The most restrictive vegetarian diet, the vegan diet, that eliminates animal products, including eggs and dairy products, is not recommended in the Word of Wisdom nor endorsed by General Authorities. Current average life expectancy and heart disease data support the assertion that a diet that prohibits eating these animal products is not warranted.

The positive admonitions of the Word of Wisdom include a foundation diet of grains, fruits and vegetables, plus poultry and meat used sparingly. Meatless vegetarian diets are compatible with the Word of Wisdom as long as eating meat is not forbidden.[i]

Improved Life Expectancy in the Modern Era

From 1930 to 2010, the average life expectancy in the United States has improved from 59.7 years to 78.7 years.[ii] Utah, with a large LDS population, is tied for third (along with eight other states) as a state with its longevity at about 80 years old. The last state in longevity is Mississippi at 74.8 years.[iii] Worldwide, life expectancy has increased from about 39 years old in 1930 to 70 years old in 2012.[iv]

This average life expectancy of almost 79 years in the United States requires many to survive into their 80’s and 90’s to result in that high average, in spite of those that do die in their childhood, youth or middle age.

Picture #2 - graph of life expectancy world US

Average Life Expectancy in the United States and the World.

Although it is certainly right to strive to improve our health by following both the negative and positive dictums in the Word of Wisdom plus paying attention to research in the field of diet and nutrition, these longevity numbers alone ought to be a disincentive to declaring that our modern diet is terrible, “killing us all,” and needing immediate drastic change.

 

Word of Wisdom Diet in our Family

Personally, I am a kind of “canary in the coal mine” as it were on diet. If I ever varied much as a youth from a whole grain based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, with very little refined sugars and white flour, I would get sick. Even today I need to stick close to that diet and also have to avoid pork, which for me increases dramatically the occurrence of boils. Most every day as I was growing up, I would awake to my father cooking his freshly ground seven grain cereal mix, and I usually enjoyed several helpings.[v]

I remember the time when a couple from my Uncle Richard’s mission in Argentina visited our family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My Dad prepared his usual morning breakfast of cooked cereal and offered some to them. “This is bird’s seed!” was the reply. “Don’t you have a steak?” The pampas of Argentina are famous for raising cattle even as is the American west. My family diet when I was growing up is one practical interpretation of trying to live the principles of the Word of Wisdom.[vi]

Picture #3 - Utah Cattle backed currency

Brigham Young issued currency backed by valuable herds of cattle and other livestock during the early days in the mountain west. Utah was quite similar to other western states as far as normal farm life and farm animals were concerned.[vii]

There have been many excellent articles on Meridian Magazine and extensive quotes from prominent LDS scholars, scientists and General Authorities relating modern diets to the Word of Wisdom, especially the admonition to eat meat sparingly.[viii] This article will focus on whether eliminating egg and dairy products, part the vegan diet, is a defensible part of a Word of Wisdom diet.

Eggs and Dairy Products: Pro and Con

No mention is made of eggs or dairy products in the Word of Wisdom text. Other foods are not specifically mentioned either such as fats.

Those supporting a vegan diet link eggs, dairy products and meat in increasing the risk and incidence of heart disease and other diseases. “Heart disease [is called] a ‘food borne’ illness, emphasizing the fact that it is a preventable disease caused by the way we eat. Just like eliminating smoking prevents lung cancer, most forms of heart disease would disappear if all Americans simply followed a healthy whole food, plant-based diet.”[ix]

Since the Word of Wisdom is not specific about eggs or dairy products in the text, positive or negative, next we should look for another witness one way or another from statements from General Authorities. This is important because eliminating eggs and milk products would be a huge change in our diets and the food producing infrastructure of our society. A change this comprehensive, I believe, would merit a specific discussion in the Word of Wisdom as is the case with grains and meat.

Picture #4 - John Widtsoe

John A. Widtsoe was an apostle from 1921 to 1952. He was the founding father of BYU’s college of biology and agriculture.[xi]

Elder John A Widtsoe, a biologist by profession, wrote in his book entitled The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation that “The foods needed to supplement grains for a good diet are milk and eggs, fruits and vegetables.” He added that “‘Fresh eggs and clean milk have the highest value’ for they contain the ten essential amino acids.” “An egg a day is highly desirable – especially for children.”[x]

Elder Joseph F. Merrill in his 1948 conference talk entitled “Eat Meat Sparingly” classified “eggs, milk and cheese” as excellent foods containing a rich source of protein. Jane Birch commented that “For example, like other Latter-days Saints of his time period, Elder Merrill was prejudiced in favor of the consumption of dairy and eggs, not realizing they carry similar health risks as meat.”[xii]

Egg and dairy products are so intertwined in our food supply that great effort is required by the 2% of our population who consider themselves vegans to follow this strict diet. This effort is compared with the much easier to implement meatless vegetarian diet practiced by about 3% of the population in the US. This meatless diet is compatible with the counsel of the Word of Wisdom as long as the eating of meat is not forbidden.[xiv]

“The Incredible Edible Egg”[xv]

Let’s look at the use of egg products and several country wide statistics that support eating eggs.

