About the Book – Discovering the Word of Wisdom

In the book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective, Jane Birch explores the Word of Wisdom from the perspective of a whole food, plant-based diet and shares her insights into:

  • What we should and should not eat to enjoy maximum physical health.
  • How food is intimately connected to our spiritual well being.
  • Why Latter-day Saints are succumbing to the same chronic diseases as the rest of the population, despite not smoking, drinking, or doing drugs.
  • How the Word of Wisdom was designed specifically for our day.
  • How you can receive the “hidden treasures” and other blessings promised in the Word of Wisdom.
  • Why eating the foods God has ordained for our use is better not just for our bodies but for the animals and for the earth.

This book also contains the stories of dozens of people who are enjoying the blessings of following the Word of Wisdom and concrete advice on how to get started.

Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective by Jane Birch

Table of Contents 

Foreword by Rogan Taylor
Preface by Jane Birch
Chapter 1 – Awakening to the Word of Wisdom
Chapter 2 – The Flesh of Beasts
Chapter 3 – Wholesome Herbs and Every Fruit
Chapter 4 – All Grain Is Good
Chapter 5 – What about Dairy and Eggs?
Chapter 6 – Science and the Word of Wisdom
Chapter 7 – Common Objections
Chapter 8 – Stewards of Our Bodies, the Earth, and Its Creatures
Chapter 9 – Why Doesn’t the Church Tell Us These Things?
Chapter 10 – The Promised Blessings

Appendices (note the links below are to revised versions of the appendices!)
Appendix 1: More Real Mormons • Real Stories
Appendix 2: Why Start Now?
Appendix 3: Why Go 100%?
Appendix 4: Guidelines for an Optimal WFPB Diet
Appendix 5: The Easy Way to Eat WFPB
Appendix 6: Overcoming Challenges
Appendix 7: Recommended Books, Resources, Recipes

Published by Fresh Awakenings (Provo, Utah: 2013), 234 pages

Click here for information on how to buy the book.

To get the latest news about the book, see the Discovering the Word of Wisdom Facebook site

For information about foreign translations, see Non-English Translations of Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

See also, pages for Non-English Speakers


  1. I don’t get how the W. of Wisdom teaches abstinence from dairy or any type of fats. (I see you have a chapter on dairy & eggs, but I can’t read it online). Olive groves and presses are all over the scriptures. The so-called Mediterranean diet includes olive oil, and is touted as very heart-healthy.

    I mostly eat a plant-based diet now (the cost of meat being a good part of the reason) but could stuff myself all day and never feel “satisfied” without at least a little oil, avocado, etc. I greatly limit amounts of fat to facilitate weight loss, but “limit” and “eliminate” are not the same thing!

    • Hi Ellen, these are excellent questions! I agree that the Word of Wisdom does not explicitly tell us to eliminate or even reduce dairy or vegetable oils. On the other hand, there are many excellent health practices that the Word of Wisdom does not mention (just to name a few: abstaining from narcotics, drinking water, and breastfeeding children).

      I personally have come to the conclusion that reducing or even eliminating dairy and vegetable oils is in keeping with the “spirit of the Word of Wisdom,” but I understand others may come to a different conclusion. If you are interested in my opinion on these topics, see the following articles (included referenced links and footnotes):

      Discovering the Word of Wisdom: What About Dairy and Eggs?

      Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils

      Note also: the use of wine is likewise “all over the scriptures.” Even Jesus drank wine. That does not mean we should do the same. Olive oil is one small part of the Mediterranean diet, which is indeed better than the Standard American Diet, but this diet has not proven to eliminate coronary artery disease, which is something the whole food, plant-based diet has proven to do.

  2. I might point out the word of wisdom does not endorse dairy either (specifically talking about flesh on the animal products), or oils. Regarding the latter, we consume far more of the fats/oils than we should or that those cultures ate.

    Carol and I absolutely love this focus, we came on it the hard way (through several chains of sources), but also the easy way– by revelation to Carol that was confirmed to me (isn’t that always the way- the wife first?)

