When my mom first started talking with me about a plant-based lifestyle, one of the first things she brought up was the word of wisdom. She looked at me and asked, "Jernae, what does the Word of Wisdom tell us about how we should eat meat?" I looked her square in the eye, sure that I was going to win this argument. "It tells us we should eat it sparingly...in moderation. We can't just cut it out." She looked right back at me and asked, "What does sparingly mean?" I replied, "Moderation" (or something like that).
She shook her head. "Look it up in the dictionary. It means 'hardly ever.'"
So, I did. Again, sure that she was wrong. What I found was that...she still wasn't exactly right...in fact, she was being generous with that definition. Words like "restraint," "lenient," "deficient," and other words jumped out at me. And I looked at my white meat consumption. Breakfast burritos in the morning with chicken sausage, Cafe Rio salads with pork, Salmon at night (just as an example). Sometimes I only had two meals a day with meat. Still, I had to ask myself...was I showing restraint? Was I being lenient? Was I eating "deficient" amounts of meat?
With three meals centered around meat during the day, that added up to over 40 meals a week with meat. Who was I trying to kid? Apparently, just myself.
I had to go over the Word of Wisdom again.
Only it times of winter, cold, or famine. The last I checked, I haven't been starving during the winter. We have refrigerators now, and it's been ages since we've had a real famine. When was the last time all you had in your cupboard was a vessel of meal and a little oil? No, we have all kinds of food available year round, flooding our grocery shelves (most of which isn't actually food, but that's for another post), and being thrown away at the end of the day (I know...my dad used to work for a grocery chain. You'd be disgusted to know how much food is thrown away. Not donated. Just tossed).
We're not living in a day of famine. We've been blessed with so many nutrient heavy foods that aren't weighted down with cholesterol and fat which clogs the arteries, and leads to various diseases (again, another post for another time). Year-round lettuce, bananas, beans, wheat, tomatoes, peppers, avocados, green beans, apples, you name it.
Also, if you'll notice, God doesn't just talk about how we should eat meat once...he says it twice:
Twice, he tells us that meat is made to be used only in times of famine and excess hunger. Twice. And I have a firm testimony that the Lord repeats what he really wants us to know. It's important.
Next, verse 12 states, "I, the Lord, have ordained [them] for the use of man with thanksgiving..."
I'm sure you all say a prayer over your meals. But how grateful are most of us? All we have to do these days for a pound of hamburger is take a 10 minute trip to the supermarket, pick up a package of red goopy ground muscle and take it home.
Now, I'm not an animal activist who spends my weekends breaking into research labs and freeing caged animals. I don't throw red paint on people who wear fur or pose nekkid in a PETA ad. But, I never used to think about the animal...the wonderful creation of my God...who gave up it's purpose in life, "to have joy," and feed me for one night--maybe two. Then I went right back out and picked up a package of chicken breasts the next night. Not even thinking about how special that creature was. It was just meat. Just made to feed me.
How selfish of me.
With regard to animals, I want to share a quote from Prophet Joseph F. Smith: "I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he 'needs' them for food...I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possess life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men who I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find, and what for? 'Just for the fun of it!' I am a firm believer... in the simple words of one of the poets: 'Take not away the life you cannot give, for all things have an equal right to live'." (Juvenile Instructor 48:309)
He also said, "We are a part of life and should study carefully our relationship to it. We should be in sympathy with it, and not allow our prejudices to create a desire for its destruction. The unnecessary destruction of life begets a spirit of destruction which grows within the soul. It lives by what it feeds upon and robs man of the love that he should have for the works of God. It hardens the heart of man... The unnecessary destruction of life is a distinct spiritual loss to the human family. Men cannot worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon his creation. The love of all life helps man to the enjoyment of a better life. ...Love of nature is akin to the love of God, the two are inseparable." (Juvenile Instructor, April 1918, p. 182-3)
Speaking of prophets, we've actually had more than one vegetarian prophet leading the church. President Heber J. Grant actually said with regards to The Word of Wisdom, "I think that another reason I have very splendid strength for an old man is that during the years we have had a cafeteria... I have not, with exception of not more than a dozen times, ordered meat of any kind. ...I have endeavored to live the Word of Wisdom and that, in my opinion, is one reason for my good health." (Conference Report, April 1937, p. 15)
He followed it to the best of his ability. In YEARS of having a cafeteria in the temple, he only had meat a dozen times. A dozen times in YEARS.
Finally, some people (including my past self) used to throw out one "indisputable" fact: The LDS church owns the largest dairy farms and beef ranches in the world. If it were so wrong to eat meat, then why do we have them?
I'll tell you.
Can you imagine what would happen if the church said, "No, we're not going to feed you meat. You're going to eat just what we tell you to eat?" Wow. Can you say mutiny? Or even "Satan's plan?" After all, he was the one who wanted to force everyone to be good.
We want meat, we want dairy, and some people would probably starve themselves before they had to eat a meal that was solely veggies and grains. I know--I am close to some people like that.
It's easy to say drugs are bad. It's easy to say alcohol is bad. But tell someone that meat leads to heart disease?
The WOW states:
Given for a principle with
Personally, I think this scripture has two meanings. It's for the weak, and weakest of all saints. If you look up that (b) footnote, "weak" corresponds to "humble." (Now, this part is my interpretation after study and pondering). The WOW is adapted to the CAPACITY of the humblest of saints. Not the weakest with no restraint. The humblest. And I think that humility enables us to see what God has been asking us to do all along.
Let me leave you with two last thoughts. The first, is that the Lord has told us that in the millennium, the lion shall eat straw, and shall lie with the lamb. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together.
Carnivores no more. No animal shall feed on another. Why do we think we will?
The second, a quote from Hyrum Smith. You can read the full passage in this article here along with the quotes and thoughts from MANY church leaders.
"God...knows what course to pursue to restore mankind to...pristine excellency and primitive vigour, and health; and He has appointed the Word of Wisdom as one of the engines to bring about this thing, to remove the beastly appetites, the murderous disposition and the vitiated taste of man, to restore his body and vigour, promote peace between him and the brute creation, and as one of the little wheels in God's design, to help to regulate the great machinery, which shall eventually [emphasis added] revolutionize the earth, and bring about the restoration of all things." (Times and Seasons 3:799-801)
"Let these things be adhered to; let us lay aside our folly and abide by the commandments of God; so shall we be blessed of the great Jehovah in time and eternity; we shall be healthy, strong and vigorous; we shall be enabled to resist disease; and wisdom will crown our councils, and our bodies will become strong and powerful, our progeny will become mighty, and will rise up and call us blessed.... We shall prepare ourselves for the purposes of Jehovah." (Times & Seasons 3:799-801)