Taking Section 89 Seriously

raw-meat-1Which revelations we cherish and consider central, and which one’s we sideline and (sometimes literally) forget is surely a result of a complex host of variables. Local culture and politics are obviously a huge deal. The Word of Wisdom is a revelation that is particularly interesting given the way in which we both obsessively focus on and selectively forget it. Mormons are known for the Word of Wisdom the way Jews are known for kosher. It’s part of our temple recommend. But culturally the Word of Wisdom does not mean D&C 89, but only a small list of proscriptions. We forget the rest. This focus/forgetting effects not only our interpretation of the revelation, but also the way that we view our history – Joseph’s enjoying a glass of wine in Carthage or Brigham’s chewing tobacco for his toothache aren’t well known facts and certainly don’t make for good discussion in polite company.

There’s a lot to say – both about this phenomenon and about the Word of Wisdom itself – which I’m not going to say here. Instead, I’m going to quote Mark Bittman, give a hearty “hurrah!” for the revelatory insights of the Word of Wisdom (something Church pulpits and PR ought to be doing as well), and then ask questions for ya’ll to debate.

Here’s what Bittman wrote today:

90 percent of the animal products we’re offered . . . [are] produced badly, they cause immeasurable damage to both our bodies and the earth, and — compared with the real thing — they don’t taste that good. In limited quantities, [ahem…sparingly?] meat is just fine, especially sustainably raised meat (and wild game), locally and ethically produced dairy and eggs, the remaining wild or decently cultivated fish. No matter where we live, if we focused on those — none of which are in abundant supply, which is exactly the point — and used them to augment the kind of diet we’re made to eat, one based on plants as a staple, with these other things as treats, we’d all be better off.

Taking a serious look at “conspiring hearts” in international agribusiness, in the dysfunctional but politically untouchable farm bill, in unhealthy food subsidies everywhere, in the supplanting of family farms with factory farms, and given the overall impact (on our health and the environment) of the developed world’s meat consumption, one can only cry “Hallelujah!” when one reads Section 89. Here is the voice of a prophet, declaring the wise path to the world long before that path became conspicuous common sense. I’m grateful for these words that can indeed only be called wisdom.

Why then, is there such a jarring discrepancy between our revelations and our practices on this issue? What is it that makes Mormons known for funeral potatoes and jello rather than for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? As a people, why don’t we live up to the lines of our scriptures and hymns and “eat but a very little meat!” (put another way, why is it that Brazilian BB-Q made it’s US premiere and continues to thrive in Utah)? Why don’t we lead the way in terms of healthy and sustainable dietary practices? Why aren’t we known – even amongst ourselves – for our prescriptions rather than merely our proscriptions?

Or, to ask more generally, why are we religious folk so eager to give evidence to those dismissive of religion, that our religion in actual fact makes very little difference to our lives and values? For example, why isn’t the default Christian position pacifism? Why are devoted religionists and fundamentalists known for filling the ranks of the military but not the diplomatic core? (Feel free to discuss your own favorite example.)

And finally, given how large and not-going-anywhere the issue of meat gluttony is in our society, do you suspect we’ll see a cultural shift in Mormonism on this issue? Do you foresee our taking Section 89 more seriously?

107 comments for “Taking Section 89 Seriously

  1. June 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I’d love to see a return to the Lorenzo Snow understanding of the Word of Wisdom.

  2. June 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Of course, assuming no one takes it seriously is a mistake; just last week my wife’s mid-week Relief Society meeting included vegan and vegetarian recipes and demonstrations.

    But for widespread acceptance, it’s likely to take attention in a general conference talk or two.

  3. Marie
    June 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    My ward’s having a BBQ on Saturday. I’ve been assigned to bring a “hot side dish,” and the suggestion given was “meatballs.” Ha! Meat side dish for a meal o’ meat! Mormons are so funny.

    I’m of the opinion that at some point, as world populations rise, eating meat (and other animal products) sparingly will move from being an ethical question related to humane treatment of the earth and livestock and become more clearly a question of humane treatment of our fellowmen, as (I prophesy :) there will not be enough arable land to provide a large quantity of animal-based calories to a wealthier portion of the population and still provide basic nutrition for everyone else. And that is the point at which I think all otherwise devout, sincere Mormons will sign on to the full program in D&C 89. Though it would be great if we could move more quickly in that direction now. I’m not a vegetarian (I call myself a “social carnivore”), but I can vouch for the health benefits as I’ve moved away from the greater meat consumption of my Utah Mormon upbringing.

  4. Jonathan Green
    June 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    James, you make some good points and raise some interesting questions. But I don’t think that a preference for family farms over industrial agriculture is a strong part of your argument. Providing food for people is an important part of our economy, and an indispensable part of public policy in every country, and industrial methods are simply more efficient. Family farms can’t compete except in very specialized markets. Why should we demand that this large, crucial sector of our economy be different from every other sector? Large-scale farming certainly has its issues, such as pollution, but its efficiency of scale is vitally important.

    Moving on, you ask, “Why then, is there such a jarring discrepancy between our revelations and our practices on this issue?” Isn’t the answer “continued prophetic guidance on this issue”?

    So, no, I don’t see this as something where our religion makes no difference. Certainly not when it comes to the proscriptions, in any case. And surely you know Mormons who take their dietary consumption very seriously, don’t you? That might mean vegetarianism for some, while for other it means herbal concoctions of one kind or another.

    Or one might say that many Mormons do take Section 89 very seriously, just not all in the same way.

  5. MNShep
    June 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    A preference for family farms over industrial agriculture limits by necessity the amount of meat that we would eat. And “it’s a big part of our economy” shouldn’t really be a part of moral or religious discussions. Pornography makes lots of money too.

  6. June 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    “why is it that Brazilian BB-Q made it’s US premiere and continues to thrive in Utah”

    While I haven’t researched the question, I strongly suspect that this is a myth originating with those who started Brazilian Churrasco in Utah. There are communities of Brazilians in many places around the U.S. (including here in NYC), and they have all started Brazilian-style restaurants independent of each other.

    Most likely the restaurant in Utah simply didn’t know that there were Brazilian Churrascarias in other areas. I’ve worked enough with the various Brazilian communities around the U.S. to know that they don’t always know much about each other.

  7. June 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve often wondered why the meat issue is never raised. I don’t want to shout about it too much ‘cos I loves my meat.
    Anyway, it is almost impossible to eat meat sparingly at a ward BBQ. In my experience there have always been very few vegetarian options and everyone comes for the meat. It’s like having a ward wine tasting evening and only having the cold tap available for people who don’t want alcohol.
    The BBQ will still be one of the most well attended activities of the year though (except Christmas).

  8. David
    June 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    There’s certainly gluttony, but not meat gluttony on a large scale. The assertion that meat is bad for us is simply wrong. The assertion that we are “designed” to eat plants as staple is just absurd.

    The biologically human GI tract is that of a carnivore. Looking at comparative mass, metabolic rate, gut flora, and lack of a cecum, the human body is not suited for a vegetarian diet. The only reason we can survive on such is that we invented cooking, but that only goes so far.

    As carnivores, we lack the gut flora to internally synthesize our own vitamin B12. The only reason vegans don’t die of B12 deficiency in the third world is that the crops have insect particles in them. In the first world these people develop dementia and neuropathies if they don’t supplement their B12, which ultimately comes from animal sources. Those who convert to veganism as adults may have enough B12 stores to last them up to 20 years, but they will develop the same diseases without supplementation.

    And lastly, the low-fat mantra of last 30 years in the developed world is suffering critical blows due to new data. It turns out health policy-makers may have killed thousands of people by recommending low-fat, low-cholesterol diets. Cardiac outcomes appear to be worse on this diet and diabetes rates have increased. The efficacy of cholesterol-lowering medications is now seriously questioned and a major trial was stopped early because the patients with aggressive cholesterol lowering were faring worse.

    Remember D&C 49:18: And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

    The Word of Wisdom teaches us to use meat sparingly. I believe it’s intentionally vague to let each of us seek inspiration on the subject. There is no justification in suggesting eating only fish and eggs is how we should interpret that. There’s no place for vilifying red meat. And while I agree wild game tastes better, it is nutritionally comparable to domestic animal products.

