Are Mormons Flunking the Word of Wisdom?

Guest blogger Jane Birch

Guest blogger Jane Birch

After my recent post on Mormon vegetarianism, author Jane Birch contacted me about the importance of a plant-based diet in the Mormon Word of Wisdom. As she says below, she's concerned that Mormons are ignoring this key part of the Word of Wisdom, to the detriment of our health; Mormons are 14% more likely than other Americans to be obese. -- JKR


A guest post by Jane Birch

Mormons are proud, and rightly so, of the health benefits they enjoy by observing their well-known dietary code, the Word of Wisdom. Total abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and harmful drugs has certainly given Mormons health advantages. At the same time, Mormons are succumbing to the same chronic illnesses that plague the general population, and obesity among Mormons is a huge problem. Some have even concluded that Mormons are fatter-day saints.

Ironically, the very Word of Wisdom that gives Mormons the edge in avoiding lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver also provides ample counsel that could protect them from most of the chronic illnesses that account for 70% of deaths in the U.S., including those from heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and certain cancers. Unfortunately, the verses of their dietary code that contain this counsel are the ones Mormons neglect.

In 1833, the importance of the dietary practices advocated in the Word of Wisdom were not generally known or widely accepted. They certainly had not been established by science, as the scientific study of nutrition was as yet undeveloped. But what science has gone on to confirm, the Word of Wisdom spells out. In addition to stating that alcohol and tobacco are harmful to human health, it counsels the use of a diet rich in plant foods and spare in animal foods. According to the Word of Wisdom,

  1. All wholesome plants are ordained for human use.
  2. Meat is ordained for humans, but it should be eaten sparingly and only in times of need: winter, cold, famine or “excess of hunger.”
  3. All grain is good and is ordained to be the staff of life.

This is a diet loaded with grains and other whole plant foods, where meat is reserved for times of need. It contrasts sharply with the typical fare served when Mormons gather in large numbers, which is usually meat-and-treat heavy. One would think such a health code would make low-carb and Paleo diets unpopular among LDS people, but if my ward is typical, apparently not.

Discovering the Word of Wisdom CoverIn the 180 years since 1833, many people have awakened to the wisdom of this counsel. Now science is confirming that observance of a whole food, plant-based diet not only reduces our chances of getting chronic illness, but, in many cases, eliminates the possibility of succumbing to many of the major threats to our health and well-being.

Experts such as Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman, and Neal Barnard are leading the charge in advocating a Word-of-Wisdom-type diet. Note: not a Mormon among them! Not only are Mormons not leading the way, many have a fairly hazy view of what the Word of Wisdom counsels. Some have grown so cynical of their own dietary code that they pass off large parts of this wisdom as suited only for Joseph Smith’s day.

But the counsel in the Mormon Word of Wisdom is most needed in our day, as it addresses just those chronic illnesses that have only exploded in the last century!

Whole food, plant-based diet experts are now helping Mormons to understand, perhaps for the first time on a widespread basis, the treasure contained in the Word of Wisdom. I have written about my own “discovery” of the Word of Wisdom in a book just published, Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective.

As part of this project, I solicited stories to include in the book from Mormons who are taking the counsel in the Word of Wisdom seriously. As story after story poured in, I was impressed by the number of Mormons who appear to be “waking up” to the Word of Wisdom. Only time will tell whether enough Mormons wake up to this treasure for the LDS people to pass the test of their own dietary code.


Jane Birch, PhD is Assistant Director for Faculty Development at the Brigham Young University Faculty Center. She is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective. You can read the stories of people “waking up” to the Word of Wisdom on her website.


  1. The W of W was a MAJOR reason our family stopped eating meat. These simple health instructions couldn’t be plainer than the noses on our faces, yet we have faced quite a backlash from some our fellow church members. (In the interest of fairness, some of them have been great about it!) Not long after we made this change (2.5 years ago now), I received an anonymous email from someone I’m sure attends my ward about how dangerous our chosen diet was. Seriously?! The diet we follow comes straight from the Lord! Our diet is filled with grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and limited dairy (from ethical producers, as much as possible). We don’t eat meat, but would if no other food were available.

    I tire of going to ward dinners and being faced with giant roaster ovens full of ham and having very little to choose from that we can actually eat. We have a potluck coming up this Sunday, and I’m not sure whether we’ll even go. It’s just too hard.

    I also tire of the hypocrisy and feeling like I need to tiptoe around to avoid offending those who choose not to follow the W of W. It’s not the No Tea/Coffee/Alcohol/Tobacco Plan, but that seems to be how most of us interpret it. It just makes me shake my head.

    This article definitely touched a nerve for me! Deep breaths…

  2. Trying to understand the W o W is a great thing, but being vegetarian is actually against God’s counsel also. He says to use it in time of need and winter, famine, etc. He also told the Quakers that were being taught that they were wrong to abstain from meat completely. Our bodies do need certain things from meat, but we as a culture eat WAY too much of it and so in that regards this is totally true. We should however eat it when we need it, and I generally know when that is, by when my body starts to crave it. We don’t eat very much meat but we do eat it and would definitely eat it if that was what was served to us. Your family might do well with a dose of meat once a year. You know it did say to use it in winter. There is a reason for that you know, not only because other foods weren’t generally available then, I’m sure God knew that they would be in our day. The saying moderation in all things is 100% truth and also applies to our meat/no meat eating policies.
    Relax and realize none of us are perfect and we’ve all got things to learn.

  3. If the WofW was an inspired all-encompassing instruction from deity it would have also prohibited the excess use of sugar, which has proven to be one of the greatest health issues of our time. Diabetes anyone?

  4. Where exactly does it say that people cannot have coffee or tea specifically? As I was reading it all I could find was hot drinks. So IMO that would mean ANY hot beverage including HOT chocolate is this not correct?

  5. Yay!! I LOVE IT!! So right on . . . Praying, sharing, & making many changes myself. This is Great!! I mean, go look at the row after row of selection in any grocery store or gas station . . . Unbelievable! “Conspiring men of the latter days” right before our eyes in search of wealth, power, & $ off of naiveté & good health.

  6. The idea of “moderation in all things” is nonsense. We believe nothing of the sort. Certainly not with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex outside of marriage, etc. Moderation is a clever ploy and not part of the Gospel. The WOW could not be more plain in it’s teaching. The Lord very clearly states that it is “pleasing” unto him when we don’t eat meat. Joseph Smith further clarifies this in the inspired version of Genesis when we are told that the “blood of every animal I will require at thy hands.” Like the other exhortations in the WOW, modern science proves over and over that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to nourish our bodies.

  7. Great post! This is such an important message, and I’m glad Jane is so proactively sharing it. I’ve experienced huge improvements in my own health–including the reversal of a debilitating sleep disorder–by following a whole-food, plant-based diet. I’m a believer, for sure!

  8. Mormons believe in continuing revelation. The continuing revelation on the Word of Wisdom was received by Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. This set up the ban on alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee as the standard part of the Word of Wisdom that people must live by.

    The other parts of the Word of Wisdom have never been raised to being commandments. It misses the fact that many, many of our societies deaths are caused by issues related to the first four to try to bring up others.

    I think this is totally a misguided call for reforms that are not supported by the real leaders who have the authority to pronounce the word of the Lord on such subjects. The modern Word of Wisdom is what it is because of additional prophetic guidance by Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant, not just the unmediated and reinterpretable words of Joseph Smith.

  9. I agree with the statements made concerning the Word Of Wisdom, in that we need to eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, etc. Totally cutting out eating meat can be detrimental to many people, although there are those who do well without it. Most of the people I know who eat no meat, look sickly (yes, I know, a lot of them eat junk food).
    I have been vegetarian several times in my life, but gave it up as things weren’t working out well for me. The last time was March 2004, when I went Vegan for 6 months, since it was supposed to cure my diabetes. After 6 months (I’d felt good all the time and had plenty of energy), since there was no improvement with my diabetes, I moved to vegetarian in September of 2004, also adding some mozzarella cheese–the only thing I’d craved the previous 6 months. Then–shock, shock!–in July of 2006, I had triple bypass surgery–three arteries were clogged: 98%, 95% and 80%. It couldn’t have been from meat as I hadn’t eaten any for well over 28 months. Ten years before, in July 1996, I’d had a major heart attack from a clot–I’d been eating meat for more than 25 years, but my arteries were clear.
    There is no question that many people need to cut down the amount of meat they eat and to eat more fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains. However, don’t tell me it’ll be better for me to totally stop eating meat.

