Mormon students reflect on interpretations of faith on campus

From the caffeine prohibition to missionary service to belief in living prophets, Mormon students discuss their way of life.

A panel of Mormon students shared their experiences as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and explained some of their key beliefs in Stuart Hall this past Wednesday night.

One topic that the panelists discussed was persecution and prejudice against Mormons. While they all said they are generally accepted in the broader community, they feel they are perceived as different from other Christians.

The panel also addressed a common question brought up to Church members concerning the consumption of caffeine. Officially, the Mormon Church does not have a position on the issue. Second-year Miranda Cherkas said her family avoids hot drinks, such as herbal teas and coffee. A Mormon audience member, who was drinking a Coke at the time, said that his family does not abstain from drinking caffeine.

Audience members asked about the tradition of young Mormon men and women becoming missionaries. The panel explained that missionary work, which can be performed by men and women, is not compulsory, but is strongly encouraged for young men.

Spencer Duncan, a graduate student in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, spoke enthusiastically about the two years he spent serving as a Mormon missionary in Puerto Rico.

“I cannot adequately express the impact that it had on my life,” he said.

Jacob Johansen, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, discussed the belief in living prophets, which is important to Mormons. He said they believe that today there are prophets who are able to receive revelations from God, similar to Moses and Isaiah of the Old Testament.

These living prophets are key leaders in the LDS church and are able to declare new doctrine, he said. However, according to Mormon beliefs, every person can receive personal revelations for their own lives.

Speaking about her experience being Mormon on campus, Cherkas said “the best thing to do is to be open, honest, and sincere with those around us about our faith.”

Fourth-year Emily Greenwood added that students often treat her with respect for following her beliefs.

The other panelists were third-year and Latter-day Saint Student Association president Paul Hawkins and graduate student Nolan Pope.

The discussion was hosted by the Latter-day Saint Student Association.

Correction - Nov 20, 2012: An earlier version of this article misstated Mormon practices regarding caffeine.
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  • Paul Hawkins

    Hi Alex,

    Thank you for the coverage of the recent LDSSA event. Generally, I felt you gave a nice representation of the facts. Although I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and cannot speak as a representative of them, I do want to correct an inaccurate statement that was made regarding caffeine. In the article, you stated: “Officially, it [caffeine] is not allowed in the Mormon faith..”

    However, The Official Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders and the Public as sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated on August 29, 2012: “Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.”

    Therefore, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not maintain an official position on the consumption of caffeine. In my mind, if I can put it informally, they do not encourage consumption but they do not prohibit consumption.

    Historically, there have been debates among Mormons as to whether or not caffeine was prohibited, but the issue appears to have been resolved with the recent clarification quoted above that was put forth by the Church. That is why the member of the audience pointed out the fact that he was drinking Coca-Cola. He does not consider it in conflict with the official teachings of the Church. For further information regarding beliefs and standards maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit or

    Thank you for the understanding.

    Paul Hawkins
    President of the LDSSA