May 21, 1996
The "Word of Wisdom," the famous code of health among
Mormondom that has come to mean, "Don't smoke, don't drink," has so much more to
it than what is currently practiced.
The point I wish to draw attention to is that portion of this
revelation that pertains to the consumption of meat -- that it should be eaten
"sparingly" at most; and if a person wishes to actually please the Lord,
it should not be eaten at all, except in times of winter, famine, or cold -- none of
which conditions we face regularly in our modern living circumstances. We enjoy
comfortable temperatures all year round because of thermostats in our homes and in our
cars; and even the poorest of us eat like kings of old, with our abundance and variety.
It is therefore in a spirit of love and concern that I would like to
ask the Mormon population point blank: Considering that the Word of Wisdom is revered to
be of God, and its statement regarding meat urges minimal consumption, if at all, why then
is the Wasatch front the bastion of meat consumption in the United States?
The United States leads the world, both in meat consumption and in the
killer diseases that accompany it: heart disease, cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke, high
blood pressure, diabetes. Modern science has thoroughly vindicated Joseph Smith on this
one too (albeit suppressed in some measure by our culture of indulgence); and yet somehow
this aspect of the Word of Wisdom has been ignored with just as much devotion as some
other aspects (drinking and smoking) have been emphasized. In fact, a Mormon cannot even
be considered "worthy" to enter the temple if he or she even dabbles in the
smelly vices of smoking or drinking; and yet the vegetarian is hard pressed to find a
satisfying meal in a temple cafeteria. Utah restaurants also reflect this overwhelming
preference, where so much is centered either around meat or dairy or other food items
which profit on the exploitation of animals (including fowl and fish, speaking generally
The irony is that far more people will die early and their quality of
life be compromised as a result of their meat consumption than from smoking or drinking.
Furthermore, let us not forget to mention the death involved on the part of the abused
animals from whose carcasses this flesh is obtained. On the average, for every person
killed by overindulgence, 15 cows, 24 hogs, 900 chickens, 12 sheep will have lost their
lives -- and this figure is for Americans in general. Up these numbers by about 30
percent for Utahns.
Not to be forgotten in this death toll are the tens of millions of
people in less developed countries who starve every year because there is not enough food
going around. If Americans would trim their meat consumption by just a tithe, for example,
there would be sufficient savings in grain to feed these starving masses.
And then there are the massive plagues that threaten us, and those
already upon us, whose most subtle vectors of spread are the animals and our consumption
of them. The depletion and pollution of the earth's resources to support this gross
overindulgence will not go unanswered by Mother Nature either.
Finally, a destructive factor not to be ignored is the increased
violence in our society that stems from our carnivorous culture. Not only does
thoughtlessness regarding the conditions of raising and slaughtering the animals callous
people's sensitivities, but the hormones of fright, anger, and stress -- that are
released into the animal's system by its own defensive mechanisms at the time of
slaughter -- those same hormones do cross into the human's bloodstream and effect
Yes, the Word of Wisdom; wise indeed. Joseph called it straight on this
one to be sure.
Those who abide by the Word of Wisdom -- including its admonitions
regarding meat -- are promised to have the destroying angel pass them by --
perhaps largely because they have not participated in the brutal destruction of their
fellow beings in the animal kingdom; for he who lives by the sword will die by the sword.
It would seem, therefore, that the voices to which we need to be aware
on this issue are not those urging to abstain from meat; but rather those which
endorse the current deadly excesses -- in udder defiance of the ethics of
health. No, Ronald McDonald, hamburgers do not grow on trees.
I look forward to the millennium in which we will not eat animals any
more but will talk with them -- like in the garden of Eden. Perhaps a good first step
in this direction would be to stop eating them in our temples where we solemnize the
garden of Eden. But most importantly, we can each begin with the most precious universal,
temples of all -- our bodies -- so that we might be more pure vessels of the Spirit
of God -- more pure vessels of charity, the inclination to harm being removed from
us. This is my prayer.