Milk Before Meat so Where’s the beef?

When my third child finally weaned at 15 months of age, he seemed to have the flu all-the-time. Diarrhea that would shoot out of the diaper and down his legs at times and smell particularly foul. I had to take him out of cloth diapers and splurge on disposables for a while (he needed a full-on bath after most diapers).


For months I tried elimination diets and allergy free foods. I tried keeping him off eggs, dairy, corn, gluten, etc. It was hard. Gradually a gastroenterologist confirmed that he likely had a dairy protein intolerance. Keeping him off milk, cheese, butter/margarine, and any whey or casein in any product was difficult, but gradually helped. I think I cried with relief when he had a normal poop.


And still my husband would sometimes forget and feed him ice cream or yogurt, because he wasn’t dealing with all this stuff all the time. Even a bite would trigger days of extra laundry and diaper rashes. For a few years I often had to give this child a different meal than the rest of the family because I hadn’t yet re-trained myself to cook with this new food issue in mind.


Then child number four came along and had the same problem. Then child number five. Now I have six children with a dairy protein intolerance; some of them had more food issues besides the milk thing as well. We gradually stopped eating dairy as a matter of course, and now rarely have it. We eat more beans and vegetables to get calcium and protein. Meat consumption also tapered off. The way I feed my family has completely changed as a result of our experience and on the whole I think we are eating much healthier than we ever would have otherwise – that’s the silver lining.


 In the church I have often heard stressed the importance of ‘milk before meat’ (Cor 3:2). The church uses this phrase to reinforce hierarchical mysteries that are supposedly revealed only to the ‘worthy’ who have been sufficiently obedient through time and grown up the chain in church authority. Lay members are expected to ‘endure to the end’ in obedience and submission and not to seek for the hidden mysteries. Week after week we attend meeting after meeting and are fed milk and milk and milk. Here’s the thing–I have grown intolerant to milk. It makes me sick to my stomach and gives me diarrhea. Where is the ‘meat’? Where is the sustenance I need for growth and health? The church would have me stay and await this greater meal, but I am no longer convinced that it is there at all, or whether meat is actually the best thing for my health. The last 13 years I have had to bring special food for my children to ward dinners and activities because of their food issues. Now I would need to bring my own spiritual food to church on Sunday as well. And I find myself less inclined to come to the table.


Paul wrote “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age — even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14). This seems to say that there is an appropriate time for teaching, or even re-teaching the fundamentals –this is, until experienced in discerning good and evil. Unfortunately, my experience in church has been that Relief Society lessons are not any richer in doctrine than the Gospel Principles manual. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told “And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish” (19:21-22) So, perhaps we have not yet come to a place as a church where we are ready to eat meat? What then for those who have become intolerant of the diet available? Is it then time to graduate to independent research? What then if we are led to a diet that looks nothing like the “milk only” menu available at church?


I’m concerned that church members are being asked to live on a diet lacking in vital nutrients, being kept always on milk when our palates were made to mature and branch out into other food groups and experience a broader array of spiritual nourishment.



Chiaroscuro is a play of light and shadow. Finding noisy messy lovely life in all the shades between.

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9 Responses

  1. Maggie says:

    I think the power of personal revelation is important to remember. As we study and read and re read and hear what we’ve heard 100s of times, we can get greater understanding even ‘hidden treasures’ of spiritual knowledge. I don’t know when we as a collective church will be ready for this spiritual meat, but I still find joy in the pure and simple truths of the gospel and how I can learn more from them.

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      I’m glad it works for you. We are definitely not all experiencing the same things at church. What do you think of people who’s personal revelation goes against something you’ve been taught in the church? Can you make space for their reality that is different than yours?

  2. In my experience, the proper beef is only available through personal scripture study, but I’d say the Institute materials on isn’t a bad place to start. But I get the feeling your question is broader than “just” the whereabouts of spiritual beef. How would you describe or exemplify your idea of beef? It seems like you’re not getting what you need out of Sunday meetings. What would it be to you, ideally?

  3. I have found that it is unreasonable to expect someone else to provide the meat: meat is expensive and it’s hard to serve to everyone. But, just like you had to bring your own food for your kids to church, you can go find meat for yourself. I did. I learned Biblical Hebrew so that I could read the OT in Hebrew: amazing. I often spend 5-8 hours in a day studying or reading scripture. When I show the LORD that I am hungry and ready and willing to put in the work, He has never disappointed me. Then, I bring that meat with me to church to feed other hungry people: at church I try to limit my comments to ONE comment per lesson.. Or I invite hungry people over and share literal meat along with feasting on the word. If you want to try some of the meat, go to my home stake website and watch the institute class I teach which is available for streaming to anyone with the link. I hope you will find your hunger satisfied. Feel free to email me and I’ll tell you about some great websites where you can feast.

    • Em says:

      I think there’s value in what you’re saying. But it also makes me wonder why we have to have Sunday School at all. If we’re all better off getting it alone, why force everyone to sit through an hour of milk every Sunday? You bring one comment of meat per lesson, but why is the lesson designed to be superficial or repetitious? Sure, we should have a Gospel Principles class for newer members, but if real spiritual food isn’t supposed to come from classes, why have the classes? That’s my struggle.

  4. Emily U says:

    “Here’s the thing–I have grown intolerant to milk… And I find myself less inclined to come to the table.”

    I hear you. Church lessons can be dreadful sometimes, and the lesson manuals are part of the problem. Things that help for me are when I have a teaching calling, or when I have a few like-minded souls in the room that will pick up on and reinforce each other’s comments to take the discussion in a productive direction. When those things aren’t possible I have to find my spiritual enrichment outside of Sunday meetings. Oftentimes this is the rule, rather than the exception.

  5. Why couldn’t we Institute lesson manuals in Sunday School? That material is so interesting!

  6. USE Institute lesson manuals…

    • Andrew says:

      Here’s how Sunday School should/could work – but it does depend very much on the class members – and not so much the actual teacher.

      If (and it’s a huge if) members came prepared to discuss what they had studied, learned and (where applicable) applied in their lives then the lesson would have a life of its own.

      The teacher would start with the attention activity, and perhaps outline the basis of the study. Then using the questions in the manual, or others based on their knowledge of the class, start a discussion. In that discussion the various studies of the members of the class would come out – including those who used the Institute manuals for their study.

      So the Institute manuals become a part of the lesson because that’s what the class members want. We have a sister who, when she was in the class (now teaching the youth), who weekly would quote something from the Institute manual.

      It is OUR (the class members) lesson, not the church’s or the teachers. This is something that we need to develop not just in RS and Ph, but in Sunday School as well.

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