The interpolation of a footnote

And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; for, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. (D&C 49: 18-19)

There is so much confusion about the meaning of this sentence among latter-day saints. The problem lies in that when a person reads “forbiddeth to abstain from meats,” they can’t seem to process the phrase. Then, when they read the next phrase, “that man should not eat the same,” they erroneously think that this phrase is clarifying and defining the action of the person who is doing the forbidding, and not the action of the person who is doing the abstaining.

An erroneous and misleading footnote

There is also a footnote to the word “forbiddeth” found in verse 18 which is erroneous, which reads: “IE biddeth to abstain, see v. 19.”

This footnote would have us believe that the word “forbiddeth” was erroneously written and should be instead “biddeth,” which means the exact opposite. The only reasoning we are given of why we should substitute a word which means the exact opposite for the word that is actually in the revelation, is that verse 19, according to whoever put in this footnote, suggests that the Lord is stressing that meat “is ordained for the use of man for food” and therefore this is the reason why a person who “bids to abstain from meats” would be contrary to the will of the Lord and not a person who “forbids to abstain from meats.”

The section and verse headings

Additionally, the section heading gives this information: “Some of the beliefs of the Shakers were that…the eating of pork was specifically forbidden, and many did not eat any meat;…The revelation refuted some of the basic concepts of the Shaker group.”

Because of the comments found in the section heading, specifically, that this revelation refuted some of the basic concepts of the Shaker group and that one of these basic concepts was the abstaining from pork, we are immediately conditioned upon reading the revelation that the verses which deal with the eating of animal flesh will contain a refutation of abstaining from meats. But just to make sure that this idea is sunk deep into our minds, regardless of what the revelation says, we find that the verse heading summarizes verses 17-21 as being an approval of eating meat: “17-21, Eating of meat is approved;

Faulty logic

All of this reasoning is completely faulty, devoid of logic and of simple English grammar. Let’s take a look at this scripture and pick it apart, using the simple rules of English.

And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

Definitions of the words involved

Everyone knows what the word “forbiddeth” means, but in case there are some who still haven’t learned its definition, I will write it here, taken from the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

Definition of Forbid

1 : to proscribe from or as if from the position of one in authority : command against <the law forbids stores to sell liquor to minors> <her mother forbids her to go>
2 : to hinder or prevent as if by an effectual command <space forbids further treatment here>

Most people know what the words “command against”, “hinder” and “prevent” mean, but some may not know what the word “proscribe” means, so I again write its definition here, taken from the above mentioned dictionary:

Definition of Proscribe

1 : to publish the name of as condemned to death with the property of the condemned forfeited to the state
2 : to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful : PROHIBIT

Finally, in case a person is unsure of the meaning of the word “abstain,” I include its definition here:

Definition of Abstain

: to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice

From the above definitions, it is apparent that both definitions of the word “forbid” can apply to this revelation. In the case of definition #1 of “forbid,” a person can forbid to abstain from meats by condemning, either publicly or privately, the practice of abstention from meats, calling those who practice abstention sinners and/or unhealthy; or he may forbid the practice of abstention from meats, using it as a sign of unworthiness for any number of callings or even for a temple recommend. Those who forbid in this manner would be persons garbed in the authority of the priesthood or persons who acted as if they possessed authority to speak against the practice of abstention from meats. Such people may actually command a congregation or group of church members against practicing abstention from meats and preach that such a practice is of the devil.

In the case of definition #2 of “forbid,” a person who abstains from meats may be hindered or prevented from abstaining by the circumstances they find themselves in, such as being invited to eat at a member’s house or church function and discover that everything offered is meat or meat-based, not due to necessity or famine, but due to the willful disobedience or ignorance of the Lord’s law of meat consumption. Such an individual or family, finding themselves in such a circumstance, would have to leave and find nourishment elsewhere, or go hungry or participate in eating meat in a time which wasn’t winter or famine or cold, thus being forced to break the law also.

Of the two listed definitions for the word “proscribe,” only definition #2 applies to the revelation.

The word “abstain” only has one listed definition, so this makes our job easier.

The phrase “forbiddeth to abstain from meats,” which so many people can’t seem to process, becomes exceptionally clear in its meaning once we’ve reviewed the above definitions. But in case it still isn’t clear, I’ll give you some illustrations as to what this phrase is talking about.

There are two people being referred to in this phrase: he who is doing the forbidding, who we will call The Forbidder, and he who is doing the abstaining, who we will call The Abstainer.

