Upfront I want to confess that I am terribly addicted to Coca-Cola, and I have been for many years. So in what I write here, no one should suppose that I am pointing the finger at them by condemning cola drinking. For me to do so would be gross hypocrisy. But I happen to believe that the Lord doesn’t want me to drink colas. And I think he will rejoice for me when I am able to finally put the addiction forever behind me. Doing so is repentance that I have been procrastinating, and the Lord has taught us in numerous ways that procrastinating repentance is a bad idea. With that said, let me ask the question:
Does drinking cola violate the Word of Wisdom?
Technically it does not, and modern prophets have confirmed this. Further, drinking them will not keep one out of the temple. But for many they are habit forming, and the prophets of God have counseled us to avoid cola drinks. Here are some quotes with sources:
From the Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball:“Wisdom goes beyond the letter of the law. Generally when we speak of the Word of Wisdom, we are talking about tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor, and all of the fringe things even though they might be detrimental are not included in the technical interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would. However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, “But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug.” With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude on this, but I personally do not put them in the class as with the tea and coffee because the Lord specifically mentioned them [the hot drinks].”
From the Teachings of Howard W. Hunter:
“The prophets have taught that we should not partake of tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, or any substance that contains illegal drugs or harmful or habit-forming ingredients. In a world where so much of this is both acceptable and accessible, we encourage you to walk squarely on the Lord’s side of the line. Do not tamper with any of these substances, nor similar products which give the ‘appearance of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:22). (94-11)”
“Any physiology book will tell you how nicotine may harm the body, particularly how injurious is its effect upon the young. Science demonstrates that, too, but there is a greater reason why young people especially should not indulge in cigaret smoking or in habit-forming drinks—because as children of God they should not be slaves to an appetite.—DNCS, August 8, 1951.”
“Live the spirit of the Word of Wisdom. We complicate the simplicity of the Word of Wisdom. The Lord said don’t drink tea, coffee, or use tobacco or liquor and that admonition is simple. But we confuse it by asking if cola drinks are against the Word of Wisdom. The 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants doesn’t say anything about cola drinks, but we ask questions that go beyond the simplicity of the lesson that has been taught. We know that caffeine is taken out of coffee and used as an ingredient of cola drinks. It seems to me that if we really want to live the spirit of the law we probably wouldn’t partake of that which had been taken from what we were told not to drink. (79-09)”
From Joseph Fielding Smith’s Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 5:
“Use of Cola Drinks and Playing Games of Chance
Question: ‘Please enlighten me in relation to the use of cola drinks and the playing of bingo games at parties given by members of the Church. Our neighborhood is starting a group of wives who will play once a month, and each person will bring one small item to be played for. I do not like to go and would like to know our policy in relation to such gatherings or groups.’
Answer: Time is precious and should be occupied in some useful pursuit or study in which the mind may be enlightened and spirituality increased. While there is no objection to the brethren and sisters meeting together from time to time to engage in some relaxation, the devoting of the time to some foolish practice as the playing of cards or games of chance is contrary to the spirit and teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was definitely informed by a chemist that the cola drinks are just as harmful as tea or coffee, and his advice was to leave all such substances alone.”
I see a pattern developing here, do you? Is it a commandment of Jesus Christ to follow prophetic counsel? Well, it isn’t one of the Ten Commandments, if that is what you are asking. But I seem to remember a scripture that commands us to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (D&C 84:44) But how can we tell if these words proceed forth from the mouth of God? Well, is it wise counsel or not? Is it true? Moroni teaches that every good thing comes from God. (Moroni 7:16-17) That would include wise and true counsel, wouldn’t it?
So what is the answer? The answer to the question, “Do cola drinks violate the Word of Wisdom,” is no. Technically they don’t. But for those people who find them habit forming, it most definitely violates wisdom. Are we commanded to be wise? As I read the scriptures, we are commanded to seek wisdom. That is the same thing, isn’t it?
Whether drinking cola violates the Lord’s commandment to be wise depends in large part on how seriously one takes prophetic counsel. Those who cling to the wise counsel of Christ’s true prophets will find the Lord’s will behind the counsel we have received to avoid cola drinks. Those who have less confidence in living prophets can do as they please, interpreting the Word of Wisom in a narrow, technical sense.
For myself, and only for myself, I hope this little self-talk will strenthen my desire to finally overcome the habit that I am still a slave to.