“The windows of heaven opened up for me”

Steve and Heidi RockBy: Heidi Rock

Everyone has to follow their own path. What works for one may not work for another. This is my story of how I came to shed the erroneous beliefs I had been taught my whole life about food and nutrition. There are two quotes from President Thomas S. Monson that I really like that relate to what I am about to share.

“There are no coincidences.” [1]

“The Lord is in the details of our lives.” [2]

In 1998 when I was 44 years old I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid disease). My paternal grandmother, my father, and two of my sisters had also been diagnosed with this disease, making it a genetic predisposition in our family. I was told there was no cure and that I would have to take thyroxin for the rest of my life. A symptom of this disease can be high cholesterol, which I also had. After starting the thyroxin and eating the cholesterol-lowering diet that the doctor put me on, my tests still showed an elevated cholesterol level. At the time I had studied low-carb diets and tried one. I lost some weight and my cholesterol came down. However, I had an interest in the Word of Wisdom and was confused as to why my blood work and weight improved by eating lots of animal products. I put my confusion to the back of my mind, but I continued to wonder why animal products were discouraged in the Word of Wisdom if eating them would bring my blood work into normal range. Because it seemed to help, I did the low-carb diet for about a year and then continued with a modified version of it.

Years passed, and I steadily put on weight. I seemed to be tired all the time and was afraid to drive because I would catch myself falling asleep at the wheel even after 5 minutes of driving. After reaching 50 years of age, I assumed I was doomed to being overweight and feeling tired for the rest of my life. I blamed it on the aging process.

In 2005, when I was 51 years old, I had a bone density test and was diagnosed with borderline osteopenia, the early stages of osteoporosis. I wondered how this could be since I did weight bearing exercises and got plenty of calcium in my diet. I have always been an avid consumer of milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and ice cream. So, what happened? I was quite discouraged and decided to pray about it. While fasting I asked Heavenly Father what to do. I told Him that I wanted to know the right way to eat, the healthiest way to eat for me. I wanted to be thinner, but more than that I wanted to be healthy. I didn’t want to end up in poor health for 20 or 30 years like my parents or my husband’s parents. I told God that I was willing to search for the answers if He would send them my way. And that’s what happened.

I am a researcher by nature and began reading everything I could on thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and aging. My adult son told me about a nutrition lecture he had on CD and let me borrow it. It was very interesting, and I count this as the beginning of where I am today. It was July 2005 when I decided to try a new way of eating, including giving up meat, for just 10 days. It was based on the information I had learned about acid/alkaline in the body. I figured I could do anything for 10 days, and if it didn’t work out, there would be minimal loss as far as health was concerned. After 10 days I was feeling much better and had lost some weight so I continued. I didn’t stay on this diet totally because I was still learning new things, but it gave me the background and knowledge I needed for further learning over the course of the next year. Although I had given up meat I continued eating cheese and drinking milk during this time.

In June of 2006 I decided to give up chocolate. This was a hard decision for me because I love chocolate. One of the reasons I gave it up was that I had an addiction to it. If I didn’t eat chocolate every day I would get a headache. The other reason was even more important. Two years prior I had been to a fireside on the topic of “sacrifice.” This may sound strange, but during that fireside the thought popped into my mind that I would have to sacrifice chocolate. I denied the prompting for two years, trying to rationalize that it was my own thinking and that I didn’t have to really give it up. The Spirit became very strong early in June, and that very day I gave up chocolate cold turkey and haven’t looked back. To me this was a test of faith because immediately after that the windows of heaven opened up for me with a great outpouring of knowledge and understanding.

We had a Relief Society group in our ward that met once a week and discussed nutrition. The leader had several books on nutrition and told us we could borrow them. It is odd, but the one that pulled at me was The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. It’s not one I would have chosen normally because the other books looked and sounded more appealing. This particular book had a very plain cover and a dull title so I know that I was being guided to borrow it. I could not put it down and finished it in a few days. Up until this point I was still drinking milk and eating cheese. After reading this book I gave those up and began making almond milk.

