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Dear Gramps,

I have a question about the Word of Wisdom. My question is, why does the LDS Church pick and choose which parts of the Word of Wisdom is to be obeyed and which is not?  For example meat is supposed to be consumed sparingly and only in times of famine.  Yet this is not something they enforce like they do the other 3 alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Why?  If the Word of Wisdom is law, then eating meat when you don’t have to is also breaking the law.  Why do meat eaters get a free pass?






President Ezra Taft Benson said this about eating meat in the April 1983 Conference talk titled “A Principle with a Promise”

In this revelation the Lord counsels us to use meat sparingly. I have often felt that the Lord is further counseling us in this revelation against indiscriminately killing animals, for He has said elsewhere in scripture, “Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.”

Elder Boyd K Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following in the April 1996 Conference talk titled “The Word of Wisdom; The Principle and the Promises”

The Word of Wisdom was “given for a principle with promise” (D&C 89:3). That word principle in the revelation is a very important one. A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions. Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. That leaves you free to find your way with an enduring truth, a principle, as your anchor.

Then later on in that same talk, he explains further,

 …learn to use moderation and common sense in matters of health and nutrition, and particularly in medication. Avoid being extreme or fanatical or becoming a faddist.

For example, the Word of Wisdom counsels us to eat meat sparingly (see D&C 89:12). Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God” (D&C 49:18).

Before I get into the matter myself, let me explain to you the importance of the organization of the Church. When this revelation was given, it was not a commandment. Now it is. When this revelation was given, the prophet asked a question of the Lord, and this was His answer. Later prophets have made it clear that we are now expected to be able to live up to the principle He gave us.

Now consider the saints as they crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. How were they to avoid eating meat? There is also a danger in your question of thinking that eating meat is wrong, and it is clear from the scriptures that this is not the case. What I think is the key that you’re missing is just one word, Moderation. Eat too much meat, and yes, it is quite harmful. However there are nutrients that we need that are best found in the flesh of the animals God has given us stewardship over. Meat is far more available and safe to eat than it was when this revelation was given. As such, the prophets and apostles of the Church have counseled us, as quoted above. I would encourage you to read both talks as you consider my words.

Finally, it is unwise to cast judgment upon others in matters such as this. A recent post I saw online sums it up nicely; Don’t hate me because I sin differently than you. We all have shortcomings and challenges to our faith and obedience to God. You might as well be angry at your neighbor for buying the ‘wrong’ car for all the good it will do you. Do not despair at or look down upon others for their sins. They are just as likely to be on the same path to Christ that you are walking, only at a different spot along the way, and at their own pace.  Seek first to strengthen yourself and your testimony. Then you can lift others up in humility and love to where you are, just as Christ seeks to do for all of us. May God be with you always.





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