By: Lara Johnson
I was raised eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). I was often sick with colds and flus and constipation. As a teenager I suffered from acne and depression, and I struggled to manage my weight, which led to bulimia.
When I got married I wanted to be a good wife and homemaker so I would make all kinds of delicious SAD meals for my husband. We had dessert every night. I developed painful ovarian cysts and frequent urinary tract infections (UTI’s). They were very painful and when I would have one I would have to miss work because I could not get off of the toilet because of the discomforting urge to urinate.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I developed a UTI that would just not go away. One of my best friends, Joylene Scott, told me about a health book entitled Fit For Life that promoted a vegan lifestyle. She said that everyone in her mission had been following it. She came home vibrant and healthy and fifty pounds lighter. I on the other hand had put on twenty-five pounds and was miserable.
Whilst sitting on the toilet in pain one day and desperately praying for help, I felt prompted that perhaps I needed to eat better. My thoughts turned to when I was nine years old and my thirty-nine-year-old father had had a near death heart attack experience.
My mother who worked in pathology at the local hospital and regularly saw the outcome of patients with heart disease (including doctors . . . ) read a book entitled The Mucusless Diet.
I do not know how she came upon it or why, regardless she changed our family’s diet to the plant-based Macrobiotic Diet. I hated it. It was traumatizing to me. I was just a kid who wanted to be normal and eat like “everyone else.” But, it improved my father’s health, appearance, weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Painfully, five years later my parents divorced. My father regressed to eating SAD and five years after the divorce, after an unsuccessful bypass surgery to open five blocked arteries, he died. He was only forty-nine years old. This greatly impacted me. I feared dying like my father.
Remembering the improvement to my father’s health upon changing his diet, despite the trauma and dis-esteem I had for healthy eating, I went to a health food store and browsed through all of the different foods available. I purchased some items and started to leave, but felt strongly prompted to head over to the book section. As I was scanning the book shelves a book practically jumped out at me: Fit for Life! It was the book my friend had told me about! I bought it and read it within three days. I couldn’t put it down! It wasn’t weird like Macrobiotics and actually had normal recipes in it! Emboldened, I cleaned out my kitchen of all the foods deemed “harmful” and changed my diet. The UTI immediately went away and within the first week I lost ten pounds, and I only put on seven pounds my entire pregnancy.
My baby grew, and I lost that extra weight I was carrying around. I felt wonderful despite the fact that it was difficult to let go of the foods I grew up on and loved. But, I learned how to make the dishes I loved, only healthier, and I was especially happy to be free from those chronic issues I had suffered from. Even my husband’s frequent sinus infections, colds, and flus discontinued.
We did really well on our vegan lifestyle for about three years, but as time went by, no longer reading about health and nutrition, almost without realizing it, we began “cheating” here a little and there a little, until we really could no longer consider ourselves vegan anymore, even though for the most part we thought we ate much “healthier” than your average Americans.
Four children and fourteen years later on July 20, 2008 during a Relief Society Presidency meeting, I felt something “strange” happen in my head. My heart began racing, and I struggled to keep from passing out. It kept happening. I was rushed to the hospital and spent the night on the cardiac floor. The doctors could not explain what was wrong and told me that most likely it was “just anxiety” and that they had “ten other patients in the emergency room with the same symptoms.” They gave me some anxiety pills, but after researching them and learning that if, for whatever reason, I stopped taking them I could die, I refused to take them.
I was completely engulfed in FEAR. I had an irregular heartbeat, a cold foot, a hot foot, numbness in my head, face, forearms, and fingers. I had head, chest, and body pressure upon awakening and chest pain, lightheadedness, weakness, and frightening episodes of near syncope where I thought I was going to die. It happened for months. I was given every test. I wore a heart monitor for three weeks. They found nothing wrong with my heart, but I was told that I had high cholesterol, low cortisol, and some elevated liver enzymes.
One day I felt an “explosion” in my head with the same racing heartbeat and near syncope. It was incredibly frightening! I could not understand how I could go from being totally “fine” to just the opposite so quickly. I felt like my “warranty” had expired and that I was going to die, like my father . . . I was SO afraid and desperate for help. I was flabbergasted that the doctors, who were supposed to know everything about health, could not figure out what was wrong with me. Even worse, I couldn’t get over how they didn’t even think that it was really that big of a deal! It was “just anxiety” after all. Go home and “take your pills.”
