Years ago, while working in Detroit, I went to lunch with an LDS colleague. When I ordered chicken, he asked, “Are you really going to get that?” A bit confused, I confirmed that I had indeed intended to order the chicken, and asked him why it mattered. He responded, “Don’t you believe in section 89?” I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. I had never really considered taking the don’t-eat-meat part seriously before.
“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; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” (D&C 89:12-13)
Subsequently I had a conversation with a friend who was both a seminary teacher and dedicated carnivore. He cautioned me against taking the verses cited above literally, as he had heard that there was a possibility that the comma in the phrase “used, only” might not have been there in the original. Plus, he reasoned, the General Authorities ate meat at the catered meal served in between sessions of general conference. As with many of the restored doctrines, he cautioned me against a non-mainstream interpretation of the verses.
Subsequent study led me to conclude that the comma had not been misplaced, as the following verses in section 89 clarify:
“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; And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” (D&C 89:14-15)
I eventually decided to try out the advice, and I stopped eating red meat. At the same time I stopped eating things made from white flour, white sugar, hydrogenated oils, and dairy. I didn’t limit my overall caloric intake, I just stopped eating stuff that included any of those things. Over the course of a few month my weight decreased by 10%, I slept better, and I felt far more alert throughout the day (particularly in the afternoons). I find when I don’t eat red meat the voraciousness of my apetite decreases significantly. But this is not why I think it matters.
I had always associated health benefits with Word of Wisdom compliance; live longer, live better, etc. But after trying to live the simple law described in section 89, I came to the realization that for me the greatest blessing was not physical in nature. The Lord began to open to my heart and mind deep mysteries, that had before remained hidden from my view. While it may simply have been happenstance, it started to happen after I began to take section 89 seriously:
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;” (89:18-19)
I want to become eligible to participate in the Millennial Zion, in which the enmity between man and beast will have ceased (see D&C 101:26). How can I dwell in peace with the lamb and lion if I, in the back of my mind, am continually thinking about slaying them for food? What does that imply about millennial life? I think the Lord has a special place in His heart for animals. The JST of Genesis 9 clarifies Father’s direction regarding the use of animals for food in this telestial state:
“But, the blood of all flesh which I have given you for meat, shall be shed upon the ground, which taketh life thereof, and the blood ye shall not eat. 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.” (JST Gen 9:10-11)
If the effect of the Holy Ghost is pure intelligence, might willful obedience to this principle be an unlikely gatekeeper to receiving greater light and knowledge in these latter days?