After another month or two of reading and researching on the Internet I came across a book entitled Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. With all the research I’d done over the prior year, the theory taught in this book made a lot of sense to me. It felt right, it fit with the Word of Wisdom, and hey, I could try anything for 10 days. So, on September 22, 2006 I announced to my sister that I was going to start this new diet. She wanted to do it with me. After a week of detoxing we both began to feel better, and we both had lost some weight – all without being hungry. The 10 days came and went and after 6 weeks we had lost substantial weight. We knew we would not go back to the Standard American Diet.

Sometime in October that year, after being on the plant-based diet for a few weeks, I was attending a local religion class, and at the end of the class one of the women stood up and announced that there was a speaker coming to UVSC and BYU to speak about research and a book he had recently written. She said the book was The China Study. I was so excited! I went with my husband and sister to hear T. Colin Campbell’s lecture. This was not a coincidence. The Lord knew ahead (as He always does) that this lecturer was coming so I had already read the book and was prepared. If I had not read the book or known about it, this women’s announcement would have meant nothing to me.

Another interesting thing is that the physical therapist that I had been going to earlier that year, Rogan Taylor, was the one who arranged for T. Colin Campbell to come. I didn’t know that Rogan was a vegan, but after he stood to introduce Campbell I thought, “None of this is a coincidence. God is answering my prayers in so many ways.” Since then I have bought many copies of The China Study from Rogan Taylor to hand out to family and friends.

It took me 6 months to get over the craving for cheese. During these 6 months I would have some mild panic moments when I would think, “Is this really the right thing to do?” “Am I getting enough nutrients?” I had these doubt-filled moments because I had been indoctrinated for so many years that a vegan diet was unhealthy. Everyone around me seemed to think I was crazy so I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I had to calm myself down and remember the things that had happened to confirm my prayers being answered. Sometimes we have to take a step into the dark even when we have loved ones around us telling us that we are wrong.

During this time I began an intense study of the Word of Wisdom. I read every footnote, looked up what words meant back in the 1830’s, and started collecting quotes from prophets and apostles. After that first 6 months I was certain that I was on the right path. The whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet became a source of health and vigor for me. Some of the benefits I have seen are:

  • 40 pounds of weight loss, putting me to where I want to be.
  • Greatly increased energy and stamina. I used to fall asleep at the wheel whenever I’d drive (narcolepsy). That doesn’t happen anymore.
  • In 8 years I have only had one cold. I used to get bronchitis annually for 20 years and have not had it since adopting a WFPB lifestyle.
  • Low cholesterol (last time I checked, my total cholesterol was 148)
  • Less worry – about heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, cancer, etc.

When I first discovered a WFPB diet I was extremely excited to share it with others. I thought others would be excited to discover that there is a way to escape the common diseases that plague us. I started telling everyone, but I wasn’t prepared for some of the negative comments I got. I have come to understand that, even though I have learned a truth, not everyone is ready for it. Perhaps the greatest thing I have come to accept is that I just need to be an example, and if people want to know anything they will ask.

I have had some positive successes sharing this diet. Four of my five siblings have adopted a WFPB diet. In fact, my sister’s husband was a dairy farmer and also raised cows for eating. He was adamant about me not talking to him about my new way of eating. My sister was more open so after reading The Word of Wisdom by Widtsoe I gave a copy to her, as well as a copy of The China Study. A few days later she wrote me that her husband really liked Widtsoe and started reading the book. Afterwards he announced that they shouldn’t have meat so often. He then read The China Study and decided to do away with dairy. He even went so far as to get rid of their dairy cows and began making specialty jams and syrups for a living. My husband’s sister and her husband have also changed to a WFPB diet, and I have two granddaughters who will not eat meat.

I have discovered that diets don’t work. I know that the type of life I live is just as important as how long I live. Our life spans have increased, but I had to make a choice about how I wanted to live the aging years. I decided that I could have a long life full of disability, chronic illness, and intensive, full-time nursing care OR I could delay these experiences by living a healthy lifestyle. I have also learned that the gene pool that was dished out to us doesn’t have to be prophecy. Sure, we may all carry some weak genes, but many of them are expressed only if they have the right environment.

