Eating Meat

This is Kathleen from Dialogue writing. I was trolling through some Dialogue magazines looking for information about the Word of Wisdom and found this in the opening paragraph of an article by Thomas G. Alexander. (“The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement, ” 14, No. 3 [Fall 1981] 78 – 87). In May of 1898 the First Presidency and the Twelve were discussing the Word of Wisdom. One member read from the 12th volume of the Journal of Discourses where Brigham Young seems to support the idea that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment. “Lorenzo Snow, then President of the Council of Twelve agreed, saying that he believed the Word of Wisdom was a commandment and that it should be carried out to the letter. In doing so, he said, members should be taught to refrain from eating meat except in dire necessity, because Joseph Smith had taught that animals have spirits.” Wilford Woodruff agreed the Word of Wisdom is a commandment, but thinks no action should be taken except that “members should be taught to refrain from meat.” (p. 78)

I think I can safely say that “eat meat sparingly” is not the portion of the Word of Wisdom that today we pay the most attention to, especially in the context of the status of animals as creatures with spirits. We don’t discuss animals at church very much at all, except maybe to comfort someone who has lost a pet. We can assure the bereaved that since animals have spirits, we will see them again. Someone might refer to what Joseph Smith said during Zion’s Camp, when the men wanted to kill the rattlesnakes in the camp. “Men must themselves become harmless before they can expect brute creation to be so. When man shall lose his own vicious disposition and cease to destroy the inferior animals, the lion and the lamb may dwell together, and the suckling child play with the serpent in safety,” is how Wilford Woodruff remembers it. And we know Brigham Young was displeased when the men of the first 1847 pioneer company killed more animals than they needed for meat.

I think most Mormons think of human beings as the lords of creation, as being “a little lower than the angels,” as the stewards of the earth–not really as part of the animal kingdom. We do not think of ourselves as “human animals” the way animals’ rights advocates do–just part of a continuum of fauna, more complex than some, more arrogant than all. As animals I think it’s fair to say humans are at once the most creative and the most destructive species ever to evolve on the planet.

In order for any animal, or plant either, to live, something else must die. That’s the brutal truth of it. Even the purest of vegetarians kill to live. It’s specious to argue that plants aren’t “alive”. They are immobile and have nothing we recognize as a brain, but they are complex and sophisticated, and are capable of reaction, to threat for example. They attract insects to aid them in reproduction. This idea that plants can manipulate us is the idea behind Michael Polanyi’s The Botany of Desire, which I was skeptical about at first, but have been forced to reconsider. When we eat seeds, couldn’t it be argued that we are eating an embryo with the potential for life? Chapter 3 of Moses says God created all things spiritually before they were created “naturally upon the face of the earth.” I suppose it could be argued whether creating something spiritually is the same as that thing having a spirit, but I think it does.

Given that all creation has a spirit, what should our attitude be towards what we eat, especially the animals we eat. My daughter-in-law won’t eat anything that “has a mother.” She will eat chicken and fish, chicken and fish mothers being too detached from the process of child rearing to count, I suppose. This is something we tend not to want to think too much about because it affects us as often as we eat, which is often. Eating is pleasurable, but it wouldn’t be if a person had to think with every mouthful about what creature gave its life to provide the meal.

My own eating is full of contradictions. I don’t eat a lot of beef, but I eat a lot of chicken. One dead beef animal can feed far more people than one dead chicken, so it would be more sparing of life to eat beef. Furthermore, I prefer only certain parts of the animals I eat–the best parts, not the “hubcaps” as my mother used to say. I don’t eat organs either; I don’t eat stomachs or tails or tongues. I eat what I like and don’t give much thought to the potential waste. It is also clear to me that if I had to kill the animal myself, and butcher it or pluck it, I probably wouldn’t eat meat at all.

I think it is true that when people lived on small farms, where they raised and ate their own animals, they had a more rounded sense of what it meant to share the earth with what became their food. It might be they drew a big distinction between themselves and the animal world, so they didn’t have to think about animals in a personal way. It might be that they had more reverence for the animals, who had no choice, and gave up their lives to feed a family, a family of chosen creatures or just a group of other animals, depending on how you look at it.

Well, vegetarians and animal rights advocates are bores, mostly, which makes it easy to dismiss them with a joke. How far down do they want to take it, after all? Bacteria are animals–mosquitoes and fleas and ticks are animals. We kill them pretty readily, even if not to eat them. But as participants in a religion that asks us to give money and go hungry once a month, which reminds us every time we dress that we have made covenants, that can exact a great deal of time from us, maybe we should also examine our relationship to those animals with spirits, not just the ones that are our pets.


  1. I grew up on a farm. I ate animals that I considered pets–that is, animals that I had named and played with.

  2. I abstained from meat for five years and during that time, generally felt more spiritually connected than I do when I eat meat. I have heard this from a few other LDS vegetarians, too. I think most American saints give little to no thought on having stewardship of the animals; maybe if they did, we would meantion this part of the WoW, instead of pretending it does not exist.

  3. harpingheather says:

    The thing is, you need protein in your diet. You need certain amino acids that plants simply do not provide. Could we (rich, industrialized LDS) eat less meat? Absoluetly. The WoW says that meat is to be used “sparingly” but the scripstures also say that “he who forbids to eat meat is not of God.”

