“I felt the Spirit guiding me and telling me things”

Gary Powell and Siew-LeeBy: Gary Powell

I was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1941. I have moved around the world a lot and have always tried hard to adapt to the local cultures. This has taken me to some out-of-the-way places. I have met some very interesting people and eaten some interesting food over the years, everything from exotic European cuisine to dog kidney stew in a Dyak village. I learned the truth of the saying “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

I did some time in the Australian army and learned to live off the land, eating what nature provided. While in the army I had an aboriginal tribal brother who taught me a whole lot about living in tune with nature. In 1965 I was badly injured. With broken vertebrae in the lower back and neck, I was in and out of the hospital for the next three years. The army “specialists” were contract people who didn’t seem to care much about soldiers in their care. After each session with these people I felt a lot worse. In three years no one ever had an X-ray of my back done.

After I was discharged, things got steadily worse. I went to a very expensive back specialist who got the X-rays done. He shocked us both when he said I had three split vertebrae in my lower back and another badly damaged one in my neck. The specialist put me in a cast for a month and assured me this would fix all the problems. It didn’t work. In fact I felt even worse.

At this stage I was suicidal. A hippie friend noticed my distress. He knew exactly how bad it was and saw I was about to take a jump off a high bridge. He said he knew someone who could help. I said I would never go to a medical specialist again because they had got me this way. My friend said, “This person isn’t a medical specialist. He is a chiropractor and naturopath. Come with me to see him, and if he gets you right you are in front. If he doesn’t you can still jump.”

Chiropractor? Naturopath? Was he talking Greek or Russian?

That night I was carried up a flight of stairs to his clinic. An hour later I was fully mobile and flexible for the first time in three years. Man! Was I impressed?! I studied with that man three years and in that time I learned plenty.

I joined the merchant navy and ended up going all over the world and in every foreign port I looked up the local natural healers. I bought books and took courses and just absorbed it like a sponge. But my best teachers were simple people, people with very little to their names but who were revered in their villages as true healers. Unfortunately the Western mind just cannot accept that a barefoot man riding a bike can stop a heart attack in one second without any equipment.

I joined the church in 1972. A week later our bishop came around with some filmstrips to educate us new members. When he came to the Word of Wisdom, he told us it was not originally a commandment but was soon made one, although all we had to concern ourselves with was the bit about the Famous Four. He said the rest didn’t matter.

At the time, I was studying nutrition at an Australian naturopathic college so I recognized the nutritional wisdom of the dietary counsel in the Word of Wisdom. I couldn’t understand why Mormons had this great advice but chose to ignore it. I asked other members, but they didn’t have a clue. Even so, when I pointed out the real wisdom of it, they strongly defended the idea of ignoring most of it. I knew the Church was true but now I had doubts about the leadership. (Remember, at this stage I was new to the church!)

As I continued my studies I felt the Spirit guiding me and telling me things I had never heard of concerning man’s physical welfare. I was living very close to the Word of Wisdom while in practice and several times this is how the knowledge to treat certain things came to me. For instance, a Maori woman came begging for help because she was on dialysis three times a week and was on the list for a donor kidney. Maoris are very iffy about exchanging body parts and many would rather die. I told her how to treat the kidneys with parsley tea and in three months she was off dialysis and in very good health. I just felt that still small voice telling me what to do. Herbalism is a lot deeper than simply popping a few herbs when you feel sick. It is a very ancient science, and we need to remember that the apostle Luke was a herbalist. No drugs were available in those days.

There was a time in New Zealand when I went back to eating certain meats in curries. Later I ate a bit of pork and that’s when the arthritis really set in. I knew better, but that’s what my wife bought so that’s what I ate. We moved back to Australia, and I opened a home clinic. I got a good name but although I had taught my wife vegetarian style catering she refused to accept it. The arthritis got a lot worse.

In 1996 my wife and I parted ways. I made a lot of changes to our diet for myself and three of my daughters. I started getting well, but for some stupid reason I developed a sweet tooth and of all the stupid habits to develop I started having a daily Coke. That played havoc. Even though I was well aware of what was happening, I continued with it. Then in 2001 things started changing for the better. I married this sweet little Chinese Singaporean girl, Siew-Lee. She was born and raised in a small village in Malaysia and even now is still a village girl. She started learning the trade from me, and it didn’t take her long to kick me out of the kitchen.

That’s when we decided to stick very close to the Word of Wisdom. Siew-Lee speaks five Asian languages and is trying hard to learn good English. It comes out as Chinglish. It was really hard when we were first married but since doing the Word of Wisdom so closely I have seen her really bloom in her learning ability. She can watch something and modify it to be even better. I have seen her diagnose people so accurately with what seems just a glance. When I check, she is very accurate. I have taught her Chinese and Japanese massage, and she has got people back to work after they were told they will never work again. That bit in the Word of Wisdom about treasures of hidden knowledge is certainly being borne out in her.

