There are certain gospel topics that are handled with the utmost of care. One of the most interesting and controversial, if not avoided, of these topics is that of caffeinated soft drinks. I suppose like anything else, I should only pass judgment on myself and let others be their own judges. Here, I will detail my own experience and the conclusion I arrived at.
I am a convert to the Church, having grown up attending the Presbyterian and Methodist churches. I was baptized at age 11 with my parents. And although 11 years old seems so young as to have been raised in the church, please keep in mind that I did not have the chance to learn the gospel in primary, or learn primary songs, or have family prayer or family home evening as a young child. Because of this I really didn't develop a testimony of the gospel until I was about 17 years old. The point here is that I grew up drinking a lot of Coke and Pepsi (and some beer before conversion), and thought nothing of it.
When I got to be in my late thirties and early forties, I began noticing the effects of drinking Pepsi.
First, there's the issue of addiction. Here is what I discovered about myself:
1. The more I drank, the more I wanted.
2. It got to the point where I was drinking up to four 44-ounce cups of Pepsi in a single day.
3. Sometimes I would look forward to the next morning so I could go buy another Pepsi.
4. I tried half-heartedly to quit several times, but always ended up going back to it.
Second, the issue of lifestyle:
5. I gained about 35 pounds. I lost that weight, but put it back on when I went back to drinking Pepsi.
6. I was always tired. I spent a lot of time resting when I should have been busy.
7. I found that the caffeine caused me to lose sleep at night, which contributed even more to always feeling tired.
8. The increase in my heart rate caused by the caffeine would cause me to breathe heavier. At night, the heavier breathing would cause me to snore.
9. I got sick more often when drinking a lot of Pepsi.
Finally, the physiological effects:
10. I found that when I drank a lot of Pepsi, my joints would ache more. I wondered if it was eating up the cartilage in my joints.
11. The increased heart rate can't be good. It makes me wonder how much sooner a person's heart might actually give out from being overworked earlier in life. I have had two close friends die of heart attacks in the last few years. They were 36 and 48. From all the tests I have had, my heart is fine, but how long would that last under the circumstances?
12. I found that I always had 'bathroom' problems when drinking a lot of Pepsi. I wondered if that could lead to future incontinence problems.
13. I found that my sexual drive and performance were affected when I was drinking a lot of Pepsi. That alone should make me kick the habit, right?
Despite all of this, I was one who would defend my drinking of Pepsi, claiming that the prophet has never said caffeinated soft drinks were prohibited, and was never specifically mentioned as were coffee, tea and alcohol. Recently in General Conference, President Boyd K. Packer spelled out five specific things which are prohibited by the Word of Wisdom: coffee, tea, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and harmful drugs. Pepsi was not listed. Or was it?
First, I had to finally admit that I had become addicted. Addiction to anything would certainly fall under the spirit of the Word of Wisdom.
Secondly, I was not feeling energetic, motivated, or even well as often as I should. I could not 'run and not be weary', as promised by obedience to the Word of Wisdom.
Finally, I felt like I was slowly destroying my body. If my body is a temple of God, then willfully destroying it would be wrong.
In a recent Ensign article by Dr. Thomas J. Boud, who consults the Church on missionary medical issues, entitled "The Energy Drink Epidemic", found in the December 2008 issue. Although Pepsi is not an energy drink, it was interested in finding out Dr. Boud's findings on caffeine. The article is very interesting - here's the link to it:
In a New Era article from October 1975, Bishop H. Burke Peterson say this about caffeinated soft drinks: "We know that cola drinks contain the drug caffeine. We know caffeine is not wholesome nor prudent for the use of our bodies. It is only sound judgment to conclude that cola drinks and any others that contain caffeine or other harmful ingredients should not be used."
So my personal conclusion is that, for me personally, Pepsi is history. I know that sounds silly to some who will read this. You might say you knew it all along. I fought the battle between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, until I finally gained enough spiritual maturity to accept the higher law - the spirit of the law in this case. This is not to juge others who may still drink caffeinated soft drinks. It's a personal decision. But for me to say, under the circumstances I have presented, that I was obeying the Word of Wisdom while being so addicted to Pepsi, and experiencing all of the negative effects, was nothing more than a lie.
I have been off of caffeinated Pepsi for several months. As a New Year's resolution, I also decided to quit drinking the caffeine-free pepsi/coke as well. I found in the past that it was too easy to slip back to the caffeinated variety. I want to create a greater distance from it.
The result so far is that I feel much healthier, the problems mentioned earlier are gone, I'm sleeping better, and the weight that I put on with the Pepsi addiction is coming off.
And to think that some people say that I will never grow up...