"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 at 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]." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 202.)
I found this at Snopes.com in their article debunking the urban legend that the Church owns Coca-Cola. It is a better statement about the relationship between drinking Coke and keeping the Word of Wisdom than I have ever seen in all the years that this been endlessly debated among online Mormons in their various message boards, blogs, email discussion lists and other forums where Mormons get together and discuss, argue, debate, fight and brawl about things related to Mormon doctrine.
I myself drink Diet Coke, and I feel some guilt about it even though I apparently don't feel enough guilt to repent. I know that it is a violation of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom the way I use cola. I am definitely an "addict" using the broader definition of that term. With me it is highly habit forming, I have the habit. I get "on the wagon" and give up Coke, sometimes for years at a time, but so far in my life I always end up coming back to it. So it must be habit forming in my case. That does not mean that it is habit forming for everybody. Different people have different weaknesses for different vices.
And if Coke was my only violation of the "spirit of the Word of Wisdom," I would undoubtedly make a much greater effort to put my Coke habit forever behind me as I have already done in the case of coffee, iced tea, beer, tobacco, and many other sins, some of them unmentionable. But the fact is, were I all that concerned about the spirit of the Word of Wisdom, I would also give up chocolate, eating at McDonald's, failing to get a reasonable amount of daily exercise, not getting enough sleep, and many other personal habits that keep me from being perfectly Godlike. My behavior is flawed. I am a sinner. I need to do a better job of repenting. But like some others, I struggle with much more important sins than adding to the list of prohibitions implied in the Word of Wisdom. I choose to focus on the more important things rather than further honing my compliance with dietary laws. The Savior said,
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (Matthew 15:11, 17-20)
The gospel also teaches us that true religion is more about how well we love one another than what we eat. Consider these verses and ask yourself how they apply to the discussion about Coca-Cola and the Word of Wisdom:
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
Another important commandment that is relevant to the discussion of cola drinking and the Word of Wisdom is the commandment, repeated many places in scripture, that we are to avoid fault finding. Can all of you see how that commandment relates to the discussion? It has been my observation that a lot of condemnation of cola drinking in the Church is a direct violation of the commandments that we avoid fault finding.
If we must give up cola drinking, what about chocolate? It contains not only theobromine, a habit forming substance that has a very similar effect on the human nervous system to the caffeine in colas, but it also contains caffeine too. Yet how often do we hear the breath sniffers in the Church denounce the use of chocolate while they are shaking the hypocritical finger of scorn at those who use cola drinks? It has been my observation that the Relief Society sister who is the most holier-than-thou in the ward, the one most likely to condemn cola drinking, would think nothing of putting a plate of brownies on the table for the small children to eat at the ward potluck.
Really, brothers and sisters, most of us have far more important things to condemn in ourselves than the cola drinking of others. I am happy that I ran across this excellent doctrinal statement at snopes.com and its link to this teaching from President Kimball. I think it clears up a lot, even better than much of what has been said by self-appointed, amateur Mormon theologians such as myself.