The Forbidder

The Forbidder is the one being condemned in this revelation. The revelation reads:

And whoso forbiddeth…is not ordained of God. (D&C 49: 18 )

The word “forbid” is conjugated. It is the action word. “Whoso” is the person who is performing the action and it is this action that is being condemned, the action of forbidding. The word “forbiddeth” is merely an archaic way of saying “forbids.” Another way of saying the same thing is “whoever forbids” or “whoever is doing the forbidding” is not ordained of God. Once you grasp the concept that there are two people, one who does the action (The Forbidder) and one who receives the action (The Abstainer), and that one of these people is being condemned, the revelation becomes very clear.

The problem most people have is determining just what The Forbidder is forbidding. Yet, we don’t have this problem with other uses of the same word. For instance, here are two examples: “John forbids Suzie to go outside.” “John forbids to go outside.” In both of these sentences, the person (John) is The Forbidder. In the first example, The Forbidder was forbidding one person (Suzie) from going outside. In the second example, The Forbidder was forbidding everyone in general from going outside. In the same way, The Forbidder of the revelation is forbidding everyone in general from abstaining from meats.

Just as in these examples, in which first there was a conjugated verb (John forbids) and then an infinitive verb (to go), so the revelation contains a conjugated verb (whoso forbiddeth) and then an infinitive verb (to abstain). Let’s put John and Suzie into the revelation to make it easier to see what is happening. We’ll make it in the form of a conversation:

John: “Suzie, I forbid you to abstain from meats.”
Suzie: “But I want to abstain from meats! I like to abstain from meats!”
John: “I don’t care. It is wrong to abstain from meats. The Lord has ordained meat for our use and we should eat meat. I forbid to abstain from meats.”
Suzie: “You can’t forbid to abstain from meats. The Lord said, ‘And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats…is not ordained of God.’ So, if you forbid me to abstain from meats, you are committing a sin.”
John: “Oh, er,…uh,…well, in that case, I don’t forbid to abstain from meats. If you want to abstain from meats, go right ahead and abstain from meats. You’ve got your free agency.”

“John forbids to abstain from meats.” “And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats.” The English language rules apply to the revelation just as much as they do to our examples and thus the revelation makes perfect sense.

The Abstainer

The Abstainer is the one being upheld and justified in this revelation. The revelation reads:

to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same (D&C 49: 18 )

The comma and phrase that follows the word “meats” is but a clarifying phrase, clarifying the meaning of abstention from meats. In other words, the Lord doesn’t mean people who avoid touching meats or being around meats, but He specifically is talking about people who don’t eat meats. The people who don’t eat meats are The Abstainers, and these people are the ones being wronged by The Forbidder. Thus, it is The Abstainer who is justified and is not called to repentance, whereas it is The Forbidder who is the one who is devoid of the Spirit of God, who “is not ordained of God.”

The interpolation of the footnote

Our footnote (“IE biddeth to abstain, see v. 19.”) claims to have received revelation that “forbiddeth” means “biddeth,” which would make the sentence mean the exact opposite of what it does, and it seems to take its authority from an interpretation of verse 19, which reads:

For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. (D&C 49: 19)

It is important to note that verses 18 and 19 are both part of the same sentence, so in order to understand both verses, we must take all parts of the sentence together when interpreting it in any way. Accordingly, here is that sentence:

And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; for, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. (D&C 49: 18-19)

It becomes apparent, once a person understands that The Forbidder is the one being condemned, that the Lord is attempting to teach His law concerning the eating of meat, which is currently found in D&C 89: 12-13 and 15, in which it is indicated that the Lord is pleased when meat is not consumed, but that He allows it only during times of cold or famine or winter.

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…And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger. (D&C 89: 12-13, 15)

The key to the revelation found in D&C 49: 19 are the words of the Lord revealing just what these animals and fowls and everything else that comes of the earth are ordained for. They are

ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. (D&C 49: 19)

These creatures are ordained for food and for raiment, but additionally they are ordained that man might have in abundance. You cannot have an abundance of animals and of fowls and of that which comes from the earth if you are killing these things and eating them. Abundance comes from allowing things to live and multiply.

The Lord was attempting to teach these Shakers and all others who would get the chance at reading this revelation, that He neither commands nor forbids to abstain from meats, and that He neither commands nor forbids to eat meats, that each person has their free agency and could do what they wanted to do with the things of the earth, including killing and eating them, for He ordained that man can kill and eat animals in certain, specific circumstances, namely, in times of famine and excess hunger, in winter, in cold, or in other words, to save their lives, but that there were stiff penalties assigned to those who killed and ate flesh without having a genuine need to do so.

