Growing up, “vegetarians” were extremists. “Vegans” were even worse. It wasn’t healthy to eat only plants. It was crazy, stupid, irresponsible, etc. When I would tell people I didn’t enjoy red meat, I would get “accused” of being a vegetarian, and this was hurtful to me. I would defend myself by explaining that I liked chicken, after all. It was disgraceful to not like meat.
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As a member of this church, we believe in following living prophets. The first prophet of our church in these latter days was Joseph Smith. The Lord gave to Joseph Smith a revelation we refer to as the Word of Wisdom. It can be found in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of a collection of revelations given to Joseph Smith. The revelation was given as a word of caution, wisdom, and not by commandment. Most people recognize that the Word of Wisdom cautions against coffee, alcohol, tea, addictive substances and tobacco use. Okay, that one’s easy. I’ve never partaken of, or even been tempted to try, any of those things. So I am good, right? I always thought so.
Let’s take a look:
1 A aWord of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion
Did you catch that?! This revelation contains the will of God for ALL SAINTS IN THE LAST DAYS! Not just Joseph Smith’s days, but the last days. That includes me, and that includes my family. I am about to receive God’s will for me as I read! That is very exciting and very personal! In verse three, I am told that it is adapted to even the weakest of us, in which category I place myself. This gives me hope!
4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of aevils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have cwarned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation
This verse tells me that the Lord is looking out for me and is trying to help me avoid being caught up in the evils and designs of conspiring men. I definitely want to pay attention here! I don’t want to be harmed or taken advantage of.
5 That inasmuch as any man adrinketh bwine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, apure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
7 And, again, astrong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
8 And again, tobacco is not for the abody, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
Okay, that was the easy part for me. I’ve always been taught about that in church my whole life. No drugs. No alcohol. No coffee. No tea. No tobacco. So I’m good, right? That’s what I’ve always thought MY WHOLE LIFE! Read on:
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
I found the word “Prudence” interesting. According to Dictionary.com, it means “care, caution, good judgement, as well as wisdom in looking ahead; sober prudence in handling one’s affairs. … Foresight implies a prudent looking ahead rather far into the future; clear foresight in planning.”
So to me, Prudence and Thanksgiving are telling me that I need to cautiously, carefully plan ahead (maybe in growing a garden, or preserving a harvest) and then have a grateful heart and give thanks to God for the herbs (plants and vegetables) and fruits He provides for me.
I do believe verses 12-13 are the most controversial verses in the Word of Wisdom. I think most of us like to think it looks like this:
We tend to overlook or ignore the other half of verse 12 and the entirety of verse 13.
NEVERTHELESS THEY ARE TO BE USED SPARINGLY; (13) AND IT IS PLEASING UNTO ME THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED, ONLY IN TIMES OF WINTER, OR OF COLD, OR FAMINE.
Okay, okay, where was that my whole life!? My whole life I have been taught that I need to eat meat to be healthy. I need to eat meat to get protein. I need to eat meat to get vitamin B12. I need to eat meat to get all of the essential amino acids. Back things up a bit! Why wasn’t I taught THIS part of the Word of Wisdom all my life? Hmmm. Interesting. I remember reading it once in a Sunday School lesson years ago, and I waited anxiously to hear what people would say about it. The teacher simply stated that that part didn’t apply to us today because we have refrigeration to preserve the meat, whereas the early Saints did not. End of discussion. No one opposed him, including me. I feel like a dope looking back on that moment!
14 All agrain 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;
15 And athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
17 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.
And how about verse 14? “All grain is ordained for the use of man”. So many “diets” today tell us to stay away from grains, but the Lord himself tells us that it is ordained for our use!
Verse 15 reiterates that God has indeed made animals for the use of man ONLY IN TIMES OF FAMINE AND EXCESS OF HUNGER. I, myself, have never even experienced famine or excess of hunger in my lifetime. Food is so abundant in our culture that we are the fattest nation on earth. Yes, there are poor and needy folk among us who go hungry. I am not saying no one experiences this. But I have no excuses for eating meat, personally. I like meat. I love a delicious pulled pork sandwich, and I like chicken in almost any form. But I have no excuse to eat it now that I realize it is only for times of famine and excess of hunger.
I like verse 16, though. I like it A LOT! It tells us where to find what we SHOULD eat: grains, fruits, veggies (also considered fruit here, I believe), tubers (under the ground), etc.
These last few verses give us the promised blessings we can expect from following this counsel, and they are great and wonderful blessings. I want them, for sure!
My kids eat meat. They have had it pounded into their heads since they can remember just like I have that their bodies need meat to be healthy. You have to eat some protein! (Plants have lots of protein!) You need to eat some meat! It is a much harder transition for them than it is for me because they have a smaller range of foods they are willing to try. They like to stay in their food comfort zones. I hope and pray that they will be able to overcome the false ideas society has planted in us for generations.
I have loved watching all of the food documentaries about the new scientific evidence in favor of plant-based diets. But I will admit, it took me a while to come to this idea. I was in the middle of my own weight-loss plateau on the Bright Line Eating program. I lost a few pounds the first 30 days, but then it just stopped coming off. I was weighing my food, never cheating, ALWAYS had a growly tummy, was totally constipated and just plain miserable. Add to all of that, I wasn’t even losing any weight, and you can understand that I was super frustrated. I kept getting the impression that I needed to revisit the Word of Wisdom each time I prayed about my situation and my frustrations. I just wanted to take care of my body and be healthy, but I couldn’t figure out how. Well, following the promptings to revisit the Word of Wisdom turned my world upside down! I now have complete confidence and peace in following the Lord’s counsel for my health instead of chasing the latest and greatest nutritional fads. I have a renewed sense of hope in my future health and commitment to treasuring my body as a gift from God, instead of abusing it relentlessly and hoping it will be resilient enough to overcome all the garbage and abuse.
My hope lies in verse 20’s promise that I will run and not be weary and walk and not faint. Oh, and that promise in verse 21 isn’t so shabby, either, is it? 😉