11) Meat: Should we eat meat? If so, how often and when?

Prophetic Statements

Hyrum Smith

“Why is it that we are frequently so dull and languid? It is because we break the word of wisdom, disease preys upon our system, our understandings are darkened, and we do not comprehend the things of God; the devil takes advantage of us, and we fall into temptation. . . . And be it remembered– that this instruction is given “in consequence of evils that do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men.” . . .

God only is acquainted with the fountain of action, and the main springs of human events; he knows where disease is seated, and what is the cause of it;-he is also acquainted with the spring of health; the balm of Gilead-of life; he knows what course to pursue to restore mankind to their pristine excellency and primitive vigour [vigor], and health; and he has appointed the word of wisdom as one of the engines to bring about this thing, to remove the [page 799] beastly appetites, the murderous disposition and the vitiated taste of man; to restore his body to health, and vigour [vigor], promote peace between him and the brute creation, and as one of the little wheels in God’s designs, to help to regulate the great machinery, which shall eventually revolutionize the earth, and bring about the restoration of all things, and when they are restored he will plant “the tree of life, whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations.”1

Let men attend to these instructions, let them use the things ordained of God; let them be sparing of the lives of animals; “it is pleasing saith the Lord that flesh be used only in time of winter, or of famine – and why to be used in famine? Because all the domesticated animals would naturally die and may as well be made use of by man, as not. . . .

Let these things be adhered to; let the Saints be wise; let us lay aside our folly and abide by the commandments of God; so shall we be blessed of the great Jehovah in time and in eternity: we shall be healthy, strong and vigorous: we shall be enabled to resist disease; and wisdom will crown our councils, and our bodies will become strong and powerful, our progeny will become mighty, and will rise up and call us blessed; the daughters of Jesus will be beautiful, and her sons the joy of the whole earth; we shall prepare ourselves for the purposes of Jehovah, for the kingdom of God, for the appearance of Jesus in his glory; ‘out of Zion the perfection of beauty,’ God will shine; Zion will be exalted, and become the praise of the whole earth.” 2 


Brigham Young

Mothers, keep the children from eating meat; and let them eat vegetables that are fully matured, not unripe, and bread that is well baked, not soft. Do not put your loaf into the oven with a fire hot enough to burn it before it is baked through, but with a slow heat, and let it remain until it is perfectly baked; and I would prefer, for my own eating, each and every loaf to be not thicker than my two hands – you tell how thick they are – and I would want the crust as thick as my hand. 4

A thorough reformation is needed in regard to our eating and drinking, and on this point I will freely express myself, and shall be glad if the people will hear, believe and obey. 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, and without putting it in a code of commandments. The beef fed upon our mountain grasses is as healthy food as we need at present. Beef, so fattened, is as good as wild meat, and is quite different in its nature from stall-fed
meat. But we can eat fish, and I ask the people of this community, Who hinders you from raising fowls for their eggs ? Who hinders you from cultivating fruit of every variety that will flourish in the different parts of this Territory ? There has not been a day through the whole winter that I have not had fresh peaches, and plenty of apples and strawberries. Who hinders any person in this
community from having these different kinds of food in their families? Fish is as healthy a food as we can eat, if we except vegetables and fruit, and with them will become a very wholesome diet.


Let the people be holy, and the earth under their feet will be holy. Let the people be holy, and filled with the Spirit of God, and every animal and creeping thing will be filled with peace; the soil of the earth will bring forth in its strength, and the fruits thereof will be meat for man. The more purity that exists, the less is the strife , the more  kind we are to our animals, the more will peace increase, and the savage nature of the brute creation vanish away.


Sisters, will you take notice, and instruct those who are not here today, to adopt this rule stop your children from eating meat, and especially fat meat, . . .


Now, cultivate your farms and gardens well, and drive your stock to where they can live through the winter, if you have not feed for them. Do not keep so many cattle, or, in other words, more than you can well provide for and make profitable to yourselves and to the Kingdom of God. We have hundreds and thousands of fat cattle upon the ranges, and yet we have no beef to eat, or very little. Kill your cattle when they are fat, and salt down the meat, that you may have meat to eat in the winter and some to dispose of to your neighbors for their labor to extend your improvements. Lay up your meat, and not let it die on your hands. Such a course is not right. Cattle are made for our use, let us take care of them.