  10. Thanks for sharing, Laura! In my book and on my website, I feature the stories of dozens of Mormons who are eating a Word of Wisdom whole food, plant-based diet and experiencing AMAZING results in both their physical and spiritual well-being. The Lord is true to his word. The Word of Wisdom is a “principle with promise.”

  11. Thanks for your comments, John. You are certainly correct that Mormons are not required to abide by all the counsel in the Word of Wisdom as described in D&C 89, but as you know we don’t need to be commanded in all things in order to receive blessings. People who are not members of the Church are not required to observe any part of the Word of Wisdom, but they still receive remarkable blessings if they do not smoke or drink. We too can benefit from more of the counsel given by the Lord, should we chose to follow it. Those that do can testify of the blessings that follow!

  12. Hi Dan! You’ve hit on some very important points. Eating a healthy diet is not just about giving up meat, there is so much more. I personally would never tell you (or anyone) that they have to give up meat, but the science is clear that meat is not the health food we used to believe it was. If you want to learn how to eat a healthy plant-based diet, there is plenty of good information out there, much of which I reference in my book.

  13. The Word of Wisdom tells us the foods we are to eat in order to be healthy and a few we should avoid, or use sparingly. It does not list all the foods that are bad for us, one of which would certainly be sugar. I think we are asked to use common sense and figure out a few things for our self. I don’t have to be told to avoid many foods that i realize have been found not wise to use, including dairy products which scientists have found to be unhealthy. Some doctors are even trying to get milk out of the school lunch program. The Word of Wisdom was an inspired message and we would healthier by following it.

  14. As in India, the cows will be walking down the streets of Salt Lake City in the near future. All this talk of abandoning meat. Are you aware your church leaders are HEAVILY INVESTED in cattle ranches? Mormons! Hear me! You need to keep eating beef or your church’s investment in a gazillion acres of Florida ranch land will become obsolete! Eat that beef, the Lord is heavily invested in it!

  15. Isn’t the LDS church so heavily invested in cattle ranching (the largest cattle rancher in the United States) a violation of the Lord’s declaration that meat should be consumed sparingly? Isn’t owning a gazillion head of cattle the moral equivalent of owning a chain of liquor stores or raising tobacco?

  16. A lot of people miss the part in verse 3 that says it is “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints”. To me this means it sets out a standard that if people live what they read they’ll be strengthened and gain understanding for further – personal – revelation on the subject. As they experience the blessings of obeying the WoW more will be required of them in terms of obeying the deeper understanding they may/will get.
    The bottom line is set for those who aren’t strong in these things but there is no limit to how deep one can understand this revelation.

  17. As a ward many of us started a health fitness challenge, there are over 50 adults participating. At the last linger longer the food choices were excellent, since a large portion of us were trying to watch what we eat. I think it made us all feel closer too. I was very excited!

  18. Some portions have been clarified by more modern revelation. This portion has been specified by other prophets to mean tea and coffee.

  19. I normally really look forward to reading your posts, but this is the second time you’ve ignored scripture to push non-Mormon ideals as Mormon doctrine. I too use to worry that I wasn’t really following the Word of Wisdom, but then I realized that I was ignoring the first 3 verses of the section.

    “A Word of Wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion— To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days— Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” – D&C 89: 1-3

    When I tried to eat less meat – or even no meat – I got VERY sick. I was too weak and slept all the time. I had no energy. I tried to eat other proteins, but they just didn’t cut it. I was using tried and proved vegetarian and even vegan diets. So I prayed. I was told to read those first three verses. The Lord reminded me that the WoW is a PERSONAL health code and that what works for one may not work for another. The point of it is to make us aware that we need to care for our bodies and follow the spirit in doing so.

    When members of the Church try to redefine the Lord’s doctrine, one of the first places they seem to go is the Word of Wisdom. It’s in our temple questions, so it MUST be important, right? Well, no not really. One of the temple questions use to be about putting up a fence to make sure neighbor’s animals are wandering onto your property. The temple questions change per the times and we don’t know if the WoW will always be a part of them.

    The Word of Wisdom is very personal. This is why the question isn’t “how much meat are you eating?” We must not become like the Pharisees, looking to expand the letter of the law, rather than seeking to understand the spirit of it.

  20. Your feelings are shared by many LDS members, including this former bishop who struggled with many ward leaders and especially ward council members whenever this moderated approach or view was shared. It is ok. We are not to be commanded in all things and blessings, including health, as verified by every leading non LDS doctor, comes by obedience to God’s commandments, including this marvelous one given to the great latter-day prophet. There is a time and a place for meat, as revealed so clearly in section 89. Follow your promptings wonderful Mormon Mom. Sometimes there is to be found a morsel of bread, even at a ward social. If not, bring your own and enjoy it with others. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly the healthy dishes go, ie,, you are not alone with the feelings you express and more especially with the quiet example you are setting. Thanks for standing up.

  21. In Joseph Smith’s time, the average person consumed less than 5 lbs of sugar in a year. Today that number is over 100 lbs per year. It wasn’t an issue in his time, but it is today because of the change in world food production and distribution. Living the spirit of the word of wisdom definitely means the Mormons should be vigilant to the effects of the things we put into our bodies. Just because the WoW doesn’t mention the Big Gulp doesn’t mean it’s OK to slurp down 600 calories of High Fructose Corn Syrup a couple of times a day.

  22. “winter, famine, etc.”

    Actually, there’s no “etc.” tacked on there.

    Sometimes I crave a beer. Should I drink one?

    Your body can get proteins someplace else.

  23. Always good advice to be found in church publications. These two articles are in this month’s Ensign and I appreciate the positive way the principles are taught in a way that isn’t divisive. It’s humbling to try to incorporate healthy habits in our own lives while not judging others as to whether they ‘pass the test of (the church’s) dietary code’.

  24. This bums me out. Please research “healthy at every size” and educate yourself about the detriment of fat-shaming rhetoric particularly combined with religiosity. There is no reason for a nutritionist to be invoking callow humor like “fatter day saints.” I would typically address this with more graciousness but my Mormon friends that struggle with body acceptance and eating disorders are hurting and this only compounds that hurt; we just have to do so much better. And as a vegetarian I’ve never found it particularly compelling when people invoke fear based arguments to get me to change my diet.

  25. As a fellow vegetarian– and an ED survivor– I recoiled in disgust when I read the words that a fellow sister, a fellow Saint– a nutritionist for crying out loud– utilizing the phrase “fatter Day Saint”.

    I just don’t see the humor in that “cheeky” comment. Also–and I know this from experience–Not all diets work for all bodies. The WoW is a guideline, and it can’t be used as yet another extreme measurer of worth.


  26. Really? The obesity problem in the church is about people not being vegetarian? It would seem to me that it’s far simpler than that. When people experience disappointment or unpleasant emotions, they deal with it somehow. In communities that encourage diversity and meeting everyone where they are, this happens by living openly, thus avoiding shame (this would mean for instance, even if I smoked right before sacrament meeting, I would be welcomed and encouraged in every way for being there…unconditionally!) In communities where this doesn’t occur, shame tends to set in. People deal with shame in different ways, but generally through some sort of escapism: sex, alcohol, drugs, shopping and overeating are popular choices. Some of these things are more taboo in LDS communities than others. That’s right: food and shopping (checked out the bankruptcy rates in Utah lately?) are LDS drugs of choice. Oh, and also apparently prescription antidepressants.

    So, whether vegetarianism is supported by the Word of Wisdom or not is a moot point as related to LDS obesity, in my opinion. People who are obese are generally eating way more than they need to and exercising way less than they need to, regardless of what kind of food they are eating.

    PS–funeral potatoes are a vegetarian dish and are far less healthy than a lean meat meal.

  27. I can appreciate that we’re addressing the Word of Wisdom in a manner that shows that there’s more to it than just not drinking and smoking, and that a healthy life style is not just not smoking and drinking. Obviously, reading Section 89 there is a lot more in there, and a lot more for each member to ponder and decide what it means to them.

