Archive for Mormon

“Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film”

DWW_Movie PosterI’m happy and excited to announce that the new Word of Wisdom video is now here! I hope you really enjoy it. I also hope you will share it with many other people. Let’s get this precious message out to everyone who may be interested! Watch it here: “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film”

On this blog, I feature stories of Mormons eating a Word of Wisdom diet. Please consider sharing your story!

I also write a weekly column on the Word of Wisdom for Meridian Magazine. You can find the complete set here: Meridian Magazine series by Jane Birch

“Man is not made to eat flesh”

Albert SchindlerBy: Albert Schindler

Roughly three years ago—I was 81 years old at the time—I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. My right kidney was so cancerous that the doctors gave me zero percent chance of saving it, so it was surgically removed. The cancer spread to my bladder. Consequently, over about a period of a year and a half, I had 12 chemotherapy sessions and several non-surgical probes to get the cancer in remission. Several of these chemo sessions left me with a bladder infection that took antibiotics to cure. Needless to say, my health was in a very precarious situation.

It was the twelfth, and last chemo session, plus an infection that really got the best of me. My entire body, from the neck down, ached terribly. The experience lasted for roughly two days. I say “roughly” because for the most part I was in a daze and had no recollection of time. Because of the pain, I couldn’t sleep, and I could barely stay awake. I ached if I sat up, and I ached if I tried to lie down. Near the end of this time, I suppose because I was so lacking sleep plus so weak from the pain, I started to experience hallucinations.

I had several different hallucinations, but of interest to this story is near the end when I saw before me a large grid that resembled a giant-sized, brown “Weetabix,” like is found in a Weetabix cereal box. I had a bucket in my hand and I was trying to dip out the pain I felt in various parts of my body from one square of the grid and pour it into another square. I was becoming more and more frustrated. This didn’t work! My pain was still one hundred percent there, only I kept shifting it around!

After what seemed like an eternity of fruitless dipping to end my pain, something within me said, “You have to get rid of the pain, not just mask it by trying to hide it somewhere else.” In other words, dipping it out of one Weetabix square and pouring it into another square wasn’t the answer. What was of special interest after that “Aha! moment” was a very clear, audible voice that said to me, “Man is not made to eat flesh.”

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“The Gospel is not weight. It is wings!”

The Gospel is not weight—it is wingsToday I’d like to share the story of one Mormon mother. This person represents many others: good, faithful members of the Church who live with a certain misery and despair over their weight, their health, and the impact it is having on their families. Almost weekly, I hear from such a person seeking for help and wondering if there is still hope.

I’ve received permission from this person to share excerpts from her emails to me last year. I have left out some details to protect her identity and shorten the story. (Note that I responded to every email she sent me, but I do not include my emails to her.)

I hope her amazing story of transformation will inspire everyone who reads this!

August 26, 2015

Dear Jane,

I have been following your comments on Meridian Magazine for some time now. I am writing to you in a bit of desperation. I am over 60 years old, about 5 feet tall, and about 100 pounds overweight. I have always been active in the church, have a strong testimony, love the Gospel with all my heart. I am only saying these things to help you understand my situation a little better. I was usually a little chubby, but since my marriage, I just got bigger and bigger and bigger. I have not been good at serving healthy, nutritious meals, as the cheaper “casseroles with cream of soups” were always my go-to. I love cake, cookies, brownies, candy, homemade ice cream, chips and dip, homemade bread, etc. Sadly, I raised my children the same way, and now some of them struggle with weight issues. One day a while ago, my daughter said to me that she felt that I didn’t understand the atonement, because I tried so hard to live every law perfectly, and repent for the tiniest mistake, yet in some areas (I know she meant weight) I was not following the commandments. Though it was a bit painful, it was truly a needed wake-up call, but still I have not taken the steps to change.

