By Jane Birch
I call my introduction to a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, “an answer to a question I did not ask.” I was not searching for ways to improve my diet. I had no reason for, or interest in, changing the way I ate. But after learning about WFPB nutrition, I was quickly convinced that this is the way humans are supposed to be eating, that this is in line with the Word of Wisdom, and that consequently I needed to be eating this way. It was an answer to a question I did not ask.
While others may come to a different answer, I immediately gave up all animal foods and junk foods—foods I had thoroughly enjoyed my entire life, foods I had never once considered giving up before that day. I have never looked back. It has been a joyful adventure ever since.
I have often reflected on why I made this huge change so quickly and so relatively easily. Why me? Why at this time? And why have I felt so motivated to introduce the power of a WFPB diet to others? Why did I go on to write an entire book on the Word of Wisdom?
The day after learning about this diet, I asked my mom if she had the book The China Study, one of the most influential WFPB books. She did, and the copy she gave me was one that my uncle, Cliff Lamb, had read. He had marked the text and written in the margins. I loved reading it. The China Study had the same impact on me that it has had on thousands of others. I also felt close to my Uncle Cliff as I read this book, and since then, I have thought of him often.
Clifford Lamb died in 2010, just a year prior to my learning about this diet. He was a beautiful person and a very talented artist. He was also well known in the family for being extremely careful about eating a very healthy diet. He loved the Word of Wisdom and studied it often. He also loved The China Study. He gave a copy of this book to all his sisters, including my mother.
Because Cliff ate such a healthy diet, I remember feeling sad that I never had the chance to discuss my new diet with him, to let him know that I had joined him in being a healthy eater. I knew that would please him.
About eight months after changing my diet, I felt impressed to do more writing on the relationship between the Word of Wisdom and a whole food, plant-based diet. As I shared my writing with others, they encouraged me, and this idea gradually grew into a book-length project. Prior to this, I had always thought that writing a book would be a very painful undertaking, but writing this book was a joyful experience. The words just flowed. I felt greatly blessed.
While working on this book, I also happened to start reading many near-death experiences. Through my readings, I became much more aware of how close people in the next world are to the people in this world. I learned that there are angels all around us, helping us, and that they are usually people we know. I started to wonder if Cliff ’s influence could be a factor in my learning about this diet, in my continued interest in it, and in my writing a book. I began to think I might be receiving help from him and others from the other side.
Then a story I heard convinced me that the feelings I had about Cliff and this diet were not a coincidence. Kim Rives reported that while having a near-death experience and being in the next world, she was allowed to visit her sister in this world. She could see her sister, who was writing her thesis on her computer, but she could also see that there was a beautiful male angel standing right beside her. Her sister couldn’t see her or the angel, of course. Kim describes watching the angel:
He was helping my sister with her thesis. She was writing things on the computer, and then when he didn’t like what she had written, he had his pen, and he would cross it out in red and without flicking it, he could write in gold, and he would write what he wanted her to write. She’d stop for a minute, you know, backspace, delete, and then she would write almost word for word what he had just written. One of the most amazing things, and I saw her do it over and over.
When I heard this, I immediately thought, ”If an angel would help someone write her master’s thesis, would not an angel help me write a book on the Word of Wisdom?” This certainly would explain why I have felt so driven, so blessed, and so helped in putting this work together. Time after time when I needed something, the way was opened, and ideas flowed into my mind.
After hearing this story, I was convinced I am not the only person involved in writing this book. I now believe there are others, possibly many others (both in this world and in the next), with an interest in this work, whose righteous desires are being fulfilled, in part, by what I’m doing. The help I’ve received has been so steady and so marvelous, I’ve come to expect it. This feeling has only increased as people have sent me their stories to include in the book, and I’ve been learning how Mormons all over the world are “waking up” to the Word of Wisdom and embracing a whole food, plant-based lifestyle.
When it came time to design the cover of this book, a cover artist prepared a few designs for me to consider, but none of them worked for me. I felt stumped and shared this with my mother. My mom suggested, “Why don’t you use the artwork Cliff did of the watermelon?”
At first, this didn’t seem possible, as Cliff ’s watermelon is oriented horizontally, and I couldn’t picture it as a book cover.
Then, a couple days later, I realized I could turn the watermelon on its side. Suddenly, it looked like a book cover! I added some text for the title and author and had a feeling that this was an answer to prayer.
When I shared this idea with Cliff ’s wife, my Aunt Janet, she was absolutely thrilled. She said, “This is exactly what Cliff wanted to have happen, to write a book like this.” She said her kids often talk about how their dad taught them how to eat. They say, “He taught us two things: how to read the scriptures and how to eat.” I said, “That is amazing because that is just what this book is about: learning to read the scriptures that teach us how to eat.”
After this conversation with my aunt, I composed the first draft of the words of gratitude to Cliff, which now appear on the dedication page of the book. As I did, I felt a great sense of joy and peace. I feel confident that Uncle Cliff is pleased that his artwork is now an integral part of this book. He truly was my angel in writing it. I feel we have written the book he wanted to write.
I love Cliff ’s depiction of a watermelon. By focusing on just one of the glorious plant foods ordained by God for our use, I believe Cliff invites us to look deeply into the beauty and mystery of wholesome plants. I hope this cover will inspire readers to ponder on the power of the foods God has blessed us with and to consider why they are ordained for our “constitution, nature, and use” (D&C 89:10). I hope it will encourage us to use them with “prudence and thanksgiving” (D&C 89:11). I also hope this cover will convey the message of breaking open the Word of Wisdom to find the deeper meaning, the most delicious fruit.
I also find special meaning in the seeds of the watermelon. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma invites us to consider new truths as seeds that we can plant in our hearts to see what type of fruit they bear. I consider my work, this book and the website, as sowing seeds. I invite others to exercise their faith in planting these seeds, trying out the ideas, to test what fruit they will bear. This is the process I have followed. I bear testimony that these seeds are good. They have borne the most precious fruit in my life. I invite you to “awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon [these] words” (Alma 32:27).
Last modified: October 6, 2016