    There are some plant-based foods that provide protien. Beans and rice together for example, or the South American grain quinoa but the fact remains that a healthful, balanced vegetarian diet is a luxury. It requires a variety of foods and a nutritional education not usually found in poorer areas. That’s something to be taken into account when you consider the application of the WoW in a world-wide church. Is it fair (let alone correct) to imply that those who can afford to deny themselves a whole portion of the food pyramid (or whatever they’re calling it these days) are more spiritual than those who can’t? I’m not saying that anyone here is claiming that but knowing human nature, I don’t think it’d take long for someone to apply that implication.

    Back to the problem of meat consumption. I think it goes back to the ’50s when a man knew and proved he was a good provider by putting meat on the table. “Bring home the bacon” and all that. The effect this has had is to teach succeeding generations that meals revolve around meat. The mothers then were proudly cooking the meat their husbands paid for and the children they raised learned their mother’s recipes and meal plans. The meals that they then prepared for their children reflected this meat-heavy dynamic. So though many people have rejected this system and their numbers continue to grow, a majority of people simply don’t know any other way to cook or to eat. There are many vegetarian books on the market but their recipes tend to require things (like soy cream) that are either expensive, hard for your average person to find or (usually, in my experience) both.

    In summary, I support a less meat-heavy lifestyle. It does show better stewardship of the Earth and it is healthier. I’m just not sure the time is right to emphasis that aspect of the WoW when so many people in the world still need any food they can get their hands on.

  4. I’m not a vegetarian nor have I ever been, but have long felt that we all will be when the time is right; that is, when Heavenly Father finally says, Now is the time to abstain from all animal flesh. I am guessing that may be during the Millenium, because I can’t imagine a time of peace when slaughtering animals is still going on. Of course animals have spirits, but I think Heavenly Father has given animals to us for our use, provided we ue them with prudence and thanksgiving. I rarely eat beef, lamb, pork, etc, but I love chicken. Yesterday, we received an announcement that the Avian flu was found in 40 chickens in our area. So now… not even chicken for awhile!!

    BTW, there are those (fruitarians) that only eat food that doesn’t kill the plant: fruit bearing trees, berries, & nuts.

  5. Heather, I agree with everything you say.
    Healthy vegetarianism is often a luxury, particularly in the USA, when mags like Vegetarian Times have tons of recipes that call for “soy bacon” or “chicken-flavored soy bits” or other obscure items. In several countries I’ve lived in, being without meat was a sign of being poor. Or, “vegetarian recipes” often had a chicken or fish base. A Hindu woman I knew talked of her family’s vegetarianism, and I found out that many Veggie Hindus were only vegetarians on certain days of the week – it wasn’t an all or nothing situation for them.

    There’s a new trend in the States called “Flexitarianism,” where you eat a mainly vegetarian diet but allow for meat occasionally. I love that idea!

  6. I once heard that there is an errant comma in section 89 in one of those verses about meat, so that it should say “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used only in times of winter or of famine…” (instead of “…they should not be used, only in times of winter or famine…”).

    I seem to recall reading a part of a talk where an early general authority was talking about how it was possible to get all your vitamins and minerals by exclusively eating animals and their innards. Anyone else heard this?

    Anyways, a few years ago I decided I was starting to get a little soggy around the midsection and decided to eat more fruits and vegetables, and became a borderline vegetarian in the process (I’ll eat meat if it’s in front of me, but I don’t go out of my way to eat it) and can identify with the feeling more spiritually connected thing.

  7. I am essecially a flexitarian. I have been for most of my life. I rarely cook meat, but I do eat it if other people cook it for me, or on special occations or sometimes while eating out or if I have a craving. This works really well for me and for my view of balance in nature and life.

    It just seems to me that many people taking balanced steps in this direction “eating meat sparingly” makes a lot more sense, and would do a lot more good, than a few nutjobs being obsessed with the tiniest amounts of animal by-products in their foods.

    I think if we could all eat meat once or twice a week, rather than once or twice a day, it would be much more doable than giving up meat completely, it would be wonderful for the planet and our bodies, and it would be much easier to take a moment to consider the souls and sacrifice of the animal that died for that meal. It’s hard to treat something as serious and special if your wolfing it down three times a days.

  8. Jessica C. says:

    It doesn’t take much research to see the atrocities that are committed by people to provide us with meat. The killing isn’t even done in a humane way. So, when I buy chicken, I buy range free chicken (more expensive, but a better taste). When I buy eggs, I buy cage free eggs (more expensive, but better taste and I feel better about it). I also had weight loss surgery and so I have to drink liquid protein everyday. So, it is possible to get protein without eating a lot of meat, or even a little bit.

  9. The problem with “free range” chicken and eggs is that the label can be quite misleading. The standards that need to be met in order for products to get this label are not actually all that much different/better than non-free range products.

    I have always wondered why it is that this part of the Word of Wisdom essentially gets no play. The last time I heard a WoW lesson (this past summer) the teacher said, “Now do I have to go into the details about how we don’t have to pay attention to the whole ‘eat meat sparingly’ part?” Had he actually left space for an answer before continuing on, I would have replied with a hearty “Yes!”
    I once had an institute teacher who asked everyone to say what they thought “Eat meat sparingly” meant and then asked what we thought would have happened if the WoW had said, “Drink alcohol sparingly” instead of an outright prohibition. If we (the church collectively) dealt with it the same way we do with meat, we’d all be boozing it up.

