I ended up last week at a steak/sushi restaurant with seven co-workers: six associates and a partner.  Everyone was excited.

We had just finished ordering when I heard my named called out.   I looked down at the other end of the long table, and one of my co-workers, Joe, was saying something to me over the heads of the two people sitting between us.  “I ordered a 24-ounce steak!” he called out.  “I’m not eating meat sparingly!”

The table got silent.  They looked at Jim.  They looked at me.  Jim was smiling.  He said it again, loudly, to me but for the whole table to hear.  “We’re not eating meat sparingly!  Sorry!”

I smiled.  “It’s okay!” I called back.  “Ha ha ha ha!”

My co-workers kept looking between us.  They didn’t start talking again; they did not know what was going on.

What was going on was that earlier that day, I’d been talking to Jim about the LDS code of health.  I was on my first business trip, and, of course, my eating and drinking habits eventually came up.  In an attempt to be thorough, I had explained to Jim that, among other things, the Mormon health code commands us to eat meat sparingly.  “We don’t do a great job of it, ” I said.  “Maybe because it’s easier to just abstain from things whole hog.  In any case, we are supposed to eat meat sparingly.”  Apparently, this had caught his attention.

I looked around the table.  No one was talking.  I decided to take the floor.  “I’m Mormon, and I was telling Joe about the Mormon code of health.”  All eyes were on me.  “God told an early church president that we should do a bunch of things related to our health.  We call it the Word of Wisdom.  Not drink alcohol or coffee or tea.  Not smoke.  Etc.  But He also told us to eat meat sparingly.  I was telling Jim about that earlier.”  No one moved.  “So it’s sort of funny we’re now in a steak house.”  I think it’s possible every single person at the table shifted in his or her seat.  Except Jim.  He was still grinning.

The partner looked at me and leaned in.  “What did God tell you you would get if you did these things?”

“Long life, health, happiness,” I said.  “To avoid the conspiring minds of men, it says, interestingly,” I said.  The partner looked interested.  “You know, when they received the Word of Wisdom back in the day, they didn’t know tobacco was that bad for you.”

The partner brushed that aside.  “They knew,” he said.  “I’ll bet they’ve always known.  The colors it turns your hands and teeth.  The way it smells.”  Good point.

“Funny you should say that,” I said.  “The story goes that one of the reasons God gave Joseph Smith the revelation of the health code was that the men of the early church would sit and spit tobacco juice on the floor, and Joseph’s wife thought it was gross and was tired of cleaning it up.  So she asked Joseph what they should do, and he prayed about it, and God gave them the Word of Wisdom.”

The partner laughed generously and sat back in his chair.  A waiter walked up to the table, ready to pour the wine.

I was unnecessarily glad I’d ordered the sushi.

*            *            *            *

I thought about this experience on and off all last week and about how there really are parts of the Word of Wisdom that, in my experience, we Mormons just don’t talk about very often.  Fruits in their season.  Wheat for man.  Corn for ox.  And I thought about how I need to be better about living them.

Then I went and ate lamb on Friday, pork on Saturday, and chicken and this unbelievable roast beef on Sunday.  “It’s winter and a time of cold,” Manfriend said.

But still.  Meat sparingly my eye.

Clearly I’m not considering all the counsel I’ve been given.