I have always been healthy. I grew up with plenty of space to run around in, plenty of things to climb, and plenty of brothers to play with. And run, climb, and play, I did! My entire life I was stronger and faster than everyone else in my age group, as well as many people older than me. I felt myself to be entirely fit. I never had allergies, never any serious sicknesses, never any problem with blood sugar or fatigue, never even a broken bone. I also ate healthier food than anyone I knew. I had whole wheat mush every morning and almost never ate prepackaged food.
About three years ago, when I was 14 years old, I started Irish Step Dancing. I was still healthy, still strong, still eating good food, and getting more physical activity than ever, but I found myself needing even more. Conditioning for competitive Irish Dance was exhausting. I pushed myself hard to improve my endurance and my leg strength, but it was a long and slow process. Due to the limited time I had left to compete before leaving for college, I was very open to any new idea that might help me improve faster.
About a year after I began dancing I watched Forks Over Knives and was introduced to whole food, plant-based eating. It began simply as yet another of the many health documentaries I had seen, but this one made more sense than most, and by the time it was over, I had decided to switch to a whole food, plant-based diet. Though I had never eaten excessive amounts of meat, animal products, or processed foods, it was not until I stopped eating them that I realized how small quantities here and there really added up!
At first I only abstained from eating chunks of meat or great quantities of sugar. I still ate whatever was fed to me in the form of pancakes, casserole, etc., but I quickly found it was much easier to not eat any animal products, sugars, oil, or processed foods whatsoever. I found that eating a little bit of this or that quickly added up because practically every thing has some amount of oil or a little bit of milk in it, and I had no way of telling just how much of each thing I was getting. I also found it was much easier to tell people “I don’t eat animal products” than it was to tell people “I’m cutting back on animal products” when they were feeding me something that contained processed food or animal products.
The results were phenomenal. After getting over a three day hump of sugar withdrawals, I began feeling better than I ever had before. My dancing did indeed improve—my endurance levels skyrocketed. I went from being able to dance three steps of my reel with difficulty to dancing six steps with ease. I found an increase in my overall health as well. I no longer caught colds as easily, and when I did, my recovery was much quicker.
And, oh, how much more flavorful the food was! I realized that my entire life I had only ever appreciated two flavors: sweet and salty. My appreciation of good food was limited to these flavors. After changing my diet, I began to taste and appreciate the natural flavors in foods: the sweetness of carrots, the mellowness of mushrooms, the earthy spice of turnips. I was suddenly aware of the plethora of flavors around me, and I found greater enjoyment and satisfaction in them than I ever had in the overpowering sweetness of sugar or the excessive savor of meat.
In addition to this newfound appreciation for food, I experienced a greater clarity of mind, a better ability to retain information, and faster recovery from injuries. I feel that I have been spiritually blessed through this diet as well. Not only has it been a means of answering my prayers on several occasions, but I have received many (as I like to call them) “Ahha!” moments in my spiritual studies as a result of my diet.
Though my mother has always cooked nearly all of the food we eat, I have always cooked a good deal myself. When I first began eating a whole food, plant-based diet I expected a great deal of difficulty in cooking. I found, however, that cooking without animal products, sugar, oils, and white flour, was not nearly so difficult as I had first supposed. Cooking, I have since realized, is not so much of a rocket science as it is often made out to be. Most dishes are very forgiving when it comes to substitutions and experimentation. When cooking from a recipe I find that there are very few recipes that cannot be adapted to this style of eating with relative ease. Most dishes, however, are very difficult to ruin even when not using a recipe. At the beginning of my dietary alterations there was a drastic limitation in the variety of dishes that I could prepare, but as we have amassed more whole food, plant-based recipes and found new ways to prepare the dishes we love, I find myself with more variety in my cooking than ever before.
While my change in diet began as a desire to be more healthy and to get in better shape, I quickly realized as I did more study that this is the way that God wants me to eat. I now eat this way as much because of my personal religious beliefs as for my health. I firmly believe that God ordained meat for the use of man—but only in cases of extreme hunger—and that in most other cases it is displeasing to Him when it is eaten. Of course, this is purely my own interpretation of the scriptures and not official doctrine that has been declared by the Church, but it is very potent in my own mind and very well backed up by the scriptures (e.g. JST Genesis 9:11, D&C 89:12-13, the Discourses of Brigham Young, etc.), by scientific knowledge (see: The China Study, Forks Over Knives, and From Table to Able), and by my own personal experiences.
After I began eating whole food, plant based I began to feel that this way of life is so powerful that I should share it. I felt I had the knowledge to stop and reverse nearly any case of heart disease and something that could, in many instances, cure diabetes, in short, something that could improve the quality of life in my community. Such a thing was tantamount to the Gospel, and I felt that it must be shared. I found the perfect opportunity of doing so through my Eagle Scout project. I decided to hold a health fair to educate people about the importance of diet in health. I felt my Eagle Scout project was the perfect opportunity because I have found people to be very supportive of Eagle Scout Projects. Many people who would not normally come to such an event came willingly. There were over one hundred people that came and went in the course of the day. And may of the participants did change the way they ate because of what they learned at the health fair. Some changed completely to a whole food, plant-based diet while others made smaller (but no less noble) changes by cutting back on one thing or by not eating another. All in all it was a very fulfilling experience and one that I felt was important in our community. As the scriptures say, “The worth of a soul is great” and I would gladly do the whole thing over again if there were one person whose life I knew could be improved by the knowledge that I possess.
I resolutely believe that God equipped plants with all the nutrients that we need to not just survive but to flourish and to grow in both mind and body and to do so without the aid of meat or animal products. Brigham Young said that if we eat right then “by and by we will live not one hundred but hundreds of years.” I’m planning on dancing at my 150th birthday celebration. Are you?
Hyrum Jones is 17 years old and lives in Eagle Mountain Utah with his parents, sister, and five brothers. He is a freshman at BYU and recently received his call to serve in the Baltic Lithuania Mission. He loves woodworking, metalworking, dancing, drawing, playing the banjo, innovation, unicycling, ventriloquy, cooking, and all things bright and beautiful. He is fascinated by many subjects but does not yet know what he will major in, although he does know what he wants to do after he graduates.
See a news story about Hyrum’s Eagle Scout Health Fair here: Eagle Scout of the Week: Hyrum Jones
Hyrum’s mother, Michelle Jones, published her story here: “We love the food. We love how we feel.”