Friday, July 25, 2008

Is vegetarianism contrary to the doctrines of the gospel?

I found myself in the middle of a debate today about vegetarianism, the Word of Wisdom, and the gospel. Many of you know, I was vegetarian for 7 years. Although I loved being vegetarian, married life and vegetarianism doesn't mix, at least in my relationship with an avid hunter and fisherman. I do not eat very much meat still, but I doubt I'll ever go full vegetarian again. I've discovered the joy of bacon. But I digress.

Here are the pertinent verses from the Word of Wisdom: D&C 89
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;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 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;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
In the original text, there was no comma in verse 13, so it read, "And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." I'm not sure if the absence of a comma (which changes the meaning of the verse) was an oversight, or if there was another reason why the comma wasn't included. But leaving out the comma contradicts the rest of the section.

Others pointed out other scriptures that point to vegetarianism as being wrong and against the laws of God. These are the verses that backed this poster's claims:

Gen. 9: 3
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

Lev. 11: 2
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.

D&C 49: 19
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

1 Tim. 4: 1-4
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

D&C 49: 18
18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
I personally didn't get the feel that those verses condemn vegetarianism, but I admit I'm quite biased and would like to think that being a vegetarian and a follower of Christ can go hand in hand. Really only the last two references seemed to be negative toward vegetarians. My take on the meaning is a bit different. In my opinion, the last reference means is that we are not to preach vegetarianism as a doctrine of the gospel (although the wording is confusing and contradictory in modern English). The phrase "that man should not eat the same" makes it clear to me that if we choose to abstain from meat, without admonishing others to do the same, we are still faithful to the laws of God. The person who posted those references conveniently left off the verses following D&C 49:18...

19. For, behold the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.
20. But behold it is not given that one man should posses that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.
21. And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.
As a vegetarian, a person can still benefit from animals in many different ways. And in verse 21, it could be taken to mean that if one has plenty of other non-animal food sources to use those first, because otherwise you'd be shedding blood and wasting flesh unnecessarily.

As far as Timothy goes, if you look at the phrase "commanding to abstain from meats," it has the same meaning that I got from D&C 49:18. We shouldn't push vegetarianism on others and we should be thankful for what we are given.
I actually found that people seemed to be quite offended by my vegetarianism, and that most LDS people have a bias against vegetarians. I remember one LDS friend of mine being incensed that I wouldn't try a meal of hers that she made for a school project that contained meat.
I remember others trying to convince me that my interpretation of D&C 89 was all wrong. They had to get out their own scriptures and prove that I was sinning by being a vegetarian. This didn't often happen (it wasn't well known that I was a vegetarian after I graduated from high school, but I was quite vocal about it when I first became vegetarian at age 15) but when it did happen, it was very uncomfortable for me. Perhaps I was interpreting the scriptures all wrong and I was sinning by abstaining from meat. However, they were being cruel and unrighteously judgmental about my personal choice.

In the first couple of years as a vegetarian, however, I was quite open about how wrong the eating of meat was. During that time, I was the one being unrighteously judgmental and I probably deserved any vegetarian bashing that I got.


Emily said...

Think about the historical context as well. At least as far as the D&C verse goes. The Seventh-Day Adventists were starting up at about the same time and they have a very similar interpretation of the Gospel as we do, only they do (mostly did now) preach against eating meat. Perhaps it is just the Lord's way of clearing that up.

Les said...

Wow. That was deep. I will have to agree that probably most of the people who disagreed with you so vocally were people that you had rubbed the wrong way because you were a little...well, weird about it at first.

And sorry about that chicken bouillon that I slipped in the cheese soup once. Tee hee.

christine said...

I personally don't think God means for us to waste all the meat given to us. I do think meat needs to be eating sparingly because for one its unhealthy and two for environmental reasons.

Scriptures can be interpreted a thousand different ways! I don't think you are doing anything wrong!