Throughout recorded history, mankind has used the eggs from domesticated chickens and other fowls as an important part of their diet. The United States uses an average of 256 eggs per person each year. Japan, the number one consumer of eggs and egg products, uses an average of 320 eggs per person each year.[xvii]

Japan also happens to have the highest life expectancy in the world at 82.7 years.[xviii]

Japan is also ranked third from last place (#190) in deaths from coronary heart disease. Japan only has 32 deaths per 100,000 per year compared with the US with 81 deaths per 100,000 (US is ranked 135th in the world). Turkmenistan, with 405 deaths per 100,000 ranks #1, with Ukraine, with 400 deaths per 100,000 close behind at #2.[xix]

When I bring up these facts with family or friends about eggs and their use in Japan, a response often is something like “Well, obviously, there must be something else that compensates such as their high consumption of fish and lower consumption of meat.” I then respond: “So, with those adjustments available, there would seem to be no urgent reason to eliminate eggs from our diets”

Picture #7 - Eating eggs in ancient china

“Where there have been humans, there have been the eating of eggs. The earliest we know of dates back to 6000 BC in China.” [xx]

An analogy by the Savior referencing hens and chicks underlines the universality of this common domesticated farm animal that gives mankind an incredible quantity and quality of good food.

Dairy Products: Milk, Cheese, Butter

Dairy products from cows, goats or other domesticated animals have also been used throughout recorded history as a key part of human diets. The United States consumes 254 kilograms per person of dairy products each year to rank 16th in the world. Finland consumes 361 kg/person, ranking first in the world. Switzerland consumes 316 kg/person, the fourth highest dairy product using country in the world. Switzerland also ranks second in the world in life expectancy at 82.6 years.[xxii]

Switzerland is ranked #175 out of 192 in deaths from heart disease. Switzerland only has 52 deaths per 100,000 per year compared with the US with 81 deaths per 100,000 (US ranked at #135).[xxiii]

The scriptures referencing milk products emphasize the universality of its use and the domestication of various farm animals giving dairy products.

“Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.” (Deuteronomy 32:14)[xxiv]

“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” (Isaiah 7:15)

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.” (Isaiah 7:21-22)

Picture #9 - milk and butter scripture

Is an Egg and Dairy Health Crisis Overblown?

Neither the Word of Wisdom nor General Authorities advocate the elimination of eggs or dairy products. Pioneer farm life in the Church was similar to other US farming communities complete with typical farm animals. The number one life expectancy country, Japan, consumes more egg products per capita than any other nation. The second highest life expectancy country, Switzerland, is fourth in milk product consumption. Both Japan and Switzerland have a low incidence of deaths from coronary heart disease.

Based on these facts, solid scientific or scriptural support for an egg and dairy free vegan diet is missing. Eliminating eggs and dairy products is not a Word of Wisdom recommended diet.

Notes: 

[i] First Picture:

Janet Peterson, “As a Hen Gathereth Her Chickens under her Wings,” Meridian Magazine, October 13, 2010.

[https://ldsmag.com/article-1-6492/]\

President Boyd K. Packer has commented on the scripture in section 49 about forbidding to eat meat.

Boyd K. Packer, “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” April 1996 General Conference/

[https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/04/the-word-of-wisdom-the-principle-and-the-promises?lang=eng]

“Young people, learn to use moderation and common sense in matters of health and nutrition, and particularly in medication. Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist. For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly (see D&C 89:12). Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God” (D&C 49:18).”

RPMNote: Some suggest that the scripture in section 49 really is a double negative that results in an endorsement of a meatless diet when the Lord said “whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats.” Further in the verse, another clause clarifies these words, not supporting the double negative interpretation.

“And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;” (D&C 49:18) [emphasis added]

It seems to me that this scripture becomes even more important as strongly promoting a vegan diet has become part of the politically correct animal rights movement. The aggressive tactics practiced by this movement, in my opinion, cross the line of coercion mentioned in this scripture. See also D&C 98:7 “whatsoever is more os less than this, cometh of evil.”

 

“Vegan Diets: Healthy and Humane,” Peta.org web site, Retrieved 6/3/2015.