Wilford Woodruff

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.” 9

Lorenzo Snow

The Word of Wisdom is violated as much or more in the improper use of meat as in other things, and the time is near at hand when the Latter-day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and the shedding of animal blood. 10

[President Lorenzo Snow] 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 the Latter-day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and the shedding of animal blood. 11

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

[President Snow] 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.” 13

Joseph F. Smith

I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood. They go off hunting deer, antelope, elk, anything they can find, and what for?

Not that they are hungry and need the flesh of their prey, but just because they love to shoot and to destroy life. I am a firm believer, with reference to these things, 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.” 14

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. 15

Man in his wanton disregard of a sacred duty has been reckless of life. He has destroyed it with an indifference to the evil results it would entail upon the earth. Birds have been uselessly slaughtered, and pests have sprung up as a consequence to plague the people of the world. Animals in the providence of the creation have been intended as a prey upon one another. They preserve a safe balance for the benefit of man. 16

The dominion the Lord gave man over the brute creation has been, to a very large extent, used selfishly, thoughtlessly, cruelly.17

Heber J. Grant

. . . 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. 18

George Albert Smith

President [George Albert] Smith’s meals are simple and nourishing. In the summer he eats no meat, and even in the winter months he eats very little. 19

Flesh of the beast and fowls of the air; and these things He refers to we may use with prudence and thanksgiving; and I want to emphasize with thanksgiving. 20

David O. McKay

A true Latter-day Saint it kind to animals, is kind to every created thing, for God has created all. 21

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. 22

Joseph Fielding Smith

This is my answer to you in relation to President Brigham Young’s statement that mothers should not feed their small children meat. Yes! Small children do not need the flesh of animals. May I add also that adults would be better if they would refrain from too much eating of meat. As far as I am concerned the eating of meat should be very sparingly. In fact I will be contented if the Millennium was to be ushered in next week. When it is, we will learn that the eating of meat is not good for us. 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? Naturally in times of famine the flesh of animals was perhaps a necessity, but in my judgment when the Millennium reaches us, we will live above the need of killing dumb innocent animals and eating them. If we will take this stand in my judgment we may live longer. 23

The inference in this interpretation [in reference to JST Genesis 9:11] is that the use of the flesh of living creatures should be indulged in sparingly although there was no sin in the shedding of their blood when required for food. There is no inference in the scriptures that it is the privilege of men to slay birds or beasts or to catch fish wantonly. The Lord gave life to every creature, both the birds in the heavens, beasts on the earth, and the fishes in the streams or seas. They also were commanded to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. It was intended that all creatures should be happy in their several elements. Therefore to take the life of these creatures wantonly is a sin before the Lord. 24

“He loved fruits and vegetables, and was a near vegetarian, eating just an occasional piece of meat” 25

Jessie Evans Smith, wife of Joseph Fielding Smith, stated: “My husband doesn’t eat meat. . . . We eat lots of fruits and vegetables.”26

My husband doesn’t eat meat and he felt a disdain of meat and love of vegetables. 27

Spencer W. Kimball

I remember the song “In Our Lovely Deseret,” which Sister Eliza R. Snow wrote. She composed many of our songs. I can remember how lustily we sang . . . The song goes on:

Drink no liquor, and they eat
But a very little meat

[I still don’t eat very much meat.]

They are seeking to be great and good and wise.


Now, I also would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life. I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here by the prophets.

And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals. For that purpose I read the scripture where the Lord gave us all the animals. Seemingly, he thought it was important that all these animals be on the earth for our use and encouragement.

President Joseph F. Smith said, “When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park, and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer [feeding] along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hurt and none to molest in all the land, especially among all the inhabitants of Zion. These same birds, if they were to visit other regions, inhabited by man, would, on account of their tameness, doubtless become more easily a prey to the gunner. The same may be said of those beautiful creatures—the deer and the antelope. If they should wander out of the park, beyond the protection that is established there for these animals, they would become, of course, an easy prey to those who were seeking their lives. I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle; and the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.

“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood.” 29

One of the poets stated in this connection:

Take not away the life you cannot give,
For all things have an equal right to live.

—and I might add there also, because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.

It is quite a different matter when a pioneer crossing the plains would kill a buffalo to bring food to his children and his family. There were also those vicious men who would kill buffalo only for their tongues and skins, permitting the life to be sacrificed and the food also to be wasted. 30


Ezra Taft Benson

President Ezra Taft Benson’s son said that his father: “In his personal life, was sparing in his use of meat and generous in his use of fresh vegetables and grains.” 32

In this revelation [D&C 89] 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.)


. . . “wild animals” which God made for the use of man only “in times of famine and excess of hunger.” (See D&C 89:15.) 



D&C 89:12-13

Yea, flesh also of the beasts and 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.

Genesis 9:11, Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands. 35

D&C 49:18-19

And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

Supporting Statements

Heber C. Kimball

“It is not pleasing in my sight for man to shed blood of beasts, or of fowls, except in times of excess of hunger and famine.” Go and read it for yourselves. If he is not well pleased with us when we shed the blood of beasts when we have no need of it, would it not be much more displeasing to him were we to shed the blood of man unnecessarily? It is not the Spirit of God that leads a man or woman to shed blood—to desire to kill and slay. When the time comes that we have need to shed blood, then it will be necessary we should do it, and it will be just as innocent as to go and kill an ox when we are hungry or in the time of famine.


George Q. Cannon

“We are told that swine’s flesh is not good, and that we should dispense with it; and we are told that flesh of any kind is not suitable to man in the summer time, and ought to be eaten sparingly in the winter. The question arises in the minds of a great many people, “What then are we to eat if we drop swine’s flesh and eat very little beef or mutton, and cannot drink tea or coffee, why, dear me, we shall starve to death.” In conversation with one of the brethren the other day, he remarked “the diet of the poor is principally bread and meat, and if they dispense with meat, they will be reduced to very hard fare.” I reasoned with him on the subject, and before we had got through, I believe I convinced him that other articles of food could be raised more cheaply and in greater variety than the flesh of animals. But just at the present time we are destitute, to some extent, of this needed variety; and, hence, the very apparent necessity that we as a people should turn our attention to the multiplication of varieties of food in our midst. We should not confine ourselves to a few articles of diet and be content therewith; but the people who have the opportunity of so doing should cultivate a variety of food for the benefit of themselves and families.” 37

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. 38

Even beasts have rights which must be respected. 39

Joseph F. Merrill

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, cheese, and beans. 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. 40

Eliza R. Snow

In Our Lovely Deseret (Verse 2)

That the children may live long
And be beautiful and strong,
Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise,
Drink no liquor, and they eat
But a very little meat;
They are seeking to be great and good and wise.

Times and Seasons

“…it is pleasing saith the Lord that flesh be used only in times of winter, or of famine’-and why to be used in famine? because all domesticated animals would naturally die, and may as well be made use of by man, as not…” 41

John A. Widtsoe

“If one uses meat it must be used sparingly and in winter or famine only…. They who wish to be well and gain the promised reward stated in the Word of Wisdom must obey all of the law, not just part of it as suits their whim or their appetite, or their notion of its meaning.” 42

At the time that the Word of Wisdom was given, meat, when it could be obtained, was largely used by all classes. It was generally looked upon as the best and most necessary food for full health. Those who raised their voices in opposition to this view were held to be fanatical, untrustworthy “food faddists.” Alas! Some people hold that opinion today!

It was therefore a courageous departure from accepted practice to teach that meat should be used “sparingly,” and further to suggest that man may live without meat as implied in the words, “they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold or famine.” 43

Bruce R. McConkie

Man and all forms of life will be vegetarians in the coming day; the eat of meat will cease, because, for one thing, death as we know it ceases. There will be no shedding of blood. 44

Orson Hyde

“. . . . take care of [animals] well; then we can enjoy ourselves, and we are not the authors of misery to any part of creation.” 45

Hyrum Mack Smith

“To kill, when not necessary, is a sin akin to murder.” 46

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.47

Hugh Nibley

“Man’s dominion is a call to service, not a license to exterminate. It is precisely because men now prey upon each other and shed the blood and waste the flesh of other creatures without need that ‘the world lieth in sin’.” 48

“Meat sparingly. Again, sparing is a good word. It means “sparing Gods creatures.” It is to be used with thanksgiving and not with gluttony, which is one of the national weaknesses. (Overweight is one of our national diseases.) That’s gluttony, which is one of the seven deadly sins. You have a right to meat, according to the 49th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. 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. “Starve” means to die of cold as well as of famine. And the Saints need meat to see them through the winter and restore their fainting strength. Remember the miracle of the quails, for example. Game only in times of famine and excess of hunger. But the supplies are limited, and we cannot afford to hunt the year round, promiscuously. 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.”49

  1. Hyrum Smith, “The Word of Wisdom” (1842) Times and Seasons Vol. III. No. 15. CITY OF NAUVOO, ILL. JUNE 1, 1842. [Whole No. 51]
  2. Times and Seasons 4 (1 May 1843): 183.
  3. Hyrum Smith, “The Word of Wisdom” (1842) Times and Seasons Vol. III. No. 15. CITY OF NAUVOO, ILL. JUNE 1, 1842. [Whole No. 51]
  4. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p. 68 – p. 69, Brigham Young, July 19, 1877
  5. Brigham Young “Necessity of Obeying Counsel—Reformation in Eating and Drinking—Improvements—Female Relief Societies—Chastity,” reported by G. D. Watt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 12 (Liverpool: Albert Carrington, 1869), p. 192.
  6. Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 177 (The Last Days)
  7. Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 298
  8. Discourses of Brigham Young, 456
  9. Diary of Heber J. Grant, Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Church Archives, 5 May 1898
  10. Journal History, 11 March 1897 p. 2
  11. In Journal History of the Church, 11 March 1897, LDS Archives; see also Leonard J. Arrington, “An Economic Interpretation of the ‘Word of Wisdom,’ ” Brigham Young University Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, Winter 1959), p. 47.] Lorenzo Snow, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, 11 March 189
  12. An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon, Dennis B. Horne, 2004, p. 424
  13. Journal History, 5 May 1898, p. 2-3
  14. Juvenile Instructor, April, 1913, Vol. 48, pp. 308-309.
  15. Juvenile Instructor, April 1918, p. 182-3
  16. Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor 53:182-83, April 1918.
  17. Joseph F. Smith, Source: Juvenile Instructor 47 [February 1912]: 78
  18. Conference Report, General Conference, April 1937, p. 15
  19. Robert Murray Stewart, “A Normal Day in the Home of George Albert Smith,” Improvement Era 53 (April, 1950): 287.
  20. General Conference, October 1923, p. 72-3
  21. General Conference, Oct. 1951
  22. Improvement Era, 1953, p. 376
  23. 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.]  Joseph Fielding Smith, President of the Twelve, 30 Dec. 1966
  24. Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.4, p.48
  25. Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, pg. 5
  26. “Jessie Evans Smith’s Ninety-Minute Bread,” Improvement Era (April 1970): 59.
  27. Brigham Young University Daily Universe, 6 May 1971, p. 1
  28. October 1978 General Conference, Strengthening the Family. Spencer W. Kimball
  29. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, pp. 265–66.
  30. History of the Church, 2:71–72.
  31. October 1978 General Conference, Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live. Spencer W. Kimball
  32. Paul H. Peterson, “The Sanctity of Food: A Latter-day Saint Perspective,” in Religious Educator 2, no. 1 (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2001), 41.
  33. General Conference, A Principle with a Promise
  34. General Conference, Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
  35. Genesis 9:11, Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible; see Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), section 49, footnote 21a, p. 90.
  36. JOD, 6:50
  37. George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses 12: 221-222.
  38. Juvenile Instructor, No. 31, 1896, p. 218
  39. Editorial thoughts Juvenile Instructor 9, No. 25, 1874, p. 294
  40. Joseph F. Merrill, “Eat Flesh Sparingly,” in Conference Report, April 1948, 75. This reads “[meats]” in the original article.
  41. Hyrum Smith, “The Word of Wisdom.” Times and Seasons volume 3. 1 June 1842
  42. The Word of Wisdom, a Modern Interpretation, 1950
  43. The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation, 1950, p. 217
  44. Millennial Messiah, 1982, p. 658-9
  45. General Conference, 7 Oct. 1865
  46. Hyrum Mack Smith. Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, 1919, p. 286
  47. Doctrine and Covenants, Commentary, section 47, p. 361
  48. Nibley, Timely and the Timeless. p. 95-110
  49. The Word of Wisdom: A Commentary on D&C 89, Dec. 1979 Gospel Doctrine class
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