My journey towards a whole food, plant-based diet is a long one. It started before I joined the Church…
In my mid teens I remember reading that we become what we eat. The article was accompanied with a picture of a man with a pig’s snout. The article also mentioned that a diet of meat leads to increased anger and hostility. I did not want these traits and made up my mind to become vegetarian – no meat, but I still had dairy and eggs – ovo-lacto vegetarian. My mother supported me by preparing a separate vegetarian addition to the family meal. I was the only vegetarian in my family.
A few years before this time, while living in Cape Town South Africa, missionaries knocked on our door. I remember my parents purchasing a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants… they had to be purchased in those days. I remember a few visits by the missionaries. I think my parents indicated that they appreciated their visits, however would not be joining the Church. During those early years of being a vegetarian, I remember browsing the burgundy covered Doctrine and Covenants and reading Section 89. I stopped drinking all hot drinks thereafter. I refused alcohol and did not partake in tobacco. Both my parents both smoked at the time.
After completing high school in Welkom, I attended university in Bloemfontein. I stayed on campus in the student housing – dormitories or in Afrikaans koshuisse. At meal times I would swap my meat for extra vegetables or dessert with fellow dorm dwellers. I held to my resolution to be a vegetarian and to refrain from hot drinks, alcohol, and tobacco.
Towards the end of my second year at university, on a quiet Saturday afternoon, I was cycling through the streets of Bloemfontein. I cycled past the LDS chapel, which was open. I waited outside until someone emerged from the building. I approach the individual and asked to learn more about the Church. With some shock on the part of the brother, he invited me to join them the following day for Sunday services. I started to attend… however being in the middle of my year-end exams, I did not take the discussions. As the academic year concluded, I was returning to my parents in Welkom and asked if there were missionaries there. I was provided with the number of the Welkom missionaries.
Back home with my parents, I contacted the missionaries and invited them to visit with me. On their first visit, my dad decided that the whole family should sit in and listen. This first meeting was not a structured lesson, but a dialogue of question and answer covering a wide variety of topics. I invited them back for a second visit. The format was much like the first. During the discussion, my father indicated that he could accept the faith and asked when he could be baptised, to which the missionaries indicated that first they needed to teach us six lessons. We had all six lessons taught to us in one sitting. My father, my sister, and I were baptised later that month. The following month, my dad baptised my mother, and I baptised my brother.
After completing my degree, I served as a missionary in the South Africa Cape Town Mission. It was during this time that I began to eat meat… it is very difficult to tell the kind members who had invited the missionaries to dinner that I could not eat the food they prepared.
Almost two years after my mission I married in the temple. I discussed with my new wife about returning to being a vegetarian. The next couple of years were a gradual journey to refraining of meat, and my wife joined me. She was not as strict as I was in our diet; she would occasionally prepare meat. Our three children have been raised eating meat occasionally. We did not eat red meat, but rather limited our intake to chicken. My daughter and I were the strictest in keeping the vegetarian diet.
Often during discussions and questions about the Word of Wisdom, I would refer to D&C 89 verse 13, “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” I would follow this up with the qualifier that the Church does not require its members to be vegetarian… vegetarianism is not a requirement to be a member of the Church. I invited them to consider if their meat consumption was indeed sparing.
Over my life, I’ve faced some health challenges. I developed epilepsy during my last year of high school. About nine years ago I had a brain tumour removed. This left me deaf in one ear and with a partial paralysis of the right side of my face. During these years, I served in several Church leadership callings that required extensive time and travel throughout the stake, travelling up to 5 hours to visit the outlining branches. Despite the amount of time and energy required, I always felt the strengthening hand of the Lord. I attribute this to the blessings in the Word of Wisdom of being able to “run and not be weary…walk and not faint” (v. 20).
At beginning of this year (2014), I felt the need to be stricter in my vegetarian living. Shortly after my decision, I came across Jane Birch’s book Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective. After reading the book, I announced to my family that I would follow a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, as indicated by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 89, with an emphasis on living verse 13. My family was sceptical and teased me about my decision. I found a copy of Forks Over Knives, and we watched it as a family. After the documentary, my family, including the children, wanted to follow the WFPB diet. I have subsequently read The China Study… another confirmation to our decision to eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs.
The journey has been an exciting one… learning to eat differently, learning to cook differently, and learning to buy food differently. We have purchased WBPB cookbooks, which have helped with ideas. For the most part we are eating WFPB foods. My ravishing teenager children still welcome some dairy occasionally.
My son’s finger joints, which usually become painful and arthritic during the winter, were much better this past winter. The children have all indicated that they feel better by living this lifestyle. My wife and I have lost weight without even trying. My wife has also noticed changes with her underactive thyroid, but we continue to monitor this. We are healthier all-round.
I believe that living the Word of Wisdom before finding and joining the Church was the refining that helped me seek out and recognise the truth of the restored Gospel. Being a member of the Church, one who lives the Word of Wisdom, has indeed brought the blessing of finding wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures, into my life and the lives of my wife and children. The Word of Wisdom has enabled us to claim the blessings of the Lord…both temporally and spiritually. It has blessed our family physically and will continue to do so, I am sure. Our testimonies of the restored Gospel are manifest in our family holy habits, of which living the Word of Wisdom fully (embracing WFPB eating) has indeed made us a peculiar family.
Warner Molema is 47 years old and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been married for 21 years to Melissa, and they have three children, Michael, Talya and Paul. Warner has a Bachelors in Computer Science and a Masters in Futures Studies. The family enjoys spending time together, playing board games, visiting museums, and doing other cultural activities. They also enjoy the outdoors and going camping and hiking.