I knew that something was very wrong and that it was indeed a big deal. During this time my husband mentioned to me that he had been noticing a “rough patch” on my labia. I went to my nurse midwife to have it checked out. After examining me, she called the gynecologist in. They told me that I had an autoimmune disease called Lichen Sclerosus (LS). They told me that there was “NO CURE” and that “it will eventually develop into CANCER.” No cure? Cancer!!? I cannot adequately express my hopeless terror!! All they could offer me was some steroid cream, which I never used because after researching it I learned that it was shown to be ineffective and created unwanted side effects. No thank you.
The LS was progressing fairly rapidly. It was very, very painful and made intercourse impossible. I felt worthless as a woman and ashamed. I went through emotional pain and torment in those first three months knowing that I basically had two choices: I could either believe the doctors and resign myself to their “death sentence,” or with the Lord’s help and direction, I could figure out how to get healthy again. I knew that I had been healthy before and I could be healthy again. I told the Lord that “if it was my time that He had to change it!” I WANTED TO LIVE! I WANTED TO BE HEALTHY!
In my desperate attempt to regain my health, I spent thousands of dollars on every book, lotion, potion, and supplement any alternative health practitioner and “snake oil salesman” was willing to sell me.
During my search, I found a neurologist who was doing a study using acupuncture on her patients. The acupuncturist was having me use homeopathic herbal remedies, one of which was called eleuthero. I went to all of the nearby health food stores in search of some, but none of them had any. In my persistence to find some of the herb, I found a little store that had some healthy sounding name to it, and I walked in. I asked a woman there, Katherine Scott, if they carried eleuthero. She said, “We don’t sell any herbs or supplements here. What is it that you need it for?” I told her my condition, and I will never forget what she said to me next: “I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 15 years ago and I healed myself with food.” When she said that I was overcome with the Holy Ghost, and I knew that that was what I need to do too.
My life had brought me back to the “food creates sickness or health” issue. But of course it was the food! How had I forgotten? But WHY did it have to be food?! Why couldn’t I just eat whatever I wanted and take some pill that would make me all better? That’s what most of us want isn’t it? The easy way?
Katherine gave me a book entitled, The Raw Life; Becoming Natural in an Unnatural World. I read it over UEA weekend in October 2008. It rang true to me that we should be eating food the way it was created in its natural, unadulterated raw state, containing all of its intended nutrients undestroyed by cooking. I searched the scriptures wanting to know what the Lord has said about diet; what His intended diet was for man.
I found the answers in Genesis 1:29. After God created man he said, “Behold, I have given you every HERB [greens and vegetables] bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the FRUIT of a tree yielding seed; to you IT SHALL BE FOR MEAT.” How often do we hear the Lord ordain, “IT SHALL BE”?
The Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:10-17) also supported this, “And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome HERBS God hath ORDAINED for the (1). CONSTITUTION [The structure, composition, physical makeup, or nature of something” (Merriam-Webster)], (2.) NATURE [“The inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing” (Merriam-Webster)], and (3.) USE of man – Every HERB in the season thereof, and every FRUIT in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.” There it was in modern revelation as well! The diet ordained by our Father in Heaven!
But what about the protein I was brainwashed into believing I so desperately needed to be healthy?
The Lord has also allowed for the eating of flesh but He made it clear how and when animals could be used. They were to be used “SPARINGLY” which means “to spare” and ONLY in times of famine, but more importantly He told us that, “it is PLEASING unto Me that they should NOT BE USED.”
Why wasn’t this pointed out at church? Why did we ignore this verse? I want to please the Lord!
I LOVE animals and upon reflection I realized that I couldn’t bear to see an animal slaughtered. I could never kill an animal. Furthermore, I had never even looked upon one and thought of it as edible or even desirable for food. It was only because of tradition and of having it served on my plate since I was a child unrecognizable, breaded, fried, cooked, seasoned, sauced and spiced, called by something other than what it was, that had me unawares or unconscious as to what it truly was that I was eating: a precious animal that wanted to live as much I did. One in which I have never had the “need” to eat, for I have never lived through a famine.
