“I’ve come to see food and all creation as sacred”

Steve ReedBy: Steve Reed

I grew up in South Texas where barbecue and eating red meat are a deep part of the culture. My transition to a plant-based diet underwent a major shift in 2011 when I finally decided to regulate my personal use of meat to only those times when I legitimately needed to consume it.

I spent a period of about 6 months reflecting on past personal experiences, studying scripture, and searching for wisdom in the words of past and present Church leaders. As I studied and considered many perspectives, I felt that a transition to a plant-based diet was necessary.

In adopting this way of life, I knew that there would be consequences that I would need to address. First, I had to find suitable alternatives to the meat I had become accustomed to. Thanks to the Internet, there is no shortage of recipes out there, and I have been very satisfied with the alternatives I have found. I realized that it wasn’t the taste of meat that I liked, but the spices, sauces and flavors that I found most enjoyable. I began to find alternatives to meat to provide the foundation for those flavors. Because of the vast array of options out there, I don’t feel that I am missing out on anything. It is similar to the feeling of alcohol abstinence, I don’t feel like I’m missing out there either.

Balancing my personal food choices among family and friends has been a little tricky. How do you justify making a radical change in diet that culturally alienates you from those you care about? In my situation, my motives were driven by morals, health, and a desire to please God. I am a believer in persuasion rather than force, so I have been concerned with others thinking that my choices were a condemnation of theirs. My wife and children are free to eat what they want, and they often choose animal products when they are an option. In rare situations, I will eat meat that is served to me if I feel that to refuse would be disrespectful to my host. I found Romans 14 (CEV version in particular) to be a good source of inspiration. Animal flesh is not a prohibition like certain plants are, so the sparing use of it guided by wisdom and judgment is important. I follow the rule and deal with exceptions individually.

Perhaps the key reason I feel so strong about this way of life are the spiritual blessings. There was a talk I heard in 2003 by Boyd K. Packer where he mentioned that the Word of Wisdom is not all about health, but about revelation. I have wanted to make changes in order to remove any obstacles between myself and God. I’ve come to see food and all creation as more sacred. I have always loved animals and never felt right about killing them myself, but I didn’t think twice about consuming an animal that was killed by someone else. I turned a blind eye to the inhumane, industrialized ways that animals were raised. You don’t see suffering in a plate of food until you trace the journey of that meal. Intentionally ignoring suffering and abuse because it is uncomfortable seemed like a contradiction to pursuing a spiritual life. You can’t look at the industrial production of animal products and not think to yourself, “Something is wrong here.” We wouldn’t think twice about showing our children wheat or vegetables being harvested and prepared, but we would cover their eyes from video or images from a slaughterhouse. The words that President Joseph Fielding Smith once wrote to a member of the church made a big impact on me,

. . . why do we feel that we do not have a square meal unless it is based largely on meat. Let the dumb animals live. They enjoy life as well as we do. In the beginning the Lord granted man the use of the flesh of certain animals. See Genesis 9:1-6, but with so many fruits of the soil and from the trees of the earth, why cannot man be content?” [In a letter to a member sister in El Paso, Texas, dated 30 Dec. 1966, quoted in “Health Is A Blessing: A Guide to the Scriptural Laws of Good Health,” by Steven H. Horne, advance publication copy (Springville, Utah: Nature’s Field, 1994), p. 34.]

This has not been an easy change for me, and my progress is still ongoing. I’ve had to put a lot of old ways behind me, but I have also discovered many new things that I have come to value more than those I have left behind. If a carnivorous meat-eating Texan who loved the art of barbecue could voluntarily make the change, anyone can.

Steve Reed was born in Florida but was raised in Texas until he departed on a full-time mission to Idaho in 1999. Two years later, he returned to Texas to pursue education, employment, and in 2004 married and started a family. He obtained a degree in management while simultaneously building up a freelance graphic design company. In 2007, his family moved to Las Vegas to live and work. In 2010, he started the blog oneClimbs.com and enjoys the subject of symbolism and temples. His greatest love is his wife and four daughters.

See also: Steve Reed’s Review of Jane Birch’s book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom

Comments

  1. Thank you, Steve, for sharing your story. I admire your courage in giving up the traditions that no longer felt right to you and embracing new ones that have brought you closer to God!

  2. Steve, I particularly appreciated your final paragraph in what you submitted to my daughter, Jane Birch and I quote that here:

    “This has not been an easy change for me, and my progress is still ongoing. I’ve had to put a lot of old ways behind me, but I have also discovered many new things that I have come to value more than those I have left behind. If a carnivorous meat-eating Texan who loved the art of barbecue could voluntarily make the change, anyone can.”

    I appreciate your example in showing us the way in making the needed changes in eating without meat. Thank you for your good example. I’m sure others will also be expressing their appreciation of the example of your eating right that you are setting for each of us. The Lord bless you in your continued efforts!

