mormon + vegan (part 2) (joseph’s perspective)

odd-duck Image: from Jiri Zraly via flikr

A few days ago I was struck by lightening. 

Well, not literal lightening, the figurative kind.

I’ll explain in a bit, but first.

About six years ago, I wrote this post.

Since then, the google machine has brought many, many visitors to bring joy who were searching for anyone & anything related to being Mormon (ie. LDS or belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) AND vegan, because apparently, the two labels rarely coincide.

And because of said visitors over the years, I’ve received lots of emails & messages from fellow Mormons–

“Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone!”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one.”

“How do you handle church functions that involve food?”

And so on.

The other day I received one of the most surprising, I-can’t-believe-it-happened, “is this for real?” type emails I’ve ever received, from a fellow Mormon or otherwise.

Before I share it, I must say that I have only had a few times that I’ve run into people out in public where they recognize me from my blog (& it all happened when I was living in Utah).

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m not a celebrity, people! 

I have a small-ish, nichey readership, so the fact that the following incident actually occurred only underscores the serendipitous-ness of it all.

 

The email

 

Hi Janae,

I think I saw you at the library yesterday…I found your blog (I think it had a different name then–Vegan Momma, maybe?*…I don’t remember for sure.) a few years ago, when I googled “vegan Mormon”.

For years I’ve been trying to figure out if eating vegan is okay, and lots of people have given me the message that it’s not okay, or not wise, including the church website nutritional guidelines, church leaders, etc.

But it just keeps coming back to me to look into that vegan eating way, and I’ve even tried it more diligently lately, and I’ve been visiting Jane Birch’s Discovering the Word of Wisdom site frequently, but I feel like I keep going in circles, and I don’t know how many times I had a conversation with my husband where I tell him I’ve thinking about it or trying it again, and he tells me it’s not in line with the prophets and scriptures, he’s not convinced animals suffer all that much, and I’m scared of not eating animals, for my health and my family’s, and even for my spiritual well-being (rejecting his blessings of animal sacrifices, which even reminds me of the atonement, and how death is necessary).

But then, like I say, I change my mind, get sad about the baby boy chicks being killed just because they’re boys, and think that maybe we’re getting past the “death” requirement, kind of like how sacrifices were done away, and now we just take bread and water (but then, Jesus ate fish after that even, so ?), and I think that maybe my body would understand eating in the right balance better if I ate just plants…

So yesterday I was at the library with my three little kids, picking up some books we had on hold for them, and one for me–The Forks Over Knives Plan–that I’ve hesitated to request, and hesitated to check out even when I found it there on the shelf for me yesterday.

When I was at the checkout about to check out my book I saw you at a checkout with your kids, and thought I recognized you.  When I saw you  in the parking lot I counted only four kids, so I thought maybe I was wrong, since I saw five kids in the picture** you had on Jane Birch’s site.  Then I got on your site to find out where you live–Texas, so I guessed it wasn’t you, but then I found somewhere else where you said you’re going to Washington state, so…maybe it was you?

I thought that was really amazing!

I confess, it makes me feel like I have a chance to have a vegan friend, to help me feel like I’m not crazy for wanting to eat this way.  I’ve wanted to go to Jane Birch’s get-togethers, to be around other people who have these ideas, and see what that feels like…cause I feel kind of nuts sometimes for agreeing with the ideas, and I’m not sure I’ve got it right…maybe that’s weird.

If that wasn’t you, thanks for “listening”, anyway!  and thanks for your blog!

A veg-curious reader in Washington

*Yes, this lil’ blog began under the name Whole Foods Vegan Momma. Some of you veteran readers remember that!

**This is the picture she is talking about.

 

I write this dear reader back & tell her that yes, that WAS me!

I only had four of my kids with me at the time, but yes, that was me with my tandem stroller, checking out 100 books at the self-checkout while trying to keep my one & four year olds from running away.

I only happened to be at that library because the library in the town where I’m staying is being renovated & is closed, so I borrowed a card from a family member & was at the library (45 minutes from where I’m actually living) where  saw me.

