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What about the meat?

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The Word of Wisdom lessons of last week spawned a slew of Bloggernacle posts and discussions on the subject.

I don't want to be accused of following the crowd, so I'll claim that I came up with this question during Sunday School last week and that it just returned to me while eating lunch this afternoon. Because it's true. Honest!

When we go in for an interview with the bishop and he asks us whether we follow the Word of Wisdom, the gist of the question really is: Do you abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs?

But what about the meat? How come he doesn't ask whether we eat the grain that is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life? Why doesn't he ask whether we use every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these...with prudence and thanksgiving?

And above all, why doesn't he ask whether we eat meat sparingly, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine?

I don't have a problem with coffee or beer -- the smells make me nauseous. Alcohol in general? I was tempted heavily my freshman year of college, but after watching friends do stupid things while drunk, don't have a hard time turning it down now. Tobacco and drugs? Public schoolbusses in Alabama and the boys in the back chewing tobacco and the smell of weed that permeated my freshman dorm stairwells have completely turned me off to the idea.

In short, I don't have any problem looking my bishop in the eye and saying I obey the Word of Wisdom.

That is, until I read it over again.

Then I feel a little guilty.

Because I like steak.

A lot.

I'm not an addict, but sometimes my mouth waters and I just want a juicy piece of bright red meat, seared to perfection, maybe blackened with pepper, or doused with BBQ sauce, or with a touch of soy, or above all, with a bowl of A-1 for dipping. Mmmmmmmmmmmm! Heaven, for me, would be a New York style steakhouse with some ginger-seasoned green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and a medium-rare Porterhouse on a plate in front of me. And maybe a Capt'n Eli's to wash it down.

Add to that the fact that I'm gluten intolerant -- which knocks many grains like wheat, barley, and rye out of the running -- and my diet largely revolves around beef, fowl, fish, fruits, vegetables, and chocolate.

I'm using my own diet purely as an example; most of the LDS families I've ever known eat meat at least once a day, usually more. I've known very few LDS vegetarians -- in fact, I've often heard the WoW used as a justification for not being a vegetarian -- that is, the bit about the flesh of beasts and fowls being ordained for the use of man.

But how about the sparingly bit? Are verses 10-17 merely advice, while the rest is commandment? Should we pay more attention to them than we do? Does our lack of emphasis on these verses somehow emphasize the "this scripture is given as advice" portion of the second verse?

What do you guys think?


Quotes for this post found in D&C 89:10-15.

10 Responses to “What about the meat?”

  1. Anonymous Dallas Robbins 

    I have always taken the meat thing seriously. What other members choose to do is their choice, and is none of my business. So I don't guilt trip anyone different than me. I am not a vegetarian, but I don't make meat the center of my meals. I don't even like steak - so it's not a big problem. But I do love chicken, fish, and eggs, which I only have 3 or 4 times a week. But I usually get most of my significant protein from beans, soy products, nuts, and the like. I use to eat a lot of meat, particualy hamburgers, hotdogs, sausage, cured meats, etc... but my personality just changed over time. I can't even remember the last time I even had a hamburger. I guess I'm just lucky that meat doesn't mean much to me anymore. And of course, I do feel much healthier, to boot!

  2. Blogger lchan 

    If you told your bishop in a temple recommend interview that you eat meat everyday, he'd probably tell you that's a personal matter and something you should take up in prayer, but it wouldn't keep you from a temple recommend.

    We all know what's mandatory and what's not. And, we don't know it because of the WoW. If you read that, it reads like advice because that's what it was.

    I was surprised to read Emmeline Wells diary at BYU and find that she drank tea and wine. Then, in a religion class I learned that it was only after prohibition was repealed that not smoking and drinking alchohol, coffee, or tea became a matter of church policy.

    My dad took the whole meat thing very seriously and we didn't eat it in the summer. He became a vegetarian in the 80s and only recently went back to meat. He was having some health problems and eating meat helped.

