I grew up in the 1960’s, and I can still remember the television commercials for cigarettes. I remember seeing the man on the horse in the great outdoors, smoking and promoting his brand. It wasn’t long after viewing those ads that the science proving smoking is bad for us resulted in cigarette commercials being banned. As a child, I would read the Word of Wisdom, and I remember thinking, “Wow, the Word of Wisdom taught these principles almost 150 years ago, and now science is just figuring it out.” Over the last 20 years, as I’ve studied diet and diet-related research, I’ve come to believe that the Word Wisdom goes beyond warning us against addictive substances—giving us knowledge, for example, that it is pleasing to God that we do not eat animals unless it is necessary. This too is now being confirmed by science.
My mother was the first person who introduced me to the idea that eating a meal without a meat entrée was okay. She made a wonderful garden skillet full of vegetables, and then served us a small handful of almonds as a side dish. We loved it! I also have a memory of my bishop and his family being vegetarians, though I thought maybe this was a little extreme. But not long after, when I was married and started studying medical research, I came across a study that linked red meat to breast cancer. I remember talking with my wife and suggesting to her that we probably should stop eating beef to avoid any chance of her developing breast cancer. Even though both our grandfathers were cattle ranchers, that did not deter us from making changes to our diet.
I became more interested in nutrition and tried to read everything related to diet. I soon came to know that eating animals or animal products was not healthy. In 1990, after reading some of the writings of Dr. John McDougall, I went to my wife and told her that I thought we should completely eliminate any meat and dairy products in our diet. She was a little skeptical at first, but as I explained the reasons, she agreed and was willing to give it a try. Our four children were young at the time. They seemed okay with the change, although initially we did have a little resistance from our oldest daughter, who was about 11 years old at that time. But within a few months, she too was committed. A couple of years later, we had our fifth child who was raised without ever eating meat, except when her so-called friends would try to trick her. (It’s interesting that she is the tallest of our daughters.)
The result of this diet change had a profound impact on my health in very specific ways. Most of my life I had terrible allergies that seemed to flare up in the spring and summer with the pollen and dried weeds. I coughed and sneezed and had watery eyes. I wanted to take a wire brush to the back of my throat. I also occasionally experienced what I thought was exercise-induced asthma that seemed to be related to the allergy flare-ups. Then we changed our diet. That was in November and after the next summer came and went, I realized I had not had one allergy flare-up, and I have never had one since. I consider this a great blessing in my life and know it is a blessing of more fully living the Word Wisdom
In my professional life as a physical therapist I have continued to read and study everything I can on diet. In 2010 I completed the Plant-based Nutrition Certificate program from eCornell. I take every opportunity to talk to patients about their diet and encourage all to study for themselves the current literature and learn so that they can make the best decision for their own health. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study, has been an important tool in teaching and helping people make healthy changes. I have sold (at cost) 48 cases (over 1,500 books) of The China Study since 2005. It has been exciting for me to watch patients and friends as they learn scientific facts, and as they begin to understand the Word of Wisdom more clearly. As they make positive changes, they see their health improve dramatically.
I have noticed there are two kinds of people who are willing to change their diet. First are those who learn the truth and follow it. The second are those who are challenged with a health crisis and are compelled to seek further understanding and help. I would recommend being among the former rather than the latter. As we learn the scientific facts, we begin to understand the Word of Wisdom more clearly. When science lines up with scripture, we have added confirmation that we have found the truth.
When I first read Dr. Jane Birch’s story of her conversion to a plant-based diet, I was surprised that in such a short time she had thoroughly researched and discovered the scientific knowledge and the insights the scriptures provide related to diet. She has a phenomenal hunger for knowledge, which has served her well in researching the Word of Wisdom and its relationship to the current body of scientific knowledge that can direct all of us to a healthier lifestyle. In her book Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective, she provides real stories of individuals whose lives have been changed, giving further evidence of the profound effect the things we eat have on our health. These stories are powerful examples of the promised blessings given to those who have the courage to change their lives to embrace aspects of the Word of Wisdom that may not align with the standard American diet.
I believe the Word of Wisdom is a gift from our Heavenly Father. I believe every verse in the Word of Wisdom with all my heart. What a magnificent section of scripture—diet-related direction provided by God in a world so fraught with confusion. I believe Jane’s insights into the Word of Wisdom can provide readers with a wealth of knowledge and understanding that can impact their lives with health and the promised “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge” (D&C 89:19). Her book is a gift to us. As we gain a greater understanding of the Word of Wisdom, and do everything within our power to align our lives with it, we will receive the promised blessings.
Rogan Taylor, DPT
Spine, Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy
September 19, 2013