[http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-factsheets/vegan-diets-healthy-humane/]

“A vegan diet is as good for humans’ health as it is for animal welfare. There is no nutritional need for humans to eat any animal product; all our dietary needs, even as infants and children, are best supplied by a diet free of animal meat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) notes that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.”

[ii] “Life Expectancy at Birth by Race and Sex 1930-2010,” Infoplease.com, 2010.

[http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005148.html]

[iii] “Utah Life Expectancy,” UtahLifeExpectancy.com, 2013.

[http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/utah-life-expectancy]

[iv] Max Roser – ‘Life Expectancy’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. 2015.

[http://ourworldindata.org/data/population-growth-vital-statistics/life-expectancy/]

“Life expectancy has increased rapidly since the onset of industrialization and modernization. In a pre-modern, poor world, life expectancy was around 30 years in every country. In the early 19th century, life expectancy started to increase in the early industrialized countries while it stayed low in the rest of the world. Just half a century ago, the health of the world was very unequal; there was good health in the rich countries and persistent bad health in those countries that remained poor. But this global inequality is decreasing. Countries that not long ago were suffering from bad health are catching up rapidly. No country in the world has a lower life expectancy than the the countries with the highest life expectancy in 1800. Since 1900 the global average life expectancy has more than doubled and is now approaching 70 years.”

Christian Morrison et all, “The World Distribution of Human Capital, Life Expectancy and Income: a Multi-dimensional Approach, 2005.

[http://federation.ens.fr/ydepot/semin/texte0506/MUR2005WOR.pdf]

[v] My mother regularly making 100% whole wheat homemade bread was another great feature of our diet and I enjoyed her delicious cooking. A frequent dish was my favorite fish, halibut, along with sliced crispy quartered baked potatoes with real butter.

My wife’s and my first major purchase was a grinder/mixer combination to make delicious 100% whole wheat bread. Years later, during the time in our family when five of our six children were teenagers, my wife regularly made three whole wheat loaves using three bread machines as our basic diet. One and sometimes two of those loaves were gobbled up right after school.

[vi] Our family business was a drive-in hamburger restaurant, “Howard’s Hamburgers,” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ours was the third such restaurant in Albuquerque beginning in 1953, after the first McDonald’s and Lionel’s, another Mom and Pop drive-in restaurant. My father had his own recipe for our delicious hamburger patties and it included some vegetable based meat substitutes. We made our own french fries and were the first fast food restaurant in Albuquerque to use char broiling to cook our hamburger patties. With my health situation, I could eat our hamburgers and milk shakes (both in moderation), but had to avoid our soft drinks and french fries—hard for a ten year old working at his Dad’s restaurant.

My parents would often point out two changes in the American diet that they thought were particularly harmful. The first was replacing cooked cereal with high sugar cold cereals for breakfast. Shredded wheat with honey or brown sugar was about as close as we got to cold cereal in our home. The second change was the introduction and widespread use of soft drinks, sugar free or not. A small root beer or seven up was a rare treat. I think that my parents would cringe to see the tiny counter space for milk and juice compared with the aisle for alcoholic beverages and the aisle for energy and carbonated drinks, many with boatloads of caffeine or other stimulants, in the typical modern convenience store.

[vii] Leonard Arrington, “Coins and Currency,” Utah History Encyclopedia, Retrieved 6/4/2015.

[http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/c/COINS_AND_CURRENCY.html

“Until the Civil War, the United States had no national currency, and most of the coins in circulation were privately minted. In order to provide a satisfactory circulating medium for the early settlers of Utah, Brigham Young and his associates in the LDS Church established a church mint in 1848, and also placed in circulation paper money backed by the treasury and officials of the LDS Church. Coins were minted in 1849, 1850, and 1860; currency with Brigham Young’s signature was placed in circulation in 1848, 1850, and 1858.”

“Not having sufficient gold to serve as backing, the church made the currency redeemable in livestock–horses, cattle, and sheep–of which it had large herds. The church expected to issue engraved notes, but pending their completion, $3,750.00 in “defense” notes were printed by the Deseret News and issued immediately. These were printed from 19 February to 17 March 1858. They followed by a “Move South” series consisting of $40,146.00 in printed notes issued from 31 March to 17 July 1858.”

[viii] The admonition to eat meat sparingly in the Word of Wisdom has numerous practical interpretations. There is no standard question for a temple recommend addressing the use of meat in our diets, but it is, I believe, in the “correct principles and they govern themselves” category.

