“I knew I was being guided”

Orva Johnson-smallBy: Orva Johnson

My journey to a whole food, plant-based diet has been wonderful! I have felt guided, inspired, and so blessed to gradually have the truth revealed to me about how I should eat.

I grew up in a family that used whole grains and tried to avoid refined sugar. I tried to continue with these values when I had my own family. Almost 30 years ago I was persuaded to cut dairy milk out of my diet because our sixth daughter had terrible colic. Cutting the dairy from my diet helped her so much—I was very motivated. By the time I was done nursing her, I no longer missed the dairy.

About that same time, I made a new friend, Julene Humes, who became a mentor to me. Julene was way ahead of me in her understanding of nutrition. She helped me thoroughly comprehend the downside of animal foods. I took things a step at a time: first no dairy, then no meat, and finally no eggs. I still used milk and eggs to bake for my family but ate very little of them myself. This new knowledge felt so right, and I knew I was being guided in the changes I was making. I gained a rich appreciation for the verses of the Word of Wisdom that go beyond “temple worthiness.”

Then my husband, Paul, developed pre-diabetes and some other health problems about ten years ago. I was discussing his health issues with a friend and physical therapist, Rogan Taylor, who took the opportunity to introduce me to The China Study. I read it and urged Paul to try a 100% vegan diet as an experiment. After three months on a strict whole food, plant-based diet he was basically cured. His blood sugar numbers were completely normal. He saw this as good and bad news: good that he didn’t have diabetes—bad that he knew he should cut out all animal foods. (Paul later joked with Rogan that it was his fault he could no longer eat meat.) Since then we have been pretty strict about following a plant-based diet in our home. I do not feel deprived because I really love the foods we eat.

Over the years I have become convinced that eating a whole food, plant-based diet is the best for me. I find real joy in seeing our seven married children eating this way. Our 22-year-old son, Victor, also loves to eat healthy food. He is very athletic and active and feels a whole food, plantbased diet helps him perform his best. Our youngest son, a senior in high school, eats what I fix at home but is happy to eat meat, cheese, and junk with his friends. I think he believes our food is healthier but is not ready to go 100% yet.

I am told in my patriarchal blessing that I should always remember the example I can be through the Word of Wisdom. I used to be confused about what that meant. Most of my friends are LDS and already believe in the Word of Wisdom. Finding new hidden treasures of knowledge about nutrition has become a delightful hobby of mine. I LOVE the Word of Wisdom and feel it was given for our time, even more than when it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph. It is a standard by which to measure all the worldly theories about diet. I appreciate our amazing bodies and am so grateful we have been given revelation on how to take care of them.

Orva Johnson, 57, lives in Orem, Utah. She and her husband Paul have nine children and will have 30 grandchildren by the end of the year. She loves her family and enjoys reading, sewing, and being outdoors. She does Bikram yoga for fun and to keep in shape. Orva and her daughters share their favorite WFPB recipes with each other and friends, known and unknown, on their website GreenerEating.com.

Orva and her husband Paul are featured in the video, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film” and also in an extra video featuring extended footage about their story. Don’t miss these amazing videos! You can find them here, “Video and Extras.”

Orva and her husband Paul were also interviewed on the Mormon Vegetarian podcast on November 6, 2014. This is well worth listening to, even if you have read their stories!

Orva Johnson is an example of the impact one dedicated mother can have on the health and habits of an entire family. After deciding to eat plant-based herself, nearly her entire family has converted through her example. But each child, and now each grandchild, has had to “gain their own testimony” of the value of a whole food, plant-based diet. Many of her family members are featured in the book and more are featured on this website:

Paul Johnson (husband)

Laura Allen (daughter)

Rebekah George (daughter)

Eliza Hirschi (daughter)

Marian Stewart (daughter)

Victor Johnson (son)

Sister: Elna Clark (sister)


  1. Orva, I just read that which you wrote above, perhaps for the first time, after having just read and responded to that which your husband had very recently submitted to my eldest child, Jane Birch. I’m glad both of you are now having success in eating the way the Lord told us we should eat in Section 89, verses 10 through 21. May the Lord continue blessing you and your husband and children!

    Neil Birch

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