There was an occasion with a patient who had some illness the docs couldn’t diagnose. It was really debilitating. Siew-Lee just listened to her talk then told her what she needed to do. I didn’t have a clue, and Siew-Lee couldn’t really explain it to me because of her language problem. A few days later I was looking in an ancient Chinese text and there it was, described in detail. Siew-Lee has never read that text to this day.

I have never doubted the Word of Wisdom. As a very suspicious nutritionist I check every single bit of such statements, including the commas. I want to know the how, where, and why of it all. A few people have chosen to condemn me without investigating, but I intend to stick right with it. I find I can teach the Word of Wisdom easily to non-LDS people, but LDS members, for some reason, seem to resist.

My daughters all follow such a diet and when they have babies the do it with ease. Short labors, two pushes and there is a healthy baby. A healthy mother with plenty of rich milk. What else could you want?

Gary Powell is 73 years old and lives on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. His many occupations including seaman and soldier, truck driver, massage therapist and nutritionist.


  1. What a wonderful story, Gary! My husband is also a Master Herbalist in Utah. I’m studying to be one as well. I never cease to be amazed at how many Latter-day Saints not only ignore but defend their refusal to follow the Word of Wisdom despite serious health problems. My husband and I often tell those who ask for herbal remedies that the diet must be part of the process. Herbal remedies work to rebuild the normal state but without nutrition, has no materials to work with. Thanks for your willingness to share with us and with those who are in need of healing.

  2. Your story is fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

    I love the Word of Wisdom as well as herbs. However, I learned to be very much more careful with herbs not too long ago. After getting myself healthy again by eating a plant-based diet and taking a few herbs, I found myself falling apart. I just couldn’t figure it out. I thought maybe I was stressed out serving a mission. It was hard to get the herbs I usually took, so went off them for a couple months. The dizzy spells stopped, but thought it was because of increased summer light. Finally, I got ahold of my old faithful herbs, hawthorn being one of them. I took it at the beginning of my herbal studies, because I learned it might help my mitral valve prolapse. It worked; the prolapse is undetectable now. Anyway, I wanted to continue with my old friend as a sort of constitutional, since it benefitted me so much in the beginning. I took the hawthorn and literally fell to my knees with dizziness. Still clueless, I took it again the following day and finally connected the dots. I have hereditary low bp. The hawthorn made it dip even lower.

    So…I learned be careful with herbs meant to be used for the healing of the sick. They can hurt if used improperly but are God’s miracle if used judiciously.

  3. Justme, herbs are for rebuilding and you’re right; once a problem is healed, the herbs are not needed and should be dropped out. If the diet is good they may not be needed at all. That’s my experience with my thyroid that I took a supplement for years to support. No more; diet is good enough to provide all the nutrition. Herbs are just focused micronutrients.

  4. Gary, I just read your story. Thanks for sharing with people you may have never met but who you trust are eating in accordance with the Lord’s Word of Wisdom or possibly before long will be eating in that way! I especially appreciated reading the following which you included in your interesting and very well written account:

    “I have never doubted the Word of Wisdom. As a very suspicious nutritionist I check every single bit of such statements, including the commas. I want to know the how, where, and why of it all. A few people have chosen to condemn me without investigating, but I intend to stick right with it. I find I can teach the Word of Wisdom easily to non-LDS people, but LDS members, for some reason, seem to resist.”

    I was a professional social worker employed by LDS Family Services for many years and did much counseling and then retired when I was about sixty five (I’m almost eighty three years of age). Because I was a counselor I paid much attention to helping Latter-day Saints and others with problems think through the challenges they were facing so as to come up with solutions which were derived from the Scriptures, both ancient and modern day, and are the revealed word of God which I’m sure you do too in your professional life, especially with your Latter-day Saint clients!

    I suggest a reason for why it is that many Latter-day Saints allow themselves to resist the what is said by the Lord in His Word of Wisdom, verses 10 to the end Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Simply stated:

    They are addicted! I know many Latter-day Saints who are addicted to the foods that the Lord advises them to not eat. Of course, they don’t view their actions as being motivated by addiction! Yet, very often they are! I’m a retired counselor so I don’t have opportunities now of learning how to assist clients to overcome addictions, but that is what many Latter-day Saints have, Addictions! Perhaps that might motivate you to figure out how you can help your clients and close relatives, for example — overcome their addictions to foods that are causing them all kinds of problems!

    Keep up the great desire you appear to have regarding about learning how to effectively help Latter day Saints and others to eat in a way so as to avoid food addictions, I Neil Birch am suggesting they most likely have, which plague them without their realizing such has been the case!