  9. Wall Street Journal Republican
    June 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    * 4 pounds beef sirloin roast
    * 3 carrots, chopped
    * 3 stalks celery, chopped
    * 1 clove garlic, minced
    * 1/2 (.75 ounce) packet dry brown gravy mix
    * 2 tablespoons water
    * 1 (1 ounce) package dry onion soup mix
    * 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
    * 10 fluid ounces Coca-Cola beverage

  10. Researcher
    June 2, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    “What is it that makes Mormons known for funeral potatoes and jello rather than for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains?”

    I think that Mormons may be known for the same kinds of post-World War II food excesses as Upper Midwest Lutherans (cream of whatever and gelatin) but many Mormons are also heavily involved in gardening and storing and using whole grains. I know lots of Mormons who own grain mills and Bosch mixers or the equivalent, but I do not know a single non-member who owns either of those type of items.

    Also, I remember that when I looked at real estate listings in Utah many years ago, if homes in the suburbs had gardens or fruit trees or berry patches, that would be listed as a prime selling point. I have never seen such a thing in any other area of the country.

  11. June 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    A preference for family farms over industrial agriculture limits by necessity the amount of meat that we would eat.

    It would also limit by necessity the amount of bread, fruit, and vegetables we would eat. As in, most of us would go hungry because family farms are too inefficient to supply the vast surplus over what the family eats that is needed by the rest of us.

  12. Sonny
    June 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Bro. Matsby made some similar observations that should also be considered here.

  13. Anita
    June 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    A good start would be changing the menu at the COB cafeteria and the JSMB and BYU (not to mention the Lion House desserts/cookbooks at Deseret Book)–Church-run institutions could set a precedent, along with Gen Conf talks and apostles’ examples, and that would go a long way. And then if church members everywhere knew that visiting authorities didn’t want roasts for Sunday dinner…

    My great-grandfather replied to his mission call in 1905 with a letter where he said that he kept the Word of Wisdom, and only ate a little meat in winter on his farm.
    Love it.

  14. don't know mo
    June 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    psst….WSJ Republican#9…

    Oven?, crockpot?, temp?, time?

  15. Jonathan Green
    June 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    See what Ardis said – feeding several billion people requires industrial-scale farming, and feeding the hungry has to be part of the moral equation of food. Also, relieving as many of those people as possible from the dirty, exhausting work involved in small-scale farming so they can contribute in some other way.

    It’s certainly true that beef is a really inefficient way to provide nutrition to people, and that fact suggests that eating beef (and meat in general) more sparingly would be a good thing, but that’s separate from the question of what form agriculture should take.

  16. Sonny
    June 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    As someone lives in the the San Joaquin Valley, which is sometimes referred to as the food basket of the world, I always find it funny hearing the ‘family farm’ vs. ‘industrial agriculture’ dichotomy. What is a family farm anyway? Family owned farm of 10 acres? 100 acres? 1000 acres? Does a family farm of 1000 acres do anything different than a ‘industrial agriculture’ farm?

    The fact remains that whatever the size, the goal is the same: make a profit.

  17. June 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Meat should be eaten sparingly.

  18. June 2, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    We actually eat very little meat — by my standards. Our staples in include many vegetarian and vegan dishes. We eat chicken about once per week and some other (pork loin or beef) about once a week.

    In spite of that, I’m not worried about the meat issue in the Word of Wisdom. Why? because our leaders don’t seem to be at all. First, look at the menus in temple cafeterias and church-owned schools. Second, I’ve dined with multiple GAs. (My husband (Samuel Smith) is on the board of the Samuel Harrison Smith Foundation, and so we have occasional events, meetings, banquets, what-have-yous). All those we’ve worked with were served the same, standard, big old slab of meat the rest of us were — and they all ate it.

    When our leaders seem to be worried about that part, I’ll revisit the issue. Until then, I assume they’ve stressed what parts they think are important, and I’ll stick with that. (And keep eating buttermilk bacon waffles.) :)

  19. Howard
    June 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    David 8: There’s certainly gluttony, but not meat gluttony on a large scale. I disagree D&C 89 was given in 1833 as you mention teaches us to use meat sparingly but US meat consumption has tripled since the 1880s so sparingly should be applied to 1/3 of today’s US intake!

  20. Howard
    June 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    There are only two viable approaches to modern farming the US model of high productivity large farms and the Cuban model of smaller scale petroleum free farming occasioned by the US blockade. The Cubans have healthier food but we have more of it.

  21. Bob
    June 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    If Mormons are not to eat so much meat__why so many Steak Centers?
    If only what modern Prophets say counts__why not just drop Section 89?

  22. Steve
    June 2, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    The biggest problem with the modern American diet isn’t that it contains to much meat protein (which it does).

    It is that SO much of it is processed food.

    I was at my daughter’s school today for lunch. The menu was a hot dog or hamburger (the hot dog was certainly processed and the burger was of questionable origin), a white flour bun, catchup, mustard, a bag of chips, and, either a water bottle or a Capri Sun.

    The only vegetable on the plate was the catchup. The only fruit was the Capri Sun, ie. a heavily sugared fruit cocktail.

    No whole grains. No leafy vegetables. No real fruit.


  23. Suleiman
    June 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I think if the Brethren got serious about the WoW, they could come up with a whole set of rules. But then again, I think we could probably figure out a healthy lifestyle for ourselves. Perhaps one of those instances when we shouldn’t have to be “commanded in all things?”

  24. James Olsen
    June 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Sorry to be out of the loop for a bit…

    First regret: that my poorly thought out phrase was taken as license for the jejune Family Farm vs. Industrial Agriculture discussion. I certainly was not wholesale condemning industrial means of food production (I didn’t even bring this up). But I have no qualms about wholesale condemning “factory farming” (which I did bring up) in the context (which the post sets up unequivocally) of meat production. The term colloquially picks out the unsustainable means by which we large-scale rape land and animals in our drive to make money or satisfy our palate. And speaking of inefficiency, our commodification and mass marketing of animals in order to consummate our dietary lusts is fantastically inefficient and contributes significantly to food shortages. Industrialized agriculture in general is an entirely separate, though not unrelated topic. Perhaps I’ll give us all an excuse to debate it soon.

    Second regret: that I failed to acknowledge the positive sorts of things that Paul and Researcher bring up – in general, that my tone wasn’t more positive. I truly intended the post to be more positive – Hurrah for the WofW and revelation! That said, what I’m interested in is what’s thus far been largely ignored: the near ubiquitous human phenomenon of our failing to conform our lives and values to our self-proclaimed tenets, principles, doctrines. Not in the sense of small and inevitable hypocrisy, but large and conspicuous hypocrisy. The WofW – which I find to be a fascinating example – was my vehicle for doing so.

    Paul: your own comment is a good response to your comment.

    Marie: Amen to your prophecy, which is certainly already being fulfilled.

    Jonathan: A couple points. You said “Moving on, you ask, “Why then, is there such a jarring discrepancy between our revelations and our practices on this issue?” Isn’t the answer “continued prophetic guidance on this issue”?” I’ll confess, I’ve no idea what you’re saying. It looks like maybe you’re claim is that continuing prophetic guidance is responsible for our cultural shunning the “eat meat sparingly” prescription in D&C89. Is that right? If so, really? Second, my claim was not that our proscriptions were evidence for our religious precepts not mattering, but rather our prescriptions. And I hope it’s clear that I DO believe our religious precepts matter. Finally, to claim that we all take 89 seriously just in different ways is to utterly trivialize and relativize the revelation, which I’m not willing to accept as a good response to the Good Word.

    Kent: I’m sure you’re right, though I don’t think it much matters to the post. The actual amount of jello we consume is far less important to my point than that we’re known for it. And btw, Washington, DC’s supposed to have two great churrascarias which have been around for some time.

    Ldsbishop: Yeah, Ward Veggie Roast just doesn’t have the same appeal as Ward BB-Q, does it? I think that Ward Ethnic Food night, might however, and would probably be much more WofW friendly.

    David: *sigh* you’re marrying some correct data with some incorrect data and then drawing unsubstantiated conclusions from it. To try and claim that we’re biological carnivores, that there is no meat gluttony going on, and that meat has no significant, negative health impact is just silly. And the WofW’s discussion concerning meat is at least as explicit as the discussion of alcohol and tobacco, and certainly more explicit that its discussion of coffee and tea.