I became a vegan for my health, but after having my consciousness awakened to the realities of animal food production, their suffering, the effect of this production on our planet, and our health, I am now a vegan for them.
I now understood our Father’s originally intended diet for man when He told Adam and Eve: “We have…planted for you this garden, wherein we have placed all manner of fruits, flowers, and vegetation. Of every tree of the garden thou mayest FREELY EAT.” There were no other food options ordained for them. There were no kitchen appliances, pots or pans. No. Just vegetation and fruits. That was what I needed to know. I knew that the foods created by our Father in Heaven for us would heal me.
I decided to go 100% raw vegan. Like doing anything new and different there was a definitely a learning curve and there were days of discouragement. For me, being different was challenging. One evening I cried all night to my husband, questioning if I should keep going. The very next morning, I came downstairs and my husband said, “Honey, look at this!” holding up the local newspaper, The Daily Herald, Shelley Abegg, from my own town, was on the COVER with the headline Raw Food Remission. It was her story of being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and after praying to know what she should do, Shelley had one word come into her mind, “food.” She ate only raw fruits and vegetables and is now over 20 years cancer free. I KNEW that was another tender mercy of the Lord showing me that I was on the right path.
I learned about more and more people healing from all types of diseases but had anyone healed with diet from LS or any autoimmune disease similar to mine?
I found a video on YouTube of a girl with eczema/psoriasis, which is also a deemed “incurable” autoimmune disease. After going raw vegan, she reversed the disease within three years. That was the hope I was looking for. Someone who had DONE IT!
I immersed myself in the raw food world, buying books, joining and creating local support groups, taking food preparation classes, and even began teaching my own! I became an expert on raw food cuisine. Within DAYS of eating a plant-based raw vegan diet I started to feel better. All of my symptoms started to subside . . . except for the LS.
I was 100% raw for 10 months until I had a traumatic family event, and I began bingeing on vegan cooked foods to numb my pain. After a few months of that backsliding I decided to go on a 60 day “juice feast.” It was then that I started noticing some improvement with the LS, but I was constipated (I now know that was because of removing the fiber from the whole fruits and vegetables) and towards the end of the 60 days I fell into a bad habit of chewing and spitting out the cooked food I would have to prepare for my family, and I knew then that I needed to be done with the feast, yet I “had to” make it the full 60 days . . . I went right back to eating cooked vegan foods again and the LS worsened.
The emotional roller coaster of dealing with a painful health condition and trying to eat “perfectly” while staying hopeful and patient is difficult to say the least. I would go back and forth from eating 100% raw to cooked but never seemed to be able to stay completely raw, vegan yes, but raw was difficult for me when I was preparing elaborate raw meals for myself and also making cooked meals for my family.
I was told about a book by Dr. Douglas Graham called The 80/10/10 Diet in which he describes how almost all fruits and vegetables contain practically the same ratios of carbohydrates, fat and protein. 80-90% carbs, 5-10% fat and 5-10% protein. It awakened me to the fact that the raw vegan cuisine diet I was trying to eat was extremely high in fats from nuts, seeds, and oils, not to mention that it was expensive and took so much preparation. He also taught that a high fat diet was linked to autoimmune diseases. I saw that these were likely the reasons why I struggled to stay on the regime for those nearly three years and perhaps was the reason why the LS wasn’t going away. Immediately I made the dietary adjustments, not even eating 100% raw all of the time, just keeping my carbs/fat/protein ratios in proper balance. It was SO much easier to eat this way. This was also when the magic happened. I was amazed how rapidly the LS almost immediately began to disappear! It was completely gone within 10 months. I was overjoyed beyond description!
In January of 2015 my husband had a metastatic prostate scare. He was not willing to risk the possible side effects from a biopsy to confirm the diagnoses and said to me, “Honey, whether I learn for certain that it is cancer or not, I am not willing to do the conventional reatments. I am going to do what you did. I’m going raw.” After about three months, all of his symptoms went away. He remained 100% raw for six months and then began his current diet of “Raw till 4” where he eats raw meals for breakfast and lunch and then for dinner has a whole food, plant-based cooked meal. I too was doing this with him until late December when my oldest 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. She said, “Mom, I haven’t been eating good since I’ve been in high school, and I know that eating raw will heal me.” I have joined her to give her my full support and help. Stay tuned to find out how she does.
