34 Shocking Quotes from General Authorities about Meat
As you may have read in my last blog post, I made the decision to give up meat, primarily because of the Word of Wisdom. When I made this choice I was judged by some who thought I was acting as a religious zealot or misinterpreting scriptures. I wondered if they were right and I started doing more research. However, I was surprised to find, the more I researched, the more evidence I found of the admonition to decrease our meat consumption.
After reading for more hours than I can count, I felt 100% confident in my choice. I spent many nights searching for answers and through all of the months I spent searching, I was able to compile a number of quotes from various prophets and apostles.
My goal today, is to explore what prophets and apostles have said pertaining to verses 12-15 in Word of Wisdom. I do not wish to persuade you to see things from my perspective or convince you of ‘The Gospel According to Cassidy’. I simply want to give you all of the best information, and allow you to follow the spirit of revelation and consider ways you can more fully live the Word of Wisdom.
I want to be sure, however, that there is an understanding that I am not advocating that everyone to give up meat forever. On the contrary, if we are to live up to the scriptures (including Doctrine and Covenants 49) there are specific times that we are justified, even commanded to eat animals. I hope these prophetic quotes will shed some light on the matter and help illuminate the path for you as it did for me.
Doctrine and Covenants 89:
What does the actual Word of Wisdom say? You can read the whole thing HERE, but for the purposes of this post, I will focus on verses 12, 13 and 15. More detailed analysis of the remaining verses will come in a future post.
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.
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
There are many interesting things to consider in deciding how to interpret the scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants 89. The most powerful to me, were the direct words of prophets, patriarchs, and apostles of the church over the last 200 years. I must warn you, there are a lot (34 to be exact). I have tried to put them in chronological order and each quote will contain a reference so you can look it up yourself if you desire!
Many of these talks were given over the pulpit and at General Conference, with the entire talk devoted to the topic, so you can rest assured these have not been taken out of context. So buckle up folks and get ready for a wild ride!
Joseph Smith, who was known for not killing animals and not eating meat, said,
” 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.” 1
Hyrum Smith, Patriarch of the Church gave the first in depth sermon on the Word of Wisdom in General Conference in 1842 and said,
“Let men attend to these instructions, let them use the things ordained of God; let them be sparing of the life of animals; it is pleasing saith the Lord that flesh be used only in times of winter, or of famine.” 2
He later said,
“[God] has appointed the word of wisdom as one of the engines to… remove the beastly appetites, the murderous disposition and the vitiated taste of man… to promote peace between him and the brute creation.” 3
In 1857, Heber C. Kimball said in General Conference,
“It is not pleasing in [God’s] sight for man to shed blood of beasts… except in times of excess of hunger and famine. Go and read it for yourselves… It is not the Spirit of God that leads a man or woman to shed blood—to desire to kill and slay.” 4
In 1868 George Q. Cannon also said over the pulpit,
“With life we need health, the power to carry out designs of our beings upon the earth. We are told that flesh is not suitable to man in the summer time, and ought to eaten sparingly in the winter… other articles of food could be raised more cheaply and in greater variety than the flesh of animals. We can have a diet, that will be tasteful, nutritious and delightful to us and easy to digest, and yet not wear out the lives of our mothers, wives, daughters and sisters in its preparation”. 5
Brigham Young once pointedly exclaimed,
“If the people were willing to receive the true knowledge from heaven in regard to their diet they would cease eating swine’s flesh. I know this as well as Moses knew it.” 6
On another occasion he reminded,
“Mothers, keep the children from eating meat; and let them eat vegetables.” 7
George Q. Cannon, who was editor of the newspaper, wrote,
“Even beasts have rights which must be respected.” 8
Years later, in 1896 he penned,
“We should by every means in our power impress upon the rising generation the value of life and how dreadful a sin it is to take life. The lives of animals even should be held far more sacred than they are.” 9
Wilford Woodruff so dramatically declared,
“The Word of Wisdom is a commandment and all members should observe it, but for the present, no definite action should be taken except that the members should be taught to refrain from eating meat.” 10
Lorenzo Snow said that we should,
“draw special attention to that part which relates to the use of meat, which he considered just as strong as that which related to the used of liquors and hot drinks. He was convinced that the killing of animals when unnecessary was wrong and sinful, and that it was not right to neglect part of the Word of Wisdom and be too strenuous in regard to other parts.”11
He also said,
“We have no right to slay animals or fowls except from necessity, for they have spirits which may some day rise up and accuse or condemn us.” 12
On another occasion he,
“Introduced the subject of the Word of Wisdom, expressing the opinion that it was violated as much or more in the improper use of meat as in other things, and thought the time was near at hand when Latter-day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and shedding of animal blood.“13
It was also recorded that Lorenzo Snow,
“drew special attention to that part which relates to the use of meats, which he considered just as strong as that which relates to the use of liquors and hot drinks. He also referred to the revelation which says that he that forbids the use of meat is not of God. . . . Bro. Snow said he was convinced that the killing of animals when unnecessary was wrong and sinful, and that it was not right to neglect one part of the Word of Wisdom and be too strenuous in regard to other parts.” 14