One day a few months ago in my personal prayers, I said that I really wanted to get my life in order, but I just could NOT be obedient to healthy eating. I knew I was sinning because of my refusal to humble myself and control my eating. I have felt badly since admitting to the Lord that I just wouldn’t do that, but I really believed it was true! It makes me disgusted to think that terrible food means more to me than eternal life with God! And in reality, it doesn’t, but I knew I couldn’t lie to Him, when I wasn’t willing to change.

Two years ago, I had been eating more healthy for quite a while and had lost some 66 or so pounds, though I was still at least 50 pounds overweight. But I went on a trip, and we celebrated with foods I hadn’t tasted in a long, long time. Coming back home, I just went wild and eventually gained almost 45 of those pounds back. It has now been two years, and I am still here, almost 45 pounds heavier, and just hopeless. I really am huge, and it’s terribly noticeable being so short. I know through the years it’s been awful for my husband to drag around a gigantic wife, and it has been extremely embarrassing for my children. What is wrong with me!!!! I honestly sometimes wonder if it is just too late for me—kind of the mentality that this is who I am, who I’ve always been, who I always will be, and that there is just no hope for me. I KNOW that is evil thinking, but I honestly feel so overwhelmed at this point in life that I don’t know if I even want to change. How could I really give up the foods I really like—FOREVER?

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Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Discovering Joy!

by Jane Birch

This article is the first in an on-going series in Meridian Magazine on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see “Discovering the Word of Wisdom.”

MM_Discovernig Joy Woman

In a church chock full of commandments, the occasional “freebie”—something totally easy to obey—is especially welcome. As a lifelong member of the Church, that is how I viewed the Word of Wisdom. I was sure I had it down pat. I’ve never even been tempted by a forbidden substance.

Then suddenly, without warning, my understanding of the Word of Wisdom was almost instantly transformed, and I discovered there is so much more to this wise counsel than I had ever learned in Primary. As a result, I have also discovered the joy of fully embracing all of God’s counsel.

A “Heart-Attack Proof” Diet

My enlightenment took place early one Saturday morning in August 2011, when I happened to hear Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigating a “heart-attack proof” diet on CNN. I had no risk factors for heart disease or any other chronic disease, but I was intrigued by the thought that the #1 killer in America could be stopped dead in its tracks through proper diet. I had to learn more.

I went straight to work, digging up facts on the diet, which was described as “whole food, plant-based.” It quickly became clear that it was not as outrageous, and was even more powerful, than I first thought. Not only is the diet known to prevent and reverse heart disease, it has also proven effective in preventing and reversing many of the other chronic diseases we’ve just assumed would strike most of us at some point or other, such as diabetes, strokes, digestive disorders, obesity, and many cancers.[1]

Chronic Disease Is Largely Preventable

There they were: study after study demonstrating that most chronic diseases are not the inevitable fate of the human race, but rather the natural consequence of what we put into our mouths every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This information was new to me. If most disease is preventable, why do more than 90 million Americans live with chronic illness, which accounts for 70 percent of deaths and 75 percent of medical care costs? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that

Chronic diseases—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. . . . 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases.[2]

Note the top three causes of death in America:

  1. Tobacco use
  2. Poor diet and physical inactivity
  3. Alcohol consumption[3]

Latter-day Saints have #1 and #3 down pretty well, but despite the wisdom revealed in D&C 89, can anyone argue our diet is significantly better than the average American’s? We certainly enjoy lower rates of many diseases, thanks to not using alcohol and tobacco, but our rate of some diet-related diseases like diabetes appears to be higher,[4] and our obesity rate is significantly higher.[5] If we adopted a healthier Word of Wisdom-based diet and increased our physical activity, might we be equally protected against many more diseases?

Faint echoes of the promises in the Word of Wisdom began to emerge:

I, the Lord, give unto them [all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings] a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. (D&C 89:18, 21)

More on this later . . .

What Is a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet?

The whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet I discovered on CNN is simple, yet dramatically different from my daily fare at the time. “Plant-based” means foods from plants rather than animals. “Whole foods” are plants as they are when they are harvested from the ground or the trees, before they are transformed in factories into highly processed substances never seen on a farm.

