Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Vegetarianism is Justified by Mormon Doctrine

First of all, let me begin by saying that you may not agree with the arguments I present in this post. No worries! That's the beauty of being human. We can analyze information and make our own decisions. And on some things, people may have very different opinions and neither of them is "right." Just because something is right for you, it doesn't mean it is right for everyone. That's what I believe about vegetarianism. I think it's right for me, but not necessarily for everyone. 

That being said, I think it is very possible to justify being a vegetarian by Mormon doctrine. I am a vegetarian because it changed me for the better. Once I gave up meat, I was in better health, both physically and spiritually. Physically, I was in a better condition to "run and not be weary" and "walk and not faint." Spiritually, my mind was more open. I don't know how to explain it, but not eating meat clears your mind and lets your body become a better vessel for spiritual transmissions. Why do you think we have the Word of Wisdom? (For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is a set of eating and drinking guidelines for Mormons.) We have it because being healthy makes us more spiritual. Having a clean, healthy body makes us more spiritually in tune.

Being a vegetarian and a Mormon is very rare, I have found. Why? I think some Mormons have the misperception that being a vegetarian is against their religion. Is being a vegetarian harder than being a meat-eater? Yes, of course. But is it against the Mormon religion? Not even close. 

I believe these reasons are enough to tie together my vegetarian lifestyle choice and my religion. But here are some scriptures which further justify vegetarianism by Mormon doctrine: 

Let's take the most recent and probably most relevant revelation on the matter, the Word of Wisdom.

 D&C 89:12 says: 

12 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;

And most people stop reading right there. But if you continue reading to verse 13, the commandment changes drastically: 

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

Let's evaluate the context of this scripture. This revelation came about in the time of the pioneers. Do I think that it would have been healthy for the pioneers to be vegetarians? No, absolutely not. Why? They were in times of winter, cold, and famine. Meaning, they were in unstable and harsh conditions constantly. They had to consume whatever food sources were available to them. However, average American Mormons are NOT in strenuous times. We have plenty of food sources besides meat available to us. We can just pop on over to the grocery store and buy practically any fruit or vegetable we need. We can be very healthy (and I would say even healthier) by not eating meat. Apparently, God thinks it is pleasing to not eat meat if we don't need to. 

Another note: "sparingly" does NOT mean eating meat for 2-3 meals a day, as average Americans do. That's just plain bad for you, says science.  

D&C 49:21
21 And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.

This scripture stresses that we should not shed blood. I don’t think it’s very nice to shed the blood of animals either. Do we really NEED meat? Maybe a little bit every once in a while, sure. But definitely not all the time.
D&C 49: 18 18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God.

This scripture has a double negative. Forbidding to abstain from meats is not equivalent to forbidding to eat meats, as many people in the Church interpret this scripture. A lot of Mormons will also say that this scripture has a “punctuation error.” But, they also say that the comma in D&C 89:13 (see above) is a “punctuation error.” To me, it seems VERY fishy that both scriptures pertaining to not eating meat have punctuation errors. It seems more like a defensive interpretation.

Here are some quotes by Church leaders about vegetarianism:

"The more kind we are to our animals, the more will peace increase, and the savage nature of the brute creation vanish away." -Brigham Young

This quote is pretty self-explanatory. I interpret this as being kinder to animals (ex. not eating them) is far better than the more primal lifestyle of meat consumption. 

"He knows where disease is seated, and what is the cause of it; --- he is also acquainted with the spring of health; the balm of Gilead --- of life; he knows what course to pursue to restore mankind to their pristine excellency and primitive vigour, and health; and he has appointed the word of wisdom as one of the engines to bring about this thing, to remove the beastly appetites, the murderous disposition and the vitiated taste of man; to restore his body to health, and vigour, promote peace between him and the brute creation." -Hyrum Smith

This quote can be interpreted as vegetarianism is a more noble lifestyle than meat consumption. We will be healthier and there will be more peace if we step away from a meat-eating lifestyle. 

Finally, the last reasoning I have for not eating meat is that it’s better for our planet, which we believe we have been given stewardship over. Ask any scientist and they will tell you that vegetarianism is better for the environment. 

In conclusion, I think that being a vegetarian can be very justified by Mormon doctrine. However, I think that a meat-consuming lifestyle can also be justified. The important thing is to choose what will make you the best you can be. 


  1. Well stated, Holly. Very reasonable. Something that deserves better open discussion among Mormons. Thanks!

  2. For a correct understanding of D&C 49:18 you need to read this recently published article in Interpreter. http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/whoso-forbiddeth-to-abstain-from-meats/