 

My response

 

Hi dear reader,

I could go through & answer your concerns/questions point by point but I’m not going to do that (although Joseph will, as you can see if you scroll a bit further down).

Basically, I will say this.

It’s not complicated.

I know that I’m a child of God. I have faith that He wants me, & all of His children to be happy. There are many things that we need to do daily to help us to be happy. Our food choices are just one of those things, but those choices are particularly important, because those choices ripple out & affect our neighbors, our environment, & of course the animals.

Eating vegetarian is a very simple choice for me. I don’t need to eat meat, so I don’t.

Eating vegan is also rather easy (though I admit I’m not one of those who is 100% vegan in all that I eat, wear, & use, though I try my best)–dairy doesn’t agree with me (even eggs, though less so than milk or yogurt). The few times that I have had dairy foods in the nearly decade that I’ve been vegan, I always, always regret it (see this post as an example). I get bloated, have MAJOR gastrointestinal pain accompanied by diarrhea. Let’s just say my body makes it pretty easy to avoid these foods.

I strongly believe in free will, choice, or as we Mormons call it, FREE AGENCY.

We have the principles set forth in the WOW (Word of Wisdom), let us govern ourselves. For some in the church, they will eat meat. Okay. As for me & my house, we’ll stick to the plants for now.

I’m used to going to ward barbecues & bringing along my stack of veggie burgers or veggie dogs. I’m used to being different. I’m not just okay with it, I expect it.

I could write more, but I passed your email along to Joseph (my very supportive, NON-vegetarian husband), who responded (his response is directed to me, not directly to you). I think his response is much more interesting than mine.

 

Joseph writes:

 

I actually looked around the internet a bit this morning, and found this from Jane Birch:

It is clear that “whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats” is not ordained of God since God ordained both plants and the flesh of animals for our use. But He does ask us to use them sparingly. He also tells us that is it pleasing to Him if we do not use the flesh of animals except in times of need (winter, cold, famine, excess of hunger; see D&C 89:13, 15). This counsel comes to us “not by commandment or constraint” (D&C 89:2). We are left to our own judgment as to how we will follow the Lord’s counsel. So, there is no prohibition against being vegetarian. In fact, it is “pleasing” to God. But we should not preach this as a commandment that others must obey.

One can only wonder who these crazy “church leaders” are, and what the heck is she referring to with this “church website nutritional guidelines” nonsense?

The only language I could find in church publications states:

Meat, poultry, eggs, and fish are good sources of the protein that our bodies need to grow strong. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are also good sources of protein. Protein builds muscle tissue and aids us in recovering from illness. Pregnant women and small children especially need protein to develop properly. These types of foods also contain minerals, such as iron and calcium, that help our bodies develop and function properly,” and “Some people think it does not matter what they eat as long as the stomach is filled. This is not true. No one kind of food can take the place of another. Each kind has its own value. We need the vitamins in fruits and vegetables to protect us from some diseases. We need the protein in meats and other foods for growth. (If family members choose not to eat meat or animal products, good sources of protein are beans, peas, and lentils.) Also, we need the carbohydrates in grains for energy. Planning our meals around five basic food groups can help ensure we eat a balanced diet.”  — Lesson 22 of “The Latter-day Saint Woman”

So clearly, the church contemplates the possibility that some folks will choose not to eat meat, and acknowledges that hey, that’s cool, these other foods will get you the same benefits.

To address some other concerns:

– Animals don’t suffer all that much?

Yeah, possibly.  I suppose free-range cattle (if that is what you are eating) sort of enjoy their lives, and are killed in an instant so their suffering is minimized.

However, (1) that is a best case scenario, and (2) that fact that an animal can be eaten without causing that animal very much suffering hardly compels us to eat it.

– Animal sacrifices (???)

Way back, 2000+ years ago, when people were less righteous and needed to “be commanded in all things,” God instituted a practice for the purpose of making His son’s sacrifice more real for the Israelites.