Here are the three main principles of a whole food, plant-based diet:

1. Whole, relatively non-processed plants are the foundation of good health. They are the powerhouses of nutrition, beautifully designed to fuel our bodies.

2. Animal foods are not needed for nutritional purposes and unavoidably contain substances that can be harmful. They should be kept to a minimum, if eaten at all, for optimal health.

3. The bulk of our calories should come from starchy plants, which are primarily grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, and millet. These are the foods that have fueled large, healthy populations throughout history.[6]

If this diet sounds dramatic, consider that eating this way can eliminate up to 80-90 percent of all chronic disease. Is suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or a stroke any less “dramatic”? Would eating a diet that helps us achieve optimal health and our ideal weight, and that protects us from most chronic disease, not be worth some effort?

Evidence the Diet Works

If I was going to change my diet, I wanted solid evidence that a whole food, plant-based plan would deliver. Here are just a few of the facts I found compelling:

  • In populations of the world (past and present) where the food is generally whole food, plant-based, the incidence of non-communicable chronic disease is ridiculously low.
  • People who move from such areas of the world to the U.S. and adopt a more American diet start to develop the same chronic diseases as Americans. The same thing is happening to entire nations as they introduce more meat, dairy, and processed foods into their diets. Clearly, genes alone do not determine our health.
  • Cardiovascular injury can be scientifically measured after only one fat-filled American meal. Imagine the damage done by three meals a day, 365 days a year! Scientists tell us that even our children now show early signs of beginning cardiovascular disease.
  • People with chronic disease who adopt a WFPB diet quickly experience dramatic changes in their health and are often able to dispense with former medications and recover their vitality.
  • Even people with advanced chronic disease are able to halt, and in many cases reverse, the progression of disease when adopting a WFPB diet. No other diet, for example, has been proven to have this effect on cardiovascular disease.[7]

Connection to the Word of Wisdom 

As impressive as all of the foregoing was, the clincher for me was opening the Doctrine and Covenants to section 89 and re-reading those familiar verses. After understanding the power of a WFPB diet, I found myself reading this section with a very different perspective. To my amazement, I realized the Word of Wisdom also consists of three simple dietary principles, principles that precisely parallel the three WFPB principles listed above:

1. “All wholesome herbs [i.e., plants] God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving” (vss. 10, 11, emphasis added).

I guess I had never thought about the word “wholesome” or considered that the intense modern processing of plants, which strips them of many of their nutrients, may not be what the Lord has in mind. Stripping plants of their nutrients does not sound very prudent.

2. “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” (vss. 12, 13, emphasis added).

Oh yes, I had seen these verses before, but since no one ever talked about them, I assumed they could be safely ignored. But why exactly would I want to ignore something that “pleases” the Lord?

3. “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” (vss. 14, 15).

In a day when grains, particularly wheat, are under a surprising amount of criticism, I’m thankful for the Lord’s words to help evaluate the evidence. I also noticed the additional emphasis on saving animal flesh for times of need: “only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” I wondered why the clarity of this phrase had never struck me before.

In short, I was impressed by the discovery that the diet modern science shows can prevent and reverse chronic disease is the very diet the Lord gave to Joseph Smith in 1833!

MM_Discovernig Joy_Planting TomatoesI Make My Decision

My study of the health benefits of a WFPB diet and the way it amazingly matches the counsel in the Word of Wisdom had a powerful impact on me. I can well remember the impression that came to my mind: “This is the way we humans are supposed to be eating. I had better eat this way.” If people had told me I would someday be convinced to give up all junk food, much less animal foods, I would have thought they were crazy. The strange thing is, this change of diet turned out to be no sacrifice at all. I can testify that changing my diet has been one of the most joyful adventures I have ever experienced.