    Anita: Yeah, it’s an institutional as well as a cultural problem. Thanks for the vignette of your grandfather.

    George Donner: ?

    Alison: Really? As in, really, really? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a worthwhile discussion, but I have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to your overall approach. We’ve got plenty of historical writings and speeches by GAs touting the prescriptions of the WofW (John A. Widstoe’s got a whole book on it). Do you really think that a few decades of relative GC quiet together with temple menus trumps an explicit revelation? Maybe I’m simply misunderstanding your point. And your anecdote would be worrying if it related GAs who publicly protested and refused to eat the meat they were being served at such functions (though, boy would that make great posts!). Those who smile and eat gratefully don’t worry me. In fact, if you ate every meal with an apostle and could report that at each one there was meat served, I’m not sure it would bother me. If you could report that in your conversations you asked them if they felt they were fully living up to the precepts of Section 89 given that they ate meat at each meal, and they said, “Yes” … well, then I might be worried.

  25. Marjorie Conder
    June 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I think the whole WoW is important to reap the promised blessings. I have been trying to pay more attention to the “prudence and thanksgiving” parts–eating more mindfully, wasting less. But I am still a long way from understanding how the whole thing applies to me and my family, let alone anyone else. (I do wish we served more obviously healthy stuff at Church events, including week night RS meetings. And I am on a rant about HFCS–evil and designing men, for sure.)

  26. Jim Donaldson
    June 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I think the way that the church has treated the WoW over the last 100 years makes it something of its own case.

    My theory (purely speculative, of course) is that the WoW took over as one of our chief cultural separators after the end of polygamy. It became a temple recommend question. The cultural aspects of it became far more important than the revelation itself, which is why we apply it somewhat erratically, selectively historic, and illogically (i.e., hot drinks prescribed, but not hot chocolate—temperature rather than chemical makeup the determinant?). It isn’t about health anymore, really, it’s about separating us clearly and obviously from the rest of the world. What is says is far less important that what we think it says.

  27. Riley
    June 2, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Jim’s take seems very plausible. It does seem to make us a “peculiar people” (interpreting that phrase as many LDS do).

  28. Bob
    June 2, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    @ Jim:
    No coffee instead of polygamy? This will continue to make you a ‘peculiar people’? “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff”.

  29. June 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Why then, is there such a jarring discrepancy between our revelations and our practices on this issue? What is it that makes Mormons known for funeral potatoes and jello rather than for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? As a people, why don’t we live up to the lines of our scriptures and hymns and “eat but a very little meat!”

    I think this is an exhortation, rather than a question.

    If it’s meant as a question, then the answer is pretty easy: Heber J. Grant. The rule which we follow today is the Heberized version of the WoW, which is not the same as section 89. They differ in many ways — for instance, the Heberized version converts the section from mere good advice into commandment (the opening verses of section 89 say outright that this is not a commandment); the HJG version also retracts section 89’s stated advice that the saints should drink beer.

    The switch to the current version of the WoW was a significant cultural moment in Mormonism. Thomas Alexander’s _Mormonism in Transition_ discusses the history behind this switch. So does Peterson’s excellent masters thesis, _An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom_.

  30. Jim Donaldson
    June 3, 2011 at 12:09 am


    “No coffee instead of polygamy?”

    Hey, we were doing the best we could with the materials at hand.

    I agree with Kaimi, but I would add that one of the reasons for the change was that we no longer had our previous social separator (polygamy) and we needed to find one fast that would be politically acceptable.

  31. wondering
    June 3, 2011 at 3:30 am

    “culturally the Word of Wisdom does not mean D&C 89”

    True. And yet, Mormons everywhere sincerely believe and teach that the WoW and D&C 89 are one and the same.

    Why is this? Beats me. People just aren’t very observant, I guess.

  32. Bob
    June 3, 2011 at 8:17 am

    @ Kaimi: Was there ever one “detailed” Heberized version of the WoW, or did Herber Grant just put it out ‘line upon line’ in his sermons?
    @ Jim: Why not just no meat on Fridays, or no meat at all (7thDA)?

  33. E. Wallace
    June 3, 2011 at 8:20 am

    #17: Well played, sir. Nothing beats a good cannibalism joke first thing in the morning.

  34. June 3, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Recently, I had a temple recommend interview. When asked if I keep the WoW, I said, “I’m trying my best.” Now, I’m as stone-cold-sober as they come. I obviously surprised the member of the bishopbric interviewing me. He said, “Will you tell me more about this? Are you having a problem?”

    I realized the confusion I created, kind of chuckled, and let him know that I didn’t have a problem with the don’t’s, but I was trying to do better with what I should be doing – eating more whole grains, less meat. He seem relieved, and said, “When you figure that out, let me know!”

    I have a feeling that he doesn’t get that kind of response often.

    Overall, I feel like our American diet is out of whack. We eat too many processed foods, too much meat, and not enough nutrient-rich foods. We are getting fatter and sicker. I can’t say how we should interpret the word of wisdom, but perhaps we should try to be more mindful of it – to avoid future health problems and to receive the promised blessings.

  35. ESO
    June 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

    My experience as a Mormon and a (non-proselyting) vegetarian tells me that, for some reason, Mormons who eat meat find the very idea that one could actually live without eating meat very…threatening.

    I don’t know why. My best guess is guilt. I’ve really never met a group that was so pro-meat as American Mormons.

  36. bbell
    June 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Industrial food production has made the food shortages and widespread hunger that has occurred thru human history a thing of the past for the vast majority of humanity. I am not against family farms but we should all be very grateful that we are not relying on them to feed humanity.

    ESO brings up a point abot LDS meat consumption. I actually doubt that Mormons are more pro-meat consumption then the average black or white southerner. I want to share a story from my mission in Africa that she can probably relate to. In an attempt to get all of our inactives to come to a church activity we threw a BBQ. Everybody in the entire branch showed up. Plus their cousins inlaws etc.

  37. June 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Keep in mind that D&C 89 doesn’t actually say we should eat meat sparingly. Specifically, it says we should eat “flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air.” Presumably, this doesn’t include poultry (fowl of the ground), fish, dairy, or eggs.

  38. June 3, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Sorry, that should read:

    Specifically, it says we should eat “flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air” sparingly.

  39. June 3, 2011 at 10:42 am

    This is a topic near and dear to my heart. There’s an amazing conference on this exact theme at the end of the month–the LDS Holistic Living Conference. We have all kinds of classes discussing these ideas and how to discover the promised hidden treasures of knowledge.

  40. Sonny
    June 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

    It’s a good thing that cows are not beasts. I was about to banish my BBQ.

  41. Lucretia
    June 3, 2011 at 10:50 am

    David, you do not correctly quote D&C 49. In verse 21 it also states “And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” If you look at the footnotes Joseph Smith has translated from another scripture in Genesis “And surely blood shall not be shed, ONLY TO SAVE YOUR LIVES; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands”
    In these days where we have an abundance of plant based foods throughout the year, and with the various ways to keep them it is not necessary to shed the blood of a beast to save our lives for food. In many countries, yes, but I cannot recall ever being in a state of starvation where I would have needed to kill an animal for food.
    Also in the Millenium we will not eat meat. It is pleasing to God that they should not be used.

  42. Lucretia
    June 3, 2011 at 10:53 am


    This link is a very good essay on the views of an LDS vegetarian, I highly reccomend the read.

  43. J.A.T.
    June 3, 2011 at 11:12 am

    We’re totally forgetting about all that herbalism stuff in the 89th. Brigham invited prominent new surgeons to Utah and was interested in brining the most current science (then consisting of medical-surgical techniques and anesthesia) to the valley.He moved us toward the modern medical models and established the first LDS hospitals in this venue. Williard Richards pharmaceutical herbalism went away. I’ll concede that Utah remains the vitamin capital of the U.S., but physicians and medical interventions reign supreme in Utah.We also remain a Rx capital for antidepressants, plastic surgery, and other medical interventions. Midwifery and natural therapies don’t compare with anything at the U’s med ctr.