    But I will agree with the other comments that have already been made that the post is not very encouraging. By generalizing all Mormons, and generalizing the reasons for various body types, the whole post becomes a bit condescending and even accusatory in tone. It seems important to me that we realize that we are all different, look different, for different reasons, and that we love and accept each other where we are.

    The phrase alone that Mormons “need to wake up” sounds a bit self-righteous, like the author has it all figured out, and everyone not falling in step, is somehow spiritually or eating-wise deficient. I’m personally a big fan of a plant based diet. But I don’t think I should assume that I know better than others. Their bodies may have different needs. Or their life situation may just not have food as a priority at that point for good reasons. Who am I to judge and to assume?

    This post is kind of disappointing. It could have been a very enlightening and encouraging post. But it just feels…judgmental.

  28. Your tithing money is heavily invested in cattle ranching. Talk about flunking sainthood . . . Mormons need to eat their meat! 44,000 head of beef cattle on 300,000 acres in Florida. Apparently inspiration is at cross-purposes. Why is the Mormon church invested so heavily in the meat industry if eating beef isn’t good for you?

  29. Something to consider: your tithing money is heavily invested in cattle ranching. Talk about flunking sainthood . . . Mormons need to eat their meat! 44,000 head of beef cattle on 300,000 acres in Florida. Apparently inspiration is at cross-purposes here. Why is the Mormon church invested so heavily in the meat industry if eating beef isn’t good for you? – See more at:

  30. Thanks Jana for posting Jane’s post. My family and I have first hand experience with the wonderful blessings of the word-of-wisdom diet. We have eaten primarily whole-food-plant-based for many years. I love that all diets and nutritional science can be measured against the Lord’s law of health. Fortunately we are each free to do the measuring ourselves. I find the science behind a plant-based-whole-food diet to be very compelling. I see much encouragement for this way of eating in The Word of Wisdom also. Of course nearly all of our ward and other friends do not choose to eat this way. I am happy to report mutual resect and love between us. Thankfully we are all so much more than how we eat.

  31. Having eaten a whole foods plant based diet for many years now, I have heard all sorts of refutations and arguments regarding this way of eating. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It is interesting however, when people jump to conclusions about someone’s beliefs before doing serious research. There is a a lot of false information out there, but a careful study of scripture and science can help us understand how the Lord would have us treat our bodies (and eat). He created our bodies, and he obviously knows what we need to eat to be healthy. That is a big part of our experience here on earth – learning to overcome the natural man. That is why He gave us the Word of Wisdom in the first place. But like any other gospel principle, it is up to us to gain our own personal testimony of said principle, and do our best to follow it. This testimony only comes after prayerful study and logical thinking. I have prayerfully studied the Word of Wisdom and know for a fact that the healthiest way to eat is NOT by following the standard American diet. It may be hard for many people to face the fact that meat, eggs, and dairy are detrimental to our health, especially when these are things they have been taught to eat their whole lives. Humility is always needed to follow the counsel of the Lord, no matter what the principle is. No, its not a commandment to be vegan, but if the Lord commanded us in all things we would never be able to grow and learn , but the Lord can and does make suggestions for us, and if we follow them we are blessed. In this case, we are blessed with healthier bodies. If someone is seriously debating whether or not we should be eating a whole foods, plant-based diet please carefully and prayerfully study section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. I am so grateful for the Word of Wisdom and people in my life that have helped me come to understand it better, especially Jane Birch. P.S. – it’s pretty silly to argue against a whole foods, plant-based diet when there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that supports it. GO DO YOUR RESEARCH.

  32. I am a Mormon male who embraced vegetarianism over two years ago. It is baffling at times that some of my peers think of my diet as some kind of crazy, alternative, hippy diet. Recently a young nurse asked me, “If you’re a vegetarian, where do you get your protein?” I so badly wanted to respond, “If you’re a medical professional, where do you get your science?”

    But of course I didn’t, because as a Mormon, I am also passive aggressive. 🙂

  33. Sorry to say dear, but the Lord never said in the scriptures for us to stop eating meat — He said, however, to eat with moderation.

  34. Dave, I appreciate your comment so much. Perfectly said. Thank you!

  35. I agree with the overall point in this article. As Latter-day Saints, we are given a wonderful blessing through the Word of Wisdom in its entirety. Too often we focus on the negative, and do not promote the positive.

    However, I hesitate to share this article with my friends who struggle with weight because I felt it was very insensitive to use the phrase, “Fatter-Day Saints.” The article would have been a lot better without stooping to that level.

  36. Fatter-day Saints… That’s a funny quip! The whole obesity problem in the mormon culture is an interesting phenomenon. I would say that it comes down to one thing. SUGAR! Stemming from excess use of candy and soda. Willie Wonka put it beautifully, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”. And since alcohol is on the no-no list the saints indulge in the first. When people experience disappointment, rejection, co-dependency and other negative emotions, they deal with it in one way another. Many indulge in alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and others obsessive eating, usually involving copious amounts of sugar.

  37. I think it’s silly to let a church tell you what to eat. Be true to yourself and live to the best of your ability. Who really cares what the word of wisdom says, as long as you are true and honest to you. Every body needs something different.

  38. Greetings from the Land of Aus !

    As a non-Mormon reader who has read all of your comments, I agree with Dave (11.02.2014) that “we need to care for our bodies and follow the spirit in doing so”. And that it is important that “We must not become like the Pharisees, looking to expand the letter of the law, rather than seeking to understand the spirit of it”.

    Several of your commenter’s have mentioned that an excessive sugar and chocolate intake is particularly dangerous for health, and I agree. It is amazing that over my lifetime, that sugary treats and drinks etc are now thrust upon us by our supermarket chains, and that the size of these has increased markedly. I sometimes eat more of these than I intend (I do enjoy them as a treat), but purposely do not go down the soft-drinks and chocolates isles, so that I will not be tempted. Nor will I look at these things thrust under our noses at the checkout.

    I suspect that it is our overconsumption of sugar, and lack of exercise, which drives the obesity syndrome. To overcome this, we should walk to the local shops, carry our shopping home, and enjoy fruit and Adam’s Ale (H2O) as often as possible, at work and at play. We only need to take a look at ourselves as captured on film during WW2. Most people had to rely on public transport to get to an from work, then work hard physically, and then stand on crowded trains to get home, and THEN walk or cycle home from the station.

    At that time, also, most people had to run up and down quite a few flights of stairs per day, rather than catching lifts, which were too slow for them. And when they got home they would perhaps tend to their vegetable patch before dinner. And then wash up by hand. Often times also, they would have to chop wood to heat the water for bathing, and this carried to the bathroom. No one needed to go to the gym to get fit then !

    My mother loved to bake cakes and to prepare sweet puddings for us. There can be no doubt that we had some sugar there, but lemonade was a luxury, and reserved for special occasions or when we were sick. In any case, the glass bottles were too heavy to carry often by hand, and we recycled them by carrying them back to the shop, empty. Mum washed and wrung out the washing by hand; it was 1953 before we had a single-tub washing machine, and our second power-point installed.

    That luxury would be sneered at today as totally insufficient, but our health was good, generally, until we worked ourselves to death, which came anytime between 60 and 75 years for most people. We might live longer now, but we exist less healthily, and extend our lives though medical interventions undreamed of then. I am now approaching what was the usual limit, so thus appreciate the following quote:

    “I, even I, who you call your leader, am no better than you yourselves are. I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; for I am also of the dust. I have been suffered to spend my days in your service. I have not done these things that I might boast; I tell you these things that you may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God, this day. For when you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God. All God requires of you is to keep the commandments of Love. So render all your thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess: live in peace, one with another (Mosiah 2.11-26).”

    Now I admit to having changed a couple of words in this quote, which makes its application more “Universal”. I trust that my changes do not disrespect God, since God is “Love”, and the “Ultimate Creator of All that Is”, including “us”, as infinitely varied as we are, and may be, in sickness and in health etc.

    It is when we remember this leveling statement of fact (not one of us stands above another) that we are humbled, and brought to an appreciation of life, and love, itself, and eat and work accordingly. We can then “give thanks” for all that life has brought us, and live on (lovingly) accordingly.

    This is the Good News Gospel: May God’s grace be with you – all.


