Without Blemish, Neither From a Stranger's Hand

 "One of the ways we elevate the sacrifice of a being...to a place of sacredness...is by respecting and honoring the life that was lived." ~ Joel Salatin

"One of the ways we elevate the sacrifice of a being...to a place of sacredness...is by respecting and honoring the life that was lived." ~ Joel Salatin

...All things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal...
Behold, I gave unto him [Adam] that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual...
— D&C 29:34-35 (selections)

I'm pretty sure my jaw would drop to the floor if I ever heard anything mentioned in General Conference about why it's a good idea to eat only the flesh of animals that were healthy and happy in life. I'm pretty sure that's never occurred because I've searched and, to be honest, I am thankful our general authorities are not busy creating a list of carnal commandments for us to follow. At the same time, I have to say that, when I survey the animal-consumerism of my fellow Latter-day Saints, I'm pretty bewildered. *Everything* has a spiritual impact, including the life we allow to be taken on our behalf. 

Doesn't it seem logical that any life we accept as nourishment is a typification of the One Life who said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you?" The Law of Moses instructed the children of Israel about what condition an animal must be in to be considered an acceptable offering. The Lord even uses phrases such as "it shall not be acceptable for you" and "they shall not be accepted for you" when talking about animals that were not "without blemish" - denoting that the disqualified animals would not have provided the benefit they were seeking for themselves. But what's interesting is that, far from what we think of as a blemish today, the word simply means "complete" and "sound" - in other words...HEALTHY. 

I tended to think that the Israelites had to seek out only the most magnificent specimens of their flocks for sacrifice, clearly forgetting this was, ultimately, to represent a Man Isaiah described as having "no form nor comeliness." The true qualifications were not perfection of physical beauty but simply that the animal could not: be blind, maimed; have a tumor, scurvy or scabs or any extra or missing parts (Leviticus 22:22-24). Interestingly enough, these disqualifications can all be attributed to care given the animal, either through malnutrition (of it or its parents), unkind handling, or disease. The beast could neither be "bruised, crushed, broken or cut." The animal had to be healthy and in good condition in order to benefit them, personally, as a sacrifice. 

 Cows, chickens and pigs should not live their lives on cement. They should be on pasture.

Cows, chickens and pigs should not live their lives on cement. They should be on pasture.

It is easy for me to see how the same rules, based in spiritual law, could be the same ones that govern whether an animal - who is quite literally sacrificed to give us life - is "acceptable for you" to eat and be fed (Lev. 22:20). Is the chicken in your salad or the beef in your casserole derived from an animal that was healthy in life? Was it free of malnourishment (Quite literally "bad nourishment" - GMO corn, soy and alfalfa...I'm looking at you! )? Was it treated unworthy of its being a creation of God? Or was it like the majority of the animals used for meat that's made available so cheaply - chronically sick and not allowed to live out its appointed days in the fresh air and sunlight? Additionally...was it raised by a stranger?

Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these; because their corruption is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.
— Leviticus 22:25

An associate of mine was talking with a farmer in Africa about the food system in the United States and she said the man looked shocked and said, "You let strangers grow your food?" What could possibly happen when you have absolutely no idea where your food comes from, right? Good, local farmers are, thankfully, getting easier to find. We have a family of farmers we've been patronizing for a few years. They've let us bottle-feed calves, allowed us to feed the pigs our wormy apples and answered every single one of our questions.

If I'm honest, the leap to buying locally, humanely raised meat was the hardest in our family's journey away from the Standard American Diet (SAD), and we still aren't perfect. It's a big jump. I was trained to think that a good housewife found the best deals on food to save her family money, and good quality meat (and eggs and milk) is expensive! But I have gradually been convinced, through experience, that cheap meat is worthless to my family. It doesn't look as good, taste as good, or leave us feeling as good as the stuff we tend to spring for now. Research substantiates the claim that grass-fed meat is superior (here's one study from Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education). It's higher in things like iron, zinc and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), as well as having a better fatty acid profile overall (Weston A. Price Foundation report) while being lower in things like glyphosate (which survives the intestinal tract of the animal and gets passed on to you).

In a theology that emphasizes the intertwining of the spiritual with the physical, it should be hard to dissociate the idea that healthy food comes from healthy life forms. Yet, how prone are we to turn a blind eye to the life form when we reach for that package of meat that reassures us it is "all-natural" (as if that meant anything)? Free agents can choose whatever meat they want to pay for, but they aren't free to determine the consequences attendant on their choices. You get what you pay for - and life treated cheaply will reward you as cheaply, I am convinced.

Oh, gosh...shopping day is tomorrow. I hope my morals hold up in the bacon aisle.

What say ye?