Fourteen days. That's how long I was a vegetarian. It was part of a longer thirty-day cleanse. But I'll admit that the writings of individuals like Dr. Joel Fuhrman had convinced me that maybe it would be best to leave off the animal products permanently. There were also those undeniable words in D&C 89 "And it is pleasing unto me that they [animal flesh] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." The words of so many interpretations of this passage redounded in my ears, forcing me to question whether or not I was being a truly faithful Latter-day Saint.
I experienced some unintended consequences of my short-term vegetarianism. Maybe not so unpredictably, during those two weeks, I was hungry all the time. The only thing I could think about was food. I lost weight and my skin had gone from Telestial to Terrestrial in its glow, but I was cold all the time and it was the middle of summer. However, the greatest unanticipated change was in my attitude. Forget that only a week before I had probably chomped down on a bacon cheeseburger...I was certain during this short stint that I was superior to my flesh-eating fellows. I was so much more holy and undeceived. I had finally achieved what so many were insisting the Word of Wisdom meant. But were they right? I Wonder.
There is a story about Joseph Smith that occurred in Nauvoo at about the time the Temperance movement met the Mormon Word of Wisdom audience. It was becoming very "scientific" and socially upstanding in the nation at large to condemn the use of alcoholic spirits. But the Saints were still in transition. The Word of Wisdom had been issued by invitation, and it had the effect of making the bulk of them more moderate and prudent in their use of fermented or distilled beverages. That is when, at a meeting of the Saints, someone got up to give a talk advocating "temperance in the extreme." The Prophet's reaction has been described this way:
The Pharisees were infamous for latching onto the letter of the law and turning it into a false god with an impetus all its own and that would evolve and sprawl so preeminently that the spirit of the law inevitably got smothered. I am afraid that I was on my way to becoming a Word of Wisdom Pharisee.
There are things I wish I had known at that point in my life: 1) That at the time the WoW was given, the people, especially on the frontier, were eating a LOT of meat because crops took time to grow and conditions made their fruition unpredictable. Fowl and game were easy to obtain and plentiful. The Saints had been driven from place to place, not always having the opportunity to enjoy their ripened grain, vegetables or fruit. I have heard it estimated that folks on the frontier ate up to 7 pounds of meat per person per day. And, like Lehi's family in the wilderness who were provided raw meat to eat along the hardest parts of their journey, frontier carnivorosity may have been a product of necessity. But when we talk about eating flesh "sparingly" it helps to keep the historical context in mind to provide perspective. 2) I wish I had know that the word "sparingly" means "with care, conservation, diligence, industry, thrift and avoidance of waste." We sometimes seem to adopt only a fraction of that full meaning - the "conservation" part. Or perhaps instead of "avoidance of waste" we see it as a call for avoidance, period. 3) Lastly, I wish someone had pointed out to me the companion revelation in D&C 59:20 that talks about not only the use of animals but of all the earth's resources:
Extortion = being "wrenched out by force, intimidation or undue power;" it shares the same root meaning as the word "torture"
When we consider the food we eat, I wonder if we can better keep the spirit of the law by being mindful of whether plant or animal was raised responsibly and with wisdom - and not with the object being to extort in order to solely get gain. If someone other than ourselves had a hand in producing our food, does that diminish our personal responsibility for the effects of it's production? I wonder. Humanely raised meat has shown to be far superior in nutrition to the poor tortured flesh that is so cheaply abundant in the supermarket. And crops that are raised on bio-diverse, non-depleted, non-chemically doused soil seems, to me, to be more in harmony with man's stewardship to care for the earth rather than the wrenching out of it the vast mono-crops that deplete the earth and only thrive by the grace of petrochemical fertilization and weed-killer.
These are some of the things I have learned so far. My "note to self" is to try and follow Joseph Smith's example before I succumb to the temptation to become Pharisaical and hypocritical in my pronouncements on the Word of Wisdom. Like Elder Bruce R. McConkie put it: "The Word of Wisdom is not the gospel and the gospel is not the Word of Wisdom." It isn't that which goeth into the mouth that defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth that defileth him (Matthew 15:11).
What say ye?