I was listening to an old episode of the Mormon Vegitarian Podcast and I heard a statement that I thought was quite interesting. A fellow ward member said to the wife of the host of this podcast that she could show in the scriptures how vegetarianism leads to apostasy.
The scripture she quoted was 1 Timothy 4:1-3
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
One of the places I typically go when looking for greater insight on a particular scripture is to the LDS Scripture Citation Index. You can receive incredible insights and clarification from modern prophets on difficult passages of scripture by using this index. And, while what they say is very instructive, it is also very instructive to note what has not been commented on. Verse 3 of the scripture passage above is an example. There is complete silence from the brethren on this verse in regards to the "commanding to abstain from meats" phrase.
Without help from the conference talks, I am left to try and figure this one out through study, pondering, and prayer. Spoiler alert, this is what I came up with, avoid extremism, it can lead to apostasy. Let's look elsewhere in the scriptures for additional insight. You can find a similar statement about eating meat in D&C 49:18-19. As you read this passage, notice how the words "forbid" and "abstain" are used.
18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.
The same words, forbid and abstain, were used in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Is it possible that these two scriptures are referring to the same behavior? I would like to submit that the point of these two scriptures is not about whether a person should or should not eat meat, but rather it is about how gospel extremism or gospel hobbies can start you on the path to apostasy. Elder Boyd K. Packer commented on this verse.
"Young people, learn to use moderation and common sense in matters of health and nutrition, and particularly in medication. Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist.
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 49:181 [The context for verse 18 is verse 19: “For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air … [are] ordained for the use of man for food.” D&C 49:19 Section 49 was specifically directed to members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (the Shakers) to correct some of their erroneous doctrines. One of their beliefs was not to eat flesh-meat or fish.]" (Boyd K. Packer, "The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises", April 1996 LDS General Conference)
Elder Packer cautioned us to avoid extremism, fanaticism or fads. Could it be that meat consumption is not the issue at hand? These scriptures could be helping us try to avoid the extremism that leads to apostasy.
With that context and a fresh understanding of the two scripture passages above, re-read D&C 89:12-15
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts,to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
I have posted this before, but it is helpful to re-read the definition of sparingly from the 1829 Websters Dictionary before continuing.
1. Not abundantly.
2. Frugally; parsimoniously; not lavishly. High titles of honor were in the king's minority sparingly granted, because dignity then waited on desert. Commend but sparingly whom thou dost love.
3. Abstinently; moderately. Christians are obliged to taste even the innocent pleasures of life but sparingly
4. Seldom; not frequently. The morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, is more sparingly used by Virgil.
5. Cautiously; tenderly.
This verse does not say you can never eat meat, that you should go around forbidding others to eat meat, or that you should start your own religion of non-meat eaters. All of those roads have a dead-end in cul-de-sac of apostasy. Think about this verse in relation to the commands given in the garden of Eden. There are things in this life that we are supposed to choose for ourselves. I feel like he is saying to me. You can eat meat if you want. I'm pleased when you don't, but you can choose. If you choose not to, I have some blessings that are waiting for you. (D&C 89:18-21)
There is mounting scientific evidence that the standard American diet, that includes large quantities of meat and other animal products is harmful to us. Just like the prohibition on tobacco in the Word of Wisdom has been scientifically proven to be correct, the nutrition guidance in verses 10-17 of the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants will also be as blatantly obvious to future generations as the consequences of smoking is to ours. Watch this video for some eye-opening facts: Evidence-Based Eating
I believe the Lord has left this decision for each of us to decide what is best. You are left to choose and act for yourself (2 Nephi 10:23). Read the evidence, ponder, pray, and then act on the inspiration you receive. That's not gospel extremism, fanaticism, following the latest fad, or looking beyond the mark. That is how you receive personal revelation to keep your feet firmly planted in the center of the gospel.
In the spirit of proving all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) I commend the following authors to you as you seek to understand how the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants applies to you.
Also, here is one of my favorite places to get fact-based information. Nutritionfacts.org
Finally, this video has probably changed more lives than any other single source of media on this subject currently available: Forks over Knives