  10. Jessica C. says:

    Hannah: Until there is a better alternative, I will continue to buy free range/cage free products. It might, in many instances, not be much better, but it is still better, and that is enough for me and my conscience.

  11. I have been a vegetarian (lacto ovo) for almost 18 years. But not for spiritual reasons. Purely because of preference. I have never liked meat. Now, I just don’t eat it. I am not against it’s consumption however. Kim is a flexitarian too and he does like his meat. Our children are vegs until age of two and hopefully may become vegetarian later. And yep, protein can be easily found elsewhere (nuts, mmmmm).

  12. We’ve been vegetarians for 30 years.. tho now we have been eating eggs with soy bacon for breakfast, and in other recipes. only a few of raised children have kept to a veggie diet tho most eat well. so many delicious meals are made with veggies and tofu products, just don’t want meat, anyway, its a spiritual thing, we believe animals are too close to us to eat, esp. mammals.

  13. actually i have to agree that my reasons have become more spiritual over the years, though initially just because of taste.

  14. The Word of Wisdom is interesting as scripture, because it’s probably the best illustration that we should not err on the side of taking the scriptures literally. The Word of Wisdom is pretty straight forward about a lot of things–more so, at any rate, then most of the stuff in the Bible or Book of Mormon. But if all one considers is the text of the revelation, there is no real rhyme or reason to the parts we emphasize and the parts that we ignore. In my opinion, this is as much influenced by tradition as by subsequent revelation.

    I must say, however, that I’m disappointed that Brigham Young, Jr’s view of the Word of Wisdom didn’t end up carrying more weight, since it allowed Mormons to drink Danish beer.

    KathleenP: It is also clear to me that if I had to kill the animal myself, and butcher it or pluck it, I probably wouldn’t eat meat at all.

    Maybe men and women tend toward different preferences in this regard, but I disagree. There are few things more rewarding than killing an animal, gutting it, skinning it, quartering it, cutting off a few tasty stakes, and frying them up. It makes the entire process of carcass-to-kitchen much more concrete.

    KathleenP: I think it is true that when people lived on small farms, where they raised and ate their own animals, they had a more rounded sense of what it meant to share the earth with what became their food.

    Nowadays, we have the luxury of choosing what we eat and having it almost entirely prepared by other people. Animals used to be food banks. You fed them when there was plenty as a form of saving, and then you eat them when there’s want. That’s one reason the Word of Wisdom makes a special exception in regards to eating meat during winter.

  15. “There are few things more rewarding than killing an animal, gutting it, skinning it, quartering it, cutting off a few tasty stakes, and frying them up. It makes the entire process of carcass-to-kitchen much more concrete.”

    Well, can’t agree with you there. I can’t see how killing ANYTHING is more rewarding than anything else. Actually something much more rewarding and satisfying is giving birth.

  16. I just had a rather odd thought.

    What if God’s commandments to us really aren’t because of some independent morality, but are simply matters of obedience?

    What if the instruction to “eat meat sparingly” has nothing to do with health, world food-supply issues, or even the taking of life?

    What if it is simply a matter of consecrating oneself to the Lord by engaging in practices not commonly found in “Babylon?”

    Take it further. What if, in the cosmic scheme of things, killing is not that big of a deal? What if the only moral wrongness attached to killing is derived from that fact that it is not divinely authorized? God said “thou shalt not kill.” But then he shorlty commanded the slaughter of the Ammonites.

    Under my hypothetical here, there is no contradiction. You do what God tells you to do and all artificial notions of mortal morality must bow to divine command.

    What if adultery, killing, falsehood, don’t have half the cosmic “evil karma” attached to them that we think they do?

    Gives a whole new spin to the idea that “my thoughts are not your thoughts.” Under such a model, God really would be an entirely different being and when He said that He demands a “broken heart”, no matter how painful the process, He really wasn’t kidding!

    Now, I don’t endorse the extreme view I’ve outlined above. I’m playing devil’s-advocate here. But I do think we can get ourselves into trouble when we try to impose our own notions of morality onto God. It’s quite possible that He has very different notions of morality than we do.

    In this case, it’s entirely possible that “consecration of soul” far outweighs “the death of a chicken” or “a fabulous and healthy new you.”

  17. Just to clarify, Hindus are vegetarian – they In fact, when I went to southern India for several months I realized how easy and cheap it can be to be a vegetarian. you wont find any tofu or fake meat products in that country, but you will find a whole lot of healthy, strong vegetarians. After i came back from India I just could not stomach meat anymore but it was interesting how over time I would force myself to eat it again (how can you pass up Kalua pork cooked in your neighhbors back yard? you cant!). I would alway regret it and decided to try and stick to fish but I would alway find myself eating it again. Pork is my weakness (everything tastes better with bacon!)but I very very rarely will eat beef (I find it hard to avoid if I find myself in In N Out). So, basicly Im a vegetarian with no self control :) But I find in those months when I was truly a veggie I did find myself more spiritually in-tune, and I just ‘felt’ better all the time. I do not usually cook with meat at home (I usually make chicken or turkey if we have guests or on Sunday). But I make a point to keep to once a week or less. I have found it is actually much cheaper to eat vegetarian – meat is what costs. Fresh fruits/vegs in season, rice and other grains – those things are CHEAP. I find I save alot of money when I base my menu on those items (just substitute a hearty veg for your meat – or simply leave it out! its easier than most people think)

  18. I am a peasant. I eat as much meat as I can get, and I’m fairly certain that if I had to, I could kill, skin, and cook it. IF I had to.