    Neil Birch

    • Jane has done some great work. I appreciate her contributions to this subject because it deserves a lot more attention that we currently give it. There is a lot of human, animal and environmental suffering because of abuse. I’m not a hippie, tree-hugger or activist but as an honest observer, you can’t help but notice how backwards we have so many things. We can’t begin to think about changing the world if we don’t change ourselves first.

      I think Discovering the Word of Wisdom is a great little book that is very positive and motivating. It is about discovering a better way rather than a diatribe of “don’ts.”

      I’ve read her Interpreter article about the “comma” debate in D&C 89 and it’s very good. I hope to see more from her on this subject!

  3. Steve,
    I really enjoyed reading this and it has given me even more inspiration. I live in Idaho so I am sure you can relate to my struggles here with transitioning as well. I have a family of 8 under my roof and at times 9-10 and I am the only one that is truly trying to transition over to a Whole Food Plant Based way of eating. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • I served my mission in Idaho (1999-2001, Twin Falls, Boise areas) and that’s where I had a couple of my most paradigm-shifting experiences regarding a plant based lifestyle.

      It’s tough to feel alone sometimes but I think this is a principle that is best taught by example and persuasion rather than force or guilt.

      The best we can do is teach, practice, and demonstrate good principles and be comfortable allowing others to go through the process of applying them in thier own way.

      A man’s comment back in 2000 at a dinner appointment stuck with me for 11 years before I acted on it. God is patient with us because he loves us; we can show love by being patient with others.

      We don’t want people to resent true principles because we seek to establish them with impatience and force.

      • Steve,
        Thank you for your response. I get made fun of at times for my transition I am working on. I also let my family and friends know that it is their own choice. They put up with my Meatless meals and I add meat for a side to their meals. I think it is great that you served in Idaho. I was living in Boise and Nampa at the time you served. Thank you for sharing the comment as well. I love Jane’s book.

      • Interesting! We have had a couple of elders ask in detail why we eat this way and they have seriously pondered the scriptures and made changes. It’s awesome to see. (We are in Boise, that’s why this caught my attention-maybe we have something going on up here!) 🙂

        • Haha, maybe you are right. I remember that as a missionary I was very open to learning and new ideas. Some might think missionaries are sheltered and unexposed to anything other than one perspective. That wasn’t my experience though, we ate dinner with new people every night, we taught discussions to people of varying backgrounds and in tracting were exposed to many different traditions and perspectives. I think that person’s faith tradition will be challenged more than while serving a mission than the average person just going about their life.

          Your mind is very stimulated and open to new ideas, maybe I was an exception, but this seemed to be true for other missionaries I served with. I know that I had a great deal of respect for church members or anyone that had a unique, but logical approach to a particular doctrinal issue. I enjoyed hearing wisdom well-spoken and represented, so I think that’s great that you are setting an example and having a good influence on missionaries. A simple dinner may affect generations.

      • I love and agree with your perspective. Ypu have given me food for thought with this comment:
        “God is patient with us because he loves us; we can show love by being patient with others. We don’t want people to resent true principles because we seek to establish them with impatience and force.”

        I have been guilty of this and it’s something i am trying to work on, and i see it increasing, sadly.

  4. Knowing that it is pleasing unto the lord that we not eat meat at all if possible is always on my mind,and living in these latter days with such an abundance of meat alternatives and the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables year-round in this global economy has me burdened with guilt knowing how inhumane animals are treated and used as a staple in my diet.Reading about your struggle helps to give me the desire to change my diet as well.This should be a win win no brainer for everyone -Pleasing the Lord-promised blessings,I wish someone would open a chain of fast food restaurants that are Vegan,tasty affordable and convenient,I probably just gave someone a good idea,I hope,I for sure would be a repeat customer.lol

  5. Steve,

    I enjoyed reading about your ongoing conversion to a WFPB diet. It has been many years since I made the switch and the one thing that especially stood out for me was Boyd K Packers talks when he mentioned that the Word of Wisdom was also about revelation.

    Since inquiring of the Lord how I shoud eat, it became very clear to me that the eating of animal flesh was not necessary for me and that he was actually pleased with my decision to change my diet. Like you, once making that decision, our perspective changes and I really liked your desire about removing spiritual barriers between you and the Lord. By not participating in the slaughter of animals It does open our hearts and minds to all of Gods creation and it certainly gave me a broader perspective and a gratitude for all of Gods creations on this Earth.

    He truly has blessed us with so much bounty when it comes to whole foods, minus animal flesh. Good luck with your ongoing choice in leading A WFPB diet. And thanks for reminding me again of the Personal revelation and wisdom we receive when we choose to follow it.

    Sandra Adragna

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