“I definitely see the Word of Wisdom differently now”

Elna ClarkBy: Elna Clark

Twenty-five years ago I had colon cancer and had to have part of my colon removed. There were complications following my surgery, and digestion became more and more difficult. The doctors could do very little to help, and I did nothing to change my diet at that time.

About five years ago I started getting some arthritis-like symptoms. Rheumatologists were not certain what to call what I had, but at its worst I couldn’t get out of bed or even hold my hand up to my ear to hold the phone. For a few years I was on Prednisone, but that obviously was not a good permanent solution.

My sister, Orva Johnson, suggested I give up ALL animal foods. I had already eliminated all dairy (except for butter) from my diet several years earlier because I found it wreaked havoc on my digestive system. Also, I ate VERY little meat, maybe a half cup per week. Butter was my weakness. In a way I thought I was so close to being vegan already, how much difference could the extra small changes make? But I knew I needed to get off Prednisone, and the pain of the arthritis was debilitating.

So, I did it. I gave up all animal foods and started living a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. Within weeks, I had gone off the Prednisone and was no longer in any pain. I am very grateful. Since then, reading and hearing the things I do about a whole food, plant-based diet, I would not switch back even if I had no arthritis to deal with.

I definitely see the Word of Wisdom differently now. In a way, I can’t figure out how I ever justified my eating practices. In our day and age, I don’t see when our circumstances would qualify as “times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” With food available at all times in stores, we don’t live the life our ancestors did. My restoration to health without pain is a blessing, which I associate with living the Word of Wisdom.

Elna Clark, 59, lives in Fairfield, California. She and her husband have six children and eight grandchildren. She is a pianist and enjoys quilting and reading.

Elna’s sister and brother-in-law (Paul and Orva Johnson) are featured in the video, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film” and also in an extra video featuring extended footage about their story. Don’t miss these amazing videos! You can find them here, “Video and Extras.”

See also their stories on this site: Paul Johnson and Orva Johnson


  1. Thanks for your story. I’m so happy you found a way to get off poisonous medicine and relieve your pain. Hurray for the Word of Wisdom in its fullest!

  2. Thank you for sharing. I like you am still holding on to a few things and think often, well, a little bit won’t matter, but after reading this, I see, like you, I need to go all the way. I appreciate your story, because it is so supportive and encouraging. There are so few of us and it helps when you know you’re not alone. That you’re not the only one doing this. That there are others. If you can do it, so can I. So excited to start this new way of living.

  3. What a great story! Are you from Utah, Elna? I had a friend named Elna in Tropic, Utah many years ago. It’s wonderful that moving to a whole-food diet made such a difference for you!

  4. Elna, I too need to continue to “go all the way” as has been mentioned by you and others above. I’m sure there will be many of us who will continue to cheer you on as we join with you in eating as the Lord has advised!

  5. It is actually scary reading your story. I ponder the possible damage i have done to my body. I have had a fairly healthy diet most of my life but butter and cheese were a definite weakness. i also used oils indiscriminately. (dipping bread into oil and balsamic vinegar) I have been eating a much improved diet for 8 weeks now.

  6. Thank you for sharing, Elna! I’m sure there are many people on Prednisone that would love to get off the drug but don’t know how. I’m excited by the prospect of plant based eating becoming more mainstream!

  7. Winona,
    This is so funny about my name. I actually know the girl from Tropic. 40 years ago I was working at Bryce Canyon and met her. She was also working at BC. I think that she was Elna Shakespeare. Funny, though, because most of the Elnas I know are my relatives.

  8. Elna,

    I remember hearing about your colon cancer years ago, and I was very surprised since I knew that you were a very healthy eater. I loved your whole wheat bread recipe! I am glad to learn of your journey for health, and I appreciate your sharing what you have learned. I am so glad to know that you are feeling better now and are in better health.

    Lucy Drake

  9. Your story is inspiring. I have rheumatoid arthritis (at 38) and have tried at least a dozen whole foods elimination type diets without improvement. I’m curious how many weeks it took to see improvement from your debilitating pain. My problem is that I try a strict nutritional regimen for a few weeks but when I see no results I get discouraged and fall back into an easier dietary plan. Did you find grains affected your arthritis pain or just the animal proteins? I have read that cereal grains often cause an inflammatory response in the body.

    • Dear Jeniece:

      I’m so sorry to hear about the struggles you are having…and at your age! God bless you. Here is the link to info on Dr. McDougall’s elimination diet (toward the bottom of this page). Have you tried this one?


      If you have tried this, you may also want to consider getting some personal one-on-one nutrition coaching from someone like Jeff Novick:


      Feel free to contact me via the contact page:


      Bless you, friend!

      • Thank you, Elna and Jane. I appreciate your words of compassion and support. Jane, I haven’t done Dr. McDougall’s elimination diet specifically, although it looks very similar to an Asian Spleen diet that my chiropractor had me on for a while. The elimination diets I have tried have either helped my gut but done nothing for my pain, or they’ve triggered extreme dizziness (hypotension) and I’ve dropped them within days. I think seeking the help of a nutritionist like Jeff Novick might be the next step for me. I appreciate your help!

        • I understand your frustration. I had problems for some time before I finally got all the puzzle pieces in place. I have hypotension, too. If I drink lots more water on a plant diet, it helps this problem. Also, eating more calories during this time helps, too. Don’t give up. The weirdest things set off my allergic arthritis pain, like soy, wheat, sesame seeds, and peanuts. Now I only get that pain if I eat those or accidentally get some dairy or oil in my food. Another thing that helped the arthritis pain was to massage the muscles close by with a foam roller and stretch every day. With chronic pain, we often tense up and guard the ouchy. The muscles get sort of stuck. It can cause further joint pain as they atrophy and pull on the joint. I hope you find your answers; it’s so worth fighting to find them.

  10. I am so sorry about your pain. I am sympathetic about feeling frustrated when it doesn’t seem to work. I was fortunate. After a week I could tell it was better than it had been. Over the next few years I tweaked my diet to make it even better. I now don’t eat much gluten. Gluten seems to make me hurt a bit. But, I feel very blessed that it worked so quickly!

  11. So happy to see a beautiful picture and read such encouraging update of a friend from many years gone by. Remember vividly that 25 years ago and the miraculous strength, faith and courage you exhibited. Wonderful to read of your continued health and wisdom in finding solutions to your body’s responses. Bless dear Orva for her wise counsel as well

    • So happy to hear from you Donna. Thanks for being such a good friend to my folks!! You are right, Orva has been so important in my decision to eat this plant based diet. I am so grateful to her!!

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