Although I didn’t have any serious diet-related health issues when I started this new way of eating, the change in my health was nonetheless dramatic (at least to me). First, I quickly lost all of the remaining excess weight I had put on since high school (some 25 pounds). My total cholesterol went from a borderline 199 to 130 (a level at which heart disease is practically non-existent). In addition, all of the small, annoying health issues I’d simply dealt with disappeared (good riddance)! I felt great, I enjoyed plenty of energy, and I finally began sleeping well. Beyond these physical blessings, however, I am even more grateful for the distinct spiritual blessings I have received—including a much greater appreciation for this beautiful earth our Savior created, an enhanced receptivity to the Spirit, and a marked increase in feelings of peace and joy.

Two Meanings of the Phrase “Word of Wisdom”

I feel I should break here to make an important clarification. I realize now from experience that some people feel threatened by the idea that a careful reading of D&C 89 might suggest they may not be “keeping the Word of Wisdom” after all, so I need to be clear: I think it means nothing of the sort!

We commonly use the phrase “Word of Wisdom” in two very distinct ways in the Church. The first is plainly the most important. Our Church leaders have determined that the standard of worthiness for keeping the Word of Wisdom is abstaining from all alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful drugs. I fully sustain this standard, and I want to be clear that I believe anyone abstaining from these substances is fully keeping the Word of Wisdom and is fully worthy of the privileges contingent on obedience to this important commandment.

But there is a second way we commonly use the phrase “Word of Wisdom” in the Church, and that is in reference to the entire text of section 89 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains much more wisdom, advice, and blessings than are covered in the few prohibitions. This is the meaning of the phrase “Word of Wisdom” I’m using in this article.

Who May Benefit from This Counsel?

If you are fully satisfied with the blessings you have obtained by obeying the Word of Wisdom according to the Church’s worthiness standard, and if you are fully satisfied with your health and do not anticipate having to deal with any of the chronic diseases that can make life so very challenging, this article may not be useful to you.

This article is for those who desire increased physical or spiritual blessings and are intrigued by the amazing promises given in D&C 89, promises that pertain to following all of the wise counsel in this beautiful section. These other verses may not be “commandments,” but we don’t need to be commanded in all things in order to receive blessings; we can do things of our own free will (see D&C 58:26-27). I simply offer some ideas to consider.

I am not suggesting that every Mormon must be vegetarian, nor would I ever insist anyone must abstain from all meat and processed foods. That is a personal decision each person must consider, given our own understanding of what is appropriate. It is not our place to judge one another or to forbid anyone from eating certain foods (see also 1 Timothy 4:3; D&C 49:18; and Romans 14). God does not forbid us from eating meat. In fact, He has ordained the flesh of animals for our use—but only under certain circumstances.

If it is pleasing to Him that we reserve the consumption of meat for times of need, perhaps we should carefully consider what compelling reason would we have to do otherwise.

Are We Claiming All of the Blessings of the Word of Wisdom?

Hugh Nibley once declared, “On the whole, the Seventh-Day Adventists are better keepers of the Word of Wisdom than we are.”[8] Indeed, Mormons are often compared to Adventists because both groups are urged to avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. But in addition, Adventists are encouraged (not commanded) to be vegetarian, and about a third eat a plant-based diet. Many other Adventists eat meat more sparingly than Mormons, who, by and large, are meat eaters. Our meat consumption, in fact, is comparable to that of the general population.[9]

As a consequence, where both religious groups enjoy significant health blessings, the vegetarian Adventists are significantly healthier and live longer than meat-eating Mormons.[10] Could it be that the Adventists not only live the Word of Wisdom better than we do but are also enjoying more of its promised blessings?

President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “We believe that the Lord, when he gave the Word of Wisdom, was speaking to all the people in the world.”[11] The Adventists are not the only ones leading out in eating a Word of Wisdom diet. Many other people, religious or not, have also switched to a WFPB diet and are reaping related blessings.