    I am chronically anemic and sometimes I just crave red meat. I buy a steak and wolf it down. Now I could buy spinach or take a pill, but I prefer the steak. Ribeye, with some sauteed mushrooms on the side. I don’t care one iota about the spirituality of the act of eating meat.

    I also don’t care if others prefer not to. Our son-in-law is mostly vegetarian and we are very considerate in serving meals with lots of vegetables when he comes and picking chicken or shrimp, which he will eat in moderation.

    Before we realized the depth of his commitment (probably not total, but still), we meat eaters had him over for a steak dinner, our treat. We barbecued ribeyes, all the trimmings and I honestly thought he would throw up on the spot.

    When Bill put that steak down on his plate, sizzling from the grill, he turned green. We’ve never done that again, but we sure got a good laugh. It wasn’t done purposely, we just didn’t know.

    His mom’s the crazy midwife/psychic who sees demons/herbalist. So I worry about him turning Mark Hacking on me quite a bit. Not that one has to do with the other, but why couldn’t Sarah have picked a crazy-like-us family instead of a crazy-like-them one. You’ll see how much I am in favor of the death penalty should my fears be realized. Which has nothing to do with eating meat.

  19. Seth, very profound, not at all odd, thought. I think when it all goes down, that’s the sort of thought that will be important.

  20. My years without meat were mostly teenage and I assure you that I was not eating especially healthily, using substitute meats, or tofu. Much of the rest of the world actually live comfortably without much meat at all. To say “oh, well, that is fine for rich folks” is simply a misunderstanding.

    And Ann–I am also very anemic and, although I did not eat especially carefully, my meatless years were the only ones in which I was suddenly not anemic! I have no idea why, but as soon as I picked up meat again, I went back to my anemia.

  21. “It doesn’t take much research to see the atrocities that are committed by people to provide us with meat.”

    humbug! What about the atrocities committed to provide us with vegetables? Plants are people too! Plants have the equivalent of a delocalized brain! Plants communicate! (don’t believe me? check out the Feb. 10 issue of Science magazine). Saying that one is more atrocious than the other makes about as much sense as a hobo at the Republican National Convention.

    Plant Liberation!

    Support Free Range Plants!

  22. a random John says:

    In college I ate meat infrequently. Vegetarians in the dorms would sometimes assume that I was vegetarian as well and then make snide comments about the meat-eaters. This self-righteous/judgemental aspect of vegetarianism was a real turn off for me. You would think that what people decide to eat could be chalked up to personal preference and left alone, but it was often a more divisive subject than politics or religion which could be discussed with mutal respect and civility.

  23. Yes, many vegetarians can be judgemental. But, so can meat eaters. OI, since moving to Alberta I have had MANY comments about being a veg. It can be on both sides. It comes to misundertanding. Actually I find LDS vegetarians to be the most judgemental of all. However, that is generalising, of course and being a LDS veg myself, obviously not all are like that. I say eat and let eat. I personally don’t think eating meat needs to be unhealthy or wrong. But like everything…in moderation. Though I can’t be a vegetarian in moderation. I just CAN’T eat meat. Ew. But as Kim says, that just means more for him. :)

  24. arj–interesting. I agree that vegies can be quite aggressive in their feelings and words about meat-eaters. During my meatless time, though, I was often struck by people’s reaction to my meatless meals–it was as if they felt I was picking a fight with them just because of what I had chosen to eat (and not talked about until asked)! I spent MANY college meals (at BYU) listening to a long deffense of meat-eating. It would have been fine if it had simply been an opinion, but many people went right ahead and proselyted for the omnivores, trying to convert me back to a life with beef. So odd.

  25. We’ve usually been the only veggies in our Ward, and have noticed that members can be defensive about their own eating habits when they know we don’t eat meat. we are also into organic eating and consume overall healthy foods. I think we are critical at times of the junk that is served at Ward gatherings, esp. when we have tried to encourage our own to eat well. There was a time when donuts always seemed to find their way into a sunday youth meeting, esp. young mens’ meeting, fresh donuts that someone had to have bought that morning. anyway, we would have liked more support from others in the healthy eating department but had to settle for doing our own thing.

  26. ESO- This is the exact same experience I have. everytime I order a veggie sandwich at Subway I get comments from whoever is by me in line. When Im at dinner at the inlaws and I pass by the brisket for salad and potatoes I get comments (endless endless comments ugh). Being in Texas, people tend to actually take offense at my aversion to meat and start going off on diatribes about PETA (who I despise) and the liberal agenda. Its crazy. I find this attitude is much more prevelant than the sterotypical vegan who looks down on everyone for killing animals….(which seems to be around more in HS and college than adult life).