    I compare this with the Seventh Day Adventists. They have a religious health code which is nearly identical to the WoW. They built the Post (TM) cereal empire and convinced a nation that healthy grains in the morning were a good idea. They also developed Loma Linda (and the largest religious eductional system in the world, not to mention health organizations in the US.) and have made major advances in dietetics based upon the “supposed to’s” that we ignore. Sigh. We could’a done that.

    *Sonny, family farms are based on “eighties” as in 80 acres. These were original homesteading allocations. A small family farm might be “an eighty”. Farms that have been more successful have built up a couple eighties. Farmers round me will have somewhere between a dozen and perhaps a hundred eighties. Mega farms will count their eighties in the hundreds and thousands.

    *Jello and mormons. We’re into jello not because it is unhealthy, but because it was originally developed as an anti-starvation miracle food. The powder exponentially expands its size when reconsituted with just water and is basically a glucose drip to fend off starvation. It’s something that stores for a long time and transports well. We were into jello because it was a way of saving lives in thrid world countries and adding to food storage. That’s something to be a little more proud about.

  44. June 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

    James #24:

    Really? As in, really, really?

    Yes, really. As in really. Really.

    Yes, I think the GAs know what’s on the temple menu. And, around here, the menus are typical US meat-based fare. Meat entree with a vegetable and starch side. The menus do not offer coffee, tea, or alcohol. But they do offer multiple meat-based meals. Every day. If the GAs were worried about the amount of meat, I have no doubt they would proscribe it.

    Yes, I think the GAs feel they are keeping the Word of Wisdom adequately. Unless you think they have turned in their temple recommends. Still, they eat meals featuring meat main courses and, in fact, they are often in charge of the meeting where the meat is presented. No, I do not assume that they plan the menus themselves, but if they were worried about meat consumption, they could easily dictate the staff to create a non-meat entree. In fact, none of the meals I have attended has ever even had a non-meat OPTION among the selections. It’s usually something like “chicken or beef.” They aren’t just politely partaking, they are planners. And, in my experience, it has not been an issue. Still, coffee, tea, and alcohol are not offered, but ONLY meat entree meals are. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

    As the Word of Wisdom has developed from “principle with a promise” to temple recommend requirement (which I’d put more in line with “command or constraint” than not), our leaders have chosen (for whatever reason) to emphasize certain things and not emphasize others. They emphasize coffee, tea, and alcohol and have somewhat addd on illicit drugs. They haven’t emphasized meat consumption — and they don’t require us to wash our bodies with strong drinks or use tobacco poultices, either. I don’t know why this is, but it is.

    As I said, “I assume they’ve stressed what parts they think are important.” And, yes, I’m fine to go with what they emphasize.

    When I was a kid, taking the sacrament with the right hand was stressed. In fact, not just taking, but passing — which is quite a juggling act when you’re holding a baby who’s grabbing for the tray. It’s not anymore. In fact, last time I checked, I could not find a single CURRENT reference to this practice. Not in the missionary discussions, gospel principles manual, or any other reference where converts might learn it. There has been no official decree changing that practice, but it’s not taught officially anymore. I know some people who still have a hernia about it, but I figure if the church isn’t worried enough to include it in a manual or teach it at conference, I’m not going to worry about it either. If they start doing it, I’ll worry about it. Until then, I’ve got plenty to worry about.

    Right now our leaders aren’t emphasizing the meat aspect of the WoW. And they eat meat. In slabs. In the summer. If they start emphasizing it, I’ll worry about it. Until then, I’ve got plenty to worry about.


  45. Dovie
    June 3, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I try and eat meat sparingly and conceniously. I’ve wondered about the in winter and times of famine bit. I wonder if there was a public health aspect as well in times if famine a animal would have been quickly consumed because if scarcity and there would have been no chance for meat to become dangerous. In winter an animal once slaughtered could be preserved for a period of time and consumed over a longer course of time safely. My grandmother grew up in Junction, Utah and they had a cattle co-op. Each week the town would slaughter one animal, each family would receive a portion of the animal. Nothing was wasted. This was great when it was your families turn for ribs or roasts or even organ meat, but not so fun when it was your turn with the tail and hooves. This system eliminated waste and insured food safety. Not that you could do this easily today but it is an interesting relic.

    I get most of my beef from someone who lives near me that raises the male jersey cows and then takes them to be slaughtered each fall. Local, grass feed and able to live as a cow before becoming dinner. This isn’t an option for everyone but it is how I feel a little better about the meat I do consume. I also keep chickens for eggs. We have eaten one of our roosters and I think I would feel better about chicken eating if they were our chickens that had an opertunity to be chickens before dinner but my kids would not. Unless the chicken in question happened to be a mean rooster.

    I believe in continuing revelation. I’m ok with modern revelation/interpretation in regards to section 89. I think even if Joseph Smith intended a more relaxed interpretation in his time, the availability and potency (especially alcohol) pales in comparison to our day, and justifies in my mind a harder prohibitive stance. In my mind the harm that excessive alcohol consumption and the potential for addiction poses to the individual the family and society far out weighs any potential benefit that a more relaxed reading could provide to the church.

    I also believe in personal interpatation and inspiration in regards to section 89. I cook with alcohol, even when it doesn’t all cook out. My friend doesn’t, to the point of using non alcohol based flavorings like vanilla. We both feel good about our decisions. My sister in law loves coffee flavored things but doesn’t drink coffee (I remember Janet Lee widow of Rex Lee saying as much about mocha shakes in a BYU devotional. I try and eat meatless when I can, and what I view as concencious meat eater when I can’t. I try not to stress myself out too much when neither is an option, as well as try and allow space for those around me to figure out what is right for themselves.

    I view section 89 is a valuable piece of revelation that has blessed the members of the church collectively in regard to their health (and wisdom and navels and marrow ;) ) tremendously. I’ve reached my max tolerance for commenting via my phone and the statistical potential for error mortification when I press publish so I’ll end now. One last thing (commenting dangerously now) I heard story on NPR last year about a country where men drink super super hot coffee every day and have an have an tremendously increased incidence of a rare throat cancer, reseachers were speculating that it is the very hot and the regular parts, not the coffee part that is increasing their. So maybe there is something to the hot drink thing, not that I abide section 89 because of what is revealed by research but it is still interesting. I’ll try and find the link and post it when I am not phone commenting.

  46. June 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    #44 Allison — well reasoned and well said.

  47. E
    June 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Alison Moore Smith, I think you are really awesome.


  48. bbell
    June 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    I am totally with Alison. Until I start hearing talks from conference and articles in the Ensign pushing veggie eating habits I will continue to believe that LDS folks that push this lifestyle have a gospel hobby.

    Don’t get me wrong I love veggies and have really nice garden full of them.

  49. June 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I try to have the best of both worlds by eating great slabs of spare ribs.

  50. Jessica
    June 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Dovie, I am soooo jealous.

    It is not necessarily true that industrial farming is more efficient than smaller scale farming. It is true if you externalize significant factors (pollution being one) and depend upon low fuel costs. But I’ve got an urban orchard (27 fruit trees and vines) on 1/3 acre in southern California, half a dozen chickens, rabbits, and an edible front yard landscape that looks better than half the lawns around here (so say random strangers who compliment me on it- it’s not just my imagination). Small scale can be incredibly productive, it just requires a larger number of people (and a smaller number of tractors) to be involved in it. Given the various benefits of gardening (healthy exercise and improved diet being foremost among many) and our persistent unemployment problems, getting more people involved in productive, local, small-scale agriculture seems like a pretty good idea to me. And perfectly in compliance with the WOW.

  51. Julie M. Smith
    June 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I’d like to make a distinction that I think is important to the direction Alison has taken this discussion.

    I think it is safe to conclude from GA behavior that vegetarianism is not required of the Saints (at this moment in history, anyway).

    I do not think it is safe to conclude from GA behavior that an individual Saint could not be inspired to follow a diet different from the SAD (=Standard American Diet; best acronym ever!). I don’t want to derail the conversation with my personal examples, but at various points I’ve felt inspired to do things more restrictive than ‘what the GAs do.’ Sometimes those things were permanent; sometimes only for a season.

  52. Vin
    June 3, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Perhaps the second guessing of Alison has to do with her justification that it’s safe to do something merely because the General Authorities do it. That’s probably going to be true in general, but I can’t help but feel it’s in part an abdication of personal responsibility.