Needless to say I have made many adjustments to the diet I feed my family. We now eat a predominantly whole food, plant based diet high in fresh, ripe, raw, organic, in season fruits and vegetables. I have taught them all I have learned and through example, but I won’t force them to abstain from harmful foods, nor can I. They have to choose for themselves and learn from their own experience. The consequences from their own choices to their health are the best teachers. They usually get sick after eating something less than healthy (that are sadly often served at school, church functions, or parties) and will then cry to me saying, “Mom, I shouldn’t have eaten that! I never want to eat junk again!” Until they do . . . because we live in this world . . . But, my children have seen what I have been through, and they know the healthiest way to eat. They have seen what it has done for me, their father, and for friends of mine who have overcome MS, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and other illnesses.
My oldest son just came home from a mission to Argentina where meat is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He never ate any. He made a big impact on his companions, investigators, and converts. Example is the greatest way to influence others. My youngest son helped an overweight friend lose over 20 lbs by going vegan and now his family has changed their diets too.
I am a big social media promoter of health both spiritually and physically. I get messages all of the time from strangers and friends alike thanking me for my posts. Helping others find health and happiness fills me with immense joy.
I have a strong testimony of the power in the foods God created to “be for man for meat.” The power that raw fruits and vegetables have to promote, maintain, regain and restore health. I believe the Garden of Eden diet to be the optimal diet. But, I also believe that the diet described in the Word of Wisdom that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables and includes cooked whole grains is the healthiest cooked food diet. In our world today, not everyone can be 100% raw . . . but, it isn’t necessary either, unless you are wanting to overcome a serious illness or disease.
We have been given our free agency and have been told to “choose the right.” We have been told to live in this world, but to not be “of it.” We are to be a “peculiar people,” “separate.” We have been told that our bodies are our temple and that “no unclean thing may enter,” only that which is worthy. The way the world eats is not how the Lord wanted us to eat. The Enemy will never gain a body and hates that we have one. He has conspired with men to pervert and adulterate the foods God has created “for man.” He has enticed us and entrapped us with taste explosive addictive “foods” found on practically every corner. Temptations everywhere we go. He has also lied to us about what we “need” to eat, and we lust after them. We are greatly suffering the consequences and we are sick and suffering all manner of dis “eases” which make us focus on our suffering and hinders us from serving.
We regard doctors as “all knowing” and put our trust in “the arm of flesh” rather than turning to God seeking for His wisdom. If I had trusted my doctors to have the final word on my health, I may not have been alive today. Doctors are wonderful when we are broken, but sadly, they are not educated to restore health with nutrition. I am grateful for the many doctors who are promoting the truth about health and nutrition for those who are “seeking to find” the answers. I am especially grateful for people like Jane Birch who are pointing out to Latter-day Saints that the diet they are looking for, amidst the sea of confusion about what a healthy diet is in our world today, is found in the scriptures and in the Word of Wisdom. I know that hidden treasures of knowledge are opened to us “line upon line, precept upon precept” when we begin seeking for further light and knowledge and God’s will concerning diet who are striving to truly be healthy and live the Word of Wisdom fully.
I believe that health is our birthright and is the consequence of abiding by the laws of health. Being healthy should be normal and is normal when we eat properly. We can avoid the unnecessary suffering and the destroying angel as promised in the Word of Wisdom if we will be obedient and follow His Word.
I know that our Heavenly Father lives, and that He loves us and wants us to be healthy. And just like when we keep His commandments we are spiritually blessed, the same is true when we follow His dietary commands. I am grateful for His guidance and direction during my suffering and for His hand in leading me to the truths that have healed me and set me free. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Lara Johnson and her family reside in Provo, Utah. She is an LDS Recording Artist and has an album entitled Songs of Everlasting Joy. She is a teacher at Provo Voice and Piano, the lead singer of Vinyl Impact, an actress and a college student at Utah Valley University. She shares her health journey and recipes on her blog Raw Mormon Mommy and can be found inspiring others on Facebook, and as LDSLaraJohnson on Instagram and Twitter.