    PS: And I agree with Jane, Opal and Tori that a cause of obesity, if it’s not poverty (or other factors), is a lack of self-esteem. Yes, Fran, we are all different, and look different, for different reasons. And it is most important that we love and accept each other, both where, and how, we are.

    We’ve all gotten to this point through the society in which we live; most self esteem issues come from the judgmental attitudes imposed on us by others. That bad attitude has to go, before healthy attitudes can be encouraged. We are called to help, encourage, and comfort. Lest we forget !

  39. The grains your grandfathers ate are not the grains of today!! People are not fat because of fat but because they overload on sugar….in bread, cereal, sugar, sweets, drinks. Meat is necessary…good grass-feed meat! Vegetarianism is old school and read “Grain Brain” for a real education.

  40. Hmmm… the obesity fact is not surprising at all. also huge overuse of antidepressants by women… also a horrible issue in Mormon culture– not to be critical.
    From my observations of the culture, the stereotypical depressed housewife is not over-exaggerated. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bulk of the statistical contributions to this high number were women.
    Granted, I’m sure diet plays a part, but I am willing to bet that it’s as much as a cultural phenomena as a dietary one.

  41. Just got to say.. a high strung lifestyle takes its toll….

  42. I’d just like to provide a perspective on these comments that say that man is supposed to eat meat so that we don’t get weak and sickly. I’ve eaten a vegetarian, whole-foods-based diet for 28 years, since my mid-teens. I’ve gone through 2 healthy pregnancies and given birth to 2 healthy kids, pursued a career that requires a lot of high-energy brainwork, and I am an amateur endurance athlete who posts competitive speeds. All on leaves, roots, fruits, and nuts. I recognize that every body has its own needs, but please don’t dismiss the whole idea based on the human body’s fitness for plant foods, particularly when there is certainly a psychosomatic component to any kind of dietary restraint.

  43. Can someone please explain to me how tea and coffee are harmful? We, as apostates, get to deal with constant judgement and intervention from family because we now drink coffee, while the rest of our family is overweight and gulps sugary softdrinks on a daily basis. Not only does it come across as judgemental, it’s scientifically baseless.

  44. Actually, he doesn’t say eat it in moderation. He says “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” and then he says “And these hath God made for the use of man ONLY IN TIMES OF FAMINE and excess of hunger.” People just like to skip that part 🙂 which is fine because it’s not what we as a church need to focus on- everyone is entitled to getting their own revelation about it. I’ve never been in a famine and even when it’s cold here we can get plenty of healthy foods from the grocery store. Therefore, no excess of hunger. No reason to kill animals. Moderation is an argument that people like to use, but we don’t do things that we think are wrong in moderation- whether that’s premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, R rated movies, abuse, etc.

  45. This is right on Byron. I hardly think I’m going to have a hard time at the pearly gates when I’m trying to explain that I didn’t kill any animals unnecessarily in order to be “moderate.” Nope- I’m extreme and will never kill (or eat) an animal if I don’t have to. I’m usually super relaxed about my plant based diet but it is starting to get frustrating that people keep using the moderation argument that isn’t based on anything.

  46. In reply to the first post by “anonymous”
    It’s actually not against God’s council to be vegetarian. Go ahead and eat meat if you want, but there is no basis in telling those of us who choose not to that we are going against God’s council. I don’t think God is going to be angry at me that I’m not unnecessarily killing animals, that I didn’t meet my quota of death 😉 and I certainly am 100% positive that he has blessed my family because we eat this way. Even if science came out against a plant based diet (which it won’t- science completely supports it) I am so sure that this is how God wants me to eat that I wouldn’t change. I have put so much thought, prayers, research, and have received much inspiration about how to eat that I never question it. Please read this section of a different article to help clarify:

    If you choose to tread a similar path,(being vegetarian) be aware that you will encounter some Latter-day Saints who will ignorantly criticize you because they do not understand Section 49 of the Doctrine and Covenants and try to make it justify their own flesh-eating habits. They forget that this section was given two years before the Word of Wisdom (Section 89) and can’t see that 49:18 is actually a warning to those who would prohibit others from abstaining from eating flesh rather than a condemnation of those who do abstain.

    There is understandable reason for honest confusion on this point. First, there is an error in a footnote in the present edition of the LDS scriptures which suggests that “biddeth” means “forbiddeth.” However, just as “left” surely does not mean “right,” nor does “good” mean “bad,” to “bid” someone does not mean the same as to “forbid” someone. “I bid you to come to my house” is the exact opposite of “I forbid you to come to my house.” The inaccurate footnote prompts us to incorrectly believe that the person who asks another to abstain from meats is not ordained of God. However, the original scripture (which was published for 148 years without that footnote) teaches that he who forbids others to abstain from meats is the one who is not ordained of God. Furthermore, if forbid really meant bid it would alter 49:15 to also condemn “whoso ‘biddeth’ to marry.”

    Another component of the confusion is that some readers believe the clause “that man should not eat the same” is some sort of quotation by an imagined and unidentified vegetarian heretic. I suggest that it is really a modifying clause that clarifies what it means to “abstain from meats.” In other words, the passage could be interpreted, “Whoever forbids others to abstain from meats, “others” being those who believe that humans should not eat animal flesh, is not ordained of God to forbid them.” This is consistent with the context of the rest of the section that instructed a non-LDS, Shaker community how it might modify its beliefs to be consistent with Mormon theology. On some points Shaker and LDS doctrine were poles apart, but on the this point Joseph Smith seems to have been telling the vegetarian Shakers that they would not be compelled by LDS leaders to eat meat if they were to convert to Mormonism.

    The whole article can be found at and I highly recommend reading it.

  47. It’s the word of wisdom that is failing mormons, and I would add so is the mormon church. Tea and coffee are bad, but sugar drinks with or without caffeine are just fine. I was sorry to give up tea for the church (thankfully, I have resigned). I can drink tea, hot or cold, without sugar. I noticed that when I was stressed out at work it was off to the soda and snack machine. How many mormons are stressed out with 2, 3 or more callings at church? Is sitting for 3 hours in church every Sunday good for a person? How many mormons forbid their children to play on Sundays? Could members 10% be used to buy healthier food instead of giving it to the mormon church so it can buy shopping malls and cattle ranches?

    How many inactive members would attend church if it was just one hour, could volunteer instead of being given callings, a peaceful environment with an up lifting talk, and not just the usually pay-pray-obey-you’re-never-good-enough-or-doing-enough talk? No wonder Utah has the highest use of anti-depressants and members are leaving in droves.

  48. I have a few things I would like to say in response to Jane’s post- not to argue but to share my experience with this particular view of the WoW.

    I was raised as a vegetarian/vegan most of my life, my mother is still a staunch vegan, but I have left the “whole food plant based diet” for one that has greater balance. As a vegetarian I suffered from chronic back and knee pain, excruciatingly painful menses, and chronic acne. We didn’t eat a lot of vegetarian junk foods either, everything was home made and based off of whole foods. Lots of grains and beans provided the bulk of our diet and we only ate organic produce. Yet I STILL had those health problems.

    When I went on my mission I left vegetarianism and ate what people served me. For the first time in my life I felt like I had energy. My menses became less painful, my back pain started to clear (I still suffer from back pain, more on that later) and my acne began to clear. When I came home I returned briefly to being a vegetarian, but suffered from drastic muscle loss and intense depression (this was also due to coming from a tropical area to a winter waste land and developing a vitamin d deficiency). When I began eating animals again some of my symptoms cleared. It took me a year to realize that I needed additional vitamin D supplememtation during the winter to stave off the winter blues. A vegetarian/vegan diet is notoriously deficient in preformed fat based vitamins like A and D.

    After I was married we began trying for a baby. After two miscarriages and learning that my husband had an autoimmune condition we made some serious dietary changes- eating whole fat foods, cutting back on excessive fiber supplementation (no more Allbran for breakfast) and sourcing our meat from local farmers. Only after making those changes was I able to maintain a pregnancy. Then while I was pregnant I learned some nasty things about the long term effects of vegetarianism.