And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands. (JST Gen. 9: 11)

The evidence that the Lord is decidedly against the killing and eating of animals where there is no need is found in D&C 49: 21:

And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need. (D&C 49: 21)

Lest we get the wrong idea…

After mentioning that the things of the earth (beasts, fowls and all) are so that man might have in abundance, the Lord is quick to cut off any erroneous thoughts that we would be justified in the attempt to accumulate wealth at the expense of others. The very next verse, verse 20, plainly indicates that the temporal inequalities which we see around us are the result of sin and not the plan of God:

But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. (D&C 49: 20)

And so, although the Lord wants us to have in abundance, He wants us to share our wealth with all, so that all may enjoy the fruits of the earth equally.

The false footnote revisited

Another problem with this pesky footnote (“IE biddeth to abstain, see v. 19.”) is that we find the same use of the word “forbiddeth” in another part of the revelation, in verse 15, which reads:

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. (D&C 49: 15)

Here, in this sentence, if we use the same rules followed by our uninspired footnote, that “forbiddeth” means “biddeth,” what we get is something entirely at odds, again, with our revealed religion. Putting the word “biddeth” into this sentence renders it:

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso [biddeth] to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.

The sentence becomes entirely contradictory, for if marriage is ordained of God unto man, then whoso biddeth to marry should also be ordained of God, not the reverse. It becomes apparent, then, that if the Lord knew how to correctly use the word “forbiddeth” in verse 15, He would also know how to correctly use the word “forbiddeth” in verse 18. Our footnote is making the false claim that the Lord doesn’t know the difference between “forbiddeth” and “biddeth.”

More on the subject of meats

In 1 Timothy 4: 1-3 we find another interesting reference to meat-eating:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (1 Tim. 4: 1-3)

In this scripture, we get a view of another false doctrine, that of commanding to abstain from meats. Just as he who forbids to abstain from meats is not ordained of God, because each person has the free agency to not eat meat, should they desire not to eat, so is he who commands to abstain from meats not ordained of God, since everyone has the free agency to eat meat, should they desire to eat, knowing that it is allowable under certain, justifiable circumstances.

It should be noted that if we use the word “biddeth” in D&C 49: 18, we essentially get the counsel recorded in 1 Timothy 4: 3, that “commanding to abstain from meats” is not of God. “Biddeth to abstain” is the same as “commandeth to abstain.” The Lord, knowing that he had already covered the sin of commanding to abstain in 1 Timothy 4: 3, apparently decided he was going to cover the other sin of forbidding to abstain, which was equally sinful, in that both sins abridged the free agency of man in a thing in which God had given unto man to decide (the eating or abstention of meats.)

The Shakers

It is interesting to note that verses 18-21 of section 49 actually are telling the Shakers that although their doctrine of abstaining from pork was not inspired of God and was not the true doctrine of God, they would not be forced to abandon the practice should they decide to continue to abstain from eating pork or any other meat, that should any latter-day saint forbid them their practice of abstaining from meats, the latter-day saint would be the one devoid of the Spirit of God, not them. The revelation essentially was telling them they could continue this practice without persecution in the church.

Next Word of Wisdom article: Strong drinks, mild drinks, hot drinks, wine, etc.

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist


  1. Interesting article about forbidding meats.

    The word ‘meat’ in the Bible always referrers to foods ordained by God for men – the fruit and herbs of the field – not the flesh of animals. (See the bible dictionary for clarification). This verse in the Bible isn’t talking about eating meat at all, but is about those in the last days who will bid us to not eat healing fruit and herbs as our main diet – the God ordained diet of the word of wisdom and Genesis 1:29.

    Today men use man-made drugs instead of herbs for our medicine. We eat processed grains and kill animals for our daily food, when there is no need to kill. This is just the beginning of our health problems – our evil and our sins. We drink pop by the gallons and eat junk food by the tons. This is what Paul is talking about – that men in the last days have traveled far from the simple ways of God. We have defiled our bodies, and the consequence is sickness and many diseases.

    I believe this is what the apostle Paul is referring to in 1 Timothy.

  2. LDS Anarchist,

    You are so correct in this article! As the New Testament and other Scriptures make clear, a sign of the Second Coming being near will be that the Saints abstain from meat and cease to sacrifice animals.

    There is a very legitimate reason why the Church is hypocritical on this issue lately. Our Church has massive holdings in the animal products industries. I listed some of the Utah holding companies in my comments here:

    Several of those companies wholly-own much farmland, many ranches, innumerable heads of livestock, and the subsidiary companies and facilities to run it all. It is a hugely massive international operation at this point.