Unfortunately, over time, the metaphor was lost and it become little more than an industry (for most), causing Christ to get about as angry as he ever did (this is a house of God, but ye have made it a den of thieves – tossing the money-changers out of the temple).  Christ explicitly declared this practice over.

There is NOTHING about our current practice of the gospel that still includes anything like this, and NO CHURCH LEADER IN MODERN TIMES has ever stated that we have a doctrinal responsibility to kill animals Yes, it was supposed to remind them of the atonement.

However, we have a better way to do that now.  It is called the SACRAMENT.  Okay, I’m going to stop yelling.  And death being necessary?  I guess.  But death being necessary doesn’t mean that killing is necessary.  Why can’t animals just die a natural death, same as we’d all like to?

– What does Jesus eating fish have to do with anything? 

Our saying that people can be vegetarian/vegan, and that being as doctrinally valid as not being vegetarian/vegan, doesn’t mean that people MUST be vegetarian/vegan.

It is a CHOICE.  That is the whole point.

Maybe that morning Christ was just feeling a little low on his Omega-3s, and didn’t have some greens, or chia seeds available.  I don’t mean to make a joke out of Christ’s food choices, but he also fasted for 40 days, so maybe we shouldn’t feel compelled to do EVERYTHING that he did.

end of Joseph’s response….back to mine.

In regards to needing meat & animal products for you or your family’s health, I’d direct you to The China Study (affiliate link). It’s certainly not the only piece of science related evidence towards a whole foods, plant-based diet being not only healthy, but ideal, but it’s the best place to start.

Last thing I’m going to say.

I know it seems like a HUGE thing right now. But give it a try. A real, sincere try. Focus on sustainable choices, focus on abundance, focus on how good you feel when you eat this way. And in time, you will see positive results & the worry/anxiety/wondering what people will think of you, will fade away.

Thanks for your email (again, it totally made my day!), & I look forward to meeting you in real time sometime soon.

signature

 

 

 

Other bring joy posts you might want to check out:

 

Are you Mormon & vegan/plant-based/vegetarian/flexitarian? Please give Caroline some support in the comments below!


Comments


  1. Carl
    on June 12, 2016 at 3:03 am said:

    Totally agree; these are guidelines and not doctrines. Considering the whole picture, do we really think that choosing not to partake of anything that has before had a face, a mother or a backside will restrain us from entering God’s presence – think not.

  2. Jane Birch
    on July 22, 2015 at 8:56 pm said:

    Awesome story, Amy! Thanks for sharing it. Do you think you’d be willing to share a longer version of your journey on Discovering the Word of Wisdom? See: http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com/share-story/. I’d love to help you share your story to bless more people! Please contact me on my website!

  3. Amy
    on July 22, 2015 at 8:33 pm said:

    Veg-curious – I attempted to go vegetarian about 5 years ago and was met with hard resistance from my husband and also his friend. I felt very confused because it seemed like that was what the Lord favored, but they were pretty convincing. I went back to my normal eating and didn’t really think about it again until about 8 months ago when I read Jane’s website, watched Forks Over Knives, and devoured the internet for information. It was like a light went on in my brain. I knew in my heart that this was right, I knew it so much I was afraid I would get lazy and go back to my old habits again so I fasted for help to remain committed. I didn’t even ask if it was right, I knew it…in my head and in my heart. And guess what? My husband is mostly vegan now and my kids are mostly vegan too…all 5 of them! My sister and my in-laws have also become vegan due to my example! You never know who you will influence by living what you know to be true. Also, I never forced anyone in my family to eat as I do, it just came naturally as I explained my choices. One last thing…I got my degree nutrition. A well-rounded whole food vegan diet is definitely nutritionally sound. 🙂

  4. Tiffany Nay
    on July 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm said:

    Hey, not EVERY time you were recognized occurred in Utah! I recognized you in Texas 😉 I also completely apply to the group of people who found Whole Foods Vegan Momma by searching for “vegan mormon”. I’m so glad I found your blog and even more glad I randomly got to spend time with you and your family during my short stint in San Antonio. You’ve been a key part in my finding a healthy, animal free lifestyle that works alongside being LDS!

