By Jane Birch
The Old Testament describes the Promised Land as a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8) so some people argue we should be drinking milk, but is this description of the Promised Land meant to be dietary advice? Note that the Promised Land is also described as a “land of corn and wine” (Deuteronomy 33:28). Does that mean we should also be drinking wine? It seems both phrases are descriptions of the abundant and fertile nature of the Promised Land, not dietary advice for optimal human foods in the 21st century.
The phrase “milk and honey” is an idiom. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means “prosperity and abundance; richness of produce; plenty, comfort; also attrib.” Milk and honey (like corn and wine) are symbols of fertility that appear in the most ancient writings. Bees are critical to plant production. Even today, about a third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, and bees are the main pollinators. A land that flows with honey is a land where bees are doing their work, enabling plants grow, so the milk can flow from animals to feed their young. When the spies sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land wanted to show evidence that the land was flowing with milk and honey, they brought back grapes, pomegranates, and figs (Numbers 13:23–27).
Clearly, America is also a land flowing with milk and honey. America produces lots of plants, which can be used to create plant-based milks, like soy and rice. We also have lots of plants to feed the animals so they can produce lots of milk. That does not mean it is right for us to take the milk the mother cows are producing for their young or health promoting for us to drink it.
The Promised Land may have been a land flowing with milk and honey, but Proverbs 25:27 tells us, “It is not good to eat much honey.” Could not the same thing be said about milk? Just because something is abundant does not mean we should consume a lot of it.
No doubt just as the ancient Israelites drank wine, they consumed some of the animal milk when they were able, but then the dietary advice they were given differs substantially from the Word of Wisdom. We should not use what they did or did not eat as a guide to how we eat today when the Lord has specifically given us D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom for our day.
Do the scriptures tell us to not consume dairy?
Dairy is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. I find it interesting that the Lord specifically ordains the use of plants, meat in times of need, and grain, but He doesn’t ordained dairy for anything.
Well over half the world’s population is lactose intolerant. Could it be that Adam and Eve were also lactose intolerant? It was not until later in human history when certain populations began milking animals and consuming their milk that they developed the enzymes to digest lactose. Normally humans (like all mammals) lose the ability to digest lactose after they are weaned. That is what happens to most of the world’s population. They do not have the enzymes to digest lactose because after they are weaned, they no longer need them.
While we don’t have scriptures that tell us not to drink dairy, it is a fact that dairy is not a essential food. Billions of people grow stronger and healthy without ever consuming dairy after they are weaned. God designed our bodies without the need for dairy and indeed the majority of His children get sick if they try to consume it.
I think the real case against dairy comes from science. Experts say they see the most health improvements when people give up dairy. Given that God never tells us to use dairy (and most of His children would get sick if they did), clearly it is a choice. There is certainly no moral harm in eliminating dairy. Give it up for at least a month and see what happens.
- Discovering the Word of Wisdom: What About Dairy and Eggs?
- Dairy — Not Good for the Body
- Dairy & Eggs and the Word of Wisdom
See also: Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective by Jane Birch
Last updated: November 7, 2016