    See this very interesting article for the names of other Church-owned business entities involved in the animal industry; by the way this guy writes, he is either a wise ex-Mormon or an intelligent non-Mormon that’s done a lot of research:

    I have lately been trying to find out how much interest our Church holds in KCMO-based cooperative Farmland Industries, Inc., but that is proving a very hard thing to determine:

  3. Are you aware that Elder Boyd K. Packer misquoted this scripture in April conference, 1996 in his talk titled: “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises”? His quote and some of the surrounding text read: “Lest someone become extreme, we are told in another revelation that “whoso forbiddeth to [eat meat] is not ordained of God”. Back when I heard his talk that conference weekend, it was very clear to me that he had misquoted the scripture.

    Being familiar with that scripture and having grammatically dissected it for myself for clarification, by crossing out the prepositional phrases, “to abstain” and “from eating meat”, it became clear who was not ordained of God. The part that was unclear to me was why he purposely chose to misquote scripture–I didn’t question him, I just concurred that he had a good reason that I was not privy to and that kind of bothered me.

    Possibly another example of the need to question authority, lest we be led astray.

  4. I found this section to be a wonderful breakdown and explanation of D&C 49:18-21.

    I have wondered for many years in disbelief why so many of my non-vegetarian LDS friends use these verses to actually promote the consumption of animals. I just wanted to expound upon the idea concerning the meaning of verse 20. Considering the deliberate placement of verse 20, in conjunction with 18, 19 and 21, one could deduct that the inequality spoken of here is one relating to food. It is an unfortunate and undeniable fact that many on earth today suffer from starvation. While starvation runs rampant, we support the use of food and water at a disproportionate rate in order to produce meat and dairy products through factory farming. It has been found that the amount of water used to produce one pound of U.S. beef is 2,500 gallons. 16 pounds of grain are consumed to produce one pound of beef. If only those precious commodities could be fed directly to human beings…

    “…wherefore the world lieth in sin.”

    Taken into this context verse 21 also takes on a slightly different meaning. If you are living down the road from a supermarket having vast amounts of food choices before you, there is truely no need to “wasteth flesh.”

  5. I was handed some Christian vegan literature on my college campus yesterday. The topic is what brought me to this post.

    When I prepared a lesson a few months back for Sunday School on the Word of Wisdom, I gained the understanding that the Word of Wisdom is designed to get the Saints ready to consume a vegetarian diet — which will be what we eat during the Millennium and so on. The Lord understands that it will be a culture shock to go from a traditional Western, American diet straight to the Lamb and the Lion lying down together.

    When Joseph Smith saw the brethren of Zion’s Camp about to kill three rattlesnakes that had crawled into one of the tents, he said,
    “Let them alone – don’t hurt them. How will the serpent ever loose his venom while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon them?”
    He taught that before the lion can dwell in peace with the lamb, man must become harmless towards brute creation. We must be the example, and we must make the first step.

    I also found .

    That’s why I really appreciate your correct exposition of this passage.

  6. I meant to link to this URL in my above comment.

    I also found —

  7. Justin found an interesting tidbit from the TG that applies to this discussion. Read his comment here.

  8. It always seemed crazy to me that an omnipotent god couldn’t speak English well enough to be understood and we would need clarifying footnotes. This isn’t a case like the Bible that’s been translated over and over this is direct from the prophet’s voice. Surely it couldn’t have anything to do with the church owning the worlds biggest cattle ranch right? I was a vegetarian while in the mtc and had this quoted to me all the time ironically everybody forgets that Lorenzo didn’t eat meat and believed eating pork to be a graver sin than drinking liquor.'s+dominion

  9. Is their any evidence that homo sapiens are physiologically “better off” when eating a plant-based diet? I mean, if we say that we (as a species) have been “made in God’s image”, and accept the fact that our species has clearly gotten to the point we’re at now by the consumption of animal tissue — then how can anyone say something akin to “we should be vegetarians” or that God “wants” us to only eat plants?

  10. “accept the fact that our species has clearly gotten to the point we’re at now by the consumption of animal tissue”

    i do not accept this theory as fact.

    “how can anyone say something akin to “we should be vegetarians” or that God “wants” us to only eat plants?”

    “it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used” if something is pleasing unto god i thank it is fair to say that that is “what he wants,” and the scriptures commanding us not to shed blood unless it was the only way to preserve our lives, reiterated by Joseph Smith during his lifetime point in the same direction.