    I’m not saying that the only true and living way to interpret the WoW is eating meat “sparingly”, but perhaps the discrepancy between the text in D&C 89 and the currently accepted standard is indeed a cause for concern.

  53. Jader3rd
    June 3, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I have a hard time believing that the mass produced meat we consume isn’t very tasty. If that were true, we wouldn’t be consuming it. I think the fact that it does taste good is part of the problem.
    The other part of the problem is that it’s hard to build a meal around something besides meat. It’s not impossible, but when you try to plan out meals, it becomes more difficult after the third or fourth meal.
    When I was a bachelor my breakfast didn’t involve meat and nearly all of my dinners I prepared myself didn’t have any meat. About every other lunch was centered around meat. So I think I was doing pretty good. Then I got married and every dinner and every lunch on the weekends was full of meat. My wife and I talked about it and she mentioned how it’s hard for her to think of a meal which didn’t involve meat.
    A year into our marriage my wife went to a medical clinic for a few weeks where they didn’t serve any meat and taught vegetarian classes. Coming back from that she had a lot more ideas and will power to not have meat for most meals. When bringing this up with her mother her mom said “I don’t know how to cook anything that doesn’t have meat in it”.
    There are plenty of great meals which don’t center around meat. The problem is the ease with which one can “build” a meal around a meat (even if very minute) center.

  54. June 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    44: SAD (=Standard American Diet; best acronym ever!)

    I though “Sexual Aversion Disorder” already had the best acronym thing covered.

  55. Dan
    June 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm



    David 8: There’s certainly gluttony, but not meat gluttony on a large scale. I disagree D&C 89 was given in 1833 as you mention teaches us to use meat sparingly but US meat consumption has tripled since the 1880s so sparingly should be applied to 1/3 of today’s US intake!

    While meat consumption may have increased by triple since the 1880s, how has the population of the country increased? More than triple or less? If more than triple, that means that the country is now consuming less meat than in the 1880s. If less than triple, then your point would be right, that we are consuming more meat today than in the 1880s. According to wikipedia, the population of the US in 1880 was 50 million. Today there are 305 million Americans. That’s an increase of six times. Thus we’ve actually decreased our meat consumption by half since 1880.

  56. Howard
    June 3, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Sorry Dan I guess I should have been more specific by saying meat consumption per person has tripled since the 1880s.

  57. Dan
    June 3, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    can you show me where you get that from?

  58. Cameron N.
    June 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Vin (52) – there is no discrepancy because their is no singular standard. The word of wisdom is adaptable to the capacity of the weakest of Saints. Church leaders will not itemize things such as over-consumption of food because they have more important matters to discuss. Everyone knows when they shouldn’t eat something, they just choose to do it anyway.

    While we know that a healthy body is important and that obedience to the word of wisdom, among other commandments, can help preserve it, we also are counseled in the scriptures to care not for the body and for the life of the body, but care for the soul and for the life of the soul. So we need to do our best, but diet is not the ultimate virtue.

    I don’t think any church member would deny that cultural habits and bodily passions are difficult to master or that there is lots of room for improvement–that’s one of the main reasons we’re here. =)

  59. James Olsen
    June 3, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Wow, I keep missing all the good daytime action!

    General Point: Is anyone interested in discussing the phenomenon I point to in the post and the questions I ask to try and get at it? I guess it’s just not as fun as discussing meat!

    Jim: I agree – pragmatically the WofW has functioned as a very successful “social separator,” helping to make us a peculiar people. Likewise, I think it is one of those things that, on account of its making a clear distinction, has served a cohesive function amongst our people generally and strengthened our covenantal relationship with God. I don’t think any old arbitrary commandment will do this, but I think our WofW and how we’ve taken it up has done it well. I think it could serve this function even better were we to take it up more fully. Which leads me to:

    Kaimi: Yeah, that’s probably the better reading. I really am interested in the phenomenon of significant doctrine-to-practice gaps, and really do think our ways of taking up 89 are very interesting. But at the end of the day, as the title suggests, I’m interested in our collectively realizing to a greater degree what we’ve got. I’ve read Alexander’s book, and geoffsn started the conversation with a helpful link to a Dialogue article by Alexander that gives a concise laying out of the development of our contemporary, fairly rigid interpretation. I would add, however, that the notion of the WofW as a commandment began with BY (see the JD 12:27 sermon) and was strongly supported/focused on by LS, WW, and JFS. Grant certainly “Heberized” it, shaped our contemporary litany, and made it into today’s standard temple recommend question, but he was of course building off of what came before. I’m skeptical, however, that this is the sole reason why we read 89 the way we do or that GA attitudes/teachings alone accounts for the doctrine-to-practice gap.

    Catania: great vignette. I’ve got a friend who said, in a temple recommend interview with his Stake Pres., “Can I drink hot caffeinated water and still get a temple recommend?” “Yes.” “Can I confess to drinking decaff coffee and still get a temple recommend?” “Yes.” “What if I brew my decaff coffee in caffeinated water?” At that point the Stake Pres. laughed and said he’d reached the limit of his ability to give an authoritative answer.

    ESO: Isn’t it funny that we feel the need to give the “non-proselytizing” disclaimer? Which is worse, the reality and intensity of proselytizing vegetarians or how offended people get when you admit to being vegetarian?

    Becca: Thanks for the tip. I think these sorts of conferences and attention amongst LDS are a growing trend.

    Lucretia: I agree with your reading. And I’ve not seen Pomeroy’s tract specifically, but I’ve seen tracts like it. Thanks for sharing.

    J.A.T.: My best friend’s mother growing up was an herbalist and drew inspiration from 89 and from our history. Utah’s a funny place with the combination of die-hard alternative medicine types and a downright draconian, anti-alternative medicine medical establishment.

    Dovie: Great story and comment. It’s an interesting point about alcohol. By that logic, given the super-increased availability of meat and the harm it does to the animals, us and the environment, the church would be justified in taking a similarly prohibitive stance (i.e., emphasizing the actual counsel in 89 concerning meat).

    Jessica: I’d love to visit your place! My wife and I have tried smaller-scale versions. Growing our own produce has been a genuine delight. And yes, those darned externalities consistently skew our picture.

    Julie: Much needed distinction. I would generalize it beyond individual inspiration – not in the sense of non-GAs receiving inspiration for the whole church; but many of our great ideas/practices in the church began with small groups of Saints acting collectively.

    Vin: Agreed on both points. I’m trying to state explicitly that it’s cause for concern. Or rather, it’s cause for us to seek to live more abundantly.

    Jader3rd: Yes, at least for us Americans, one of the hardest points is wrapping our minds around meatless meals and finding good recipes. I really like Bittman’s books The Food Matters Book (an “eat meat sparingly” sort of guide) and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Indian recipes are among my favorite. But there are tons of good cookbooks out there today. The reality is, it’s actually quite easy to eat little-meat or vegetarian diets once one’s been reprogrammed and knows how to do it.

  60. James Olsen
    June 3, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Alison: Well, how can I not just agree with E (#47)? Sorry for the childish phrase. Really. As Julie alluded to, we’re clearly talking past each other. To be candid, I don’t think you’re actually responding to my post – at least not directly. But that’s ok, I’m happy to discuss the sentiments you’re expressing. I’ll confess that your expansion on the original comment didn’t sit any better with me. It seems a prime example of D&C 58:26-28. I’ve got enough thoughts here to fill a series of posts, but I’ll contain myself to three quick points:

    1. It seems at the outset that you and I are far enough apart on this issue (i.e., the issue you bring up; sounds like our meat eating practices are fairly similar) that I’m skeptical we’ll have a very constructive discussion here in the comments. I genuinely wish I could have you over for dinner (as I’ve said before!). Not only am I convinced we’d be able to have a great discussion on this, but given my respect for you and how much I enjoy the things you write, it’d no doubt make a great evening.
    2. “Worrying about it” in the sense of anxiety and guilt, which is what I think you mean, is a wrongheaded approach to begin with and certainly not what I’m advocating. So I’m glad you’re not “worrying.” It’d be nice, however, if you caught the vision of the glory that 89 is, and what an inspiring directive concerning significant global problems it can be. Mormonism offers a profound doctrine of interconnection between body, health, environment, and spirit. I see this prominently in D&C 89. This isn’t something to worry over, but something to exult and plumb the depths of.
    3. I suspect that for most (though not all) of us, if we successfully model our lives on the apostles, we won’t find ourselves so overwhelmed by things that we don’t have time to devote serious reflection to major contemporary issues and divine counsel. If we are so overwhelmed, then I think your strategy’s probably a wise one. It would also seem wise in that situation not to spend one’s time blogging, particularly if after reading posts we feel compelled to respond with a long-winded version of “Yeah, I could care less about what you wrote and don’t really see a reason why I should.”

