Friday, June 5, 2009

He Said: Caffeine!

When I joined the church 35 years ago the only bad habit I had to give up was drinking Pepsi cola. At time the person interviewing me suggested that my drinking four or five cans a day was a violation in their opinion of the Word of Wisdom. Not knowing any better and wanting to conform my life closer to the teachings of the Gospel I switched to drinking 7-Up or Sprite which I have continued to this day.

When I went on my mission one of my more experienced companions who was a convert to the church explained to me that drinking colas was an individual discretionary matter and that his bishop and stake president drank them. Most of the missionaries were evenly split on the subject but none of us drank them since our mission president asked us not to for a couple of reason: one he didn't want to confuse investigators who were struggling with coffee or tea and second he thought soda pop was a waste of the little money his missionaries received each month. He felt there were more nutritious things for us to eat or drink. After my mission I just continued the practice of not drinking caffeinated beverages. I rarely even drank hot cocoa although I do admit eating chocolate candy bars which has its own baggage.

About fifteen years ago I switched to drinking decaffeinated Pepsi Free on special occasions. Since I consumed too much soda pop I have diabetic tendencies. My wife has forced me to switch to diet soda pop which in the Pepsi or Coke decaffeinated versions is not even close to the original taste. On Father's Day, my birthday, and Christmas my family have an inside joke of giving one bottle of Pepsi Free (sugared) and a bag of Fritos.

I have had a few minor lapses this past couple of years when I discovered my wife drinking Diet Coke and Mountain Dew. She insists that she is only a social drinker of the suspect beverages and drinks them to get along with other social caffeinated drinkers who are a majority of her family and friends. The first few times she drank them in the presence our eight children she scandalized them since we both adamantly taught them over the years that consuming them was the height of hypocrisy.

One of our daughters picked up this bad habit on her mission to a foreign country which saddened me. In a blog post that I entitled Maté, Kava, Coca-Cola and LDS Missionaries I tracked down all the major statements I could find by Mormon authorities and concluded that
I don't really have an answer to whether you should or should not drink these beverages. There are conflicting guidelines and statements. Maybe they are intentional or maybe they are there so we can have our free will. I do know some former leaders have spoken out against them. I haven't heard anything in about twenty years though.
Personally I come down on the side of not drinking caffeinated soda. There are a few reasons I am opposed to it. I believe I am addicted to soda pop and think any kind brings health problems such as diabetes, kidney stones, etc. I feel guilt every time I pop the lid on one which is once or twice a day. Another reason is that caffeinated beverages including new energy drinks have as much caffeine in them as coffee or tea, in some cases, more. Even Sobe drinks which have vitamins and herbs can contain a great deal of caffeine. I recently saw a commercial that said drinking soda pop erodes enamel on teeth and that you can't replace hard enamel once it dissolves.

Despite my feelings many LDS members including my wife and Church leaders including mission presidents, bishops, stake presidents and even a few general authorities still drink colas. One of the contentions about drinking cola beverages is that there is just as much caffeine in them as in coffee or tea. A few members tell me that it is hypocritical to refrain from coffee and teas and drink the other substances. Many times uber-righteous non-caffeine drinker members tell cola drinkers to their face that they are just plain wrong in giving in to their natural cravings and consuming them.

I cringe every time I see my wife pop the top on a diet Coke. But lately I have moved across the line and bought her one on a recent trip. I do draw the line at Mountain Dew which is hard core stuff. I even drank one of her diet cokes when she wasn't looking a few months back when I was unusually thirsty. It was left over from a retreat with a bunch of feminist liberal women from Open Mormon. I didn't have the money or the inclination to go get a diet sugar free Root Beer at the local grocery store and couldn't stand my craving for the carbonated cool beverage when I was hot. I just hope I don't go to hell in the end for compromising on something that doesn't feel right to me and causes me such guilt and remorse.


  1. There are plenty of reasons to "personally" come down on the side of avoiding caffeine, or sugared drinks, or carbonation for that matter. None of these makes it against the WoW, since it is not a health based doctrine, and even you agree that recommendations from leaders are not clear. For instance, you never would have "crossed the line" to have a coffee if it were the only thing left on a freezing cold day, because it is a clear violation. You might argue that we should follow the spirit of the law, and in that sense, I would say if we're going to include things that aren't even written, maybe we could include those that are written: maybe BiV should cringe when you grill a burger, or were you in time of famine on Memorial Day :)

  2. You could always say to yourself:

    "My body is a temple and does that food or drink have a recommend?"

    We would likely be a lot more healthy.

    Why is it we are always trying to see how close to the edge we can get?

  3. I remember one group of LDS members went on a tour to Mexico around 1972. One of the Tour leaders insisted on drinking Colas bottles in the US. Others seemed to frown on this, but most of them got "intestinal ills". This leader was also an MD, and he chose to problems of caffeine over the ills of the local water.