    I had awful carpal tunnel during my pregnancy- my mother has mild CTS during her pregnancies, but mine was so bad that I had to wear braces on my wrists day and night, I couldn’t close my hand more than half way without being in crippling pain, and I couldn’t write or hold a pen. I had to start my own personal vitamin regimen- I ditched the prenatal vitamins and supplemented with my own mix of b-vitamins, A&D mix, magnesium and high doses of B6 and B12 (in addition to the b-complex). My extreme B vitamin deficiency was due to my many years of vegetarian/veganism and never getting the b-vitamins that I needed.

    I also discovered that my unusually long lasting morning sickness was caused by eating starchy foods- namely grains, beans and tubers. I had to cut them out of my diet entirely, which left me horribly confused as to what to eat. This is when I started to learn about the Paleo/primal diets. Once I made the change I felt enormously better. And contrary to what you have implied here a paleo diet is not all meat. I (and most people who actively follow the paleo/primal lifestyle) did not gorge myself on meat every day. In fact when I told my mother that I had never eaten so many vegetables and fruits on a daily basis she got rather insulted. And in spite of my increased meat consumption my weight gain was slow and perfect- 8 lbs my first trimester, 10 my second. Then in my third trimester our budget had to be tightened and I had to start incorporating starches back in to our diet. In my third trimester I gained almost 50 pounds. That was a bitter pill to swallow. My blood pressure also started to rise and my feet swelled up like balloons. This happened within days of beginning to eat starches again.

    While I was pregnant my back pain almost entirely disappeared even at the end of my pregnancy when I was carrying an almost 9 lb baby inside of me. After my son was born it stayed away till I let my husband do the grocery shopping one week and he came home with 7 days worth of pasta meals. Within the course of that week my back pain returned with a crippling vengeance and my son began showing digestive problems. Unknown to me I had suffered from a gluten sensitivity for years- the cause of my chronic pain and acne. We had never suspected that gluten was the source of my problems, after all the WoW says that wheat is for man, right?

    Fast forward to the present. After 2.5 years we’ve finally begun to incorporate grains and beans back into our diet. We have started eating Kamut and making bread out of this ancient form of wheat. We handle it much better than anything else so far. We eat few processed foods and I make almost everything at home, including our yogurt and kefir.

    Interpreting the Word of Wisdom through the lens of a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is fine on a personal level but to claim that it is the universal interpretation is setting some people up for drastic health issues. I believe it is possible to follow the WoW and still eat meat according to need. Nephi and his family ate raw meat in the wilderness and yet the one thing he choose to mention about that was how strong their women were, how easily they bore children, and how strong their milk supplies were. It seems to me that there is more behind meat consumption than we currently know.

  49. Everyone can choose what to eat. You have to choose what is best for your body and follow what feels good. I eat no sugar, no chocolate, and no meat because for me that feels good. I got tired of eating meat and desserts on my mission and felt more healthy eating what I chose instead of what was given to me to eat.

    I ran marathons and still had high cholesterol. Then I turned to a plant based diet. No more butter and cheese and ice cream. My blood work showed I was 50 points lower in my cholesterol and others numbers were better. I exercise daily and people think I’m weird that I eat kale for breakfast, but so what. That’s the beauty of free agency.

  50. Hmmm, interesting arguments. However, I wonder if what really makes Mormons fatter than the rest, isn’t because we aren’t living the Word of Wisdom well, but because we are too focused on carbs, which really add to our waistlines. Let’s face it, being a vegetarian may be a healthy way to go, but it isn’t realistic for most people. So, Mormons are eating meat and a bunch of carbs–bad combination. In my opinion, if we as a people at more of of low-carb lifestyle we’d be much better off and much trimmer.

  51. This post either intentionally or unintentionally avoided the verses where the Lord stated that animals were “ordained for the use of man FOR FOOD and for raiment” (D&C 49:18). That should end the argument of whether or not I CAN eat meat. It does not mean that everyone HAS to eat meat. So those who like it, fine. Those that don’t fine. Both sides need to quit being so critical of anyone that is not like themselves.
    When it comes eating habits, people use scriptures to prove their point (either for or against) often ignore other scriptures or take them out of context. I know the argument that the revelation was received before the Word of Wisdom. However, the leaders of the Church recently approved a revision of the Chapter Headings. The Heading to Section 49 says, “The eating of meat is approved.” That is the 2014 stand of the leadership of the Church. They are not saying we should eat only meat or going to the other extremes available. I don’t agree with the phrase, “Moderation in ALL things.” It is not moderation in all things, but lets stop putting words in the Lord’s mouth.
    It was said above that all bodies are different and require different diets. The Lord has left it to us to figure out what is best for us and expects us to do it. We are expected to take care of our bodies. Not everyone does it, but to use the fact that someone does not follow the tenets of the religion as evidence that the religion itself is faulty or flawed is simply bad logic. The purpose of religion is to help those that are not perfect to improve.

  52. Steve, I am sorry that your family criticizes you for drinking tea and coffee. That is unfortunate. I grew up active in the church, but my father chose to drink alcohol among other things. He and I have always had a super strong relationship. I recognize that his choices are his, and mine are mine, but my relationship with him was more important to me than anything else. Having said that, there were times when I talked with him about coming to church and leaving the alcohol and tobacco. He knew that I did it out of concern, but I also knew that to harp on it or make it the focus of our relationship would only do damage. I really am sorry that it seems like there are those in your family that have made your choice of drinks as the focus of your relationship. For what it is worth… I will still eat breakfast with you and we could talk about something other than what is in your cup! 🙂

    It might help you in your relationships with your family to remember that they are not approaching coffee and tea because they are worried about your health. Latter-day Saints don’t drink coffee and tea because of health issues or because of caffeine. It is a faith thing. Latter-day Saints have faith that prophets have asked us not to drink them and that is why we abstain. Any discussion about science or monster drinks completely misses the point.

  53. Jane, the problem with science is how often it changes. I appreciate the value of science, but I also recognize that it is always changing. Help me… is butter good for us this year, or has the science changed on that again. I don’t mean to sound condescending, but unfortunately, the tone of this article has set the stage for just that type of communication. I have a PhD, and so I would like to offer a “peer review” of sorts on the research–or lack of it–in this article.
    As a researcher of Latter-day Saint dietary theology, you are aware that the Lord has said that meat is ordained for “the use of man for FOOD.” You should also be aware of the fact that the leaders of the Church just recently edited the chapter and section headings in all of the scripture and the phrase “The eating of meat is approved” was left in the section heading for D&C 49. Your article completely ignores these two points. That is either because you wanted to leave them out or you failed to look deep enough into the materials to identify them. Either way, this is not the kind of scholarship that would qualify as decent qualitative research. As such, your appeal to science is completely invalid because I am left to assume that you have been just as selective in the research you have chosen to site. Your one-sided approach to this topic has actually reduced your authority because it looks like you are more concerned with selling a book than you are providing good research.
    On a side note, your approach to this topic has been nothing but divisive and controversial. How can we build up Zion if all we do is argue and bicker about things the prophets and apostles are not worried enough about to give us direct guidance. Maybe there are more unifying ways that we could discuss this topic. Divisive, one-sided arguments will never move anyone to improve. All it will do is divide. Division only accomplishes the efforts of Satan. When ward members are so mad that they will not go to ward meetings because they have “scientific proof” from your blog as evidence that what they are doing is right.

    I am sure that you can find ways to unify and uplift with your research. I don’t doubt the benefits of a plant-based diet, especially for some individuals. I don’t doubt the fact that we eat too much. Americans in general have that problem.

  54. Mormon Mom, I am really sorry that you feel like you have been so poorly treated in your ward. And every ward (and every religion) has that person that would send such an email. It is unfortunate, but it is not something that is unique to our LDS culture or religion.
    However, it seems like you have allowed these experiences to justify doing to others exactly what others have done to you. You feel judged because you have chosen to exclude meat from your diet. I feel like you are being critical of me for eating meat. I understand that you interpret D&C 89 to say you should never eat meat, but I have NEVER in my life heard that come from a Prophet or Apostle. There are other scriptures that suggest the very opposite.
    Now, I think it is great that you have found a diet that works for you and your family. When you start interpreting scripture for me and my family and start accusing me of breaking the Word of Wisdom you have become that person that sent you that email. Maybe you are not sending it directly to me, but you sent it through your post.
    We should be healthy. We should moderate what and how much we eat. But these are personal choices. The prophets have declared what is a violation of the Word of Wisdom to the point of excluding me from a temple recommend. Anything over that is none of my business with regards to anyone else but me and my family.
    You should not feel offended when others don’t recognize exactly how your family eats. Not going to ward functions because you feel like you have to tiptoe is silly, unless you feel like people are bringing those roasts and hams intentionally to exclude you. The reality is that they are bringing them because that is what they enjoy eating. Sometimes people offend, more often than not we just get offended when no offense was intended.
    Can’t we all just get along! How will we ever build up Zion if we can’t even get along because of personal preferences in diet?

