Question: Is it true that Mormons are forbidden from drinking cola drinks such as Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper?

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Question: Is it true that Mormons are forbidden from drinking cola drinks such as Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper?

Many members of the Church choose to abstain from cola drinks as part of their personal application of the Word of Wisdom, however, the use of cola products does not result in a restriction of Church privileges

Many members of the Church choose to abstain from cola drinks as part of their personal application of the Word of Wisdom. But, use of cola products per se does not result in a restriction of Church privileges, while the use of coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs certainly would. Abuse of caffeine (or any other drug or substance) would, however, certainly contradict the spirit and intent of the Word of Wisdom.

Spencer W. Kimball made his own and the Church's view of cola drinks clear:

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].[1]

Bruce R. McConkie observed:

Some unstable people become cranks...There is no prohibition in Section 89 as to the eating of white sugar, cocoa, chocolate...or anything else except items classified under tea, coffee, tobacco and liquor. If some particular food disagrees with an individual, then that person should act accordingly without reference to the prohibitions in this particular law of health.[2]

President Heber J. Grant was encouraged to forbid cola drinks officially, but declined to do so:

On October 15, 1924, representatives of the Coca-Cola Company called on President Grant to complain that non-Mormon Dr. T. B. Beatty, state Health Director, was using the church organization to assist in an attack on Coca-Cola. They asked President Grant to stop him, but he refused at first, saying that he himself had advised Mormons not to drink the beverage. Beatty, however, had been claiming that there was four to five times as much caffeine in Coke as in coffee, when in fact, as the representatives showed, there were approximately 1.7 grains in a cup of coffee and approximately .43 grains or about a fourth as much in a equivalent amount of Coke. After a second meeting, President Grant said that he was "sure I have not the slightest desire to recommend that the people leave Coca-Cola alone if this amount is absolutely harmless, which they claim it is." Beatty, however, insisted that he would still recommend against its use by children. The question was left unresolved, and evidence indicates that while the First Presidency has taken no official stand on the use of cola drinks, some members urge abstinence.[3]

The Ensign included a wise caution in Dec 2008:

...the Word of Wisdom does not specifically prohibit caffeine. However, I believe that if we follow the spirit of the Word of Wisdom we will be very careful about what we consume, particularly any substance that can have a negative impact on our bodies. This is true regarding any drug, substance, or even food that may be damaging to one's health. This includes caffeine.[4]

Official statement of policy from the First Presidency regarding cola drinks

An official statement of policy from the First Presidency is available:

With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.[5]

The Church Handbook of Instructions: "The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee"

The 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions notes:

The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.

Members should not use any substance that contains illegal drugs. Nor should members use harmful or habit-forming substances except under the care of a competent physician.[6]

See also: Thomas J. Boud, MD, "The Energy Drink Epidemic," Ensign, December 2008. off-site


Notes

  1. Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 202.
  2. Bruce R. McConkie, "Word of Wisdom," in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 845–846. GL direct link
  3. Thomas G. Alexander, "The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 no. 3 (Autumn 1981), 84–85.
  4. Thomas J. Boud, MD, "The Energy Drink Epidemic," Ensign (December 2008), 48–52.
  5. Lester E. Bush, Jr., ed., "Mormon Medical Ethical Guidelines," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 12 no. 3 (Fall 1979), 103.
  6. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Handbook 2: Administering the Church—2010 (Intellectual Reserve, 2010). Selected Church Policies and Guidelines 21.3.11