I look at the great reduction in eating meat as casseroles and foods like pizza where meat is more a flavoring replace meat as the main dish. Meat becoming more expensive is another brake on not eating meat sparingly. This trend certainly would result in a major quantitative reduction in meat consumption overall.

Elder John A Widtsoe noted that “when the Word of Wisdom was given, meat, when it could be obtained, was largely used by all classes. It was generally looked upon as the best and most necessary food for full health,” [“The Word of Wisdom, a Modern Interpretation,” p. 260]. Thus we have a situation somewhat similar to what Daniel found as he was taken to Babylon, “the king’s meat” being deemed the center of the most healthful diet. Yet, note that in spite of the pulse-based diet Daniel proposed to replace the king’s meat centered diet, the most sacred feasts of the Hebrew year involved eating of meat (e.g. Passover lambs) and the many of the original apostles were fishermen by profession. Our modern religious “feasts” at Thanksgiving and Christmas are similarly centered on a meat dish.

President Heber J. Grant gave a great example of his eating of meat sparingly, quoted in a recent Meridian article.

Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: Heber J. Grant,” Meridian Magazine, May 4, 2015.

[https://ldsmag.com/discovering-the-word-of-wisdom-pioneers-heber-j-grant/]

“ I think that another reason why I have very splendid strength for an old man is that during the years we have had a cafeteria in the Utah Hotel, I have not, with the exception of not more than a dozen times, ordered meat of any kind. On these special occasions I have mentioned I have perhaps had a small, tender lamb chop. I have endeavored to live the Word of Wisdom, and that, in my opinion, is one reason for my good health . . . ”

Elder Joseph F. Merrill’s conference talk in 1948 emphasized eating meat sparingly and the conference is called the “most vegetarian conference ever” by Jane Birch.

Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: The Most Vegetarian General Conference,” Meridian Magazine, May 18, 2015.

[https://ldsmag.com/discovering-the-word-of-wisdom-pioneers-the-most-vegetarian-general-conference/]

“This week I feature another apostle who served alongside President Heber J. Grant and Apostle John A. Widtsoe as a passionate defender of the Word of Wisdom, including the counsel on meat: Elder Joseph F. Merrill. Elder Merrill is distinguished by delivering what is clearly the most vegetarian address ever given in an LDS General Conference. What is unique about his speech is not that he encouraged the Saints to eat meat sparingly; what is unique is that this was the entire message of his speech.”

“… meat may be omitted from the diet altogether, for it has been determined that all necessary protein and energy may be obtained from other materials.” (Elder Merrill quoting USDA)

RPMNote: And yet, we have the caution given by President Packer (previously quoted) and other General Authorities that limits the level of support for a completely meatless vegetarian diet as was the case for the Shaker sect discussed in section 49.

I like the way Bill Dargan approaches issues such as the creation and the Word of Wisdom. Here is a link to an earlier Meridian article he wrote on the creation.

William A Dargan, “Where Does the Church Stand on those Tough Creation Questions?” Meridian Magazine, April 1, 2014.

[https://ldsmag.com/article-1-14148/]

“Over 25 years ago, when my children asked me where the dinosaurs came from and several more questions about the Creation, I spent over a thousand hours in research and wrote a 250-page book in the course of providing them some answers. 10 years later, I condensed the main points of that book into this brief paper. However, with the exposure of our youth to more critical questions online, I have thought it a good time to share my findings.”

****

RPMNote: I will include some excerpts from another of Bill Dargan’s yet unpublished articles on questions about the Word of Wisdom.

William Dargan, “The Ultimate Word of Wisdom Quiz,” Unpublished document, March 16, 2015.

“Some claim that Jesus was a vegetarian, but there is no proof of this in the scriptures. Rather, we read that, as a resurrected being, he ate broiled fish and a honeycomb (Lk. 24:42-43). Paul said that the commanding of vegetarianism by false church leaders would be a sign of departure from the true faith (read 1 Tim. 4:1-6).

“This same warning was repeated by the Lord in our dispensation (read D&C 49:18-19,21). Cleon Skousen writes: ‘For some reason or other, the Lord has had to emphasize from time to time that meat is to have its proper place in the human diet. In almost every generation, certain groups arise which advocate complete abstinence from the use of meat. This type of fad partakes of an apostate spirit.” (First 2,000 Years, pp. 209-210).

“Having said that, let’s look at a quote from an apostle, Elder John A. Widtsoe: ‘That man can live without meat is well known, and he may live well if his knowledge is such as to enable him to choose adequate vegetable protein. And, all have the right if they so choose to live without meat’ (Evidences and Reconciliations, 3:155-157).