    Best wishes to you and your wife and those you serve professionally, J. Neil Birch

  5. Interesting experience.

    I found it interesting the comment about LDS vs non LDS reception to the guidelines in the Word of Wisdom. I believe that from the time we are little children we are taught the Word of Wisdom a being coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes. This bias starts at the top with leadership somewhat blinded to the ‘fullness of the gospel’ as it were with regards to this revelation. I note John McDougall stating frequently that people like to hear good things about their bad habits. Recently there was discussion about the utilization of fat in our diet. Even Time magazine had a cover with butter presented to be a health food. Ignoring many years of scientific literature to the contrary, people like to hear that butter is ok. I think without those in leadership in the Church looking more deeply into this revelation it will be a while until members gain the complete nutritional guidance our Heavenly Father has so clearly revealed. I see changes coming that will be to the benefit of all. There is too much information in the scientific literature to support a whole food plant based diet to be ignored. The Church states that by their fruits you shall know them, pointing to the true church. I believe that as people turn to the revelation in the Word of Wisdom they will receive the blessings promised and a new world will open to those in the Church individually and ultimately to the Church as a whole. That day will come. Assuming we are still here in 50 years, I predict that we will look back at this time and wonder what we were thinking. Great to hear good examples of others experiences. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Craig. You make many good points, but I think if the Lord wanted our Church leaders to preach this, He would make it known to them, and they would do it. I believe the Lord allows us to decide on our own how we will follow this counsel. It is not good for us to be commanded in all things!

    • I’m with you Craig. In a time where the church leaders have determined to be more transparent about our history and doctrine (this weeks articles on polygamy being the latest), can an honest application of the word of wisdom be far behind? I do not know the reason why it is not taught with authority and clarity, but many are suffering as a result. We should be leading the world with this knowledge and unfortunately many of our people are digging their graves with their teeth. Like the policy on the priesthood, I believe we will look back as a church with regret. In the meantime, we exercise our free agency and try to have influence and be good examples where leadership and vision are lagging.

      • How do we know God wants this to be taught “with authority and clarity?” He has already given us His counsel. No one is stopping us from following it should we choose. 🙂

        • I suppose the bigger question is why would the Lord not want this important information taught. There are a few who are heeding the counsel and many more who are not. Why would a loving Heavenly Father not want his people taught plainly by the leaders of his church? If we consider the incredible impact that even an attempt to obey the counsel in the word of wisdom would have on the church and the world in terms of health, stewardship over the earth and its resources and our relationship with all living things, it would seem reasonable that this would be a priority.

          I am comfortable with the notion that it is a mistake that will be rectified someday and as Craig opined, we will look back on this with puzzlement and justified sadness. My testimony is not based on the infallibility of our leaders (thank goodness 🙂 Imagine if we felt the same way about the priesthood issue and the prohibition for our black members. It took fearless men like Hugh B. Brown to privately but firmly argue that the continuation of this flawed policy would continue to harm the kingdom and needed to be changed. He was right, and Spencer W. Kimball had the courage to correct the error. Incredibly, some people left the church then and even recently when the church acknowledged we hadn’t handled it properly.

          I personally don’t spend a lot of time worrying about other people’s relationship with the word of wisdom. It is a personal matter and between them and the Lord. I do think it reasonable however to wonder why with what we know, the church leaders don’t emphasize and teach it in its entirety. It will happen I am certain and I look forward to it. In the meantime, I think it is a missed opportunity.

  6. Jane & all,

    One part of the W.o.W. I have not seen emphasised is the very beginning where it says ” adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints”. If taught in stronger terms by our leaders, I fear it would blow many of us “out of the water” (pun intended). I am one who has many favorite indulgences and it is very difficult to wean away, especially when those around you do not show restraint. I eat clean enough to know and feel the difference and am working toward total compliance

    • Oh, yes! I’m sure this same principle would apply equally to many doctrines. I know I could to a lot better living up to a great many of the important gospel principle we are taught. Hopefully we can all help each other work toward total compliance in all we are asked to do. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I was surprised that my dear daughter, Jane, would choose to re-publish this older submission to her. But I think I see her wisdom in so doing. I just want to hopefully support Jane in her having done so. I will show my support by simply stating that after having eaten in very close compliance with the eating portion of Section 89 (verses 10 through 21) since I had just turned 80 years of age, when Jane coming to my home in Murray, Utah after driving all the way to Murray from her home in Provo to teach me how the Lord wants us to eat, I have never been sick in any way. I haven’t even had head aches or even had a cold or the flu or anything else that could be ever termed, an Illness! I celebrated my 84th birthday on February 13, 2016. I’m so grateful to have the amazing great health that I have! I thank our Dear Lord, Jesus Christ for that along with one of his very faithful servants, Jane Birch, my eldest child!

  8. I have been for sometime intrigued by Jane”s insight and interpretation of the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. I agree with the idea that we should live this commandment in a more disciplined way of life. I also agree with the idea that a lot of “Mormons” suffer from food addiction–I being one of them! It would be wonderful, if I could sit down with Jane and have her explain to me just exactly what a breakfast, lunch and dinner should be in food while following this ( new to me) diet.

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