Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Vegetarianism, or A Sweet-Smelling Savour

Joseph Smith said something about being wary of fanciful and flowery and heated imagination. So I am wary of what I will now write. But Einstein said that imagination is better than knowledge. And there’s just so much that God seems to have left to pure imagination.

So my mom was practically vegan for a time. It was for health. My grandma had lots of strokes, and my mom didn’t want that. When I was a teenager, my friend Blake who drowned in an underwater cave shortly after I got home from my mission, told me that the most political statement I could make was vegetarianism. He was a devout Krishna devotee, and he prayed and meditated while the rest of us scampered unawares over this God-created dust. He was vegan; for animal-rights reasons. Religious reasons. He gave me my first copy of The Catcher in the Rye. I think somehow that changed my life. It was the first book I had read in a long time for fun. I wept thinking of poor Holden Caulfield. I used to give copies of that book to every girl I fell in love with. One gave me my copy back with all the swear words marked. “This is your favorite book?” she asked. Well, Holden smears out the swear words on the school grounds, you know? And he’s a good brother to Phoebe.

But I wanted to write about vegetarianism. Did you know that in the Millennium we will all be vegetarian? When I tell my students this, they usually groan. Oh, there’s often that girl with the hemp shoulder bag with patches all over it who rejoices in this knowledge. But most teenagers just like hamburgers.

But, think about it. There is no death the way we experience it now after Jesus comes. There’s just the changing in the twinkling of an eye. You die, but you don’t sleep. Your body goes from translated to resurrected, just like that. So, it would follow that eating dead animals would be difficult, don’t you think? You go ahead and try to catch that glorified cow and grind immortal beef products. I don’t imagine it happening.

And, here’s the part that makes me smile: God lives in an immortal state. “Wait,” my students say, “so you’re saying we will never get to eat meat again?” Well, no, I’m not exactly saying that. But think about it, when God wipes away all tears from off all faces, do you think anyone’s really going to be lamenting the absence of hamburgers? “Yes,” says one of the boys on the back row, “I don’t want to be resurrected.” I try to assure them that Jesus will probably just open up a Burgers-of-Light stand and that no one will miss the cow ones. They’re not always convinced.

“But Jesus ate fish and honeycomb after His resurrection,” a shy girl on the front row might say. Ah. Now we are getting somewhere. But where was He when He did it? On a fallen, broken, death-filled world. I don’t know how the immortal palate is, but I imagine that a god might long for a taste of beef or fish again. So the first thing He does is to eat. I imagine the smile of delight.

But then He goes to His world of light and life. But what if, just what if He visited His worlds every once in a while just to get a burger? “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby many have entertained angels unawares.” And as often as not in scripture, it’s hard to tell if an angel is an angel or if it’s God Himself. Jacob wrestled an angel and declared, “I have seen God face to face.” In the plains of Mamre, Abraham rushed hospitably to feed a trio of angels “a calf tender and good.” But as they converse, the trifecta becomes God Himself: “And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” Well, so God could show up on my porch or on the sidewalk in front of my favorite restaurant and ask for a little hospitality. He might be testing me. But He might just want a burger, you know? And this mortal world is one of the only places to get one.

And that would explain why He delighted so in the olfactory aspect of offerings: “A sweet smelling savour unto the Lord.” Well, it’s something to think about.

(painting is "Bringing Food" by Brian Kershisnik)


  1. I will smile all day thinking about this--and have In-N-Out for lunch. Love you.

  2. I read this before, but I don't remember anything sacrilegious. I do remember thinking that I sometimes have positive associations with bad smells though, and I wonder if the Lord does too. I like a good barbeque, but I think all the sacrifices might stink a bit. However, I love the smell of a barnyard because it takes me back to my grandparent's barn at Christmas time as a child. I bet he loves the smell of burnt-offerings because he loves the smell of sacrifice, humility, and peace. The gospel according to Ashley!

    1. "The smell of sacrifice, humility, and peace." Lovely thought. Thank you, Ashley.