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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Real Food and Religion series: Latter Day Saint

Our post today comes from Kris Godak. She blogs at dietwithkris, all about eating whole foods. She includes lots of recipes and thoughts on food and diet.  

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Most of you probably know us as the Mormons.  We prefer to be called "Latter Day Saints."  Saints in this phrase means that we are followers of Christ.  As such, we follow the teachings of the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  We also count as scripture, the Book of Mormon, which was written at about the same time as the New Testament, but its audience was the people on the American Continent.  It is referred to as "another testament of Jesus Christ."  It does not contradict the teachings of the Bible, but gives us another perspective.  In addition, we have a record of modern revelation received through our living prophets, beginning in the early 1800's.  This doctrine is where our code of health is found.  Joseph Smith, through revelation from God, presented to the Saints what we refer to as "The Word of Wisdom."

The Word of Wisdom, in its entirety can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 89.  If you would like to read it, here is the link:  I'll paraphrase it for you here.

First, there is a list of things we should not consume.  The Word of Wisdom tells us that drinking wine is not good, and isn't pleasing to God.  It tells us that it would only be appropriate when giving sacraments (communion).  And if we use it for that purpose, this wine should be homemade.  We are told that strong drinks are not to be taken internally but can be used for washing the body.   Tobacco is not to be used for the body nor taken internally, but can be used for bruises or sick cattle.    We are also told not to consume "hot drinks." 

The best part tells us what we should consume.  We are taught that all wholesome herbs are ordained by God for the use of man.  Every herb and fruit should be eaten in its season with prudence and thanksgiving.  Meat of both land animals and birds are also ordained by God to be used but we are to use them sparingly, and only in times of winter, cold, or famine.  All grain is to be used for man and animal and is to be the staff of life.  It is repeated that meat should be used sparingly, and repeated that wheat, particularly, is the grain for man.

In the last part of the Word of Wisdom, we are promised blessings for following this code of health.  We are told that we we'll receive health in our navels and marrow in our bones. We will find wisdom and treasures of knowledge.  We shall run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. 

You can tell this was written a long time ago.  As modern Latter-day Saints, we have to interpret what must have been meant by such doctrine.  For instance, we have adopted the idea that "wine" and "strong drink" refer to alcoholic beverages.  Devout Latter-day Saints do not partake of these at all.  Even our sacrament meetings (communion) no longer include wine or even grape juice.  We use water which has been blessed with a special prayer for this purpose.  As for tobacco, we take the Word of Wisdom to mean that we shouldn't chew or smoke it.  "Hot drinks" have been interpreted to mean coffee and tea.  Science has shown us that these items aren't healthy for various reasons, particularly the addictive stimulant caffeine.  Many Latter-day Saints do consume caffeine, though, in soda or chocolate.  Since the law doesn't use the word "caffeine,"  many choose not to interpret it to mean that.

Mormon culture embraces the Word of Wisdom, for the most part.  We certainly are a wheat-eating people.  Most LDS have a good supply of stored whole wheat berries.  We know that in the event of a disaster, we could live on this wheat for a long time.  We truly believe that it is the "staff of life" and it is the #1 item purchased for emergency preparedness.  Most LDS families are gardeners.  We even have a song in our Children's Songbook called, "The Prophet Said to Plant a Garden."  Here are the lyrics:

The prophet said to plant a garden, so that’s what we’ll do.
For God has given rich brown soil, the rain and sunshine too.
And if we plant the seeds just right and tend them carefully,
Before we know, good things will grow to feed our family.

We’ll plant the seeds to fill our needs, then plant a few to spare,
And show we love our neighbors with the harvest that we share.
Oh, won’t you plant a garden, too, and share the many joys
A garden brings in health and love to happy girls and boys!

From an early age, we teach our children the importance of growing our own produce.  We teach them this so they can be healthy and self-sufficient.  I think the Word of Wisdom and Mormon culture part company, however, when it comes to meat.  Most LDS women, when planning their meals, start with a list of what meat will be served for dinner each night, and then plan an entree around that meat.  I know many LDS women who would like to better follow the council to "eat meat sparingly" but have heard them complain that "my husband would never go for it."  I struggle with this in my own home, too.  American culture puts meat in every meal, and it is hard to break from this.  I serve one vegetarian dinner in my home each week, and try to make my meat go further in my other dinners by using less meat than a recipe calls for and supplementing with extra grain (like 1/2 lb of ground meat and 1/2 lb cooked barley in my tacos).  I think I'm the exception though.  Most Mormon dinners include a large portion of meat.

Though this does not break any rule in the Word of Wisdom per se, I must mention that there are some classic LDS recipes that are just not healthy.  If you stay in an LDS home long enough, you will most likely eat:

a potato casserole using frozen hashbrowns, cream of chicken soup, and velveeta cheese
tater tot casserole with cream of something soup, hamburger, canned corn, and tater tots on top
a salad containing jello, cool whip, and marshmallows
chocolate chip cookies made with butter flavor crisco (the secret ingredient) and white flour
homemade white bread with margarine and sugar sweetened homemade jam
home-canned peaches or pears in sugar syrup
some super-yummy cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing
Tang or Kool-aid

It is hard to be LDS and not partake of these things.  These foods mean comfort and love.  Sigh....

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow Latter-day Saint, I share your desire to follow the WoW, including limiting meat. The Lord makes it clear that meat is not evil, but as in all things, to be used with prudence.

    I hear "My husband would never go for it," all the time. Why do so many women have trouble making a change that their husbands might not like? It's just as much your home, and as a partner, you are just as entitled to make decisions. It comes down to you, as a mother and eternal companion, being firm and doing what's best for your family. He'll just have to learn to live with it. If you don't tell him and gradually reduce the meat, he probably won't even notice.

    I'm told all the time how "healthy" tea and coffee are. Yet if you have any type of intestinal problem, at the top of the list of things not to consume are coffee and tea. Indeed "Hot drinks are not for the ... belly." :)