“What, then, does vs. 13 mean? With the comma in place as it is, the most logical conclusion is that we should only eat meat when vegetables can’t be found (and in our day, frozen fruits and vegetables make such always “in season”). Back in Joseph’s time, eating meat “in times of winter, cold, or famine” would have been “eating meat sparingly.” This view is further supported by vss. 14-15, which seem to be telling us: ‘The beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth…these hath God made for the use of man ONLY in times of famine and excess of hunger.’ Historical research suggests that this was the view most of the Saints took of eating meat in the 1830s (see Jane Birch articles in Meridian Magazine and her book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom).

“With the removal of the comma, however, the meaning becomes: ‘And it is pleasing unto me that they (the flesh of animals) should not be used only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine (but that they should be used at other times as well, nevertheless sparingly).’ Why have our leaders gravitated towards this interpretation? Perhaps because a mandatory vegetarian diet would make the Word of Wisdom discouraging to many investigators, and many members, as well. Still, we’d better get start getting used to the idea, as it will be THE policy during the Millennium. The early Saints were given 18 years before the Lord’s suggestion against alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea became a commandment. This was because it required arduous “breaking-in” for many. Maybe we should regard vegetarianism in that light.”

RPMNote: I would add the thought that in the Millennium a change will need to be wrought similar to what the three Nephites experienced to bring back a terrestrial state for the world. This is obvious considering the change that will need to happen with the lion and serpent. I don’t think that the coming Millennial condition should be used in discussions of the Word of Wisdom’s application to us today in a still telestial world.

Also, it is interesting that fish is not specifically referenced in the Word of Wisdom given its value relative to other meats. Why would the Lord mention fouls of heaven and not the fish of the waters? Note the detail in the Mosaic dietary laws. “These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.” (Deuteronomy 14:9-10)

And in all of this, I know of no General Authority that endorses a mandatory vegetarian diet. It is allowed, but “eating meat sparingly” remains the key admonition. And then, Section 49’s caution is always there, which indicated that the vegetarianism of the Shakers did not come of God. Another thought, what about meat flavorings made from meat? Notice how much easier it is to adapt to practical everyday life the “meat sparingly” recommendations vs. a mandatory full meatless vegetarian diet. And, besides, wouldn’t the section 49 alarm trigger verse go off with the idea of a “mandatory vegetarian diet” discussed above. The example of the visit of the couple from Argentina for me emphasized how a great quantitative difference between their diet and my family’s existed, and I think it was a positive difference for the health of our family.

****

Bill Dargan asks the question “Why have our leaders gravitated towards this interpretation [less restrictive meat sparingly interpretation]?” Perhaps the answer may be obvious: What about Elder Ezra Taft Benson? Not a biologist but an expert in agriculture and President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture from 1953-1960, the only cabinet member to stay in office the whole two terms of his presidency. President Benson, a strong advocate of the Word of Wisdom, emphasizes “meat sparingly” and not wasting the animals used for meat but does not go to the same level of counsel as does President Grant, Elder Widtsoe or Elder Merrill. President Packer’s view would seem to be close to President Benson on this topic. What may be possible theoretically from the standpoint of Elder Widtsoe or Elder Merrill, President Benson’s very practical experience would recognize as impractical for the real farms that produce our food supply. And this continually improving quality of food overall has been pushing up life expectancy worldwide and reducing many diseases that in the past took many lives.

Even a broader interpretation might be possible to explain why we have no modern equivalent conference talks to those by President Grant or Elder Merrill. Under President George Albert Smith the Church passed the one million member mark (1947) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints_membership_history] (2 million 1963, 3 million 1971).

The Church was still a western US Church. Meat, especially beef, is more plentiful and central to the farm products produced in the western US than other areas of the world. The Church was beginning to grow worldwide up to the current fifteen million members. We are not only a western US Church anymore and many cultures and diets exist in the worldwide Church. Using less meat is also more popular today than it was in 1948 and the choices provided in our modern cornucopia of food options have amazingly multiplied in the modern era. My own experience is that many at Costco and WalMart now mostly agree with my system. This contrasted with the time in the early 1980’s when we shipped in expensive organic food from Walnet Acres Farm in Pennsylvania because the typical grocery store food rarely agreed with me.

Perhaps this context has more to do than we realize in the focus and emphasis given to the Word of Wisdom in our day. I certainly prefer that interpretation rather than saying that the modern prophets and apostles just don’t understand issues regarding eating meat sparingly while asserting that President Grant and other past prophets and apostles did. All of these apostles and prophets are inspired and their counsel regarding the Word of Wisdom is valuable for us to study and is also tailored for the needs of their day. If their counsel differs one from another, then doubtless there will be good reason for those differences. And, as President Benson so forcefully taught, we should pay our highest attention to the words of our modern Prophet, Thomas S. Monson.