  27. a random John says:

    I should probably add that I know many vegetarians that never make it an issue. I know others that are able to discuss things without giving offense. I would eat at all vegetarian dorms frequently and was never made to feel uncomfortable in an all veggie environment. Well, other than that sometime the food was terrible. It was the mixed-meal (omnivores and heribvores together) settings that seemed to produce comments of the, “How can you eat that?” variety. I can also understand that people feel compelled to advocate something that is important to them. I spent two years marching around doing just that. I just think that some people are so convinced of the correctness of their own dietary decisions (whatever they may be) that it doesn’t occur to them that what is coming out of their mouths is probably worse than what is going into someone else’s.

  28. a random John says:

    The veggies and cheese (or veggie de-light as they now call it) sandwhich at Subway is actually excellent. Those who recoil at the thought should give it a try. They are also a great way to collect stamps inexpensively and then blow them on a footlong turkey and bacon with extra mayo.

  29. This is an interesting conversation, but I think that the new Retro Encabulator by Rockwell Automation renders the issue moot. Here’s the info on it.

  30. There are a couple of interesting thoughts in here. My oppinion on the matter of spirituallity is that it is not a matter of vegetanarianism = increased spirituality, but that conscious evaluation of diet = increased spirituality. I think it is great that many people feel more spiritual when they abstain from meat, but to make that a blanket generalization is, I think, inapropriate.

    Humans are omnivors by design. The Resurected Lord ate meat. I don’t say that to justify meat eating for all, but many of the arguments of militant vegetarian are repudiated by them. Think of how many behaviours are justified by the fact that we are just born this way.

    I think that some of the consideration of industrialization cut both way. On the one hand, people argue that exploitation of resources by industrial methods is shamefull, on the other if all food was produced “free range” and “roganically”, there likely wouldn’t be enough food to eat in the world, and what food there was would likely be too expensive for the poor.

    I don’t know about the comma in section 89, but will look it up in Woodford when I get back home. I think that over-consumption of meat is proscribed by section 89, however, our test of fellowship is not based in section 89 but in latter blanket proscriptions. If the Church leaders decided to proscribe meat (despite the scriptural injunction not to) then this would be a different story.

    I think the scriptural injunction against meat prohibition does impose a significant barrier to militant Mormon vegetarianism.

  31. In the Book of Moses man was told to “subdue [the earth], and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” To me subduing the earth is very different than having a stewardship over it. How can we reconcile the two?

  32. Please see 1 Timothy chapter 4 vs 1-4.

    Paul warns that among other things in the last days some will command to abstain from meat which in his opinion is wrong.

    If Paul is right is vegetarianism apostacy?

    See also sections 49 and 59

  33. I have to agree with J. Stapley’s statement: “My oppinion on the matter of spirituallity is that it is not a matter of vegetanarianism = increased spirituality, but that conscious evaluation of diet = increased spirituality.” at least based on my own experiences–which have nothing to do with vegetanarianism. I had a very strict diet during my college years due to health issues–no sweets, few simple carbs, etc. I ate a ton of fruits and vegetables, and quite a bit of meat. And, looking back, I can see that I did have an increased sense of spirituality that I don’t have today. I wonder if it has to do with denying the natural man (I love love love brownies and cookies and cakes), and the blessings that come with self-control.

  34. Well Porter,

    Hugh Nibley did a convoluted linguistic analysis of the Hebrew sources of that scriptural passage and actually showed how the word “dominion” actually, in a round-about way references to “bread-winner.”

    The idea being that the concept of me having “dominion” meant that the whole world was invited to dine at my table. He who has dominion in this sense is he who provides for those in his care. Thus dominion originally didn’t mean at all what we usually understand it to mean today.

    I don’t have his essay in front of me, and it was a while ago that I read it. Maybe someone else here remembers it better.

  35. rleonard, he said to COMMAND to abstain from eating meat, not to actually abstain from eating meat. After all we had a modern day prophet who was a vegetarian (Joseph Fielding Smith). It’s just personal preference.

  36. Whoever said Hindus don’t EVER eat meat is just plain wrong. Hindus can eat meat if they want, just not cows. KFC is HUGE in India. Also, I beleive Joseph Fielding Smith ate little meant, not that he was a complete vegetarian.

  37. We always lean on the emphasis of our Prophet. And the content of the questions in our Temple Recommend. To go beyond that is going beyond the mark. Don’t we have enough to do that is required of us?

  38. Actually, no, Hindus do not eat meat EVER. KFC is popular in India because not everyone is Hindu. Beef is illegal and cannot be acquired in the country whatsoever. On airplanes/trains your choice of meal in veg/non-veg…every restaurant has a veg/non-veg menu…etc. I lived there, my best friend is Hindu…trust me…Hindu’s are strict vegetarians, but, no, not all Indians are obviously.

  39. as far as i understand, he was at least a lacto ovo vegetarian, though perhaps lacto vegetarian (which means no meat, but dairy and eggs or just dairy). and yes Hindus are completely vegetarian, though there are many religions in India and not all are veg.

  40. Just to clarify, Hindus are vegetarian – they

    Err, except many of the ones I know.

