My journey to plant-based eating started when I attended Brigham Young University at age 17. I was not a member of the Church at that time. Although I lived several states away, I was drawn there due to the clean living and purity I had noticed among new LDS friends I’d met while in a beauty pageant. Another contestant felt I had a happy glow and invited me to church!
I loved learning the Lord’s teachings at BYU. I was particularly proud of earning an A in my college Book of Mormon class, as it was all new to me. I had been intimidated by that class and tried really hard to do well. I was also a serious student of the gospel. Reading the New Testament on my own the previous year had prepared me for all I would later study in my quest for truth.
The knowledge I gained of the doctrine at that time has blessed me immensely through the years. As an investigator, I was able to take any doubt or concern that my family expressed and study it out, make inquiries, and then gain a testimony of all of the details prior to baptism. I respected my parents enough to do this, and it has given me an even greater foundation in my faith and beliefs.
I took the same approach to the beautiful latter-day revelation of Doctrine and Covenants Section 89, the Word of Wisdom, which is instruction from God for our health. I took the Word of Wisdom literally, believing it means what it states. I loved knowing that God is not some mythical, magical entity, but truly a loving Father in Heaven who teaches his children how to live in the happiest and most joyful way.
What a peaceful and gratifying relief it was to learn that my stirrings as a child were correct: we do not need a steady diet of meat or animal products to be healthy. That made me so happy! It contradicted what most claimed to be the “science” of the day, but I knew it was a revelation from a kind God who understands our bodies far better than any man; he created them, after all! He was making it clear how we should be eating. Our science, or the understanding of that science, seems to change frequently; his does not. It was a beautiful, profound discovery, and I had a testimony of it from the start
After reading the Word of Wisdom, it was a bit confusing to see meat being consumed so frequently by other Church members. I hadn’t expected that. I talked to local authorities, and most did believe they should be eating less meat than they were presently doing. The word “sparingly” was often used, or “eat meat sparingly” or even “moderation in all things,” which incorrectly implies we need meat or must eat meat regularly. This did not ring true to me, but I did accept it and ate meat sparingly. Was the mythical and magical God entering into the plan I had understood to be so plain and straightforward?
Fast forward a few years and I am raising a beautiful daughter, Sonnet-Hope, who also did not want to eat meat or dairy, even though it was part of our diet. She has been called a “child of the light,” and I believe that’s true. She was a little girl when we discussed this topic in response to her questioning. I remember telling her that there have been times in history or in various countries when meat was necessary, but it is not today. We live in a day where we get food from all over the world, and we can easily acquire the nutrients our bodies need. Talking to her about these truths felt inspired, as it taught me too. At age four she became a vegetarian and has never looked back.
At age 15, this daughter, who is a sensitive example of spiritual things, told me she was going vegan. I thought it would be difficult, even though we hardly ate any dairy at all! (Perhaps there was something trying to keep me from having greater light?) The exact opposite was true. It is a simple, wonderful path to be traveling. All along the way we have had concerned criticism by others who do not seem to take the time to study the Word of Wisdom. I’m so happy I did. Their questions have helped us to deepen our understanding and confirm what we know to be true.
My testimony has grown as I have prayed over this. What I have learned that strengthens me most is that the idea of “eating meat sparingly” is actually not complete! It is not all the Lord has stated. He was not finished with his sentence nor his thought at that point. Doctrine and Covenants 89 reads:
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.
He has given very specific instructions on the few times and desperate need that provide a better reason to considering eating animal flesh. In my life so far, I have not known famine, excess of hunger or true cold in our modern day, even while growing up in brutally chilly Minnesota. It is “pleasing” unto our Father in Heaven if we abstain from meat when not necessary. I want more than anything in this world to be doing all that will please Him.
It saddens me to realize that some may think I’m extreme or that this is a dangerous “gospel hobby” and that I am not following or falling in line as they understand things. It feels wonderful to be on this track. When we are ready for greater light, it will come! I hope everyone can search, ponder, and pray over this very important health principle.
As an unexpected and added blessing, I do believe the promised hidden treasures in D&C 89 have been opened to me. There is more clarity of thought and far greater happiness. My feelings soar when pondering the richness that has been added to my life, the greater understanding, and only because I am more fully living my beliefs! It is easy . . . so much easier and smoother than I ever thought it would be when I was still eating animal flesh or their fluids. I am so grateful to God for strengthening my faith and my health by giving us the Word of Wisdom.
Julie Beal lives in Denver, Colorado and works as a medical editor. She rescues animals and is a former court reporter, model, and flight attendant. She is the mother of an angel daughter, and is single (and looking ;-)!