***

I would also challenge the assumption that since fresh fruit and vegetables can be obtained year round that the stipulated use of meat in winter should go away and a pure meatless vegetarian diet established. I think that eating meat in winter means eating meat in winter. I think that the section in the word of wisdom where various grains are specified for various animals implies that at least some of them are to be used for food (swine for example). That part of the revelation surely would be a red flag for non-grain diets that are often fed to farm animals resulting in less healthy meat products.

Ezra Taft Benson, “A Principle with a Promise,” April 1983 Conference.

[https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1983/04/a-principle-with-a-promise?lang=eng]

“In this revelation the Lord counsels us to use meat sparingly. I have often felt that the Lord is further counseling us in this revelation against indiscriminately killing animals, for He has said elsewhere in scripture, “Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” (D&C 49:21.)”

****

RPMNote: All of the answers are not yet available on the creation and the question of evolution’s and/or intelligent design’s role in it. I see great value in the sometimes opposing views of James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith and B. H. Roberts. Similarly, I am convinced that there is truth and great value in the several interpretations of the Word of Wisdom and of “eating meet sparingly” discussed above. I believe that there is lots of room for acceptable individual variation.

****

Recently, another idea has occurred to me as to how the Lord presented the eating of meat in section 89.

Why would the Lord open the discussion of eating meat the way he did if He were then to completely remove it and have a mandatory vegetarian diet enacted before the Millennium?

“Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly” (D&C 89:12)

Why would it not be mentioned similarly to alcoholic beverages and tobacco instead—negative all the way?

Then come the restrictions of the following verses, which some interpret as support a full meatless vegetarian diet and some interpret as including a full no animal products vegan diet.

“And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine. … And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” (D&C 89:13,15)

Why add to “famine” the possibly ambiguous “excess of hunger” phrase that could be widely interpreted? And why then, intermixed with this discussion is feeding grain to animals as their best food to eat? Most of these listed animals are used for meat.

“All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth; ,,, Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.” (D&C 89:14, 17)

Note again specific modifiers for the fowls of heaven and beasts of the field and animals that run or creep on the earth along with the beasts and the fowls of the air. But, nothing in either enumeration about the animals that swim in the waters. Why would “run or creep” include the fish when they swim, not run or creep?

So, in the end, if “winter” and “in the season” modifiers go away with the global food system, is the Lord doing a massive tease and then take away by declaring that eating meat is “ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving.” I just think of the Sizzler commercials at dinner time and their “torturing” effect on my teenage boys who were just getting their muscles. Why not present it like alcohol and tobacco is presented instead of in this positive way and then follow that with restrictions that take it all away as a possible food, leaving the much maligned vegeburger as the only approved option?

I think that the Lord intended “sparingly” as the basic counsel with the further noted voluntary restrictions to constantly keep that “sparingly” in the forefront of our minds day by day. I believe that this approach can result in far less meat eaten overall, a better diet, periods of time where we eat no meat at all and better health overall.

 

[ix] Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pionners: Preventing Heart Disease,” Meridian Magazine, June 8, 2015.

[https://ldsmag.com/discovering-the-word-of-wisdom-pioneers-preventing-heart-disease/]

“Last week, I featured the work of Dr. Ray G. Cowley, a Latter-day Saint doctor who, many decades ago, recognized that the Word of Wisdom is the Lord’s answer to heart disease, the number one killer of Americans in the 20th Century. His 1969 Improvement Era article could have saved millions of lives . . . if more Mormons had paid attention.”

“Dr. Cowley was certainly not the first Latter-day Saint to note the connection between the Word of Wisdom and heart disease. At least as far back as 1915, Mormons began reporting scientific research linking this disease to alcohol and tobacco (and later caffeine). Interestingly, the relative danger of these substances was still quite controversial in the scientific community. Tobacco advertisements, for example, were regularly featured in top medical journals throughout the 1930s and 1940s. But LDS medical professionals were not fooled; they regularly warned the LDS community of the health dangers of these substances.”

Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: A Heart Attack Proof Diet,” Meridian Magazine, June 1, 2015.

[https://ldsmag.com/discovering-the-word-of-wisdom-pioneers-a-heart-attack-proof-diet/]

“Dr. Esselstyn calls heart disease a “food borne” illness, emphasizing the fact that it is a preventable disease caused by the way we eat. Just like eliminating smoking prevents lung cancer, most forms of heart disease would disappear if all Americans simply followed a healthy whole food, plant-based diet. Currently one in three adults (80 million) suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, costing our economy over $300 billion a year. One out of three American deaths are due to this food borne illness. Just think of the amount of suffering that could be prevented.” [emphasis added]

RPMNote: As we examine the actual statistics on coronary heart disease deaths, this one in three number just does not add up. The standard statistics for various countries will be referenced later in the article. It is one thing to have some indications of heart disease in old age, but would be another to declare that as the cause of death.