    My youngest best friend is Hindu. Her parents allow her to eat meat (but not beef).

    Anyway, I find on the diet I am on, I eat meet much more sparingly than I did before.

    As for the “free” eggs we eat in the summer, I’ve an office mate whose chickens run loose in his back acre and his kids pick up the eggs …

  41. Interesting discussion. I’ve been a vegetarian at different points in my life and even when I choose to eat meat, I attempt to maintain a healthy respect for the life I’m consuming.

    I became interested in this as a college student about ten years ago when reading Carol Adams’ “The Sexual Politics of Meat” for a feminist theory course in which she describes her understanding of the conflation between the bodies of animals and the bodies of women, especially as absent referrents. As a Latter-day Saint, I took this very seriously knowing how serious it is to treat the body as a temple which is the place my life is cultivated. For me, it all connected.

    I think I’d heard before that animals had souls, and I’d love it if Kathleen or anyone else could point me to literature on that point.

  42. In Answers to Gospel Questions vol 2. pg. 48, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the following:

    Question: “Do animals have spirits? If so, will they obtain the resurrection, and if so, where will they go?”

    Answer: The simple answer is that animals do have spirits and that through the redemption made by our Savior they will come forth in the resurrection to enjoy the blessing of immortal life. The Bible as it has come to us through numerous translations and copies does not contain the information concerning the immortality of the animal world in the clearness which, without any doubt, it was invested with the pure inspiration of the revelations of the Lord. However, there are some passages which still remain bearing witness to the eternal nature of the animal world. Among these are the following:

    To support this claim he reffers to the “spiritual creation” in Genisis and Moses. He also points to the putative resurerection of animals after the Millenium – DC 29:22-25.

    Orson Pratt championed a view of Spiritual Atomism which approached a form of animism. He believed that all things from mineral to herb and animal to human had spirits. Forms of this view were later popularized Skoussen.

    Joseph, himself, preached on the salvation of animals during General Conference in 1844 (WoJS pg. 184 – 188):

    John saw curious looking beasts in heaven, he saw every creature that was in heaven, all the beasts, fowls, & fish in heaven, actually there, giving glory to God. I suppose John saw beings there, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this, strange beasts of which we have no conception all might be seen in heaven. John learned that God glorified himself by saving all that his hands had made whether beasts, fowl fishes or man. Any man who would tell you that this could not be, would tell you that the revelations are not true. John heard the words of the beasts giving glory to God and understood them. God who made the beasts could understand every language spoken by them; The beasts were intelligent beings and were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God.

  43. Wow, J. Stapley, I love that quote! Thank you!

    Veritas, I know you’ve lived in India and know Hindus, but I also know three separate Hindu families who all practice vegetarianism at certain times under certain conditions, e.g., my brother died, so I’m vegetarian for the next 2 months, etc. I think that while vegetarianism is practiced by the most devout, there’s no absolute prohibition against all meat (except beef). I also know of several “vegetarian” Buddhists who eat fish and sometimes even fowl because they just don’t consider non-mammals as “meat.” I think there’s room for a wide variety of interpretation here. That’s all.

  44. While I’m sure I should eat meat less than I do, it’s going to take me a fairly long time to get to the point where I might find this line unfunny:

    If God intended for us to not eat so much meat, then why did He make cows so tasty? :)

  45. Stephen, your comment made me laugh. I guess a person could say, “Mormons don’t drink coffee” except the ones who do.

  46. a random John says:

    The Wikipedia weighs in on the issue!

    Short and sweet version: some Hindus eat meat.

  47. Especially in the Indian state of Gujarat and many states in South India, many are puritanical in their adherence.

    I guess this could be the reason for my confusion (?)…as I have only spent time in southern India my understanding was eating meat was totally out of the question (all the Hindu fams I know there have told me as much) :)

  48. RE: #30

    I think that some of the consideration of industrialization cut both way. On the one hand, people argue that exploitation of resources by industrial methods is shamefull, on the other if all food was produced “free range” and “roganically”, there likely wouldn’t be enough food to eat in the world, and what food there was would likely be too expensive for the poor.

    Actually, this is not true. The OCA website has some very good articles about this, including Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World (you can find more here).

    I didn’t know the term ‘flexitarian’ before, but I’ve been telling people I’m going semi-vegetarian for a while now. And boy do I feel better these days. I just think we don’t need a lot of meat and if we were to eat it sparingly (or not at all, if you prefer), we could take a lot better care of both the land and the people who live on it.

    As for getting sufficient nutrition–it’s definitely harder if you don’t included milk and eggs, but it’s not impossible (obviously) nor prohibitively difficult. For example, beans and rice are some of the most inexpensive foods there are and, unprocessed, some of THE MOST HEALTHY foods anywhere. Did you know that most beans win the antioxidant competition, hands-down? There’s lots of info. out there about you can have a well-balanced and affordable (even for poor people in poor countries) veg. lifestyle, but I’ll leave it to the experienced vegs to cite them.

  49. Artemis – thanks for this helpful information.

    There are so many variations and labels for vegetarians that no wonder people get confused about what it means to be a vegetarian, which is, of course, a highly personal choice that should be respected as such. As arJ points out, the Wikipedia entry for vegetarianism is fabulous, so I’d suggest checking it out before jumping to any conclusions.