  3. I finally finished your book, Jane and I loved it! I know you will help many, both people and animals. My favorite chapter was the one on being wise stewards of the earth. Of course it was! 😉 It gave me hope to see quotes clear back to the 1800’s, encouraging people to not kill animals and especially rattlesnakes! “How are the snakes supposed to lose their venom if we…” I know that your book, and the people who are tuning into these things are a part of the greater whole, and are part of the amazing progress taking place in the right direction to taking care of ourselves and the earth. It should come as no surprise to anyone then, that these are one and the same!

    Keep it up!


  4. Happy new year
    A question about the book, I have not read it as of yet, but I am interested. Does your book have suggestions for menu layouts and recipes? Because I would find that helpful.
    Thank toy

  5. I have been reading about this book and would like to get a copy, but I was wondering if it comes with a menu plan and receipes?

    • Trisha: Thanks for your interest, but the book does NOT have recipes or meal plans. There are many other good books that I could recommend, however, that do. Here is a good list of both recipe websites and whole food, plant-based cookbooks: WFPB Recipes.

  6. As a life long member of the church and a very strong believer in a persons free agency I am conflicted at what I have read so far. I very much believe that completely giving up meat, snacks, fast food, etc. will make you much healthier. My conflict is most likely from my history of morbid obesity. I chose weight loss surgery and have maintained well over 110 pound weight loss for over 20 years. Several issues I learned since is: 1. I could have lost the weight if I had the will power (Which I am not sure I ever would have found.), 2. I still have the same “insane” appetite since having the surgery, and 3. My weight is based on my mind set (How much I eat.). I can gain weight by eating 6-8 times a day (Small high calorie portions.). I do find that the items you are recommending agree with my stomach (I make vegetable shakes to go with my SMALL dinner every day.) and they give me more energy (One long-term side effect of this surgery is low energy. This has require a need for daily vitamins with B-complex & monthly B-12 shots). I just do not see how being on a complete vegetarian diet is needed as long as you are eating appropriate portions of meat.

    • Mark: Congratulations on maintaining that tremendous weight loss. You are a success story!! So glad you have done well after the surgery. Eating a very small amount of meat and other animal foods can also be a healthy lifestyle, but like smoking a little or eating small portions of sugary desserts, for many people it is hard to keep those foods to a small amount. Eating just a little leads to a lot. For many people, cutting them out entirely is just easier, and it is certainly healthier. Our body has not need for animal foods or processed foods, both of which are nutritionally poorer than whole plant foods. If you are interested, you could give this way of eating a try and see how it works for you. Many people are surprised and delighted by how much better they feel. The key is to get the bulk of the calorie from high-starch foods: grain, potatoes, beans, corn, etc. These are comfort foods that feel you up, are nutritionally rich, and key to weight loss/maintenance. Best wishes

      • The one (1) point you make is absolutely true. I will testify to the fact that (At least for me.) when I eat certain “trigger foods” (Sugary & Starchy), if I am not careful I will overeat and with my situation get sick. It goes back to what You & I seem to agree on that, as you describe, “whole plant foods” need to be a significant part of your diet.

  7. Jane, I was reminded of my favorite chapter in your book last night, while walking. From the corner of my eye, I spotted a tiny Garter snake. It was just a baby! I picked it up, admired it for a few seconds and then set it free. It was such a beautiful creature! This simple thing made my day.

    The thing to remember about snakes is that they want to be left a lone. They would much prefer getting out of our way to biting us. When people are out hiking or camping, they may come across various snakes, and unfortunately the snakes are often killed. This is too bad because snakes are here for a purpose also and they actually do a lot more good than harm. Animals and plants of the world are all here for a purpose. This purpose may or may not directly involve people. Snakes are very shy. They much prefer to get out of our way long before they are seen. They are deaf to ear born sounds, so they don’t always succeed in getting out of our way. However, they do sense vibration on the ground from some distance. They will slither away and hide before they are seen if they can.