[x] John A. Widtsoe, “Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation,” Deseret Book, 1937, p. 197, 239.

[http://gospelink.com/library/contents/660]

“The Word of Wisdom by Elder John A. Widtsoe – a book review by RFM,” about 1950. Out of print book.

[http://www.realfoodsmarket.com/the-word-of-wisdom-by-elder-john-a-widtsoe-a-book-review-by-rfm/]

“Not many people have had the opportunity to read this book because it has been out of print for decades. When the owner of RFM read a copy, he decided to bring it back into print so others could benefit from the solid principles and pearls of wisdom found in this book. It was written around 1950 and the language is a bit oldie sounding but, the principles are ROCK SOLID! Widtsoe had his finger on the pulse. He saw the writing on the wall.”

[xi] “John A. Widtsoe,” wipedia.org. Retrieved 6/13/2015.

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Widtsoe#Academic_career]

“John A. Widtsoe,” True Miracles with Genealogy, 2012.

[http://truemiracleswithgenealogy.com/genealogy-quote-of-the-week-john-a-widtsoe/]

[xii] Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom Pioneers: The Most Vegetarian General Conference,” Meridian Magazine, May 18, 2015.

[https://ldsmag.com/discovering-the-word-of-wisdom-pioneers-the-most-vegetarian-general-conference/]

“This week I feature another apostle who served alongside President Heber J. Grant and Apostle John A. Widtsoe as a passionate defender of the Word of Wisdom, including the counsel on meat: Elder Joseph F. Merrill. Elder Merrill is distinguished by delivering what is clearly the most vegetarian address ever given in an LDS General Conference. What is unique about his speech is not that he encouraged the Saints to eat meat sparingly; what is unique is that this was the entire message of his speech.”

Jane Birch, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: What about Dairy and Eggs?” Meridian Magazine, August 5, 2014.

[https://ldsmag.com/article-1-14710/]

“Dairy and eggs are not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdomneither are Twinkies or Junior Mints. I conclude that none of these are as important to our health as are plants. Here, however, I rely more on the spirit of the law than the letter of the law to form an opinion. Suffice it to say, anyone who thinks God is perfectly fine with us drinking Coke because “caffeine” is not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom is probably not going to be convinced by the reasoning I present in this article.”

“While it is true that the Word of Wisdom does not specifically warn against dairy or eggs, it also includes nothing to promote their consumption. Instead, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to rely on wholesome plants (vegetables, fruits, and grains) and avoid the flesh of animals (except in times of need) for optimal health and spiritual blessings. Given the emphasis on the importance of plant foods and the admonition to use the flesh of animals only in times of need, on what basis would we conclude that consuming dairy or eggs would be wise for our well-being?”

“While there are some distinct differences, the nutritional profile of dairy and eggs is so similar to meat (and so distinct from plant foods) that we can consider them liquid meat.”

“Because the animals eat the same plants we do, we can find many of these same nutrients in meat, but animals are not the original source. What about dairy and eggs? The same! They are not the original source of any of these vital nutrients. They all come from the plants the animals eat. This means we dont need any animal foods to get these nutrients; we can go straight to the plants, the source the Lord ordained for our “constitution, nature, and use” (D&C 89:10).”

RPMNote: To me, looking at this logic, it is a stretch to categorize eggs and dairy products as harmful to the level to actually try to eliminate them from the diet and the food industry.

 

[xiii] “Joseph F. Merrill,” Wikipedia.org, Retrieved 6/13/2015.

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_F._Merrill]

“Eat Meat Sparingly by Elder Joseph F. Merrill,” Word of Wisdom: Waking up to the Word of Wisdom through a whole food, plant-based diet,” From Word of Wisdom Literature by Jane Birch. Retrieved 6/13/2015.

[http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com/literature/merrill-eat-meat-sparingly-1948/]

“I wish to talk for a few minutes on a phase of one of Joseph Smith’s revelations, commonly spoken of as the Lord’s Law of Health, or otherwise known as the Word of Wisdom. But why the Word of Wisdom as a part of religion? someone may ask. In the language of the document itself the Word of Wisdom shows: ‘. . . forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—‘

“And those: . . . who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones (D&C 89:2,18).

“And health is an important factor in the work of serving God and man.”