    For example – for those who have expressed concern that vegetarian diets would unnecessarily restrict food consumption, for every person fed on a meat-based diet, twenty people could be fed on a plant- based diet. Scientists estimate that approximately 800 million people could be fed with the grain that American livestock eat.

    All we are saying, is give peas a chance. :)

  50. Artemis, I believe that it is true. Now, I am willing to state that with speceific constraints the veracity is lost…however, these constraints aren’t practical in the free world.

    The article you cite shows that intesive investment and education can help farmers increase their yields by organic farming. No doubt this is the case. Similar investments in industrial farming would yield even higher results. This may not be wanted or practical, but it quite realistic.

    If we let people choose the lifestyle they wish, then we have to deal with the high meat diets of the occident (which are spreading to places like China, incedentally). Trying to replace current food chains with organic alternatives would be disasterous in both yield and price to the extent that there would be widespread shortages.

    You can make the argument that people should be made to eat beans and rice; however, that is, I believe, not feasable.

  51. J.,

    do you have any articles you can point me to that would back up your claim that converstion to organic farming (which wouldn’t happen overnight, btw) would cause widespread food shortages?

  52. Also, I was not and am not making the argument that people should be made to eat beans and rice. I referenced those foods as examples of foods in a healthy, cheap, veg. diets.

    For more articles from the OCA, you can go here.

  53. John Mansfield says:

    Consider the panda, its short intestine, and 10-16 hours daily feeding on bamboo.

  54. a random John says:

    This reminds me of a letter a member of my MTC district who went to a different mission in Brazil wrote to the rest of us to report on the conditions. It became somewhat famous in our little group, and I still remember it word for word:

    The runs come and goes, but it’s beans and rice everyday.

  55. a random John says:


    that should read, “come and go” rather than “come and goes”. So much for remembering every word.

  56. In the effort to help Illinois farmers produce diverse crops, the Extension at Champaigne-Urbana the compared expectaions for organic Corn and Soybeans. While there is pleanty of money to be made in organic foods, there is a dramatic reduction in yields…and this is in the area where organic yields would be the highest. There are pleanty of studies that show conflicting data becasue farming is complex, but the best reviews of the data conclude loss of yield. It has been a while, but I will try to contact some of my old professors for some objective articles on what such a reduction would do to world supply.

  57. Kevin Barney says:

    Several thoughts on this thread:

    1. Re: #6 and several subsequent comments:

    I once heard that there is an errant comma in section 89 in one of those verses about meat, so that it should say “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used only in times of winter or of famine…” (instead of “…they should not be used, only in times of winter or famine…”).

    It is true that the comma at issue did not appear in any textual source of the WoW prior to the 1921 edition. Some view it as a printing error, others as an intentional editorial correction. I’m of the latter school of thought. I think the “let’s eat meat a-go-go” reading is both hypertchnical and ridiculous. The context of the passage is to eat meat sparingly, not to eat lots of it all the time.

    2. KJV “meat” is a Jacobian archaism for food generally; it does not mean specifically “animal flesh” the way we misunderstand it today.

    3. There is a great scene in Last of the Mohicans where they kill a deer, and the father says a prayer over the fallen animal, calling him something like “dear brother,” thanking him for giving his life so that they might eat, etc.

    4. My daughter, who is now in grad school, has been a vegetarian since junior high. On vacation we used to take the kids to the trout farm in Ogden. This one year, a fish she caught got the hook stuck in his mouth pretty well, and while her younger brother was taking the hook out, she said that was that, she was never eating meat again. And she has been true to her word. She said at first the only thing that was hard for her was giving up McDonalds’ hamburgers, but that craving didn’t last long.

    When this was all still rather new to us, we were on vacation in Tennesee and went to a rib joint for dinner. They had *nothing* on the menu that our daughter could eat except the onion blossom appetizer. After that, we realized that we had to be more careful catering to her dietary needs, which has been a good reminder to us as well.

  58. We eat meat sparingly, but not for any supposed benefit of health or spirituality or orthodoxy: it’s the way my mother cooked, it’s the way I prefer to cook, and it’s cheaper (or at least it seems to me that it is—though we definitely don’t eat organic, either).

    We have black beans (prepared from dry) and rice at least once a week, and we’ll have meat once or twice a week, too. Even when we do have meat, though, it’s often in relatively small quantities: two chicken breasts in an Asian stir-fry for the whole family, for example, or a little sausage in the soup. I rarely serve “a chicken breast” or “a pork chop”—and haver *never* served “a steak”—as such.

    So I was pretty surprised to learn at a recent Relief Society cooking club that a majority of the women prepare some cut of meat for dinner every single night, and many of them eat meat or meat products at breakfast and lunch, too. Is this typically American, or typically Mormon, or neither?

  59. Actually I suppose vegetarians can eat meat if they want to, just as others can abstain, according to their desire and choice. Personally I see little reason to celebrate either alternative. They both have their own costs and benfits.

    One or the other of those who segregate themselves into insular cliques for the purpose of extolling their own self-righteous virtue are probably missing the point anyway.

