by Jon Tandy
There is one punctuation difference in the revelation commonly known as the "Word of Wisdom", that introduces a significant change in meaning. Section 86:1b (RDC) reads, "Yea, flesh also, of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, hath 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." This corresponds to Section 89:12-13 in the LDC.
These verses make clear that meat is "ordained" by God to be used as food for man, but that meat should be eaten in small quantities -- "sparingly". The Word of Wisdom also teaches that grains and vegetables "in season" are to be the primary source of food for man, especially wheat.
Some have interpreted this scripture to say that meat should be eaten only in winter or cold or famine, and not at other times. Others have gone so far as to say that a vegetarian diet should be followed, which is not consistent with other scriptures. Let's examine this scripture in more detail. First, the definition of "only":
ONLY -- "adv. 1. Without anyone or anything else; alone. 2. No more than; just; merely. 3. Exclusively; solely. -- conj. 1. But; except." (American Heritage Dictionary)
The above scripture uses "only" as an adverb, which could be replaced by one of its definitions such as "just", "merely", "exclusively", or "solely"; such as,
"...it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used merely in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
"...it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used just in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
"...it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used exclusively in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
Eating of meat should not be confined solely to times of extremity, but should be eaten throughout the year. This makes sense if meat is an essential component of a healthy diet, as indicated by the Word of Wisdom.
In order to make the point more clear, try reading the verse without the "not": "...it is pleasing unto me that they SHOULD BE USED ONLY in times of winter", etc. Without the "not", the verse would teach that eating of meat is allowed only in times of extremity. But with the "not" in the verse, it is again evident that eating meat should not be limited to certain times of the year.
In other words, meat may be eaten throughout the year, albeit "sparingly" in quantity. Some people have taught that the body needs more protein (and hence meat) in the winter. However, other researchers have concluded that proportionately high protein intake in cold environments is not beneficial, and hot climates may even require a slight increase in protein intake (see Word of Wisdom; God's Nutritional Plan, Barbara Smith Wilkinson, 1977, pp. 45,57-58).
Further, consider that one of the most common nutritional diseases in the world is protein deficiency. "If God said that meat was only needed in the winter, how could [protein deficiency diseases] happen in a country that has warm weather year round?" (ibid., p. 45). If the Word of Wisdom means that meat should only be eaten in winter because the body doesn't need as much protein in the summer, people in tropical climates could never eat meat!
In the LDC there is a small but important change that reverses the original intent of this scripture. It reads "...it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter...." The comma after "used" introduces a different interpretation to the verse. In this context, "only" takes on its meaning as a conjunction, "except". That is, "meat should not be used, except in times of winter or cold or famine."
This author's understanding is that the LDS church does require observance to the Word of Wisdom from its members in order for them to be received as members in good standing, including participation in Temple ordinances. If the above rendition is correct, then LDS are effectively prohibited from eating meat in the summer. This would put the LDS church in the same position as the Catholic Church, which forbids its orthodox members from eating meat at certain times. 1st Timothy 4:1-4 says, "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith ... and commanding to abstain from meats...."
The last item to be examined is to show that the LDC version of the Word of Wisdom is a change from the original. The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants section 80:2 reads the same as the RLDS D&C in that the comma after "used" is omitted. It is also the same in Times and Seasons Vol. 3 page 801; Vol. 5 page 736; and Comprehensive History of the Church (LDS), Vol. 1 page 306. Thus the RLDS Doctrine and Covenants contains the correct rendition of this passage.