“When I was 28 years old, I was told I had cancer”

James Max ChristensenBy: James Max Christensen

After I married in 2005, I asked my wife, “Where is the meat?” I wanted meat with every meal because that is how I grew up. My loving wife graciously accommodated me. She is so kind and understanding. . . . but now she makes every meal without meat for me!

My patriarchal blessing talks about the Word of Wisdom. I have never smoked, never drank alcohol, tea, nor coffee, and never done drugs. I played on my high school basketball team and exercised quite often while trying to be healthy and eat my vegetables. But when I was 28 years old, I was told I had cancer. This started my quest to be healthy and whole, to understand the counsel in my patriarchal blessing and to better follow the Word of Wisdom. I started studying the Word of Wisdom in depth because I want to embrace the truth and obey all of God’s commands.

In 2011, through a series of many unordinary events, such as taking a day off of work to attend a seminar an hour away from home because I felt a strong spiritual prompting to do so, I met someone that did not eat meat. He told me that he chooses not to eat meat because he read a book called The China Study. At first, I was kind of afraid to know what the book might say, but I decided that I wanted to know the truth, even if that meant giving up something I loved. The title seemed intriguing, so I checked it out from the library. It changed my life forever.

After reading The China Study, I wondered why no one eats meat sparingly as counseled in the Word of Wisdom. At first, I honestly did not want to know because I was afraid of how hard it might be if I was supposed to eat meat sparingly! But I decided to embrace God’s truth, regardless of how hard it may seem. So, I asked, “Am I supposed to eat meat sparingly? If so, what does sparingly mean?”

One of the scriptures that influenced me the most was from the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 9:11, “And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.”

I read about Daniel in the Bible. He and his friends showed the king that by eating vegetables and seeds instead of eating meat, they were healthier and their countenances shined, and “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom. Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1).

I learned that Lorenzo Snow once said, “the time was near at hand when the Latter Day Saints should be taught to refrain from meat eating and the shedding of animal blood.” I wondered if maybe the time Lorenzo Snow foresaw is now upon us.

After much prayer in the temple and much study from both the science and the scriptures, I felt that I should not eat meat as Daniel of old in the Bible. I stopped eating meat. At the beginning, I ate a little fish occasionally. The last time I ate fish I got sick with the flu or something bad and decided to pray about it. Depending on the research and even the scriptures, a lot of information seems at first to contradict itself. Studying it out is important, and I believe we should do this, but we also need to be open and, most importantly, pray. I looked at various ways the question of fish could be interpreted and prayed about it, but the only way to know the truth for sure is to ask God. I felt that it is pleasing unto God to spare the lives of all flesh, and that by not eating any meat, God would favor my choice. Because of all the scientific research I have found that supports the scriptures, I wanted to share it with others and created the website, EatMeatSparingly.

I have not eaten meat since the beginning of 2011. By following a whole foods, plant-based diet, I now feel great! I have more energy than ever before. After being at work for many hours, I used to start to doze off, but not any more. I have seen so many rich blessings poured out upon me as I have eaten whole foods and meat sparingly (now never). People all around me will get sick, and I stay healthy as long as I take good care of myself.

My cancer is considered cured as it has been more than five years with no relapse. My daughter also had cancer. We received some traditional treatment from doctors, made diet changes, and used natural remedies. (Follow the Spirit, and you will know what is best for your family.) We strive to feed her a whole foods, plant-based diet. She is in remission and doing really well. The doctors have been amazed at how quickly she has healed and how well she is doing.

My family supports me and strives to eat meat sparingly. My brother and father have started eating a lot less meat. Recently, my dad stopped eating meat and says he feels a lot better.

I testify that we are to eat meat sparingly, as it is pleasing unto God. As I have embraced the Word of Wisdom, I have felt closer to God and have received so many rich blessings that I cannot even begin to describe them in full. I am so grateful to God and His love. I know that as I choose not to eat meat, it is, as the scriptures say, “pleasing unto [Him]” (D&C 89:13).

James Max Christensen is 34 years old and lives in Santaquin, Utah with his wonderful wife Danielle and five amazing children. He is an information technology manager at BYU for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He loves to play basketball and enjoys working with the youth in his scouting calling. Being in the mountains is a passion of his as he loves to see all of God’s creations.



  1. I am inspired by James’s courage and determination to do as he felt was right and to embrace the diet he feels is pleasing to the Lord. I hope we can all agree with James when he says, “I wanted to know the truth, even if that meant giving up something I loved.”

  2. What an interesting, inspirational anecdote! Thanks for publishing the quotes, especially Genesis 9:11, “And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.” I don’t think I ever read this scripture or at least don’t remember doing so. But…during my meat eating years, when the doctor ordered me to partake for severe anemia (I know…I used to place a lot of trust in doctors), I remember thinking I would be held accountable for the blood of animals. It must be so. One day I noticed the dead chicken floating in my soup pot looked remarkably like my newborn daughter floating in her little bath. It gave me severe reason for pause. When meat occasionally went bad in my fridge, I felt like I had wasted a life. Now I understand.