Joseph F. Smith said in 1913 that,
“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he ‘needs’ them for food… I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possessed animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seem whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood…. I am a firm believer in the simple words of one of the poets: ‘Take not away the life you cannot give, For all things have an equal right to live”. He went on to write an article in the precursor to the Ensign, The Improvement Era, called “Is it a Sin to Kill Wantonly”, discussing the taking of animal lives. 15
He later proclaimed,
“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. Men cannot worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon his creation.”16
Hyrum Mack Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said,
“To kill, when not necessary, is a sin akin to murder.” 17
In that same sermon he said,
“Man has been entrusted with sovereignty over the animal kingdom, that he may learn to govern, as God rules, by the power of love and justice, and become fit for his eternal destiny as a ruler of worlds.” 18
At age 80 President Heber J. Grant was asked how he was so active for his age, which he replied,
“I think that another reason I have very splendid strength for an old man is that during the years… I have not, with the exception of not more than a dozen times, ordered meat of any kind. I have endeavored to live the Word of Wisdom and that, in my opinion, is one reason for my good health.” 19
In 1945, President George Albert Smith’s son-in-law recorded,
“In the summer he eats no meat, and even in the winter months he eats very little.” Robert Murray Stewart, “A Normal Day in the Home of George Albert Smith,” 20
Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Quorum of the Twelve said in his talk titled “Eat Flesh Sparingly,” in general conference:
“All over the Church the belief is general that the Word of Wisdom is practically observed if the individual abstains from the use of tea, coffee, liquor, and tobacco. But a careful reading of the revelation shows this belief to be erroneous. There is much more to the document than abstention from the use of narcotics. . . . According to what are regarded as the best investigations, the right proportion of protein is generally about 10 percent of the total number of heat units consumed. . . . The foods to be used most sparingly are those which contain a great excess of protein, such as meat, eggs, and cheese. On this account, there are many authorities who think that it would be safer to discard the use of meat altogether than to continue to use it so freely as many Americans are doing.” 21
President David O. Mckay said in October 1951 General Conference:
“A true Latter-day Saint is kind to animals, is kind to every created thing, for God has created all.”22
Two years later he said,
“Too many members move along the lines of least resistance and yield to a craving appetite developed by disobedience to the Word of Wisdom of God, thus depriving themselves of spiritual as well as physical strength.” 23
Joseph Fielding Smith explained,
“Although there was no sin in the shedding of their blood when required for food … to take the life of these creatures wantonly is a sin before the Lord. It is easy to destroy life, but who can restore it when it is taken?” 24
It was also recoded by his wife that Joseph Fielding Smith had a “disdain of meat and a love of vegetables.” She went on to say, “My husband doesn’t eat meat, but rather lots of fruit and vegetables“. 25
In a 1978 General Conference, Spencer W. Kimball said
“I still don’t eat very much meat.” He proceeded to share his “feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of [animal] life” 26 in that conference as well as the next.
Ezra Taft Benson said in general conference in 1974,
“We need a generation of young people who, as Daniel, eat in a more healthy manner than to fare on the “kings meat”- and whose countenances show it.“ 27
Later in 1983 he said:
“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.” (D&C 49:21.)’ 28
It is recorded that his son said of him,
“In his personal life, was sparing in his use of meat and generous in his use of fresh vegetables and grains.” 29
George Teasdale, also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said,
“Eating pork is a more serious breach of the word of wisdom than drinking tea or coffee.”30
In his book, Millennial Messiah, Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
“Man and all forms of life will be vegetarians in the coming day; the eating of meat will cease, because, for one thing, death as we know it ceases. There will be no shedding of blood.”31
Hugh Nibley, famous church historian, suggests that the use of the word sparingly in D&C 89:12 means “sparing God’s creatures.” He goes on to say,
“The family who needs a deer to get through the winter have a right to that. The Lord will not deny them, but he is also pleased with those who forbear. They can eat meat only in times of starvation, winter, cold, famine… At the first sight of buffalo in Iowa—the plain was covered with buffalo as far as the eye could see—Brigham Young called the brethren together and told them not to shoot one unless they absolutely need it. And this turned out to be a great blessing for them.” 32
Gordon B. Hinkley said in October 1990 General Conference,
“This Word of Wisdom came to us from the Father of us all, the God of heaven, for our blessing and the blessing of all who would observe it. I regret that we as a people do not observe it more faithfully.” 33
Spencer Condie, author of the biography of the President Russel M. Nelson, said in earlier in 2018,
“I’ve had lunch with him at least 100 times… One day I asked him, ‘do you ever eat roast beef?’ and he said, ‘After my many years of performing open heart surgery, I know where that stuff ends up’. 34
Before adding in my own commentary, I want to make it clear that what leaders of the church eat is their decision and is not a direction to members of the church about what to eat. They don’t tell us, “Eat what we eat.” They tell us, “Read the Word of Wisdom and get your own revelations.” I just included those in here because it’s fun to me!
