Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do Mormons Drink Coke?

I jump rope. A lot. And when I do, I try to stay away from carbonation and other things that may slow me down (I even heard recently that milk and orange juice aren’t the best before competition.) I’ve heard arguments both ways that pop cuts your wind or that it doesn’t; I think it probably does but I have a number of friends who are very good jumpers and they drink pop all the time. Either way, I need all the help I can get so I try to stay away from carbonated beverages when I jump rope which, with as much as I jump, means I pretty much just always stay away from carbonation.

Staying away from pop creates an interesting situation for me. Since most jumpers I’m around know I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS, when I get lemonade or something non-carbonated at a restaurant or at the fountain, sometimes I get comments such as, “oh yeah, you’re Mormon,” or, “that’s right, I forgot you can’t drink pop.” Many people assume since I don’t drink soda, Latter-day Saints in general are not allowed to drink any kind of soda. This simply is not true; you should go to a Mormon wedding reception—all the Sprite-spiked punch you could ever ask for!

The Word of Wisdom
However, while this is a misconception, it is not completely unfounded. In 1833, the Lord revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith a law of health that later became known as the Word of Wisdom. In this “principle with a promise,” the Lord outlines which foods are good for us to eat and which substances are not good for our bodies. Most people who know a Latter-day Saint know that we do not drink or smoke. They may know that we do not drink coffee or some teas. While certain substances and foods are spelled out in the Word of Wisdom, not everything is clearly defined and set apart. The apostle President Boyd K. Packer said this:

"It’s well known that tea, coffee, liquor, and tobacco are against it. It has not been spelled out in more detail. Rather, we teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation.

"Everything harmful is not specifically listed; arsenic, for instance—certainly bad, but not habit-forming! He who must be commanded in all things, the Lord said, “is a slothful and not a wise servant” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26)." (“The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Ensign, May 1996, 17)

Avoiding addiction is one such way that we can protect our bodies and our agency and thus live the Word of Wisdom. When we are addicted to a substance, we are no longer in complete control of our bodies. We give up a portion of our agency, and we do not show our Father in Heaven that we are grateful for and respect the great gift of a physical body. The apostle President James E. Faust spoke of addiction and agency:

"Some addictions can control us to the point where they take away our God-given agency. One of Satan’s great tools is to find ways to control us. Consequently, we should abstain from anything that would keep us from fulfilling the Lord’s purposes for us, whereby the blessings of eternity may hang in jeopardy. We are in this life for the spirit to gain control over the body rather than the other way around.

"Any kind of addiction inflicts a terrible price in pain and suffering, and it can even affect us spiritually. However, there is hope because most addictions can over time be overcome. We can change, but it will be difficult." (“The Power to Change,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 122–24)

Agents unto ourselves
The Lord expects us to “do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in [us], wherein [we] are agents unto [ourselves]. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28.)

Another doctrine, one taught by the apostle Paul, is that our bodies are temples (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20.) Thus, in doing many things of our own free will and bringing to pass much righteousness that we are not commanded in all things, we must recognize and protect ourselves against those things that would harm or defile our bodies such as addictive substances.

Coke and some other soft drinks contain caffeine which is an addictive chemical. I have a really good friend who is addicted to Coke. He told me one time that if he doesn’t have a Coke by nine in the morning he has a headache. That is an addiction; his body cannot function properly without Coke. I’m sure you can think of people with similar addictions to Diet, chocolate, or something else. Although an addiction to chocolate is obviously less serious than an addiction to narcotics, alcohol, or tobacco, an addiction is an addiction. Those people are bound to the substance and do not have 100%, full control over their bodies.

Do Mormons drink Coke?
In regard to the question, “do Mormons drink Coke?” the answer is yes. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are not specifically commanded to abstain from Coke or any other carbonated and/or caffeinated soft drink.

However, President Faust says that any kind of addiction inflicts a terrible price in pain and suffering and it can affect us spiritually. Therefore, some Saints choose to stay away from caffeinated beverages such as Coke altogether in order to avoid the possibility of becoming addicted. At Brigham Young University and other facilities owned by the Church where soft drinks are distributed, often the fountains sell caffeine-free Coca-cola. Coca-cola’s root-beer brand Barq’s is the only root beer to my knowledge that contains caffeine, yet is distributed in Utah without caffeine.

I personally don’t drink Coke very often not because I’m afraid to develop a dependency, but simply because I think it tastes terrible (gasp, no! You don't like Coke???). On the other hand, I love Dr. Pepper which is caffeinated but I’ve never been worried about forming an addiction because I don’t drink carbonated beverages very often and Dr. Pepper even less.

Promised blessings
As with all commandments, the Lord promises blessings to those who live the Word of Wisdom and a clean, healthy lifestyle. They shall, “receive health in their navel and marrow in their bones,” and shall, “run and not be weary and walk and not faint.” And, since to the Lord all things are spiritual, “and not at any time have I given you a law which was temporal,” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:34) He also promises that those who live according to the Word of Wisdom and other commandments shall, “find Wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” The Lord ends the revelation of the Word of Wisdom with these words: “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, and the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen” (see Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21.)

I am grateful to have a loving Father in Heaven who teaches me the doctrines and principles of eternal happiness and then allows me to choose for myself and do many things of my own free will. I have lived the Word of Wisdom my entire life and have seen the blessings that come from living a healthy lifestyle. There is a truth behind living commandments and receiving blessings.


More information including talks by apostles and other Church leaders about the Word of Wisdom.