your outward living of your inward religion.”
Jana Riess, author of The Next Mormons, said there is a generational gap: older Mormons are more likely to be dogmatic about the Word of Wisdom.Independent Minds Events: get involved in the news a
A study Ms Riess conducted found 40 per cent of millennial or Generation X church members said they had consumed caffeinated coffee in the past six months. Thirty-eight percent of members with permission to enter the temples said they had consumed at least one of the forbidden substances.
Despite the continuous debate about interpretation, Ms Riess said the Word of Wisdom is not supposed to be a list of commandments with defined borders. She cited a quote from church founder Joseph Smith that she said was meant to guide members' dietary choices: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
“People really want to know what the rules are, where the boundaries are, how far is too far,” Ms Riess said. “I feel sorry for the leaders of the church in trying to respond to this because I think that they would much rather have members understand that they have good principles and can govern themselves.”
The Washington Post