The Word of Wisdom — Good Stewardship (D&C 89:12-13)

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;

And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:12-13

So you know, this post is all about meat…


First of all, I’ve got to say, I love meat. I grew up in Texas. I can’t help but love steak. And Pork Chops. Chicken. I like it grilled, fried, and baked. I am not to partial as to how it is prepared, but I love it. However, I realize what the Doctrine and Covenants teaches here…there may be too much of a “good thing,” and I begin to question how much meat I should eat, and what exactly is sparingly.

Unfortunately, I feel like we can’t really get conclusive answers elsewhere. Given some of the “fad” diets that we have right now (Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, etc), this part of the Word of Wisdom can seem a little confusing. Even though I don’t truly believe that a banana is worse to eat than sausage wrapped in bacon, I find myself worrying about eating too many “carb-y” or sugary things – including fruits(!) – and not enough meat.

The thing to remember is, protein DOES NOT EQUAL meat. There are easy ways to get proteins from plant sources, too, and these are probably healthier for us. I feel like this confusion and misunderstanding is just because of what we hear every single day – about “health” and “diet.”

As I think about it, though – I’m reminded that the Word of Wisdom is always the best guide, no matter what doctors and scientists say. In the 1950s and 1960s, Doctors promoted cigarette smoking as healthy! Of course, now we realize that this advice is absurd. I wonder, in fifty years, will we finally be learning the truths of a good diet, and then look back and shake our heads at things like the Low Carb Diet, or other constrictive diets that rely too much on meat – even processed meat – over whole foods like fruits and vegetables and whole grains?

It can be hard to banish the so-called wisdom that may be stopping us from fully embracing the word of wisdom.

So, now, when we look to the Word of Wisdom, we are taught to eat meat sparingly – in times of cold, winter, or famine. This can still seem quite flexible, and maybe even confusing. However, studying these two verses, especially the scriptures footnoted in this verse may add insight. Here are a few things I noticed.

There Have Always Been Dietary Laws
We know that there has always been a dietary law. Long before Joseph Smith and Doctrine and Covenants 89 came about, the Lord gave laws concerning diet to ancient Israel. They were commanded only to eat specific types of meat. Many kinds of animals were considered unclean. While we don’t categorize meat as clean or unclean, it is important to note that the amounts of meat eaten by the ancient Jews must have been limited based on the fact that there was so much they couldn’t eat. They didn’t have as many options, so they probably ate more plants than we do now.

Meat is Ordained for the Use of Man
The Lord teaches us that the beasts of the earth and fowls of the air were ordained for our use – for food and raiment. I know that this may seem ego-centric, but it is true: the earth and it’s contents were created to be used by us. However, this does not justify exploitation. Instead, it is implies how we ought to treat the earth as a sacred and special gift. It was created by God for us. It isn’t just something we can trash. We must be judicious and reverent – this shows Heavenly Father our gratitude for such amazing gifts.

Used Sparingly
Being a good steward does not mean that we will never use the gifts that the Lord has given us. We don’t need to take it to an extreme. It doesn’t mean that we try to leave the environment alone, completely. It doesn’t mean that the earth is better off without us. The Lord does want us to use all of what He has created. We learn:

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:17-20

The Lord doesn’t want us to take either extreme. We are supposed to use what he has given us – even animals and other natural resources, but we are to use them with judgement. I guess it seems simple enough.

The thing is, I realize, as I read this, I am part of a society which does not seem to understand the idea of judgment. It seems like we live in a world that is all about excess and even extortion. I think of how animals are raised – beef, pork, chicken. How is this judicious? How is it not extorting these animals and the land that they live on? Perhaps I shouldn’t buy into this industry. It is difficult because meat is so much cheaper when you go to the supermarket and buy ground beef that has been packaged and sold by a big plant. It is a lot more work and money to go and purchase beef from a local farmer – who has used good, ethical practices to raise, feed, and even slaughter cattle. Of course, as I write this, I realize, if I only purchase meat raised by ethical (and non-extortionist) farmers, then I will eat a lot less meat because it is hard to afford!