  61. Bob
    June 4, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Today, I don’t think the GAs care at all how much meat you or they eat. But a cup of coffee is enough to put your enternal life path in question.

  62. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 12:45 am
  63. jks
    June 4, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Our school lunch:
    Sloppy Joe on Whole Wheat Bun OR Chicken Burger on Whole Wheat Bun OR Cheese Quesadilla
    Oatmeal Cookie
    Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Bar
    1% White or Nonfat Chocolate Milk
    Average Daily Nutrition June 6-10 Calories 682, Fat 20.9 g, Carb 98 g, Protein 29, Fiber 7g

    Not too bad. Sounds a little healthier than Steve’s daughter’s lunch. The thing is we can’t really afford it at $2.95 so my kids get hot lunch twice a week and they take their lunch three times a week.

  64. Hans
    June 4, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Vegetables are not food; vegetables are what food eats.

  65. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 6:15 am
  66. Tim
    June 4, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I hardly think that the actions of General Authorities negate the words of canonized scripture. We know for a fact that Joseph Smith had weaknesses. It should be no surprise that modern general authorities do too.

    I’m not saying that the instructions about meat in the Doctrine and Covenants are as important as the instructions about tobacco or strong drink. Perhaps revised dietary rules would find more problems with large amounts of sugar than with meat. Yet I think saying, “It’s okay because I saw General Authorities doing it” is a particularly weak argument when modern canonized scripture disagrees.

  67. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 10:50 am


    I’m not sure you’ve got that correct. The “timeline” in Google doesn’t refer to how much meat was consumed in those years, but rather how many articles Google has related to your keywords in those years. So Google has found that the key words “meat consumption per person” in the US has tripled since the 1800s. :)

  68. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Dan Sorry, I misunderstood the graph here are some numbers to correct what I said in 19. In 1890 The Bureau of Statistics in England published a list of consumption of meat per capita per annum by country showing 54.4Kg or about 120 lbs for the US (see page 3). A New York Times Graph puts 2008 per capita annual consumption of boneless trimmed meat at about 184 lbs for an increase of 53%. So my conclusion in 19 should read; so sparingly should be applied to 2/3 of today’s US intake!

  69. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm


    You need to consume 100g of red meat, 2 cups milk, 2-3 slices of cheese or 3 to 4 eggs to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin B12 or about 80 lbs. of red meat per year if you don’t consume dairy.


  70. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Regarding B12 requirements you need to consume 100g of red meat, 2 cups milk, 2-3 slices of cheese or 3 to 4 eggs daily to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin B12 or about 80 lbs. of red meat per year if you don’t consume any dairy.


    The British Dietetic Association says that up to 90g of lean red meat a day (or 72.4 lbs. per year) is acceptable. Pork is the leanest, lamb the fattiest and beef is the most nutritious and fairly healthy. The US still allows animals to be fed growth hormones (a potential risk factor in cancer), but the practice has been outlawed by the European Union for some years now.


  71. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Please ignore or delete 69 I don’t know how it posted.

  72. June 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Great post and great responses. I am a WOW fanatic, and have reaped many of the blessings by living it. I want to comment in regards to Allison’s (and those who ‘side’ with her) comments. I can see how you could follow that line of thinking in justifying a lifestyle that might now be in direct accordance with the WOW.

    When I started on this journey of living the WOW, I prayed and prayed for help and guidance, and I got it. The Lord wants to help us along in progressing – as a result I went so far as to write a WOW cookbook and now teach classes and have founded the LDS Holistic Living conference, with a good portion of the classes taught going towards teaching about the WOW.

    When I took a look at what was being taught at BYU and served in the temples, because I had such a firm testimony of the benefits of living the WOW, it actually shook my testimony a bit. So I prayed about it. Why this contradiction? My personal revelation was that the saints were not yet ready to accept certain portions of the WOW as a commandment, much like it took the saints eon’s to accept African American’s as priesthood holders. Many of the Caucasian saints held up the revelation for African American’s to accept the priesthood, and thus move the work forward. The sin was on the heads of the saints who held prejudices, not the other way around.

    I very much see the acceptance of the WOW in much the same way. It wasn’t until the mid 1900’s that some of the principles that are required for temple entry became so. Does that invalidate the truthfulness of those principles? Or does Joseph Smith chewing tobacco after receiving the WOW revelation invalidate the revelation? Of course not!

    It is not yet a commandment because of our pride, slothfulness and unwillingness. Much like the Israrlites, we are not living the higher laws and reaping the blessings of them like we should.

    You are not going to start hearing from the pulpit to obeying the other parts of the WOW until a great number of the members start living it voluntarily and stop having to be “commanded on all things”.

    I highly doubt these threads will change anyone’s views on the WOW and how they personally apply it seeing as how you seem very firmly planted in your interpretation, but I hope that you will at least pray about it with a teachable heart and receive your own answers on the subject of why the GA’s eat the way they do, and why the temples serve what they do and why BYU teaches what they do. I don’t necessarily expect your answer to match mine, but in order to get an answer, we must first ask and be willing to be taught and change.

    I shutter to think the blessings that I wouldn’t have been able to call down based on my obedience to this revelation. My whole life would be different and frankly, worse.

    You cannot submit yourself to the all the principles of the WOW and then walk away with anything less of a firm testimony of the fact that we – meaning the membership of the church including its leaders – need to do better, more, and reap the blessings of it and in turn bless others. Anyone who can defend any type of disobedience to it has never really lived it and in my opinion, is hard – although not impossible – to take seriously. We need a generation of that like Daniel, said Brigham Young, now more than ever. And that is something you cannot force or command, it has be born of a willing heart and love of Christ.

    Amy Jones

  73. June 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Should read:

    “It wasn’t until the mid 1900’s that some of the principles of the WOW that are required for temple entry became so.”

  74. June 4, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    sorry, also should read:
    “I can see how you could follow that line of thinking in justifying a lifestyle that might now be in direct opposition with the WOW. “

  75. June 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Amy, although adherence to those principles of the WOW became requirements for temple entry in the first third of the 20th century, those principles had been actively, strenuously, continuously taught since the earliest days of the Church (it is Hyrum Smith’s public identification and teaching of tea and coffee as the “hot drinks” referred to that we still follow, for instance). When Joseph Smith used alcohol, or Brigham Young used tobacco, both men did it knowing that it was in violation of the principles taught in the Word of Wisdom, and both men taught that it would be better for all Saints to avoid alcohol and tobacco.

    Making adherence to the WOW a prerequisite to temple attendance did not change one iota of our understanding, interpretation, or preaching of the WOW. It merely added a new consequence to failing to follow those teachings.

    Our use of meat is in no sense in the same category: Suppose that vegetarianism, or even a specified low acceptable use of meat, were to be added to the temple recommend requirements. This would require a major shift in interpretation and teaching of the WOW, because it has *never* been a widespread understanding that vegetarianism was desirable, or even expected. Your analogy fails, and fails badly.

    Your understanding of the priesthood restriction and its causes, as well as what led to the 1978 revelation, is similarly skewed to suit your private fanatical agenda. Please refrain from practicing church history without a license!

    My disgust expressed here really has very little to do with the issue of meat and the WOW. I would express the same disgust on any number of other topics about which I feel no more strongly than this. It simply irritates me when people present their private and extreme personal hobbies in the light of revelation — not in the light of personal revelation for their obedience alone, but in the light Amy does it here: *she* has received greater light and knowledge than even the prophet has received, and is certain that if we only pray to know the truth of her private interpretation, we will receive the same answer. It’s only our “pride, slothfulness, and unwillingness” that has kept us from her private truth this long. Not cool, Amy.

