LDS Prof Says Vegetarian Diet Upholds Mormon Scripture

Jul 23, 2008 by Elizabeth Ziegler

(KCPW News) LDS faithful across the region will celebrate Pioneer Day Thursday with barbeques and rodeos. But BYU philosophy professor Chris Foster says the Word of Wisdom that advises Mormons to abstain from drinking caffeine and alcohol also applies to eating meat and treating animals unkindly.

“The Mormon doctrine is strongly pro-animal. And it’s strongly opposed to any kind of cruelty to animals, including mistreatment and killing when it is not necessary,” Foster says. “Unfortunately, Mormon culture didn’t quite live up to that.  So there is a big discrepancy between what the gospel taught and how Latter-day Saints mostly seem to live.”

Foster joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a vegetarian who believes strongly in animal rights. He is the founder of the group Mormons for Animals and heads the vegetarian club at BYU. Foster says the radical animal rights movement is off-putting to many in the predominantly conservative LDS faith. He says the most effective animal rights message is just to tell the public the truth.

“There is an ethical component, and there is a health component, and there is a spiritual component, and there is an environmental component certainly today,” Foster says. “Animal agriculture is one of the most harmful things we do to our soil, to our water, to carbon emissions, to forest-clearing, it’s a very harmful environmental enterprise as well, so all four of those ideas are on the side of kinder diets.”

Foster gave a presentation on the Morality of Rodeos from an LDS point of view last night at 7 p.m. at the Main City Library. Click here to listen to a podcast conversation with Foster from Tuesday’s Public Square.

Email to a friendPosted in KCPW Newsroom. Copyright 2008 KCPW

1. DB said:

There is a *lot* of information, including lots of links to both secular and religious sites, on Eco-Eating at

2. Vasu Murti said:

Kindness to animals can be found in the early teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Joseph Smith (1805-1844), who founded the Mormon Church in 1830, preached the humane treatment of animals:

“God glorified Himself by saving all that His hands had made, whether beasts, fowls, fishes or men; and He will glorify Himself with them

“Kindness to the whole animal creation and especially to all domestic animals is not only a virtue that should be developed but is the ABSOLUTE DUTY OF MANKIND. Children should be taught that nature in all forms is our heavenly Father’s Great Book of Life.

“Furthermore, he who treats in a brutal manner a poor dumb animal, at that moment disqualifies himself for the companionship of the Holy Spirit.”

It appears even poisonous snakes were to be treated with respect. An entry in Smith’s diary dated May 26, 1834, describes poisonous snakes found in the encampment: “The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill the serpent, bird or animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary to preserve ourselves from hunger.”

According to Mormon theology, humans are held responsible for treatment of every animal in their care. In Joseph Smith’s inspired version of the Bible, Genesis 9:11 reads: “Blood of animals shall not be shed only for meat to save your lives; and the blood of every beast I will require at your hands.” Commenting on this verse, W. Cleon Skowsen writes in First Two Thousand Years, “God did not intend that the lives of animals should be subject to cruelty and abuse. The proper treatment of the animal kingdom is part of the human stewardship.”

The Mormon scripture and Bible (Doctrine and Covenants, 49:21) says: “And woe be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” It further states, “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.” (Doctrine and Covenants, Commentary, section 47, p. 361).

The Mormon Church has also advocated a mostly vegetarian diet as part of its philosophy of health and reverence for life. This began in 1833, when church founder Joseph Smith received a revelation of such a health code as God’s will, emphasizing grains as the staple for one’s diet. Meat is meant to be eaten only rarely, such as in times of famine or extreme cold, when animals will likely perish.

The exact statement from the Mormon scriptures reads as follows:

“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

Brigham Young, who succeeded Joseph Smith as head of the Mormon Church in 1847, taught that animals are a sacred gift from God and humans are obliged to respect them: “If we maltreat our animals, or each other, the spirit within us, our traditions and the Bible, all agree in declaring it is wrong…The more kind we are to our animals, the more peace will increase.”

David O. McKay, former president of the Mormon Church, explains humanity’s duties and responsibilities towards animals as follows: “A true Latter-day Saint is kind to animals, is kind to every living thing, for God has created all…In all teaching, the element of love for all of the creatures of the earth can be emphasized, and thus religion imparted.”

According to George Q. Cannon (1827-1901): “These birds and animals and fish cannot speak, but they can suffer, and our God who created them knows their sufferings, and will hold him who causes them to suffer unnecessarily to answer for it. It is a sin against their Creator.

“Children who are trained to respect the rights of the lower animals,” taught Cannon, “will be more inclined to respect human rights and become good citizens. It has been observed that in places where special attention has been given in the public schools to the subject of kindness to animals, the percentage of crime has been lessened.”

Joseph Fielding Smith, nephew of church founder Joseph Smith, and president of the Mormon Church from 1901 to 1918, has written:

“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.

“There is no inference in the scriptures that it isa privilege of men to slay birds or beasts or to catch fish wantonly

“The domination the Lord gave man over the brute creations has been, to a very large extent, used selfishly, thoughtlessly, cruelly…

“Kindness to the whole animal creation is not only a virtue that should be developed, but is the absolute duty of mankind…But with this dominion came the responsibility to treat with love and consideration every living thing…

“Take not the life you cannot give. For all things have an equal right to live.”Hugh Nibley, a church leader in Utah, has written:”Man’s domination is a call to service, not a license to exterminate. It is precisely be cause 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.”

3. Clarence Darrow said:

Yeah, yeah … kindness to animals. And that equals strict vegetarianism HOW?

Give me a break. You PETA types just can’t let anyone enjoy life, can you?

4. Thomas said:

Mormon’s Are Commanded to be Vegetarians? BYU Professor Chris Foster’s misinterpretation of LDS scripture. Listen how Professor Foster projects his personal interpretations on to selected versus of the Word of Wisdom to substantiate his theory.

Anyone can extrapolate various theories of diverse sorts by selecting a single verse or a culmination of verses out of a full chapter or book to perceive their own personal scriptural interpretation and to rationalize and substantiate their own eating lifestyle. Vegetarian is one extreme of complete abstinence of meat and the scripture denotes the opposite standard of health with moderation in all things. But is Foster’s theory the true interpretation of the revelation? I wouldn’t bet my eternal salvation or my recommend on Prof. Foster’s interpretive hands.

5. Hap Cluff said:

Thomas, you may want to practice your scripture reading before you start making claims. Point 1, meat is not essential. Point 2, meat is detrimental to the body (with the possible exception of certain fish). Point 3, the 89th Section clearly states eating of flesh “…only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Point 4 meat, and everything associated with it’s production, is the single worst ecological thing there is (worse than all the others combined).

Posted in Articles on Diet.