  5. michelle
    on June 16, 2015 at 11:02 am said:

    Excellent post. I especially love the letter from your reader. The entire post is very thought provoking. I think it’s always a good idea to search and ponder all good things. Vegan or not, we all could eat a little better.

  6. Katie
    on June 15, 2015 at 1:27 pm said:

    This support is amazing! I’ve been plant-based for 2 years and while I did get casual for awhile, I have been eating clean again and have never felt better. Like Janae said, it’s been easy to say no to my old favorites because they make me feel awful.

    Also, I’m the only one in my group of friends who eats this way. I hope I’m not the exception, but they have been so supportive and kind, going out of their way to make sure me and my children are accommodated. I have never preached about it, and always talk about it casually if they bring it up. And I do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable about what they choose to eat. No one wants to feel guilty when they eat a sandwich! And like Janae said, I just bring my veggie burgers to functions and everything is fine and dandy!

    Anyway, I started eating this way because of a really strong prompting from the Holy Ghost. I know that it doesn’t contradict our gospel standards. If anything, I feel so much closer to the spirit and my body feels amazing these days. Good luck to you – you’re not alone!

  7. Sue Reuser
    on June 13, 2015 at 10:24 am said:

    It’s so nice to have found this blog (thank you Jane Birch). I was following Dr. John McDougall’s Starch based plan before I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I love being a member of his church but I have felt alienated because of my food choices.It is difficult when you don’t have church friends who will support you in your choice to eat only plants and no animals.I’ve been blessed to be active, feel great and have a firm testimony that Heavenly Father is pleased with me and this is what is good for me.

    I’m looking forward to meeting some of my new friends in person. Thank you Jane Birch, Meridian Magazine and Janae for speaking up. I look forward to following this blog.

  8. Parie
    on June 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm said:

    I felt compelled to leave a comment, because 1- Jane Birch is my sister and I love seeing all of these references to her & her book and 2- I am also a mother of 5 small children, and can relate to much of what you said. We have been eating a vegan diet for almost 2 years. At first I was so nervous that other people would find out and I worried what they would think of me. It makes me laugh now, because I’m happy that I eat this way, and I’m happy to tell others about it too. It has been a huge blessing for me and my family. I ultimately decided to change our diet because I felt prompted by the Lord that that was what He wanted us to do. Knowing that this is the Lord’s will for me and my family has made all the difference.
    I wish you all the best. This has been such a joyous journey for us, and I hope it will be for you too.

  9. Doug Hawkes
    on June 11, 2015 at 10:52 pm said:

    I definitely think that eating meat sparingly means as little as possible 🙂 If someone told me to spank my kids sparingly, I wouldn’t take that to mean make sure I spank them every week, or every day. Regardless of the semantics though, common sense from good science and compassion point the way well.

    And I can absolutely attest to the fact that not only can being vegan be healthy, but eating a minimally processed, plant-centered diet is the absolute healthiest thing for humans, for the animals, and for the planet!

    My wife and I have never been fitter in our lives! Being athletic has never been easier.

    May I suggest this presentation. It’s awesome. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/from-table-to-able/

  10. Michelle
    on June 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm said:

    I’ll be your vegan friend! I just started eating vegan a few weeks ago after reading Jane Birch’s articles in Meridian Magazine, and I highly recommend reading her book Discovering the Word of Wisdom, if you have not done so already. I, too, live here in the Tri Cities! Feel free to email me – chiquilina9@gmail.com. Maybe we could meet up for a vegan lunch sometime!