“Even the most ardent advocates of a meat diet cannot produce a scientific evidence to show that intestinal putrefaction to a high degree due to the presence of meat is in any way beneficial to the organism; hence, in seeking the best form of diet, meat as a source of protein may well be excluded and the requisite protein secured from milk, nuts, cereals, and vegetables. If in the average diet a pint of milk daily is substituted for whatever meat portions have theretofore been taken, there would be no danger of protein lack.

“We have quoted Hubner, one of the world’s foremost authorities in hygiene, as condemning the very popular idea that meat is very ‘strengthening.’ Actual experiments on this point have shown exactly the opposite to be the case.”

“And now I sum up. Proteins are the building materials of the body, the needed amount of which is largely determined by age and the kind of physical activity: but for the average adult it is about 10 percent of food intake. More than this should be avoided. Meat is the richest source of proteins but sizable amounts are found in the excellent foods—eggs, milk, cheese, beans, nuts, wheat, and more or less in other cereals, vegetables, and fruits. Americans eat too much meat, a non-essential in human diet, because all the proteins needed are available in the other foods just named.”

 

[xiv] “In US, 5% Consider themselves Vegetarians,” Gallop Poll, Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.gallup.com/poll/156215/Consider-Themselves-Vegetarians.aspx]

 

“The latest update on vegetarianism, included in Gallup’s July 9-12 Consumption Habits survey, used a trend question first asked in 1999 that does not define “vegetarian” in any way, but simply asks respondents if the label fits their self-definition. The limited trend data suggest that there has been no substantial change in the incidence of vegetarianism over the past 13 years. Almost all segments of the U.S. population have similar percentages of vegetarians, suggesting that most stereotypes of who is and is not the typical vegetarian in American society have little basis in fact.”

[xv] “Incredible Edible Egg,” incredibleegg.org, retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.incredibleegg.org]

“Eggs are all-natural and packed with a number of nutrients. One egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals in varying amounts, high-quality protein and antioxidants, all for 70 calories.”

[xvi] Original greeting card by S. T. Millett

[xvii] “Per Capita Egg Consumption by Country 1999 and 2000,” animal science.ucdavis, retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/Avian/PerCapitaEggConsumptionbyCountry2000.htm]

[xviii] “History of Life Expectancy 1960-2011,” WorldLifeExpectancy, Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/history-of-life-expectancy]

Select 2011 from the pull down menu to get 2011 and not the default 1960.

[xix] “World Health Rankings: Live Longer Live Better,” “Coronary Heart Disease: Age Standardized,” Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/coronary-heart-disease/by-country/]

These statistics are age adjusted to the 1940 standards. A later endnote reference shows the US statistics adjusted to 2000 age standards but it does not imply more deaths—go figure on difficult to understand use of statistics. However, these adjustments do enable year to year comparisons so valid graphs can be drawn. What counts most is to compare the levels of high ranking and low ranking countries for coronary heart disease.

Scott Gottlief, “Updates for US heart disease death rates,” 1999.

[ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1114622/]

“The number of deaths from heart disease has been increasing in the United States as the percentage of individuals over the age of 65 has risen, according to new figures that take into account the ageing population.”

The death rate from coronary artery disease was 187.1 deaths per 100000 in 1996, according to the new death rate calculations. The old calculation, using the 1940 population weighting, was only 86.7 deaths per 100000. This does not indicate that the number of deaths from heart disease has doubled, but simply reflects the change in calculation methods.” [emphasis added]

[xx] “History of Eating Eggs,” eatmoreeggs.com. Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.eatmoreeggs.com/styled/index.html]

[xxi] Janet Peterson, “As a Hen Gathereth Her Chickens under her Wings,” Meridian Magazine, October 13, 2010.

[https://ldsmag.com/article-1-6492/]\

[xxii] “List of countries by milk consumption per capita,” wikipedia.org, Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_milk_consumption_per_capita]

“Life Expectancy 1960-2011,” WorldLifeExpectancy, Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/history-of-life-expectancy]

[xxiii] “Coronary Heart Disease,” WorldHealthRankings, Retrieved 6/10/2015.

[http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/coronary-heart-disease/by-country/]

Look at the red high disease rate colors and we see the middle east, the former USSR and eastern Europe countries, and India. Look at the low disease rate grey states and we see the Americas, western Europe, Japan, China and Australia. The statistics are age adjusted to the 1940 age groups and is discussed in a previous footnote.

[xxiv] “Butter of cows, and milk …” Bible.hub, Retrieved 6/13/2015.

[http://biblepic.com/deuteronomy/32-14.htm#.VXxRYkYerfd]