    “When man lives to the age of a tree, their food will be fruit. If the people were willing to recieve the true knowledge from heaven in regard to their diet they would cease eating swine’s flesh. I know this as well as Moses knew it” Brigham Young

  11. Lol. I love that about non-scientific people — they can just not accept facts whenever it suits them.

    Even if the Egyptians ate only vegetables [which is untrue anyway since evidence shows that the first commercial chicken egg hatcheries were created by the Egyptians] — that has no more impact on the fact that the human species clearly got to the point we’re at now [physiologically-speaking] by the consumption of animal tissue than there’d be if you pointed out current groups of vegans who eat only vegetables. Neither case changes the fact that unique human physiology [such as the small colon-to-large brain ratio] was fueled by our shift away from raw plants [like a gorilla diet] and towards processed/cooked plants and animal fat, tissues, and by-products like dairy and eggs. That historical fact predates anything you could dig-up about what the Egyptians or the Scots ate.

  12. it is not a fact. it is a presumption which i do not believe. i believe that our earliest ancestors here on earth ate a diet of almost entirely nuts and fruits, like our nearest relatives do today. but, lets accept it as though it were a fact. god has since revealed to us that eating meat is a sin when not done to save our lives, when eaten for pleasure, taste, tradition, or percieved nutritional value over other foods. in the same revelation, god has revealed that we should stop chewing and smoking tobacco. any argument about the benefit tobacco has been to religious ceremony in the past would be more or less irrelevant, since a direct communication with god was recieved. i think that whatever speculations about our ancestors diet are similarly irrelevant, god has told us to stop eating meat unless in need

  13. A “presumption” is the “seizure or occupation without right” or the “taking of more than is warranted”. By definition, “presumptions” have no data to back them up — they’re just things that we choose to take as granted.

    But you don’t need to assume propositions that have data to back them up. The fact that unique features of human physiology developed in response to the consumption of greater nutrient density that our ancestor’s got from eating processed/cooked plants and animal fat/tissues have solid data supporting it. So it’s not being “pre-sumed” — it’s been demonstrated“.

    Sorry — but you lost me with: “when eaten for [the] perceived nutritional value over other foods”. Unless you’re claiming something along the lines of LDS Anarchist’s post “The Strength of the Lord, wherein he was saying [essentially] that the Lord wants us to be nutritionally-weak — then you’ve got no scientific nor scriptural support for your “presumption” that perceived nutritional value has no impact on what humans should eat.

  14. If I recall correctly in hunter-gatherer tribes most of the calories consumed actually come from the plant matter brought in by the gatherers.

  15. You could probably say that the “bulk of their diet” came from plants [in terms of the total amount of food eaten] — but it was the caloric density we got from animal fats that fueled the human brain’s higher neuron density.

    But, sure, the development of cultural practices of soaking, fermenting, and otherwise cooking plants did a lot to boost their nutrient density too.

  16. A new research has surfaced that shows that “forbids to abstain from sth” was an idiom which was not supposed to be parsed but taken to mean “forbids from sth”. This paper gleans 12 instances of using this phrase in various sources contemporary to Joseph Smith’s times.

    Moreover, even without this new research, using the rules of grammar one could come to the same conclusion because

    1. One of the meanings of the word “to abstain” in Webster 1913 is “to hinder”
    2. “to” also has the meaning “in order to”.
    3. Assuming that “to abstain” is a parenthetic expression, you can read the revelation as saying:

    18 And whoso forbiddeth (in order to hinder) from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; (Doctrine and Covenants 49:18)

    Thus “in order to hinder” is a clarification of the purpose of forbidding. The “forbids from sth” construct may seem awkward to modern eyes but it was widely used back then.

    Your thoughts are welcome.

  17. jackdale,

    That explains the use of IE in the footnote, then. The Abbreviations page in the LDS edition of the Bible says that the use of IE in the footnote is: “An explanation of idioms and difficult wording.” Okay, so it’s an idiom that was in use at the time, but it went out of use after 1866. Per that article:

    Cited below are 12 examples in which the phrase forbid to abstain was used by its authors as an idiomatic expression with the intended meaning of command to abstain. The original citations range in date from the 16th century to the mid-19th century and have been arranged chronologically.11 While most of the referenced citations originated in England, one had its origin in the United States, and at least two of the English citations were subsequently reprinted in New York. I was unable to identify any usage of this idiomatic expression post-1866. All sources that I was able to locate, from the late nineteenth century to the present, used the phrase strictly in the literal sense.

    So, then God inspired Joseph Smith to use the idiomatic expression, which He knew would go out of use post-1866 and be taken to be understood literally from then on. Why didn’t God just have Joseph use the expression “command to abstain,” instead? Because both principles were embodied in the revelation. So, you can understand the expression either literally or idiomatically and the revelation continues to remain a true principle, regardless.

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