  11. JeriP
    on June 11, 2015 at 8:47 pm said:

    I remember asking my Mom when I was a child what “eating meat sparingly” meant and she told me that our family ate less meat than most families in our country. I have not worried about that subject over the many years that have flown by but when I read Jane Birch’s articles on Meridian Magazine last year, I began thinking about that question again. I have spent a fair amount of time and attention learning about how to eliminate meat and animal products and still eat a healthy diet following the sources Jane provided. We read “The China Study” and I started following blogs of people who eat the “Whole Food Plant Based” way of eating. I have learned more about nutrition and we are changing the way we are eating. We are smaller than we were and the kids said we looked younger when we returned from our last mission. I love not having to restrict the amount of food we can eat. Instead we just limit the types of food to eat. We now choose real food rather than the many factory produced packages available in the grocery store. I no longer think of vegetables as a side dish or just for added color on our plates. My husband and I are now enjoying eating vegetables and fruits and all of the complex carbs that have sustained the people of the world for ages. We are finding that there are many delicious choices that we find satisfying. I will forever miss brownies made from the big box of mix sold by Costco but being healthy is even better. We are just getting back into “real life” and I expect to find it a bit challenging to not eat everything that is available in group settings but I’m hoping that if I do not judge others food choices they will allow me to make my choices also. When we are asked questions we give simple answers. Hopefully, our cheerful compliance with healthy eating will be a good example for family and friends. I like having the Word of Wisdom as a template to judge information I find on the internet. It is so easy to become confused with conflicting advice or research. I eliminate those that conflict with the Word of Wisdom. Best wishes to all of us who want to take better care of our bodies.

  12. Cindi
    on June 11, 2015 at 8:38 pm said:

    I love how articulate she is in expressing her confusion. When I’m confused, it definitely doesn’t come out that clearly. As you’ve already pointed out, those of us who choose not to eat animals or animal products have all been inundated with the same criticisms, but as Joseph said. It is a viable choice: that’s the point.

    Over the years that I have been a member (since 1976), one thing I’ve learned is that Mormons like solidarity.

    I’ll never forget one morning when I was at a social gathering for young mothers many years ago. Another sister there started blasting me because I home schooled my son. She said it was against the missionary doctrine of the church and that Christ wanted us to be a light on a hill.

    My point is (and I’m sorry it’s taking so long to get there) that anytime we go against what others perceive to be the grain, we can expect opposition. We must always do what we feel is right and what is confirmed to us by the Holy Ghost. As Joseph Smith so eloquently said, (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t want to lose my place) “I know what I saw, and He knows I know.”

    Veganism is a very spiritual journey for all who take that course whether members of the Church or not. Bless you for considering it, and I hope you enjoy the ride as it really is very pleasant and scintillating.

  13. Jane Birch
    on June 11, 2015 at 7:51 pm said:

    Dear veg-curious in Washington:

    I love your search for truth, your honest reflections, and your sincere desire to do what is right. I feel the same way. I want to do what is right and what is pleasing to Heavenly Father and to our Savior. I’d be delighted if they told me to eat lots of meat, cheese, and junk foods as I rather enjoy those foods! Instead, we are told that our bodies are temples of God. We get to decide what that means for us. We have the Word of Wisdom for our guide. My personal study has led me to believe that meat, cheese, and junk foods are not the best way to care for our bodies, and since they are nutritionally unnecessary, I have given them up.

    I know it can be hard to feel what you are doing is right when others in the Church condemn this way of living. Of course what is most important is what God tells us in our hearts, but it is natural to be concerned we are not in tune. I can tell you that I know many Latter-day Saints who are the salt of the earth, filled with testimony of the Restored Gospel and fully committed members, who eat a plant-based diet. And some of these started out feeling exactly as you feel, but through study and prayer, they received the conviction of what was right for them. Some of these are or became General Authorities/Officers of the Church.

    The world is full of people with prejudice against this way of eating, both inside and outside of the Church. I have known many prejudiced people who have dramatically changed their minds on this topic has they’ve come to understand it better. Most of it is a lack of understanding.

    I testify that the Lord loves us and that our bodies are literal temples of His Spirit. He has given us precious counsel on how to care for this amazing gift. He is also patient with us. We are free to seek these truths and to live them and receive the blessings, if we desire.

    I’m touched by your tender regard for the animals. I feel the same way. I don’t believe our Savior feels any less tender toward His creatures.

    Feel free to contact me if there is anything I can do for you! http://discoveringthewordofwisdom.com/contact-me/

    Jane