I am a Mormon. Part of my belief system includes following a certain lifestyle code, known as the Word of Wisdom. In our scriptures, it is a promise of blessings. It is an explanation of all things good for us to use and to eat; it is also a warning against things that are harmful and addictive.
We commonly get caught up in the "don'ts" of the Word of Wisdom - Mormons don't drink coffee, tea or alcohol, don't use tobacco or non-prescription drugs.
But the list of "do's" is quite long and incredibly enlightening when studied in more detail.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89 verses 10-17 state:
I'm going to break this apart a little bit, verse by verse.
10: all wholesome herbs (ie, plants) for the constitution, nature and use of man.
Okay, so plants are for our use, like medicines. Sounds good. For our nature? Maybe that means to beautify our environment? Not too sure on that one, but it makes some sense. What about for our constitution? An old-fashioned definition means, among other things, "the physical character of the body as to strength, health, etc."
So we should use plants for food, medicine, and pure enjoyment. Got it.
11: use herbs and fruits in season, with prudence and thanksgiving.
This is where it starts to get interesting. Do we actually eat food only in season, or are we buying tubs of strawberries in December, flown in from South Africa? Is that following the advice and instruction given?
Something to think about.
The word prudence is a good one. Part of the definition includes "caution in practical affairs; discretion or circumspection."
Okay, so um, what do discretion and circumspection actually mean?
Discretion = wise self restraint
Circumspection = discretion out of concern for moral or social repercussions*
I think that a case could be made against not only eating foods out of season, but also considering the implications of the so-called food miles involved, fuel and energy expended in transport and storage, and simply even overeating in general.
Very interesting indeed.
12 - 13, 15: flesh of beasts and birds to be used sparingly, and only in times of winter, cold or famine.
Now we're getting closer to the focus of this essay today. One aspect of these verses that jumped out at me was a missing word, as compared to verse 11 up there. Is the flesh of animals meant for our constitution? Our physical health and strength?
How many times have I truly experienced a deep winter, cold spell or famine? Never! If the flesh of animals isn't particularly designed for normal health and strength, to be preserved in emergency circumstances and then only sparingly, am I following this counsel if I eat the Standard American Diet? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, Probably Not!
16: fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, all these are good for us to eat.
From things I have been reading recently, a plant-based diet is completely compatible with good health. Most proteins in legumes and such are much more bio-available than in meat.
How can we use animals for food and raiment, as spelled out in another scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 49:18-19 and 21?
Does this automatically give us a free pass to eat steak and potatoes? I don't think so at all!
I am more of a mind to consider the idea of permaculture when I read these verses.
Animals don't have to give us milk, eggs or meat to provide food for humans. If allowed to eat naturally (ie, grass-fed cows as opposed to corn-fed), they put far more into the soil than they take out of it. Here is an example of farm animals being useful and providing food for human consumption:
-when grass is cut back the equivalent amount of root dies off and decomposes, increasing soil quality
-scratch through the cow manure, spreading it out
-add their own manure
SOIL for growing PLANTS
-quality is improved by animal activity, manure
-better grass to feed the animals
-higher crop yield achieved, without use of chemicals leeching into the water supply
I'd like to point out another word in this study: Prudence. Doctrine and Covenants 59:20 warns us NOT to use animals to excess or extortion. However, this is exactly what happens to animals used for food, including bees!
I don't think eating meat is a sin. But I don't see how we can justify eating it whenever we want, and in vast quantities. As it says in Genesis 9:4-10 (JST) we will be held accountable for our meat eating choices.
For me and my family, we've decided to abstain from eating meat from now on. Maybe we'll buy a bit of meat from ethical sources for Christmas, but I don't know. We'll talk about it more when the time comes.
As for now, life is good! The kids don't miss meat all that much, apart from the sausages they smelled cooking in a stall in town the other day. We've talked about our reasons for avoiding meat, and they agree. We are keeping ex-battery hens on our allotment, and they know all about the terrible conditions those poor birds have had to suffer. We don't want to give our money to companies that treat animals badly.
*I have extreme ethical concerns about the meat industry, which is why I cut back on our meat consumption a while back, so full-on vegetarianism doesn't seem much harder at this point!