That being said, as you can glean from many of the above quotes there is more to meat consumption than simply what various apostles and prophets diet preference is. There are many things you should take into consideration when eating meat. Pondering on a few of these quotes, may help you to consider all of your options.
These quotes make it abundantly clear that we have a stewardship over the earth and animals, and if I eat them without need, I will have to answer for their lives before my Maker. We are literally killing when we eat meat. And are there times it is expedient to do so? You betcha!
I firmly believe we could drastically cut down our consumption if we would simply ask ourselves if we are following the Lord’s directions. We could ask ourselves the following questions:
- Am I using this sparingly?
- Is this a time of winter, cold or famine?
- Is this a time of excess of hunger?
- Can I eat this with thanksgiving?
Beyond asking yourself these questions, my call to action is for each person to sincerely read Doctrine and Covenants 89 and study it’s contents and related scriptures and then pray! Pray and find out for yourself the best ways that you can more fully live the Word of Wisdom and reap its blessings.
It feels tacky bearing testimony via blog post, but I have such a strong testimony of this principle! Living the Word of Wisdom comes with so many amazing blessings. I was experiencing a portion of them before we decided to more fully live these verses, but now that I am actively trying to live 100% of the Word of Wisdom, the blessings are more than I ever could have imagined! Just do it, you won’t regret it and you will begin to feel better every single day.
And if you still aren’t convinced yet, just wait. Every week for the next month or two I will have another blog post on evidences of the Word of Wisdom. I will dive deeper into scriptures and what they say, common objections of the Word of Wisdom (especially the ‘moderation in all things’ line), scientific data, success stories, what we should eat and more. So check back soon for more!
- Documentary History of the Church, vol. 2, pp. 71–72
- “The Word of Wisdom,” Times and Seasons 3, no. 15 (June 1, 1842): 801.
- “Word of Wisdom”, Times and Seasons: Truth will prevail. Vol. 3, No. 15, City of Nauvoo, ILL. 1 June 1842, p. 800
- Shedding Blood – God’s Provision for His Saints, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 50, 15 Nov. 1857
- Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, 7 April, 1868, p. 221-226
- Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 6 April 1868, p. 269-271
- Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p. 68 – p. 69, Brigham Young, July 19, 1877
- Editorial thoughts Juvenile Instructor 9, No. 25, 1874, p. 294
- Juvenile Instructor, No. 31, 1896, p.218
- Diary of Heber J. Grant, Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Church Archives, 5 May 1898
- Journal History, 5 May 1898, p. 2-3
- An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon, Dennis B. Horne, 2004, p. 424
- Journal History, 11 March 1897, p. 2
- Church Historian’s Office, Journal History of the Church (May 5, 1898): 23
- In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, p. 64; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 45
- Juvenile Instructor, April 1918, p. 182-3
- Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, 1919, p. 286
- Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, 1919, p. 286
- Conference Report, April 1937, p. 15
- Improvement Era 53, April 1950, p. 287
- “Eat Flesh Sparingly,” in Conference Report, April 1948, 75)
- General Conference, Oct. 1951
- Improvement Era, 1953, p. 376
- Joseph Fielding Smith, “Is It a Sin to Kill Animals Wantonly?” Improvement Era, August 1961, 568.
- Improvement Era, Aug. 1961, p. 568
- Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of the Church, General Conference, April. 1978
- Ezra Taft Benson, “In His Steps,” BYU Devotional (1979)
- Personal conversation with Reed A. Benson, son of President Ezra Taft Benson, October 3, 1995
- The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement, Thomas G. Alexander, 1981 p. 79
- Millennial Messiah, 1982, p. 658-9
- Hugh Nibley, The Word of Wisdom: A Commentary on D&C 89, December 1979, Gospel Doctrine Class
- Mormon Should Mean “More Good”, General Conference, Oct. 1990
- Spencer Condie, April 2018 KSL News radio Interview