    One of the few obvious positive benefits I have sometimes seen in the fanatic vegetarians is a better regulated diet. They tend to pay attention to food ingredients and avoid the potentially harmful. I would rather enjoy my food for the eating pleasure, rather than any satisfaction I might derive from the assurance that it is “organic”. Probably the indiscriminate omnivore gourmand like me, who snarfs down meat, fast food, and junk food pumped with chemical additives with gusto unrestrained, deserves to be less fit and healthy.

    Isn’t it ironic and unjust that I am not?

  60. J.,

    your links show how much more profitable organic farming of corn & soybeans is for the farmers and the corn link mentions that there is a smaller yield, but it gives no numbers or ballpark percentages on comparative yields.

    Most organic farmers will not argue that some crops grown organically will decrease yield somewhat. However, there is no data I know of that is even close to suggesting that such techniques would cause widespread food shortages. This is what I’m contesting in your assertions–the fact that org. farming would cause these shortages, not that there are some lower yields (and the data you point to does not show “dramatically” lower yields, as you suggest.)

    Meanwhile, there is a lot of data showing that organic produce generally has much better nutrition. Even organic milk, coming from cows fed organic grains, have significantly higher amounts of nutrients. If you combine that with what’s already been said about yields going up if we as a society consumed less meat and redirected our efforts to a more veg-based diet, there would be, shall we say, enough and to spare.

  61. Also, there is evidence that organic yields increase over time, as the stripping effects of conventional agriculture are overcome. Here‘s an interesting news ’05 article from Cornell.

  62. Artemis, you will find the crop yields in the figures labeled Bu/acre. Corn is listed with a 13% drop and soy is listed with a 29% drop. This is in IL, where organic farming will have the highest yields. Some arid places like California (3 crops/year in the desert) are impossible to approach organically.

    That said, I have worked for Natural and Organic manufacturers for the bulk of my previous life as a product developper. And I think it is a fine lifestyle. You’re correct that I don’t have anything off hand that states that such a drop in the yields of the fundemental agricultural products in the states would yield to shortages. As I stated, I will try to dig up some material as to the long term consequences of constrained production.

    I agree that organic food has some characteristics that are positive…it should also be noted that the vegatables should always be treated as if they are E. coli possitive. There are always trade offs.

    As to increasing yields over time, you will find similar increases with GMO crops that use no-till technology and increased crop rotation.

  63. I missed that Bu thing…. woops. Though I think the numbers cited are not representative of organic yields overall. I’m also not sure why IL would have the greatest yields for organic farmers–any info. on that?

    For what it’s worth, here‘s the Wikipedia article on organic farming productivity (scroll up for the whole article)–it seems the general consensus is that org. farming in general produces 95-100% of the yield of conventional farming (based on multiple studies) and doesn’t have the unfortunate side effects of toxins affecting the land, ecosystem, farm workers, and consumers, with all their myriad problems.

  64. Oh, and the literature asserts that organic crops have higher yields than conventional ones in drought conditions, which I think would affect your argument against the yields in arid places.

  65. Julie in Austin says:

    “Is this typically American, or typically Mormon, or neither?”

    Yes and yes.

    I think that many cooks plan their meals around meat. As in, “Let’s see–I’ll do pork chops on Tues., and then use that ground beef in a spaghetti sauce on Wednesday, and since chicken is on sale we’ll do that on Thurs.,” etc. Everything besides the meat is an afterthought.

  66. While working at the bishop’s storehouse recently in my area, I was amazed at the amount, quality, and variety of meat that is stored there and provided to the “needy.” I put needy in quotes because the amount of meat that most of the families took was breathtaking to me. No one needs 4 pot roasts, six pounds of hamburger, six pounds of chicken, a turkey, six pounds of sausage, and six pounds pork chops to get by for a month.

  67. Arrington, in his “Economic Interpretation of the WoW” (BYU Studies, 1959 vol 1) presents a case for why we emphasize the tea/coffee/tobacco/alcohol aspects more than the meat aspects. The basic idea is that, shortly after the settling of Utah, Brigham Young and others were concerned about cash money flowing out of the territory to bring in products that could not be produced in Utah, including coffee, tobacco, etc. And in order to push for self-sufficiency, the leaders discouraged the use of those products.

    An allied argument is made by Thomas G Alexander in Mormonism in Transition. His chapter on the topic discusses how, following the abandonment of polygamy, we needed something to distinguish us. This led to increased attention to the WoW. He also points out that Church leaders focused much more on meat in the early days and less on alcohol, hot drinks and tobacco when discussing the WoW. He doesn’t, however, go much into why the focus shifted.

    Both interesting pieces on this issue for diehards looking for more. Also, I’d like to cast my vote in favour of a “Deus vult!” purpose for the Word of Wisdom (mentioned by Seth above). Science keeps shifting on a lot of the “proof” people proclaim for the doctrine (like whether or not wine in moderation is good for heart attack survivors). There may or may not be health reasons for it, but that’s beside the point.

  68. This thread is dead, but two comments:

    I have a lot of respect for a good juicy tender steak. Good flavor, good texture, very rare–I respect that steak a lot more than a lousy chicken or a shrimp.

    More seriously, less meat equals less gas and less b.o. The only way that a crowded Tokyo subway in the summer is liveable is the low amount of meat in the Japanese diet.


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