  55. Eating healthy is part of the equation, and as all the comments above expand on, there are more than just a few ways to skin that cat (none of which include an American volume of sugary, liquid, empty calories). May I posit that a regular regimen of mountain biking would not only be supported by Joseph Smith, but will also reduce obesity and depression?

    Mormons for trailbuilding!

  56. I feel like it’s unfortunate that the tone of your article is not ”here are some choices that I’ve made and how they have blessed me.” But rather, ” the rest of you are flunking sainthood because you aren’t doing what I do.” I’m reminded of President Uchtdorf commenting on the bumper sticker ” don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do.” You can share your beliefs without questioning the actions and faithfulness of your fellow saints

  57. Amen! I stopped eating meat & dairy a year ago and could not agree more with your comments “Mormon Mom” and this article. I feel like I’m the only one in the church who eats like this. I feel like when people find out that I eat this way and that I believe I am following the Word of Wisdom, they feel judged or looked down on, when that is not how I feel at all! I don’t care what choices others make. This is simply the choice I have made based on my understanding of the Word of Wisdom, my own personal revelation, and the incredible health benefits I have seen in the life of my own family after eating this way after a year (I started a blog chronicling our journey:

  58. Correct! As the world goes, generally so does the Church. As our general population has gained weight, so have Church members. Members tend to self-medicate with food, too, and sugar and carbs are quite addictive. Our bodies do need meat; it has never been completely forbidden and we have the teeth to eat it! Fresh, unprocessed foods are what we need to turn to, with meat in moderation. Sugar and carbs are the culprits in weight problems, cholesterol, and the accompanying health problems.

  59. Dan K., I fear your cardiologist neglected to inform you that >90% atherosclerosis does not develop over 28 months. Just like your diabetes, your coronary artery disease develops over decades. Your “clear” arteries ten years previously do not sound that “clear” if a CLOT gave you a major heart attack!? There is some real science and basic pathophysiology missing from your logic. Just to be clear, a diet high in saturated fats (predominant source here is animal products!) is undeniably associated with atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

    Regardless of the gains (of which there are many) from plant-based diets, we shouldn’t have to justify vegetarianism for its health benefits! It is a moral/religious/spiritual issue before a law of health. The violence involved in killing innocent life should be avoided at all costs until we absolutely need the meat for food to save us from hunger!

    The WOW clearly states that God is pleased when we don’t eat meat, and that we only eat it to save our lives (from hunger). Why? One can suppose a few reasons: eating meat means harming, inflicting suffering, killing innocent animals. God doesn’t like those things! Hyrum M. Smith said, “To kill, when not necessary, is a sin akin to murder.” God has given man dominion over this earth and the animals that inhabit it. Unfortunately, “we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C121:39) Joseph Smith taught, “I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kidn during my journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” (DHC 2:71) Brigham Young taught that our treatment of animals is connected to the ushering in of the millenium and universal peace, “But when man becomes their true friend, they will learn to love and not to fear him. The Spirit of the Lord which will rest upon man will also be given to the animal creation–man will not hurt nor destroy, not even tigers and lions and wolves and snakes, and they will not harm him–and universal peace will prevail.” (JI 24 December 1, 1889:548-549) Lorenzo Snow said he “thought the time was near at hand when the Latter-day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and the shedding of animal blood.” (JH, Nov 3, 1897).

    Unfortunately, our LDS, inc. is so heavily invested in beef (a hugely controversial issue brought up in comments multiple times, but largely ignored) that their inspiration is clouded. Joseph F. Smith called killing animals an abomination, “In relation to shedding blood and to destruction of life…It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is abominable, in my opinion. I think this principle should extend, not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals.” He again, “I never could see why a man should be imbued with a bloodthirsty desire to kill, and destroy animal life.” (JI May 1913:308-309) This is unlikely to be preached from today’s pulpit when the President of the Church was away on a hunting trip the same week his child was born, and speaks openly about enjoying his time out hunting/killing animals.

    How many who eat meat have ever killed their own meat? We are so disconnected from our meat these days. We assume it grows boneless, skinless, shrinkwrapped and ready to grill. It is a messy, bloody, daunting task to kill, skin, disembowel, and prepare flesh to be eaten. This is not the case, and any who have taken life are almost always conflicted in doing so. I believe this is such a controversial issue with Mormons because when we actually start thinking of the consequences of our actions and the doctrine behind killing, it is hard to bear that responsibility. It is hard to justify factory farms and the complete disrespect and cruelty inflected upon God’s creations that are put in our care.

    I challenge all to discuss this issue with God. Ask Him if He is pleased the way His creations are being raised, abused, killed, and consumed.

  60. 1 Tim 4:3. You know you’re on weak ground when you have to start massaging the plain language of scripture to fit your agenda.

  61. Excess of hunger doesn’t mean hunger from famine. It means what it means an excess of hunger. Demanding physical labor requires more meat than a sedentary life. Men require more meat than women. Take a look at your teeth some time. You are designed to eat meat. That’s what those canines are for.

  62. 1 Tim 4:1-3 also has some pretty harsh things to say about people commanding to abstain from meats. Paul prophesies this teaching will be an apostasy in the latter days and those who subscribe to it have departed from the faith, have given heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils and are speaking lies in hypocrisy.

  63. FRGough: Not sure what you are trying to say here, but it is absolutely an illogical conclusion to say that excess of hunger means hunger after a workout, or “man” hunger!? Men do not “require” more meat. This is not sound logic or sound science. I am certain the pioneers and people of the frontier lived lives rife with “demanding physical labor,” yet God revealed his modern day precedent for eating meat “sparingly.”

    Still, if there is argument for meat for one gender, it is actually for women, who because of regular blood loss are more prone to iron-deficiency anemia and meat is one of the most easily absorbed sources of iron. There is no shortage of protein in the American diet, in fact, the average American eats roughly twice the amount of protein recommended in a day (which has been shown in many large trials to contribute to many of the various cancers that ail developed nations).

    Using teeth to try explain gospel doctrine also lacks any relevance. Birds of prey eat meat, have you examined their teeth recently? Also, our teeth are consistent with teeth of omnivorous, or scavenger-type, animals who mostly eat plant based diets but are able to eat meat in a bind–such as times of famine or in excess of hunger.

  64. FRGough: 1 Tim 4 states we should receive meat in thanksgiving! What thanksgiving do we show when we consume mass produced factory farmed animals? It is estimated that 70-80% of poultry consumed in developed nations are factory farmed, many never seeing daylight, beaks burned off, and pumped full of artificial feed. 80 million of the 95 million pigs slaughtered every year in the US after living a life in overcrowded close quarters, sleeping in their own excrement, pumped full of antibiotics and often times gruesomely killed. I cannot accept that this is how God intended us to “receive in thanksgiving.” This is not appropriately exercising our stewardship. In fact, for us to sit idly by is unacceptable. As Christians, as Mormons, we have an obligation to demand respect for all of God’s creatures! We are culpable if we don’t speak out, and I would argue sinners when we consume this type of meat.

    1 Tim 4 also states we should “refuse profane and old wives fables,” which is what you are trying to sell by stating men need meat, more than women, and that meat consumption is in some way pleasing to Father in Heaven. I don’t buy the fables. I will say again, I challenge all who approve of eating meat to raise, kill, bloodlet, skin, disembowel, and butcher their next meal. Your conscience may just be pricked enough to persuade you on a different path. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The fruits of meat consumption are increased antibiotic resistance, massive clearing of rainforest, environmental pollutants (18-20% of greenhouse emissions), ischemic heart disease, measles, pertussis, water pollution to name a few…To kill an animal, a fellow creature sharing this Earth, for merely the sake of enjoying its taste, or “nutritional” benefits, when there is alternative means of thriving is not justified, and in my mind is not God’s way.

