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.