While serving as an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, John A. Widtsoe and his wife, Leah Widtsoe, published a book entitled The Word of Wisdom. They wrote:

Unquestionably, the Word of Wisdom is not lived completely or the people would receive a greater fullness of the promised reward—a long life of physical health, while the destroying angel of sickness and death would pass by and not slay them. [See D&C 89:21] [3]

God’s promises are true if His laws are obeyed. He has given us a law of health called the Word of Wisdom. I know if we obey the Lord’s law we will receive the blessings predicated upon that law (see D&C 130:20-21).

Heidi Rock is 60 years old and resides in Highland, Utah. She met her husband at BYU, and they have been married 39 years. They have six children and fifteen grandchildren. She has been a secretary for her husband’s temperature control business for 30 years. She likes to sew, read, and research. She also likes to grow her own food because she knows what’s in and on it. She is currently studying to become a Master Herbalist.

P.S. I met Jane Birch at the LDS Holistic Conference on June 2014. She had a vendor booth to promote her new book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective. I had seen her many times before on Facebook and Meridian Magazine. So, having been quite familiar with her ideas and posts, I introduced myself and bought her book. I began reading Discovering the Word of Wisdom the next day. As I progressed through the pages I found the story of Jane’s friend, Abbie Kim, from Korea in Chapter Four. Her story sounded somewhat familiar to me, and then I realized that I was the wife Abbie mentions in her story! Abbie was the little Korean nurse that helped with my husband at the hospital—the one I shared information with about the power of plant-based eating. I began to cry as I realized that we never know how far-reaching the influence is that we can have on others. Here again—there are no coincidences, and God is definitely in the details of our lives.

Find Heidi’s sister’s story here: “I asked the Lord for a definitive answer”

[1] Quoted by Heidi Swinton in “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” Ensign, March 2012.

[2] Thomas S. Monson, “Consider the Blessings,” LDS General Conference, October 2012.

[3] John A. Widtsoe and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation (Salt Lake City, Deseret News Press), 12.

 

Comments

  1. Heidi,
    So many parts of your story resonated with me! I also did a low carb diet many years ago and was confused about how I lost weight but felt like I wasn’t obeying the Word of Wisdom. Like you I feel like I’ve discovered a truth in the WFPB way of eating that follows the Word of Wisdom but not everyone is ready for it, so I give away Jane’s book when I can and try to be an example. The ladies at work have been the most interested as they see my lunches day after day with one returning to a vegan diet after going low carb for weight loss, and others just asking me for advice/recipes when they or a loved one need to eliminate dairy for health reasons.
    It is so affirming to read your story about the direction you received and outpouring of the Spirit, which is available to all of Heavenly Father’s children. And I love the little connections between you, Abbie, Jane, Dr. Campbell, and Rogan! Its true, there are no coincidences. Or as a wise home teacher once told me “A coincidence is simply a miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    Duffy

  2. Dear Heidi:

    Congratulations on your success with the whole food plant based diet. I discovered Jane Birch’s book in January and devoured it. Up till then I had been a lifetime yo-yo dieter. But when I read her book I also received a spiritual manifestation that it was the answer to the prayers I had been offering all my life. I started the diet on 24 February 2014. You can read about my experience in my blog at http://dietdilemmasolved.blogspot.com/. I have been on the diet for about 6 months and have lost 60 pounds. My diabetes is under better control. I now take one shot of insulin each day and my A1c is down to 6.6. Cholesterol is 145 and blood pressure is 102/60. I have cut all of my medications back to furosemide, insulin and a blood thinner for my afib. I also just recently finished reading the “The China Study” and it verified for me scientifically what the diet is and that it actually works.

    Congratulations again on your success.

    Forever strong in life.

    Larry Strong

  3. I loved reading the story of your journey. And you look so healthy and beautiful. After reading, I know your beauty and glow are from the inside out with both the spirit and the letter of the laws of health in your life. Thanks so much for sharing all the details, they make the story so powerful.

  4. Heidi,

    Your having read Jane Birch’s book, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom,” so you have no doubt read my story found on pages 146 and 147 about my having been blessed by living by what the Lord tells us in His Word of Wisdom, how we should eat. I’m so grateful for the health and strength eating in accordance with His counsel that has come to me and remains. As an eighty two year old man it is amazing to me and to others who know me how I can exercise on a very challenging Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer for fifty minutes six days a week. It is because I emphasize the eating of the Staff of Life, grains, in each of my meals. I have not had a cold, headache or any kind of illness since I began this inspired way of eating just several months before turning eighty years of age.

