I grew up learning how to shoot a gun and using it to hunt animals. Each year we had pheasant, dove, and the occasional antelope meat in our freezer that my dad, brother, or I most likely killed. My parents also bought part of a cow every year. Our freezer was always stocked full of meat. I literally hated vegetables and rarely ate any. I drank a glass of milk with dinner and thought that counting carbs and calories (even in high school) was as healthy as anyone could be!
I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when I was 21. At that time I drank alcohol, massive amounts of coffee and caffeine, smoked cigarettes and never wondered about the food I ate. As soon as I had my answer that I needed to be baptized, my desire and dependence to all my addictions vanished. I still have no desire or temptation to have them in my body.
When I had my first child, a boy, I had gained over 50 pounds during his pregnancy. It took quite a while to lose most of it before I was again pregnant, with another boy. I again gained 50 pounds during his pregnancy and although I was “healthier” I was still consuming meat and dairy in substantial amounts. I ate much less sugar and because I was making meals at home, I thought that was at least better than restaurant food. My husband, Jordan, also gained a total of forty pounds during the two pregnancies. So, maybe the food I was cooking was not as healthy as I thought.
My mother-in-law gave me Herbal Home Health Care by Dr. John R. Christopher after our first son was born. It teaches a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, and we tried living that way for a while. I did not have recipes ready and could not figure out how to cook that way; the cheese and meat were too tempting to leave behind at that point.
Heavenly Father knows the exact moment that I am ready to do as he commands. After our second son was born, my husband Jordan and I were put on the fast-track to eating a WFPB diet. We saw the documentary Food Inc. and watched several animal cruelty videos. Seeing those things led us to pray. When Jordan and I were praying for guidance about our food choices, we were suddenly given very specific guidance, which was to study the scriptures. Doctrine and Covenants section 89 was our obvious first scripture choice to study because it specifically addresses food. I think it is divine guidance that the Lord defines what sparingly means to him: cold, winter or famine. We also found reassurance for our cause in Section 49, verses 18-21. Most people at church only quote verses 18 and 19:
And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; 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 following verses are crucial to understanding the Lord’s will and fall in direct compliance with section 89’s definition of sparingly:
But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.
We also found that this corresponded to the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis chapter 9 verse 11:
And surely blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.
We had a major awakening. We felt that we needed to repent for all of the animals’ lives that were taken because we wanted a turkey burger, hot dog, steak, enchiladas, etc. We resolved that we did not want to be the cause of any more loss of life if it was not to save ourselves. We also found quite a bit of secular research that supported a plant-based diet (The China Study and Forks Over Knives, just to name a couple), YouTube videos of current farming methods of animals (which I suggest not watching if you love animal flesh and dairy), and quotes from general authorities of the Church. All of these things helped us to see God’s creation of the Earth and animals in a much more sacred way. We now feel the word “stewardship” has significant meaning, and we are continually growing more aware of how we can better care for all of God’s creation. Joseph Smith has a wonderful quote about our dispositions toward animals:
Men must become harmless before the brute creation, and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.
I had two more pregnancies, this time with girls. I only gained 30 pounds with each of them, eating a plant-based diet, but I experienced a much more intense amount of morning sickness and could hardly eat. A couple of months into each pregnancy, I craved chicken. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I cried many tears because I didn’t want to take a life. Then Heavenly Father taught me a lesson: it was for survival. My body was lacking nutrients because I could not eat and I needed something to boost me. With each pregnancy I had tuna twice and chicken between three and five times. I made sure the chicken was as humanely raised as we could afford. Thankfully, Heavenly Father helped take away my sorrow, and I somehow managed to chew flesh. I thought it would not be possible due to my aversion to meat. After those couple of times I no longer craved the meat, I was halfway through my pregnancy, and my morning sickness finally subsided and the thought of eating flesh was once again repulsive.
We have now been eating a plant-based diet for almost three years. I prefer the term “plant-based,” rather than vegan or vegetarian, because that truly is how we eat. The majority of our diet consists of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains. Cheese is a wonderful delicacy in our home and we do eat it on occasion (animal rennet free). We have much more “thanksgiving” with our eating of dairy because we eat more simply most of the time (which does not translate to less delicious). Eating plant-based, instead of vegan, also allows us to find more items on the menu when we go out to eat which is especially helpful when feeding children. I now enjoy many vegetables—spinach is my favorite!
Our children eat what we eat at home. They are allowed to choose whether or not they will eat meat when someone provides a meal for us and it is included. When we are asked if we have a food preference, we tell them we are vegetarian. Both Jordan and I feel that we are being more grateful for the meal provided if we do not put too many restrictions on people who are not used to eating the way we are. We do not buy meat at restaurants for our children unless it is humanely and sustainably raised—which is not the case at many of the places we can afford! Also, they are expected to ask about the meat they want to consume. We are trying to teach them why we have made the decision we have. But, at ages 5, 3, 1 and 4 months, not too much is sinking in quite yet. We are hopeful that they will make the same decision we have when they are older.
We have both received some hidden treasures of knowledge including the useful art of healing with herbs and other natural remedies (which has kept our children from the doctor thus far), being led to beautiful and sacred home births with the final two girls, and figuring out the path Heavenly Father wants for both Jordan and me: a piano technician and a spiritual healer. We have been greatly blessed by following the direction in the scriptures as it pertains to our nourishment.
Chelsea Porter is 28 years old and lives in Boise, ID. She is the wife of a wonderfully supportive husband and the mother of four children. She helps people through energy work and loves to serve others in that way. She homeschools her children and also likes to do handwork, reads often, and is learning to like yard work.