As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as I’ve considered animals and our relationship with them, I’ve previously found myself curious about why there aren’t more members of the church that are vegan or maybe vegetarian, or at least why more members don’t consume less meat – perhaps practicing flexitarianism or pescatarianism. In actual practice, I’ve found the opposite is true. Mormons seem to LOVE meat. Every activity or gathering I have been to at Church that has served a meal has had meat as the main offering. Sometimes, in addition, to say, meatball subs as a main course, the salads served alongside the meat sometimes even have meat in them! Even more surprising to me is that not only is meat the main offering, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vegetarian option served – unless of course you consider the plain bread roll without the meatballs to be the vegetarian option!
Someone brought this Ensign (a church magazine) article up in an online forum that I’m a member of, and it really got me thinking even more about the subject. Aside from this article, the only time I’ve ever seen the topic of the consumption of meat raised in a church context is as part of a larger discussion of the Word of Wisdom.
Now, I do realize that the Word of Wisdom (the LDS dietary code) does not actually advocate absolute vegetarianism in all circumstances, but it does specifically limit the consumption of flesh to times of winter, cold or famine. I guess I’ve always wondered about why that might be. Were those instructions made for our health? The Word of Wisdom also indicates that tobacco products are not to be consumed, which now seems obviously to be a matter of health. Or was the Word of Wisdom advocating for living peacefully by not harming animals? If that was the case, then why would it be OK to consume animals in times or cold or famine?
I think that for myself, the answer I have personally come to is that perhaps it is justifiable to consume animal products if it absolutely necessary for our nourishment. As quoted in the 1972 Ensign article above, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible states, “And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.” [emphasis added] Though I hadn’t actually been aware of this before coming to my own conclusions about consuming animals, it definitely confirms for me what I already had come to feel was true. However, how many people who live in circumstances similar to mine can really say that meat is a necessity to save their lives? I suppose that question is really key to why I don’t understand why we don’t see more Mormons choosing to eat less meat, if not abstain from it altogether.
Isn’t it bizarre for us to look forward to the glorious time “when the lamb and the lion shall lie down together without any ire” when we’re the ones that are slaughtering the lambs?