    I really enjoyed your account given above. You were very diligent in seeking the truth and the Lord helped you find it. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family! J. Neil Birch

  5. Isn’t it wonderful that our Heavenly Father really will direct our lives if we choose to allow it. He wants the best for us, because He loves us. We can have happy, healthy, vibrant lives if we choose His Word of Wisdom in its fullest extent.

  6. Your story is very similar to my own in many ways. I’m curious to know if eating a WFPD diet has had any effect on your thyroid condition. Have your TSH numbers changed – any adjustment in your thyroxin dosage? Thank you so much for posting your account. I am just beginning to learn about this and am very interested to read about the experiences of others who are finding it helpful – even life-changing.

    • In Heidi Rock’s original story, she included this passage which was cut in the final story, but it may interest you:

      “One thing that didn’t clear up was my Hashimoto’s disease. However, in my research I have discovered herbs (these are God’s plants too). This can be a topic for another discussion, but I just want to point out in Alma 46:40-41 I learned that there “were some who died with fevers . . . but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases. . . .” It also says, “…there were many who died with old age. . . .” Notice it didn’t say they died of diseases –it was old age. In the past if I didn’t take thyroxin for one month I began to have all the symptoms of low thyroid. Because of the herbal treatment of my Hashimoto’s disease I have not had thyroxin in nearly 2 years.”

      Please note that WFPB expert Dr. John McDougall says that thyroid conditions do not normally resolve with dietary changes (view a short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKeZo29Rg6M). He prescribes relatively few medications, but thyroid medication is one is regularly prescribes.

      I also take thyroid medication. A year after I switched my diet, my thyroid tests were different enough that my doctor had me reduce my prescription. I can’t honestly say I know that was related to my diet, but my prescription had never changed before.

      Bless you!

    • Hi Heidi – I love your name!!!

      As Jane mentioned, my Hashimoto’s did not go away. I have done much better on a WFPB diet though and would not change that. If there is any chance of healing the thyroid it would have to be based on a WFPB diet.

      I am also aware of what Dr. John McDougall says about thyroid conditions not resolving with dietary changes, as Jane mentioned in her post. I have not let that stop me though. In my heart I cannot believe that there is not a solution. I have a deep and relentless determination and have felt prompted many times to keep looking for that solution. I have studied and read numerous accounts of a WFPB diet healing other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, lupus, cancer, MS, etc. I cannot in my heart believe that Hashimotos would be an exclusion. I have actually met a few people that have healed their Hashimoto’s.

      I am in the midst of some natural things that I am trying and am having some positive results. Since I am not a doctor, and I am doing things completely on my own, I don’t know that it would be appropriate to post it here. However, if you are interested in contacting me and feel prompted to do so, contact Jane for my email address. I would be happy to share with you what I am doing and what my results have been so far.

      Life is an adventure, isn’t it? May you be blessed in your desires to be healthier.

      Heidi

      • Thanks for sharing about your thyroid and where it stands now.

        Thyroid is an issue I have, too, and my sister was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I was tested extensively in 2012…complete thyroid panel, uptake scan, ultrasound and biopsy…after which my doctor retested the only number that had been normal the whole time and said we shouldn’t do anything. So I’m not on meds and don’t have a diagnosis. I am however seeing a naturopath and taking the herbs and supplements he suggests to help my thyroid so I’m hopeful I can keep it from getting worse. I have learned recently, though, that potatoes and my thyroid don’t like each other.

      • I appreciate your story and your honesty about hashimotos. I feel like a Whole Foods plant based diet is what I want to do, but even on vegan sites I see that people with hashimotos have a gluten intolerance. Do you eat gluten? And how hard is it to do a WFPB diet without gluten? Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated. Searching for truth is not easy.