  76. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Ardis wrote; My disgust expressed here…*she* has received greater light and knowledge than even the prophet has received, and is certain that if we only pray to know the truth of her private interpretation, we will receive the same answer. It’s only our “pride, slothfulness, and unwillingness” that has kept us from her private truth this long. Not cool, Amy. I dunno that’s not what I got out of it. Amy wrote; I had such a firm testimony…I very much see…I hope that you will at least pray about it with a teachable heart and receive your own answers… I don’t necessarily expect your answer to match mine

  77. James Olsen
    June 4, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Ardis, first off, that was a remarkably uncharitable reading of Amy’s comment. The comment surely had some room for criticism, and some of what you say hints at legitimate forms of criticism, but your personal pet peeve has clearly gotten in the way of both your reading and your ability to constructively criticize.

    Second, you’re doing something very similar to what you accuse Amy of doing – shading the historical facts and overstating your claims. I know that you’ve got a “license” to practice history and I likewise know that you’ve got a better grasp of the nuances of WofW history than what you here articulate.

    Third, while you’ve vociferously denounced Amy’s alcohol/tobacco to meat analogy and condemned her (explicitly stated personal) interpretation of the Priesthood revelation, you’ve certainly not justified your denouncement and condemnation. I don’t think your license gets you out of the responsibility to back up your claims – especially when stated so pompously.

    Finally, I like you a lot Ardis, and have often enjoyed your various posts and comments. I hope you always feel welcomed to comment on my posts and know that I honestly look forward to your future participation. But your reaction here is both silly and mean spirited. This is surely as “not cool” as someone’s willingness to pontificate historically ungrounded opinions.

  78. James Olsen
    June 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Request: Anyone who wishes on this clearly winding-down post to comment further on the intricacies of the development of our contemporary understanding of the WofW, please read at least the article geoffsn linked in the very first comment. Alexander’s research can at least serve as a common background for us.

  79. June 4, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    that was quite a mean spirited response and opinion. Frankly, it’s hurtful to be attacked and called fanatical and skewed when I was merely sharing my experiences and hoping others might glean from it. It wasn’t Christlike and it *was not cool* either. What are your personal experiences with living the WOW and limiting meat, using herbs or eating in seasons? What hidden treasures have you uncovered, or conspiring men been revealed to you? I personally am looking for that kind of feedback from people so I can understand the Lord’s will for my body and spirit better.

    I disagree that my analogy fails badly. This is the revelation I have received for me personally and I don’t expect anyone to get the same revelations, but I do expect to be taken seriously and treated respectfully and autonomously as I would treat you. I would hope that in a face to face conversation you would be more polite and kind, even if you disagreed, because we are all children of God and should be treated as such.

    Again, it is hard to have lived the WOW and not gain a testimony of it, had those hidden treasures revealed to you and NOT want others to partake of those blessings as well.

    “Making adherence to the WOW a prerequisite to temple attendance did not change one iota of our understanding, interpretation, or preaching of the WOW. It merely added a new consequence to failing to follow those teachings. ”

    Who is to say that limiting our meat intake, using herbs, and eating in season will not one day become one of those pre requisites as well? I just hope people will be in every sense ready when/if that happens.

    “Suppose that vegetarianism, or even a specified low acceptable use of meat, were to be added to the temple recommend requirements. This would require a major shift in interpretation and teaching of the WOW, because it has *never* been a widespread understanding that vegetarianism was desirable, or even expected.”

    It was just as much of a shift to leave behind coffee, tea, and tobacco for early church members, so it is not a great stretch to say that we may one day asked to adjust our intake of others things outlined in the WOW.

    Again, anyone who can defend any type of disobedience to it has never really lived the WOW and in my opinion, is hard – although not impossible – to take seriously. Living the WOW is something you cannot force or command for now, it has be born of a willing heart and love of Christ.

    Please be sensitive and loving in your response.

  80. June 4, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    James, any of these materials:

    Leonard J. Arrington, “An Economic Interpretation of the ‘Word of Wisdom,” BYU Studies 1 (Winter 1959): 37-49.

    Paul H. Peterson, “An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom,” M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972.

    Lester E. Bush, Jr. “The Word of Wisdom in Early Nineteenth-Century Perspective,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14:3 (Autumn 1981):47-65;

    Thomas G. Alexander, “The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14:3 (Autumn 1981) pp. 78–88.

    Clyde Ford, “The Origin of the Word of Wisdom,” Journal of Mormon History 24:2 (Fall 1998), 129–54.

    Paul H. Peterson and Ronald W. Walker “Brigham Young’s Word of Wisdom Legacy,” BYU Studies 42:3-4, 2003.

    many of which are available online, are the standard and scholarly accepted histories and will support my reading of Word of Wisdom history and refute Amy’s. I’m sure you don’t intend your denunciation as an invitation for me to spell out screens full of specific content. If you or Amy care to offer respectable references to support her idiosyncratic spin, I’ll be glad to search them out and read them.

    Do I need to submit a similar bibliography related to the priesthood restriction?

    Your calling for me to justify my reading of history while excusing Amy from doing the same is odd.

  81. June 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Amy, I’ll see you a “fanatical” and raise you a “mean-spirited,” if you think your response is any kinder than mine. Perhaps you are too tender-hearted to participated in online discussion, while I know too well what to expect from people who can’t disagree with anything but tears.

  82. June 4, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    respectable references? Personal prayer and revelation, scripture, and quotes from prophets. No one needs to be a scholar to have received a personal testimony and revelation of the WOW. It is adapted to the weakest of the saints, afterall.

    Ardis, please be kind. Calling me too tender hearted? I’ll take it as a compliment. The hard heartedness you have displayed towards me is not something to be proud of and has been revealing on your behalf, not mine. I am just glad it was me you flamed, and not a non member or someone who doesn’t have a firm testimony of the Gospel or WOW.

    My questions:
    What are your personal experiences with living the WOW and limiting meat, using herbs or eating in seasons? What hidden treasures have you uncovered, or conspiring men been revealed to you?

    I am still interested in hearing for the sincere reasons I stated.

    Again, peace – this is my last response to you personally.

  83. June 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Amy, I have challenged only your weak grasp of history, your twisting of that historical misunderstanding to misguided support of your personal gospel hobby, and your bald assertions that if the rest of us were as righteous as you are, we would share your skewed historical understanding. I have never challenged your right to your *personal* revelation and way of life, and I do not cough up testimony-on-demand for a complete stranger who has demonstrated so clearly that she reads my words for what she wants to find, not for what they say.

    And if you think I’ve flamed you, you really are too thin-skinned for online discourse.

    (Don’t worry, James; I’ll take no further notice of Amy, or your posts.)

  84. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I agree with Ardis vis a vis the smug condescension toward the “weaker saints.”

  85. Lucretia
    June 4, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Amy, I agree with you entirely and understand what you are trying to say, I couldn’t have explained myself better. The WoW was adaptable for the “weakest of saints”, so what then would the WoW for the strongest be? It is not a commandment for all to follow but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy.. I see it as a blessing for those who seek the greater things of God.

  86. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 9:40 pm


    Who is to say that limiting our meat intake, using herbs, and eating in season will not one day become one of those pre requisites as well? I just hope people will be in every sense ready when/if that happens.

    I gotta say, yeesh! Why do we want to limit who can come to Christ based on what they eat? Did not Jesus Christ say that it is not what goes into the body that makes us good or bad but what comes out? In the grand scheme of things, what we eat or drink really doesn’t matter. That we make it a prerequisite for access to God is rather foolish in my opinion. If I were prophet, I would implore God to change this silly rule that previous prophets put in and increase membership in the church to everyone, not just the self-righteous.

  87. June 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Lucretia and James, thanks for your support
    Is this the same Lucretia that left a comment re: conference registration on the mormonmomma blog? Ifso, please send me an email, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you!

    I’m thinking I might be confused….is it your suggestion that we do away with the whole no coffee, tea, addictive substances/behavior portion of the temple recommend requirements? Are you saying that the state of the body does not affect the state of the spirit then?

  88. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    yep, that is exactly what I am saying.

