Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Veganism in Mormonism

"That the children may live long and be beautiful and strong, tea and coffee and tobacco they despise,

drink no liquor and they eat but a very little meat, they are seeking to be great and good and wise.

Hark! Hark! Hark! Tis children's music, children's voices, oh how sweet, when in innocence and love, like the angels up above, they with happy hearts and cheerful faces meet."

-2nd verse of the LDS hymn "In Our Lovely Deseret." Lyrics by Eliza R. Snow.

"In Our Lovely Deseret" has been one of my favorite songs we sang in church ever since I was small, but the second verse often puzzled me. Being in a family and culture who eat meat all the time, usually with every single meal, I wondered why it mentioned the line "they eat but a very little meat," as part of the saints' quest toward righteousness in the song. It wasn't until I was 23 that I began considering what this actually meant and looking over the Word of Wisdom with literal application.

For those who are not familiar with my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we follow what is called the Word of Wisdom, which is a health and living code that sets us in the right clarity and frame of mind to feel the spirit. When our bodies are pure, so can be our soul. The Word of Wisdom comes from verses written by Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Mormon Health Code Benefits according to medical professionals:

Doctrine and Covenants 89: 10-13 states:

"10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

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."

Verses 10-11 are very similar to what God said to Adam and Eve concerning their food in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1:29). I often hear people say, "As long as we eat meat 'sparingly' though, it's okay." But if you look at the footnote on "sparingly" in the passage, it shows the word "temperance." The definition of "temperance" is abstinence and/or self restraint. That being said, why should we not SPARE the animals life? Eat the grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that Heavenly Father has so generously given you, and allow the animals to live their precious lives.

Doctrine and Covenants 49:18-21 states:

"18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

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 it is not given that one man should possess 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."

In the scriptures, the word "meat" is most often used as a word to simply mean "food," so it doesn't always mean flesh. So this scripture is actually saying that those who forbid others to eat certain foods are not ordained of God. So yes, certain foods are bad for us, but we should not take another man's word as commandment, only God's word. If, however, the meaning was referring specifically to eating flesh, it can be interpreted about the same way. If someone says it is a sin to eat meat,  their words are not specifically of God, only themselves. This is because, during the time period that the Doctrine and Covenants was written, we see in the chapter heading that this was a time when the Shakers society was telling people to only eat certain fruits and vegetables, abstain from freshly baked bread, etc. So this scripture was not referring to the lifestyle of vegans/vegetarians. However, Verse 21 is key here, because MANY people skip over it. We are held responsible for any life we take OR any death that we contribute to. If we know it is wrong but do it anyway, such will be held against us.

There are MANY other quotes by past general authorities of the LDS church who have supported upholding kindness and compassion toward ALL animals. Here are just a few:

Just as Brother Cannon asked "Am I or my family hungry?," we should ask ourselves the same question. Do I live in a place where I can go buy any kind of food I want at any time? Am I living in a time of convenience or a time of famine? If you are able to go and get any food you please, you are able to buy and eat any fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds that you please. You can STILL make beautiful and MUCH more healthful meals for your family in doing so too.

"When you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17)

I think the reverse applies as well: If you act in the disservice of your fellow beings then you act in the disservice of your God. We have a moral duty of kindness towards ALL beings on this earth.

Here is a video with a lot more quotes from LDS general authorities about abstaining from meat:

If you would like more information on LDS people who have adopted a compassionate, plant-based, vegan lifestyle, please look up Dr. Chris Foster, a faithful Latter-day Saint and doctor who started "Mormons for Animals" at Brigham Young University. Here are some wonderful and uplifting videos by Brother Foster.

"Mormons For Animals" Part 1:

"Mormons For Animals" Part 2:

Also, here is a great lecture given by Dr. Chris Foster to a class of University students on the correlation of Mormonism and Vegetarianism (though Chris is a full vegan, not just vegetarian).

There is a much bigger movement in the church nowadays where more LDS people are returning to the full practice of the Word of Wisdom, including only eating animal products in times of famine/great need. Here is a short film about this movement.


  1. Thank you so much for writing this article! I had been feeling alone in my plant based journey among my family and LDS peers. I get the vibe that some believe you can't be a worthy Latter-Day Saint and be vegan. This article gives great information backing veganism within the Mormon religion.

  2. Hi Lady Luna,

    Awesome blog!

    May I please have the YouTube link to your Sparingly Quotes? I'd like to share it to others if you don't mind.


    Stay awesome!

  3. Great article! Yes Wyndham Conway, I too feel alone with LDS peers. If they learn that my eating almost no meat has anything to do with the W.O.W. it very often upsets them. It is more accepted if I just say I like animals and don't want to support factory farming.

  4. great site great article. i became vegan recently and just realized that the word of wisdom says meat is ok in times of famine, but living in provo utah usa we do not have a famine so being vegan sounds like just following the word of wisdom to me.

  5. Just wanted to add a quote from the provident living pamphlet about nutrition: (found here:

    "If a variety from all food groups is eaten regularly, it is not usually necessary to take supplements. Even carefully chosen vegetarian diets that include dairy products or eggs can be quite sufficient. But if little or no animal products are eaten, then grains must be eaten with legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils), nuts, and seeds to provide balanced protein."

    Clearly, the church is not opposed to vegetarian and vegan diets. It only acknowledges that one must incorporate non-animal sources of vital nutrients. Note two key words: "But if little OR NO animal products are eaten,..."