  65. In the medical world, we call this anecdote at best. There is no statistically significant evidence to support these claims that vegetarianism or gluten causes carpal tunnel syndrome, fatigue, miscarriage, hypertension, preeclampsia among other assumptions listed here. I’m happy you found a diet that works for you but that does not mean it is science, and it certainly is not founded in the doctrine of the word of wisdom which endorses wheat, no meat and a plant based diet. Also, I believe Nephi is mentioning the strength of the women IN SPITE of eating only raw meat, to magnify God’s hand in watching over their family during hard times, not in celebrating the partaking of meat.

  66. Everyone may obtain salvation based on the sphere of their understanding. That means we are going to understand the same Gospel principles a little differently. As long as we act accordingly, attempting a solid relationship in Christ and letting the Spirit guide us, we can live a life we can be proud of when judgement comes. This is also why we shouldn’t judge others by our own sphere of understanding. Theirs may be different. For you to be a vegetarian is alright. I’ll eat my bacon and eggs and that’s alright too. But the scriptures are clear, man is not to teach to abstain from meats and they are there for our nurishment. So I won’t tell you to eat meat if you don’t tell me to avoid it.

  67. The only thing to consider, is why our leaders feel it is okay, to serve mammon and not the written word? I am also flunking the word of wisdom with regards to meat intake, but I don’t make excuses for it! It clearly says in the scriptures that we should massively reduce our meat intake, which is shown in some of the other comments. I haven’t seen any scripture saying the opposite only comments that says, they are there.

  68. Maybe because they are not perfect and in this particular case, held mammon higher than scripture? I am also flunking the word of wisdom with regards to meat intake, but I don’t make excuses for it! It clearly says in the scriptures that we should massively reduce our meat intake, which is shown in some of the other comments. I haven’t seen any scripture saying the opposite only comments that says, they are there.

  69. The only thing to consider, is why our leaders feel it is okay, to serve mammon and not the written word? I am also flunking the word of wisdom with regards to meat intake, but I don’t make excuses for it! It clearly says in the scriptures that we should massively reduce our meat intake, which is shown in some of the other comments. I haven’t seen any scripture saying the opposite only comments that says, they are there. – See more at:

  70. Actually, there is scientific evidence to back up this woman’s experience. Additionally, the pro vegetarian scientific research is nearly always done with observational studies that assume causation and massage the numbers to achieve a pro vegetarian result.

    I highly recommend Denise Minger’s book:

    It explains the politics behind the bad science that has brought us to the pro grain, anti fat nutritional situation we are in today. I too have seen dramatic health improvements by cutting out grains and eating mostly veggies with plenty of saturated fat and some good meat. My near chronic sinus infections ceased after 5 years of battling them, my acid reflux went away, my depression improved, and even though I’m not overweight, little places where fat had accumulated, like my muffin tops on my waist, went away. And every time I cave in to reading these problem foods, these health problems come right back.

    Also look up the movies “Fat Head” and “Cereal Killers”. There was also a Ted talk … this one:
    From a surgeon questioning our conventional beliefs about diabetes.

  71. Lest anyone read “Dr.” Drew’s scare tactics and believe them, I want to assure you that if you don’t eat meat you will not die or whatever ill he is insinuating. We live in an age of supplemented food. Cobalamin, or B12, is in much of our fortified foods, particularly in milk substitutes. What a blessing our modern age has this ability to accommodate various lifestyles through supplements (although they are not the optimal source for essential vitamins and minerals). Pernicious anema, or severe/pathologic B12 deficiency, is almost nonexistent in Western society (unless you have some malabsorptive disorder). Or perhaps B12 supplementation was invented by the DEVIL?! Maybe to encourage evil vegetarianism and veganism!!
    Regardless, animals are not a natural source for B12. It is found in animal products just as it is in Silk Soymilk, but it is only produced by bacteria. Directly or indirectly, that is the only natural source of B12. There are many vegans that maintain adequate B12 intake through nutritional yeast, a complete protein that is tasty, low fat and fun to eat.

  72. The W of W does not instruct anyone not to eat meat. Sparingly is the instruction. not only if there is no other food available.For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly (see D&C 89:12). Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God” (D&C 49:18), (Boyd K Packer
    April 1996 conference).
    All of us are sinners in some degree or another. If we were not, then there would be no need for the sacrament or christ’s atonement. Don’t let others peoples interpretations spoil the great good you are doing in following The W of W. Everyone understands at different speeds and levels. All any of us can do is our best at obeying all the commandments, then jesus Christ’s Atonement will come into play. May Heavenly Father bless you and your family.

  73. Does this book offer advice and instruction on how to live the WofW and not just tell you why you should? I am looking for some how to and direction. I have known for a long time that meat consumption in my family needs to be reduced significantly but am struggling with how to do it and what to replace it with since it’s such a big source of protein. Are there any other resources, books, blogs, articles etc you can point me to for great education?

  74. Dear Lindsay Mellen:

    Yes, my book (Discovering the Word of Wisdom) does offer advice for both understanding and following the counsel in D&C 89, but you can get all you really need free on-line by researching a whole food, plant-based diet. Here are some resources:

    Whole food, plant-based diet guidelines:

    Whole food, plant-based diet resources:

    Whole food, plant-based diet recipes:

    If you have further questions, feel free to contact me at:

    I know the Lord is pleased when we search for greater knowledge concerning the Word of Wisdom and that He is eager to help us. I am finding there are many Latter-day Saints who are being led to the Word of Wisdom in answer to sincere prayer. You can find of their stories on my website:

    Best wishes!!

  75. Meat is not the reason we are getting sick and fat…processed foods only are to blame. If we all truly ate whole diets then processed grains, sugar, and vegetable oils would all be out…and those are the things making us sick and fat. Eating whole, even including meat, is the best way to eat. Try it and you’ll see why.

  76. I am sorry that you feel that way at ward activities. I have lived in a couple of different wards where there were several vegetarians. When planning activities and assigning food, we always had vegetarian options…in great abundance, actually. It was fun for those of us who still do eat meat (albeit sparingly) to try some new things. Maybe, instead of being constantly disappointed, you could ask for something like this. In any case, I am sure the activities leader in charge of your next event would love for you to help out by bringing such a dish to share!

  77. Of course not eating meat is no sin. Telling others to abstain or that eating it is wrong is where the problem lies. And I daresay that anyone who tells you that not eating meat is wrong, is also in error. Everything on this earth was created for the use of man…to be used with wisdom and thanksgiving. However, if wisdom tells you that you feel better eating no meat, then so be it. If wisdom tells me, I am chronically anemic if I don’t eat meat fairly regularly, then so be it. It is for us to figure out, individually, using the word of wisdom as a guide. I really think that condemning each other is the problem. I applaud your plant-based diet! And I will continue to be very comfortable in my decision to eat a little meat for my own health!

  78. Please see D&C 49:18
    And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

  79. You are incorrect. Tithing money is not used for these church farms. They are self-sustaining and fall under the taxable portion of the church presided over by the Presiding Bishop. In fact, many of the church’s operational costs are under the taxable part of the church. This reorganization of finances and what is paid for with tithes has been happening quietly for years. My mom works for the church and her entire department was moved from being sustained by investments and tithing funds to completely being funded by the taxable side of the house. These cattle ranches not only are self-sustaining, but the proceeds go into a pot that finances many operational aspects of the church.

  80. Vic- you literally have no research to back up your position. None. All of the meat free lifestyles is simply not supported by ANY research. Just do a simple search to determine what are the most NUTRIENT dense foods on earth. You’ll be surprised. I’m all for people to eat the way they want, no problems there. But it’s simply factually untrue that a diet w/o Eggs, grass meats, seafood is better than including those foods as part of one’s diet. Common people, this is the 21st century, not the 20th century.