        • Did you ever find any information about gluten and eating a whole food plant based diet without wheat? I have thyroid issues and have been told to avoid gluten like the plague. I feel this is the right way to eat but scared about eating wheat. Just looking for thoughts. Thanks

          • Alisha: Most experts do not believe people with thyroid issues need to avoid wheat, so you need to decide who to believe. From a WFPB perspective very few people need to avoid gluten, and people with thyroid issues are not high on the list. You can, of course, test your own body and see how you feel on wheat. However, it is also very possible to avoid gluten on a WFPB diet. In fact, it is pretty easy to do so. Consider joining this Facebook group where you can get help from others if you want to do WFPB gluten-free: https://www.facebook.com/groups/wordofwisdomprivategroup/

  7. Dear Heidi,

    You have inspired me to learn more — starting with reading the two books you recommend above. Thanks so much for sharing your journey to greater health, energy and increase. We learn from each other and I have certainly learned from you. Love you my sister. Juleen Jackson

  8. Heidi,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I have some similar health problems, one of which is poor bone density. I am 35 years old and have severe osteoporosis. I have started drinking raw goat milk kefir and feel it is beneficial to me. I am so scared to stop drinking it in case things get worse. I was wondering if you had seen any improvements in your bone health. I was also wondering if you take medication for it. (I do not want to go ths route.)

    Thanks so much,
    Wendy

  9. Thank you Heidi for sharing your story. I have much in common with you such as falling asleep while driving (in years past) and though I haven’t had a doctor for years and do not have a diagnosis, I believe that I have had a thyroid problem all my life and they never tested for it. I have noticed that the problems are not consistent. For instance the falling asleep while driving came on suddenly and left after about five years. My children remember our trips with “mama naps” very often. It would take me forever to get somewhere! I wonder if we should be looking not just at the thyroid, but at the adrenal glands. I believe stress may have something to do with maybe the adrenal glands becoming exhausted before the thyroid declines. Maybe supporting the adrenals should be addressed at the same time. I don’t know. I just have questions. Recently I took my body temp because I wondered if I was sick. I was feeling dizzy, etc. It was 95.4 in the middle of the day! I have been taking some adrenal support and kelp and now my temp is up to 96.9.

    Now my daughter has medullary thyroid cancer. I would be interested in learning more of what you are finding out about herbs. I was hoping to read that the WFPB diet helped thyroid. I have been eating this way for over six months and was looking forward to a healing eventually. I would love to find the answers and be able to help my daughter. Since thyroid is said to not respond to this diet she will not try it though she has had two blessings that have told her to follow the Word of Wisdom. That also seems to indicate that if we do our part then it qualifies us for the Lord’s blessings. Once we have done that I believe we would be better able to exercise faith to be healed if that is according the the Lord’s will.

    Jane, please send me Heidi’s contact information. Jane, thank you for sending your book. I have finished it and it is excellent. I want to get several copies to share!

    Ann, that is interesting about the potatos. I will be more observant!

    Thanks all! (I love this site Jane!)

    Jan

  10. Thank you, I admire you and your husband very much. As you might know I am a physician. At one time a fat physician who believed cholesterol levels and antihypertensive drugs were the answer. It took a caring son and daughter to encourage me to look at my diet. The rest is history, I am still a bit tired, nap every day but not to any excess. My heart told me and my mind confirmed that what I was doing was right. The real spirit of this great Kingdom on Earth had taught me a lesson. I am surprised when I read that the W. of Wisdom is for the least of the saints, well It sure took long enough for me. I still take 81 mg of ASA, but that is it, and I do this with the approval of one of the world’s top cardiologists who states cholesterol levels are not the cure, the cure is eating like pioneers, leave processed foods alone. I appreciate your story and think more people should try diet and exercise as part of their treatment. James Ross DPM. DABPS, FACFAAS.

    • Thanks for your comments, James. It just dawned on me that you were the Jim Ross that went on a mission with Steve to Thailand. I’m glad that you have found the parts of the Word of Wisdom that generally get overlooked. And best of all your health is improving. Way to go!!!!

  11. Heidi, I particularly appreciated the following quote you provided for us in your very interesting and helpful presentation which I copied from that which you sent to my daughter, Jane way back in August of 2014.

    “While serving as an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, John A. Widtsoe and his wife, Leah Widtsoe, published a book entitled The Word of Wisdom. They wrote:

    Unquestionably, the Word of Wisdom is not lived completely or the people would receive a greater fullness of the promised reward—a long life of physical health, while the destroying angel of sickness and death would pass by and not slay them. [See D&C 89:21] [3]” I hope that you continue to be blessed by the way you are still eating!”

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