Where are the Mormons in all of this? Having received the Lord’s counsel in 1833, we should be as well ahead of the world in sound dietary practices as we are in other dimensions of our religion. Instead, we (or at least, I) have had to be taught by those outside of the Church to realize what a treasure we have in D&C 89! Experts like Colin Campbell, John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman, Neal Barnard, Hans Diehl, and Caldwell Esselstyn are among those who can teach us quite a bit about the principles found in the Word of Wisdom.

Mormons Waking Up to the Word of Wisdom 

Since changing my diet, I have shared my re-discovery of the Word of Wisdom with hundreds of other Latter-day Saints and have seen the light turn on for many of them as well. When I introduce a WFPB diet to Mormons, I don’t even need to mention the Word of Wisdom; they get the connection.

Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch

Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch

In late 2013, I published a book detailing my experience: Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (see the first two chapters of the book here).[12] In the course of writing this book, I solicited stories from other Latter-day Saints who are converts to a WFPB diet. As the stories poured in, I could see that the WFPB way of life has begun to impact the Mormon community. I feel great joy in witnessing what is happening as Mormons “wake up” to the Word of Wisdom. I am now featuring their stories on a website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

Discovering Joy!

Yes, we live in a Church chock full of commandments. But we know that God’s commandments, far from restricting our freedom, are the doorway to the greatest freedom—and joy! The Lord tells us that the faithful and diligent will be “crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few” (D&C 59:4). Why would we want to ignore any of the Lord’s counsel and miss out on any of His precious blessings?

I testify that heeding the counsel in D&C 89 brings marvelous blessings. We have the Lord’s promise that those who obey this counsel and walk in obedience to all of the commandments,

. . . shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. (D&C 89:18-21)

I should have known that a Church so blessed with commandments needs no freebies!

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

To view all the articles in this series, see “Discovering the Word of Wisdom.”


[1] T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health (Dallas: Benbella, 2006).

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion,” August 13, 2013. (Emphasis added to the quote.)

[3] Ali H. Mokdad, James S. Marks, Donna F. Stroup, and Julie L. Gerberding, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association 291, no. 10 (2004): 1238–1245.

[4] Sterling C. Hilton, Ray M. Merrill, and Jared D. Sturgeon. “Comparison of Causes of Death During 1994–1998 Between LDS and non-LDS in Utah.” Utah’s Health: An Annual Review 2000–2001 7 (2000): 39–49.

[5] Philip Mason, Xiaohe Xu, and John Bartkowski, “The Risk of Overweight and Obesity Among Latter-Day Saints,” Review of Religious Research 55, no. 1 (March 2013): 131–147.

[6] John A. McDougall, The Starch Solution (New York: Rodale, 2012).

[7] Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (New York: Avery, 2007).

[8] Hugh Nibley, “Word of Wisdom: Commentary on D&C 89,” 1979.

[9] Lester E. Bush, Jr. Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints (New York: Crossroad, 1993), 67.

[10] See the series of studies cited in “Do Vegetarians Live Longer Than Health Conscious Omnivores?” (February 2014).

[11] Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?” Ensign (May 1975): 4.

[12] Jane Birch, Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (Provo, UT: Fresh Awakenings, 2013).

Meridian Magazine – “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” series by Jane Birch

Meridian logo

Disclaimer: The first 20 articles were written before Meridian updated their site in Nov. 2014. When these articles were converted to the new site, many small, random formatting errors were introduced. Please ignore these errors and enjoy the articles. I welcome feedback on the content!

See also: Articles and audio by Jane Birch on the Word of Wisdom and WFPB nutrition.

Discovering the Word of Wisdom Basics

Discovering Joy!

The Flesh of Beasts, Part I

The Flesh of Beasts, Part II

Where Do You Get Your Protein?

Wholesome Herbs and Every Fruit

Food Addiction

Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils

All Grain Is Good

The Danger of Displacing Grain

Wheat for Man

What About Dairy and Eggs?

Commonly Asked Questions

Word of Wisdom: Why Aren’t We Told How to Eat?