    I was never a vegetarian, but I went for several years not ever cooking meat at home. But, I feel better when I eat meat. With all the processed foods and non-food junk out there available to eat, I like eating real food (meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, some whole grains). Really, I feel pretty crappy if I eat too many simple carbs. And, I feel pretty crappy if I eat too much of anything.

    Anyway, my take is that the WoW is just advice. Not that we shouldn't take the church policy that is based on that advice seriously, we should. And, I think that just because it's advice doesn't mean we have to ignore the WoW, either.

    But, it's your decision what to do with that advice.

  3. Blogger D-Train 

    Laura is on the money here. The WoW is advice. I think we emphasize it way too much as some sort of test of faith when it is honestly just another principle. Sure, it's important, but not half so important as most of the other stuff that's in the temple recommend interview. In fact, if I had to rank the questions, the Word of Wisdom would probably come in dead last.

    Also, given the context in which D&C 89 was given, I'd have to ask whether the healthy meats that are now available would contradict the spirit of that revelation at all. Usually, a key purpose of the Word of Wisdom (as is partially discussed in the revelation itself) is stated as "the Lord's law of health". Low cholesterol lean meat is great for a diet in nearly every case. There might be a different reason for this commandment (test, faith promotion, whatever), but I've never felt the Spirit depart as I ate a chicken breast today, a hamburger tomorrow, and spare ribs on Tuesday. I'd advise anyone to implement this principle to the extent that they see it as an issue, but I'm not going to kill myself over caffeine and bacon when I'm still an uncharitable slob.

  4. Anonymous Susan M 

    Mmmmm. Bacon.

  5. Blogger annegb 

    You could be anemic. An entirely vegetarian diet must be approached carefully because people can end up with a serious B12 deficiency and/or anemia.

    I've been anemic most of my life and I also crave meat. My doctor tells me to eat it, and I do! I have found, though, that when my iron is up, I crave meat less.

    I say eat what you want.

  6. Blogger Kim Siever 

    When I cook suppers, meat plays a complimentary role. It is a part of the entire meal rather than overpowering everything else. When I make supper, 2 pounds of chicken last for 2-3 meals, a five pound roast goes for almost a week.

    FWIW, last night we had scalloped potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and steamed broccoli for supper. Not a lick of meat.

    I like meat because it adds flavour to dishes, but I like the textures, colours and flavours other foods bring to a meal.

  7. Blogger Dave 

    There are some commandments that have a moral basis; others are just rules for running a big, institutional church and regulating its membership. The WoW is of the second variety. The NT dictum is that it isn't what goes into a person that makes them unclean, it's what comes out of them (referring to spoken words and maybe conduct).

    The undeserved emphasis that the leaders place on the WoW is, IMHO, highly unfortunate. It detracts from the real gospel message, and encourages Mormons to make all sorts of screwy speculation (D&C 89 unfortunately encourages that sort of thing). Nothing leaders say over the pulpit seems capable of stopping it.

  8. Anonymous ed 

    I always answer "No!" to the WoW temple question. After they pick themselves up off the floor I clarify that "Yes, I don't do alcohol/tea/coffee/drugs, but NO I don't obey the WoW".

    I'm 20% overweight. Can fat people 'really' be obeying the WoW?

  9. Blogger Oscar 

    I think the WoW should be interpreted to include obesity. Abusing food is against the WoW. People should be taught proper nutrition in Church (some people I guess don't realize that drinking coke and eating half a pizza will make you fat).

    And a vegetarian diet, incorporating dairy products, is much more healthy that a meat-based diet. Leaving nutrition aside, after a few trips to a slaughterhouse, you'd probably go vegetarian, too. The meat doesn't just magically appear into those nicely wrapped plastic packages at the grocery store. Eating meat is an affirmation of violence towards living creatures and should be discouraged unless absolutely necessary for survival.

  10. Blogger Stephen 

    not be used only in times of winter or of cold or famine.

    Guess how you read the punctuation makes a big difference.

    But, there are always those who forbid to marry and command to abstain from meat.

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