  81. Jane- Guys like Joel Furhman have been scientifically debunkt. I guess that means you too. (Let’s put religion on the side for a second.) When we look at true peer reviewed science, you couldn’t be more incorrect. Grass fed meats and wild seafood are some of the most nutrient dense foods on earth. I know that’s not easy to hear but I’d be happy to send you research upon research. But for a start, why not listen to Matt Lalond’s examination of the most nutrient dense foods and go from there. Simply follow the data. I can cite chapter and verse of this stuff, but all you really need to do is keep up with the latest information. I respect anyone’s choice in what they want to eat (be it based in religion, humane reasons, etc.), but simply don’t enjoy it when people attempt o support their position with empirical data when the data doesnt support their position. You’re relying on old science (which as we now know, wasn’t based on science.) I was hoodwinked just like you. But many of us have awaken.

  82. “but being vegetarian is actually against God’s counsel” is one of the most ignorant statements I’ve ever read. I’ve abstained from eating meat (animal flesh) for over 25 years, and I’m healthy of spirit, mind, and body — much more so than my meat eating cohorts. The human body does not require meat. And just because your body craves something, sugar as an example, does not mean that its healthy.

  83. At the Infusion center where I worked, we saw a significant number of patients for Iron infusions– most of which were female vegetarians. It is rather difficult to get the amount of iron the body needs on a strict Vegan diet. My daughter had significant hair loss while on a Vegan diet. She is doing much better now that she follows a Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian diet. Also significant, strict female Vegans have irregular menstrual cycles.

  84. Hi Jane! Great article. I think you are right on about the word of wisdom. A couple of caveats might be in order about the stats Jana provided on overweight Mormons. It appears that the study she cited compared Mormons in Utah, with non-Mormons in Utah–not to “other Americans” (which category would likely be too broad to be meaningful anyway). I haven’t read the original study, but from the article she cites it is also unclear whether potential confounds such as location and ethnicity were accounted for. For example, rural Utahns are probably more likely to be Mormon than urban Utahns. And Utahns with European or Polynesian ancestries are probably more likely to be Mormon than Utahns with Hispanic, Latino, or Native American ancestries. These confounds (unless controlled for in the study) might be enough to account for the “14% more likely to be obese” statistic (which, according to the article Jana cited, actually represents an improvement since the 90s). So, the picture might not be so bleak for Mormons after all. Mormons might be following the word of wisdom pretty well given their cultural origins and regional peculiarities.

  85. People can be vegetarian and stay very healthy. And if limited dairy and eggs are part of the diet, you get everything you need without eating meat at all. So don’t tell people that being a vegetarian is bad. It is not. At the same time vegetarians should not harp so much on people that eat meat. The key to any diet is moderation. And yes we do eat way too much meat. But then again, we eat too much period.

  86. in the word of wisdom the lord says that meat is ordained for the use of man… he then narrows that to meat should be eaten sparngly

    he then narrows that further to it should be eaten only in times of winter or cold

    the lord then narrows the use of meat even further and says it should only be eaten in times of famine or excess of hunger

    given the situation most of us find ourselves in, it appears, based on this revelation, that we should not be eating meat

    however, i do not believe this includes fish and seafood

    take care

  87. I read up on the scriptures about the Word of Wisdom and wonder why their are no Sunday School lessons on the “entire” subject (just alcohol, drugs and coffee as stated in the article). Why don’t the Prophet and Apostles talk about it in Conference in more depth (though I think some have)? Why do so many members ignore the counsel?

    I then tried to live The whole Word of Wisdom better, but it is very hard to do, especially with children who barely eat anything to begin with. I feel like I have to feed them what they will eat, because, one child in particular, will literally not eat enough food. For a short time his hunger pains were so bad that it would wake him up at night. I feel that if I limit the types of food available for him to eat, he will make himself sick from not eating enough again.

    For my family, I think it comes down to me not knowing how to make whole foods taste good enough for my kids to want to enough.

  88. I wish the church would prohibit sugar, but then their would probably not be very many members left. 😉

  89. THANK You!!! This is so silly. Grains? Has anyone been reading the peer reviewed science of the last 10 years regarding grains and sugars? Common people. Get your head out of the sand. God also gave us a brain.

  90. I hope you found your support… There’s a discovering the word of wisdom support group on facebook. Lots of great resources there!

  91. “But the counsel in the Mormon Word of Wisdom is most needed in our day, as it addresses just those chronic illnesses that have only exploded in the last century!”


    The ONLY reason they’ve exploded is because of all the processed junk food that has become so rampant in the last century. Before that, for thousands and thousands of years, people ate real whole food … plant AND animal foods. Whole raw milk from healthy pasture-raised animals, butter, lard, eggs from pasture-raised hens, etc. were used by our ancestors in abundance. There have never been any vegan societies in the past.

  92. Practically speaking coffee, tea and meat where more expensive. Shouldn’t religion be about God and serving others?

  93. I am a mom of six kids ranging in age from 24 all the way down to 4 and sometimes when I go to church, I feel overwhelmed by all the things that I cannot do simply because I already have too much on my plate. Mormons are notorious for laying on guilt trips in their Sacrament meeting talks and Sunday School lessons, etc. My anti-Mormon brother-in-law, who believes that Mormons are working their way into heaven and therefore Mormonism is hopeless, would have a heyday with this article. Yet one more thing where Mormons are “flunking” (according to you, that is). I know many healthy Latter-day Saints who do not follow the Word of Wisdom as you think it should be followed (based on your go-to “arm of flesh” science). This article really needs to be taken down. The title and tone are so offensive! “Fatter-day Saints”? C’mon Jane! Yes, I see overweight Mormons, but it’s not because they’re eating a traditional whole foods diet. It’s because of all the latter-day junk food and the more sedentary lifestyle of our day.

    Also, I’ve been seeing a lot of YouTube videos lately of people turning away from years of veganism because of a number of different health problems … one being that many vegan women have been losing their periods. I’ve heard the staunch vegans say that their bodies are so “clean” now that they no longer have or need periods. Ummm … NO! A woman’s period is a normal, healthy and natural function and to lose it is NOT healthy, no matter how the vegan community tries to dance around it with their made up philosophies of men.

    I wonder … are our prophets and apostles also “Flunking Sainthood” and “Flunking the Word of Wisdom” if they drink milk and eat eggs and meat? Absolutely ridiculous!

  94. Where did you read anything in this article against milk, eggs and meat? She just points out that, as written in the Word of Wisdom, a lot of meat it’s not healthy. And a diet rich in whole food and plants and grains is. This article is not talking about veganism! And it’s funny to me how people feel upset because they feel their lifestyle and habits are questioned.

  95. Read Jane Birch’s other articles on the Word of Wisdom. She promotes a fully vegan diet … just as do all of the so-called “experts” that she mentions in this article. They call it the “perfect diet” … oh, except that “you MUST take your B12 supplements” because this crucial vitamin is nowhere to be found in this “perfect diet.”

  96. Just as an observation, both Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists emerged about the same year–1830, after the founding of the American Temperance Society (1825). Most people are not aware of the controversies in the 1920s. There were riots between pro and anti-drinking groups, and there were some 80 temperance societies in New York during Joseph Smith’s youth. Historians have noted that Joseph Smith was the last preacher in Ohio to come out against drinking.

    Also, Joseph Smith’s first wife Emma was born in Harmony, Pennsylvania, founded by George Rapp, an anti-tobacco prophet. Further, King James (whose name is on the King James Bible) had banned the use of tobacco in churches and its importation into England. His manifesto is famous–the “Counterblast to Tobacco” (about 1606). Obviously, it didn’t last for long.

    The use of tea and hot drinks was also a matter of controversy, and the famous Samuel Johnson in the 1700s defended it against the Puritans as an “elegant beverage.”

    It must also be mentioned that both Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists were silent about the importance of hand washing during the a delivery of a baby. This silence led to the deaths of untold thousands of women and babies during the first half of the 1800s.

    Abstaining from coffee drinking pales in comparison with no revelation about hand washing. Actually, doctors had good operating skills and they had anesthetics (opium). It was an uphill battle to convince them that infections were caused by micro-organisms. Americans also died by the thousands from Malaria (in North Dakota as late as the 1930s). No religious leader advised their followers to drain the swamp and get rid of mosquitoes.

    Just so you know, I don’t drink or smoke. My 97 year-old aunt said it best: “Everybody in my family who smoked is dead, including my mother.”

  97. I, of course, meant “controversies in the 1820s, not 1920s. Also, Prohibition did NOT begin in the early 1900s, but rather in the 1820s.

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