    AND President Snow’s quote is earth shattering; don’t you think!

    I’m so glad I learned the deeper meanings of WOW from the whisperings of the Spirit as I read the China Study and all the others we’ve all read. I feel so light and free now. I imagine being free from something as scary and horrible as cancer must make your spirit soar.

    Thank you again for your courage sharing this story.

  3. James – I appreciate you sharing your story. It is surprising how often the “China Study” has been mentioned by “converts” to the WFPB diet – both in and out of the Church. It certainly had a big influence on me when I read it.

    Great references at your website! Thank you!

  4. James, I enjoyed your article very much and the timing of its publication was inspired for my family. Jane, as usual, you must have been inspired to publish this article when you did. My husband’s cousin’s daughter has stage IV cancer. I will forward this URL to him. As a parent who has experienced cancer yourself, as well as having a daughter going through this now as well, I am sure you will see what a wealth of knowledge you may be providing our cousin with something can help his daughter. May the Lord continue to bless your family as you experience excellent health as you follow the Word of Wisdom, James. Thank you for your testimony.

  5. James,

    I quote one of the paragraphs you submitted above that helped me realize we both believe the same way about meat eating:

    “I testify that we are to eat meat sparingly, as it is pleasing unto God. As I have embraced the Word of Wisdom, I have felt closer to God and have received so many rich blessings that I cannot even begin to describe them in full. I am so grateful to God and His love. I know that as I choose not to eat meat, it is, as the scriptures say, “pleasing unto [Him]” (D&C 89:13).”

    First, I’d like to mention that I really appreciate a quote from one of my greatest personal heroes, Hugh Nibley. This isn’t an exact quote but it covers the essence of what Brother Nibley taught regarding the importance of not eating meat. Brother Nibley, whom I met when working as a student at the BYU library where as a privileged faculty member often he could be found back in the library stacks (where I did a lot of my work) reading from some of the books. This happened before I graduated from BYU in June of 1960.

    I remember very clearly reading quite recently in some of his writings that I copied off of the Internet that Hugh Nibley was convinced that the word “sparingly” as it is used in the 89th Section of the D. & C. applies particularly to the “sparing of the lives of animals.”

    I had what I consider to be a very spiritual experience that happened to me way back in the days when I lived in Sacramento (where I was actually born). My wife and I were on a ward outing up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and were, along with other ward members, sitting near a little tributary stream not far from a small lake. There were a lot of little trout swimming along the bank of that stream that didn’t seem afraid of the number of people who were fishing there. I wasn’t fishing but I actually was able to snag a very small trout using a broken off branch of a nearby bush, and as I was beginning to hold him or her, squeezing just enough so I wouldn’t harm him or her I saw that trout begin to cry! Or that is what it really looked like to me. I quickly shook that young trout off of that branch I’d used to do that snagging, and I felt greatly relieved that I had saved that fish’s life! I also hoped he or she would escape and avoid being caught again!

    As you may have read in my daughter’s book, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom,” etc. on pages 146 and 147,t before I turned eighty years of age; it was in late 2011 when I like you at about the same time stopped eating meat.

    Thank you for being the great example you are to those around you! Please remember that I’m one of those trying very hard like you to be a great example of “eating the Word of Wisdom Way.”

    Neil Birch

  6. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! The words that caught my attention and resonated with me were, “I want to embrace the truth.” I was just telling a friend the other day that I can’t very easily “white knuckle” a strict diet, but I can “embrace the truth” of God’s law of health! Thanks for sharing how you are doing it!

    I enjoyed reading through your website!

  7. Thank you for your comments everyone. I do want to emphasize that eating healthy foods and avoiding certain foods can have a significant impact on your health, but I need to mention that failure to receive certain medical treatments and professional care can be of serious detriment to your life and health. Neglecting or avoiding medical advice may be life threatening, especially doing so blindly.

    My family did work with doctors, have surgery, receive some chemotherapy, ate healthy foods, and used other natural remedies. Most importantly, pray and do what the Spirit is telling you to do because God knows all and can greatly bless you if you seek His will. If you disagree with a doctor, find another doctor or get another opinion and do your due diligence. Read studies from pubmed or other medical journals. As you study and seek answers, you can find them. The Spirit will guide you.

    If you feel any negative side effects from your dietary or life choices, please consult a medical professional or dietician. If you have any questions about what we did or would like to contact me, please feel free to contact me via Facebook or my website.

  8. Is this the Elder Christensen who served in the Seattle/Redmond/Bellevue area? Thank you for your testimony then and now.

    • Hi Diana,

      Thank you for your comment. I did serve a mission and there are a lot of Elder Christensen’s that have served throughout the world, but sorry I am not the one that served in that area. May God bless you for your testimony and your desire to serve and please Him. The scriptures teach us that God is pleased when we eat meat sparingly. D&C 89:13 “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used…” I know that God is pleased when we choose to eat meat sparingly. Thank you! God speed!

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