LDS Leaders on the Word of Wisdom

Why the Preoccupation with the Prohibitions? Read More→

“I see animals differently now”

Doug and Steph HawkesBy: Doug Hawkes

When I read the Word of Wisdom, there is a phrase that really touches me. Speaking of the animals, the Lord says, “it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used” (D&C 89:13). It is pleasing to Him. What a choice emotion for the Lord to say He has. It sounds like a very good thing to me.

I haven’t ever seen an animal die in person. I’ve definitely seen them alive though. And they are so alive. They enjoy the company of their kind. They see and experience things. There is something good and innocent in all of them. I do know that at this point, if I needed to eat one of them, I’d like it to be for a special reason, not just because it tastes good, but because I need some food for my family to eat, and there is nothing else. In that case, I would gratefully use them as food. Otherwise, I don’t want to eat them because they might as well be my dog. I really see that level of being in them.

Perhaps part of God’s way of showing us His gladness is naturally rewarding us with better health when we eat closer to what He would prefer. From the many reputable scientific studies I have read, every single form of food we can create based on animal flesh, eggs, or milk seems to cause us harm, leading toward debilitating or lethal disease at worst and is an organ-burdening fuel at best. None of the supposed benefits outweigh the long-term harm. Calories from animals will definitely get most people through their younger years all right. But like a seemingly great car that you purchased with only 20,000 miles on it, the damage and wear in a poorly fueled and abused engine might not be evident until later.

So I see animals differently now, which I only let myself do once they weren’t food anymore. I like thinking about all of their big and little lives, full of their own emotions and struggles, being left alone to live in their way. I think I understand a little of what is pleasing to our Savior, who is full of understanding of all creatures, knows their enjoyment and pain as intimately as ours, and whose bowels are full of mercy for all He has suffered. That may sound silly or perhaps even sacrilegious to some people, but I think it is far from it.

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“The Word of Wisdom is bringing me back to health”

Phyllis BessenaireBy: Phyllis Bessenaire

My health adventures began in February 1986 just before I turned 32. A couple of weeks before my birthday, my aunt was visiting and talking about wanting to “lose weight.” I told her that I was losing a lot of weight. She asked me what diet I was following. I told her, “None! I eat what I want, and I still lose weight. It’s wonderful!” She looked at me and said, “You need to be checked for diabetes right away.” All I knew about diabetes was that my grandma was diabetic at the end of her life. When she came to visit, Mom always bought “dietetic ice cream” packaged in individual cubes about 2 inches square. Although I disliked ice cream, I loved sharing this with her, so I looked forward to it. For me, it meant fun times—how ignorant I was.

Going to the endocrinologist right away confirmed that I was, indeed, diabetic. He told me we would have to wait and see if I was Type I or Type II. I was a little old for Type I and very young for Type II. I remember going to church that Sunday. My son was transitioning from nursery and my daughter was new there. The nursery leader and I were very close friends so I told her the news. That was when the bottom dropped out of my world. She told me about someone in our ward whose son had just died as a result of diabetic complications. I was a mother of a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. To think I might DIE of diabetes sent me into total depression.

I called my home teacher (my husband was not a member of the Church), and he came with another brother and gave me a blessing. I will always remember his words to me that day. He said that if I lived the Word of Wisdom, it would be as if I never had diabetes. I had tremendous faith that this would be my lot. I lived the Word of Wisdom very religiously, or so I thought I did.

I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes mellitus, which used to be called “adult onset diabetes.” It usually begins when a person is in their 50s to 70s, not when they are 32 years of age (although because of our diet, it is becoming more prevalent among younger people now, including teens).

I started insulin, and after a while, I began a diabetic “honeymoon.” It is called this by endocrinologists because of the way the pancreas responds to added insulin at first. It gives the pancreas a boost, and your blood sugars drop to normal range without insulin. Well, somehow I thought that meant I wasn’t diabetic at all. Like so many others, I made a big error in judgment and after a few years of decent control, I thought I was cured and began eating more sugar, etc. Boy was that stupid!!!

