Now and then people wonder what the meaning of “hot drinks” in the Word of Wisdom means. Based off these three quotes from Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Brigham Young, the meaning is pretty simple.
“I understand that some of the people are excusing themselves in using tea and coffee, because the Lord only said ‘hot drinks’ in the revelation of the Word of Wisdom…. “Tea and coffee … are what the Lord meant when He said ‘hot drinks.’” –Joseph Smith [(in Joel H. Johnson, Voice from the Mountains [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881], p. 12), as quoted in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual.]
“And again, ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.” –Hyrum Smith [“The Word of Wisdom,” Times and Seasons, 1 June 1842, p. 800. as quoted in “Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual”]
“Some of the sisters and some of the brethren will say that tea and coffee is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom, but hot drinks. As if this doesn’t refer directly, perfectly, absolutely, definitely and truly to that which we did drink hot. What does it allude to? What did we drink hot? Tea and coffee. When we made milk porridge, it was food. We couldn’t wash it down red hot the way we drank down tea. It alludes to tea and coffee or whatever we drank. I said to the Latter-day Saints at the annual conference of 6 April that the spirit whispers to me for this people to observe the Word of Wisdom. Let the tea and coffee and tobacco alone, whether they smoke, take snuff and chew, let it alone. Those that are in the habit of drinking liquor, cease to drink liquor.” Brigham Young Tooele in 1867 (Reported by Gerrit Dirkmaat on LDS Perspectives podcast, PhD in history in 2010 from the University of Colorado. He worked as a historian/writer for the Joseph Smith Papers Project (JSP) from 2010 to 2014. He was coeditor of Documents, Volume 1 and lead editor of Documents, Volume 3. He is now an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU)