Do Mormons eat meat?

Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints choose to eat meat, but others do not. The official Church position is best summarized with two important scriptural passages:

1. "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).

2. "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" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:18-19).

Some Church members have put a primary focus on D&C 89:13, suggesting that they must only eat meat in extreme conditions, while others have focused on D&C 89:12 and D&C 49:18-19, suggesting that eating meat is a commandment and should be done out of gratitude to the Lord as He created animals for our use. The Church has not preferred any specific interpretation but has encouraged the individual to determine, as guided by the Holy Ghost, what exactly these scriptures are intended to mean and where the appropriate point lies between two extremes of meat consumption. It is also worth clarifying a third scripture which is given as a preface to the Word of Wisdom, a health code which contains scripture number one above:

3. "To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days--" (Doctrine and Covenants 89:2).

This has been used by some members to justify eating meat beyond the limits prescribed by D&C 89:12-13. However, President Joseph F. Smith, who was among the first to designate obedience to the Word of Wisdom as a temple worthiness requirement, explained, "The reason undoubtedly why the Word of Wisdom was given-as not by 'commandment or restraint' was that at that time, at least, if it had been given as a commandment it would have brought every man, addicted to the use of these noxious things, under condemnation; so the Lord was merciful and gave them a chance to overcome, before He brought them under the law." Thus, D&C 89:2 should be interpreted as a provision for the Church at the time the revelation was given (1833) and the Word of Wisdom should be treated as a commandment today as per official Church policy. It is up to the individual to determine, as guided by the Holy Ghost, whether this change to commandment status applies to the entire Word of Wisdom, as some Church members have believed, or just to proscriptions like coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol, as yet other members have believed. However, arguably the best counsel on the issue of what is and is not a commandment comes in D&C 89:18-21:

"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen."

Whether or not dietary restrictions on meat are required of Latter-Day Saints, those who follow the counsel in the scriptures are promised both temporal and spiritual blessings.