Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

Thoughts on LDS Doctrine & Vegetarianism

by heather

 Last week I wrote a post with a vegetarian recipe and some good reasons to consider becoming a vegetarian, or at least eating less meat. Anna commented that she and her husband have been considering the change because of what is said in the Word of Wisdom. This is something that I have been thinking about, but not saying. For those of my readers who are not LDS, the Word of Wisdom is a name given to some guidelines given to us in the scriptures that we believe will increase and preserve our health. In addition to the advice to avoid “wine, tobacco and strong drinks”, it gives recommendations on what we should be eating. Some of the relevant points I will summarize and discuss below.

  • wholesome herbs are for the use of man
  • fruits and herbs are to be used in season
  • flesh of beasts and fowls of the air are to be used sparingly and only in times of winter, famine and excess hunger
  • grain is good for the food of man and to be the staff of life

 When I was in college I was required to take a class called “Nursing Ethics and Values”. One discussion centered around diet. I remember one of my classmates mentioned that she was a vegetarian and she received a lot of flack for it. Almost everyone asked “How in the world can you not eat meat?” (BTW, this was at BYU, where the vast majority of the student body is LDS.) Her response has stuck with me. “The Word of Wisdom says that meat is to be eaten in times of famine and excess hunger. I don’t feel that during my lifetime I have ever really experienced a famine. If I do experience a famine I will start eating meat.” That makes a lot of sense to me.
  As I read it, the scriptures are saying that our diets should be built around grains and include fruits, herbs and vegetables in season. We can have meat, but very rarely. Sounds almost like a vegetarian diet to me.
  I also believe that the Lord loves the animals that he has created, and while he said that their “flesh is ordained for the use of man”, I don’t think He approves of animal cruelty. The more I read and hear about how livestock is raised in America, the more unsettling it is to me. I don’t believe that He intended the lives of those creatures to be such a completely miserable experience. There is something very wrong about raising an animal to spend its entire existence in a cage, fed on a diet mixed with steroids so that it’s legs can not support it’s own body weight.
 And lastly as members of the LDS Church there are some basics that we have been advised to have in our food storage: beans, rice, wheat, oats, pasta and potatoes. We have been advised to store these staples and rotate them on a regular basis. We have been told to store these items because they have a long shelf life and these items can sustain life. It seems logical that meals that are centered around these food items would include many vegetarian entrees.
  Now I am well aware that giving up meat is a huge life-style change for most Americans. We love our meat. In most restaurants, most options are centered around meat. I can’t say that it is easy or convenient, but I do believe that it is good for us to cut back the meat content in our diet. And I can’t say that I personally have been able ever go 100% without meat, but I’m working on it. The way to do it is start with one vegetarian meal a week and build from there. And I just have to say that I think that sometimes pregnancy and breast-feeding count as times of excess hunger. There were times when I was breast-feeding my kids that I would have a baby on the breast in one arm and a tall glass of undiluted eggnog in my other hand and I felt that there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to get in all of the calories that I needed. The Word of Wisdom says that if “they do these sayings they shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge…and shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them.” Those are some pretty great promises, and it seems that they are worth putting forth an effort to earn them. I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should believe or what they should eat, that’s up to you, but I believe that eating less meat is definitely worth some consideration.

2 Responses to “Thoughts on LDS Doctrine & Vegetarianism”

  1. crazy4boys says:

    This is a topic my husband and I discuss regularly. We still haven't reached a conclusion and continue to study. I do not support the current way animals are raised for consumption and we go to rather great lengths to purchase humanely raised animals. We know the farmers personally and drive 3 hours round trip to pick up eggs, beef and chicken. I hope someday to raise our own animals for food, but I imagine that would make us more aware of the "cost" of meat consumption.

    There is something to be said for there being a "famine" right now. Most of our foods have been genetically modified and studies show that some foods don't have enough vitamins and minerals to make it worth eating. Due to soil depletion, bad crop rotation and chemicals out the wahzoo some oranges don't even have Vitamin C! And there are certain nutrients that can only be obtained from meat products. That's the one that is always a sticking point for me…but I'll keep researching and praying.

    We have, in the past, done vegetarian meals 3 or 4 times a week. It takes a while to get a collection of recipes your family will like because it is a big change in lifestyle and eating habits.

  2. Heather says:

    Thanks for your comment. Yes there is something to be said for living in a "famine" right now, but I'm sure that meat as it commercially raised in the US is not helping. Way to be for the effort you put into providing quality meals for your family.
    I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that all nutrients found in meat can be found in a vegetarian diet as long as you include eggs and dairy.

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