“I would eat grass for the promises in the Word of Wisdom!”

McGaughyBy: Tim and Ellen McGaughy

Our nutrition quest began many years ago, long before we became converts to the LDS church. Ellen and I met in 1970 in Boston, Mass., while I was in graduate school at Tufts University. Ellen was working for American Airlines and was traveling all over the world. Eventually, I followed my doctoral advisor and relocated to the University of Oklahoma in Norman. I began to frequent a vegetarian restaurant in Norman, and it changed my course, planting a desire in me to eliminate meat from my diet completely. Meanwhile, Ellen decided to take a year off and move to Telluride, Colorado. She soon befriended neighbors who were vegetarians. She decided that not only did it make sense intellectually, but she also felt compelled to make the change. Up to this point, neither of us had been exposed to anything other than the Standard American Diet. So, nearly 900 miles apart, independently, we both decided to become vegetarians. That was an interesting telephone call.

Ellen moved to Norman, and we married in 1977. At this point I was doing postdoctoral research in chemistry. We began to do extensive research on the subject of nutrition and natural healing. We enjoyed a huge garden from which we primarily ate. We were so interested in what we were learning that I decided to apply to a Naturopathic Medical School in California, and off we went. It was an amazing program and exposed both of us to every modality of natural and alternative healing. In 1980, we had our first child, Shanam. At this point we were primarily eating a plant-based diet, with goat milk products from a nearby farm.

After two years of study in California, I received a strong impression that I should apply to medical school. That decision brought us back to the University of Oklahoma to pursue a medical degree. This was a major shift from a holistic view of healing to a pharmaceutical-based medical approach. I came to realize that my gift was in working with the chronically mentally ill and took the direction of psychiatry. I have since discovered that a healthy diet and lifestyle can make a big difference in mental wellness, as well as physical well being, and there is a growing body of research to substantiate this. I have occasionally had the opportunity to lecture on nutrition and mental wellness to other physicians.

Our daughter, Elana, was born in Norman in 1987. Both our children were raised with organic, fresh foods and have been extremely healthy. They have never had a concerning illness and only one brief earache between them. They still live this way and are both great examples of mental, spiritual, and physical wellness.

In 1999, we moved to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts and met a couple who were from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Together Ellen and I had researched many religions for over 25 years. We were amazed to finally find the restored gospel and were soon baptized. We were so excited when we read D&C 89. We had found our people! The Lord gave us a revelation concerning a healthy lifestyle with beautiful promises for our obedience! As far as the promises go, Ellen likes to say, “I would eat grass for the promises in the Word of Wisdom!” We were shocked and dismayed when we went to our first church function and pork was being served. What? Still, to this day, we are saddened by meat being served at church functions. We always eat before we go.

Our son’s wife, Bethany, has embraced the Word of Wisdom lifestyle to the point of becoming a health coach and is making a great positive impact in her community and beyond. She has a Facebook site where she and her clients and friends post recipes and helpful information. They have two children (so far) and are raising them with a primarily plantbased diet and fresh foods from the garden. When Bethany and Shanam teach together, he says, “My parents are evidence of the results of a healthy diet and lifestyle. I want to be able to be as active and healthy as they are when I am their age. My father is still able to hike 14,000 foot mountains with me, and they both love to hike, ski, snowshoe, garden, and play with their grandchildren. When I look around at others their age, and even those much younger, I am shocked at how unhealthy and out of shape people are. The choice to make is obvious!”

Tim (67) and Ellen (64) McGaughy live in American Fork, Utah. Ellen is an avid gardener, creative food artist, and family history consultant. Tim received his BS and PhD in chemistry, studied naturopathic medicine, then went to medical school and is a practicing psychiatrist. Tim and Ellen love hiking the local mountains. They have two children and two grandchildren.


  1. I remember the first time I read this story. I’m laughing again at the statement, “I would eat grass for the promises in the Word of Wisdom!” Even though I laugh, I wholeheartedly agree. I even did it for a time, when I used to grow and juice wheat grass. Ooooooooh, it was disgusting! Thinking of WOW, I sometimes think of the line in the movie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. “You’re here because HE turned you in…for sweeties.” What do we give up because we are ruled by our tongues?

  2. It’s always good to read the story of a fellow chemist and fellow WFPB practitioner. Unfortunately, I came very late to the realization of the full power of the Word of Wisdom, and then only after experiencing serious heart disease. I’m happy to read about others who develop a healthy lifestyle without having to go through the pain and expense of coronary artery operations. Thanks for your wonderful example. As for eating before you go to Church functions, have you tried requesting that some of the menu at the social include plant-based food? Best wishes.

    • Hi Scott,
      Yes, we have requested, but generally not taken very seriously. Maybe the recent two Ensign articles for this month will make a difference.

      • We were senior missionaries in Spain when we began our WFPB diet, and the Spaniards couldn’t believe that we wouldn’t eat olive oil (Spain produces more olive oil than any other country in the world, much more than second-place Italy.) They were all convinced, as many people in the U.S. (including health professionals and dietitians) are, that olive oil is healthy. It isn’t. So when we had social gatherings among the senior missionaries, it was a bit difficult to convince them that we were serious about not eating oils.

  3. Your story resonates with me. Unfortunately, we all have areas of our lives in which we live ‘far beneath our privileges”. I have been so blessed to be guided to a wfpb way of life. You are both an inspiration and example. The only solution I have found at church functions is to sign up to take food to share. It assures us of something to eat and is always gone quickly. In fact, we have to make sure we get some before it is gone! I sense a slow shift in the air though. I think it will gradually get better. Our way is a little more accepted than it was 20 years ago. Hurray for articles in the February Ensign!

  4. Thank you. It is puzzling and not a little bit discouraging that an instinctive reading of D&C 89 is as clear as it can be, and yet we do not actively teach or practice some of the most beautiful, faith and life affirming doctrines of the restored Gospel. Until that happens, I am delighted to share this wonderful journey and these incredible blessings with fellow travelers.

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