How would you react if someone told you that in itself, eating meat is profane? If someone had said this to me yesterday, I think I probably would have said, “Well, it was for the Most Ancient Church, but things have changed, so it’s not really the same thing.” As it happens, though, someone DID tell me that, and that someone was a pretty good authority. This is AC 1002 in its entirety:
Shall ye not eat. That this signifies not to mingle together, follows from what has just been said. Eating the flesh of animals, regarded in itself, is something profane, for in the most ancient time they never ate the flesh of any beast or bird, but only seeds, especially bread made from wheat, also the fruit of trees, vegetables, various milks and what was made from them, such as various butters. To kill animals and eat their flesh was to them a wickedness, and like wild beasts. They took from them only service and use, as is evident from Genesis 1:29-30. But in process of time, when men began to be as fierce as wild beasts, and even fiercer, they then for the first time began to kill animals and eat their flesh; and because such was man’s nature, it was permitted him to do this, and is still permitted, to this day; and so far as he does it from conscience, so far it is lawful for him, since his conscience is formed of all that he supposes to be true and thus lawful. No one therefore is at this day condemned because of eating flesh.
I’ve read this before, and it actually led to me not eating meat for about a month or so. I had forgotten how strongly it was worded, though: it says that eating meat, regarded in itself, is profane – not corresponds to profanity or used to be profane. It was permitted, and it seems to maintain its status as a permission, rather than the Lord’s will. So how do we respond to this? The Lord did eat fish while in the world, and presumably ate lamb at Passover, which leads me to believe that eating meat is not at all a sin. But at the same time, this passage reminds me of the Lord’s words in the New Testament: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been so.” I’m not trying to equate eating meat with adultery but rather trying to point out that the Lord does allow things in His laws that are not actually His will if these things would be too hard or would turn people away from Him.
It is something of a leap to say that this is one of those cases, but that is how it seems to me. I don’t want to say I’m a vegeterian (although I was telling people that earlier today) because I might make exceptions in certain social situations, but as a general rule I’m going to stop eating meat. I certainly don’t look down on anyone who doesn’t draw the same conclusions I do from the passage, but it would also be a mistake – and not in good conscience – for me to ignore my thoughts on what the passage means.
Note: I don’t think that the eating of flesh being “profane” means that it involves profanation, i.e. the mixing of holy things with unholy things; I think in this case it means “completely worldly”, and the commentary on this statement seems to indicate that it means this with negative connotations.