I am not an animal rights activist. I have never really put much thought into the entire subject. I like the taste of meat. That is all I usually think about. However, as I study the Word of Wisdom, I realize that there is more to it than appeasing my appetite (which has a tendency to become insatiable). I realize that this commandment is not only about my health, but about the health of the earth that the Lord has blessed me with. There are problems with eating too much meat. I’m not going to get into the nutritional ramifications other than the fact: if we’re eating too much meat, we’re probably not eating enough plants – so we’re robbing our bodies of important nutrients. We may be making ourselves sicker. Not only that, buy by eating too much meat, we are probably impacting our entire landscape – by subsidizing the big beef industry which is neither judicious nor sustainable.

So…In all, I guess this is where I’m grateful for the Word of Wisdom. I don’t know how our habits will impact us. I think that we are only beginning to learn (obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc). I think that eventually we will learn what we have already learned in the past: God’s wisdom – the Word of Wisdom – is always right. Even when “conventional wisdom” says otherwise, we know the truth. Even if we can’t pinpoint the exact reasons why we obey, even if our belief goes against the culture, we know that God’s ways are higher than our ways. (See Isaiah 55:8-9.)

So, I’m going to do my best to be a better steward. I’m going to eat less meat, and more plants. I’m going to be a wiser and more judicious consumer. I’m going to show the proper respect and gratitude that the Lord expects and deserves for the blessings he has given me.

What are your thoughts and feelings on this part of the Word of Wisdom? What do you do to keep it? Have you noticed blessings from eating meat sparingly?


5 thoughts on “The Word of Wisdom — Good Stewardship (D&C 89:12-13)

  1. A number of years ago, I decided I wanted to experiment with keeping the Word of Wisdom better, and as part of my experiment, I decided to avoid meat as much as I could. It was really different trying to find things to make that didn’t include meat. My husband and I tried to make grains the main part that meat had been before.
    For me, meat has become something that I eat very rarely, perhaps once a month or so. Every few months I crave a steak, and then we have steaks. Otherwise, meat will appear in little tiny pieces in a pasta salad that we make once or twice a month.
    My observation has been that I feel more energetic without meat, and my body seems to recover faster from strenuous exercise.

    Another Word of Wisdom thing I try/have tried is having boiled wheat berries for breakfast (mixed with granola for better taste). I have observed that when I do that, I also feel more energetic, and I stay full much longer.

    I have also tried eating more uncooked vegetables, and adding more fruits. It takes a lot of work to find good recipes that incorporate enough of a variety without becoming tiresome after a while. But my body definitely feels good after eating a lot of vegetables.

    Overall, I have noticed that when I am more thorough in observance of the Word of Wisdom, I am sick much less, I can think better, and I have more energy and stamina.

  2. Kaylin

    Please note though that D&C 89:13 did NOT contain that first comma when it was originally transcribed, but was later added for format within the columns of the actual book. Therefor the original translation of that section was as follows.
    “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
    Which is supportive of the idea that they are to be used, but again sparingly as said in D&C 89:12

    1. It is also critical to point out that “sparingly” in 89 does NOT mean rarely or even less. Sections 49 and the understanding of how the comma is used, meat is to be used abundantly as needed. “Sparingly” is suggesting without waste, without gratitude but that our hearts should be thankful.

      1. Thanks for this clarification. Another thought I had recently was that we don’t really understand what “times of famine or cold” are these days.

        Here (in the U.S.) at least, there is no such thing as “cold or famine” when food is concerned. We can go to our supermarket any day of the year and find vegetables, fruits, grains, meat, anything. This wasn’t the case for most people over the millenia. So, if we’re just hypothesizing, I’d have to guess that for a good portion of the year (up to six months or so?) during Joseph Smith’s time, (especially in upstate New York), they were experiencing cold/famine. During those times fresh fruits and vegetables would be unavailable, and instead they’d be eating a meat-heavy diet.

        We just can’t even imagine this, and I really think that we have to make a more concerted effort to eat naturally. This might mean that we eat more meat than what seems to be suggested in the Word of Wisdom. And – perhaps it also means without waste, as you suggest. I love this idea. If you are eating a primal diet, you will eat meat without waste because rather than purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you would roast a whole chicken, eat the skin, the fat, the organs, and then use the carcass to make a bone broth.

        Excellent points. Thank you so much for commenting!

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