    Check this out: Worldwide there are around 2,700 species of snake. Around 2,200 of those are non-venomous; so most snakes are not venomous. Yes, it’s true. Most snakes encountered here in Utah will be a Garter, Racer, or a Bull, “Blow” or Gopher snake, (the latter two are closely related). None of these three snakes are dangerous. They have no venom. Gopher snakes are long and of a decent girth and so they are often confused for rattlesnakes. The scale pattern vaguely resembles that of a Western Diamondback rattlesnake to the untrained eye and so they are often killed out of fear. But all snakes just want to be left alone. They will gladly get out of a hiker’s way. While there are rattlesnakes here in Utah, the chances of encountering one are smaller, and there are ways to “live and let live” where rattlesnakes are concerned. They will not hunt people down. That is a promise. 🙂 They prefer to keep their distance.
    I loved that part of your book about being wise stewards of the earth and not killing the snakes, not even (no, especially not) the rattlers. I would like to second that in this day and age. All life is here for purpose, reasons that we may not fully understand at this time. We do not own the earth or the universe.

    There are companies and organizations that perform the services of catching and relocating both venomous and non-venomous snakes, often at no charge. It is my hope that people in Utah and worldwide will give the snakes a chance, let them live, utilize these rescue/relocation services and that they become very busy in taking all the calls of snake and wildlife rescue!

    Thank you for the work you are doing.

  8. The Word of Wisdom has been confusing for me, actually. In it it states, “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.

    All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth; And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.”

    How I read these is that it is pleasing that meat be used anytime, not just in times of winter or excess hunger. The verse about grains does not have the comma, so it seems like its saying that they should not be used except for during times of famine and excess hunger.

    Then there’s the footnote to verse 14 in D&C 49:18-19, which reads, “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.”

    I whole-heartedly agree we need to eat far more plant-based foods. There isn’t any qualifying verses or remarks in regards to vegetables and fruit. Meat and grains, on the other hand, are all in how you read the verses, how you observe the punctuation in the sentences, and how you interpret those things.

    The spirit of the Word of Wisdom is all about temperance, moderation in all things. I don’t think we can look at D&C 89 and say you shouldn’t eat this or that. Everyone must go about their health in the way that feels right for their bodies.

    I am interested in learning more about how to incorporate more plant-based foods into my life and onto my family’s dinner table.

    • Hi Christine: I so agree with you that “Everyone must go about their health in the way that feels right for their bodies.” Thanks for sharing your ideas. I’m happy to share mine as well.

      Vs. 13 tells us, “it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Historically the word “only” commonly meant “except.” So, the Lord is pleased when we do NOT use the flesh of animals EXCEPT “in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” I interpret this as times of need. No Church leader has ever agreed with your interpretation of this verse; that does not necessarily make Church leaders right, but it is useful to know. You can find a scholarly article about the comma in vs. 13 here: “Questioning the Comma in Verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom.”

      v. 14 tells us all grains are good and ordained to be the staff of life, which means the staple of the diet. How could they be the staple of the diet if we only used them in times of need? (see also, “The Staff of Life”). Again, Church leaders have always interpreted the “these” in vs. 15 to refer back to the animals. This puts it in harmony with vs. 13. You can see a quote from Elder Joseph Fielding Smith on this verse here: “Does the pronoun “these” in D&C 89:15 refer to grains, wild animals, or all animals?.”

      I personally don’t see where “the Word of Wisdom is all about temperance, moderation in all things.” It doesn’t tell us to consume a moderate amount of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea. It tells us these things are not good for us. As you point out, there is no qualification on the goodness of fruits and vegetables. Meat is sparingly at best and grains as the staff of life. Where do you see moderation in the Word of Wisdom?

      I am glad you are on a search for good health for yourself and your family. I have found this to be a joyful adventure. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts here. It may help others to reflect on what they believe. Let me know if I can help in any way!

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