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“My journey started before I joined the Church”

Warner Molema FamilyBy: Warner Molema

My journey towards a whole food, plant-based diet is a long one. It started before I joined the Church…

In my mid teens I remember reading that we become what we eat. The article was accompanied with a picture of a man with a pig’s snout. The article also mentioned that a diet of meat leads to increased anger and hostility. I did not want these traits and made up my mind to become vegetarian – no meat, but I still had dairy and eggs – ovo-lacto vegetarian. My mother supported me by preparing a separate vegetarian addition to the family meal. I was the only vegetarian in my family.

A few years before this time, while living in Cape Town South Africa, missionaries knocked on our door. I remember my parents purchasing a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants… they had to be purchased in those days. I remember a few visits by the missionaries. I think my parents indicated that they appreciated their visits, however would not be joining the Church. During those early years of being a vegetarian, I remember browsing the burgundy covered Doctrine and Covenants and reading Section 89. I stopped drinking all hot drinks thereafter. I refused alcohol and did not partake in tobacco. Both my parents both smoked at the time.

After completing high school in Welkom, I attended university in Bloemfontein. I stayed on campus in the student housing – dormitories or in Afrikaans koshuisse. At meal times I would swap my meat for extra vegetables or dessert with fellow dorm dwellers. I held to my resolution to be a vegetarian and to refrain from hot drinks, alcohol, and tobacco.

Read More→

Jane Birch on the Word of Wisdom


Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (Provo, Utah: Fresh Awakenings, 2013).

Academic Articles

“Questioning the Comma in Verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 10 (2014): 133-149.

“Getting into the Meat of the Word of Wisdom,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 11 (2014): 1-36.

Meridian Magazine Series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom

“Discovering Joy!” Published in Meridian Magazine, April 15, 2014. (First article)

Meridian Series on Discovering the Word of Wisdom (Complete list of articles)

Doctrines, Principles, and Applications of the Word of Wisdom (articles series for Meridian Magazine; I consider this the first draft of a possible 2nd book)


“Are Mormons Flunking the Word of Wisdom?” Published on Flunking Sainthood, February 10, 2014.

“Stewardship in Action: Jane Birch,” Published on LDS Earth Stewardship, February 17, 2014.

“The Mormon Word Of Wisdom: An 1833 Guide To A Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet,” Published on VegSource, June 2, 2014.


 “Episode 1 – Mormon Vegetarian, The First Show!” on Mormon Vegetarian podcast. January 17, 2014.

“Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective.” Presentation at the Az Whole-istic Living Conference, April 26, 2014 (Recording available for purchase).

“Jane Birch on the Word of Wisdom – Errant Comma Theory,” on FairMormon Articles of Faith podcast, posted on June 16, 2014. Read More→

“Eating this way helps you come into the light”

Lauri MackeyBy: Lauri Mackey

My journey to whole foods, plant-based nutrition began after I was married. I love to cook. I love to bake. I wanted to wow my husband, Eddy, with scrumptious dishes at every meal. Most of the foods were from the rich American diet that we all enjoy. I can bake cinnamon rolls that will make you remember childhood memories, chicken-fried steak with thick gravy that will clog arteries instantly, and funeral potatoes that will win awards at church events.

The problem was, that after a couple of years, we had both gained a considerable amount of weight. I gained about 15 pounds, and my husband gained over 20. I had never been a big fan of “dieting.” I have a great metabolism, and weight was never a problem, but when I couldn’t button my pants without effort, it was time to consider something, anything! I found an app on my phone called LoseIt! that I decided to try out, and my husband, bless his heart, jumped on board because he knew that doing it with someone would be much easier. The deal was that you counted calories. ALL of your calories. I could count calories like nobody’s business, and it worked. We both started to lose weight. Good news, right? Wrong.

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