Mormons don't eat meat?

mormondietbookMy hometown alt-weekly -- Denver's Westword -- had a lengthy and religion-infused profile of a local family that recently lost their beloved patriarch. Inventor Timber Dick died in a car crash a few weeks ago, leaving behind his wife Annette Tillemann-Dick and eleven children. The story emphasizes the quirkiness of the family -- the kids have great names such as Charity Sunshine, Liberty Belle and Kimber Rainbow and all have their own area of accomplishment. But the reporter does a good job of incorporating how the Mormon teaching about the eternal nature of family is helping the Tillemann-Dicks deal with their loss. Here's a portion of the piece looking at how the parents met and married:

That match seemed far from certain when this spirited blonde met the lanky sophomore at a Yale function in 1976. She was in the divinity school, pursuing her second master's degree. He'd already flunked out of New College of Florida and was only at Yale because of an academic turnaround and a convincingly plaintive seven-page application letter. She was reading the Bible; he was a bit tipsy. When he introduced himself as "Timber Dick," she felt like responding, "And my name's Cinderella." (Though she swears she didn't grasp his moniker's giggle-worthy connotations.)

None of their differences stopped Timber from falling hard. He'd always been intrigued by dynamic forces, about fashioning order from chaos, and in Annette he found a force of nature demanding all of his orderliness and rationality.

He pursued her until she felt the same about him — but that still left her father. Tom Lantos, a Hungarian Jew, hadn't escaped a Nazi labor camp in 1944 and scraped together a new life in San Francisco just to see his princess with some shiftless punk, which Lantos made clear with all the formidable passion that would later mark his nearly thirty-year career in Congress. While their relationship survived his wrath, there was another complication. Annette, following in the footsteps of her mother, converted to Mormonism after experiencing an overwhelming feeling one night that the religion had the power of truth, and she would only marry someone who shared her faith.

Timber had always been a spiritual person, one who believed in divine order, but he'd never had a formal religion. Furthermore, to his friends and family, the rigid belief structures and conservative nature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seemed at odds with his and Annette's open-minded attitudes and political liberalism.

The story includes all sorts of quotes and tidbits supporting that last part -- they're good friends with Dennis Kucinich and are interested in a macrobiotic diet he was telling them about and they say a man who married into the family is loved even though he's Republican.

When I read the piece, I wanted to highlight something that I believed was an error. Here it is:

As followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the family doesn't eat meat -- or partake in alcohol or coffee, for that matter -- since they are all discouraged in Mormon doctrine.

I knew that Mormons abstain from alcohol and caffeine but I was pretty sure that there were no restrictions on meat. There's a passage in Doctrine and Covenants -- scripture that the church holds as revelation given through Prophet Joseph Smith -- that says to eat meat sparingly. But I've never met a Mormon who interpreted that as a prohibition against meat.

But here are the relevant portions (verses 12 through 15) from section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

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.

All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;

And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.

So it does not seem inappropriate in the least to say that meat is discouraged in Mormon doctrine. Of course, the treatment of meat in Doctrine and Covenants is different than the treatment of coffee and alcohol -- the latter of which are banned. Still, you learn something every day on this beat!

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