  89. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    and yes, if I were prophet, I would do away with “the whole no coffee, tea, addictive substances/behavior portion of the temple recommend requirements” with exceptions for sexual addictions and drug addictions. Frankly, I don’t care if people smoke. It makes no difference to who they are and where their heart is. I don’t care if people drink coffee. It makes no difference to who they are and where their heart is. I don’t care if people drink beer. But here, of course, things start to get complicated because one can get highly addicted to alcohol to the point of destroying one’s life. I would still let an alcoholic get close to the Lord if that is the desire of his heart, as long as he comes to the temple clean. I’m not going to get into the sexual addictions because that’s not even a part of the word of wisdom. We have to stop being Pharisaical as to who is “clean” and who is “weak.”

  90. Lucretia
    June 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Dan, it is in becoming like God that brings us closer to him. What we eat or drink really doesn’t matter maybe, but whether we choose to follow his commandments. Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    Amy- I don’t think I’m the same Lucretia, I haven’t been to the mormonmomma blog.

    I believe that we have D&C 49:18 for the purpose of not having arguments in this aspect, LDS vegetarians can quote scriptures and prophets in their support and it is such a blessing we wish others would follow it and that it was a commandment but it really is not a commandment and will cause contention when we treat it as such.

  91. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm


    But the word of wisdom is NOT a commandment. It is a word of wisdom. I mean, it seems we forget this portion:

    2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

    3 Given for a principle with promise,

    Do you catch the keyword there? “constraint.” Not by constraint. Verse 18 states that

    18And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments,

    will receive blessings. God considered this word of wisdom a “saying”, not with constraint, and a principle with promise. It was NOT meant to limit anyone from access to God. There is absolutely nothing in Section 89 that would even indicate that one is to lose access to God for not keeping the word of wisdom.

  92. Howard
    June 4, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Dan I feel similarly regarding not by commandment or constraint and some of your other comments but I’m curious how does the WoW as it is used today or with the additions being discussed limit one’s access to God?

  93. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm


    What do we do in the Celestial room of the temple but have “access to God,” no? What’s the point of going through all the ordinances of the temple? What’s the point of having a celestial room at the end? If I can “access God” at any time, why have a “House of the Lord?”

  94. Steve
    June 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    I once prayed about the Word of Wisdom. I felt strongly that I should quit drinking Diet Coke/Caffeine drinks. So, (after many failed attempts and with God’s help) I did. It was a faith promoting experience. ( ok Ardis and Dan, I am wincing; go ahead tell me why I’m a fanatic lunatic).

    If I understand, that is all Amy is saying isn’t it?

    If someone reads a passage of scripture about the creation and then in a flash of inspiration decides to open a pet shelter in order to be kind to homeless animals, is that somehow wrong? And if that same person encourages me to read and pray about the concept, and all I do is adopt a cat or somehow see stray animals a little differently isn’t that ok too? From my point of view that is what I understand Ms Amy is doing. What I don’t understand is rolling up 15 lbs of BYU Gradstudent papers and whacking Amy with it.

    I claim no special knowledge; I’m a convert to the LDS faith. Just a by-standers position.

  95. Dan
    June 4, 2011 at 11:29 pm


    The way you describe is doesn’t rub me wrong. I can’t speak for Ardis, but this section of Amy’s comment rubbed me the wrong way:

    Who is to say that limiting our meat intake, using herbs, and eating in season will not one day become one of those pre requisites as well? I just hope people will be in every sense ready when/if that happens.

    The Lord has every right to comment on the “weaker” Saints. But we have no right in claiming those who don’t keep the word of wisdom (for whatever reason) are in some fashion weaker, not “ready”, and so on.

  96. Steve
    June 5, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Hi Dan,

    I think I can understand the chafe you experienced. I think there should be a little leeway given to a man’s/woman’s musings on what might be in the future.

    Take my (admittedly lame) story about the animal shelter person. Could that person also muse that hunting animals would be outlawed at some future, more enlightened day? You know the scriptures about lions and lambs? (Isaiah 65:25) I figure I better leave a source…Could that person be right? Could that person be a nut job? Time will tell, but in the meantime, why let some man’s/woman’s musings on the future hinder the joy of living a Christ like life?



  97. It's Not Me
    June 5, 2011 at 12:27 am

    I love this: “If I were the prophet I would do ________.”

    Did you mean to say: “If I were the prophet I would ask the Lord about ____________”?

    It’s not the Church of Thomas S. Monson . . .

  98. Cameron N.
    June 5, 2011 at 1:45 am

    I didn’t know one could be so passionate about health and let their kid get school lunch. I still remember how nasty the greasy pizza or soggy fries looked in elementary school, even if they did smell more enticing than my PBJ. =)

  99. Sonny
    June 5, 2011 at 2:15 am

    I think what it boils down to is that for many, myself included, what is decided to eaten is a somewhat personal thing. I really don’t mind or care if someone has prescribed for themselves a more stringent or even ‘principled’ diet. I just really don’t like it when other views are presented as a more enlightened way of eating and that hopefully I will someday see the light as well.
    I have learned that when it comes to foods, it is wise to adopt a ‘to each his/her own’ attitude.
    And proselytizing your food lifestyle in the form of a testimony is perhaps not the best means of persuasion.

  100. Howard
    June 5, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Dan God can be accessed outside the temple the temple just makes it easier to do.

  101. Dan
    June 5, 2011 at 6:11 am

    It’s Not Me,


    See my comment #86. In case there’s some mixup with the numbers, this is what I say:

    If I were prophet, I would implore God to change this silly rule that previous prophets put in and increase membership in the church to everyone, not just the self-righteous.

    I don’t know if you missed that. Upon saying that, I assumed that any other time I brought up a hypothetical that implied I was the prophet, that how I would go about changing things in the church is by praying. Could you show me where it is indicated that the prophet prayed to God about making the word of wisdom a requirement and he received a revelation that he then informed the church membership about? If you hold me to that standard, surely you hold the current or past prophets to that standard too.

  102. Dan
    June 5, 2011 at 6:13 am


    Dan God can be accessed outside the temple the temple just makes it easier to do.

    Then why all the stringent fuss over the requirements to the temple? Why do we make it such an important part of our theology? It’s rather ironic because there’s so much temple work to be done for others, but yet we limit how many people can go help in the temple. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  103. Bob
    June 5, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I think Dan sees this about as I do. I like #89, and see it as a word of wisdom. I have no problem in Amy wanting to expand on #89, and even give classes on it.
    I see it as a problem when it is made a requirement for my Salvation. I would like to know who did that and why.

  104. Howard
    June 5, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Dan I agree it doesn’t make sense to me either but I reject the idea that of the church brokering God for me.

    The WoW was offered as a principle with promise which makes it complete without the need for commandment or constraint but both have been added was this of God or man who knows? But if it were of God couldn’t He have looked ahead and anticipated the need to add them when He revealed D&C 89? So that seems wrong to me therefore tying it to a temple recommend also seems wrong to me. However limiting our meat intake and using herbs and barley drinks such as beer ale and lager seem right to me because they are clearly stated in D&C 89. Eating in season is probably obsolete now due to global shipping which makes almost all food in season for those who can afford it.

  105. June 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Man, I spend a day away tending my vegetable garden and there’s an explosion!

    Amy: You certainly are welcome to have your own spiritual confirmation regarding the meaning and application of the WoW in your life. I confess I also winced when you suggested that if I did what you did I would have a similar answer, and when you predicted that one day the Brethren would catch up with you and that you hoped we’d all be ready when they did.

    If that was not your intent, I apologize for misreading you.

    BTW, your sensitivity at Ardis’ used of fanatical seems odd to me, since you used the word in reference to yourself first.

    To be sure it is more challenging to understand what “in season” means for certain fruits, vegetables and herbs in today’s world in which I can buy Chilean grapes in my Michigan Kroger store.

    As for me and my house, we have always limited meat intake by limiting portion size and number of “meat” meals in any week. But we don’t eliminate it completely from our diets. Neither do we complain about those who choose to do so, however.

  106. Howard
    June 5, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Paul please quote Amy regarding if I did what you did I would have a similar answer and you predicted that one day the Brethren would catch up with you and that you hoped we’d all be ready when they did. sorry I can’t find them.

  107. James Olsen
    June 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

    While it means we end following something of a downward spiral, I’m going to keep with T&S tradition and close it here. Thank you for your participation. I’ll no doubt give you all occasion to argue in the future!

Comments are closed.