I originally didn’t give much thought to the verses in D&C 89, except to follow the directions needed to be baptised in my early 20’s in 1972 and to obtain a temple recommend a year later….until….I became vegan in May 2011. Then I embarked on considerable study of the full Word of Wisdom and gained a great appreciation of the inherent wisdom afforded us.
It all began when I watched a video called “Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” by Gary Yourofsky. He is an American animal rights activist and presented his speech at Georgia Tech in summer of 2010. His presentation was about the atrocities to animals that we humans do and allow, for unnecessary food and entertainment, etc. The video was posted on Facebook by a man named Carl Scott who lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.
That very day, out of compassion for animals, I became a vegan. My youngest daughter who still lives at home here was very happy to join me in this new way of living, and my husband, without even looking at the information, was okay about it too.
We live in a community where the population is about 97% Latter-day Saint with very few less active. Temple View is a separate suburb/village of Hamilton City, in New Zealand. For the next two years, as far as I knew we were the only vegans here in the five wards in Temple View at the time. Later through postings I saw on Facebook, I discovered another vegan family living here. One of the ward bishops, Kevin Tunstall, had become vegan two years earlier than us, and his wife and daughter had joined him in the same lifestyle.
I’ve spent the time since becoming a vegan learning on a daily basis everything I can about being vegan, from recipes, to animal rights, to health issues. It has been during that process, by discovering the huge amount of information about the health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet that we were further supported in our determination to be permanently vegan. We began by eating our meals minus the foods made with animal products, then as I learned more we progressed to using whole foods only, no refined and very little processed foods. I had always had a sweet tooth (my favourite dish was pavlova). I loved baked goods and desserts, butter and cream and bread products of all kinds. So, in an effort to not miss out, I applied myself to switching over to the vegan whole food healthy versions of all my favourite foods, and in the process also discovered an appreciation for fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, plant milks, and cold pressed coconut oil, etc. These foods made us feel so much healthier that my desire to provide sugary and fatty foods dissipated, much to the relief of my daughter who is highly motivated to maintain good health.
I do sometimes still indulge in less-ideal vegan foods when I’m at an activity or have allowed myself to get hungry, but I am making better choices as time goes by.
The knowledge I gained meant I also became more and more confident in the ability of our body to protect and even heal itself as it becomes clear of all toxins and is provided with natural, nutritious food to maintain all our physiological systems. With this awareness in mind I made a long list of every single health issue I figured I had and have ticked many of them off since going vegan.
As part of this whole process I studied all I could about the Word of Wisdom in the scriptures and realised that there was more to the Lord’s direction than I had understood over the years. This helped during conversations with other members of the Church who would ask me why we were doing this. During those studies I also read all the writings available from our Latter-day prophets and other General Authorities on what they had to say on the subject of animals and the Word of Wisdom. I found that almost all of the Latter-day prophets have spoken on these matters.
Here’s just a few:
“In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? 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.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” – Joseph Smith, Documentary History of the Church, Vol. II (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1904), pp. 71-72.
Joseph Smith added a clear cautionary warning to the text of Genesis 9 in the Joseph Smith Translation (found on page 797 of the current LDS biblical index section). It reads, “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” (JST Genesis 9:11).
“Mothers, keep the children from eating meat; and let them eat vegetables that are fully matured, not unripe…” – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol.19, pp. 68-69, July 19, 1877.
“From these verses (Gen 1:29-30) we learn…every thing that grew was calculated for the food of man, beast, fowl, and creeping thing; and their food was all vegetable; flesh and blood were never sacrificed to glut their souls, or to gratify their appetites…” – John Taylor, Government of God, p. 108.
“Kindness to animals and to all living things is one good way of expressing true religion. Cruelty to the dumb creation always shows an absence of the true religious spirit; and in most cases, is simply barbarous.” – Joseph F. Smith, in Stratton, Kindness to Animals, p. 67.
“The unnecessary destruction of life begets a spirit of destruction which grows within the soul. It lives by what it feeds upon and robs man of the love that he should have for the works of God. It hardens the heart of man… The unnecessary destruction of life is a distinct spiritual loss to the human family. Men can not worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon his creation. The love of all life helps man to the enjoyment of a better life. …Love of nature is akin to the love of God, the two are inseparable.” – Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, April 1918, pp. 182-183.
“Man’s dominion is a call to service, not a license to exterminate. It is precisely because men now prey upon each other and shed the blood and waste the flesh of other creatures without need that ‘the world lieth in sin’ (D&C 49:19-21). Such, at least, is the teaching of the ancient Jews and of modern revelation.” – Hugh Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: 2nd ed. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), pp. 95-110.
“It was shown early in the history of plant science (but after the Word of Wisdom was received) that plants contain all of the necessary food substances: proteins (flesh-formers), fats, starches and other carbohydrates, minerals and water [and] vitamins….The Great builder of the earth provided well for the physical needs of His children. Countless varieties of edible plants, vegetables, cereals, fruits and nuts are yielded by Mother Nature for man’s daily food…meat may be used sparingly, but only in winter or famine…. They who wish to be well and gain the promised rewards stated in the Word of Wisdom [D&C Section 89], must obey all of the law, not just part of it as suits their whim or their appetite, or their notion of its meaning.” – John A. Widstoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation,1950, pp. 120, 122, 135, 137.
Through Temple attendance, I became more aware that the Lord teaches that all beings are created to fulfill the measure of their creation and have joy therein. How my heart breaks when I consider the plight of animals! It is springtime now, and in the nearby farms I hear the continual grievous bellows of the cows; their calves have been taken from them and their little boys put to death so humans can have their mother’s milk. Each autumn I cringe when I hear the duck hunters shooting the life-mates of the ducks and swans nearby. At the “free range” egg farm the hens are isolated and punished when they become clucky and desire to sit on their eggs to produce their own chicks. The animals cannot fulfill the measure of their creation; the joy for them is replaced with misery at our hands.
This information on the Word of Wisdom then enabled me to become a missionary to my, now, dear Facebook friend Carl Scott (who posted the video mentioned above). Last year (2013) Carl posted a few inquiries on Facebook about his quest for an understanding about religion as part of his search for God. He wanted to know what different worldwide Church founders and leaders had to say on the subject of animals in relation to humans. So now, I in turn have been able to share with him a great deal of information. The bonus was that in order for him to understand the context of many of the leaders statements it was necessary to give him explanations about the First Vision, the 13 Articles of Faith, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Word of Wisdom, the priesthood, the latter-day apostles, revelation, the Plan of Salvation, the fore-ordination of prophets, scriptures from the Bible, etc. Carl’s interest is ongoing.
As a great proponent of health my husband’s number one motivation for veganism is connected to the promises from the Lord in the Word of Wisdom, D&C 89:18-21, that through our obedience we shall receive health, renewal, strength, wisdom, knowledge, treasures and safety. And all these promises can only be obtained by adherence to the entire Word of Wisdom, not just a part of it.
Christine Bradley, 64, lives a few minutes walk from the Hamilton, New Zealand Temple and the adjoining Visitors Center, where she enjoys taking non-members as part of her member-missionary efforts. She had been a homeschooling mother for 13 years and is now the Church Stake Centre Coordinating Librarian.